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Monday, June 29, 2009

US-built bridge is windfall-- for illegal Afghan drug trade...

U.S.-built bridge is windfall — for illegal Afghan drug trade
By Tom Lasseter | McClatchy Newspapers

NIZHNY PANJ, Tajikistan — In August 2007, the presidents of Afghanistan and Tajikistan walked side by side with the U.S. commerce secretary across a new $37 million concrete bridge that the Army Corps of Engineers designed to link two of Central Asia's poorest countries.

Dressed in a gray suit with an American flag pin in his lapel, then-Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said the modest two-lane span that U.S. taxpayers paid for would be "a critical transit route for trade and commerce" between Afghanistan and Tajikistan.

Today, the bridge across the muddy waters of the Panj River is carrying much more than vegetables and timber: It's paved the way for drug traffickers to transport larger loads of Afghan heroin and opium to Central Asia and beyond to Russia and Western Europe.

Standing near his truck in a dusty patch on the Afghan side of the river, Yar Mohammed said it was easy to drive drugs past the Afghan and Tajik border guards.

"It's an issue of money," Mohammed said, to the nods and grins of the small group of truckers gathered around him near the bridge at Nizhny Panj. "If you give them money, you can do whatever you want."

The roots of the global drug trade are often a murky tangle of poverty, addiction, violence and corruption. However, it's clear why the dirt-poor former Soviet Central Asian republic of Tajikistan is on the verge of becoming a narco-state.

After the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the United States and other Western powers looked the other way as opium and heroin production surged to record levels, making Afghanistan by far the world's biggest producer.

Much of the ballooning supply of drugs shipped across Afghanistan's northern border, up to one-fifth of the country's output, has traveled to and through Tajikistan. The opium and heroin funded rampant corruption in Tajikistan and turned the country, still hobbled by five years of civil war in the 1990s, into what at times seems like one big drug-trafficking organization.

Every day last year — extrapolating from United Nations estimates — an average of more than 4 metric tons of opium, which can be made into some 1,320 pounds of heroin, moved on the northern route. Put another way, the equivalent of nearly 6 million doses of pure heroin — at 100 milligrams each — is carried across the northern Afghan border each day.

After it's cut with other substances and sold on the street corners and in the apartment stairwells of Russia and Western Europe, the main retail markets for Central Asian heroin, that could produce at least 12 million doses.

Nevertheless, it's clear even to a casual visitor at the bridge that neither the Afghan or the Tajik border guards have much interest in curbing, or even inspecting, the exports that pass in front of them.

In fact, as the Afghan drug supply has grown, Tajik seizures have fallen. In 2004, Afghanistan produced 4,200 metric tons of opium, and some 5 metric tons of heroin or its equivalent in opium were seized in Tajikistan, according to U.N. figures. Last year, with Afghan cultivation rising to 7,700 metric tons of opium, Tajik authorities seized less than 2 metric tons of heroin.

Although the United States wields enormous influence in both countries, their drug problems have taken a back seat to the war against the Taliban. Until the past year, Afghanistan's growing drug production was at best a midlevel priority for Washington, and the U.S. hasn't pressed Tajik President Emomali Rahmon to rein in his country's drug trafficking, Western officials said. Nor, they said, has any other Western government with troops in Afghanistan.

All along the Afghan-Tajik border, smugglers for years have thrown sacks of heroin over the Panj River, waded across when the water is low, set up flotillas of car tires and used small ferries or footbridges.

The U.S.-financed bridge has made drug trafficking even easier, truck driver Mohammed said with a toothy smile: "You load the truck with drugs."

The ferry that used to operate at Nizhny Panj carried about 40 trucks a day. The bridge can carry 1,000 vehicles daily.

Organized crime groups now are focusing on using official checkpoints to move their drugs, a senior official at the Tajik State Committee for National Security said, speaking to a recent meeting of Central Asian counter-narcotics officers.

"Especially through the Tajik-Afghan bridge on the Panj River," Davlat Zarifov said.

Zarifov apparently didn't know that a reporter was present, and he declined further comment and quickly walked away.

To try to get the Tajik government's side of the story, a McClatchy reporter approached Sherali Mirzo, the official in charge of the country's border guards, a man with a full mustache and medals across his uniformed chest. Mirzo said he didn't talk to the media.

Rustam Nazarov, the director of the country's drug control agency, said in a brief interview that the declining heroin and opium seizures suggested that there was less trafficking of those drugs through Tajikistan, an analysis that the facts on the ground would seem to contradict.

Nazarov, however, did allow that, "There is corruption in Tajikistan; no one denies that. Unfortunately, we have some civil servants who are corrupt."

A few days later at the Afghan-Tajik border, as the sun began to dip below a horizon framed by jagged mountains, Mohammed Zahir, an Afghan truck driver, gave a simple explanation for how drugs get across the bridge.

"People involved with the drug business know the guards," Zahir said. "Before sending their drugs across, they pay them money."

A second driver, Qand Agha, chimed in: "If high officials on the border weren't involved, then people like me couldn't take drugs into their country."

Down the road, a line of trucks was crossing the bridge.


Sitting in a $40,000 SUV with soft leather seats and a dark orange paint job, a man named Negmatullo hitched up his shirtsleeve to show the sore on his arm from the heroin he'd been shooting up. He fiddled with his designer sunglasses, absentmindedly brushed his hair and said in a junkie's mumble that, "If you pay someone at the border, you can bring drugs up."

Negmatullo, a thin man with dirty blond hair, had just come out of a drug treatment clinic in the town of Kurgan-Tyube, a halfway point between the border and the Tajik capital of Dushanbe. He asked that his last name not be used for his own security.

When Negmatullo was asked why guards and other Tajik law-enforcement officials would be susceptible to corruption, he rubbed his fingers together and muttered "dengi, dengi," Russian for "money, money."

The car's license plate flashed by as Negmatullo pulled away; it was number 7777, a calling card of those connected to the president's inner circle.

The spoils of the drug trade are as obvious as the shiny new BMWs speeding down the dusty roads that cut from south to north across the steppes of Tajikistan, passing hunched old men who tend the cotton fields with hoes. It's an ancient setting: Alexander the Great and his men conquered parts of the territory in the fourth century B.C, and they're said to have crossed the Panj River by floating on leather hides.

These days, in a nation where some 50 percent of the population makes less than $41 a month, there's a steady stream of new Mercedes and Lexus sedans, not only in Dushanbe, but also in the hamlets that dot the way to the Afghan border.

Locals say the cars often are given in trade for loads of heroin shipped north to the Russian border. The stuff is easy to get.

"You can just take two bags over your back, walk across the Panj and bring them back filled with heroin. It's no problem," said Vazir, a Tajik who was released from a Russian prison last February after he was caught trying to take 600 grams of heroin through a Moscow airport. During an interview in Dushanbe, he asked that his last name not be used because he feared retribution.

Vazir continued: "You can give your bag of heroin to one of the guards, and he will carry it across for you."


The supply chain appears to reach far beyond hustlers such as Vazir. Many Western officials and Tajik observers suspect that the Rahmon government controls the drug trade.

"I don't know if the president is involved personally, but he gives the percentages to different groups for what they can do," said one Western diplomat in Dushanbe, who like others spoke only on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of criticizing the regime. "Just go to the airport. There are bags of heroin going through unchecked. . . . People are pretty open about it. There's more and more a culture of impunity."

After the Soviet Union fell in 1991, Russian troops continued to patrol the Tajik border. They withdrew from the area in 2005 after the Tajik government demanded that they leave — though it allowed them to stay in other parts of the country — asserting that as a sovereign nation Tajikistan was capable of securing its own frontiers.

An assortment of local conscripts replaced the relatively professional Russian contingent, which trained and financed the Tajik officer corps.

"You have conscripts earning maybe $3 a month stretched out over 1,344 kilometers of border" — 835 miles — said another Western diplomat in Dushanbe, discussing the problem of drug dealers paying border guards to look the other way. "It's obvious that if you need to eat, corruption is an option."

Some Russian and Western officials said privately that the Tajik government wanted the Russians out of the way to ensure a larger supply of opium and heroin.

It was a move designed to gain "hold of a bigger part of the drug trade," one Western diplomat in Dushanbe said.

"Frankly speaking, there were forces in the government of Tajikistan who wanted to replace the Russian troops with Tajik troops to allow more holes in the border," said a Russian official in Moscow who travels regularly to Tajikistan and has high-level contact with the Tajik government. "It was to make the penetration of drugs easier."

The State Committee for National Security, Tajikistan's version of the KGB, took control of border enforcement in 2007 and almost immediately barred the country's Interior Ministry and drug control agency from access to the border region.


When a McClatchy reporter drove to the border at Nizhny Panj to do interviews, troops turned him back because he didn't have official permission. A border guard supervisor in plainclothes pulled the reporter's driver aside and suggested in a menacing tone that the driver was a spy. The Tajik government later denied McClatchy permission to visit the southern border.

The reporter resorted to crossing the bridge into Afghanistan with a routine visa, and he saw no evidence that Afghan or Tajik officials were inspecting trucks for contraband.

Despite the public nature of the drug trade and related corruption in Tajikistan, however, the West has done relatively little to pressure President Rahmon.

Some Western officials acknowledge that it's the result of a political tradeoff: No one wants to risk alienating Rahmon on the issue of drug corruption because his authoritarian regime's cooperation is important for preventing Islamic militants from using the Tajik-Afghan border as a sanctuary.

"The Americans want to have a logistics base here, so do you think they're going to pressure the government about corruption?" said William Lawrence, a chief adviser for a U.N. Afghan border-management program based in Dushanbe. "The answer is no."

The U.S. Embassy in Dushanbe declined to comment, but a State Department official said that such balancing acts were common.

"There is always going to be a tradeoff based on different foreign-policy objectives, different security objectives, the tolerance for different types of corruption, different levels of corruption," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of diplomatic protocol. "I don't think the situation in Tajikistan, frankly, is that much different than the rest of Central Asia in terms of these types of tradeoffs."

A second Western diplomat in Dushanbe was more blunt about Western governments ignoring reports on Tajikistan's official complicity in drug corruption.

"We send reports every month to our capitals, very negative, but they don't (care)," said the diplomat, whose country has troops in Afghanistan. "Because it's a so-called stable country leading to Afghanistan, we accept it."

The diplomat said that his country had funded projects to help train and equip the Tajiks to deal with the drug problem. The United States and other Western nations have done the same.

This month, for example, the U.S. ambassador to Tajikistan broke ground on a $2.5 million project to overhaul the border guard training academy in Dushanbe. The American Embassy said in a recent news release that it had implemented more than $37.5 million of initiatives to help Tajik law enforcement since 1992.

However, the second Western diplomat said, there isn't much arm-twisting to make sure the Tajik government cracks down.

"We don't dare to say to the president, 'We give you money for anti-corruption but the first thing you see on the streets is these police taking bribes,' " the diplomat said. "Nobody says, 'We'll give you money for border security, but in three years we want to see a reduction in drugs.' "

Court wont hear 9/11 claims vs. Saudi Arabia...

Court won't hear Sept. 11 claims vs. Saudi Arabia
June 29, 2009

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court has refused to allow victims of the Sept. 11 attacks to pursue lawsuits against Saudi Arabia and four of its princes over charitable donations that were allegedly funneled to al-Qaida.

The court, in an order Monday, is leaving in place the ruling of a federal appeals court that the country and the princes are protected by sovereign immunity, which generally means that foreign countries can't be sued in American courts.

The Obama administration had angered some victims and families by urging the justices to pass up the case.

In their appeal, the more than 6,000 plaintiffs said the government's court brief filed in early June was an "apparent effort to appease a sometime ally" just before President Barack Obama's visit to Saudi Arabia.

At issue were obstacles in American law to suing foreign governments and their officials as well as the extent to which people can be held financially responsible for acts of terrorism committed by others.

The appeal was filed by relatives of victims killed in the attacks and thousands of people who were injured, as well as businesses and governments that sustained property damage and other losses.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York previously upheld a federal judge's ruling throwing out the lawsuits. The appeals court said the defendants were protected by sovereign immunity and the plaintiffs would need to prove that the princes engaged in intentional actions aimed at U.S. residents.

In their appeal to the high court, both sides cited the report of the Sept. 11 Commission. The victims noted that the report said Saudi Arabia had long been considered the primary source of al-Qaida funding. The Saudis' court filing, however, pointed out that the commission "found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization."

The victims' lawsuits claim that the defendants gave money to charities in order to funnel it to terrorist organizations that were behind the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The appeal also stressed that federal appeals courts have reached conflicting decisions about when foreign governments and their officials can be sued.

The case is Federal Insurance Co. v. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 08-640.

UFO falls in Kazakhstan report witnesses...

UFO falls in Kazakhstan – witnesses
14 May, 2009, 17:04

Residents of a western Kazakhstan town reported that they witnessed two silver objects fall from the sky on Wednesday night

“It was at about 3AM. I was standing by my tractor when the guys started shouting: ‘Look, there are some balls flying.’ They were big and sparkling with yellow, red and green,” an eyewitness told Interfax news agency over the phone.

According to the witnesses, the spherical objects were approximately 60 cm in diameter, had a silvery surface with what appeared to be a small opening. The UFOs failed to bend or dent when local residents attempted to strike them with their tools, and said the balls produced sparks when they attempted to do so.

A preliminary investigation has failed to identify the strange objects, but according to head of the local emergencies service Aleksandr Ivanov, they are most likely “fragments of a man-made aircraft.”

He also noted that the region where the two spherical objects were discovered has no history of similar incidences.

“Objects fall on the areas bordering the Russian military test range Kapustin Yar, but here it’s a rare thing. I’d say it’s a first,” he said.

The balls were found to pose no immediate threat to public health or the environment and were sent for further research to “a specialized organization.”

Billionaire Madoff tied to intelligence agencies...

Billionaire Madoff tied to intelligence agencies
16 June, 2009, 21:16
Wayne Madsen for RT

No conspiracy charge by feds against Madoff is covering up links to domestic and foreign intelligence.

The failure of federal prosecutors to bring conspiracy charges against Bernard Madoff, the mega-billion dollar Ponzi scammer who pleaded guilty March 12 to eleven counts of fraud and other crimes in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, is providing cover to those who pulled the strings on Madoff's illegal operation.

WMR spoke to a former close aide to Madoff who related how he handled a number of transactions personally for Madoff. The source said that Madoff was running a special type of "pump and dump" scheme. The source said Madoff would "pump money out of the system and dump it out to another place." When asked what that "other place" was, the source replied, "Israel."

The source believes that no conspiracy charges were brought by the federal government against Madoff because it is the government and not necessarily Madoff that is trying to protect his "network and superiors."

Madoff's Chief Financial Officer was Frank DiPasquale, who is being represented by Marc Mukasey of Bracewell Giuliani. Mukasey's father is former Bush Attorney General Michael Mukasey. The U.S. judge handling the Madoff case, Denny Chin, is, according to informed legal sources in Manhattan, over his head in corruption.

WMR has learned how some of Madoff's international operations were conducted. At 3:30 pm every day Madoff Investment Securities employees would call banks in Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands, and tell them to "roll the accounts." That was insider language for "lend the money."

In some cases, money was moved to the Belize Bank, which was described by a Madoff insider as a "back side" for secretive banking operations in the Cayman Islands and Switzerland.

Madoff would also dispatch messengers to 55 Water Street in New York's financial district to pick up securities bearer bonds that could fit into an "Army duffle bag." Those types of transactions dramatically decreased for Madoff after 9/11.

The weekend following the Fourth of July, Madoff would sponsor a three-day bash for Madoff employees and "special guests" at Montauk on the eastern tip of Long Island. One of Madoff's special guests was Norman F. Levy, a billionaire who Madoff considered as a father figure. After his death, Levy's old firm continued to maintain an office at 885 Third Avenue in Manhattan, the same location as Madoff's firm. A Madoff insider speculated that Madoff may have been using Levy's company as a conduit for his business activities.

The annual Montauk conclave featured a dinner for Madoff's "special guests" on the Saturday evening at the Montauk Yacht Club. Madoff's "special guests" were kept segregated from the regular Madoff employees. The special guests were often found in a special place called the "money fund room."

In addition to Madoff's immediate family members, including his brother Peter, he also tended to surround himself with key individuals who were veteran officers of the U.S. military.

Madoff's London operation was handled out of a one-room small office located at 43 Newell Street. Every time Madoff visited the office, the London staff was extremely nervous. According to a Madoff insider, the Madoff London office was nothing more than a "front" operation. There may have also been some synergy between Madoff's London operations and American International Group (AIG), which reportedly is missing $500 billion from a similar small office pass-through operation in London.

Madoff's number one foreign destination was not England but France, where he maintained a luxurious estate in Provence.

Madoff routinely got his cash from the Bank of New York (BONY) and Chase. One favorite Bernie Madoff term was an "inch of fifties," which equates to $5,000.

The day before Madoff was arrested, he sent a "package" to Citibank's private banking facility at 850 Lexington Avenue. Usually when Madoff Securities sent out a "package," a set of documents in an 8 1/2 x 11 inch envelope authorizing electronic funds transfers, there was always a signed receipt from Citibank. One exception was "packages" personally sent by Madoff to Citibank. On December 10, Madoff sent a "package" to Citibank with no receipt from the private banking service. That evening Madoff attended the company's annual Christmas party, which had always been held on December 17. Madoff was reportedly not acting normal and his wife Ruth was trying to play the gregarious role normally handled by Madoff in previous parties. WMR's inside source believes that Madoff knew then that he was facing arrest the next day.

WMR has also learned that Madoff Securities was for sale in the late 1990s. One of the names mentioned in the potential sale is Ezra Merkin, also under investigation by the federal government's probe of Wall Street. WMR has learned that Madoff almost sold his firm for $1 billion. The potential purchaser, who was not identified, flipped a coin between buying Madoff or Charles Schwab. The purchaser opted for a potential purchase of Schwab.

Madoff often had a tense relationship with his family associates. In the mid-1990s, WMR was told of a particularly nasty exchange between Bernie and his brother Peter. Bernie allegedly told his brother, "When you see your name on the door, you can tell me what to do. Until then you have one percent of the stock so you can keep your fucking mouth shut."

When Peter's son Roger died of cancer at the age of 30, a cancer fund was established in Roger's name. Our source said that the fund for Bernie Madoff's late nephew was also defrauded. The source said, "Bernie would never do that to his nephew," adding, "Bernie was operating a "pump and dump" scheme for a domestic and foreign intelligence agency." Asked to name the domestic agency, the source replied, "CIA." Asked about the foreign agency, the source claimed it was "the Russia-Israeli mob operating with Mossad."

It is also reported that a number of key Madoff employees died suddenly from various causes, including what was described as "fast-acting cancer." The cancer victims included Madoff's 55-year old in-house lawyer and his "mid-fifties" computer software engineer. The woman who created Madoff's over-the-counter stock trading system was struck and killed by a bus while walking to Bloomingdale's in Manhattan.

One long-time Madoff employee told WMR that Bernie Madoff's father, Ralph Madoff, who worked as a New York plumber, once told the employee, "Never, never invest in Wall Street cause it's run by crooks and SOBs." Ralph Madoff told the employee to take his money and "buy books." In Bernie Madoff's case, the apple fell extremely far from the tree.

As a postscript, someone who worked with Madoff told WMR that he does not expect his old boss to live until his sentencing in June. The ex-employee believes that Madoff will not physically survive prison for very long. Given Madoff's extensive and murky intelligence links, there is every reason to believe the ex-employee is making the correct prediction.

More on Madoff operation emerges from insiders – WMR has been informed by former Madoff Investment Securities sources that jailed Ponzi scammer Bernard Madoff's wife Ruth revealed as early as September 2008 that her husband was "under great stress." However, the source also revealed that Mr. Madoff "thrived under great stress."

FBI investigators reportedly asked Madoff employees, after Madoff's arrest on December 11, 2008, whether Madoff had been "acting strange" before the arrest. Employees were also asked to provide the FBI with a psychological profile of Madoff.

A Madoff Investment Securities insider told WMR, "Bernie's mission was to keep the company he created alive with infusions from strangers. They turned out to suffer collateral damage." The source added, "Bernie could not give customers bad news."

Madoff insiders also described how the Ponzi scammer formed his company in 1961. Madoff began his firm with a mere $5,000 in capital.

Madoff was not able to gain a seat on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) because of the prohibitive cost of $250,000. Bypassing the NYSE, Madoff developed over-the-counter (OTC) trades and "back doored" trading into the NYSE. Madoff first used card punch machines in the OTC process, progressed to magnetic tape computers, and then employed newer, state-of-the-art technology.

WMR also learned that the computer systems engineer for Madoff who developed Madoff Investment Securities computerized trading system used proprietary software and, more oddly, proprietary hardware. In 1999, Madoff initiated the development of a top secret new trading system called Primex, which attracted the interest of NASDAQ, where Bernard Madoff served as chairman and his brother Peter had previously served as a board member. The computer engineer died a few years ago in her mid-fifties of what was described by a colleague as a "fast-acting" cancer.

WMR learned that Madoff was somewhat incensed about the high cost of gaining a seat on the NYSE. Actor Rick Jason, who co-starred with Vic Morrow in the TV series "Combat," actually had a seat on the NYSE that was bought for him by Jason's father. That made Madoff all the more determined to bypass the expensive NYSE seat requirement to carry out trades. Jason reportedly shot himself to death on October 16, 2000.

When Madoff was considering selling his firm to an unnamed suitor in the late 1990s, WMR was told by a firm insider that one reason Madoff was hesitant to sell was that even during that time frame he was concerned that if his company's books came under scrutiny from a sale that the company would "crash."

WMR also learned that a close associate of one of Madoff's top corporate officers was involved in trying to obtain a U.S. State Department contract for Halliburton, the firm once headed by former Vice President Dick Cheney. The individual in question reportedly was working with Halliburton's office in Baghdad, Iraq.

A Madoff firm source also revealed to WMR that American International Group's (AIG) London office, which reportedly lost some $500 billion, was engaged in an "economic warfare" scheme against countries of the former Soviet Union. The operations coincided with the funding by George Soros of various campaigns to oust governments in Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, and even Russia itself.

WMR also learned additional details of events that transpired the day before Madoff was arrested, December 10, 2008. Madoff unusually switched his firm's annual Christmas Party from its normal December 17 date to December 10. Not only was that seen as unusual by Madoff employees but so, too, was the fact that Madoff's two sons, Andrew, who ran a spin-off called Madoff Energy, and Mark, were not present at the party. Earlier in the day, both had reportedly spoken to FBI agents about their father's Ponzi scheme activities.

US withdraws from Iraqi cities despite violence...

US withdraws from Iraqi cities despite violence
Sunday June 28 2009 KIM GAMEL

BAGHDAD (AP)Death squads roamed the streets, slaughtering members of the rival Muslim sect. Bombs rocked Baghdad daily — until thousands of U.S. troops poured in two years ago, establishing neighborhood bases and taking control of the Iraqi capital and other cities.

By Tuesday, all but a small number of American soldiers will have left Baghdad and other urban areas, handing over security to Iraqi soldiers and police still largely untested as an independent fighting force.

State television has been showing a countdown clock with a fluttering Iraqi flag and the words "June 30: National Sovereignty Day."

If the Iraqis can hold down violence, it will show the country is finally on the road to stability. If they fail, Iraq faces new bloodshed, straining a nation still divided along sectarian and ethnic lines.

The top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno, said he was confident it was the right time for the move.

"I do believe they're ready," he told CNN in an interview. "We've seen constant improvement in the security force, we've seen constant improvement in governance."

Privately, many U.S. officers worry the Iraqis will be overwhelmed if violence surges, having relied for years on the U.S. for everything from firepower to bottled water.

Many Iraqis also fear more violence after a spike in bombings and shootings last week that killed more than 250 people. U.S. and Iraqi officials have warned they expect more violence as insurgents try to stage a show of force in the days surrounding the withdrawal.

"The Americans are pulling out but they haven't accomplished the task that they came for, which is defeating terrorism," said Miriwan Kerim, a 32-year-old watch peddler in Kirkuk. "The security situation is still fragile so the withdrawal will not restore us to square one but to square zero."

President Barack Obama insists there's no turning back. Handing over control of the cities brings him one step closer to fulfilling his campaign pledge to end an unpopular war that has claimed the lives of more than 4,300 U.S. troops and tens of thousands of Iraqis.

Despite public unease, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki appears eager to see the Americans leave and has urged Iraqis to hold steady against continued violence. Ahead of national elections next year, al-Maliki is portraying himself as the leader who defeated terrorism and ended the U.S. occupation.

He has declared June 30 a national holiday, telling a national television audience Saturday that the U.S. departure will "bolster Iraq's security" and show the world that Iraqis can manage their own affairs.

Many Iraqis are also eager for the U.S. occupation to end, although more than 130,000 American troops remain in the country.

"It is good to see the departure of American troops as the first phase of ending the foreign occupation of our country," said Ibrahim Ali, 26, a teacher from Kut. "Our troops are able to protect Iraqi cities, but they need more training and naval and air support."

Others fear the security forces, especially the police, are still under the influence of Shiite militants and will not enforce the law evenhandedly.

The withdrawal, required under the U.S.-Iraqi security pact that took effect this year, marks the first major step toward withdrawing all American forces from the country by Dec. 31, 2011. Obama has said all combat troops will be gone by the end of August 2010.

American soldiers will remain in the cities to train and advise Iraqi forces as well as protect U.S. diplomatic missions and provincial reconstruction teams. With only hours to go, U.S. and Iraqi officials were still haggling over numbers and locations.

Combat operations will continue in rural areas but only with permission of the Iraqi government. U.S. troops will return to the cities only if asked.

The absence of tens of thousands of American troops who once lived, fought and patrolled the streets of Baghdad and other cities will be a major challenge for Iraqi forces.

With the deadline approaching, U.S. troops have been packing up their gear and moving to bases outside the cities, such as the giant Camp Victory complex on the western edge of Baghdad or Forward Operating Base Marez on the outskirts of Mosul.

Days before the deadline, streets of Baghdad were crowded with cars and pedestrians as music blared from the shops. Iraqi police and soldiers manned checkpoints, inspecting identity cards and checking vehicles for weapons.

Not a single U.S. soldier could be seen on the streets in many Sunni and Shiite neighborhoods.

That was a far cry from the early years of the U.S. mission, when heavily armed U.S. soldiers, tanks and other armored vehicles rumbled through the streets bearing signs warning Iraqis they could be shot if they came too close.

The withdrawal from the cities marks an end to the U.S. troop surge strategy of 2007, when the U.S. rushed thousands of reinforcements to Iraq to stem fighting between Sunnis and Shiites.

Before the surge, the U.S. tried moving troops out of the cities, handing over security to the Iraqis. American units would patrol Baghdad by day and return to bases outside the city at night, leaving control of the streets to death squads and militias.

The surge changed all that. U.S. soldiers moved out of giant bases and into former schools, clinics and police stations where they lived and worked round-the-clock with their Iraqi partners.

Now, the focus of the U.S. effort will be training and mentoring.

"Our sustained success in Iraq will hinge on how well we replace massive U.S. forces with an effective and lasting U.S. advisory effort and the level of military aid we continue to provide," former Pentagon analyst Anthony Cordesman said.

The U.S. must decide how to deal with crises as its leverage over the Iraqis fades "and Iraqi politics dominate events," Cordesman said.

Sunni lawmaker Mustafa al-Hiti said the drawdown is coming too soon "but the government has made its decision and will shoulder the responsibility of any failure if the security situation unravels."

The Americans will also become more dependent on the Iraqis for tracking insurgents since U.S. troops will not be in key urban areas, raising concerns about increased vulnerability of the Americans.

"We'll be relying a lot on the Iraqis for that situational awareness," said military spokesman Brig. Gen. Stephen Lanza.

Rockets have been fired in recent weeks at the Green Zone, which houses the U.S. Embassy and the Iraqi government headquarters.

In past times a full military response would have been seconds away. Soon it will be up to the Iraqis to respond.

The No. 2 U.S. commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Charles Jacoby, said if U.S. troops come under fire "they'll defend themselves" but "their job is to support and assist and advise Iraqi security forces."

U.S. commanders plan to assume a low public profile for the first two weeks of July to avoid any perception they're not honoring the agreement.

Most convoys will travel at night — even for the short distance between Camp Victory and Baghdad's protected Green Zone. They will also travel with Iraqi escorts to show they are not operating unilaterally.

In Mosul, U.S. vehicles must be marked with signs to show they are noncombat forces.

One U.S. officer, speaking on condition of anonymity because the issue is sensitive, acknowledged it will be hard for many American soldiers to let go.

"You have to cut the cord at some point and this is it," he said.

Associated Press Writers Patrick Quinn, Sameer N. Yacoub and Sinan Salaheddin contributed to this report.

US to continue aid to Honduran coup regime Clinton says...

Clinton calls for full democratic order in Honduras
Mon Jun 29, 2009 1:31pm EDT

WASHINGTON, June 29 (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Monday the United States was working with other nations in the hemisphere to restore full democratic and constitutional order in Honduras after the ouster of President Manuel Zelaya.

Clinton said the Honduran military's removal of Zelaya on Sunday had "evolved into a coup."

Under U.S. law, no aid -- other than for the promotion of democracy -- may be provided to a country whose elected head of government has been toppled in a military coup. Asked if the United States was now considering cutting off aid to Honduras, Clinton shook her head no.

She later said the United States was assessing the situation in Honduras and possible final outcomes before determining the next steps.

Clinton called the military arrest and expulsion of Zelaya "unfortunate events" and said it was a test of the inter-American system's ability to support and defend democracy and constitutional order in the hemisphere.

"The United States has been working with our partners in the OAS to fashion a strong consensus condemning the detention and expulsion of President Zelaya and calling for the full restoration of democratic order in Honduras," said Clinton, referring to the Organization of American States.

(Reporting by Deborah Charles, Editing by Sandra Maler)

Bosnia faces collapse as general strike looms...

Bosnia Faces Collapse as General Strike Looms
Sarajevo | 25 June 2009 | Srecko Latal

Bosnia's Federation entity is facing a total collapse as industry, education, health, postal, communal and other administrative workers prepare the country's biggest-ever strike over government plans for interventionist budget cuts.

“We will probably not be mistaken if we say that the entire Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina is in collapse,” Bosnia’s Pincom web portal reported on Thursday.

This is the first time that almost all syndicates and trade unions across the Bosniak- (Bosnian Muslim) and Bosnian Croat-dominated Federation entity have managed a consensus and coordinated a joint general strike. The strike is set to start on Friday, and all workers employed in public services and administration will be halting their work for two hours between 10:00 am and noon each day for the next two weeks.

After this period, if there is no appropriate response from or agreement with the Federation government, syndicates and trade unions will meet to agree over their next moves, union leaders told media.

The strike will include almost all employees who receive salaries from the Federation or cantonal budgets. It will include education and health workers and those employed in communication and communal services. Even the police will join the fray and either halt patrols or remain in the barracks each day during the two-hour strike, police union representatives said.

They are protesting against a protectionist law put into urgent parliamentary procedure last week. The law aims to cut public expenditures, including salaries and social benefits. Budget cuts are necessary if Bosnia is to get an agreed 1.2 billion euro stand-by arrangement with the International Monetary Fund, IMF.

This arrangement, which Bosnia negotiated with IMF in May, already suffered a serious blow earlier this week after the IMF refused to change the agreed conditions and allow the Federation to renege on its commitment to reduce benefits for influential war veterans and invalids. The IMF says that the deal is being put on hold until Bosnia and all of its administrative levels fulfill their obligations and implement the agreed reforms.

According to the agreement, all administrative levels in Bosnia are to undergo drastic cuts by the end of the month. Of the country's two entities, the Federation is required to make the largest spending cuts, around 207 million euros, which is some 10 per cent of its entity, cantonal and municipal budgets. The Bosnian Serb-dominated entity of Republika Srpska will have to reduce spending by 73 million euros. The budgets of the state government and the separate administrative District of Brcko are to be reduced by 20 million euros and 5 million euros, respectively.

Republika Srpska, which is in better financial shape, is said to have already fulfilled its part of the obligation, while the Federation and the state are facing serious difficulties.

Trade unions and syndicates, along with war veterans’ associations, have said that with the law and other planned measures, the Federation government is trying to impose non-democratic solutions that have not been discussed with or agreed to by the public.

They have also complained that executive and legislative bodies in the Federation, which have over the past few years multiplied their salaries several times over, represent one of the single biggest expenses in the consolidated budgets, yet have envisaged only 10 per cent cuts.

Like the intense demonstrations by war veterans and invalids in Sarajevo last week, the upcoming general strike places Federation officials in an almost impossible situation. Such strong public reactions to announced budget cuts are effectively halting this process, but if the situation endangers the IMF deal, the Federation will face almost certain financial collapse before the end of the year, experts say.

Two military battalions turn against Honduras coup regime...

Reports: Two Military Battalions Turn Against Honduras Coup Regime
Posted by Al Giordano - June 29, 2009 at 4:38 pm

Community Radio “Es Lo de Menos” was the first to report that the Fourth Infantry Battalion has rebelled from the military coup regime in Honduras. The radio station adds that “it seems” (“al parecer,” in the original Spanish) that the Tenth Infantry Battalion has also broken from the coup.

Rafael Alegria, leader of Via Campesina, the country’s largest social organization, one that has successfully blockaded the nation’s highways before to force government concessions, tells Alba TV:

“The popular resistance is rising up throughout the country. All the highways in the country are blockaded…. The Fourth Infantry Battallion… is no longer following the orders of Roberto Micheletti.”

Angel Alvarado of Honduras’ Popular Union Bloc tells Radio Mundial:

"Two infantry battalions of the Honduran Army have risen up against the illegitimate government of Roberto Micheletti in Honduras. They are the Fourth Infantry Battalion in the city of Tela and the Tenth Infantry Battalion in La Ceiba (the second largest city in Honduras), both located in the state of Atlántida."

(You can see Tela and La Ceiba on the map, above, along the country's northern coast.)

Meanwhile, defenders of the violent coup d’Etat now have to eat the fact that their favored regime has extended its wave of terror to the press corps, censoring all independent media in the country, including CNN and Telesur. Reuters reports:

TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - Honduras has shut down television and radio stations since an army coup over the weekend, in a media blackout than has drawn condemnation from an international press freedom group.

Shortly after the Honduran military seized President Manuel Zelaya and flew him to Costa Rica on Sunday, soldiers stormed a popular radio station and cut off local broadcasts of international television networks CNN en Espanol and Venezuelan-based Telesur, which is sponsored by leftist governments in South America.

A pro-Zelaya channel also was shut down.

The few television and radio stations still operating on Monday played tropical music or aired soap operas and cooking shows.

At the White House this afternoon, US President Obama reiterated his government’s non-recognition of the coup regime. According to the White House pool report by David Jackson of USA Today (obtained by Narco News via email):

Obama criticized the Honduras coup as "not legal," and said it would set a "terrible precedent" for the region. "We do not want to go back to a dark past," he said. "We always want to stand with democracy."

If Rafael Alegría - a serious man who gets serious results - says that the highways of the country are successfully blockaded, I tend to believe him. He likewise is not one to spread rumors about the Fourth Infantry Battalion without having solid information.

It seemed inevitable that once the cat is got of the bag regarding the total international rejection of the coup d'etat that military divisions would revolt and point their tanks in the opposite direction: toward the coup plotters above them. We may be witnessing the beginning of the end of a short-lived coup in Honduras.

Keep refreshing the front page of Narco News for more updates, sure to shortly come.

Update: TeleSur TV is reporting that its correspondents in Honduras, as well as those of Associated Press, have been arrested by the coup regime.

Update II: Here is a fuller text of US President Obama's statement at the aforementioned press conference:

President Zelaya was democratically elected. He had not yet completed his term. We believe that the coup was not legal and that President Zelaya remains the president of Honduras, the democratically elected president there. In that, we have joined all the countries in the region, including Colombia and the Organization of American States.

I think it's -- it would be a terrible precedent if we start moving backwards into the era in which we are seeing military coups as a means of political transition, rather than democratic elections.

The region has made enormous progress over the last 20 years in establishing democratic traditions in Central America and Latin America.

We don't want to go back to a dark past. The United States has not always stood as it should with some of these fledgling democracies. But over the last several years, I think both Republicans and Democrats in the United States have recognized that we always want to stand with democracy, even if the results don't always mean that the leaders of those countries are favorable toward the United States. And that is a tradition that we want to continue.

So we are very clear about the fact that President Zelaya is the democratically elected president. And we will work with the regional organizations, like OAS, and with other international institutions to see if we can resolve this in a peaceful way.

The pyramid of North Dakota...

The Pyramid of North Dakota
The remnants of an early American attempt at missile defense

The Safeguard Program was developed in the 1960s to shoot down incoming Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles. Built at a cost of 6 billion dollars in Nekoma, North Dakota, the site was a massive complex of missile silos, a giant pyramid-shaped radar system, and dozens of launching silos for surface-to-air missiles tipped with thermonuclear warheads.

However, due to its expense, and concern over both its effectiveness and the danger of detonating defensive nuclear warheads over friendly territory, the program was shut down. Today it is a military-industrial shell in the middle of nowhere, or in the words of one writer, "a monument to man's fear and ignorance."

The criminal Rothschilds...

Was Michael Jackson chemically manipulated for profit?

Was Michael Jackson Chemically Manipulated for Profit?
Monday, June 29, 2009 by: Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, NaturalNews Editor

(NaturalNews) Michael Jackson's death gives us an opportunity to reflect on the way he was treated by the media (and the public) while he was alive. Through his work, Michael Jackson went to great lengths to send a message of love to the world -- to inspire others and add joy to our lives -- and yet he was derided as a monster by the tabloid media while being humiliated by the comedy routines of late-night talk show hosts.

Western culture is cruel to celebrities.

Anyone in a position of notoriety is automatically deemed a fair target for outrageous accusations and slander. As somewhat of a minor celebrity (in a narrow field) myself, I've seen some of this cruelty directed my way, and I can only imagine how much more devastating the cruelty would be at the scale and degree that was thrust upon Michael Jackson throughout his professional career.

Jackson was derided simply for being different. He had unconventional tastes and pursued uncommon lifestyle choices, and many of those choices made conservative people nervous. So they invented lies and played them up for their own personal profit. The whole accusation of Michael Jackson having sexual escapades with young boys was, by any honest accounting, a complete fabrication engineered for nothing more than personal profit.

In fact, Jackson was financially exploited by virtually everyone close to him. His "handlers" were highly-paid promoters who saw Jackson as their ticket to wealth. It might even be argued that they pushed him to the fringe of a pharmaceutical-induced death through their attempts to exploit his work for their own profits.

Again, I sometimes feel exploited in the same way, such as when companies pressure me to write articles about their products even though I'm on a hectic schedule of trying to cover other important topics. With Michael Jackson, though, the pressure must have been a thousand times worse. Hundreds of millions of dollars were on the line, and if Jackson could only be pumped up with enough drugs and makeup to bang out another fifty concerts, the people around him could walk home filthy rich.

Pharmaceuticals as tools of control

Although I have no specific proof of this, it is my belief that pharmaceuticals became the tools by which Michael Jackson's handlers were able to chemically abuse him in their quest for further profits. With the right drugs, even a frail man can be artificially pumped up with enough energy to make a stage appearance -- although at great cost to his vitality. And some of the drugs he was put on have the effect of turning you into a mind-numbed zombie, primed for mental manipulation.

Jackson's handlers, of course, will insist they loved the man like a friend and money had nothing to do with it. Such a claim is easy to verify: Just check the payroll stubs. If the numbers aren't zero, money probably had everything to do with it. (It's easy to be somebody's "friend" when they're paying you a seven-figure income.)

In the end, there's no doubt that Jackson was pumped full of too many drugs for any man to bear. Pharmaceuticals don't cure anything, after all, and the more you take, the more toxic the combinations become. The Sun newspaper in the UK claims Jackson was taking Xanax, Prilosec, Vicodin, Paxil, Demerol, Soma, Dilaudid and Zoloft. That's an extremely toxic combination of drugs that no person should be taking long-term. And yet it seems (from press reports, if you can believe those) that Jackson was on some of these drugs for a very long period of time... decades, in some cases.

Certainly, Jackson himself is not free from responsibility in all this. His seemingly fanatical pursuit of cosmetic surgery might be called a form of self-inflicted medical abuse. Some of the drugs he was taking were no doubt pursued as a way to alleviate the possible pain and scarring resulting from so many surgical procedures. And yet for that, he can only blame himself, as those procedures were voluntary (and entirely unnecessary). Jackson was loved for his voice, his message and his wide-open heart. In no way did he actually need a new face to be a successful, inspiring artist (the face he was born with would have been just fine).

Obama's first coup d'etat in Honduras...

Coup d'Etat Underway in Honduras: OBAMA’S FIRST COUP D’ETAT
by Eva Golinger
Global Research, June 29, 2009

[Note: As of 11:15am, Caracas time, President Zelaya is speaking live on Telesur from San Jose, Costa Rica. He has verified the soldiers entered his residence in the early morning hours, firing guns and threatening to kill him and his family if he resisted the coup. He was forced to go with the soldiers who took him to the air base and flew him to Costa Rica. He has requested the U.S. Government make a public statement condemning the coup, otherwise, it will indicate their compliance.]

Caracas, Venezuela - The text message that beeped on my cell phone this morning read “Alert, Zelaya has been kidnapped, coup d’etat underway in Honduras, spread the word.” It’s a rude awakening for a Sunday morning, especially for the millions of Hondurans that were preparing to exercise their sacred right to vote today for the first time on a consultative referendum concerning the future convening of a constitutional assembly to reform the constitution. Supposedly at the center of the controversary is today’s scheduled referendum, which is not a binding vote but merely an opinion poll to determine whether or not a majority of Hondurans desire to eventually enter into a process to modify their constitution.

Such an initiative has never taken place in the Central American nation, which has a very limited constitution that allows minimal participation by the people of Honduras in their political processes. The current constitution, written in 1982 during the height of the Reagan Administration’s dirty war in Central America, was designed to ensure those in power, both economic and political, would retain it with little interference from the people. Zelaya, elected in November 2005 on the platform of Honduras’ Liberal Party, had proposed the opinion poll be conducted to determine if a majority of citizens agreed that constitutional reform was necessary. He was backed by a majority of labor unions and social movements in the country. If the poll had occured, depending on the results, a referendum would have been conducted during the upcoming elections in November to vote on convening a constitutional assembly. Nevertheless, today’s scheduled poll was not binding by law.

In fact, several days before the poll was to occur, Honduras’ Supreme Court ruled it illegal, upon request by the Congress, both of which are led by anti-Zelaya majorities and members of the ultra-conservative party, National Party of Honduras (PNH). This move led to massive protests in the streets in favor of President Zelaya. On June 24, the president fired the head of the high military command, General Romeo Vásquez, after he refused to allow the military to distribute the electoral material for Sunday’s elections. General Romeo Vásquez held the material under tight military control, refusing to release it even to the president’s followers, stating that the scheduled referendum had been determined illegal by the Supreme Court and therefore he could not comply with the president’s order. As in the Unted States, the president of Honduras is Commander in Chief and has the final say on the military’s actions, and so he ordered the General’s removal. The Minister of Defense, Angel Edmundo Orellana, also resigned in response to this increasingly tense situation.

But the following day, Honduras’ Supreme Court reinstated General Romeo Vásquez to the high military command, ruling his firing as “unconstitutional’. Thousands poured into the streets of Honduras’ capital, Tegucigalpa, showing support for President Zelaya and evidencing their determination to ensure Sunday’s non-binding referendum would take place. On Friday, the president and a group of hundreds of supporters, marched to the nearby air base to collect the electoral material that had been previously held by the military. That evening, Zelaya gave a national press conference along with a group of politicians from different political parties and social movements, calling for unity and peace in the country.

As of Saturday, the situation in Honduras was reported as calm. But early Sunday morning, a group of approximately 60 armed soldiers entered the presidential residence and took Zelaya hostage. After several hours of confusion, reports surfaced claiming the president had been taken to a nearby air force base and flown to neighboring Costa Rica. No images have been seen of the president so far and it is unknown whether or not his life is still endangered.

President Zelaya’s wife, Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, speaking live on Telesur at approximately 10:00am Caracas time, denounced that in early hours of Sunday morning, the soldiers stormed their residence, firing shots throughout the house, beating and then taking the president. “It was an act of cowardness”, said the first lady, referring to the illegal kidnapping occuring during a time when no one would know or react until it was all over. Casto de Zelaya also called for the “preservation” of her husband’s life, indicating that she herself is unaware of his whereabouts. She claimed their lives are all still in “serious danger” and made a call for the international community to denounce this illegal coup d’etat and to act rapidly to reinstate constitutional order in the country, which includes the rescue and return of the democratically elected Zelaya.

Presidents Evo Morales of Bolivia and Hugo Chávez of Venezuela have both made public statements on Sunday morning condeming the coup d’etat in Honduras and calling on the international community to react to ensure democracy is restored and the constitutional president is reinstated. Last Wednesday, June 24, an extraordinary meeting of the member nations of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), of which Honduras is a member, was convened in Venezuela to welcome Ecuador, Antigua & Barbados and St. Vincent to its ranks. During the meeting, which was attended by Honduras’ Foreign Minister, Patricia Rodas, a statement was read supporting President Zelaya and condenming any attempts to undermine his mandate and Honduras’ democratic processes.

Reports coming out of Honduras have informed that the public television channel, Canal 8, has been shut down by the coup forces. Just minutes ago, Telesur announced that the military in Honduras is shutting down all electricity throughout the country. Those television and radio stations still transmitting are not reporting the coup d’etat or the kidnapping of President Zelaya, according to Foreign Minister Patricia Rodas. “Telephones and electricity are being cut off”, confirmed Rodas just minutes ago via Telesur. “The media are showing cartoons and soap operas and are not informing the people of Honduras about what is happening”. The situation is eerily reminiscent of the April 2002 coup d’etat against President Chávez in Venezuela, when the media played a key role by first manipulating information to support the coup and then later blacking out all information when the people began protesting and eventually overcame and defeated the coup forces, rescuing Chávez (who had also been kidnapped by the military) and restoring constitutional order.

Honduras is a nation that has been the victim of dictatorships and massive U.S. intervention during the past century, including several military invasions. The last major U.S. government intervention in Honduras occured during the 1980s, when the Reagain Administration funded death squads and paramilitaries to eliminate any potential “communist threats” in Central America. At the time, John Negroponte, was the U.S. Ambassador in Honduras and was responsible for directly funding and training Honduran death squads that were responsable for thousands of disappeared and assassinated throughout the region.

On Friday, the Organization of American States (OAS), convened a special meeting to discuss the crisis in Honduras, later issuing a statement condeming the threats to democracy and authorizing a convoy of representatives to travel to OAS to investigate further. Nevertheless, on Friday, Assistant Secretary of State of the United States, Phillip J. Crowley, refused to clarify the U.S. government’s position in reference to the potential coup against President Zelaya, and instead issued a more ambiguous statement that implied Washington’s support for the opposition to the Honduran president. While most other Latin American governments had clearly indicated their adamant condemnation of the coup plans underway in Honduras and their solid support for Honduras’ constitutionally elected president, Manual Zelaya, the U.S. spokesman stated the following, “We are concerned about the breakdown in the political dialogue among Honduran politicians over the proposed June 28 poll on constitutional reform. We urge all sides to seek a consensual democratic resolution in the current political impasse that adheres to the Honduran constitution and to Honduran laws consistent with the principles of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.”

As of 10:30am, Sunday morning, no further statements have been issued by the Washington concerning the military coup in Honduras. The Central American nation is highly dependent on the U.S. economy, which ensures one of its top sources of income, the monies sent from Hondurans working in the U.S. under the “temporary protected status” program that was implemented during Washington’s dirty war in the 1980s as a result of massive immigration to U.S. territory to escape the war zone. Another major source of funding in Honduras is USAID, providing over US$ 50 millon annually for “democracy promotion” programs, which generally supports NGOs and political parties favorable to U.S. interests, as has been the case in Venezuela, Bolivia and other nations in the region. The Pentagon also maintains a military base in Honduras in Soto Cano, equipped with approximately 500 troops and numerous air force combat planes and helicopters.

Foreign Minister Rodas has stated that she has repeatedly tried to make contact with the U.S. Ambassador in Honduras, Hugo Llorens, who has not responded to any of her calls thus far. The modus operandi of the coup makes clear that Washington is involved. Neither the Honduran military, which is majority trained by U.S. forces, nor the political and economic elite, would act to oust a democratically elected president without the backing and support of the U.S. government. President Zelaya has increasingly come under attack by the conservative forces in Honduras for his growing relationship with the ALBA countries, and particularly Venezuela and President Chávez. Many believe the coup has been executed as a method of ensuring Honduras does not continue to unify with the more leftist and socialist countries in Latin America.

Military coup in Honduras led by US-run SOA graduate...

Military Coup in Honduras

A military coup has taken place in Honduras this morning (Sunday, June 28), led by SOA graduate Romeo Vasquez. In the early hours of the day, members of the Honduran military surrounded the presidential palace and forced the democratically elected president, Manuel Zelaya, into custody. He was immediately flown to Costa Rica.

A national vote had been scheduled to take place today in Honduras to consult the electorate on a proposal of holding a Constitutional Assembly in November. General Vasquez had refused to comply with this vote and was deposed by the president, only to later be reinstated by the Congress and Supreme Court.

The Honduran state television was taken off the air. The electricity supply to the capital Tegucigalpa, as well telephone and cellphone lines were cut. Government institutions were taken over by the military. While the traditional political parties, Catholic church and military have not issued any statements, the people of Honduras are going into the streets, in spite of the fact that the streets are militarized. From Costa Rica, President Zelaya has called for a non-violent response from the people of Honduras, and for international solidarity for the Honduran democracy.

While the European Union and several Latin American governments just came out in support of President Zelaya and spoke out against the coup, a statement that was just issued by Barack Obama fell short of calling for the reinstatement of Zelaya as the legitimate president.

Call the State Department and the White House
Demand that they call for the immediate reinstatement of Honduran President Zelaya.

State Department: 202-647-4000 or 1-800-877-8339
White House: Comments: 202-456-1111, Switchboard: 202-456-1414

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Oil and Islam(Peter Dale Scott)...

Oil and Islam. Will America Shift Away from Its Past Unilateralist Policies? Obama's Cairo Speech
by Prof. Peter Dale Scott
June 10, 2009

In his remarkable speech at Cairo University on June 4, President Obama promised "a new beginning." In the words of the Israeli commentator Uri Avnery, the speech offered "the map of a new world, a different world, whose values and laws he spelled out in simple and clear language -- a mixture of idealism and practical politics, vision and pragmatism."1

Much of what Obama had to say was new, and warmed the hearts of observers like myself, who had become increasingly concerned about the new president's fidelity to the financial and military policies of the previous Bush-Cheney administration. But while Obama broke new ground on Israel-Palestine issues, he glossed over troubling issues pertaining to the US presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also glossed over one of the fundamental issues alienating the Muslim world: America's relentless efforts to preserve its threatened financial status by moves to dominate the region's oil resources. Here his careful ambiguity was ominously reminiscent of the Bush era.

The speech reaffirmed a complete withdrawal of US forces from Iraq by 2012, as the U.S. committed itself to do in a signed agreement last December. In addition Obama asserted that "we do not want to keep our troops in Afghanistan... We would gladly bring every single one of our troops home if we could be confident that there were not violent extremists in Afghanistan and now Pakistan."

But Obama's remarks did not address the statement on May 26, 2009, by Gen. George Casey, Army chief of staff, that, despite the agreement with Iraq, the United States would continue to have fighting forces in Iraq and Afghanistan beyond 2012. The reality, Casey said, is that "we're going to have 10 Army and Marine units deployed for a decade in Iraq and Afghanistan."2

Nor is it clear that Obama's promise to withdraw "troops" from Iraq would also cover private military contractors (PMCs) . Jeremy Scahill, author of a book on the notorious firm Blackwater, said on the Bill Moyers show that what we're seeing in the Cairo speech "is sort of old wine in a new bottle. Obama is sending one message to the world," he told Moyers, "but the reality on the ground, particularly when it comes to private military contractors, is that the status quo remains from the Bush era."3

Even more ominous is the president's oblique reference to America's controversial oil policies. It was significant that he apologized for the CIA's ouster in 1953 of Iran's democratically elected government -- the first of America's many operations against Islam on behalf of the oil companies. With respect to Iraq, he said he had made it clear to the Iraqi people that America pursues "no claim on their territory or resources." His solitary reference to America's hated oil policies was oblique and evasive: "While America in the past has focused on oil and gas when it comes to this part of the world, we now seek a broader engagement."

In stating that the American presence in Iraq has nothing to do with oil, Obama is following in the footsteps of the Republicans before him, such as Donald Rumsfeld, who on November 14, 2002 told CBS News that the U.S. plans for Iraq had "nothing to do with oil, literally nothing to do with oil." As it became increasingly clear in 2003 that America would invade Iraq, neither Bush's State of the Union Message nor Colin Powell's address to the United Nations Security Council mentioned, even once, the word "oil."

But we now know that in March 2001 Cheney's Energy Task Force developed a map of Iraq's oil fields, with the southwest divided into nine "Exploration Blocks." One month earlier a Bush National Security Council document had noted that Cheney's Task force would consider "actions regarding the capture of new and existing oil and gas fields."4

What Obama means by "no claim" on Iraq's resources is ambiguous. For eight years the Bush-Cheney administration, in a number of ways, pushed for the Iraq Ministry of Oil to eliminate state control of oil and negotiate contracts giving Chevron and other multinationals access to Iraqi oilfields.5 These negotiations have continued under Obama, and Bloomberg reported in April that the Iraqi government might give foreign companies 75 percent stakes in new oil developments.6 Observers are concerned that oil companies, when their contracts are secured, may continue to employ PMCs like Erinys, which has employed 14,000 guards in the Iraqi oil fields.7 Jeremy Scahill talked on Bill Moyers' Journal of "a scenario where you have corporations with their own private armies...a devastating development."8

"No claim on resources" is ambiguous in another respect. At no point has America been an important market for Iraqi oil. But since World War Two Washington has fought, in two cases literally, to main U.S. control over the disposition of Middle Eastern oil. A little background is necessary to explain the importance of this distinction.

The Historical Importance to America of Dollar-Denominated Oil

For over three decades, as I have argued elsewhere, America has propped up the dollar by ensuring that all OPEC oil payments would be dollar-denominated, thus creating an artificial need for dollars in oil-deprived nations around the world.9 But this system may become less relevant, as more and more oil deals, such as China's $10 billion oil deal with Brazil, are made outside of the American and OPEC orbits.10

Iran has been selling its oil for euros for quite some time. A lot of its international deals are denominated in euros. As are Russia's, China's and Brazil's. Adding Brazil to the mix strengthens the movement away from the dollar in our own hemisphere. Brazil has been moving in this direction since 2005, Venezuela has been pushing this since 2007.11

Most Americans are unaware that in 2003 Saddam Hussein had begun to sell Iraqi oil for euros as well as dollars, and that Bush, two months after invading Iraq, enacted an emergency order which, with the misleading title of "Protecting the Development Fund for Iraq," secretly ended Iraq's euro sales of oil. The U.S. press, unlike the Irish Times and the UK Financial Times, took no notice of this.

As I wrote in The Road to 9/11,

The United States acted swiftly to ensure that oil would remain dominantly a dollar commodity, by an executive order empowering Iraqi oil sales to be returned from euros to dollars. Bush's order of May 22, 2003, declaring a "national emergency," did not directly mention the dollar as such; but it directed all oil earnings into a central fund, controlled by the United States, for reconstruction projects in Iraq.12 The Financial Times, on June 6, 2003, confirmed that Iraqi oil sales were now switched back from euros to dollars.13

Most Americans are also unaware that on May 20, 2009 Obama explicitly renewed, rather than canceled, Bush's emergency order 13303 for the use of the dollar in Iraq's oil dealings. Once again, the language of Obama's emergency order concealed its implications.14

Obama's reluctance to abandon America's traditional Middle Eastern oil policies has to be understood in the light of the dollar's increasing precariousness at this time. In recent weeks the U.S. Treasury has had to pay more to attract foreign purchasers of its securities. The basic US Treasury rate has risen to 5.29 percent, with indications that it will go higher.15 China, a major purchaser of U.S. Treasury instruments, has recently switched from long-term to short-dated U.S. Treasuries. Meanwhile it has become increasingly focused on currency swaps with its neighbors in Southeast Asia, a development only to be expected.16

An increase in interest rates will of course threaten the Obama program for relief to distressed homeowners, which, as he told Congress in his February speech, was a program to help Americans take advantage of the lower interest rates then prevailing. It will also threaten the timeline he projected for American economic recovery.

The Choice Between Unilateralism and Multilateralism in Central Asia

No doubt in Washington this weakness of the oil-dependent dollar is seen by hawks as reinforcing the case for persistence in both Iraq and in Afghanistan (where a decade ago the US firm Unocal hoped to build an oil pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan).17 But increasingly multilateralists in Washington are arguing that America, instead of proceeding unilaterally to sustain Bush-era policies for dominating the oil of Central Asia, could do better by reaching out to cooperation with Russia and China.

The obvious venue for such a multilateral approach would be the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which will meet in Yekaterinburg on June 15-16. As U.S. diplomat Lynn Roche has written,

The SCO grew out of the Shanghai Five founded in 1996 to coordinate border security between five nations of Central Asia -- Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan -- and added Uzbekistan in 2001. It has usually been viewed as an attempt to counterbalance NATO and therefore, suspect. That outlook is short-sighted. Focusing on mutual security issues such as counter-terrorism and drug trafficking in this thorny part of the world, the SCO provides a valuable function that the West hasn't taken advantage of so far.... It's the right time to enlist the SCO's input and assistance on Afghanistan. It's an opportunity to work with Russia and China in a multilateral forum, hopefully leaving some of our bilateral baggage at the door.18

SCO's initial opposition to NATO has shifted with the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This led a SCO meeting in May 2009 to express the view that "the NATO coalition forces in Afghanistan must pay more attention to the problems of Pakistan."19 And although SCO in 2005 opposed a U.S. military presence on the territory of its member states, Kyrgyzstan's expulsion of the U.S. from its base at Bishkek, scheduled for August of this year, will be reconsidered by Kyrgyz President Bakiyev and Afghan President Karzai at the June SCO meeting. These developments are symptomatic of the interest the SCO countries share with America in reducing violence and narcotics in the region.

Even though the United States was denied SCO observer status in 2005, the United States was invited by SCO to participate in a Moscow meeting on Afghanistan on March 27 of this year. (It was on the sidelines of this meeting that Patrick Moon, U.S. envoy for South and Central Asia, held talks with Mehdi Akhundzadeh, Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister.) Later on March 27, in Washington, Obama announced that his new Afghanistan policy "will include a new contact group for Afghanistan involving the United Nations, NATO allies and other partners from the Central Asian states, the Gulf nations, Iran, Russia, India and China."20

This outreach to SCO was more noticed abroad than in the U.S. press. But a Council on Foreign Relations podcast commented that SCO's

first invitation to the United States to attend its March 27 meeting in Moscow has aroused interest about a potential partnership for stabilizing Afghanistan. President Barack Obama announced a shift in U.S. policy emphasis on the same day as the SCO summit, and greater consultation with Afghanistan's neighbors is a part of the new template.21

The new template could possibly lead to multilateral consultations on oil as well. In 2007 SCO member states agreed to establish a "unified energy market" for oil and gas exports, while also promoting regional development through preferential energy agreements.22 With India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan attending SCO's next meeting as observers, SCO attendees will represent more than half of the human race.

The so-called BRIC countries, Brazil, Russia, China, and India, will also meet separately in Yekaterinburg in June, and Brazil will attend the SCO meetings as well. A Goldman Sachs research paper has predicted that the four BRIC countries, by their synergy, may become among the four most dominant economies by the year 2050.23 And as has been pointed out, BRIC also represents "the world's fastest and most consistently growing economies with the largest foreign currency and gold reserves."24

Clearly SCO has emerged as a venue for the resolution of issues in Central Asia -- including oil -- with or without the United States. Thus one can expect continuing debate in Washington as to whether America's interests in the region will be better served by unilateral or multilateral approaches.

In the waning days of the British 19th Century, two memorable, archetypical novels appeared whose mythic plots could be used to express the moral dichotomy of the British Empire. I am referring to Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) and Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray (1990). A century later they express the moral dichotomy of America as well -- evil and ugly as the wager of a preemptive war in Iraq, but still attractive and beneficent as one of the most successful multicultural civil societies in the world.

As Amy Chua has written in her book Day of Empire,

If America can rediscover the path that has been the secret to its success since its founding and avoid the temptations of empirebuilding, it could remain the world's hyperpower in the decades to come -- not a hyperpower of coercion and military force, but a hyperpower of opportunity, dynamism, and moral force.25

America's real strength, and ultimately its best defense, is as a civil society to which other societies are drawn. One of the tragedies of the last decade has been the way the democratic core of that civil society has been grossly weakened. In the name of security, a noisome fog of secrecy has obscured the workings of government from public view, in a declared "state of emergency" which has been continuously renewed since 9/11 -- and which Congress is required by law to review, yet refuses to.26 Democratic institutions are like garden plants: to prosper they need sunlight.

America's moral dichotomy was summarized some years ago by Michael Klare as an ongoing struggle between its Prussians and its traders. That is too simple a dichotomy to epitomize America's choices in Central Asia: there the oil companies, nominally traders, have helped drive the urge for unilateral U.S. military dominance in remote countries like Georgia and Uzbekistan.

But it catches the choice America faces in Central Asia. Either America can struggle militarily for "full-spectrum dominance" of the region -- an absurd but official Pentagon doctrine calling for the ability "to control any situation across the range of military operations."27 Or it can cooperate with other major and local powers for multilateral negotiations of shared problems.

Call for public inquiry into 7/7 London bombings...

Call for public inquiry into 7/7 from former head of counter-terrorism
June 20, 2009
Sean O’Neill, Crime and Security Editor

An independent public inquiry should be held into how suicide terrorists were able to carry out the July 7 bombings, Scotland Yard's former head of counter-terrorism says.

Andy Hayman, who was Assistant Commissioner for Special Operations at the time of the bombings in 2005, is the first figure from the security establishment to break ranks and call for an open inquiry.

Almost four years after Mohammad Sidique Khan and his Leeds-based cell carried out the bombings, Mr Hayman says that he is "uncomfortable" with the official position that an inquiry would divert resources from the fight against terrorism. In his book, The Terrorist Hunters, extracts from which are published in The Times today, Mr Hayman says: "Incidents of less gravity have attracted the status of a public inquiry -- train crashes, a death in custody, and even other terrorist attacks. How can there not be a full, independent public inquiry into the deaths of 52 commuters on London's transport system?

"There has been no overview, no pulling together of each strand of review, no one can be sure if key issues have been missed."

Survivors of the July 7 bombings and families of the victims are taking High Court action over the refusal to grant them an independent inquiry.

The key issue for any inquiry would be why Khan, 30, who had been photographed, followed and bugged by surveillance officers because of his links with known terrorists, was left free to carry out the attacks.

A report last month by the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) said that MI5's decision not to make Khan a priority target was "understandable and reasonable". But that report, prepared by a committee that was appointed by the Prime Minister and took evidence in secret, has been heavily criticised.

It reveals that one MI5 team had begun an operation to identify a suspect known as "Ibrahim", who was later revealed to be Khan. At the same time, others in MI5 knew where Khan lived but had decided that he was not a key suspect. Critics say that the ISC does not appear to have inquired how the mismatch happened.

In his book, Mr Hayman paints a vivid picture from inside Scotland Yard of the day the bombers struck and admits that the attacks were "a bolt from nowhere".

He was called to a meeting of Cobra, the Government's emergency meeting, within an hour of the first explosions, and had to admit that he did not know what was happening.

Mr Hayman writes: "Imagine what it's like to tell the Commissioner or the Secretary of State, as I would have to, 'I don't know what's going on'."

Rachel North, a survivor of the Piccadilly Line bomb at King's Cross, welcomed his support for an inquiry. "It is not to blame or have a witch-hunt but. . . to learn the lessons of how 7/7 happened and whether it could have been prevented."

Sir Ian Blair, who as commissioner of the Metropolitan Police was in charge at the time of the London bombings, has received a substantial payoff. He was paid £580,000 during his final eight months in office, more than doubling his annual salary, and stands to benefit from a pension pot of £3.5 million.

Military coup d'etat in Honduras arrest left-leaning president...

Troops detain Honduran president
From the Associated Press
6:35 AM PDT, June 28, 2009

Tegucigalpa -- More than a dozen soldiers arrested President Manuel Zelaya and disarmed his security guards after surrounding his residence before dawn Sunday in an action that one supporter labeled a coup.

Zelaya was taken to an air force base on the outskirts of the capital, Tegucigalpa, his private secretary Carlos Enrique Reina told The Associated Press.

"We're talking about a coup d'etat," labor leader and Zelaya ally Rafael Alegria told Honduran radio Cadena de Noticias. "This is regrettable."

Alegria said that shots were fired during the president's arrest "but we really don't know much about what happened."

Honduran radio station HRN reported that Zelaya had been sent into exile, citing unidentified "trustworthy sources."

The radio announcer said it was not known to what country he had been taken but "apparently he flew on the presidential plane to Venezuela."

No one from the military or president's office would confirm the coup or exile reports.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and former Cuban leader Fidel Castro have both expressed support for Zelaya, who insisted on holding a referendum on constitutional reform on Sunday even though the Supreme Court ruled it illegal and everyone from the military to Congress and members of his own party opposed it.

Shortly after Zelaya's arrest, dozens of white pick-up trucks packed with soldiers standing shoulder to shoulder sped to the presidential palace in downtown Tegucigalpa, blocked the entrances and closed a large chainlink gate on the hillside road leading to the national government's headquarters.

"They kidnapped him like cowards," Melissa Gaitan, 21, an employee of the official government television station, screamed as tears streamed down her face. "We have to rally the people to defend our president."

About 30 supporters including Gaitan yelled insults at soldiers on the other side of the gate, while more troops could be seen surrounding the palace. News media were kept outside the gate as well.

Outside Zelaya's residence, a police officer who would not identify himself by name told the AP that soldiers had disarmed Zelaya's security guards but there was no violence or injuries.

The president's arrest took place about an hour before polls were to open for the nonbinding referendum asking voters if they want to hold a vote during the November presidential election on whether to convoke an assembly to rewrite the constitution.

"We demand respect for the president's life," Alegria said. "And we will go out into the streets to defend what this has cost us: living in peace and tranquility."

Latvian firm accepts souls as guarantee for credits...

Latvian firm accepts souls as guarantee for credits
22 Jun, 02:58 PM

A financial company in Latvia is offering residents loans secured by nothing but their immortal soul.

Riga-based firm, named Kontora, does not require credit history record or proof of employment. It grants loans of 50 to 500 Latvian lats ($100 to $1,000) to any adult after he or she signs the a very short agreement.

According to the agreement, the only security required of the borrower is their immortal soul, which they are asked to confirm as their previously unmortgaged property.

The loan is subject to one percent per day in interest until full repayment.

The period of full repayment is 90 days, and in case the borrower fails to return the money, the creditor gets full possession of his soul.

HHS Secretary provides shield against damage claims for H1N1 influenza drugs...


HHS extends liability shield to antivirals used for H1N1
Robert Roos News Editor

Jun 26, 2009 (CIDRAP News) – The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently provided a shield against damage claims related to the use of the antiviral drugs oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza) in the current H1N1 influenza pandemic.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius signed a notice extending liability protection under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act. It was published in the Federal Register on Jun 19.

The PREP Act allows the HHS secretary to provide liability protection related to the use of various medical measures against diseases that HHS determines to be health emergencies. Protections are already in place for the two antivirals when used against H5N1 influenza and for vaccines for H5N1 and other potential pandemic flu strains, among other drugs and vaccines.

Liability protection is provided to groups and individuals involved in the development, manufacture, testing, distribution, administration, and use of medical countermeasures, according to HHS.

Gretchen Michael, an HHS spokeswoman in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, described the antiviral-related move as routine. "This just sort of adapted the previous PREP Act documents for H1N1," she said.

Michael said the impulse for PREP Act liability protections has come primarily from the manufacturers of the relevant products. She said the oseltamivir protection measure was not related to the reports, mainly from Japan, of abnormal behavior in some adolescents who were given the drug.

Depleted uranium in children of Iraq...

Iranian protest vs. London protest...

Iranian Protest vs. London Protest
June 23, 2009

Police repression of a country’s urban populace is never an edifying spectacle.

When snipers kill unarmed women in the street and the array of modern gadgets in the hands of spectators makes her choking, blood-soaked last breaths a public spectacle globally, it is wholly predictable and quite right that calls for justice mount.

Twenty-seven year old Iranian Neda has become a figurehead for the “green revolution” on the streets of Tehran. An attractive travel agent in Iran’s capital, she was apparently shot in the chest by Iranian police; her death was captured on a mobile phone camera and made its way from twitter to blog to CNN in a few short hours.

Cue Western hysteria and endless media coverage: live blogs, rolling footage; the snuff movie as martyrdom for all the family’s viewing and endless scenes of cars burning.

European and American image-consumers love such feisty expressions of democratic discontent; burning cars, throwing bricks, beating the crap out of riot police unlucky enough to come off their two-stroke motorbikes.

Because dissent is laudable overseas: At home it’s undemocratic.

You see, self-righteousness and anger as engines of change are exported, projected, displaced. In Iran we can admire the passion of Tehran’s glamorous youth (Playboy magazine is currently running a feature on Iran’s “Lipstick Revolution”); abhor the conservative clerics and watch the cars burning with a frisson of detached admiration.

God forbid such a thing happen on the streets of London.

Not so very long ago, there was a protest in England’s capital, as far as I recall. It wasn’t very violent: one window of one bank was smashed; no cars were burnt, no policeman beaten and the only things thrown were juggling balls. And not in anger.

The protestors largely rather politely demanded that the bankers who had run our financial institutions into the ground return their multimillion pound bonuses. Please. And that the leaders of the G20 push for jobs, fair distribution of wealth, and a low-carbon future.

For their pains, they had the crap beaten out of them by London’s Metropolitan police, who covered up their badge numbers, backhanded women across the face, punched protestors, dragged teenage girls backwards across the street by their hair and killed an onlooker after slamming his head into the pavement.

Britain’s political establishment praised the demonstrators for their civic mindedness and engagement in the democratic right to protest, and called roundly on the police to be accountable for their murder of an innocent bystander.

“Oh? Hold on a minute?” (Checks earpiece…) “They didn’t?”

No, sorry, they did nothing of the sort. They roundly praised the police for doing a “difficult job in tough circumstances” and smeared the protestors with all sorts of unsubstantiated allegations. Not a single senior figure stood up to condemn what amounted to manslaughter of an entirely innocent man. Not one.

Oh? You mean sexy Iranian girls waving green banners or coughing up blood on Tehran’s street make us feel good and superior about not having any religious police, but the pallid face of a former alcoholic comatose on the pavement in London town after a savage attack by police and their snarling German Shepards is something we’d rather forget?

As Marina Hyde as recently written in the Guardian, “Britain needs anger management. Not to calm the fury but to gather its force.”

Go on Marina, I know you’re angry about the corrupt politicians using taxpayer’s money to buy 9000 pound Bang and Olufson TVs. I know you’re angry about bailout money for banks going out the backdoor to shareholders who got their institutions in this mess in the first place. I know you’re angry about having a Prime Minister who hasn’t been elected. I know you’re angry that police forces are now using drones to monitor people celebrating the summer solstice at Stonehenge… I know…. I know.

In fact, you’re so angry you could burn a police car right? Shouting “where’s my vote?”

Oh? You don’t want to have your head slammed into the pavement by the Met? You don’t want to be dragged backwards across the street by your hair? You don’t want to be detained without trial for 42 days? You don’t want to face trial without a jury? You don’t want to have your house raided and all your communications equipment permanently confiscated?… You don’t….?

Why not settle for that glass of white wine like most of us and watch the Middle East on TV.

Bless these Iranians.

Friday, June 26, 2009


There wont EVER be another one like you..

CIA-linked NGO's undermining sovereign countries...

Obama Moves to Undermine Iran with CIA Linked USAID “Democracy”
Kurt Nimmo
June 26, 2009

Ignore the neocons who whine that Obama and the Democrats are not doing enough to support the protesters arrayed in opposition to recently re-elected Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the mullahs in Iran.

“The Obama administration is moving forward with plans to fund groups that support Iranian dissidents,” reports USA Today. “The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which reports to the secretary of state, has for the last year been soliciting applications for $20 million in grants to ‘promote democracy, human rights, and the rule of law in Iran,’ according to documents on the agency’s website. The final deadline for grant applications is June 30.”

Or put another way, the CIA will fund the opposition and this effort will be run out of Hillary Clinton’s State Department.

Public records show that USAID has long been a front for CIA intelligence gathering, as well as a conduit for CIA funding to foreign governments and agencies, according to Bill Keisling. Pages 607 to 613 of the so-called CIA Family Jewels document describes a “joint CIA/USAID training program.”

Andrew Natsios, USAID’s former head, stated unequivocally in a widely distributed 2003 speech that even foreign USAID-funded contractors and NGOs “are an arm of the U.S. government.” And the role of the much smaller NED was made clear when Allen Weinstein, one of its founders stated in a 1991 Washington Post article that, “a lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.”

It is well documented that the CIA’s USAID, along with the Pentagon, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and the Venezuelan mafia in Miami attempted to overthrow Hugo Chávez. “It has been affirmed that the coup against Chávez was CIA-made,” writes Jean-Guy Allard of Granma International. “The CIA and the State Department maintain various fronts in the country, as they always do.”

In addition to USAID and NED, the failed coup against Chávez was coordinated by the International Republican Institute and Freedom House. Neocon and former CIA director James Woolsey was the chairman of Freedom House and trustees include the ubiquitous Zbigniew Brzezinski, former Clinton Commerce Secretary Stuart Eizenstat, and National Security Adviser Anthony Lake. “Freedom House lists USAID, US Information Agency, Soros Foundations and the National Endowment for Democracy, among its financial backers,” notes F. William Engdahl.

Soros and crew are behind the so-called “color revolutions” in former Soviet states. After the Orange Revolution in Ukraine several Central Asian nations took action against Soros’ Open Society Institute (OSI). Uzbekistan, for instance, forced the shutting down of the OSI regional offices in that country. The Guardian reported that USAID, National Endowment for Democracy, the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, and Freedom House were directly involved in the Orange Revolution. The Albert Einstein Institution — a documented CIA asset (according to researcher Thierry Meyssan) — provided training for activists in Serbia and Ukraine.

Soros inspired or directly funded color revolutions are brewing in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burma, Moldova, Mongolia, Pakistan, Russia, and Uzbekistan.

In 2007, Iranian television ran a documentary showing two purported Soros activists, Haleh Esfandiari (she worked for the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars) and Kian Tajbakhsh (an urban planning consultant with Soros’ OSI), who are being held on suspicion of spying and endangering Iranian national security, according to the BBC.

The same year the CIA received secret presidential approval to mount a covert “black” operation to destabilize the Iranian government, according to ABC News. “The sources say the CIA developed the covert plan over the last year and received approval from White House officials and other officials in the intelligence community.”

On July 7, 2008, journalist Seymour Hersh provided detail on the campaign against Iran. “The covert activities involve support of the minority Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups and other dissident organizations,” including radical Sunnis compared to al-Qaeda, writes Hersh.

In addition, Israel is using “hitmen, sabotage, front companies and double agents” against Iran, according to the Telegraph. “As US-Israeli relations are bound to come under strain over the Obama administration’s outreach to Iran, and as the political atmosphere grows in complexity, an intensification of Israeli covert activity against Iran is likely to result,” Reva Bhalla, a senior analyst with Stratfor, told the newspaper.

In response to neocon criticism of Obama’s “outreach,” it appears the administration is now supporting Iranian opposition groups, preferring the “soft” approach to the neocon insistence the U.S. and Israel confront the Islamic nation head on with sanctions and eventually military action. Obama’s approach is described as “democracy promotion initiatives.”

“Respecting Iran’s sovereignty does not mean our silence on issues of fundamental rights and freedoms, such as the right to peacefully protest,” said State Department spokesman Ian Kelly.

Instead it means throwing millions of dollars at USAID and ultimately NED and the “freedom” NGOs that will covertly meddle in Iranian politics. The neoliberal template is to undermine target nations in the shadows and under the cover of so-called democracy, while the neocon penchant is for open hostility served up with a steaming side dish of bombastic rhetoric. The final result is approximately the same.


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