VIDEO: the corrupted Tony Blair loved only by Israhell and oil money! (MUST SEE!)

 

The Wonderful World of Tony Blair

Channel 4 Investigation

Since resigning in June 2007, Tony Blair has financially enriched himself more than any previous ex-prime minister. Reporter Peter Oborne reveals some of the sources of his new-found wealth, much of which comes from the Middle East.

On the day Tony Blair resigned as Prime Minister, he was appointed the official representative Envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East. By January 2009 he had set up Tony Blair Associates – his international consultancy – which handles multi-million-pound contracts in the Middle East. It is so secretive we don’t know all the locations in which they do business.

Dispatches shows that at the same time as Blair is visiting Middle East leaders in his Quartet role he is receiving vast sums from some of them. If Blair represented the UK government, the EU, the IMF, the UN or the World Bank, this would not be permitted.

He would also have to declare his financial interests and be absolutely transparent about his financial dealings. But no such stringent rules govern the Quartet envoy.

However, he could opt to abide by the rules and principles of public life. They were introduced by John Major, and Tony Blair endorsed and strengthened them for all holders of public office – but chooses not to himself.

ISRAELI ORGAN THEFT & TRAFFICKING (videos)

Israel ‘confirms organ harvesting’

Project for the New American Century

Exposing the Un-Democratic Face of Capitalism

The simultaneous unfolding of the US presidential campaign and unraveling of the financial markets presents one of those occasions where the political and economic systems starkly reveal their nature.

Passion about the campaign may not be universally shared but almost everybody can feel the anxiety from the foreclosure of a million homes, and concerns about jobs, savings and healthcare at risk.

The initial Bush proposals to deal with the crisis so reeked of totalitarianism that they were quickly modified. Under intense lobbyist pressure, they were reshaped as “a clear win for the largest institutions in the system . . . a way of dumping assets without having to fail or close”, as described by James Rickards, who negotiated the federal bailout for the hedge fund Long Term Capital Management in 1998, reminding us that we are treading familiar turf. The immediate origins of the current meltdown lie in the collapse of the housing bubble supervised by Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, which sustained the struggling economy through the Bush years by debt-based consumer spending along with borrowing from abroad. But the roots are deeper. In part they lie in the triumph of financial liberalisation in the past 30 years – that is, freeing the markets as much as possible from government regulation.

These steps predictably increased the frequency and depth of severe reversals, which now threaten to bring about the worst crisis since the Great Depression.

Also predictably, the narrow sectors that reaped enormous profits from liberalisation are calling for massive state intervention to rescue collapsing financial institutions.

Such interventionism is a regular feature of state capitalism, though the scale today is unusual. A study by international economists Winfried Ruigrok and Rob van Tulder 15 years ago found that at least 20 companies in the Fortune 100 would not have survived if they had not been saved by their respective governments, and that many of the rest gained substantially by demanding that governments “socialise their losses,” as in today’s taxpayer-financed bailout. Such government intervention “has been the rule rather than the exception over the past two centuries”, they conclude.

In a functioning democratic society, a political campaign would address such fundamental issues, looking into root causes and cures, and proposing the means by which people suffering the consequences can take effective control.

The financial market “underprices risk” and is “systematically inefficient”, as economists John Eatwell and Lance Taylor wrote a decade ago, warning of the extreme dangers of financial liberalisation and reviewing the substantial costs already incurred – and proposing solutions, which have been ignored. One factor is failure to calculate the costs to those who do not participate in transactions. These “externalities” can be huge. Ignoring systemic risk leads to more risk-taking than would take place in an efficient economy, even by the narrowest measures.

The task of financial institutions is to take risks and, if well-managed, to ensure that potential losses to themselves will be covered. The emphasis is on “to themselves”. Under state capitalist rules, it is not their business to consider the cost to others – the “externalities” of decent survival – if their practices lead to financial crisis, as they regularly do.

Financial liberalisation has effects well beyond the economy. It has long been understood that it is a powerful weapon against democracy. Free capital movement creates what some have called a “virtual parliament” of investors and lenders, who closely monitor government programmes and “vote” against them if they are considered irrational: for the benefit of people, rather than concentrated private power.

Investors and lenders can “vote” by capital flight, attacks on currencies and other devices offered by financial liberalisation. That is one reason why the Bretton Woods system established by the United States and Britain after the second World War instituted capital controls and regulated currencies.*

The Great Depression and the war had aroused powerful radical democratic currents, ranging from the anti-fascist resistance to working class organisation. These pressures made it necessary to permit social democratic policies. The Bretton Woods system was designed in part to create a space for government action responding to public will – for some measure of democracy.

John Maynard Keynes, the British negotiator, considered the most important achievement of Bretton Woods to be the establishment of the right of governments to restrict capital movement.

In dramatic contrast, in the neoliberal phase after the breakdown of the Bretton Woods system in the 1970s, the US treasury now regards free capital mobility as a “fundamental right”, unlike such alleged “rights” as those guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: health, education, decent employment, security and other rights that the Reagan and Bush administrations have dismissed as “letters to Santa Claus”, “preposterous”, mere “myths”.

In earlier years, the public had not been much of a problem. The reasons are reviewed by Barry Eichengreen in his standard scholarly history of the international monetary system. He explains that in the 19th century, governments had not yet been “politicised by universal male suffrage and the rise of trade unionism and parliamentary labour parties”. Therefore, the severe costs imposed by the virtual parliament could be transferred to the general population.

But with the radicalisation of the general public during the Great Depression and the anti-fascist war, that luxury was no longer available to private power and wealth. Hence in the Bretton Woods system, “limits on capital mobility substituted for limits on democracy as a source of insulation from market pressures”.

The obvious corollary is that after the dismantling of the postwar system, democracy is restricted. It has therefore become necessary to control and marginalise the public in some fashion, processes particularly evident in the more business-run societies like the United States. The management of electoral extravaganzas by the public relations industry is one illustration.

“Politics is the shadow cast on society by big business,” concluded America’s leading 20th century social philosopher John Dewey, and will remain so as long as power resides in “business for private profit through private control of banking, land, industry, reinforced by command of the press, press agents and other means of publicity and propaganda”.

The United States effectively has a one-party system, the business party, with two factions, Republicans and Democrats. There are differences between them. In his study Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age, Larry Bartels shows that during the past six decades “real incomes of middle-class families have grown twice as fast under Democrats as they have under Republicans, while the real incomes of working-poor families have grown six times as fast under Democrats as they have under Republicans”.

Differences can be detected in the current election as well. Voters should consider them, but without illusions about the political parties, and with the recognition that consistently over the centuries, progressive legislation and social welfare have been won by popular struggles, not gifts from above.

Those struggles follow a cycle of success and setback. They must be waged every day, not just once every four years, always with the goal of creating a genuinely responsive democratic society, from the voting booth to the workplace.

Note

* The Bretton Woods system of global financial management was created by 730 delegates from all 44 Allied second World War nations who attended a UN-hosted Monetary and Financial Conference at the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods in New Hampshire in 1944.

Bretton Woods, which collapsed in 1971, was the system of rules, institutions, and procedures that regulated the international monetary system, under which were set up the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) (now one of five institutions in the World Bank Group) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which came into effect in 1945.

The chief feature of Bretton Woods was an obligation for each country to adopt a monetary policy that maintained the exchange rate of its currency within a fixed value.

The system collapsed when the US suspended convertibility from dollars to gold. This created the unique situation whereby the US dollar became the “reserve currency” for the other countries within Bretton Woods.

Ref: Counterpunch By NOAM CHOMSKY

This column originally appeared in the Irish Times.

US Meltdown – USA + Death of the American Dream? (empire bye bye) + New world order


On the other side…

The global financial machine has ground perilously close to a halt. This timely film explores what went wrong with economic globalisation. How could the financial world have miscalculated so badly?
We chart financial liberalisation in East Asia, privatisation in Latin America, the reckless transition to capitalism in Russia and Chinas more cautious evolution to a market economy. Our vision of the economy is a caring economy, an economy where the State has to be the fundamental engine, not the market explains economic reformer President Hugo Chavez. We ask whether the policies of lending institutions like the IMF have exacerbated financial crises, as its rescue packages have ended up servicing bank debt. Of course these packages end up rescuing private lenders from the consequences of their own actions, admits economist Paul Krugman, echoing concerns about bailout loans.

Inside USA – US interference in Bolivia + Bolivia: a Coup in the Making?

 

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Yesterday, in Bolivia, Minister of Government, Alfredo Rada, accused the right-wing autonomist leader Branko Marinkovic, and Santa Cruz prefect, Rubén Costas, of orchestrating a wave of violence as part of a “civic governors’ coup d’état.” Rada accused Marinkovic of having just returned from the United States where he allegedly received instructions for fomenting the coup attempt.

“Bolivia on the Brink,” is a phrase too often uttered by passing journalists unaccustomed to the country’s regular politics of the streets. But events of the last two weeks cannot be passed off as the ordinary business of protest. Rather, a right-wing coup attempt is in the offing in the five departments (states) governed by the right-wing opposition to President Evo Morales, of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party. The critical “media luna” departments of the eastern lowlands – Santa Cruz, Tarija, Beni, and Pando – have been joined in part by far-right elements in the government of the department of Chuquisaca. Thus far, these right-wing autonomists have not achieved critical support within the military, but the passivity of the Morales government in the face of ferocious racism, violence, and the takeover of state institutions and airports on an unprecedented scale, does not bode well for the future of Bolivia.

One indication of the seriousness of the situation is that Morales just announced that US ambassador Philip Goldberg is no longer welcome in Bolivia and will be asked officially to leave the country in the coming hours. Morales accused Goldberg of meeting with the oppositional prefects (governors) of the five departments in rebellion, to help coordinate what has become a full-scale destabilization campaign.

The campaign is being led by the Consejo Nacional Democrático (National Democratic Council, CONALDE), which brings together the prefectures and civic committees of Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando, Tarija, and Sucre, under the banner of “departmental autonomy.” These prefectures and civic committees in turn represent the agro-industrial, petroleum, and financial elite of these departments. While they are led by the bourgeoisie, the autonomists have won over substantial sectors of the popular classes by manipulating real democratic desires for decentralized “autonomous” self-governance, as opposed to alienating central state control. If the civic committees and prefects are the pretty face of autonomism, a growing network of proto-fascist youth groups linked to them are the clenched fist in the streets.

The immediate objective of the autonomist right is to destabilize the Morales government and to weaken left-indigenous forces throughout the country. One longer term goal is to reaffirm and consolidate private elite control over the natural gas and agricultural wealth of the country that is currently under threat due to widespread popular sentiment in favour of expropriation, nationalization, redistribution, and the establishment of social control over Bolivia’s riches. A related long-term objective of the autonomist right is to re-conquer state power at the national level.

Read the whole artical here

Ref: Counterpunch

Monocultures, multinationals and murders – ‘No unions, no strikes’

The Cavite Export Processing Zone in Rosario, 30km south of Manila, is the country’s most important free zone, with 10,000 workers and 250 businesses (clothing, electronics) in a huge area surrounded by a concrete wall topped with barbed wire. Visitors have to show their credentials to armed guards at a checkpoint.
On the evening of 10 June 2007, nine men armed with crowbars and knives passed through the checkpoint without showing any ID. None of the guards intervened when they attacked (…)

Ref: Le Monde

Speculate to accumulate

he International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation promised that more trade would help to eradicate poverty and hunger. Foodcrops? Self-sufficiency in food? They had a better idea. Local farms would be closed down or encouraged to concentrate on exports. This would make the most, not of natural conditions which might be good for growing tomatoes in Mexico or pineapples in the Philippines, but of the fact that production costs are lower in Mexico and the Philippines than they are in Florida or California.

Farmers in Mali would rely on more highly mechanised, more productive producers in the Beauce or the Midwest for grain supplies. The farmers would pack up, move into town and get jobs in some western firm that had relocated to take advantage of cheaper labour than it could find at home. The countries on the East African seaboard would lighten their load of foreign debt by selling their fishing rights to the factory ships of wealthier countries. The Guineans would import tinned fish from Denmark or Portugal. Never mind the additional pollution generated by transporting all these goods. A life of bliss was guaranteed and so were the profits of the middlemen – wholesalers, shippers, insurers, advertisers.

The World Bank, prime promoter of this “development” model, now tells us that there may be food riots in 33 countries. And the WTO fears a resurgence of protectionism: some food-exporting countries – India, Vietnam, Egypt, Kazakhstan – have decided to reduce exports in order to feed their own people. What a nerve! The North is easily upset by other people’s selfishness. The Chinese eat too much meat, that’s why the Egyptians are short of wheat.

Some states have followed the World Bank and IMF advice and turned over their food crops. They can no longer keep their produce for themselves. Well, they will pay, that’s the law of the market. According to UN Food and Agriculture Organisation figures, their bill for grain imports has risen by a massive 56% in one year. Naturally the World Food Programme (WFP), which feeds 73 million people in 78 countries every year, is asking for a further $500m.

Someone must have decided this was excessive, as it got only half that amount. But the sum it sought was only what the war in Iraq costs every couple of hours, and a tiny fraction of what the sub-prime mortgage crisis will cost the banking sector, which has been bailed out by the state. To look at it another way, the WFP asked on behalf of millions of starving people for 13.5% of the sum earned last year by John Paulson, the astute hedge fund manager who realised that thousands of Americans are in negative equity and face ruin. No one knows how much the incipient famine will yield or who will reap the profits, but nothing is ever lost in a modern economy.

History repeats itself, one speculation after another. The Federal Reserve’s monetary policy encourages debt, first the internet bubble, now the real estate bubble. In 2006 the IMF was still saying there was “every indication the mechanisms for granting loans on the US property market were still relatively effective”. Market effective. Perhaps the two words should be welded together once and for all. The real estate bubble has burst. So the speculators are resurrecting an old eldorado: the grain markets. Purchasing contracts to deliver wheat or rice at a future date and counting on selling them at a higher price. And what ensures prices will keep on rising? Famine.

So what does the IMF do? The IMF, which has “the best economists in the world” according to its managing director, explains that “one way to solve the problem of famine is to increase international trade”. The poet Leo Ferré once said that “all you need to sell despair is the right formula”. It looks as though they’ve found it.

Ref: Le Monde

The US gas garrison

The Carter Doctrine, established 28 years ago, put the US military in service of assuring the nation’s regular supplies of imported oil. This has near-bankrupted the US and corrupted the military, yet left the US insecure in energy sources and globally loathed. The time has come to demote petroleum and stand down the troops.
By Michael T. Klare

American policymakers have long viewed the protection of overseas oil supplies as an essential matter of “national security”, requiring the threat of – and sometimes the use of – military force. This is now an unquestioned part of US foreign policy.

On this basis, the first Bush administration fought a war against Iraq in 1990-1991 and the second Bush administration invaded Iraq in 2003. With global oil prices soaring and oil reserves expected to dwindle in the years ahead, military force is sure to be seen by whatever new administration enters Washington in January 2009 as the ultimate guarantor of US well-being in the oil heartlands of the planet. But with the costs of militarised oil operations, in both blood and dollars, rising precipitously, isn’t it time to challenge such “wisdom”? Isn’t it time to ask whether the US military has anything reasonable to do with American energy security, and whether a reliance on military force, when it comes to energy policy, is practical, affordable or justifiable?

The association between “energy security” (as it’s now termed) and “national security” was established long ago. President Franklin D Roosevelt first forged this association way back in 1945, when he pledged to protect the Saudi Arabian royal family in return for privileged US access to Saudi oil. The relationship was given formal expression in 1980, when President Jimmy Carter told Congress that maintaining the uninterrupted flow of Persian Gulf oil was a “vital interest” of the US, and attempts by hostile nations to cut that flow would be countered “by any means necessary, including military force”.

To implement this “doctrine”, Carter ordered the creation of a Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force, specifically earmarked for combat operations in the Persian Gulf area. President Ronald Reagan later turned that force into a full-scale regional combat organisation, the US Central Command, or Centcom. Every president since Reagan has added to Centcom’s responsibilities, endowing it with additional bases, fleets, air squadrons and other assets. As the country has, more recently, come to rely on oil from the Caspian Sea basin and Africa, US military capabilities are being beefed up in those areas as well.

Global protection service
As a result, the US military has come to serve as a global oil protection service, guarding pipelines, refineries and loading facilities in the Middle East and elsewhere. According to one estimate, provided by the conservative National Defence Council Foundation, the “protection” of Persian Gulf oil alone costs the US Treasury $138bn per year – up from $49bn just before the invasion of Iraq.

For Democrats and Republicans alike, spending such sums to protect foreign oil supplies is now accepted as common wisdom, not worthy of serious discussion or debate. A typical example of this attitude can be found in an Independent Task Force Report on the “National Security Consequences of US Oil Dependency” released by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in October 2006.

Chaired by former secretary of defence, James R Schlesinger, and former CIA director, John Deutch, the CFR report concluded that the US military must continue to serve as a global oil protection service for the foreseeable future. “At least for the next two decades, the Persian Gulf will be vital to US interests in reliable oil supplies,” it noted. Accordingly, “the United States should expect and support a strong military posture that permits suitably rapid deployment to the region, if necessary”. Similarly, the report adds: “US naval protection of the sea-lanes that transport oil is of paramount importance.”

The Pentagon as Insecurity Inc
These views, widely shared, then and now, by senior figures in both major parties, dominate – or, more accurately, blanket – US strategic thinking. And yet the actual utility of military force as a means for ensuring energy security has yet to be demonstrated.

Keep in mind that, despite the deployment of up to 160,000 US troops in Iraq and the expenditure of hundreds of billions of dollars, Iraq is a country in chaos and the department of defence (DoD) has been notoriously unable to prevent the recurring sabotage of oil pipelines and refineries by various insurgent groups and militias, not to mention the systematic looting of government supplies by senior oil officials supposedly loyal to the US-backed central government and often guarded (at great personal risk) by US soldiers. Five years after the US invasion, Iraq is only producing about 2.5m barrels of oil per day – about the same amount as in the worst days of Saddam Hussein back in 2001. Moreover, the New York Times reports that “at least one-third, and possibly much more, of the fuel from Iraq’s largest refinery is [being] diverted to the black market, according to American military officials” (1). Is this really conducive to US energy security?

The same disappointing results have been noted in other countries where US-backed militaries have attempted to protect vulnerable oil facilities. In Nigeria, for example, increased efforts by US-equipped government forces to crush rebels in the oil-rich Niger Delta region have merely inflamed the insurgency, while actually lowering national oil output. Meanwhile, the Nigerian military, like the Iraqi government (and assorted militias), has been accused of pilfering billions of dollars’ worth of crude oil and selling it on the black market.

In reality, the use of military force to protect foreign oil supplies is likely to create anything but security. It can, in fact, trigger violent “blowback” against the US. For example, the decision by President Bush senior to maintain an enormous, permanent US military presence in Saudi Arabia following Operation Desert Storm in Kuwait is now widely viewed as a major source of virulent anti-Americanism in the kingdom, and became a prime recruiting tool for Osama bin Laden in the months leading up to the 9/11 terror attacks.

“For over seven years,” Bin Laden proclaimed in 1998, “the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places, the Arabian Peninsula, plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorising its neighbours, and turning its bases in the peninsula into a spearhead through which to fight neighbouring Muslim peoples”. To repel this assault on the Muslim world, he thundered, it was “an individual duty for every Muslim” to “kill the Americans” and drive their armies “out of all the lands of Islam”.

Blowback in Iraq
As if to confirm the veracity of Bin Laden’s analysis of US intentions, the then secretary of defence, Donald Rumsfeld, flew to Saudi Arabia on 30 April 2003 to announce that the US bases there would no longer be needed due to the successful invasion of Iraq, then barely one month old. “It is now a safer region because of the change of regime in Iraq,” Rumsfeld declared. “The aircraft and those involved will now be able to leave.”

Even as he was speaking in Riyadh, however, a dangerous new case of blowback had erupted in Iraq: upon their entry into Baghdad, US forces seized and guarded the oil ministry headquarters while allowing schools, hospitals, and museums to be looted with impunity. Most Iraqis have since come to regard this decision, which insured that the rest of the city would be looted, as the ultimate expression of the Bush administration’s main motive for invading their country. They have viewed repeated White House claims of a commitment to human rights and democracy there as mere fig leaves that barely covered the urge to plunder Iraq’s oil. Nothing American officials have done since has succeeded in erasing this powerful impression, which continues to drive calls for a US withdrawal.

And these are but a few examples of the losses to US national security produced by a thoroughly militarised approach to energy security. Yet the premises of such a global policy continue to go unquestioned, even as US policymakers persist in relying on military force as their ultimate response to threats to the safe production and transportation of oil. In a kind of energy Catch-22, the continual militarising of energy policy only multiplies the threats that call such militarisation into being.

If anything, this spiral of militarised insecurity is worsening. Take the expanded US military presence in Africa – one of the few areas in the world expected to experience an increase in oil output in the years ahead.

Time to rethink
This year the Pentagon will activate the US Africa Command (Africom), its first new overseas combat command since Reagan created Centcom a quarter of a century ago. Although department of defence officials are loath to publicly acknowledge any direct relationship between Africom’s formation and a growing US reliance on that continent’s oil, they are less inhibited in private briefings. At a 19 February meeting at the National Defence University, Africom deputy commander Vice-Admiral Robert Moeller indicated that “oil disruption” in Nigeria and West Africa would constitute one of the primary challenges facing the new organisation.

Africom and similar extensions of the Carter Doctrine into new oil-producing regions are only likely to provoke fresh blowback, while bundling tens of billions of extra dollars every year into an already-bloated Pentagon budget. Sooner or later, if US policy doesn’t change, this price will be certain to include the loss of American lives, as more and more soldiers are exposed to hostile fire or explosives while protecting vulnerable oil installations in areas torn by ethnic, religious, and sectarian strife.

Why pay such a price? Given the all-but-unavoidable evidence of just how ineffective military force has been when it comes to protecting oil supplies, isn’t it time to rethink Washington’s reigning assumptions regarding the relationship between energy security and national security? After all, other than George Bush and Dick Cheney, who would claim that, more than five years after the invasion of Iraq, either the US or its supply of oil is actually safer?

Creating real energy security
The reality of the US’s increasing reliance on foreign oil only strengthens the conviction in Washington that military force and energy security are inseparable twins. With nearly two-thirds of the country’s daily oil intake imported – and that percentage still going up – it’s hard not to notice that significant amounts of our oil now come from conflict-prone areas of the Middle East, central Asia and Africa. So long as this is the case, US policymakers will instinctively look to the military to ensure the safe delivery of crude oil. It evidently matters little that the use of military force, especially in the Middle East, has surely made the energy situation less stable and less dependable, while fuelling anti-Americanism.

This is, of course, not the definition of “energy security” but its opposite. A viable long-term approach to actual energy security would not favour one particular source of energy above all others, or regularly expose American soldiers to a heightened risk of harm and American taxpayers to a heightened risk of bankruptcy. Rather, a US energy policy that made sense would embrace a holistic approach to energy procurement, weighing the relative merits of all potential sources of energy.

It would naturally favour the development of domestic, renewable sources of energy that do not degrade the environment or imperil other national interests. At the same time, it would favour a thorough-going programme of energy conservation of a sort notably absent these last two decades – one that would help cut reliance on foreign energy sources in the near future and slow the atmospheric build-up of climate-altering greenhouse gases.

Petroleum would continue to play a significant role in any such approach. Oil retains considerable appeal as a source of transportation energy (especially for aircraft) and as a feedstock for many chemical products. But given the right investment and research policies – and the will to apply something other than force to energy supply issues – oil’s historic role as the world’s paramount fuel could relatively quickly draw to a close. It would be especially important that American policymakers do not prolong this role artificially by, as has been the case for decades, subsidising major US oil firms or, more recently, spending $138bn a year on the protection of foreign oil deliveries. These funds would instead be redirected to the promotion of energy efficiency and especially the development of domestic sources of energy.

Some policymakers who agree on the need to develop alternatives to imported energy insist that such an approach should begin with oil extraction in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and other protected wilderness areas. Even while acknowledging that such drilling would not substantially reduce US reliance on foreign oil, they nevertheless insist that it’s essential to make every conceivable effort to substitute domestic oil supplies for imports in the nation’s total energy supply. But this argument ignores the fact that oil’s day is drawing to a close, and that any effort to prolong its duration only complicates the inevitable transition to a post-petroleum economy.

A more fruitful approach
A far more fruitful approach, better designed to promote US self-sufficiency and technological vigour in the intensely competitive world of the mid-21st century, would emphasise the use of domestic ingenuity and entrepreneurial skills to maximise the potential of renewable energy sources, including solar, wind, geothermal and wave power. The same skills should also be applied to developing methods for producing ethanol from non-food plant matter (cellulosic ethanol), for using coal without releasing carbon into the atmosphere (via carbon capture and storage, or CCS), for miniaturising hydrogen fuel cells, and for massively increasing the energy efficiency of vehicles, buildings, and industrial processes.

All of these energy systems show great promise, and so should be accorded the increased support and investment they will need to move from the marginal role they now play to a dominant role in US energy generation. At this point, it is not possible to determine precisely which of them (or which combination among them) will be best positioned to transition from small to large-scale commercial development. As a result, all of them should be initially given enough support to test their capacity to make this move.

In applying this general rule, however, priority clearly should be given to new forms of transport fuel. It is here that oil has long been king, and here that oil’s decline will be most harshly felt. It is thanks to this that calls for military intervention to secure additional supplies of crude are only likely to grow. So emphasis should be given to the rapid development of biofuels, coal-to-liquid fuels (with the carbon extracted via CCS), hydrogen, or battery power, and other innovative means of fuelling vehicles. At the same time, it’s obvious that putting some of our military budget into funding a massive increase in public transit would be the height of national sanity.

An approach of this sort would enhance national security on multiple levels. It would increase the reliable supply of fuels, promote economic growth at home (rather than sending a flood of dollars into the coffers of unreliable petro-regimes abroad), and diminish the risk of recurring US involvement in foreign oil wars. No other approach – certainly not the present traditional, unquestioned, unchallenged reliance on military force – can make this claim. It’s well past time to stop garrisoning the global gas station.

Ref: Le Monde
Michael T Klare is professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and author of several books on energy politics including Blood and Oil, Henry Holt, New York, 2005 and most recently Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy, Henry Holt, 2008

The War on Terror: Why Do We Fight?

With recession in the wind neither Democratic nor Republican presidential candidates are talking much about the misbegotten war in Iraq. Even less, however, far less, do they talk about the root of that disaster—the “War on Terror.” Until the real but complex relationship between these two self-inflicted wars is understood, Americans, and the rest of the world, will be afflicted with the economic, political, and psychological burdens of both of them.

The question can be posed as follows. The Unites States went to war in Iraq to destroy Weapons of Mass Destruction that did not exist, and we fight a War on Terror now despite virtually no evidence whatsoever that a serious terrorist threat to the American homeland exists. “Why,” then, “do we fight?”

The official mantra is that we fight in Iraq because it is the “central front in the War on Terror.” The exact opposite is the case. We are trapped in fighting an unwinnable and even nonsensical “War on Terror,” because its invention was required in order to fight in Iraq. After years of slaughter in Iraq, the neocon fantasy of a series of cheap, fast neo-imperial victories, is dead. But the War on Terror, fashioned by the supremacist hawks to enlist the American public in their adventure, lives on, stronger than ever.

How did the War on Terror take on a life of its own and trap the entire political class, and most Americans, into public beliefs about the need to fight a global war on terror as our first priority, even when there’s no evidence of an enemy present in the United States? What accounts for more than $800 billion worth of expenditures, along with baseless cycles of terrorist “sleeper cell” hysteria and McCarthyist policies of surveillance and “pre-emptive prosecution” not seen in this country since the early 1950s?

Consider how Congress responded to the War on Terror. In the summer of 2003 a list of 160 potential targets for terrorists was drawn up, triggering intense efforts by Representatives and Senators, and their constituents, to find funding-generating targets in their districts. The result? Widening definitions of potential targets and mushrooming increases in the number of infrastructure and other assets deemed worthy of protection: up to 1849 in late 2003, 28,364; in 2004; 77,069 in 2005; and an estimated 300,000 in 2006 (including the Sears Tower in Chicago, but also the Indiana Apple and Pork Festival).

Across the country virtually every lobby and interest group recast their traditional objectives and funding proposals as more important than ever given the imperatives of the War on Terror. The National Rifle Association declared that the War on Terror means that more Americans should own and carry firearms to defend the country and themselves against terrorists. On the other hand, according to the gun control lobby, fighting the War on Terror means passing strict gun control laws to keep assault weapons out of the hands of terrorists. Schools of Veterinary Medicine called for quadrupling their funding. Who else would train veterinarians to defend the country against terrorists using hoof and mouth disease to decimate our cattle herds? Pediatricians declared that more funding was required to train pediatricians as first responders to terrorist attacks since treating children as victims is not the same as treating adults. Pharmacists advocated the creation of pharmaceutical SWAT teams to respond quickly with appropriate drugs to the victims of terrorist attacks. Aside from swarms of beltway bandit consulting firms and huge corporate investments in counter-terrorism activities, Universities across the country created graduate programs in Homeland Security, institutes on terrorism and counter-terrorism, all raising huge catcher’s mitts into the air for the billions of dollars of grants and contracts just blowing in the wind.

The same imperative—translate your agenda into War on Terror requirements or be starved of funds—and its spiraling consequences surged across the government, affecting virtually all agencies. Bureaucrats unable to think of a way to describe their activities in War on Terror terms were virtually disqualified from budget increases and probably doomed to cuts. With billions of dollars a year in state and local funding, the Department of Homeland Security devised a list of 15 National Planning Scenarios to help guide its allocations. To qualify for Homeland Security funding state and local governments had to describe how they would use allocated funds to meet one of those chosen scenarios. What was the process that produced this list? It was, in part, deeply political, driven by competition among agencies, states, and localities who knew that funding opportunities would depend on exactly which scenarios were included or excluded—with anthrax, a chemical attack on a sports stadium, and hoof and mouth disease included, but attacks on liquid natural gas tankers and West Nile virus excluded.

Most instructive of all was the unwillingness of the government to define the enemy posing the terrorist threat. Why? Because if a particular enemy was identified, certain scenarios, profitable for some funding-competitors, would be disqualified. Thus the enemy, in these scenarios, is referred to as “the universal adversary,” in other words, as Satan. That is how the War on Terror drives the country from responding to threats to preparing for vulnerabilities, producing an irrational and doomed strategic posture which treats any bad thing that could happen becomes a national security imperative.

The dimensions of the War on Terror are still expanding rapidly in the face of a small, if not entirely absent domestic terrorist threat. But politicians, forced into playing Chicken Little to avoid seeming to suffer from a “pre-9/11 mentality,” can offer no break on spending or War on Terror rhetoric. In all the debates that have been held among the presidential candidates, hardly any attention, certainly no critical attention, directed to the War on Terror. Far from posing the obvious question of what attacks have not occurred despite the obvious ease with which Americans can be killed by malicious gunmen, the most common comment made on the subject of terrorism is criticism of the prosecution of the War on Terror as less aggressive, less well-funded, and less comprehensive than it should be—think, in particular, of Rudy Giuliani.

But leave aside the politicians. What about those protected bastions of critical insight in American life—universities and the press? Forget about it. Neither has been willing to question the justification and expansiveness of the War on Terror. Universities rush to the counter-terror trough, where funding abounds for research on terror, on Muslims, on ever more elaborate security devices, and on degree programs in Homeland Security. For the press, it’s as good as it gets. “Hurricane Osama,” the real storm of the century, is always just about to hit and never goes away. Every false alarm of another 9/11 attack on the way sends the news media into paroxysms of sensationally foreboding, emergency-mode coverage, helping enliven the credibility of countless televisions shows, films, and potboiler novels with the same plot line—maniacal but brilliant Middle Eastern terrorists poised to strike but for the heroic exploits of a few bold souls operating within a generally incompetent government.

Most Americans have learned that the Iraq War was a mistake, a disastrously counter-productive mistake. They have yet to be able even to imagine the truth about the War on Terror more generally—that it is a self-perpetuating machine of fear and profit that serves no master and no one’s interests, ultimately, but its own. As long as politicians and pundits compete to be tougher-than-thou against terrorist enemies American voters have been trained to assume are lurking everywhere, discrete programs to deal with real security threats will be endangered, while the United States will remain, as Bin Laden himself gleefully observed in his November 2004 videotape, trapped in a maelstrom of waste, worry, and witch-hunt, that “bleeds America to the point of bankruptcy.”

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Ian Lustick is the Bess W. Heyman Professor of Political science at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a founder and past president of the Association for Israel Studies and past president of the American Political Science Association Politics and History Section. Lustick is the author of Trapped in the War on Terror.