"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

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Their Dog-Eat-Dog World

The cabal that four years ago took over the White House brought with them a philosophy of power which ought to be consigned to the dustbin of history

George Kennan, former head of the US State Department Policy Planning Staff, once observed: "We have about 60 per cent of the world's wealth but only 6.3 per cent of its population. In this situation we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity. We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world benefaction. We should cease to talk about such vague and unreal objectives as human rights, the raising of living standards and democratisation. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better." (Document PPS23, 24 February 1948)

But of course this was not to be. Talk of democratisation is still the best weapon in maintaining disparity and injustice. Thus we toppled the democratic regime of Moussadeq in Iran in the 1950s and reinstalled the Shah not because Moussaddeq wanted to nationalise oil and serve his people but because the US was advancing freedom and democracy against "socialism". Similar arguments were used in Korea, Chile, Vietnam, Nicaragua, Grenada, Haiti and dozens of other "interventions". People-based resistance limited the success of this strategy of dominance. The epitome of this was the Vietnam War, which was portrayed as stemming the falling domino effect of communism spreading. The US retreat from Vietnam was due to the success of the Vietnamese guerrilla war against the best-equipped army in the world buttressed by people of conscience in America who said: "Enough is enough." Its ramifications were numerous and included a renewed vigour of Third World countries intent on resisting the removal of their natural resources to serve Western vested interests. The war architects were not deterred despite the obvious PR loss as the domino theory proved a fabrication.

These individuals were determined to do imperialism better. They recruited disgruntled liberals. They looked for ways to build a stronger and cohesive message. They found it in a modification of social Darwinism based on early principles advocated by Machiavelli. Their godfather was Machiavelli's intellectual disciple Leo Strauss, a German Zionist who immigrated to the US in the 1930s and mentored people like Paul Wolfowitz while advocating his philosophy of a dog-eat-dog world. His ideas were instrumental in the formation of the current neo-conservative cabal pulling the strings in the White House. According to Strauss, the world is divided into distinct nations with competing interests and will always be thus structured. Under such conditions nations cannot consider collective action and multilateralism unless it is 100 per cent in line with their own selfish interests. Strong leadership is axiomatic, as is the need for military power. Leadership ought not be encumbered by human rights discourse or a moral conscience but nonetheless must "appear" to advocate such ideas. Rulers need not observe the laws they impose on the ruled. As such, a ruler can cheat and lie and do all sorts of things but should at all time maintain the outside appearance of adherence to human rights and caring for people. Further, leaders can use religion as one of many tools to ensure the nation keeps on course as formulated. Outside threats help ensure social cohesion under domestic leadership. Altruism, environmental protection, justice etc, are not the concern of governments and ruling elites. They have no part to play in the equation of power.

Such principles when put into practice in America were obviously controversial but gained ground among a well-positioned group later to be identified as "neo-conservatives", or "neocons" for short. In March 1992, the US Defense Policy Guidance as formulated by Paul Wolfowitz and Lewis Libby (two neocons with strong Israeli ties) was leaked to The New York Times and caused a stir (including a rebuke from Senator Biden). Its Machiavellian/Straussian tone of world domination, preventing the rise of any potential competitor to US power etc, was shocking. The document as revised by its release on 16 April 1992 was far milder, or at least careful in its language. By way of a price, the revised document included for the first time support for Zionism as a key to defence policy: "In the Middle East and Persian Gulf, we seek to foster regional stability, deter aggression against our friends and interests in the region, protect US nationals and property, and safeguard our access to international air and seaways and to the region's oil. The United States is committed to the security of Israel and to maintaining the qualitative edge that is critical to Israel's security. Israel's confidence in its security and US-Israel strategic cooperation contribute to the stability of the entire region, as demonstrated once again during the Persian Gulf War. At the same time, our assistance to our Arab friends to defend themselves against aggression also strengthens security throughout the region, including for Israel." (p14)

The revision was to give neocons renewed energy to implement their plans, but this time more carefully. Neocons were out of the White House between 1992 and 2000 giving them time to consolidate power in other areas (media, think tanks, Congress) and to plan a more careful agenda both to get power and exercise it. It is not a coincidence that as Clinton was dealing with his scandals conservative talk shows were burgeoning, media empires consolidating and, with the creation of such PR machines as Fox TV, agendas shifting. The years 1996-1998 were pivotal in developing the strategies and ideas that would come to shape our world today. As an example, neocons wrote a letter -- which can be found now on the internet -- to Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu in 1996 entitled "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm." The realm under discussion was the Israeli one in the Middle East. They called for regime change in Iraq, led by the US, followed by acts directed at Iran and Syria to secure US (read US-Israeli) dominance over this critical region; critical especially for the economies of US competitors like China and Europe. Chaired by Richard Perle, chief architect of the latest US war on Iraq, this group included James Colbert from the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, Jonathan Torop from the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee offshoot the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, David Wurmser and Douglas Feith.

The next year, the neocons launched the Project for a New American Century (PNAC). PNAC called for US world hegemony ˆ la the Pax Romana. It proclaimed ominously: "The American peace has proven itself peaceful, stable, and durable. Yet no moment in international politics can be frozen in time: even a global Pax Americana will not preserve itself ... [the new world order] must have a secure foundation on unquestioned US military preeminence ... The process of transformation is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event -- like a new Pearl Harbor."

Leaders of PNAC, including Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Libby, Elliot Abrams and others, later acquired positions of power when Bush Jr took the White House. They had earlier written a letter to Clinton and Congressional leaders in 1998 arguing for the removal of Saddam Hussain from power and the assertion of US dominance in the Middle East. They would have to wait two years for the ascension of George W Bush to the presidency in January 2001 and got their windfall (the "new Pearl Harbor") in the form of 11 September 2001. The rest, as they say, is history. They now thought they had all the pieces in place for fulfilling their dreams on an even grander scale than conceived in 1992-1998. The result of their dreams is our nightmare: the bringing of the US into sharp conflict with the rest of the world, the proliferation of terrorism and, some argue, the beginning of the end of US empire. Meanwhile, the heart of global collective action, the UN, is stalled with sometimes 150 countries voting one way on resolutions and the US and Israel voting another (occasionally joined by Australia, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands).

The net result is increased terrorism, increased violence and misery in places like Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan, increasing US trade and budget deficits, huge debts incurred by Third World countries and by the US (individual, corporate and government), the decimation of environmental treaties and obligations and, as the US military is spread thin around the world, overall global destabilisation. These are but the price of power as a select groups of Straussians sell books, demand hefty lecture fees and get cozy governmental positions in the game of musical chairs in Washington DC.

These special interests will celebrate their "win" regardless of which president occupies the White House in December. If Kerry wins, watch as another team of neocons take up office. Dennis Ross, a lobbyist for Israel who was US envoy to the Middle East under both Bush Sr and Clinton, may be appointed Secretary of State or to a similarly high- level position. Martin Indyk, another lobbyist for Israel, appointed by Clinton as US ambassador to Israel, might become the new US envoy to the Middle East. It goes on and on. Both Kerry and Bush display classic Straussian characteristics, most clearly in their similar positions on Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and the International Court of Justice, among a host of other critical issues. Further, and perhaps most critical to our survival as a species, neither is willing to tackle the global environmental threats for which the US bears special responsibility (as indicated, US citizens consume over half of the world's resources though they constitute but 1/20th of the world's population). Cosmetically talking about reducing our dependence on foreign oil is not an alternative to adopting the Kyoto accords or seriously looking at the effects of "globalisation"; a term which Democratic and Republican administrations use to mean the "free flow" of wealth (of course, to the United States) while preventing anything equivalent for the workers who create it. Basic rights, as recognised by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (including access to food, water and healthcare) become the privilege of the rich.

Only by awakening the US public and linking it to resistance movements from within the world community (including the Iraqi resistance), will this pathway to destruction be avoided. As someone said, those who are not outraged are simply not paying attention. But more people are now paying attention and getting their information from alternative sources (besides the PR of FOX and MSNBC). Our collective and increasingly intertwined future is at stake.

At a deeper psychological level, the choice we have is between believing and acting based on the worst elements of human history (i.e. a Straussian model) or knowledge of the history of the accomplishments of the best of humanity; even daring to imagine and plan for a better future -- in other words, humanism.

What is at stake here is nothing less than a choice between a power politics that sacrifices morality and justice and a path based on human rights for all which also happens to be the only path by which this planet will survive.

Mazin Qumsiyeh
The writer is associate professor of genetics and director of clinical cytogenetic services at Yale University School of Medicine

Stem Cell Showdown Looms in Annapolis

Embryonic stem cell research is strenuously opposed by people who believe that extracting cells from a viable embryo amounts to the destruction of human life.

Foes Vow to Fight Bill That Would Provide $25 Million a Year in Research Funds

The divisive national debate over embryonic stem cell research will arrive in Annapolis tomorrow, when Maryland lawmakers will introduce legislation to spend state money on science that the federal government refuses to fund.

Modeled after a successful ballot initiative in California, the legislation calls for Maryland to spend $25 million a year on research that has been restricted by President Bush at the federal level.

Supporters say the state money is needed to maintain Maryland's edge in the biotechnology sector and tout the promise that such research offers for treatment of debilitating conditions such as Parkinson's disease, spinal cord injuries, diabetes and Alzheimer's disease.

Embryonic stem cell research is strenuously opposed by people who believe that extracting cells from a viable embryo amounts to the destruction of human life.

"I'm sure that it's going to be a tremendous battle," said Sen. Paula C. Hollinger (D-Baltimore County), the chief sponsor of the bill in the Senate. "But this is such promising research -- it seems like there's a new breakthrough every day."

House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) predicted in an interview that his chamber would pass the bill.

The politics are far more complicated for Senate leaders and for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), who has yet to take a position on state funding for stem cell research.

Hollinger heads the committee that will consider the bill in the Senate, where opponents have begun plotting a filibuster in hopes of defeating it on the floor. That prospect troubles Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., who has generally tried to keep controversial social issues off the floor to protect conservative Democrats in his chamber from tough votes.

"The entire national debate is going to rear its ugly head here in Annapolis," predicted Miller (D-Calvert).

Ehrlich spokesman Henry Fawell said the governor would look closely at the bill and "remains very sympathetic to the biotech companies in Maryland."

But Ehrlich would face a certain outcry from abortion opponents in his party if he supported the legislation. As a member of Congress in 2001, he called Bush's restriction of funding for embryonic stem cell research "a positive step" in a letter to constituents.

A representative of the Maryland Catholic Conference, one of many interest groups gearing up for the fight, said lawmakers should not even be talking about the "economic gain" that could come from research on viable embryos.

"It's absolutely unethical to create a human life for the purpose of destroying it," said Nancy Fortier, an associate director of the organization. "A human embryo is a human life. It's wrong to treat life as raw material in a science research project."

In recognition of such concerns, Bush in August 2001 limited federal spending for stem cell research to existing colonies of cells derived from unused embryos produced through in vitro fertilization and donated for research purposes.

Scientists say 22 colonies, called "lines," fitting that description are available. Money from universities, charities or private donors can pay for research on other cell lines, but some scientists say the lack of federal support is slowing research.

That sentiment prompted a successful ballot initiative in California in the fall that authorized as much as $3 billion over the next decade to pay for research on "non-qualifying" stem lines in the state -- a commitment that dwarfs the federal funding of recent years. The measure drew the backing of California's Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Since then, a similar initiative has been launched in Florida, with hopes of securing passage in 2006. Several other states -- including New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Wisconsin -- have also dedicated state money to stem cell research or are considering doing so.

Virginia's legislature is considering a far more modest initiative, a $1 million state fund, but it could face opposition in the conservative House of Delegates.

Del. Samuel I. Rosenberg (D-Baltimore), the chief sponsor of the Maryland stem cell bill in the House, said, "California has clearly changed the equation in terms of maintaining our leadership as a biotechnology state, and money talks." The $25 million a year in his bill "is comparable, given our size and research capacity, to what California has done," he said.

Maryland is home to two major research universities that engage in stem cell research, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland at Baltimore, as well as more than 300 biotech companies, a small number of which are also involved in stem cell research.

With the exception of Hopkins, a pioneer in the field, most of that research involves adult stem cells, which are derived from bone marrow, blood, skin and other sources less controversial than embryos. Many scientists believe that embryonic stem cells hold more promise, however, because they have the capacity to develop into many types of tissues.

Dr. Curt I. Civin, a professor at Johns Hopkins, said state money would enable university-based and private-sector researchers using adult stem cells to expand their work to include embryonic cells.

"It's an easy jump, conceptually," Civin said. "You haven't seen the wave hitting the shore on this yet."

The legislation that will be introduced tomorrow leaves it to a commission to decide how to award the $25 million in grants to further such research. Researchers from public and private institutions would be eligible, with a priority given to proposals not eligible for federal money.

Although the dollar level is relatively modest compared with California, "it will signal that Maryland is open for business," said Barry S. Handwerger, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine who has Parkinson's disease. "There's so much potential, not exploring it is almost criminal."

The money initially would be taken from funds flowing to Maryland as part of a national settlement with the major tobacco companies. Annual payments of $30 million that the state has been making to the law firm of Peter G. Angelos for representation in the case are scheduled to end after next year, freeing up the money, Hollinger said.

The legislation explicitly bans human cloning in Maryland, a point supporters are emphasizing as they lobby wavering lawmakers.

If the state failed to act, Civin said, it would risk losing its researchers to California and other states. Some Hopkins researchers have begun receiving such offers, he said. The state would also find it more difficult to attract new biotech companies specializing in stem cell research, Civin predicted.

One researcher considering relocating to California is Richard Garr, president and chief executive of NeuralStem, a small private company in Gaithersburg, part of Montgomery County's Interstate 270 biotech corridor.

Much of the seven-year-old company's work focuses on treating brain and spinal cord injuries using progenitor cells derived from aborted fetuses that share many of the same properties as stem cells.

Garr said access to state money could be "an extremely valuable and important thing" in persuading him to stay.

Opponents of the legislation appear to have their best shot at blocking it in the 47-member Senate, where Sen. Andrew P. Harris (R-Baltimore County) is working to enlist Republicans and antiabortion Democrats to engage in a filibuster.

Harris, the minority whip and the chamber's only doctor, said the bill "crosses the ethical divide" in his view. Moreover, Harris said, "it makes no sense for Maryland to get in the business of funding this research. For states to delve into this is very much beyond the role of state government."

It's also an issue that could force some tough votes for some of his chamber's more culturally conservative Democrats, who hail from districts where the vote could be used against them come election time.

"It's a very difficult issue," said Sen. James E. DeGrange Sr. (D-Anne Arundel). "You're looking at a lot of things that could be helped, but I'm on the side of preserving life."

John Wagner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 6, 2005; Page C04

U.S. Hubris 'We Are the World' Attitude

What Condoleezza Rice, the new US Secretary of State, did say yesterday in London was that Iranian "behaviour, internally and externally, is out of step with the direction and desires of the international community".Re:Directions and Desires of the Bush Neocons

Rice talks language of diplomacy - but it has alarming echoes

On Iraq 'We're going to seek a peaceful solution to this. We think one is possible' - 20 October 2002

On Iran 'The question [of a military strike] is simply not on the agenda at this point in time. We have diplomatic means to do this' - Yesterday

She refused to utter the words "regime change". She declined to be drawn on future military adventures. But what Condoleezza Rice, the new US Secretary of State, did say yesterday in London was that Iranian "behaviour, internally and externally, is out of step with the direction and desires of the international community".

Asked directly whether the US planned an attack on Iran, Ms Rice said: "The question is simply not on the agenda at this point in time. We have diplomatic missions to do this." It was an answer that had a familiar ring.

Over the coming week, Ms Rice will encounter many who recall hearing such assurances in the recent past. Labour MPs who opposed the war in Iraq said last night that the assurances by Ms Rice were "unconvincing" and they remained deeply concerned that Tony Blair will be dragged into a second Middle East conflict by the Bush administration. "Blair has already announced he is going. We have no sanction against Blair if he goes to war alongside Bush again," said Peter Kilfoyle, the former defence minister. "We had the same assurances before they went to war against Iraq."

The outcome of the elections appears to be making matters worse, not better. Religious parties, backed and financed by Tehran, are sweeping the board in Iraq's first free elections. The first count showed that the United Iraqi Alliance, the largely Shia coalition of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has won more than two-thirds of the 3.3 million votes counted so far.

A secular democracy is not about to be formed in Iraq. Even Iyad Allawi, the interim Prime Minister, who Washington hoped would hold the balance of power, saw his coalition trounced. The theocrats of Iran, not the neo-conservatives of Washington, now appear to hold the keys to Iraq's future. For Ms Rice the problem of Iran has become more urgent than ever.

With the US military bogged down in Iraq and no exit strategy in sight, Washington faces an acute dilemma: how to bring about regime change in Tehran without repeating the mistakes of Iraq. The Rice solution, for now, is to seek an old-fashioned coalition with Old Europe.

The focus for her and her hosts was Iran and its race to acquire the nuclear bomb that Saddam Hussein infamously never possessed. Ms Rice criticised the "unelected mullahs" who hold power in Iran and described Tehran's human rights behaviour as loathsome. The prospect of a nuclear Iran was "deeply destabilising" for the region. She said Britain and the US shared a "unity of purpose" on the dangers posed by Iran.

Ms Rice's next stop was Berlin, where Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, one of the staunchest opponents of the Iraq war, agreed "that [Iran] must not have the potential of a nuclear weapon whatsoever".

Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, who has led British pressure on the White House to allow diplomacy to work, revealed that the International Atomic Energy Agency had found fresh evidence that the Iranians were not complying with an order to suspend its nuclear programme. Yet the limits of US power are manifest. Military action is all but unthinkable. The overstretched US military has its hands more than full in Iraq. If the US acted, moreover, it would do so alone.

In his inauguration speech, President Bush denounced Iran as "an outpost of tyranny". But in the wake of the Iraqi elections and the emergence of a "Shia crescent" of countries, the mullahs' regime looks less of an outpost and more a capital of a remade map of the Middle East.

In Washington, overt (or covert) action is already being taken to help Iranian reformers.

Ms Rice said after her talks: "Let me state quite clearly what we hope to achieve concerning the Iranian regime. We have complete unity of purpose on a number of areas. First of all that Iran engages in activities that are destabilising to the region, particularly when it comes to support for terrorism.

"Secondly we are completely united in our view that Iran should not use the cover of civilian nuclear development to sustain a programme that could lead to a nuclear weapon.

"The Iranians ought to take the opportunity that's being presented to them to show that they are living up to their international obligations.

"Thirdly we are united in our view that the Iranian regime should have transparent relations with its neighbours in Afghanistan and Iraq.Fourthly we have all been concerned about the abysmal human rights record of the Iranian regime."

Julian Coman, Colin Brown and Rupert Cornwell
05 February 2005
The Independent