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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

It's the West that's starting this new Cold War by Anatole Kaletsky

It’s the West that’s starting this new Cold War
Russia’s belligerence is hardly surprising
Anatole Kaletsky

Know your enemy � a phrase coined by Sun Tzu, the Chinese military strategist, 2,000 years ago � is even more critical in diplomacy than it is in warfare. As the leaders of the world’s most powerful nations gathered in Germany last night for the annual G8 summit, the identity of the enemy was pretty clear.

He was not, as might have been expected, George W. Bush. Nobody can be bothered to talk to the White House any longer about Iraq and Iran, while on climate change Washington has successfully created a diversion and thwarted the German and British desire to make this the summit’s central issue. Best of all, an alternative villain has suddenly upstaged the hapless President Bush. Enter Vladimir Putin, the new global enemy No 1.

Casting Russia as the enemy suits everyone at this year’s summit. It distracts attention from President Bush’s contempt for Europeans on climate change and his geopolitical blunders. It helps Angela Merkel and Tony Blair to disguise the failure of their Atlanticist diplomacy while allowing Nicolas Sarkozy to sound tough, without being antiAmerican. It gives all the European leaders at the summit a chance to “show solidarity” with the EU’s newly admitted Eastern members without making any concessions on the discriminatory economic and labour policies that will keep these countries firmly in their place for decades ahead. And best of all, from every nation’s standpoint, the starring role of villain is one that President Putin himself craves.

Mr Putin faces a difficult transition from his present position as a wildly popular czarist-style absolute ruler to some kind of power behind the throne � a kingmaker or political puppeteer possibly modelled on Deng Xiaoping, of China, or Lee Kuan Yew, of Singapore, but with no real parallel in Russian history. In managing this unprecedented transition, nothing is more useful to Mr Putin than his image as the first national leader since Stalin who could stand up for Russia’s interests against an inherently hostile world. This is why all the EU’s complaints about neo-imperialist bullying of Poland and Estonia, all the lectures from President Bush about democracy and all the admonitions about human rights from Mrs Merkel are water off a duck’s back to President Putin.
It’s Grrrrr8 (honest)

As the G8 summit begins in Germany, Hugo Rifkind explains everything you need to know – and lots of stuff you don’t

Far from being intimidated, Mr Putin relishes and deliberately provokes such “insults”, as in his interview this week with Western media, in which he threatened to target his nuclear arsenal against Europe and simultaneously joked that he was the “purest” democratic politician since Mahatma Gandhi. Mr Putin must surely have expected the furious response these statements provoked from the other summit leaders and from Western public opinion, so it has to be assumed that he wanted to cast himself as Global Public Enemy No 1.

But if Mr Putin is consciously redefining himself as the West’s enemy � and if he is doing this with the enthusiastic acclaim of the Russian public � then we must try to know this enemy, in accordance with the advice of Sun Tzu.

Why is hostility to the West so popular in Russia? Let us try to look at the West through Russian eyes. Despite all the past sentimental rhetoric of Western politicians describing Russia as a friend and “strategic partner”, US and European behaviour has consistently treated Russia more as an enemy than an ally. Russia has been told it could never join Nato or the EU and Mr Putin’s invitation to G8 summits is scant consolation for the denial of WTO membership and the continuation of US trade sanctions dating back to the Cold War. On human rights and extrajudicial assassinations, Russia’s record may be deplorable, but its abuses pale in comparison with those of Western friends such as Saudi Arabia and China, not to mention President Bush’s “boil them in oil” ally, Uzbekistan.

But far more serious from the Russian standpoint than any diplomatic conflicts is what the West has done to their country’s territorial integrity. Ever since the first Bush Administration undermined Mikhail Gorbachev by denying him the financial assistance of the International Monetary Fund and then encouraged the dissolution of the Soviet Union under Boris Yeltsin, the West has appeared, at least from Moscow’s standpoint, to seize every opportunity to weaken, isolate and encircle Russia.

Not only has Russia lost its Eastern European satellites, but the homeland itself has been dismembered. No reasonable Russian could object to the independence of Poland, Hungary and even the Baltic states, which were forcibly annexed into the Soviet Union after the Second World War. But the loss of the Ukraine, Belarus, the Caucasus and central Asia are a different matter. These areas � or at least large swaths of them � were integral parts of the Russian “motherland” long before Texas and California belonged to the United States. For Russians, the separation with Ukraine and Belarus in particular is at least as emotionally wrenching as Welsh and Scottish independence would be to Britain or Catalonian and Basque secession would be to Spain.

While Westerners see Russian resentment about these territorial losses as a throwback to 19th-century imperialist thinking, consider how the process might look when viewed from the Russian side. What Russians see is a powerful and wealthy empire expanding steadily on their Western border and swallowing all the intervening countries, first into the EU’s economic and political arrangements and then into the Nato military structure. Consider from the Russian standpoint the EU’s explicit vocation to keep growing until it embraces every European country with the sole exception of Russia itself, and the almost automatic Nato membership now granted to EU countries. Is it so very unreasonable to view this EU-Nato juggernaut as the world’s last remaining expansionist empire, or even the natural successor to previous German and French expansions that were considerably less benign?

Western politicians may ridicule such fantasies as Russian nationalist paranoia. But why shouldn’t the Russians worry about Western armies and missiles on their borders, when these contribute to a process of territorial encroachment similar to what Napoleon and Hitler failed to achieve by cruder means?

America and Europe, regardless of their warm words about Russia, are treating it objectively as an enemy, taking every opportunity to cut it down to size. After 15 years of this experience, is it really surprising if the Russians, emboldened by their newfound oil wealth, now respond in kind? In other words, it is not Russia but America and Europe that have restarted the Cold War.

The West may well be right to treat Russia as a natural enemy � that is certainly the attitude in Estonia and Poland. But if we are going to treat the Russians as enemies, let us at least try to see the world from their point of view.

Arms for Arab Authoritarians, as US Turns Back Clock by Jim Lobe

Arms for Arab Authoritarians, as US Turns Back Clock
by Jim Lobe

Just 25 months after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice denounced 60 years of U.S. support for authoritarian governments in Arab world, she and Pentagon chief Robert Gates are on their way to the Middle East bearing arms and an uncannily familiar strategic vision to the same regimes.

Under former President Ronald Reagan 25 years ago, it was called "strategic consensus" – the notion that you could coax the so-called "moderate" Arab states into a de facto coalition with Israel against the region's perceived Soviet clients and a revolutionary Iran by plying them with sophisticated weaponry and renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.

Under President George W. Bush, the strategic vision has still not been given a specific name, but, apart from the disappearance of the Soviet Union, the basic elements appear to be eerily similar, if not identical.

Heralding her trip and the proposed transfer of some $43 billion in new weaponry for Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other Gulf states, Rice asserted Monday, "This effort will bolster forces of moderation and support a broader strategy to counter the negative influences of al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran."

"Further modernizing the Egyptian and Saudi Arabian armed forces and increasing inter-operability will bolster our partners' resolve in confronting the threat of radicalism and cement their respective roles as regional leaders in the quest for Middle East peace and in ensuring Lebanon's freedom and independence," she added.

The trip follows last week's announcement by Bush that Rice will chair a regional conference some time this fall as part of a new diplomatic push for an eventual "two-state solution" of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. It will take both Gates and Rice to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, a particularly critical destination given the growing estrangement between Washington and Riyadh with respect to both Iraq and U.S. efforts to break up a Palestinian unity government forged by King Abdullah.

At that point, Rice will travel to Jerusalem and Ramallah to "continue discussions on the development of a political horizon with Israeli and Palestinian officials," while Gates heads for the smaller Gulf states with which he reportedly intends to seek new access rights to military bases and extend older ones, as well as pursue new arms-sales agreements.

Under the arms-for-allies plan, the U.S. would provide $13 billion in aid over 10 years – roughly the same amount that it has been getting for most of the past decade. While precise figures have not been released, State Department officials said Saudi Arabia and its allies in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) will be encouraged to buy some $20 billion in new arms, including satellite-guided bombs, missile defenses, and upgrades for its U.S.-made fighter-jets over the same period.

To dampen concerns by Israel and its supporters here, the administration is also proposing a 10-year, $30 billion package to preserve the Jewish state's military superiority – or "qualitative edge" – over its Arab neighbors. That would amount to a 25 percent increase in U.S. military assistance to Israel over current levels.

While several lawmakers close to the so-called "Israel Lobby" said this weekend they will try to block the proposed sale to Saudi Arabia, or at least condition it on a number of changes in Saudi policy, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert signaled his approval, noting, in particular, the importance of an Arab-Israeli coalition against Tehran.

"We understand the need of the United States to support the Arab moderates, and there is a need for a united front between the U.S. and us regarding Iran," he said.

The proposed arms sales and aid to the "moderate" Arab states mark yet another step toward its renewed embrace of the Sunni Arab authoritarian regimes that the Bush administration and its neoconservative backers had tried to distance themselves from in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in 2001, and particularly after the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

"For 60 years, my country – the United States – pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region, here in the Middle East," Rice declared in June 2005 at the American University in Cairo, in a widely noted speech that encouraged democracy activists across the region. "And we achieved neither. Now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people."

But since the election victory of Hamas in parliamentary elections in the Palestinian territories seven months later and, particularly since last year's Israel-Hezbollah war, which the administration saw as evidence of Iran's expanding power, Washington has all but abandoned its democracy-promotion rhetoric – at least insofar as it applied to its regional allies – essentially returning to its 60-year-old preference for stability over democracy.

That it should now return to using large arms transfers as a major means of ensuring that stability highlights the degree to which the administration has abandoned its pro-democracy stance, according to critics.

"These exorbitant arms sales should be read as a last-ditch effort by the Bush administration to keep matters stable for the tyrannies of the region and to reward those who stood with him in his unending wars," said As'ad Abukhalil, an expert on Saudi Arabia based at California State University at Stanislaus.

What the administration wants from its Sunni allies, in exchange for these deals, according to Chris Toensing, editor of the Middle East Report, "is to build an anti-Iranian alliance [resembling] the early Reagan administration's attempt to find an anti-Soviet 'strategic consensus' among U.S. allied Arab states and Israel. Then, as now, the Arab states' price is some semblance of pressure on Israel to make a comprehensive peace."

"The Bush administration is betting that the Arab states' fear of Iran is greater than their sensitivities on the Palestine and Iraq questions combined," he added. "Indeed, the Bush administration, with all its talk of transforming the Middle East, is reverting to usual U.S. form: a patchwork policy of constant crisis management, all in the name of the 'stability' the neoconservatives professed to hate."

"The major difference going ahead is that, thanks to the Bush administration, there are now two 'intractable' Middle East conflicts to manage instead of one," Toensing said.

Indeed, that Washington is now trying to forge a new strategic alliance against Iran in the face of Tehran's emergence as a major regional threat to U.S. interests – largely because of the administration's own miscalculations in Iraq – struck analyst Gary Sick as a "marvelous example of political jiu-jitsu."

"Having inadvertently created a set of circumstances that ensured an increase in Iranian strength and bargaining power, that seriously frightened U.S. erstwhile Sunni allies in the region, and that undermined U.S. strength and credibility," according to Sick, a Columbia University professor who was President Jimmy Carter's top Iran aide, "the U.S. now proposes a new and improved regional political relationship to deal with the problem, and, incidentally, to distract attention from America's plight in Iraq while reviving America's position as the ultimate power in the region."

The major flaw in this strategy, according to Sick, however, may be the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki who is both supported by the U.S. but is seen by the Sunni neighbors, particularly Saudi Arabia, as a pawn of Tehran.

(Inter Press Service)

Russia Eyes Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty as Next Pullout

Russia Eyes Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty As Next Pullout

File image of a Pershing II missile.
By Jacob Quamme
UPI Outside View Commentator
Washington (UPI) July 30, 2007
As disagreements over NATO's eastward expansion, ballistic missile defense deployments in Eastern Europe, the status of Kosovo and others continue to strain NATO-Russian relations, Russia has shown an increasing willingness to re-examine its arms-control obligations with the alleged intent of guarding its national interests. Most recently, Russia has suspended participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty and has threatened to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty as well -- an action that Russia has recently tied specifically to possible U.S. missile defense deployments in Eastern Europe.

A close look at Russia's 20-year relationship with the INF Treaty, however, indicates that withdrawal from the treaty may be less dependent on U.S. missile defense deployments than commonly thought.

The INF treaty came as the result of nearly a decade of negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union. In 1977 the Soviets decided to deploy their newly developed intermediate-range RT-21M Pioneer missiles -- SS-20 Sabre by NATO classification -- in Eastern Europe as an alternative to larger, more expensive inter-continental ballistic missiles.

The move was designed to help maintain nuclear parity with the United States at a relatively low cost and to threaten Western European cities. Within two years, however, NATO responded by adopting its so-called Dual-Track Strategy, which called for arms-control negotiations while simultaneously deploying U.S. Pershing II missiles and BGM-109G ground-launched cruise missiles in Europe. In the end, the strategic balance remained unchanged, and Europe was left with less time to mitigate potential conflict.

The INF Treaty was signed in 1987, resulting in the destruction of 2,700 missiles with ranges between 300 miles and 3,300 miles along with their launchers and support systems.

The combined costs of designing, building, deploying and subsequently destroying these missiles have been estimated at roughly 6 billion rubles, unadjusted for inflation, dedicated to measures that yielded no significant military advantage.

Russia is not likely to have forgotten this lesson, so how can Russian hints at withdrawing from INF be justified? To answer this, we must look beyond the ballistic missile defense debate and the rhetoric surrounding it.

Russian officials have long lamented the loss of these missiles. In March 2005 media reports disclosed that former Minister of Defense Sergei Ivanov mentioned the possibility of Russia's withdrawal from the INF treaty during a January 2005 meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

An unnamed source close to the Defense Ministry leadership explained that Ivanov asked Rumsfeld how the United States might react to a hypothetical Russian withdrawal from the treaty. Rumsfeld is said to have not protested the idea.

At a later meeting, while discussing the possibility of placing conventional warheads on intercontinental missiles to counter terrorist threats, Ivanov is reported to have said, "One could even consider a theoretical possibility of using intermediate-range missiles, although the United States and Russia cannot have them, unlike many other countries, which already have such missiles."

Russian Army Chief of Staff Yuri Baluyevsky was also quoted in February 2007 as saying, "Many countries are developing and perfecting medium-range rockets. ... Unfortunately, by adhering to the INF Treaty, Russia lost many unique missile systems."

Indeed, it is worthy to note that the Russian military made extensive use of short-range ballistic missiles in Chechnya for missions that the United States or other powers would likely have used attack helicopters. This is due largely to training inadequacies, lack of spare parts and poor maintenance habits in the Russian military, which frequently made such options unavailable. Russian experts believe that maintaining conventionally armed ballistic missiles for these types of missions would be cheaper than restoring the combat ability of its air and ground forces.

While short-range ballistic missiles may have worked well during the Chechen war, however, future regional conflicts may require missiles capable of longer range in order to reach targets outside Russia's borders.

Why Russia wants more short-range missiles
Using intermediate-range missiles against NATO is unnecessary for Russia. Russian Gen. Yevgeny Buzhinsky said during a July 2007 interview, "As for the deployment of missiles of this class in the western part of Russia ... I don't see such necessity so far," adding, "The issue of withdrawal or non-withdrawal is a political decision."

Russian ICBMs do require minimum distances in order to be effective; however, Russia's growing fleet of road-mobile Topol-M missiles, rail-mobile systems and submarine-launched ballistic missiles can be positioned so as to put required targets within range relatively easily. Alternatively, air-launched cruise missiles are not restricted under the INF Treaty and could be used effectively in a hypothetical conflict.

Russia could target the 10 U.S. missile defense interceptors in Poland -- which are still theoretical at this point -- by deploying short-range Iskander-M conventionally armed ballistic missiles in Kaliningrad. Therefore, Russia would have very little military incentive to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty if in fact its goal was to threaten NATO.

Redevelopment and redeployment of intermediate-range missiles for use against NATO also presents several logistical problems. Russia's primary ballistic missile assembly plant at Votkinsk is only capable of a historical peak production capacity of approximately 80 missiles per year.

Since the actual rate of production has been closer to the minimum rate -- 12-15 per year for more than a decade -- Votkinsk's optimal production capacity is likely to have fallen closer to 30 missiles per year as unused production lines have been shut down.

Numbers like these will not frighten NATO, and Russia knows it.

The media has been focusing on the possibility of Russian withdrawal from the INF Treaty only in terms of declining relations between Washington and Moscow, accelerated by the controversial missile-defense debate.

Russia's desire to restart production of intermediate-range missiles should not, however, be interpreted merely as a product of these developments. Russia's desire to abrogate the INF Treaty outdates the Polish/Czech missile-defense deployment debate.

A senior U.S. Defense Department official complained that Russia had privately told U.S. officials that Moscow wants medium-range missiles to counter Iran's missiles, yet publicly criticizes the United States and its plans to deploy missile interceptors designed to combat the same threat.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates made similar comments during an April 23 interview: "I have the impression that ... it has nothing to do with developments in Western Europe or the ballistic missile sites. There is a concern about the development of threats to the south of Russia."

Indeed, Russian Army Chief of Staff Gen. Yury Baluyevsky indicated that the decision to withdraw from the INF Treaty is dependent on whether the United States decides to deploy missile-defense components in Eastern Europe, during the same interview in which he complained that other nations were free to develop intermediate-range missiles while the United States and Russia were not.

U.S. missile-defense plans, while genuinely disliked by the Kremlin, are serving Russian military interests by providing grounds for withdrawing from the INF Treaty.

Baluyevsky's comments, combined with former Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov's comments on the desirability of conventionally armed intermediate-range missiles, demonstrate Russia's desire to possess intermediate-range missiles.

If these weapons were intended to threaten the United States or NATO, however, Ivanov would not have solicited U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's opinion on the potential American reaction beforehand. Furthermore, Russia knows that threatening INF withdrawal will not, by itself, affect U.S. plans to deploy missile-defense components in Eastern Europe, in the same way that suspending the CFE Treaty has not.

Russia can play this hand as well as possible, however, and if the United States does back down, Russia wins. If the United States moves forward with missile-defense deployments anyway, Russia can claim it was "forced" to do what it has essentially asked for permission to do for several years, and withdraw from the INF Treaty.

earlier related report
CFE Arms Control Treaty Contradicts Reality Says Putin
Moscow (AFP) July 25 - Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday brushed aside criticism of his decision to withdraw from a key European arms control treaty, saying the pact contradicted "reality" and was out of date.

The 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty "came from the time when there were two blocs, NATO and the Warsaw Pact. The situation has undergone a cardinal change," Putin was quoted by news agency RIA Novosti as saying.

The treaty "has clearly come to contradict reality," he said.

Putin's stand was in sharp contrast to that of the head of the NATO military alliance, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who on Tuesday stressed the treaty's ongoing importance since its revision in 1999.

"Do not forget that the adapted treaty does not reflect the realities of the past, the era of large blocs facing off against each other, but those of a situation marked by cooperation in security in Europe," said De Hoop Scheffer.

Russia said on July 14 it would stop complying with the treaty, which limits the deployment of conventional arms in Europe.

It attributed its withdrawal to the failure of NATO members to ratify the revised 1999 version of the treaty, although Moscow has also been riled by US plans to deploy an anti-missile shield in central Europe. NATO members have refused to ratify the CFE treaty until Moscow pulls its peacekeepers out of former Soviet republics Georgia and Moldova.

The withdrawal from the treaty comes amid heightened tensions between Russia and the West that some commentators have likened to the 20th century Cold War.

earlier related report
Russia's retreat from CFE treaty 'chilling' to neighbors
Ottawa (AFP) July 25, 2007 Moscow's decision to freeze a key Soviet-era Russia-NATO arms pact must not sway upcoming elections in neighboring Ukraine, Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay urged Wednesday.

"The withdrawal or suspension of the treaty has had a very chilling effect, particularly on the surrounding countries and those of the former Soviet Bloc," MacKay said.

He expressed "real concern and dismay at (this) ominous development," noting that officials he met with during a recent visit to Kiev "were similarly disturbed and full of trepidation about what this actually meant."

"This should not impact on the aspirations and the direction in which Ukraine has been headed, as far as their elections," he stressed.

"And it should not be allowed to intimidate people or cause them to fall under some false pretense that this is going to be retribution or in some way that this is going to destabilize their democratic hopes and aspirations for possible ascendancy to NATO and the EU," he said referring to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and European Union.

Russia said this month that it would suspend its application of the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty within 150 days -- on December 12.

Russia attributed its freeze to the failure of NATO members to ratify a revised 1999 version of the treaty, but Moscow has also been riled by US plans to deploy an anti-missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, two former Soviet satellite states.

MacKay blasted Russia's "overreaction" to the anti-missile shield plan.

NATO countries have said they would only ratify the CFE treaty once Moscow has lived up to a pledge made in 1999 to pull its troops out of former Soviet republics Georgia and Moldova.

Meanwhile, early last month, pro-western President Viktor Yushchenko set parliamentary elections in an effort to end a two-month power struggle in Ukraine.

Yushchenko signed a presidential decree after hammering out a political agreement with his Moscow-backed rival Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, who had previously defied presidential orders to hold early polls in the ex-Soviet republic.

MacKay said: "Canada and other countries must stand strong with Ukraine ... and must demonstrate clear support for Ukraine at this important time."

earlier related report
Russia Will Withdraw From Farcical Arms Agreement
Moscow (RIA Novosti) Jul 23 - International diplomacy has never been a particularly sane creature, but today it has clearly become even more unbalanced. President Putin has signed a decree suspending Russia's fulfillment of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE) and related international agreements. It will withdraw from the CFE 150 days after the signatory countries receive the official notifications, which are most likely already on their way.

The West immediately frowned and expressed its regret over Moscow's moves. The disappointment, I presume, was genuine - it is not too often in diplomatic practice that a group of countries can successfully pull the wool over the eyes of a treaty participant for decades. And when the deceived party finally sees the light, disappointment is natural.

But let us take a brief look back at the treaty's history. The Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty was signed in 1990 - a year before the breakup of the U.S.S.R. A modified version, taking into account new geopolitical realities, was inked in 1999 in Istanbul, but ratified only by Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine. The Baltics did not join it. Georgia and Moldova refused to ratify it, demanding that Russian troops be pulled out under the Istanbul agreements, which were signed together with the agreement adapting the CFE.

This is the pretext under which NATO countries have been blocking the entry into force of the adapted treaty. Considering that Russian troops have already pulled out of Georgia as stipulated by the Istanbul agreements and Transdnestr only has the minimum force needed to keep peace in that area, the excuse rings hollow. On the other hand, the West has done whatever it pleased over these past decades: it bombed and dismembered Yugoslavia, brought American and NATO bases closer to the Russian borders (in spite of having promised never to do so), armed the Baltic countries (because they do not formally belong to the CFE), grossly violated the UN Charter (in Iraq) and is now proposing to place an American missile defense shield under Russia's nose. One need not be a political expert to get the sense that something is not quite right here.

Nor is this sad conclusion altered by the idea that the CFE is actually a Potemkin treaty, although Europe often loftily refers to it as "the cornerstone of European security." Sergei Karaganov, one of the leading Russian experts on Europe, said: "I think the treaty is destined for the ash heap of history. Well, good riddance." In the view of the deputy director for research of the Institute of Europe at the Russian Academy of Sciences, "We will now have our hands free...The concern they are showing is hypocritical. But everybody knows that the treaty was a non-starter and was used to take advantage of Russia's weakness in the 1990s."

Theoretically, the 150-day moratorium granted by Moscow enables Western politicians to review their policy, but there is little chance the treaty will be revived - politics all too often succumbs to inertia. So it looks like the world has forgotten all about the bright future it imagined was in store for it during the heady days of the last century; its optimism, it seems, has faded almost as fast as the millennial fireworks. The fact that the 21st century has failed to live up to the hopes pinned on it is clear. The new generation of politicians has not grown smarter. It is unwilling to take its partners' interests into account and incapable of learning from past mistakes.

What good has come for the European Union from a build-up in the number of European bureaucrats deciding the lives of Europeans? None. They were unable to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the break-up of the U.S.S.R. They did not want to welcome Moscow into the fold by breaking down the Iron Curtain and building in its place a bridge of trust. Instead, they strengthened NATO, gave Russia the unfair CFE Treaty, brought military equipment nearer to Russian borders, allowed American missile facilities to be installed in the Czech Republic and Poland, and so on.

Blinded by its own hubris, Europe missed the most important thing. Now, taking a closer look, it has suddenly discovered that it is facing not a helpless Yeltsin-era Russia, but a Russia of Putin, gathering strength and full of ambition. As a result of major foreign policy blunders, Europe is likely to face very real Russian nuclear missiles, armor and heavy artillery instead of tranquil eastern borders.

It could not have been otherwise. Moscow is within its rights to protect its security as it sees fit. Not because it wants to arm itself once again, but because Condoleezza Rice, Javier Solana and the rest of the American-European political comrades-in-arms have left Russia no other options.

Every world crisis, like every rock slide, is set in motion by a single stone. In the case of Europe, there are three potential stones: missile defense, Kosovo and the CFE. All it will take is for someone to touch just one of them.

(Jacob Quamme is a research assistant at the Center for Defense Information, a liberal Washington think tank.)

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interest of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

Source: United Press International

Source: Agence France-Presse

Source: RIA Novosti

Russia to Conduct Strategic Wargames Above and Below Artic Ocean

Russia To Conduct Strategic Wargames Above And Below Arctic Ocean

According to various sources the Russian Air Force currently deploys 141 Tu-22M3 bombers.
by Staff Writers
Moscow (RIA Novosti) Aug 01, 2007
The Russian strategic aviation will fly over the North Pole and conduct test launches of cruise missiles during a series of exercises in August, the Defense Ministry said on its website Tuesday. Units of the 37th Air Army of the Strategic Command will conduct a total of six tactical exercises in August as part of an annual training program, the ministry said in a statement. "During the exercises, strategic bombers will test launch cruise missiles, conduct simulated bombing raids, and fly over the North Pole, the Pacific and Atlantic oceans," the statement said.

The exercises will involve Tu-160 Blackjack and Tu-95MS Bear-H strategic bombers, and Tu-22M3 Backfire-C theater bombers - the mainstay of the air component of Russia's strategic nuclear triad.

According to various sources, the Russian Air Force currently deploys 141 Tu-22M3 bombers, 40 Tu-95MS bombers, and 14 Tu-160 planes.

Lieutenant General Igor Khvorov, the newly appointed chief of the Air Force Main Staff, said in March that Russia's strategic aviation had sufficient potential to suppress elements of a U.S. missile defense shield should it be deployed in Central Europe.

Source: RIA Novosti

Top advocate of US-India nuke deal has yet to see text by Michael roston

Top advocate of US-India nuke deal has yet to see text
Michael Roston
Published: Tuesday July 31, 2007

Staff for a top Democratic advocate of a US-India nuclear cooperation agreement admitted to RAW STORY on Tuesday morning that the Bush administration had not yet showed him the text of the deal it announced last Friday.

"The Congressman has not yet seen a copy of the text of the agreement," acknowledged Lynne Weil, spokesperson from Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA), who chairs the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

She added, "It is important to Rep. Lantos that the agreement will comport with the legal requirements of the Hyde Act."

Rep. Lantos was a co-sponsor of the United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Promotion Act, which was honorarily named after Rep. Henry Hyde, the Illinois Republican who chaired the House International Relations Committee until his retirement at the end of the previous Congress.

While some nonproliferation advocates argue that the US-India nuclear cooperation scheme will undermine the global regime against the spread of nuclear weapons, champions of the deal like Rep. Lantos have argued that the Hyde Act allows the removal of a key irritant from broader US-India strategic cooperation while expanding international safeguards around the South Asian giant's civilian nuclear energy program.

A colleague of Lantos, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) slammed the Bush administration for hiding the text of the agreement last week.

"If they’re afraid of letting us read the document, then I can only surmise that it includes provisions they fear will raise the hackles of Congress," Markey said in a Friday statement, first reported on by RAW STORY on Saturday.

The State Department conducted a closed briefing for Members of Congress and their staffs last Thursday before the White House formally announced the agreement's conclusion. One congressional source who attended the briefing said that Congress will get to see the text later in August.

"We will see a text at some point, we don't have concerns about that," the source told RAW STORY. "They're still holding it back, it's a diplomatic nicety to make sure that they release it to the Congress and the Indian Parliament [which is currently not in session] simultaneously."

The Congressional staffer said that although President George W. Bush signed a presidential signing statement in December that took exception to parts of the Hyde Act, there was "no indication yet" that the Bush administration had flat out ignored any provisions of the legal restrictions Congress placed on the US-India nuclear deal.

Still, the source said that the President would have to tread carefully with its presentation of the deal.

"He's got to be careful," the Congressional staffer said about any appearance of the Bush administration invoking the presidential signing statement. "Congress has to have a vote up or down on the deal, and he's running the risk that it could impact subsequent Congressional consideration of the agreement."

As one example of an issue where Congress could object to the agreement reached by the US and India, the Congressional source pointed to India's insistence that the deal include a nuclear fuel reprocessing facility.

In last Fridays' public briefing on the US-India nuclear deal, Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns acknowledged that the facility emerged in the course of negotiations and was not covered under the Hyde Act.

"There was no talk of a new reprocessing facility a year ago," Burns said on Friday. "It's just been in the last two months that this has materialized. We looked at it very carefully and decided ...that it was in our interest to go ahead."

The Congressional source said to RAW STORY that the new facility would get strict scrutiny from Capitol Hill.

"It's going to have to be pursued as a subsequent arrangement on Capitol Hill," the source said. "That's obviously one area that when we see the actual text, we'll have to go over it very carefully, and make sure there are no loopholes and that there's nothing that's subject to misinterpretation."

But the Congressional source suggested that it would be months at the very least before any of these issue were fully debated on Capitol Hill. Congress will not need to weigh in on the agreement until India negotiates a safeguards arrangement with the International Atomic Energy Agency and receives an exemption from the rules of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

"We don't expect to see that for quite some time, for years potentially," the staffer said.

The death of this crackpot creed is nothing to mourn by John Gray, The Guardian

The death of this crackpot creed is nothing to mourn

The wider conflict now engulfing Iraq lays bare the absurdity of liberal interventionism - and the decline of US power

John Gray
Tuesday July 31, 2007
The Guardian

The era of liberal interventionism in international affairs is over. Invading Iraq was always in part an oil grab. A strategic objective of the Bush administration was control of Iraqi oil, which forms a key portion of the Gulf reserves that are the lifeblood of global capitalism. Yet success in this exercise in geopolitics depended on stability after Saddam was gone, and here American thinking was befogged by illusions. Both the neoconservatives who launched the war and the many liberals who endorsed it in the US and Britain took it for granted that Iraq would remain intact.

Article continues
As could be foreseen by anyone with a smattering of history, things have not turned out that way. The dissolution of Iraq is an unalterable fact, all too clear to those who have to cope on the ground, that is denied only in the White House and the fantasy world of the Green Zone. American-led regime change has created a failed state that no one has the power to rebuild. Yesterday's Oxfam report revealed that nearly one in three Iraqis is in need of emergency aid, and yet the anarchy that prevails prevents any such assistance.

Iraq now belongs in the history books, and Mesopotamia - the ancient region between the Tigris and Euphrates that includes parts of Turkey, Iran and Syria as well as the country that has been destroyed - is the site of an intensifying resource war. The Baghdad government is a battleground of sectarian forces while the Kurdish zone is independent in all but name. Utopian schemes for a federal state have been overtaken by an internal resource war fought out along sectarian lines.

Anarchy of this kind is a hideous condition in which to live, but its destructive impact reaches beyond the millions of Iraqis whose lives are already ruined. The surrounding states are being irresistibly drawn into the country's conflicts. Both Iran and Turkey have an interest in Iraq's oil wealth - Iran by virtue of having expanded its power and influence over the Shia majority, Turkey from fear that control of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk will pass into the hands of the Kurds. Such states can hardly avoid intervening and will not be deterred from acting to safeguard what they see as their vital national interests by threats from the Bush administration. Iraq is at risk of becoming the centre of a wider war, which the US can do very little to prevent - which shows up the lack of proportion in comparing the present conflict with Vietnam.

America was able to walk away from Vietnam because that country was peripheral in the world economy and the knock-on effects of US withdrawal were comparatively slight; Iraq, by contrast, is a key factor in global oil supplies, and if the US pulls out its ability to protect its allies in the region will be called into question. Another crucial difference is that Vietnam had an effective government in the north that could take over when the US exited. No such entity exists in Iraq. The feared domino effect in south-east Asia did not occur, but Iraq could be the scene of a domino effect in reverse in which the country's warring neighbours fall into the void left by the Americans' departure. By any standard, defeat in Iraq would be a more devastating blow to US power than Vietnam.

The most important - as well as most often neglected - feature of the conflict shaping up around Iraq is that the US no longer has the ability to mould events. Whatever it does, there will be decades of bloodshed in the region. Another large blunder - such as bombing Iran, as Dick Cheney seems to want, or launching military operations against Pakistan, as some in Washington appear to propose - would make matters even worse.

The chaos that has engulfed Iraq is only the start of a longer and larger upheaval, but it would be useful if we learned a few lessons from it. There is a stupefying cliche which says regime change went wrong because there was not enough thought about what to do after the invasion. The truth is that if there had been sufficient forethought the invasion would not have been launched. After the overthrow of Saddam - a secular despot in a European tradition that includes Lenin and Stalin - there was never any prospect of imposing a western type of government. Grotesque errors were made such as the disbanding of the Iraqi army, but they only accelerated a process of fragmentation that would have happened anyway. Forcible democratisation undid not only the regime but also the state.

Liberal interventionists who supported regime change as part of a global crusade for human rights overlooked the fact that the result of toppling tyranny in divided countries is usually civil war and ethnic cleansing. Equally they failed to perceive the rapidly dwindling leverage on events of the western powers that led the crusade. If anyone stands to gain long term it is Russia and China, which have stood patiently aside and now watch the upheaval with quiet satisfaction. Neoconservatives spurned stability in international relations and preached the virtues of creative destruction. Liberal internationalists declared history had entered a new stage in which pre-emptive war would be used to construct a new world order where democracy and peace thrived. The result of these delusions is what we see today: a world of rising authoritarian regimes and collapsed states no one knows how to govern.

Many will caution against throwing out the baby of humanitarian military intervention together with the neocon bathwater. No doubt the idea that western states can project their values by force of arms gives a sense of importance to those who believe it. It tells them they are still the chief actors on the world stage, the vanguard of human progress that embodies the meaning of history. But this liberal creed is a dangerous conceit if applied to today's intractable conflicts, where resource wars are entwined with wars of religion and western power is in retreat.

The liberal interventionism that took root in the aftermath of the cold war was never much more than a combination of post-imperial nostalgia with crackpot geopolitics. It was an absurd and repugnant mixture, and one whose passing there is no reason to regret. What the world needs from western governments is not another nonsensical crusade. It is a dose of realism and a little humility.

· John Gray is professor of European thought at the London School of Economics and the author of Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia,,2138064,00.html

Bush's EO - Ruling by Executive Decree by Joel Skousen

Bush's EO - Ruling
By Executive Decree
From Joel Skousen
Editor - World Affairs Brief

The only major difference between the German experience with executive decree (Hitler's 1933 Enabling Act) and the Bush administration's continual use of executive orders to dictate policy is the speed of implementation. The German Bundestag gave Hitler all power in one bill. In the US, Congress is allowing Bush to take it one small step at a time. Both ways justify greater executive power on a continual state of national emergency. Both used deception and black operations to provoke fear of terror to keep the nation in a state of fear and war. The fact that these US emergency powers were enacted long ago and enhanced by both parties over time attests that this is not merely a Bush/Cheney phenomenon. We are simply seeing its long-intended implementation at a very accelerated pace. This week I'll analyze the two latest Bush Executive Orders.

Executive Order Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq

The President begins the EO by addressing his "constitutional" authority: "By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, as amended (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.)(IEEPA), the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.)(NEA), and section 301 of title 3, United States Code... "

Interestingly, the National Emergencies Act of 1976 was passed to "stop open-ended states of national emergency and formalize Congressional checks and balances on Presidential emergency powers. The act sets a limit of two years on states of national emergency. It also imposes certain 'procedural formalities' on the President when invoking such powers, and provides a means for Congress to countermand a Presidential declaration of emergency and associated use of emergency powers.[source:Wikipedia]" It is clear that the president is not abiding by these restrictions and/or that Congress is complicit by not challenging the president on his continued use of emergency powers. Naturally, the 1976 law is full of loopholes that make it easy to extend the two year limit.

If you go to the trouble of reading these acts, you will see how just how totalitarian these powers are that are granted to the president in an emergency. Worse, there are no limitations on his power to declare such an emergency for almost any reason. These powers are not necessarily constitutional even though passed by Congress. The Constitution limits legislative powers to its enumerated functions. No such emergency powers were ever enumerated in the Constitution.

This EO essentially directs federal agencies to confiscate or block access to funds or property of any person (including US Citizens) without due process and without warning [direct violations of the constitution] who the administration determines "commit or pose a significant risk of committing [dangerously broad language], an act or acts of violence that have the purpose or effect of threatening the peace or stability of Iraq or the Government of Iraq,.. undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq."

Then the President boldly asserts, " I therefore determine that for these measures to be effective in addressing the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13303 [2003] and expanded in Executive Order 13315, [also 2003] there need be no prior notice of a listing or determination [meaning: no warning to the affected parties]."

At first glance, it appears as if these powers could be used directly against commentators and critics of US government policy. Certainly many of us could be viewed as "undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform."

The singularly courageous Devvy Kidd recently criticized the Bush administration's lack of constitutional authority to spend billions of taxpayer dollars on behalf of Iraqi reconstruction. Is she guilty of "undermining Iraq reconstruction"? Your editor has criticized the phony puppet government of Iraq in all its various iterations. Am I guilty of "undermining efforts" for political reform? I'm sure some could construe it as such.

Steven Watson of complained loudly, "President Bush's newest executive order states that any American citizen who threatens the peace and stability of Iraq and undermines efforts to promote reconstruction and reform there may have all their property and interests seized by the Treasury department without warning."

G. Edward Griffin and Aaron Russo agree when they claim, "President Bush signed an Executive order that authorized blocking the use of any property held by anyone he says is a threat to the 'stabilization' of Iraq. That means anyone who opposes his Middle East foreign policy now is subject to loss of home, automobiles, savings, investments, and anything else considered as property."

But as Devvy Kidd correctly notes: "I'm sorry, but this EO says no such thing." She's right, as usual. The specific language of the order limits its reach, "to deal with any unusual and extraordinary threat, which has its source in whole or substantial part outside the United States."

That said, there is another part of the order which is so broad that it can include innocent citizens who unknowingly are deemed in "support" of those whose property is blocked by the order: Under Sec B, the president also claims the power to include persons who "(ii) to have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, logistical, or technical support for, or goods or services in support of... any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order;" "Materially assisted" is a very broad legal phrase that can include almost any form of financial dealing-even innocent and unknowing. Clearly due process is necessary for these persons since the line of "support" needs careful adjudication.

Thus, using one's first amendment right to criticize government action in Iraq does NOT fit under giving "material support." So, you won't find Devvy Kidd or me arrested for having accused the government of improperly funding Iraqi reconstruction or the current puppet political regime in Baghdad.

Nevertheless, I do have to agree with the critic's long term view that all of these incremental uses of executive power point to an eventual take down of American civil liberties. It is unwise, however, to declare each new thrust of this out-of-control administration as the coup d'grace of our rights. That will only discredit our voice of warning.

We must continue to warn about the overall threat about in imprecise language used to prosecute these kinds of policies. Bruce Fein, Justice Department official during the Reagan Administration commented, "Certainly it is highly constitutionally questionable to empower the government to destroy someone economically without giving notice. This is so sweeping it's staggering. I've never seen anything so broad that it expands beyond terrorism, beyond seeking to use violence or the threat of violence to cower or intimidate a population..." So, even though the reach of this EO is limited, it's use of broad legal language to cast a wide net is very dangerous to all in the long-term.

Next, let's consider the legal basis of Executive Orders. This particular president has gone beyond the customary use of Executive Orders. Basically, an EO is merely an instruction from the President to his own executive branch, directing them to do things that ultimately must find support in lawful statutes. In no case is it appropriate to create new laws or punishments applicable to citizens or other branches of government outside the Executive or where not specifically mentioned in the law.

Constitutional lawyer Larry Becraft pointed out to Devvy Kidd that we have examples in case law where the Supreme Court has overturned executive privilege. In YOUNGSTOWN CO. v. SAWYER, 343 U.S. 579 (1952) 343 U.S. 579, the Supreme Court wrote: "'The Founders of this Nation entrusted the lawmaking power to the Congress alone in both good and bad times. It would do no good to recall the historical events, the fears of power and the hopes for freedom that lay behind their choice. Such a review would but confirm our holding that this seizure order cannot stand.'"

The issue was President Truman's attempt to nationalize a US steel company under the guise of a national war and economic emergency. The court wasn't buying it. Nevertheless, one or two cases doesn't make an impenetrable barrier to executive or judicial mischief. Such decisions only establish a partial precedent in law-which the courts are free to disregard as they will. They are not bound by precedent. With the current proclivity of the Supreme Court to back this administration's "war on terror", I would not bet on this particular case protecting us against dangerous Executive Orders.

THE CIA EXECUTIVE ORDER: This EO purports to regulate and limit the CIA's ability to hold persons in secret prisons and torture them. In fact, it is only a ruse--a propaganda stunt to give the appearance of controlling CIA secret prisons and torture. The specific language carefully carves out unspoken exceptions and permits them.

As Marty Lederman explains: "The only truly important section of the E.O. is section 3(b)(i)(C), which defines the category of violence that will be deemed to violate Common Article 3 for purposes of determining whether a CIA interrogation program comports with CA3. In addition to torture as defined by the federal criminal statute, and the forms of violence that remain prohibited under the new WCA [War Crimes Act], that subsection of the E.O. prohibits only 'other acts of violence serious enough to be considered comparable to murder, torture, mutilation, and cruel or inhuman treatment, as defined in [the War Crimes Act].' In other words, if a form of violence is not already prohibited by federal criminal law, and is not 'comparable' to the forms of violence prohibited by the WCA, the CIA is not prohibited from using it."

I think it is obvious that this new EO does NOT prohibit "enhanced interrogation techniques" like water-boarding (near drowning by pouring water constantly over the head of an inclined prisoner), and the administration knows it. Every attempt to ask an administration official about water boarding was met with evasion.

As Joanne Mariner said in her aptly titled piece, "The Misinterpreter-in-Chief," ...The new order purports to determine that the CIA's secret prison program 'fully complies' with U.S. obligations under Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, so long as the CIA follows a series of requirements in carrying out the program.

"But even without John Yoo to write his legal opinions, President Bush still gets it wrong. The Geneva Conventions do not permit secret, incommunicado detention, and U.S. law makes no provision for the CIA to hold detainees. 'Reaffirming' the President's February 2002 Determination, the new order opens with a misstatement. It says that, in February 2002, the President determined that al Qaeda detainees were not entitled to prisoner of war status under the Geneva Conventions, and that the President is reaffirming that determination with the present order.

"This short description rewrites history and leaves out a key intervening event: the Supreme Court's landmark 2006 ruling in the case of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. Back in February 2002, the President did not simply determine that al Qaeda suspects captured in Afghanistan had no right to prisoner of war status; what he said was that they were not protected by the Geneva Conventions at all. Those detainees, he asserted, had absolutely no legal claim to humane treatment: If the U.S. decided not to abuse them, it did so as a matter of policy. Unsurprisingly, this initial determination set the stage for much of the abusive treatment that followed.

"President Bush hates to admit he could be wrong, but the fact is that the Supreme Court, in Hamdan, expressly rejected his position. Ruling that al Qaeda detainees could claim minimum Geneva Convention protections, the court struck down the president's jury-rigged system of military commissions."

EXECUTIVE ORDERS NOT THE ONLY WAY OF EXPANDING PRESIDENTIAL POWER: As Lynn Stuter of NWV relayed, "Last week, like so many before it, was highlighted by more incidents of egregious abuse and over extension of power by the executive branch under George W Bush, by unlawfully withholding information from Congress and the public:

1) "Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR), member of the Homeland Security Committee, was denied access to classified documents concerning continuity of government (how government will be conducted) during a terrorist attack. Speaking of his ordeal, DeFazio had this comment to make, 'Maybe the people who think there's a conspiracy out there are right'

2) "Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was denied a requested briefing on how the Pentagon planned to safely withdraw American troops from Iraq. In denying that request "Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Eric Edelman did not mince words. 'Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies'" Say what? That discussion has been all over the news media for weeks, making it obvious that in making said statement the Pentagon has made no accommodation for the safe withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.

3) "Bush Administration officials unveiled a bold assertion of executive privilege in the dispute over the firing of nine U.S. attorneys; seeking to block contempt charges being sought by Congress [for thumbing their nose at a Congressional subpoena] against current and former Bush Administration officials in the hopes of prying loose information concerning the firings."

Perhaps the most egregious presumption of power for the Bush/Cheney regime comes with the expansions of war powers based upon the president standing as "Commander in Chief." Adam Cohen blows apart this argument [My comments in brackets]:

"The nation is heading toward a constitutional showdown over the Iraq war [and the coming Iran war]. Congress is moving closer to passing a bill to limit or end the war [not really, just going through the motions], but President Bush insists Congress doesn't have the power to do it. 'I don't think Congress ought to be running the war,' he said at a recent press conference. [They may not have power to "run" the war, but if they have the power to declare war, they have the power to un-declare war and de-fund it-which they are unwilling to do.]

"The Constitution does make the president 'commander in chief,' a title President Bush often invokes. But it does not have the sweeping meaning he suggests. The framers took it from the British military, which used it to denote the highest-ranking official in a theater of battle. Alexander Hamilton emphasized in Federalist No. 69 that the president would be 'nothing more' than 'first general and admiral,' responsible for 'command and direction' of military forces...

"The founders would have been astonished by President Bush's assertion that Congress should simply write him blank checks for war. They gave Congress the power of the purse so it would have leverage to force the president to execute their laws properly... The framers expected Congress to keep the president on an especially short leash on military matters. The Constitution authorizes Congress to appropriate money for an army, but prohibits appropriations for longer than two years."

World Affairs Brief, July 27, 2007. Commentary and Insights on a Troubled World.

Copyright Joel Skousen. Partial quotations with attribution permitted. Cite source as Joel Skousen's World Affairs Brief ( )

Will Bush cancel the 2008 electon? by Harvey Wasserman and Bob Fitrakis

Will Bush cancel the 2008 election?
Monday, July 30 2007

by Harvey Wasserman & Bob Fitrakis
July 30, 2007

It is time to think about the "unthinkable."

The Bush Administration has both the inclination and the power to cancel the 2008 election.

The GOP strategy for another electoral theft in 2008 has taken clear shape, though we must assume there is much more we don't know.

But we must also assume that if it appears to Team Bush/Cheney/Rove that the GOP will lose the 2008 election anyway (as it lost in Ohio 2006) we cannot ignore the possibility that they would simply cancel the election. Those who think this crew will quietly walk away from power are simply not paying attention.

The real question is not how or when they might do it. It's how, realistically, we can stop them.

In Florida 2000, Team Bush had a game plan involving a handful of tactics. With Jeb Bush in the governor's mansion, the GOP used a combination of disenfranchisement, intimidation, faulty ballots, electronic voting fraud, a rigged vote count and an aborted recount, courtesy of the US Supreme Court.

A compliant Democrat (Al Gore) allowed the coup to be completed.

In Ohio 2004, the arsenal of dirty tricks exploded. Based in Columbus, we have documented more than a hundred different tactics used to steal the 20 electoral votes that gave Bush a second term. More are still surfacing. As a result of the King-Lincoln-Bronzeville federal lawsuit (in which we are plaintiff and attorney) we have now been informed that 56 of the 88 counties in Ohio violated federal law by destroying election records, thus preventing a definitive historical recount.

As in 2000, a compliant Democrat (John Kerry) allowed the coup to proceed.

For 2008 we expect the list of vote theft maneuvers to escalate yet again. We are already witnessing a coordinated nationwide drive to destroy voter registration organizations and to disenfranchise millions of minority, poor and young voters.

This carefully choreographed campaign is complemented by the widespread use of electronic voting machines. As reported by the Government Accountability Office, Princeton University, the Brennan Center, the Carter-Baker Commission, US Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and others, these machines can be easily used to flip an election. They were integral to stealing both the 2000 and 2004 elections. Efforts to make their source codes transparent, or to require a usable paper trail on a federal level, have thus far failed. A discriminatory Voter ID requirement may also serve as the gateway to a national identification card.

Overall, the GOP will have at its command even more weapons of election theft in 2008 than it did in Ohio 2004, which jumped exponentially from Florida 2000. The Rovian GOP is nothing if not tightly organized to do this with ruthless efficiency. Expect everything that was used these past two presidential elections to surface again in 2008 in far more states, with far more efficiency, and many new dirty tricks added in.

But in Ohio 2006, the GOP learned a hard lesson. Its candidate for governor was J. Kenneth Blackwell. The Secretary of State was the essential on-the-ground operative in the theft of Ohio 2004.

When he announced for governor, many Ohioans joked that "Ken Blackwell will never lose an election where he counts the votes."

But lose he did….along with the GOP candidates for Secretary of State, Attorney-General and US Senate.

By our calculations, despite massive grassroots scrutiny, the Republicans stole in excess of 6% of the Ohio vote in 2006. But they still lost.

Why? Because they were so massively unpopular that even a 6% bump couldn't save them. Outgoing Governor Bob Taft, who pled guilty to four misdemeanors while in office, left town with a 7% approval rating (that's not a typo). Blackwell entered the last week of the campaign down 30% in some polls.

So while the GOP still had control of the electoral machinery here in 2006, the public tide against them was simply too great to hold back, even through the advanced art and science of modern Rovian election theft.

In traditional electoral terms, that may also be the case in 2008. Should things proceed as they are now, it's hard to imagine any Republican candidate going into the election within striking distance. The potential variations are many, but the graffiti on the wall is clear.

What's also clear is that this administration has a deep, profound and uncompromised contempt for democracy, for the rule of law, and for the US Constitution. When George W. Bush went on the record (twice) as saying he has nothing against dictatorship, as long as he can be dictator, it was a clear and present policy statement.

Who really believes this crew will walk quietly away from power? They have the motivation, the money and the method for doing away with the electoral process altogether. So why wouldn't they?

The groundwork for dismissal of both the legislative and judicial branch has been carefully laid. The litany is well-known, but worth a very partial listing:

The continuation of the drug war, and the Patriot Act, Homeland Security Act and other dictatorial laws prompted by the 9/11/2001 terror attacks, have decimated the Bill of Rights, and shredded the traditional American right to due process of law, freedom from official surveillance, arbitrary violence, and far more.

The current Attorney-General, Alberto Gonzales, has not backed away from his announcement to Congress that the Constitution does not guarantee habeas corpus. The administration continues to act on the assumption that it can arrest anyone at any time and hold them without notification or trial for as long as it wants.

The establishment of the Homeland Security Agency has given it additional hardware to decimate the basic human rights of our citizenry. Under the guise of dealing with the "immigration problem," large concentration camps are under construction around the US.

The administration has endorsed and is exercising its "right" to employ torture, contrary to the Eighth Amendment and to a wide range of international treaties, which Gonzales has labeled "quaint."

With more than 200 "signing statements" the administration acts on its belief that the "unitary executive" trumps the power of the legislative branch in any instance it chooses. This belief has been further enforced with the administration's use of a wide range of precedent-setting arguments to keep its functionaries from testifying before Congress.

There is much more. In all instances, the 109th Congress---and the public---have rolled over without significant resistance.

Most crucial now are Presidential Directive #51, Executive Orders #13303, #13315, #13350, #13364, #13422, #13438, and more, by which Bush has granted himself an immense arsenal of powers for which the term "dictatorial" is a modest understatement.

The Founders established our government with checks and balances. But executive orders have accumulated important precedent. The Emancipation Proclamation by which Lincoln declared an end to slavery in the South, was issued under the "military necessity" of adding blacks to the Union Army, a step without which the North might not have won the Civil War. Franklin Roosevelt's Executive Order #8802 established the Fair Employment Practices Commission. Harry Truman's Executive Order #9981 desegregated the military.

Most to the point, FDR's Executive Order #9066 ordered the forcible internment of 100,000 people of Japanese descent into the now infamous concentration camps of World War II.

There is also precedent for a president overriding the Supreme Court. In the 1830s Chief Justice John Marshall enshrined the right of the Cherokee Nation to sovereignty over its ancestral land in the Appalachian Mountains. But President Andrew Jackson scorned the decision. Some 14,000 native Americans were moved at gunpoint to Oklahoma. More than 3,000 died along the way.

All this will be relevant should Team Bush envision a defeat in the 2008 election and decide to call it off. It's well established that Richard Nixon---mentor to Karl Rove and Dick Cheney---commissioned the Huston Plan, which detailed how to cancel the 1972 election.

Today we must ask: who would stop this administration from taking dictatorial power in the instance of a "national emergency" such as a terror attack at a nuclear power plant or something similar?

Nothing in the behavior of this Congress indicates that it is capable of significant resistance. Impeachment seems beyond it. Nor does it seem Congress would actually remove Bush if it did put him on trial.

Short of that, Bush clearly does not view anything Congress might do as a meaningful impediment. After all, how many divisions does the Congress command?

The Supreme Court, as currently constituted, would almost certainly rubber stamp a Bush coup. If not, like Jackson, he could ignore it as easily as he would ignore Congress.

What does that leave? There is much idle speculation now about what the armed forces would do. We also hear loose talk about "90 million gun owners."

From the public side, the only conceivable counter-force might be a national strike or an effective long-term campaign of general non-cooperation.

But we can certainly assume the mainstream media will give lock-step support to whatever the regime says and does. It's also a given that those likely to lead the resistance will immediately land in those new prisons being built by Halliburton et. al.

So how do we cope with the harsh realities of such a Bush/Cheney/Rove dictatorial coup?

We may have about a year to prepare. Every possible scenario needs to be discussed in excruciating detail.

For only one thing is certain: denial will do nothing.



The FITRAKIS FILES are at (where this article was originally published), along with HOW THE GOP STOLE AMERICA'S 2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008, which Bob and Harvey co-wrote.

Source URL:

Russia leads race for North Pole Oil

Russia leads race for North Pole oil

The Arctic's untapped resources include huge reserves of fuel and minerals. Now Moscow has raised tensions by dispatching an expedition to annex a vast expanse of the ocean.

Jamie Doward, Robin McKie and Tom Parfitt
Sunday July 29, 2007
The Observer

In the darkest depths of the Arctic Ocean a new Cold War is brewing. American and British nuclear submarines lurk in the shadows, preparing for company.

'Why has Britain been sending submarines into Arctic waters?' asked Rob Huebert, associate director of the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies in Calgary. 'Because it wants to retain its capability to deal with the Russian threat.'

Such talk is redolent of a Le Carré novel. But the battle between the West and Russia over who owns the Arctic has been building for years. Last week it entered a new phase when Russia announced it was sending a miniature submarine, equipped with a team of explorers, to claim a chunk of the Arctic Ocean the size of Western Europe.

The stakes are high. The ocean is home to vast oil and mineral reserves as well as massive shoals of fish and strategically important shipping lanes. 'It could get very ugly,' Huebert said. 'Nobody knows how much oil and gas is down there. Shell, for example, is quite pessimistic, but the likes of Exxon are quite gung-ho. I've seen some people make the case that up to 18 per cent of the world's oil reserves are there - that's getting into Saudi Arabia's league.'

To symbolise its claim, Russia will plant its flag on the sea bed before taking samples it believes will prove the Lomonosov Ridge, which runs underneath the Arctic Ocean, is an extension of the Siberian continental shelf and therefore Russian territory.

The expedition is led by Artur Chilingarov, Russia's most famous explorer. A sturdy 68-year-old with a sweeping salt-and-pepper beard, last week he could be seen pacing the decks of his ship, the Akademik Fyodorov, followed by a posse of state television journalists who filed breathless accounts of the groundbreaking voyage.

'The Arctic is Russian,' Chilingarov told the media scrum. 'We must prove the North Pole is an extension of the Russian coastal shelf. Of course, [the expedition] is important in terms of science, but also in terms of geopolitics as well.'

There has never been a manned journey to the sea bed of the North Pole. 'Who knows, we may even discover some as yet unknown organism,' said Valery Kuznetsov, head of the expedition's oceanography team.

In 2001, Russia made a similar claim to the Arctic Ocean but its evidence was disputed. An official panel of experts backed by the UN has been established to consider claims and Russia is determined to prove its case. A UN convention dictates that countries bordering the Arctic Ocean can exploit resources within a 200-nautical-mile economic zone of their territory. But this can be extended if a country can, as the Russians are attempting, prove the continental shelf beneath the ocean is connected to their land.

So far the US has refused to engage in the debate over extending exploitation rights, a policy throwback to the Eighties when the Reagan administration feared such an action would see large parts of the Arctic handed over to the Soviets.

Meanwhile, Canada and Denmark, through its sovereignty over Greenland, claim that the Lomonosov Ridge is connected to their territories and therefore the ocean is effectively their property. In a sign of how tense the situation is becoming, the Canadian government recently placed a C$7bn (£3.25bn) order for new naval patrol vessels, a move that Prime Minister Stephen Harper said was designed to 'defend its sovereignty over the Arctic'.

But the battle for the Arctic is fast becoming a global issue. Melting ice has meant the opening up of the North West Passage to commercial shipping is now possible in the summer months and, given rising temperatures, a possibility all year round in the future. The opening up of the passage can shorten the distance ships have to travel between Europe and Asia by up to 2,000 nautical miles over the established trade route through the Panama Canal.

Given the area's geopolitical importance, it is no surprise Britain is closely monitoring the situation as part of its commitment to Nato. 'Britain has been sending Trafalgar SSN-class submarines to the Arctic since 1986 because it wants to retain its under-ice capability,' said Huebert, who predicted it would not be long before their sonar registers the presence of an old foe. 'The Russians are rebuilding their navy,' Huebert said. 'They've just launched a submarine for the first time since 1987 and they've placed orders for three more.'

Soaring oil prices have created a new urgency among the countries competing to make their claim. When oil prices were low it was considered uneconomic to tap into the Arctic Ocean's reserves. But with China and India now desperate for energy, oil prices are spiralling. Experts say oil prices of around $70 a barrel makes drilling in the Arctic a viable proposition. In 2004, a joint Swedish and Russian venture proved it was possible to drill into the ocean's floor from a rig secured by three ships.

Nor is oil the only resource that is ripe for exploitation in the thawing north. There are also large mineral deposits and coal beds in the Arctic, for example. In addition, there is the prospect of opening up vast new fish reserves as ice cover disappears over the Arctic Ocean. For several years, British research vessels from Dunstaffnage Marine Research Station, near Oban, have been studying these stocks.

'There is strong evidence that there are still good reserves of fish such as cod and capelin in some regions of the Arctic,' said Prof Graham Shimmield, Dunstaffnage's director. 'However, these are probably the world's last refuges. We should restrain ourselves from catching them on an industrial scale until we learn more about how strong they are. It remains to be seen whether that will happen, however.'

The rush to exploit the Arctic worries other scientists. They point out that the region is important because the effects of climate change are more pronounced here, and arrive earlier, than in any other part of the world. When things go wrong, they are first noticed in the Arctic. But if oil companies and mining firms start pumping out carbon dioxide and other waste as they open up the region, the pristine conditions that have helped scientists make past observations will be destroyed, obscuring our view of our dangerously warming world.

This problem is already an issue in the archipelago of Svalbard where European scientists are studying glacier retreat, carbon emissions and other effects of pollution, but are having their work hampered by the emissions from coal mines dug by the Russians.

Tensions are already running high in the Arctic, it would seem. Nevertheless, hopes remain that a diplomatic conclusion can be achieved to resolve what has been dubbed the 'battle for the North Pole'.

'We must wake up to the fact that the Arctic is going to become a much busier area,' Huebert said. 'And try to produce a solution that will provide an equitable, fair and safe division of resources. We cannot just proceed with the old unilateral approach.'

Observers point to the Antarctic Treaty, which severely limits the exploitation of the land mass around the South Pole. No waste disposal, no mining, no introduction of animal species and no commercial work have been allowed on the continent for more than 40 years. Some diplomats have suggested that a similar set of rules could be agreed for the Arctic. Such a plan is unlikely to succeed, however. 'Countries agreed to the Antarctic Treaty as a way to save money,' said a senior UK official. 'The South Pole is an expensive place to exploit and it was realised that if everyone agreed not to touch it, they could all rest easy about pouring millions into the area. This is not the issue with the Arctic. It is becoming easier and easier to exploit. Nations aren't going to give up on these rich pickings.

Hence the Russian expedition - although this has not gone totally smoothly so far. Last week the Akademik Fyodorov was forced to send out a distress signal and then drifted for several hours because of an engine failure. It has since made good progress towards the pole and the first research dives from the ship are expected to take place tomorrow.

During its journey last week a mysterious aircraft appeared above the Akademik Fyodorov, causing a ripple of excitement among the journalists on board. Russian media widely reported the aircraft to be a Nato spy plane. It may have been paranoia but in the frozen waters around the North Pole one thing is certain: the days of the Cold War are back.

Arabs jealous of Turkish elections by Abu Aardvark

Arabs jealous of Turkish elections

Arabs have been fascinated by the elections in Turkey, convincingly won by the moderate Islamist AKP after calling early elections in response to the secularist military's antipathy to the party's Presidential candidate. Al-Jazeera covered the elections as heavily as it does any Arab election (which means, quite heavily), while a wide range of columnists have written about it. The AKP's victory is being welcomed virtually across the board, but the lessons being drawn vary sharply - in line with the intense political battles over Islamism which currently dominate the Arab political agenda (Hamas in Gaza and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt being the most widely invoked points of reference).


In general, moderate Islamists have leaped on the results to argue that the Turkish elections demonstrate both that an Islamist party can be trusted to work within a democracy and that Islamist parties have an incentive to do so. Essam el-Erian of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood describes it as a fully successful experience, which offers encouragement for moderate Islamists everywhere. Many other Islamists - such as Mahmoud al-Zahar of Hamas - see it as clear evidence of the continuing growth of the Islamist trend across the Muslim world, and the decreasing appeal of 'extremist secularists'. Abd al-Wahhab al-Effendi similarly takes it as evidence of the continuing success of those moderate Islamist parties who can credibly commit to the democratic process - while also pointing out that beneath the secularist-Islamist conflict which grabbed headlines lay the secularists' fierce, repressive approach to Turkey's Kurds, which placed the Islamists on the side of societal reconciliation and non-violence in the minds of many voters. Fahmy Howeydi begins with the stark contrast between honest elections (Turkey) and the fixed, dishonest elections in Arab countries like Egypt (a point also made by judge Noha al-Zayni in al-Mesryoon), and the high levels of popular participation in and enthusiasm for the electoral process. Like many others, Howeydi claims that the Turkish experience shows both that fears of Islamist electoral victories are overblown, while urging Islamists to learn the lesson that democracy and Islamism must go hand in hand.

Those writers and politicians who are currently hostile to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood (you know, the Axis of Pro-American Dictators Moderates crowd) seem to be at pains to focus on the distinctiveness of the Turkish case in order to show why what works there couldn't possibly work in, say, Egypt or Jordan (or else their editorialists just ignore it). One common move is to compare the AKP favorably to Hamas, contrasting the Turkish party's responsible behavior to the Palestinian party's actions in Gaza. Abdullah al-Iskander, writing in al-Hayat, argues that Arab Islamist parties can't really be compared to the AKP because unlike the Turkish party they continue to cling to outdated ideological concepts and historical narratives. Noting that the AKP never deviated for even a minute from the law or the Constitution, despite their strong popular support, Iskander seems skeptical that Arab Islamist parties would show such restraint. Tareq al-Homayed, editor of al-Sharq al-Awsat, argues that for the AKP to live up to its pretensions to be the "first rational Islamist party" it has to, well, not do anything Islamist because that would provoke a military response and prove that the AKP is no better than Hamas (for Homayed it would necessarily be the AKP's fault if it "forces" the Turkish military to step in and abolish democracy - she was asking for it, after all; as always it's a rib-tickling delight to see a Saudi editor warning against Islamists in government!). The Jordanian Saleh al-Qullab, writing in al-Rai, suggests that the AKP offers a model of Islam as moderate, enlightened, and rational whose success should be welcomed, while Arab Islamism is represented by bin Laden and Zawahiri - thereby erasing the mainstream Muslim Brotherhood from the picture entirely.

The Turkish election and its aftermath will continue to reverberate in Arab political discourse for a while. It's a good chance for the US and the West to try to show that it isn't comprehensively hostile to Islamist parties - an uphill battle after it ignored the Egyptian government's repression of the Muslim Brotherhood after it performed well in the Egyptian elections, and boycotted and worked to undermine the Hamas government after it won the Palestinian elections. I've no doubt that the Arab and Islamist arguments over how to interpret these elections have only just begun, and will bear following.

Al-Qaeda Threatens from Pakistan,0,634915.story
Al-Qaida Threatens From Pakistan
July 31, 2007

The National Intelligence Estimate released July 17 put the problem plainly enough: Al-Qaida has "regenerated key elements of its Homeland attack capability" using a new safe haven in the lawless frontier area of northwest Pakistan known as Waziristan.

The question is: What is the United States going to do about it?

For those who might have forgotten in the six years since Sept. 11, 2001, what a reconstituted al-Qaida could do, the intelligence analysts explained that the terrorist group has "the goal of producing mass casualties, visually dramatic destruction, significant economic aftershocks and/or fear among the U.S. population." The analysts noted that al-Qaida continues to seek biological, radiological and nuclear weapons "and would not hesitate to use them."

Perhaps it is human nature not to see threats clearly until a disaster actually happens - even if it's the second time around. How else to explain the limited public response to this clear and emphatic warning? Maybe the Bush administration has cried wolf about terrorism so often that people have stopped believing anything the government says. Or maybe the whole subject is now obscured by the choking fog of Iraq, as in the president's mind-numbing formulation of the threat: "They are al-Qaida ... in ... Iraq."

But the question remains: What should the United States do about al-Qaida's new safe haven in Pakistan, from which it may already be plotting attacks that could kill thousands of Americans? It is Sept. 10, metaphorically, with a little increment of time still remaining. We can see "the looming tower," to borrow the title of Lawrence Wright's fine book. But how do we stop the airplanes?

The Bush administration will attack "actionable targets anywhere in the world, putting aside whether it was Pakistan or anyplace else," warned Frances Fragos Townsend, the White House homeland security adviser. That drew the predictable indignant response from the Pakistani government, which doesn't want to go after the al-Qaida cells in Waziristan, but doesn't want anyone else to do it, either.

So again, what should the United States do? The lesson of 9/11 is that it's necessary to act decisively. But the lesson of Iraq is that unwise actions can make the terrorism problem worse. Which course is right?

The best answer I've heard comes from Henry Crumpton, a former CIA officer who was one of the heroes of the agency's campaign to destroy al-Qaida's safe haven in Afghanistan in late 2001. After retiring from the CIA in 2005, he served as the State Department's coordinator for counterterrorism. He resigned from State in April and is now a fellow at the EastWest Institute and a private consultant.

Crumpton argues that the United States must take preventive action, but that it should do so carefully, through proxies wherever possible. The right model for a Waziristan campaign is the CIA-led operation in Afghanistan, not the U.S. military invasion of Iraq. Teams of CIA officers and Special Forces soldiers are best suited to work with tribal leaders, providing them weapons and money to fight an al-Qaida network that has implanted itself brutally in Waziristan through the assassination of more than 100 tribal leaders during the past six years. It would be better to conduct such operations jointly with Pakistan, but if the government of Gen. Pervez Musharraf can't or won't cooperate, then the U.S. should be prepared to go it alone, Crumpton argues.

"The United States has an obligation to defend itself and its citizens," says Crumpton. "We either do it now, or we do it after the next attack."

Crumpton proposed a detailed plan last year for rolling up these sanctuaries, which he called the "Regional Strategic Initiative." It would combine economic assistance and paramilitary operations in a broad counterinsurgency campaign. In Waziristan, U.S. and Pakistani operatives would give tribal warlords guns and money, to be sure, but they would coordinate this covert action with economic aid to help tribal leaders operate their local stone quarries more efficiently, say, or install windmills and solar panels to generate electric power for their remote mountain villages.

Intervening in another Muslim country is risky, to put it mildly. That's why a successful counterinsurgency program would need Pakistani support, and why its economic and social development components would be critical. The concept should be President Kennedy's "Alliance for Progress" to counter radicalism in Latin America, rather than "Operation Iraqi Freedom."

The United States can begin to take action now against al-Qaida's new safe haven. Or we can wait and hope that we don't get hit again. The biggest danger of waiting is that if retaliation proves necessary later, it could be ill-planned and heavy-handed - precisely what got us in trouble in Iraq.

David Ignatius is a syndicated writer in Washington.

Editorial: Democracy and religious extremism

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Editorial: Democracy and religious extremism

If there is going to be a “deal” between the PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto and President General Pervez Musharraf, the issue of the uniform has to be resolved. Ms Bhutto says she is not ready to support a uniformed president at any cost. This is understandable. Given the anti-Musharraf mood in the country, she simply cannot risk alienating her passionately pro-democracy and anti-military vote bank

Some leaders from the ruling PML have welcomed the possibility of an “understanding” between Ms Bhutto and the president; others have not, insisting that if a deal is to be made it should be made with the entire opposition, not with the PPP alone. Clearly President Musharraf’s party is not taking the current moves kindly even though the president may have taken “clearance” from its top leadership before going to Abu Dhabi. This suggests a possible pattern of PML “reaction” if the deal goes through: a group could pack its bags and try to move back to the PMLN even though the “parent” party has vowed it will not accept its “lotas” back. The others would stay on and try to undermine any possible working arrangement with the PPP.

There are reasons why President Musharraf has to talk to the PPP and why he can’t talk to the other parties, meaning the PMLN and the MMA. The PPP is the only party in the opposition that has accepted the “fact” of terrorism and extremism in Pakistan. It has supported him on the Lal Masjid operation when some ministers of his own PML were in two minds about it. He can’t talk to the PMLN and the MMA because their take on terrorism is different from his and because they are opposed to the counter-terrorism policies that Pakistan must adopt if it has to survive. If the hope among the PML leaders is that talking to the entire opposition will dissuade him from his campaign against terrorism, it is counter-productive as it strikes at the root of the justification for going on ruling as the ruling party.

Ms Bhutto’s conviction that President Musharraf should take off his uniform if he wants to continue as president derives strength from the fact that the Supreme Court is most likely to strike down the rather nebulous legal justification given for his getting re-elected, uniform and all, from the current assemblies. The president must have realised that if she doesn’t do it, the rest of the opposition will go to the Supreme Court on the question with public acclaim. This is now his weakness and he has seen how the apex court decided to “go with the people” on the question of the dismissal of the Chief Justice

Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. There is therefore no reason for him to contest the offer that he become a “civilian” president after leaving the rank of army chief.

The opposition wants him out. Its leaders are saying he can’t stay on as president — in other words, he can’t be helped into another term by the PPP — after retiring from the army because the law and army rules debar him from politics for two years in any case. But the “pro-PPP-deal” leaders within the ruling PML think that this hurdle too can be removed through an amendment of the Constitution.

Whatever the polemic of continuation may be, the fact is that President Musharraf has entered his weakest phase — which might conceivably be terminal — and has done little providentially to head it off. He lacked political support for his anti-terrorist operations, but instead of reaching out for it from across the floor he has consistently painted himself into a corner. The point of all negotiation is that it be undertaken from a position of relative strength. He didn’t do it when he was strong; now he has to run the gauntlet of accepting conditions when he is at his weakest ever.

For Pakistan, democracy is important, but even more important than that is the extirpation of terrorism and its parallel governance. What if Pakistan should get its democracy but the political parties that ride its crest are not interested in fighting the unavoidable war against the combination of Al Qaeda and the Taliban? Relying chiefly on negotiations from a position of weakness, they will go on making concessions to the terrorists in the hope of “mainstreaming” them, a strategy that has failed so resoundingly in the past that it would be criminal to take that route all over again. In this process, of course the MMA will feel empowered, but the supporters of the PMLN may become alienated and entire populations, propelled by feelings of insecurity, may change their outlook on the state itself. Equally, while the representatives of Pakistan’s sub-nationalisms are now on the side of the combined opposition in order to get rid of the army, but what if they should opt to leave Pakistan on the basis of their separatist beliefs based on the “states” in the 1940 Lahore Resolution.

Under the circumstances, if a clerically sponsored transformation of the state takes place under “democracy”, large swathes of territory could become interested in opting out of the state. Indeed, if there is an exodus of populations incapable of bearing the brunt of the sort of Islamic “reforms” already promised in the NWFP, Sindhi and Baloch leaders may appeal to neighbouring states for help. This is an extreme scenario but is a logical consequence of the supremacy of the clergy fortified with Al Qaeda “monopoly of violence”. That is also the only way Al Qaeda can survive in the world.

Al Qaeda wants Pakistan as its headquarters, nuclear weapons and all. Its leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has found the going tough in Iraq and Somalia, but in Pakistan almost the entire nation hates America and is in denial about Al Qaeda’s presence in the country. Therefore let us be clear about the relationship of democracy and the war against extremism. It is crucial that democracy should return to Pakistan. It is equally crucial to fight the war against religious extremism. Therefore if democracy is to return to Pakistan it should pledge to accept the challenge of fighting Al Qaeda and its extremist allies in this country. *