"Ain't Gonna Study War No More"

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Right-To-Life Party, Christian, Anti-War, Pro-Life, Bible Fundamentalist, Egalitarian, Libertarian Left

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Gods of War, Gods of Greed and Profiteers of Misery

“The process of transformation [American empire building]…is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event—like a new Pearl Harbor.�

From PNAC plan entitled Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategies, Forces and Resources for a New Century, endorsed by neocons in the Bush Administration, the corporate media and Washington think-tanks. Ingrained in the plan are ever-increasing levels of military spending, incessant empire building, pre-emptive invasions and, inherently, a perpetual state of war and fear.

By Manuel Valenzuela

08/18/04 "ICH" -- Manna from Heaven - Like bolts of lightning sent from the gods above, airline jets appeared out of parting skies, slamming thunderously into grandeurs of human achievement, transforming towering monuments of steel and glass into blinding avalanches of ashen dust and debris that have yet to clear from the residue-filled eyes of most Americans. The omnipresent haze that remains is deeply entrenched into our primitive and mammalian brain, reawakening dormant animalistic passions and emotions that are corroding our ability to think like the human beings we claim to be.

Like a pathogen this malady exists, attaching itself to the cells of reason and analytical thinking, infecting us with fear, insecurity, paranoia, hatred, anger, vengeance and a blind, degenerative patriotism that has placed the future course of American history in the claws of a small cabal of corrupt, malevolent and warmongering few.

They are the military-industrial complex (MIC) and the Corporate Leviathan, and the gods of war and greed they are called. This powerful group of elite is comprised of profiteers of misery, purveyors of death, immoral scoundrels addicted to power and debased monsters whose faces are stained with the blood of thousands upon thousands of innocent human beings. For them, the horrors perpetrated on 9/11 were the Pearl Harbor they had long been seeking.

It was on that day that the misery of millions became the fortune of a few thousand. It was on that day that the MIC and the Corporate Leviathan wrestled ultimate control from the people of the world, usurping global power and forever altering the future of humanity. Our 9/11 became their Pearl Harbor, a moment in time needed to unleash already predetermined plans to expand power and control on a now easily manipulated and mobilized citizenry. The greatest profiteers in the history of the United States were now free to release their hounds of war, conquest, greed and violence upon the rest of civilization.

On that fateful day, particles of asbestos, computers, furniture, glass, concrete and other pathogens that would eventually kill thousands had yet to settle on the street of New York and already the gods of war and greed were busy implementing their plans for empire expansion, wars for profit and revenue, battles for control, and mobilization of a perpetual war economy. Those entities with vested interests at home and those with vested interests abroad joined forces to spawn the greatest manipulation of a population in the history of the world, one that would lie, connive, distort, deceive and condition its way towards the bloody fields of war from where the human mind rarely, if ever, escapes from.

The military-industrial complex and the Corporate Leviathan, controlling government, the media and the mind of the psychologically fragile post-9/11 American citizen, quickly unfolded designs for mobilizing the richest nation on Earth towards war. All mechanisms at its disposal were used to guide America and its people down the path of invasion, death and occupation. The engines were started, the assembly lines turned on and the conveyor belts of the war machine were soon warmed up, eager to excrete instruments of death in exchange for the benefits of the grandest pilferage of the American taxpayer in the entire history of the United States.

The neocon/Likud, MIC and Leviathan cabal’s Pearl Harbor was a godsend from above, manna from heaven blessed by the gods of war and greed, the exact instrument the group of profit, greed and warmongers had been seeking for years. With the death of 3000 citizens of the world a new course of history had begun, designed years before, now being written page by page and chapter by chapter with the blood-soaked pen of those now guiding us through paths unknown inside dark and ominous forests from which humanity has never emerged from.

Part I: The Conditioning Begins

Like all good propagandists seeking to mobilize the masses, the gods of war had unlimited means by which to brainwash an already schizophrenic population. Through their control of the televised, radio and written media the morsels of war were quickly introduced, usually with a rather apparent absence of dissent and an overflowing commentary favoring war. At a time when blind patriotism raged and misguided anger seethed, the media became an unyielding loudspeaker pushing the agenda of the gods of war. It became, in short time, the instrument spewing out the brainwashed thoughts sent into the homes of the American public. The tool of the gods of war entered every home and every mind, from cradle to grave, using television, radio and newspapers/magazines to set the nation on a war footing it has yet to escape.

The American mind had been made fragile from hours of seeing human carnage unfold and the manifest suffering it spawned. Psychologically destroyed the nation found itself in, unable to make any sense of a world gone mad or of images never seen before by human eyes, caught on tape, to be played and replayed, over and over, thereby cementing human horror upon still primitive and mammalian brains. Predictably, we did not respond well. Fear and paranoia overcame the nation; suddenly the economy halted as we ceased our ingrained consumer-driven ways. Our children suffered nightmares; millions were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Many found religion once more, as humans tend to do when the four corners of the world come crashing down. Depression and anxiety enveloped all cities and states as our animal fear and emotions tried desperately to make sense of the horror we had all seen. What our brain was not ready to experience or digest was nonetheless forced upon it, making us vulnerable creatures existing on the fumes emanating from the remains of the World Trade Center. Through the magic of television the reality of human horror and suffering we were witness to, releasing emotions and passions the human mind is not capable of understanding.

We became the easy targets of circumstance to the gods of war and greed and the profiteers of misery. The bombs and torpedoes of Pearl Harbor had been reincarnated for the eyes of the world to see, taped and replayed, analyzed and dissected, exploited to serve the purposes of those hidden behind veils of governance and offices of high rise skyscrapers. The gods of war and greed at last had their massacre; the world now had a most ominous and violent future ahead.

Patriotic unity manifested by an entire nation draped in the red, white and blue played right into the master plan of the gods of war and greed. Like a vicious circle with no end, united patriotism fed blind patriotism, granting the cabal in power unfettered power and control. The tentacles in the media assured that the populace remain blind and unquestioning, making acquiescent servants of millions who, like Pavlovian dogs, drooled and obeyed at the first sight of Old Glory waving proudly in the corner of their television monitors.

To dissent was to be with the terrorists; to question falsity was to be unpatriotic. All objectivity ceased, all patriotism thrived, and lost in the flag-draped graphics and the bravado of freedom-loving anchors was any semblance of the truth. In a nation saturated with flags, from cars to homes to stores to clothing to everything in between, bleeding a nationalism not seen since the days of 1930’s Germany and bombarded with unending brainwashing and war conditioning, to be against the propaganda and manipulation spewing from the MIC, Leviathan and government was to be a traitor, a friend of the terrorists. With an entire population in the grip of the gods of war and greed, unable and unwilling to see truth or hear reason, reality ceased to exist and the demons of distorted fiction were free to roam the confines of the great lands of the United States.

Following the footsteps of Fox News, whose deceptions and manipulations betray its warmonger, right-wing, Christian fundamentalist and pro-Bush agenda, the rest of the available media soon saw in the 9/11 tragedy the makings of a money making cash cow. When an entire population had lost its ability to reason – mutating into rabid nationalists and patriots seeking vengeance – the media, always seeking the favors of the gods of greed and profit, turned from an objective source of news into a disseminator of myopic views favoring the lies and distortions birthed by the government and the gods of war. To be against the wave of patriotism was to be foolish, after all, and, following the dictates of polls, ratings and focus groups, corporate media thus fell prey to the vicious circle created by those whose war plans were now in full swing.

To seek truth was to commit suicide; to show dissent was to risk alienation. In times of human fragility, where the blood of the state is avowed over that of the individual, where manipulation is easily achieved and subservience becomes pandemic, the only road for the media to take, under tremendous pressure from the public and its corporate parent, is that of governmental disseminator of propaganda. For profit, for ratings, for job security and popularity, journalists and editors in media collectively unbuckled their belts, bent over forwards and allowed their integrity and honor to dissolve, allowing themselves instead to be raped by the power of the flag, the gun and the drums of war.

The American public was spoon fed into war from the very beginning in an organized campaign by government and corporate interests. In coordinated efforts, television and newspapers began showcasing story after story after story implicating Saddam Hussein and Iraq with ever growing imminent dangers. False lies under cover of exclusive news reporting were introduced into the system, making Saddam and Iraq the next coming of Hitler and the Nazis. From the most respectable newspapers in the country to the most trustworthy television news anchors, the lies and fabrications that began in the Bush administration found a welcome home. No attempt was made to report opposing views or of uncovering truths; no attempt was made to give objective viewpoints or to even have a national debate on so important an issue.

On the contrary, the sole voices of the warmongers and those with vested interests in an Iraq war were given a forum, both in television and in print. To this day, the neocons in government and those in think-tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute fill the airwaves and the op-ed columns. Only the voice of the gods of war and greed made its way into our ears. Only their graphics, information, so-called intelligence and faces were allowed to grace the monitors Americans pray to on a daily basis.

And so, as days turned into months, as stories of WMDs dotted the landscape and insinuations of an Iraq, al-Qaeda connection swirled into our homes, the conditioning of the American people continued unabated. False story after false story made the headlines, helping send the nation to war as the boots of soldiers marched and the unwavering flags of support graced the neighborhoods of a citizenry that has been both bamboozled and exploited by the gods of war and greed and the profiteers of misery who used the death of 3000 innocent energies to spearhead their drive for war, death and ultimate profit and power.

Part II: The Trumpets of War Sound Out

The decimation and utter destruction of Iraq and its society by the military-industrial complex and its vast arsenal of instruments of violence commenced with stealth bombers releasing massive bombs from the dark skies above. Invisible and undetectable death rained down from the heavens as the gods of war and greed unleashed mighty fury at millions of innocent Iraqis. The campaign to destroy infrastructure, ministries, the military and the fabric of society had begun. There is no profit from unharmed structures, after all, no reconstruction contracts from that which has not been destroyed.

Like hyenas drooling and fighting at the prospect of a dead carcass, the MIC and Leviathan lined up to share in the spoils of the carnage their tentacles had just unleashed. Billions of dollars in pilfered American taxpayer money was at hand, manna from heaven sent to the entities of destruction and rape by a government subservient to the gods of war and greed. An entire nation of 25 million people was in shambles after a decade of economic genocide and two wars of imperial showmanship. And, with $200 billion available from the hard earned wages of American taxpayers, the MIC and Leviathan could only envisage the feeding frenzy that the invasion and occupation of Iraq would create.

Electricity plants were torn to shreds, sewage infrastructure was decimated. Government ministries were bombed and burned, while water treatments centers were destroyed. Bridges and roads were carpet bombed, fertile lands were poisoned by depleted uranium. Mesopotamia’s history and culture was looted, allowed to be pillaged by American forces. Sanctions had eviscerated hospitals, universities and schools, making anemic healthcare and education, while Iraqi society lingered in utter indigence. Meanwhile, everything related to oil was secured, given the utmost attention and protection, so as to leave everything in working order for the great American and British petrochemical conglomerates. The Leviathan was thirsty, and needed to be fed.

A war for profit and pillage had commenced, naturally without humanity or concern for innocent human life. For the gods of war and greed and the profiteers of misery care not an ounce for humanity or the beating energy of a human body. They care nothing for the suffering their policies unearth nor the death and violence their instruments of death advance. The gods of war and greed care only about power and control; they care only about profit and revenues. Those who profit from misery breathe and feed off of human suffering and pain. They thrive only when humanity dies. It is this reason that a Pearl Harbor was desperately needed, the only mechanism that could stop the hemorrhaging of profits and power due to the drought of war created by the disappearance of the Cold War and the enemy it so ably marketed.

The military-industrial complex, corporate Leviathan, the neocons/Likudniks and the American government, fused together through their ritualistic mating tango of death, have formed a cocktail of fascism mixed with the undeniable parameters that power and control allows. The revolving door and circular Ferris wheel that has become the American government, where corporate executives and defense contractor elite play a sinister game of musical chairs with top military personnel and government officials, is transforming a government of, by and for the people into a twisted game of corporatist and military control where government is now nothing more than an instrument to further the interests of both the MIC and the Leviathan.

Executives and lobbyists are now commonly appointed to policy making positions in government, eviscerating laws, rules and regulations not favorable to industry. Former government officials and military brass, many with top decision making authority, now work for defense contractors and consortiums, using vast connections in government to further the interests of their newfound employers. Slowly but surely government is being infected with corporate insiders intent on turning their newfound power to the benefit of the hand that feeds them. The revolving door of corporatist domination is in full swing, perpetually turning in a never-ending cycle of cronyism that has infected a government that once served the American people.

When the gods of war and greed and profiteers of misery possess the Almighty Dollar in vast quantities, however, a government that once protected and furthered our cause now exploits and even endangers every last one of us.

Melted into this growing cabal of croniness, corruption and connivance has been the infiltration into the seats of power and policy by those furthering the interests of a foreign nation. These individuals, vested with several interests in both foreign and national defense contractors, foreign political parties and clearly pushing American foreign policy to mirror the interests of other sovereign nations, have, over the last decade, waited patiently in the wings until the day arrived, much like 9/11 under the power of George W. Bush, from which to unleash their devious plans of war by proxy.

Since 9/11, these individuals have done more to create and market the war with Iraq than any other group. From the Pentagon they concocted intelligence, manipulated truths and created lies in order to justify a war against an enemy of their client state. Inside the Bush administration they took control of foreign policy, as they perched from the top of the Pentagon and the Vice President’s office, advising and consulting the President, cooking up intelligence and stove-piping distorted and fabricated material past other government institutions. The neocons this group is called, festering the halls of Washington in furtherment of Israel’s interests, conning a nation blind, endangering the American people more and more with each wave of their ignorant and self-delusional ideology.

The trumpets of war have sounded out, the thundering stampede of soldier boots can be heard, marching toward a battle the MIC hopes will continue into perpetuity, lasting as long as Arab Muslim enemies can be created and the American mind manipulated. As long as 290 million citizens remain passive and submissive to the pillaging of their treasury and as long as the robbery of $200 billion dollars in taxpayer money goes unquestioned without seeking accountability the MIC and its minions will continue devastating American society. With each failure to demand questions and seek answers our way of life is eroded more and more. Without realizing and combating the arranged marriage between MIC, Leviathan and the elite in government the further decay of what America once was will persist.

Corporations and industries have usurped our safety, using fear to mobilize and freeze us at the same time. They steal us of treasure, rob us of blood, put us in the crosshairs of danger and exploit the love we have of America. They care nothing about the certain and devastating blowback we will experience due to their addicting quest for the perfect enemy and the perfect perpetual war. Thanks to MIC, the Leviathan and malfeasant government officials, our shores will be forever threatened by those who have been devastated by American foreign policy. It will be the relatives of the tens of thousands of dead and maimed Iraqis and the countless millions whose anger and hatred we have monopolized that will unleash fury at our innocent sons, daughters, mothers and fathers. It will be our progeny that will have to suffer the consequences of letting the corporatist elites dictate what is done in our name. It will be us who experience the misery of the tornadoes and hurricanes coming our way thanks to the profit making formulas of death and destruction of the few who control the direction the United States is on.

Greed has transformed the way they do business. War is once more a for-profit enterprise, a ratings and advertisement revenues bonanza where riches are made and careers cemented. It is assembly lines and conveyor belts spitting out instruments of human evil, designed to maim, kill and inflict horrendous suffering. War is the cold-blooded and carefully planned out decision to send America’s poor to die and sacrifice both body and mind in order to conquer the lands of those even more indigent so that the few elite can carve up the spoils of war between themselves. War is the Almighty Dollar and the adrenalin of power and control. It is exploitation of American citizens and pilfering of their hard-earned wages. It is American evil at its worst, pre-empting, invading, conquering and occupying for geopolitical military bases, economic oil control and Israeli enemy eradication.

War is opportunity, wealth and power, destroying a nation only to rebuild it once more, helping to enrich your donors, contributors and even family in the process. War has been glamorized, enemies are dissected, deaths are whitewashed and images of war ignored. We are the good guys, the land of freedom and democracy, even if we kill tens of thousands, invade innocent lands and pilfer foreign resources. It does not matter that our armies unleash hell onto civilians, destroying the lives of ten year old girls, baby boys and young adults. It does not matter that entire families vanish thanks to our instruments of death, nor that millions suffer in perpetuity thanks to our complicity through acquiescence of a foreign policy that is debased at best and barbaric at worst.

But to Joe Six-pack, we are “bringing freedom and democracy� to the world and the beacon of liberty still shines as bright as ever. The tools of propaganda are as sinister as they are effective.

Today, corporate media keeps protecting the gods of war and greed and the profiteers of misery who continue to enrich their own pockets through the exploitation of American minds and devastation of Arab lives. The war in Iraq has been forgotten, as if it never existed, the debacle taking place hidden from the conscious of Americans. Corporations such as Halliburton that have pillaged, raped and stolen our tax money and Iraqi oil revenues are left to continue their crimes. War criminals and murderous dictators are ignored, inept policies hardly scrutinized. Lies continue to be furnished, distortions of reality keep being reported while deaths of Iraqis and Americans are manipulated and numerically twisted. Propaganda has not ceased, and it will not relent. The tools of the gods of war and greed are serving their purpose.

The Leviathan grows more powerful every day, gorging on our ignorance of Middle East peoples who have, thanks to the new Pearl Harbor and the synergetic tentacles of propaganda, been made into the new enemy of the United States.

From Soviet Communists to Arab terrorists the MIC and Leviathan have simply shifted gears, moving their focus from the frozen tundra of Russia to the arid deserts of the Middle East. From Eurasia to Eastasia, a new enemy has been found, one that will yield vast wealth to the few as well as control of the population. In the American imagination the new Arab bogeyman will linger, growing more dangerous each year, becoming threats to our freedom and democracy.

The same formula that was successfully used to make evil the peoples of the old Soviet Union is once more at work, only having gone a face lift and an extreme makeover. From the nuclear bomb shelters, drills and communist propaganda designed to spawn fear and control of yesterday to color coded alerts, duct tape rooms and the incessant terror warnings of today, the system is once more working its magic on the people of the United States. Fear is alive, insecurity is in the air and paranoia has been set free. The MIC and the gods of war and greed would not want it any other way. Through fear they control. Through fear they govern. Through fear they exploit, making us subservient and obedient drones whose rights and freedoms we gleefully and without thinking allow them to shred.

As long as the corporatists rule war will be perpetual, robbing us of our humanity, our flesh and blood and our treasure. The grip over us will only increase, becoming a mechanism we will soon be impotent to outmaneuver. Perpetual war for perpetual profit has been created; propaganda designed to make us hate over one billion people of divergent cultures and religions is now in motion. Like Russians of old, -- enemies created for political relevance and control over us – Arabs and Muslims have been chosen as the new face of evil, the enemy to help launch decades of war, violence and death. Arab faces are now deeply entrenched in our primitive mammalian brains, giving the corporatist elite brand recognition from which to terrorize the American populace.

With each new terror warning their profits grow. With each new Arab face shown in their media their revenues increase. The military budget is now near $420 billion, more than all industrialized nations, combined. Our healthcare, education, infrastructure, security and other social services are being demolished as a result. There is no reason to believe that the so-called war on terror will ever be allowed to stop. It is a cash cow for the few at the top. It has opened up levels of power and control once thought impossible to grasp. As long as the assembly lines of death and conveyor belts of destruction continue running at full speed, war is what the new American value will be. In ever more danger will we all be as well, living in perpetual fear and experiencing the paranoia ingrained in the coming police state.

The gods of war, the gods of greed and the profiteers of misery would not want it any other way.

Welcome to reality at the dawn of the 21st century, a world where new Pearl Harbors usher in radical tremors in human civilization along with sinister hijackings into most foreboding times.

Manuel Valenzuela is author of Echoes in the Wind, a novel to be published in September of 2004. Email manuel@valenzuelas.net

NYC To GOP: Drop Dead

NYC To GOP: Drop Dead

Ted Rall

08/18/04 "Uexpress" -- Tourists are pleasantly surprised when New Yorkers act as friendly and polite as the people back home in Maybury. However, delegates to this month's Republican National Convention shouldn't expect to be treated to our standard out-of-towner treatment. The Republican delegates here to coronate George W. Bush are unwelcome members of a hostile invading army. Like the hapless saps whose blood they sent to be spilled into Middle Eastern sands, they will be given intentionally incorrect directions to nonexistent places. Objects will be thrown in their direction. Children will call them obscene names.
They will not be greeted as liberators.

Well aware that it is barren soil for their party's anti-urban, anti-immigrant, anti-feminist, overtly racist ideology, Republican leaders have wisely avoided New York City as a convention site for the past 150 years. Even as the rest of America turns red, we New Yorkers remain as liberal as the people's republic of San Francisco: fewer than 18 percent of the citizens of New York's five boroughs (which include relatively conservative places like Staten Island) cast ballots for Bush/Cheney in 2000. But White House strategist Karl Rove sees the continued exploitation of 9/11 for partisan political gain as Bush's key to victory in November. That means bringing the big bash three miles north of the hole where the Twin Towers used to stand, where most of the victims of 9/11 were burned, suffocated, impaled and pulverized.

Making hay of the dead is also the point of this confab's timing. The 2004 Necropublican National Convention is being held a full month later than normal, from August 30 to September 2. The original plan was to have Bush shuttle between Madison Square Garden and Ground Zero for photo ops to coincide with the third anniversary of the September 11th attacks. Bush's visits to the Trade Center site were quietly canceled a few months back after 9/11 survivors expressed revulsion at the idea. But it was too late to change the date.

Anti-Republican sentiment is rising to a fever pitch here as the dog days tick down to the dreaded affair. A poll cited by the local ABC affiliate shows 83 percent of New Yorkers don't want their city to host the RNC. And many of them are planning to do something about it.

Rejecting ex-mayor Ed Koch's call to "make nice" with the party that used the deaths of 2,801 New Yorkers--most of them Democrats--for everything from tax cuts for the rich to building concentration camps at Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib to invading Iraq to enrich Dick Cheney and his fellow Halliburton execs, some groups are encouraging liberal-minded New Yorkers to volunteer for the city's squad of official greeters. Creatively altered maps of streets and subways will be handed out to button-clad stupid white men. Other saboteurs wearing fake RNC T-shirts will direct them to parts of town where Bush's policies have hit hardest. Rumor has it that prostitutes suffering from sexually transmitted diseases will discourage the use of condoms with Republican customers.

Anywhere between 250,000 and 1,000,000 anti-Bush demonstrators are expected to hit the streets of Manhattan, but the city and protest organizers can't agree on where to put them. Activists say they'll direct marchers to Central Park, their preferred site; city officials are threatening mass arrests if they do. Adding to the already combustible Chicago '68 vibe is a possible wildcat strike by city cops and firefighters. And now, as if everyone concerned wasn't already tweaky, FBI agents are traveling around the United States, to harass members of leftist groups planning to protest the New York RNC.

Strikebreaking policemen and private security personnel may be able to keep the protesters away from the convention hall. But Republicans who venture outside the Garden deserve the abuse ordinary New Yorkers will likely inflict upon them.

True, the Administration eventually coughed up the $20 billion aid package Bush promised the city after 9/11. But that sum--equal to the cost of occupying Iraq for four months--barely made up for such disaster-related expenses as police overtime, debris removal and rebuilding damaged subway stations and tunnels. New York's economy hasn't even begun to recover. As the nation's official unemployment rate hovers at six percent, the city's runs around eight. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican, opposes virtually every Bush Administration decision concerning New York City.

Even viler than Bush's urban neglect is his failure to avenge the World Trade Center victims as he pledged to do on 9/14, dusty firefighter helpfully posing under his arm on The Pile. After 9/11, Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden were in Pakistan. They and the Taliban received funding from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The 19 hijackers, organized by Egyptian Islamic Jihad, were Egyptian and Saudi. But Bush didn't attack Pakistan, Saudi Arabia or Egypt. He went after Afghanistan and Iraq instead, nations that had nothing to do with 9/11 but offered business opportunities for GOP-connected oil concerns. Incredibly, he siphoned more money and arms to the Egyptians, Saudis and Pakistanis.

Not only did Bush let the terrorists get away, he raised their allowance.

If today's GOP retained a shred of the dignity and patriotism that it once possessed as the Party of Lincoln, it would have dumped Bush in favor of a candidate more interested in defending America than his wealthy contributors. Republicans are neofascists now, and that's why New Yorkers good and true will be yelling at them to go back home.


The Importance of Hugo Chávez: Why He Crushed the Oligarchs

By Tariq Ali

08/17/08 -- "ICH" The turn-out in Venezuela last Sunday was huge. 94.9 percent of the electorate voted in the recall referendum. Venezuela, under its new Constitution, permitted the right of the citizens to recall a President before s/he had completed their term of office. No Western democracy enshrines this right in a written or unwritten constitution. Chavez' victory will have repercussions beyond the borders of Venezuela. It is a triumph of the poor against the rich and it is a lesson that Lula in Brazil and Kirchner in Argentina should study closely. It was Fidel Castro, not Carter, whose advice to go ahead with the referendum was crucial. Chavez put his trust in the people by empowering them and they responded generously. The opposition will only discredit itself further by challenging the results.

The Venezuelan oligarchs and their parties, who had opposed this Constitution in a referendum (having earlier failed to topple Chavez via a US-backed coup and an oil-strike led by a corrupt union bureaucracy) now utilised it to try and get rid of the man who had enhanced Venezuelan democracy. They failed. However loud their cries (and those of their media apologists at home and abroad) of anguish, in reality the whole country knows what happened. Chavez defeated his opponents democratically and for the fourth time in a row. Democracy in Venezuela, under the banner of the Bolivarian revolutionaries, has broken through the corrupt two-party system favoured by the oligarchy and its friends in the West. And this has happened despite the total hostility of the privately owned media: the two daily newspapers, Universal and Nacional as well as Gustavo Cisneros' TV channels and CNN made no attempt to mask their crude support for the opposition.

Some foreign correspondents in Caracas have convinced themselves that Chavez is an oppressive caudillo and they are desperate to translate their own fantasies into reality.. They provide no evidence of political prisoners, leave alone Guantanamo-style detentions or the removal of TV executives and newspaper editors (which happened without too much of a fuss in Blair's Britain).

A few weeks ago in Caracas I had a lengthy discussion with Chavez ranging from Iraq to the most detailed minutiae of Venezuelan history and politics and the Bolivarian programme. It became clear to me that what Chavez is attempting is nothing more or less than the creation of a radical, social-democracy in Venezuela that seeks to empower the lowest strata of society. In these times of deregulation, privatisation and the Anglo-Saxon model of wealth subsuming politics, Chavez' aims are regarded as revolutionary, even though the measures proposed are no different to those of the post-war Attlee government in Britain. Some of the oil-wealth is being spent to educate and heal the poor.

Just under a million children from the shanty-towns and the poorest villages now obtain a free education; 1.2 million illiterate adults have been taught to read and write; secondary education has been made available to 250,000 children whose social status excluded them from this privilege during the ancien regime; three new university campuses were functioning by 2003 and six more are due to be completed by 2006.

As far as healthcare is concerned, the 10,000 Cuban doctors, who were sent to help the country, have transformed the situation in the poor districts, where 11,000 neighbourhood clinics have been established and the health budget has tripled. Add to this the financial support provided to small businesses, the new homes being built for the poor, an Agrarian Reform Law that was enacted and pushed through despite the resistance, legal and violent, by the landlords. By the end of last year 2,262,467 hectares has been distributed to 116,899 families. The reasons for Chavez' popularity become obvious. No previous regime had even noticed the plight of the poor.

And one can't help but notice that it is not simply a division between the wealthy and the poor, but also one of skin-colour. The Chavistas tend to be dark-skinned, reflecting their slave and native ancestry. The opposition is light-skinned and some of its more disgusting supporters denounce Chavez as a black monkey. A puppet show to this effect with a monkey playing Chavez was even organised at the US Embassy in Caracas. But Colin Powell was not amused and the Ambassador was compelled to issue an apology.

The bizarre argument advanced in a hostile editorial in The Economist this week that all this was done to win votes is extraordinary. The opposite is the case. The coverage of Venezuela in The Economist and Financial Times has consisted of pro-oligarchy apologetics. Rarely have reporters in the field responded so uncritically to the needs of their proprietors.

The Bolivarians wanted power so that real reforms could be implemented. All the oligarchs have to offer is more of the past and the removal of Chavez.
It is ridiculous to suggest that Venezuela is on the brink of a totalitarian tragedy. It is the opposition that has attempted to take the country in that direction. The Bolivarians have been incredibly restrained. When I asked Chavez to explain his own philosophy, he replied:

'I don't believe in the dogmatic postulates of Marxist revolution. I don't accept that we are living in a period of proletarian revolutions. All that must be revised. Reality is telling us that every day. Are we aiming in Venezuela today for the abolition of private property or a classless society? I don't think so. But if I'm told that because of that reality you can't do anything to help the poor, the people who have made this country rich through their labour and never forget that some of it was slave labour, then I say 'We part company'. I will never accept that there can be no redistribution of wealth in society. Our upper classes don't even like paying taxes. That's one reason they hate me. We said 'You must pay your taxes'. I believe it's better to die in battle, rather than hold aloft a very revolutionary and very pure banner, and do nothing ... That position often strikes me as very convenient, a good excuse ... Try and make your revolution, go into combat, advance a little, even if it's only a millimetre, in the right direction, instead of dreaming about utopias.'

And that's why he won.

Tariq Ali's latest book, Bush in Babylon: The Re-colonisation of Iraq, is published by Verso. He can be reached at: tariq.ali3@btinternet.com

Marines picked Najaf fight without Pentagon's OK

Officers turned a firefight with cleric's forces into bloody eight-day battle, political stalemate.

By Alex Berenson and John F. Burns

August 18, 2004 "The New York Times" -- NAJAF, Iraq -- Just five days after they arrived here to take over from U.S. Army units that had encircled Najaf since an earlier confrontation in the spring, new Marine commanders decided to smash guerrillas loyal to the rebel Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

In recent interviews, the Marine officers said they turned a firefight with al-Sadr's forces on Aug. 5 into a eight-day pitched battle -- without the approval of the Pentagon or senior Iraqi officials. It was fought out in bloody skirmishes in an ancient cemetery that brought them within rifle shot of the Imam Ali Mosque, Shiite Islam's holiest shrine. Eventually, fresh Army units arrived from Baghdad and took over Marine positions near the mosque, but by then the politics of war had taken over and the U.S. force had lost the opportunity to storm al-Sadr's troops around the mosque.

Now, what the Marines had hoped would be a quick, decisive action has bogged down into a stalemate that appears to have strengthened the hand of al-Sadr, whose stature rises each time he survives a confrontation with the U.S. military. Just as seriously, it might have weakened the credibility of the interim Iraqi government of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, showing him, many Iraqis say, to be alternately rash and indecisive, as well as ultimately beholden to U.S. overrule on crucial military and political matters.

As a reconstruction of the battle in Najaf shows, the sequence of events was strikingly reminiscent of the battle of Fallujah in April. In both cases, newly arrived Marine units immediately confronted guerrillas in firefights that quickly escalated. And in both cases, the U.S. military failed to achieve its strategic goals, pulling back after the political costs of the confrontation rose.

Fallujah is now essentially off-limits to U.S. ground troops and has become a haven for Sunni Muslim insurgents and terrorists menacing Baghdad, U.S. commanders say.

The Najaf battle also has raised fresh questions about an age-old rivalry within the U.S. military -- between the no-holds-barred, press-ahead culture of the Marines and the slower, more reserved and often more politically cautious approach of the Army. In Iraq, Army-Marine tensions have surfaced previously, notably when Marine units opened a major offensive in Fallujah this spring, vowing to crush rebels entrenched there before they, too, were ordered to pull back.

As they replay the first days of the Najaf battle, some commanders are wondering if a more carefully planned mission would have had a better chance to succeed.

"Setting conditions for an attack requires extensive planning and preparations," said Lt. Col. Myles Miyamasu, who commands an Army battalion that arrived to reinforce the Marine unit here two days after the fight began. "If you don't have those things in place and you attack, a lot of times it fails."

When the United States transferred power to the interim government in late June, both U.S. and Iraqi officials insisted that authority for major decisions on the use of force would be exercised by the new Iraqi leadership, in particular Allawi, a former enforcer for Saddam Hussein's Baath Party who defected in the 1980s and became leader of an exile political party. Senior U.S. military commanders stressed that while they retained command of their troops, the forces were there to serve the Iraqi government.

But in the battle in Najaf, at least, the Marines here say that they engaged al-Sadr's forces at the request of the local Iraqi police. They did not seek approval from more senior military commanders or from Iraqi political leaders, with the exception of the governor of Najaf.

The governor, Adnan Al-Zurfi, an Allawi appointee, refuses to confirm having given the green light, although U.S. commanders in Baghdad cited his commands repeatedly as the political cover for the Marine attack.
Copyright New York Times

Anti-war Group Sues City over Denial of Central Park Permit

By Sara Kugler
The Associated Press

Wednesday 18 August 2004

NEW YORK -- The anti-war group planning a massive demonstration the day before the GOP convention asked a judge on Wednesday to overrule city officials and let them gather in Central Park.

Lawyers for the group, United for Peace and Justice, filed a lawsuit in State Supreme Court in Manhattan seeking an order prohibiting the city from denying the group use of the park and finding that the denial violated the state Constitution.

The lawsuit noted that the park has been used in the past for a Paul Simon concert attended by 750,000 people, a papal Mass that drew 250,000 people and regular performances by the New York City Opera and the New York Philharmonic seen by tens of thousands.

The Constitution was violated "by discriminating on the basis of content in allowing cultural but not political events," the group claims.

Jeffrey Fogel, legal director at the Center for Constitutional Rights, told a news conference that the reason for the city's denial was "a pretext, a sham and, frankly, an outrage to citizens of this country who believe in the Constitution."

"When the city opens up its parks and allows its use for corporate sponsors and cultural events, it cannot then discriminate against those who wish to discuss political ideas in the parks as well," he said.

The last-ditch attempt to have a permitted gathering in the park comes one week after the group backed out of a deal it had reached with the city that allowed it to rally along a west Manhattan highway after marching past convention headquarters at Madison Square Garden.

The organization's leaders said they changed their minds about the shadeless West Side Highway because they couldn't resolve issues like access to drinking water and projecting sound along the long, narrow space.

The highway deal was reached after the Parks Department denied the group's request for a Central Park permit last April. Officials said that the expected crowd at the Aug. 29 rally, which could exceed 250,000 people, would damage the grass.

After United for Peace and Justice reneged on the deal last week, it applied again to the Parks Department, seeking to spread out the crowd in other areas of the park. The city squashed that application hours later, accusing them of engaging in "theatrics."

On Wednesday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he was "disappointed" that the lawsuit had been filed, but said the city would not relent without a court order.

"We are not going to give a permit for Central Park," he said. "Central Park cannot accommodate a protest of another quarter of a million people in addition to all the other protests and all the people who are in Central Park on a normal Sunday."

The city's corporation counsel, Michael Cardozo, said in a statement that the lawsuit filed Wednesday "has absolutely no merit."

"We have worked with this group for months to find a solution that would allow its members to express their important First Amendment rights while also providing them with an appropriate place to protest," Cardozo said. "We will aggressively defend the city's position, and we're confident that we'll prevail in court."

The fight between city officials and the anti-war group has prompted some organizations to urge activists to gather in the park anyway, risking arrest.

Leslie Cagan, the group's leader, has said that United for Peace and Justice would take every measure to secure permits for its event because they want the demonstration to be family friendly where participants don't have to worry about clashes with police.

"Going to court was never our favorite option," she said Wednesday. "It is actually the only option that we have left at this point."

The group was unsuccessful in a court battle last year. It sued in February 2003, when police denied an application to march past the United Nations and granted instead a permit for a stationary rally.

A federal judge said the city did not violate the First Amendment, citing heightened security at the United Nations. An appeals court agreed three days before the rally, which drew tens of thousands of people.

For a lesson in humanity, turn to Thoreau not Tressell

His Walden confronts the hedonism and materialism of our own time

Martin Kettle
Tuesday August 17, 2004
The Guardian

One morning last month, when I was in America attending the Democratic convention in Boston, I stole away from politics and the noisy city and drove the short distance out to the solitude of the woods surrounding Walden Pond.
Some readers, especially if they are Americans, will immediately know where this column is heading. Many other readers, especially if they are British, may not. For surprisingly few people in this country now seem to read the works of Henry David Thoreau, whose Walden was first published 150 years ago this month and has rarely been out of print since.

A few books have had the capacity to change the way that people look at the world. It has been striking to read on the Guardian letters page recently, how fervently so many feel this way about Robert Tressell's The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. It is not a view I share. For me, Tressell's so-called socialist novel is one of the most over-rated books on the shelves.

Walden, on the other hand, first did the trick for me when I was a student and continues to work an effect whenever I return to it. No book asks us more insistently to think about ourselves and to examine our claims to be free creatures. I am certainly not alone in my admiration for it. Thoreau's reflection on his solitary two years living on the shores of Walden Pond was a book that once captured the imagination of Tolstoy and of Gandhi. He is still one of the icons of the environmentalist movement. And he remains one of the necessary reference points for all those who, however intermittently and imperfectly, ask themselves the question: How should life be lived?

This was indeed the question that took Thoreau to Walden Pond in March 1845 from his nearby home in historic Concord - a town that also numbered Emerson, Hawthorne and Alcott among its inhabitants and can thus boast comfortably the most concentrated literary associations in the United States. "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately," Thoreau wrote in one of Walden's most celebrated passages, "to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."

He proceeded to do the thing for which he is now remembered. Borrowing an axe, Thoreau began to cut down some white pine on the shores of Walden Pond, before the winter ice had melted in the cove that now bears his name. By the early summer, he had built himself a small hut, and on Independence Day 1845 - nice touch that - he moved in. For the next two and a bit years he was to live there alone, tending for himself, observing, listening, thinking and chronicling, until he emerged from the woods to rejoin the world in September 1847.

It was truly a back-to-nature, return-to-the-simple-life experiment. But Thoreau did not live as a hermit, and you only need to visit Walden Pond to grasp that, even then, such a thing was not really practicable. Even in the 1840s, the lake and the woods that surround it were hardly in the back of beyond. Sometimes, Thoreau would walk into town - Concord is not far distant - and at other times friends would come to the woods to seek him out. Throughout his sojourn, Thoreau could hear not just the call of the loon and the owl, or the shuffling of the woodchuck, but, as he describes, the more workaday noises of a railway that ran close by.

Undoubtedly, Thoreau loved the natural world that he describes so beautifully. But he should not be seen as some misty-eyed 19th-century new-age shaman, mumbling and chanting about the wonder of creation or how everything is connected. His real subject is not nature but the life of human beings. It might be more illuminating to see Walden as a high-minded Victorian forerunner of a reality TV endurance trial, like Survivor or I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.

The book in which he details his experience is gratifyingly impossible to pigeonhole. Walden is part diary, part natural history, part philosophical treatise. One of his friends dubbed Thoreau a "poet-naturalist", but he was also a historian, an economist, a reporter and - above all - a rebel. Prudish, austere and stubborn Thoreau may well have been, but Walden is really the original alternative manifesto. The critic Brooks Atkinson described it as "the practical philosophy of a rebellion against the world's cowardly habits of living".

In the 60s, when I first read Walden, Thoreau was sometimes dubbed the world's first dropout. It might be more accurate, these days, to regard him as the godfather of the gap year. But the real point about Thoreau, and particularly about Walden, is that he challenges us to take life seriously, to look difficult choices in the face and to try to lead a grounded and integrated life.

Which is why, I think, Walden is a book for all time, and in some ways why it is a book especially for ours. Thoreau thought life in the 1840s was intolerably false and pressured. That is why he went out to discover what mattered to him in his hut by Walden Pond. But what on earth would the man who wrote about "this restless, nervous, bustling, trivial 19th century" have found to say about the 21st, so much more restless, so much more nervous, so much more bustling and so very much more trivial?

"Why should we be in such a desperate haste to succeed," is how Thoreau puts it, "and in such desperate enterprises? If a man does not keep pace with his compan ions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."

Even to spend a couple of hours by Walden Pond, with the mighty modern city, its materialism and its noise just 20 minutes away down the turnpike, is to grasp something of the message of the book that Thoreau drafted here. It is to be reminded of how easy it is to be carried along unthinkingly by modern life, and at what cost, without asking the questions one should always ask and without taking responsibility for that failure. To read Thoreau is to learn a little humility.

"How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book?" Thoreau writes. Reading The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists obviously has that effect for some. I just wish that such readers would face the fact that people who believed what Tressell believed spent much of the 20th century murdering millions of people and enslaving countless millions of others in a system which did not work.

I'm not sure that Thoreau has the answers to all of life's mystery and complexity either. But I know few writers who speak more plainly about the shortcomings of modern hedonism and materialism. What is more, I do not think that anyone has ever murdered a single person in the name of the worldview that Thoreau expounded. And, frankly, that's good enough for me.


Today Iraq, Tomorrow Iran

Neocons were dead wrong about Iraq in at least 21 (count 'em) ways. Yet
Wolfowitz, Krauthammer et al. are nevertheless pushing for "preemption"
in Iran.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Martin Sieff

Aug. 11, 2004 | These must be strange days to be a neoconservative:
caught between exultant hope and wild terror; utterly discredited, yet
still securely in power; proven totally wrong on Iraq, yet still
determined to believe against all odds that one more wild throw of the dice will
recoup all.

To the casual observer, the neocons in the Bush administration and
their impeccably drilled and regulated cheering section across the
commanding heights of the U.S. broadcast and print media have been routed.
Since the hand-over of power to the interim Iraqi government, the media
have for the most part turned their sensitive faces away from Iraq, giving
the public the false sense that it is becoming quiet there. The 138,000
U.S. troops still bogged down in Iraq know better, even if Deputy
Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz can't recall before a congressional
committee just how many Americans have died: Fifty-four were killed in
July, a significant rise from the 42 who died in June, the month before the
hand-over; and the total in August already looks as if it will exceed
that in July.

But the perception that the neocons -- including Wolfowitz, Richard
Perle and Douglas Feith -- have been routed, or are in retreat, could not
be further from the truth. They are as firmly in control of the levers
of real power in the government as they were in the yearlong,
synchronized buildup to their war in Iraq. Not a single National Security
Council or Pentagon official who eagerly rode the bandwagon for the war has
been fired. Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, and
aide John Hannah continue to enjoy the full confidence of the vice

In the media, it is the same story. Rupert Murdoch has not suffered a
sudden fit of shame and forced William Kristol to relinquish control of
the Weekly Standard. Time magazine and the Washington Post have not
shown one iota of embarrassment that they continue to provide a platform
for columnist Charles Krauthammer, whose histrionics have now ascended
into a call for our next "preemptive" war -- this time with Iran. If
that happens, of course, hundreds, probably many thousands, of young
Americans will pay with their lives for a new wave of appalling bungles. And
if the past is prologue, no neocon in government should ever expect to
lose a job.

None of these characters (like the president) has said as much as an "I
am sorry" or "I was mistaken" over their major assumptions and
assertions about Iraq, every one of which has been proved wrong. They have
shown no capacity whatsoever for self-criticism, so it is not surprising
that they do not seem interested in self-correction that might prevent a
repeat of their policy catastrophes.

What are all these wrong predictions, which are now at risk of being
relegated down the memory hole as Orwellian nonhistory that never
happened? There are at least 21.

First, that the Iraqi army would instantly collapse as soon as U.S.
forces crossed their border in a "cakewalk."

Second, that Ahmed Chalabi, now charged by our own puppet Iraqi
government with money laundering and counterfeiting, would quickly emerge as
the popular natural leader of Iraq once President Saddam Hussein was

Third, that because no serious anti-American guerrilla operations could
ever get established Iraq, only a small number of U.S. troops would
have to remain after the fall of Saddam.

Fourth, that strong links between Saddam and al-Qaida would be found
following our occupation.

Fifth, that overwhelming evidence of weapons of mass destruction would
quickly be uncovered by U.S. troops.

Sixth, that the U.S. occupation of Iraq would discredit and weaken
al-Qaida throughout the Arab and wider Muslim world.

Seventh, that Iraq would quickly develop a stable democracy after the
fall of Saddam.

Eighth, that Sunni and Shiite forces would never find common cause
against U.S. forces.

Ninth, that reconstruction in Iraq would occur quickly and easily
(disproving the State Department's far more cautious assessment of how
difficult it would be).

Tenth, that NATO didn't matter and we could safely ignore it in
occupying Iraq.

Eleventh, that the United Nations didn't matter and that we could
safely ignore it as well.

Twelfth, that we could put together a militarily significant "coalition
of the willing" -- which recalcitrant allies like France and Germany
would quickly regret not joining and thus finally be prevailed upon to
send in troops to ease the burden on our own forces in Iraq.

Thirteenth, that leaders of countries such as Japan, Spain and Poland
who took the plunge and sent forces to Iraq would not suffer enfeebling
electoral or political losses as consequences of doing so.

Fourteenth, that Iraq's oil could be made to flow again on a lucrative
scale within a few months of the invasion, and pay for everything from
conquest to reconstruction.

Fifteenth, that the occupation of Iraq and opening up of its oil fields
would rapidly cause global oil prices to drop back into the range of
$20-$25 a barrel, if not even lower -- breaking the cartel power of the
Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries led by Saudi Arabia and

Sixteenth, that the toppling of Saddam would demoralize the
Palestinians and break the back of the second Palestinian intifada, thereby ending
the wave of suicide-bombing massacres of Israeli civilians.

Seventeenth, that the occupation and remaking of Iraq would quickly
boost the prospects for stable, pro-American democracies throughout the
Middle East. (The prophets at the American Enterprise Institute, home to
Lynn Cheney and, since he left the Pentagon, Perle, were particularly
hot to trot on that one.)

Eighteenth, that the CIA and other primary elements of the U.S.
intelligence community who could not be bullied or manipulated by Defense
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Feith, Wolfowitz and their acolytes in the
Pentagon could be ignored forever.

Nineteenth, that L. Paul Bremer and his Coalition Provisional Authority
(heavily staffed by neocons, almost all of whom have since prudently
fled back to suburban Washington) could ignore the intelligence
assessments and policy recommendations of the U.S. Army on the ground.

Twentieth, that last spring's crackdown on Shiite cleric Muqtada
al-Sadr would be quickly and easily carried out and that he would enjoy no
significant support from the wider Iraqi Shiite community.

Twenty-first, that any insurgency in Iraq would be carried out solely
by embittered old Saddam loyalists and evil outside agents, none of whom
would be able to operate for long because they would find no
significant support among the wider Iraqi community. (Krauthammer was
particularly enthusiastic about that one.)

Some liberal hawks, such as Joshua Micah Marshall, David Remnick,
Michael O'Hanlon, Kenneth Pollack and even Thomas Friedman, have actually
had the grace to admit they were mistaken. But none of the stalwarts of
the Washington Post editorial page has yet done so. The Post has
published no editorial accounting of how it allowed itself to be misled by
National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and others on WMD and
everything else involving the war until its conscience awoke over Abu Ghraib.
The newspaper's editorial board cannot shake its Stockholm syndrome,
perhaps because it is a voluntary hostage. And naturally, not a single
neocon has confessed error.

What a contrast to Vietnam! Within two and half years of major U.S.
ground troops being committed, President Johnson had already dropped
Defense Secretary Robert McNamara overboard. Then Johnson himself decided he
had to abandon his hopes of reelection. That decision, 36 years on,
looks like a paragon of self-denial, patriotism and nobility in the
interest of genuine peace compared with the crass and desperate efforts to
cling to power of the current White House incumbent.

The only senior official to fall in the Bush administration, strangely
enough, is the only one appointed by President Clinton: former CIA
Director George Tenet. None of those who endlessly pressured or disparaged
the U.S. intelligence community or cooked up the flow of now utterly
discredited intelligence estimates for Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Feith have
even been demoted, let alone lost their jobs. The almost unknown Harold
Rhode, the longtime right-hand man of serial plotter Michael Ledeen at
the AEI, continues to whisper his sweet nothings into Rumsfeld's ear as
his advisor on Islamic affairs. And Ledeen, Rhode's mentor and partner
as far back as the days of the Iran-Contra fiasco, has been openly
trumpeting the deadly dangers of Iran and the need to take preventive
action against it in the National Review Online.

With their every dream, ambition and prediction for Iraq in ruins, the
Bush administration and its neocon court are now in a panic. What can
they do next? How can they distract the American people from their
catastrophic and incompetent record on Iraq before the November election?

The answer is simple. It was stated quite expressly by Rice this past
weekend: Don't worry about our failure to find any evidence of WMD after
our preemptive war on Iraq -- we may be forced to take such preemptive
action very soon against its neighbor, Iran.

If that October surprise doesn't rally voters back around Bush and
ensure four more years for him and the neocons, what will?

The pattern of preparation for this is all too familiar from the
buildup to war with Iraq. First, the war drums are sounded by the same old
"experts"; then they are amplified by alarmist columnists. Once you see
Krauthammer or Ledeen opining, as they have over the past two months,
that Iran's nuclear capability poses the gravest possible threat to
Civilization as We Know It, and that The World Cannot Afford to Wait and
Negotiate, then you can guarantee -- conveniently close to the election to
panic voters into supporting the president -- that Bush, Cheney and
Rumsfeld will pick up the chorus.

Ledeen has already written at least two columns on the subject.
Krauthammer, prophet of the Iraq war, has made quite clear his determination
to unleash a new one. In his July 23 Post column he wrote: "The long
awaited revolution [in Iran] is not happening. Which makes the question of
preemptive attack all the more urgent ... If nothing is done, a
fanatical terrorist regime openly dedicated to the destruction of the 'Great
Satan' will have both nuclear weapons and the terrorists and missiles to
deliver them. All that stands between us and that is either revolution
or preemptive strike."

From the perspective of the chimerical and deranged weltpolitik, or
"global strategy," of the neocons, targeting Iran is not merely a tactic
of desperation but the fulfillment of what their plans were from the
beginning. For the subjugation of Iraq under the puppet Chalabi was always
seen as only the first step toward toppling target No. 2 -- Iran -- in
the president's famous "axis of evil."

Chalabi, of course, blotted his copybook by being exposed as having
been entirely compromised by Iranian intelligence in the first place
(though many would still rather defend him and slander the integrity of the
institutions of U.S. intelligence that exposed him). And so the
unfortunate Iyad Allawi was hastily shoehorned into the high-risk job of prime
minister of Iraq that had been lovingly prepared for Chalabi. But the
neocon goal remains the same: Use the new, "strong fortress" of
pro-American Iraq as the launching point to destabilize and topple the Islamic
Republic of Iran.

In reality, of course, Iraq is anything but a fortress. The embattled
U.S. troops there are on the defensive -- an understaffed,
overstretched, exhausted force in a nation that has almost universally rejected them
and about which they were given tragically inadequate preparation.

However, blaming Iran for America's continued failure to tame Iraq
conveniently creates a new demon, distracting the public once again from
the incompetence and irresponsibility of those who plunged the United
States into that quagmire in the first place. And once a new, far bigger
conflict has been generated and Bush has been safely reelected, the
American public can presumably be rallied around the flag once again.

Certainly, Iran's steady moves toward acquiring nuclear weapons are a
major challenge for the United States and the rest of the world. But
there are other ways to deal with them. Joseph Stalin's acquisition of
nuclear weapons in 1949 did not prompt the United States to launch a
preemptive nuclear attack against the Soviet Union. And although Mao Zedong
killed at least 30 million of his own people with lunatic policies,
massacres, purges and wild utopian experiments, neither Democratic nor
Republican presidents ever came close to considering a preemptive nuclear
attack against the People's Republic of China when it developed
thermonuclear weapons in the 1960s. Why, then, is an action that could very
well trigger nuclear warfare with Iran urgent and vital now when it was
not necessary against far more dictatorial regimes that slaughtered
infinitely larger numbers of people in the past?

Can Bush and his neocons get away with such an outrageous thing a
second time after being so thoroughly discredited the first time? Why not?
They got away with it before.

Big Brother's Last Mile

The FCC's new ruling on broadband wiretaps will force customers to pay for the privilege of making the Internet less secure.

By Mark Rasch Aug 16 2004 10:00AM PT

On August 9th, 2004, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) took a major step toward mandating the creation and implementation of new Internet Protocol standards to make all Internet communications less safe and less secure. What is even worse, the FCC's ruling will force ISP's and others to pay what may amount to billions of dollars to ensure that IP traffic remains insecure.

The FCC ruling comes pursuant to a request by U.S. law enforcement agencies to extend the reach of a decade old federal statute, the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, or CALEA, to broadband Internet service providers including cable companies, DSL providers, satellite providers and even electric companies that provide inline Internet access. The ruling, if it becomes final, may require such ISPs to create and deploy new and expensive technologies that would ensure that communications carried over broadband were deliberately insecure and capable of being intercepted, retransmitted, read, and understood by law enforcement. Of course, whatever law enforcement can do, hackers will be able to do easier and faster. What this means is that IP protocols may have to be adjusted, and the future of encryption may also be in doubt.

A Brief History of Taps
To understand CALEA, you need a bit of history. From the dawn of Alexander Graham Bell to 1968, there were few if any specific rules on the legal requirements for listening in on electronic communications. The U.S. Supreme Court had tried to apply the precepts of the Fourth Amendment's protections of the privacy of "persons, places, houses and effects" to a voice traveling over a wire, finally concluding in 1963 that the amendment protects people's privacy rights, not simply their physical location. In response, Congress passed the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, Title III of which established the rules for intercepting telephone calls.
By making ISPs the electronic equivalent of the phone company, and therefore subject to CALEA, the FCC opens the door to mandating that all future TCP/IP technologies be tapable by design.
Concerned that the FBI lacked the technical ability to install and monitor wiretaps, Congress in 1970 mandated that the cops could ask for, and a court could order, the phone company to give the police "information, facilities, and technical assistance necessary to accomplish the interception unobtrusively and with a minimum of interference with the [the company's] services." It also provided that the communications company "be compensated . . . by the applicant for reasonable expenses incurred in providing such facilities or assistance." In other words, a court could order an ISP to cooperate, conditioned on the cops agreeing to pay for the help. Effectively, this is no different than requiring a landlord, when presented with both a court authorized search warrant and an order requiring cooperation, and an order requiring the cops to pay up, to show the police where the target's apartment is, and maybe show them how to pick the lock.

In 1994, however, at the request of law enforcement, Congress broadly expanded the law. No longer was the phone company merely required to provide technical assistance to help execute an already issued wiretap order -- now all covered telecommunications providers had to spend billions of rate-payer's dollars to design their systems in such a way as to be susceptible to the possibility of later court ordered surveillance. This is the equivalent of requiring that the landlord design the building without doors or locks (or with very weak ones), just in case the cops later want to search anyone in the building. As the Department of Justice described it, "CALEA for the first time required telecommunications carriers to modify the design of their equipment, facilities, and services to ensure that lawfully-authorized electronic surveillance could actually be performed."

But CALEA never applied to ISPs, per se. In fact, section 102 of CALEA states that it "does not [apply to] persons or entities insofar as they are engaged in providing information services" although it does apply to "person[s] or entit[ies] engaged in providing wire or electronic communication switching or transmission service to the extent that the Commission finds that such service is a replacement for a substantial portion of the local telephone exchange service and that it is in the public interest to deem such a person or entity to be a telecommunications carrier."

In other words, if you are replacing the local telephone exchange service, and the FCC concludes it is in the public interest, you might be covered by CALEA. On August 9th, the FCC tentatively concluded that broadband providers were exactly that.

Push Me, Pull You
The FCC concluded that "facilities-based providers of any type of broadband Internet access service. . . are subject to CALEA because they provide a replacement for a substantial portion of the local telephone exchange service."

They arrived at this conclusion, it turns out, by completely misreading recent technology history The FCC wrote that, at the time CALEA was enacted, Internet services were generally provided on a dial-up basis by two separate entities providing two different capabilities -- a local exchange telephone company carrying the calls between an end user and her chosen Internet Service Provider, and the ISP providing e-mail, content, Web hosting and other Internet services.

ISPs were exempt from CALEA. But because the local phone company was subject both to FCC jurisdiction and to CALEA, dial-up access was implicitly covered as well: to accomplish its purposes of intercepting communications pursuant to a court order, the FBI only had to capture the communication at the POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) line, and the problem was solved.

The FCC's reasoning is that because broadband replaces dial-up access to the Internet, and dial-up was subject to CALEA, broadband must ipso facto be subject to CALEA.

However, while most individual users in 1994 connected to the Internet via dial-up, the Internet was already built principally on broadband communications. In fact, from its inception until 1991, very little of the overall bandwidth of the Internet consisted of an individual user dialing into a node for access. Most users were government, industry, military or educational users sitting at terminals with relatively fast (for 70's and 80's technology) non-dial-up connections. Broadband isn't some newfangled replacement for dial-up: it's the backbone and spine of the Internet, and has been for decades.

A Brave New Internet
The FBI, in requesting this authority defined "broadband access service" as "the process and service used to gain access or connect to the public Internet using a connection based on packet-mode technology that offers high bandwidth" but "does not include any 'information services' available to a user after he or she has been connected to the Internet, such as the content found on Internet Service Providers' or other websites."

Essentially, the FCC concluded that CALEA can't force website operators to design their systems to reveal the IP addresses or identity of people who visit the site, but could force ISPs not only to reveal the identical information, but also to design the system to enable law enforcement to reveal the information.

It is important to note that this expansion of CALEA was not needed to compel the ISPs to comply with a lawful subpoena. ISP's and everyone else must already comply under existing law. But a subpoena can only compel a recipient to turn over documents or records that exist.

The FCC's ruling goes well beyond the extensive subpoena authority of the grand jury and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and even the USA-PATRIOT Act. By making ISPs the electronic equivalent of the phone company, and therefore subject to CALEA, the FCC opens the door to mandating that all future TCP/IP technologies -- possibly even encrypted ones -- be designed at the outset to be tapable. After all, it would do the cops no good to receive a mass of encrypted packets.

What's worse, all of this would be done on your dime. As Commissioner Abernathy pointed out in a statement, "upgrading networks to comply with a new packet-mode standard for surveillance will be a costly endeavor, and there are many unanswered questions about how these costs should be recovered."

The FBI had an answer when ISPs and phone companies complained about the cost. The Bureau suggested that the cost be defrayed by increasing the rates you and I pay. So much for the government's E-rate program to make broadband more affordable.

I am all for letting the cops tap phones, and even IMs, chat sessions, e-mail and websites with appropriate court orders. What I don't like is making us reinvent the Internet just for these purposes. The FCC action is a large step towards requiring this.

SecurityFocus columnist Mark D. Rasch, J.D., is a former head of the Justice Department's computer crime unit, and now serves as Senior Vice President and Chief Security Counsel at Solutionary Inc.

The Preemptive Invasion of Iraq Was Staged in the Service of Israel

The Preemptive Invasion of Iraq Was Staged in the Service of Israel

By Paul Balles
Aug 16, 2004, 06:47

The Jeffrey Blankfort article "A War for Israel" (July 27, 2004) (http://sfimc.net/news/2004/07/1700311.php) offers the best coverage of the real moving forces behind the Iraq occupation since my article "What remains must be the truth" was published by Redress Information and Analysis in December 2003>http://www.redress.btinternet.co.uk/pjballes15.htm

Blankfort's article echoes and expands on my analysis, but the conclusions are almost the same: the "preemptive" invasion of Iraq was staged at the behest of the US neocon cabal in the service of Israelthe Indymedia synopsis of Blankfort's article notesOver the years, that segment, the organized American Jewish community - in short, the Israel lobby - has amassed unparalleled political power through skillfully combining the wealth of its members with its extraordinary organizational skills to achieve what amounts to a corporate takeover of the U.S. Congress and virtual veto power over the presidency.

It was no secret that Israel had long been interested in eliminating the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and redrawing the map of the Middle East to enhance its power in the region. Initiating that undertaking became a task for key individuals in and around the White House with deep roots in right-wing Israeli politics. The attack on the World Trade Center supplied the opportunity. That Iraq had nothing to do with it was immaterial...The first step has been completed. Saddam Hussein has been removed, not by Israel, but by the U.S. and its "coalition of the willing."

Whether a purposeful omission or oversight, Blankfort unfortunately misses the role of Mossad (whose motto: "By way of deception thou shalt do war") and the DoD (Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith, Wurmser, etc.) in the planning and execution of the 9/11 devastation - the disaster used as a fabricated rationale for the pre-emptive strike and occupation of Iraq.

To Jeffrey Blankfort: I'm happy to see an awareness of the control exercised by Israel, its lobbyists and the dual loyalists in America getting additional exposure. When you focus on the 9/11 cabal and connect the dots, the larger reality will emerge. Perhaps then, the American electorate may have cause to counteract the Israeli lobbyists and insist on a Congress that represents all of the citizens and not chiefly an organized special interest group.

To Sam Farr, my congressional representative in California: represent the majority of your constituents and stop yielding to the dictates of the Israeli lobby. Pass this advice on to your fellow congressmen who want to stay in office.

To Michael Moore: now that you've amassed fame and fortune, you no longer need to play footsies with the dissemblers. Get over your adopted obsession with Bush, the bin Ladens and the oil myth. Turn Farenheit 911 into Fission 911; go after and expose the real culprits. You've had enough guts to stand up to GW Bush, Karl Rove and Charles Heston's American gun lobby. Now stand up to Abe Foxman, AJP and AIPAC!

Israeli Espionage

When a Honey Trap Goes Bad A Governor Resigns

By John Anast

With the news out that in fact James McGreevey is, by his own admission, a homosexual; the Mossad honey trap has become somewhat unglued. Golan Cipel, the object of the Mr. McGreevy’s affection, worked for the Israeli consulate in New York in the 1990’s and other posts in a capacity to serve the Israeli espionage service and its targeting of American politicians and the American political system.

Notwithstanding all the self-serving political rhetoric spewing from democratic lips attempting to relegate the matter to a personal issue between two men, there are larger and in deed more relevant issues to our Nation's security to discern. It is a glimpse into the world of Israeli espionage targeted against the United States, its politicians, and its people.

Despite recent numerous pronouncements by both public and private figures alike that Mr. McGreevey’s sexual preference came as a shock, to the contrary it was widely known in political and business circles that the ex-governor had a per chant for male sex partners. There were any number of swirling allegations regarding his sexual exploits, not the least of which that the ex-governor broke his leg at a New Jersey beach during a homosexual act gone awry.

With the knowledge of the ex-governors preference for men, Mossad activated Cipel to lure McGreevey into a compromising position for exploitation, extortion and blackmail purposes. It is alleged that in a pre-arranged visit to Israel, organized by New Jersey Jewish organizations, Mr. McGreevey was introduced to the Jewish homosexual, Mr. Cipel at a political function.

In its zeal to penetrate the Governors office and homeland security, Mossad demanded that Cipel, an Israeli citizen who lacked any requisite experience or security clearances, be appointed to run New Jersey’s homeland security office. In that position Mr. Cipel could have not only obtained information on US security procedures, but also been in a position to access sensitive investigative information, methods and sources relative to US efforts to thwart Israeli espionage against the United States. New Jersey is still reeling from the Israeli espionage ring which was housed in Urban Movers that collapsed soon after it was discovered on 11 September, and more recently by the detention of two (2) Israelis, working for a New Jersey moving company, caught with classified submarine fuel near a US base in Tennessee where the fuel is manufactured.

Investigators should not limit their investigation to Cipel and his activities but should also be reviewing every appointment made by the McGreevey administration and especially those dealing with homeland security, to ensure that additional Israeli moles are not in-place conspiring espionage against the State of New Jersey and our Nation. Investigators should also be reviewing if telephone calls from the ex-governors home and office were logged by Amdocs, and if that information was shared with Israeli agents in Israel, as Amdocs is an Israeli company based in the United States which monitors and tracks most calls made within our Nation.

This should be a wake-up call to every local, state and federal agency to demand that all meetings public or private by any official, and or any member of their staff, and any foreign national, or any person holding dual citizenship be made part of the public record as a matter of law. It would also enhance security in the State of New Jersey to make it mandatory that the Division of Motor Vehicles include the place of birth, and any dual citizenship the recipient may hold. It would likewise increase security to tag every foreign visitor to the United States to know and monitor their whereabouts at all times.

Tired of Two Parties?

Blame the centralization of the federal government, not the Constitution.

By Pradeep Chhibber and Ken Kollman
Tuesday, August 17, 2004; Page A15

One hundred and five million Americans will vote on Nov. 2, and at least 95 percent of their votes will be cast for the two major parties. For all practical purposes, the Democrats and Republicans have carved up the electorate and left only morsels for other parties, even though many voters express displeasure about not having more options.

Third parties have little or no chance of gaining real representation in Congress or in statehouses. Minor political parties and independents win an occasional seat, but their impact in legislatures is negligible. All this gives rise to a persistent myth about our two-party system, one that is as misplaced as it is widespread: that the United States has always been a two-party country and that there's little to be done about it short of substantial constitutional engineering.

Some say that the dominance of the two parties is caused by the structure of our government and the nature of our electoral system. In particular, it is said, because we do not use some form of proportional representation -- in which representation by parties in legislatures occurs in proportion to the number of votes parties receive from the electorate -- voters do not waste their votes on minor parties. Others point to the genius of the Founders and their system of checks and balances, or to the presence of a vast middle class in the United States that has ensured the absence of deep class animosities that in other countries have led to the emergence of communist or socialist parties.

But the truth is that the United States has not always been so dominated by two parties. Third parties (sometimes even fourth, fifth and sixth parties) once competed successfully in congressional elections, winning significant portions of the popular vote and often gaining seats in Congress. This was true for most of the 19th century and even the early part of the 20th.

Starting in the 1930s, however, minor parties stopped winning significant shares of votes for elections to Congress, and viable third parties in the states have since died away. No longer do Prohibition, Socialist, Populist, Greenback, Farmer-Labor and various Labor parties compete for even one seat. Except for a smattering of minor-party and independent candidates, and a few from the Green Party, Republicans and Democrats dominate our legislatures, the White House and governors' offices, capturing well above 90 percent of the vote.

What happened to eliminate serious third parties? To answer this question, we need to understand why minor parties once drew so many votes. It was because most of these parties had strength in particular regions or even particular states. They were not fully national in scope. Even the major parties had more of a regional flavor than they do today.

Politicians and voters follow power. The decline in voting for minor parties has corresponded to the increasing power of the national government relative to the states. The adoption of a national income tax and subsequent expansion of the federal government with the New Deal created pressures to develop fully national political parties. As the federal government gained more authority relative to the states and localities, voters wanted their votes to go for parties that would have a say in the great national questions of the day, rather than on the issues raised in state or local politics.

As the national government has become more powerful relative to state and local governments, national policies have come to matter more to voters. It's no surprise that turnout is sometimes abysmally low for state and local elections.

Our neighbor to the north provides further evidence of the influence of centralization on the ability of third parties to win votes. Quite a few parties received significant vote shares in the 2004 elections for the House of Commons in Canada. The smaller parties that managed to win substantial votes have their roots in provincial politics, and they drew enough votes from those provincial roots to have a say in national politics. Their success is largely due to the fact that Canada is one of the most decentralized nations in the world.

So if you want to complain about the weakness of minor parties in the United States, don't blame the Constitution or the weakness of unions. Because most policies that determine our economic well-being are made at the national level, we have two dominant, national political parties. Third parties were alive and well in a more decentralized United States, in the days when the states had control over most of the policies voters cared about.

The writers are professors of political science, Pradeep Chhibber at the University of California at Berkeley, and Ken Kollman at the University of Michigan. They are the authors of "The Formation of National Party Systems: Federalism and Party Competition in Canada, Great Britain, India, and the United States."

Anton Chechov

We shall find peace. We shall hear angels. We shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds.

KELLOGG-BRIAND PACT: August 27, 1928

In this treaty, signed on August 27, 1928, the United States, France, Great Britain, Japan, Italy, Belgium, Poland, and Czechoslovakia renounced war as an instrument of national policy.

French foreign minister Aristide Briand first suggested a treaty between the United States and France renouncing war as a method of settling disputes between the two countries. Secretary of State Frank Kellogg was furious because Briand proposed the treaty in a speech made directly to the American people, rather than going through diplomatic channels. If he accepted Briand's offer, he feared it would drag the United States into alliance with France in the event of another European war—which was what Briand had in mind. But if Kellogg declined, groups favoring such a treaty would attack him in Congress and in the press. Support for the treaty came from opposite ends of the political spectrum. For example, Nicholas Murray Butler, the internationalist president of Columbia University, believed a treaty would move America closer to the League of Nations, whereas isolationist senator William E. Borah, a pacifist, simply hoped that the treaty would end war.

Kellogg turned the tables on Briand by picking up an idea of Senator Borah's for a multilateral treaty. Both Kellogg and Briand knew that such a treaty lacked force, but Briand, already a Nobel Peace Prize winner, could hardly ignore public demand for an antiwar treaty. (Kellogg, too, was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1929 for his role in formulating the pact.)

Great celebrations accompanied the signing of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, but diplomats did not take the pledge seriously. In the United States, for example, the next order of business on the Senate floor after ratification was a bill appropriating $274 million to build warships. The treaty is considered a diplomatic failure because a mere fourteen years after it purported to outlaw war, all the signatories had become belligerents in World War II.

Why We Need Not Kill To Save Lives

Myths and realities of stem cell research:
Why We Need Not Kill To Save Lives

By Richard M. Doerflinger

In December 1998, when researchers announced that they had cultured human embryonic stem cells, scientists and politicians became starry-eyed over the medical promise of these cells. Their enthusiasm has obscured both the moral dimensions of the debate and the reality that the benefits they seek can be found in the use of morally acceptable alternatives.

Contrary to what has been repeated over and over again, human embryos are not the only source for stem cells.

Stem cells are fast-growing, unspecialized cells that can reproduce themselves, and also produce more specialized cells as needed. All the inner cell mass of a week-old human embryo is made up of these cells. This is why scientists wanted to obtain and destroy "spare" embryos [embryos created but not implanted] from in vitro fertilization clinics to create stem cell cultures.

Moral qualms about such destruction must be ignored, said proponents, because harvesting such cells from embryos is the only realistic way to produce cures for Parkinson's disease, diabetes, Lou Gehrig's disease, and other ravaging ailments.

But a great deal has changed in a year and a half. Startling alternatives to destructive embryo research have arrived that are far closer to helping patients some using adult stem cells, some using other approaches altogether.

In short, the choice between medical progress and moral principle is a false dilemma. We can pursue the cure of disease in morally acceptable ways.

As a consequence of further research it is clear that many irresponsible claims about the unique promise of embryonic stem cells must now be abandoned.

Claim: Stem cells cannot be found in most adult tissues.

Reality: For many years medical experts have used "hematopoietic" (blood-producing) stem cells from patients' bone marrow, especially in treatment of cancer and leukemia. Now stem cells have been found in a wide variety of adult tissues: neural stem cells in brain and other nerve tissue; "mesenchymal" stem cells that form new bone and cartilage in bone marrow; "epithelial" stem cells in skin and eye tissue that can be used to repair damaged corneas; and stem cells in the pancreas, muscle tissue, and so on. It seems live neural stem cells can be obtained from adult cadavers even hours or days after death (UniSci [unisci.com], April 28, 1999).

Claim: Embryonic cells are less likely to be rejected by the body's immune system.

Reality: The cells most fully protected from such rejection are a patient's own stem cells, which can be modified, stimulated, or grown in culture to repair damaged tissue. Rejection problems may also be less serious if fetal or neonatal stem cells (from placentas or umbilical cords from live births, or from bone marrow obtained after miscarriages) are used.

Because any foreign tissue, even embryonic cells, may lead to incompatible transplants, some embryo research proponents such as the Geron Corporation are moving toward the further abuse of making genetically matched embryos for each patient by cloning. Why not use the "genetically matched" cells in a patient's own body, instead of creating new human embryos who would be killed for such cells?

Claim: Adult stem cells can't be "immortalized" and multiplied in culture to the extent that embryonic cells can.

Reality: In the January 1999 Nature Genetics, University of Texas researchers reported that the enzyme telomerase can " immortalize" adult cell cultures without producing the uncontrolled growth of cancer cells. In July 1999, Department of Veterans Affairs researchers said they had maintained cultures of blood-producing stem cells from mice for several months, multiplying them a million-fold, by adding a growth factor called thrombopoietin. And in the March 28, 2000, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Darwin Prockop (now at Tulane University) reported on advances enabling his team to multiply human bone marrow stem cells a billion-fold in six weeks.

Claim: Only embryonic cells can be genetically modified to serve important new roles in the body.

Reality: In May 1999, researchers reported progress in genetically modifying patients' own hematopoietic stem cells so they will be more resistant to harm from high-dose chemotherapy (MSNBC, May 17, 1999). Dr. Micheline Mathews of Harvard Medical School has cured a rare genetic disease in mice by inserting the missing gene into their own stem cells. And in April 2000, French researchers reported in Science the first clear success in human gene therapy, curing severe combined immunodeficiency disease (SCID) in several children by inserting the missing gene into their bone marrow stem cells.

Claim: Adult cells may produce formless tissue, but only embryonic cells can be used to create whole organs.

Reality: The field of "tissue engineering" has taken off in recent years, forming increasingly complex organs by stimulating adult tissues to grow on artificial templates that are then discarded. Now an NIH-funded team at the University of Washington says it will use this new technology to grow a human heart from adult cells in 10 years (Agence France Presse, May 23, 2000).

Claim: Embryonic cells are "pluripotent," capable of forming a wide variety of different tissues, while adult stem cells can only create one or two narrowly defined types of cells.

Reality: Adult stem cells are vastly more versatile than once thought. Swedish researchers reported in the June 2 issue of Science that adult neural stem cells can produce many different cell types. They noted that other recent studies show that bone marrow stem cells transplanted to the brain can produce nerve tissue, and that blood-producing stem cells can produce muscle cells and vice versa. "Together with the data presented here," they conclude, "these studies suggest that stem cells in different adult tissues may be more similar than previously thought and perhaps in some cases have a developmental repertoire close to that of ES [embryonic stem] cells."

Claim: Even if they are more versatile than once thought, adult cells don't spontaneously create almost every type of cell as embryonic stem cells do.

Reality: Yes, and that makes them safer and more useful for treating patients than embryonic cells. Embryonic cells "turn into bone cells and knee cells," says I. Richard Garr of NeuralStem Pharmaceuticals in College Park, Maryland. "You can't put them in a person's head without being 100 percent sure they won't turn into these other things" (New York Times, May 30, 2000). That may be exactly what happened some years ago when a man received a fetal tissue transplant to treat his Parkinson's disease. Apparently the transplant used some tissue of an earlier gestational age than is generally used. The man died a year later because deposits of bone, skin, and hair tissue had filled the ventricles of his brain (Neurology, May 1996).

Adult stem cells only become different types of cells when they are given new signals to do so. Placed in their usual environment, they seem to produce only the cell types of that particular tissue which is exactly what is needed to repair such tissue safely. Thus, "besides skirting the ethical dilemmas surrounding research on embryonic and fetal stem cells, adult cells... might have another advantage: They may be easier to manage" (G. Vogel, in Science, Feb. 25, 2000).

Claim: Adult pancreatic cell transplants have proved a failure at treating diabetes, so embryonic cells are needed to advance toward a cure.

Reality: This is what the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation has said. But on May 18 of this year, University of Alberta researchers announced successful treatment of severe diabetes by providing patients with adult pancreatic islet cells producing insulin. The breakthrough was due to the use of cells from two adult cadavers for each transplant, and a new anti-rejection drug. Also, in the March 2000 issue of Nature Medicine, a University of Florida team announced successful treatment of diabetes in mice using adult pancreatic stem cells. "The next step is take this into humans," they said (Reuters, Feb. 28, 2000).

It is unclear what the future holds. Some research avenues may prove less promising than they now seem. At the same time, new avenues not anticipated now may be announced tomorrow. Only one thing is certain: The exaggerated claim that we must destroy human embryos to advance medical progress was not only morally obtuse but scientifically irresponsible.