December 01, 2009

Rejecting Westocentrism

December 1, 2009

In a meeting with a distinguished group of female Philippines journalists (editors, op- ed writers, major TV hosts) in Manila last week, I found out that their questions about the Arab world, the Arab-Israeli conflict, the conditions in Palestine, Iraq and Iran, are based on information obtained from western media. I saw the surprise on their faces when I rephrased their questions from an Arab, or rather realistic, view of events on the ground, and as lived by the peoples of these countries. A short while after the beginning of the meeting, I discovered that the journalists, who cannot be described as hostile to Arab rights and causes, do not know anything about the Arab perspective of any of the issues covered by western media which base their coverage on the Israeli versions of reality, terminology and view of things.

The first question was how I would compare the condition of Arab women with the achievements of western women in terms of rights, independence and freedom. I was also asked whether all Arab women still wear all-covering gowns and about the ratio of men who marry more than one wife. When a well-known political editor asked about our position towards Iran’s nuclear activities and the problems the west is facing with Iran, I asked her whether she knew that Iran was a signatory of the NPT which allows it to possess nuclear knowledge and peaceful nuclear power, while Israel is not a signatory of the NPT, possesses over 200 nuclear heads, occupies Arab land by force and kills Palestinians and expels them from their villages and cities on a daily basis and builds settlements on the ruins of Palestinian homes, history and civilization.

There was no question about the Gaza blockade which has turned into a policy of genocide in the 21st century which, South African lawyers acknowledge, has become worse than the apartheid that prevailed in South Africa in the 20th century. Neither was there a question about the Goldstone report and the thousands of crimes committed by Israel in Gaza, nor on secret Israeli jails which have within their walls 3,000 Palestinians since 2000 and in which extremely serious crimes against Palestinian prisoners are committed under international silence. Lawyers and the ICRC are not even allowed to know where the prisons are. Israeli occupation troops use the most brutal methods of torture against prisoners, including physical abuse and rape. There were no questions about Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes on a daily basis, building settlements on the ruins of these homes and turning the Palestinians into refugees on and outside their land. There were no questions about the effects of the American occupation of Iraq which left over a million widows and more than two million orphans.

While I tried to answer questions with information and facts about Arab rights and the crimes committed by Israel since 1948 against Arabs as a result of a Zionist settler strategy, targeting intellectuals in Iraq and the disasters caused to the country as a result of brutal occupation, I acknowledged to the journalists that I do not blame them for the lack of facts in their questions because western media are the only conduit between east and west,

I wondered about what we all know about Afghanistan, for instance, and what is happening in it and in Pakistan except through western media. What do Arabs know about China, India and Russia; and what do these countries know about Arabs except through western media? In a moment of real dialogue, we agreed that this is the most dangerous thing about the international condition in the modern age. We also agreed that changing this reality should be a priority for countries of the east and the south.

For instance, can one imagine that the most popular books in the International Islamic Book Fair, held in New Delhi recently, were about divorce, terrorism and banking? If we take into account that most of these books have been written either in the United States or the United Kingdom, we realize the danger of reproducing the western evaluation and image of Islam and Muslims themselves, which means that they look at themselves, at their religion and culture in a western mirror.

What are we supposed to make of Barbie wearing the veil and chador on her 50th anniversary in a charity auction in Florence, Italy. The rationale of the exhibition was that it was essential for girls throughout the world to feel free to express their real image. The fact of the matter was enhancement of the image of the veil and chador as the only image for Muslim women, reducing them to an appearance considered by the west an evidence of injustice to women in the Muslim world and their inability to be effective, respectable members of their society.

Talking about the importance of cultural dialogue and the ignorance which characterizes people’s understanding of their civilizations and the events taking place on their land, Philippines specialists pointed out that Spanish colonialism which lasted over 300 years left no clear cultural influence which forces dependence on Spanish culture [apparently Catholicism was not considered], while American colonialism, which lasted only 50 years, left cultural, educational and institutional dependence which is difficult to break. It can be argued that neo-colonialism in the 21st century is cultural and western by nature, and that the Arabs, who, in the past, gave the world extremely important discoveries in all sciences are the most prominent victims of this colonialism. The Arabic language is being subjected to unprecedented neglect, and local intellectual production which expresses the Arab condition and Arab issues in an attractive manner is at its lowest level.

Regional groupings could be one of the effective responses to ‘westrocentrism’; and communication between these groupings in the future will be the real breakthrough out of westrocentrism and replacing it at least with a multi-polar world where countries of the world restore their status, sense of importance and their contribution to the progress and prosperity of humanity. ASEAN has lifted visa restrictions between its member states and opened up free trade and active economic, cultural and political exchange between its countries. Latin American countries are setting up a cultural, economic and political space resistant to American hegemony which used to consider the countries of Latin America its backyard. Most countries of the world are waking up from their fascination with the English language and are restoring the prestige of their local languages in education and the production of culture and knowledge. Look at Brazil’s president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, receiving Iran’s president despite western ire against this step which is a clear expression of self confidence and independence of western hegemony.

The question is: when will the Arabs see that their salvation lies in cherishing and protecting their language and producing science and knowledge in this language. And when will they see that creating a regional bloc with the Arabs as a major player is the only salvation of the Arab future and integration into the new world order in which the countries of Asia and Latin America are gaining real independence intellectually, scientifically, politically and economically.

There is no doubt that real independence lies in abandoning the western mirror in which we misconceive ourselves and, instead, in communicating with others who share our goal in order to produce a future in which all components of human civilization flourish far away from westrocentrism based on extermination of indigenous peoples, pillaging the wealth of the planet for the benefit of western countries and pushing the rest of humanity into the cycle of poverty and inactivity.

The thousand-mile-trip starts with one step; and the first step is to break this mirror and look instead in the color of the soil of our countries and the faces of our children, and expressing ourselves in our language and putting trust in our thought, causes and our capability to be real contributors to the prosperity of humanity and to the protecting of human freedom and dignity.

Bouthaina Shaaban is Political and Media Advisor at the Syrian Presidency, and former Minister of Expatriates. She is also a writer and professor at Damascus University since 1985. She has been the spokesperson for Syria and was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. She can be reached through

Obama's exceedingly familiar justifications for escalation

December 1, 2009

In order to prepare Americans for Obama's Afghanistan escalation speech tonight at West Point (at least he's not wearing a fighter pilot costume), White House officials have been dispatched to speak to the media (anonymously, of course) to preview all of the new and exciting aspects of the President's plan. As a result, media accounts are filled with claims that there are major changes ordered by Obama that will transform our approach there.

But to anyone with a memory that extends back for more than a few weeks, all of this seems anything but new. In December, 2007, George Bush delivered a speech to the nation announcing his escalation in Iraq -- that one only 20,000 troops, compared to the 30,000-40,000 Obama has ordered for Afghanistan. It's worthwhile to compare what Obama officials are excitedly featuring as new and innovative ideas with what Bush said; I'm not comparing the Iraq and Afghan escalations: only the rhetoric used to justify them.

ABC News: "While tomorrow night's speech will have many audiences ... a senior administration official tells ABC News one key message will resonate with all of them: 'The era of the blank check for President Karzai is over. . . The president will talk about, this not being 'an open ended commitment'..." Bush:

I have made it clear to the Prime Minister and Iraq's other leaders that America's commitment is not open-ended. If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people -- and it will lose the support of the Iraqi people. Now is the time to act.

The Afghan leader has heard our ultimatum and understands it ("The president was described as heartened to hear that Karzai spent much of his inaugural address discussing corruption"). Bush:

The Prime Minister understands this. Here is what he told his people just last week: "The Baghdad security plan will not provide a safe haven for any outlaws, regardless of their sectarian or political affiliation."

The Afghan government will have strict benchmarks they must meet (Gibbs: "the new strategy will include many of the same benchmarks, but with ramifications to US support to Karzai and his government if they are not met"). Bush:

A successful strategy for Iraq goes beyond military operations. Ordinary Iraqi citizens must see that military operations are accompanied by visible improvements in their neighborhoods and communities. So America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced.

We're going to ensure that Afghan troops are trained to provide the security which the country needs (Gibbs: "the goal and the purpose of the strategy is to train an Afghan national security force, comprised of an Afghan national army and a police that can fight an unpopular insurgency in Afghanistan so that we can then transfer that security responsibility appropriately back to the Afghans"). Bush:

Our troops will have a well-defined mission: To help Iraqis clear and secure neighborhoods, to help them protect the local population, and to help ensure that the Iraqi forces left behind are capable of providing the security that Baghdad needs. . . . We will help the Iraqis build a larger and better-equipped army -- and we will accelerate the training of Iraqi forces, which remains the essential U.S. security mission in Iraq.

We're going to have a strategy based on funding and strengthening local leaders ("much of it will be targeted at local governments at the province and district level, and at specific ministries, such as those devoted to Afghan security"). Bush:

We will give our commanders and civilians greater flexibility to spend funds for economic assistance. We will double the number of provincial reconstruction teams. These teams bring together military and civilian experts to help local Iraqi communities pursue reconciliation, strengthen moderates, and speed the transition to Iraqi self reliance.

If we don't escalate, Al Qaeda will get us ("The focus of the new strategy, sources say, will be going after al Qaeda and affiliated extremists"). Bush:

As we make these changes, we will continue to pursue al Qaeda and foreign fighters. Al Qaeda is still active in Iraq. Its home base is Anbar Province. Al Qaeda has helped make Anbar the most violent area of Iraq outside the capital. A captured al Qaeda document describes the terrorists' plan to infiltrate and seize control of the province. This would bring al Qaeda closer to its goals of taking down Iraq's democracy, building a radical Islamic empire and launching new attacks on the United States at home and abroad.

We must fulfill our moral responsibility to stand with the Afghan people. Bush:

From Afghanistan to Lebanon to the Palestinian Territories, millions of ordinary people are sick of the violence and want a future of peace and opportunity for their children. And they are looking at Iraq. They want to know: Will America withdraw and yield the future of that country to the extremists -- or will we stand with the Iraqis who have made the choice for freedom?

Obama's decision came only after serious and careful deliberations on all the competing options (ABC: "The decision comes after months of discussions and deliberations with the president's national security team"). Bush:

Our new approach comes after consultations with Congress about the different courses we could take in Iraq. Many are concerned that the Iraqis are becoming too dependent on the United States -- and therefore, our policy should focus on protecting Iraq's borders and hunting down al Qaeda. Their solution is to scale back America's efforts in Baghdad or announce the phased withdrawal of our combat forces. We carefully considered these proposals. And we concluded that to step back now would force a collapse of the Iraqi government, tear that country apart, and result in mass killings on an unimaginable scale. Such a scenario would result in our troops being forced to stay in Iraq even longer, and confront an enemy that is even more lethal. If we increase our support at this crucial moment, and help the Iraqis break the current cycle of violence, we can hasten the day our troops begin coming home.

To keep the asthetics the same, we even have Michael O'Hanlon leading the way, as always, providing the Serious Expertise to justify further war.

This is all to be expected. Ostensible justifications for war are more or less universal, as is the familiar mix of fear, claims of moral necessity (and superiority), and appeals to patriotism and military love that are always hauled out to justify their continuation and escalation. Beyond that, Bush's escalation was based on many of the same counter-insurgency dogmas in which Obama's escalation is grounded, designed by many of the same people. So it's anything but surprising that it all sounds remarkably similar. And it's possible that once we hear the actual speech, rather than the White House's coordinated depiction of it, that there will be new elements.

Still, this pretense that Obama spent months carefully deliberating in order to devise some new and exotic thought pattern about the war seems absurd on its face. At least if his top aides are to believed, what he intends to say tonight should sound extremely familiar.

* * * * *

In The Guardian yesterday, the courageous Malalai Joya -- who might actually deserve the Nobel Peace Prize -- explains why escalation and ongoing occupation are so devastating for her country.

And on that note: Obama is scheduled to receive his Nobel Peace Prize next week in Oslo. No matter your views on Afghanistan, and no matter your views on whether he deserved the Prize, is there anyone who disputes that there is some obvious tension between his escalating this war and his receiving this Prize? Unless one believes that War is Peace, how could there not be?

UPDATE: The most bizarre defense of Obama's escalation is also one of the most common: since he promised during the campaign to escalate in Afghanistan, it's unfair to criticize him for it now -- as though policies which are advocated during a campaign are subsequently immunized from criticism. For those invoking this defense: in 2004, Bush ran for re-election by vowing to prosecute the war in Iraq, keep Guantanamo opened, and privatize Social Security. When he won and then did those things (or tried to), did you refrain from criticizing those policies on the ground that he promised to do them during the campaign? I highly doubt it.

Pockets of rot

  • by Martin Hutchinson
  • November 30, 2009
  • Excerpts
Beyond Dubai... there are a number of other areas that on closer inspection appear to be patches of rot that will eventually collapse, causing immense losses to those involved in them... there is undoubtedly rot in the green-tech bubble of the past few years.

Quite apart from the question of whether the entire global warming extravaganza was a gigantic hoax, as now seems possible (probably not entirely, but its over-inflation certainly was), the companies set up using readily available pools of over-excited venture capital don't look like ordinary youthful tech ventures. Instead of their "footprint" expanding inexorably like Google's until it seems about to take over the world, it has remained stubbornly modest, with their margins remaining slender and their revenues heavily dependent on new research grants from various government "stimuli" and other non-market sources. That suggests that the oxygen of genuine and explosively expanding demand for their products and services simply is not there; they will limp along at marginal profitability as long as the money lasts, but will then collapse altogether leaving no permanent results other than investor losses and the wrecked career prospects of their unfortunate ex-employees.


New Israeli military unit to fight enemies on Facebook, Twitter

Brig. Gen. Avi Benayahu (Archive)
By Anshel Pfeffer and Gili Izikovich, Haaretz

The Israel Defense Forces Spokesman's Office is to begin drafting computer experts with an eye toward establishing an Internet and new media department unit, Army Spokesman Brig. Gen. Avi Benayahu said Monday.

Speaking at the Eilat Journalists Conference, Benayahu said the new department would focus on the Internet's social media networks mainly to reach an international audience directly rather than through the regular media.

The new unit, as well as an initiative by the Information and Diaspora Ministry to train people to represent Israel independently on the Internet and in other arenas, were presented Monday at the conference during a panel discussion on Israeli public relations abroad.

Responding to criticism of Israel's ability to face hostile entities on the Web, Benayahu said the new program would be able to deal with the problem. He said that from each group drafted to the Army Spokesman's Office, between eight to 10 young people who are experts in Web 2.0 - YouTube, Facebook and Twitter - to be identified before induction, would be assigned to the new department. The new recruits would be put to work in the new media unit after undergoing a general Army Spokesman's Unit training course.

Benayahu told Haaretz the new program would be up and running in a few months.

The Army Spokesman's Office began working in this area more than a year ago. During Operation Cast Lead it put up YouTube videos of attacks on targets in the Gaza Strip, to illustrate the care the IDF takes to avoid hitting civilians. One such clip showed how the pilot of an IDF helicopter diverted a missile that had been fired at a target when it was realized civilians had entered the target area.

The head of communications at the Army Spokesman's office, Col. Ofer Kol, said they wanted to reach "mainly an international audience that is less exposed to operational processes. Foreign media do more 'zooming-in' and so it's important to us to show the totality of IDF actions without a filter."

The IDF YouTube account got millions of hits during Operation Cast Lead, which led to the decision to expand activity at the site and other social network Web sites. The IDF hopes to show other sides of the army less familiar to the world, such as women's service.

The Spokesman's Office has also contacted bloggers who are known as opinion-makers and sent them information and pictures directly.

November 30, 2009

The crazy, irrational beliefs of Muslims

November 29, 2009

Tom Friedman, The New York Times, today:

Major Hasan may have been mentally unbalanced -- I assume anyone who shoots up innocent people is.

Tom Friedman, The Charlie Rose Show, May 30, 2003:

ROSE: Now that the war is over, and there's some difficulty with the peace, was it worth doing?

FRIEDMAN: I think it was unquestionably worth doing, Charlie. I think that, looking back, I now certainly feel I understand more what the war was about . . . . What we needed to do was go over to that part of the world, I'm afraid, and burst that bubble. We needed to go over there basically, and take out a very big stick, right in the heart of that world, and burst that bubble. . . .

And what they needed to see was American boys and girls going from house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, and basically saying: which part of this sentence do you understand? You don't think we care about our open society? . . . . Well, Suck. On. This. That, Charlie, was what this war was about.

We could have hit Saudi Arabia. It was part of that bubble. Could have hit Pakistan. We hit Iraq because we could. That's the real truth.

Tom Friedman, NPR's Talk of the Nation, September 23, 2003 (via NEXIS):

That's what I believe ultimately this war was about. And guess what? People there got the message, OK, in the neighborhood. This is a rough neighborhood, and sometimes it takes a 2-by-4 across the side of the head to get that message.

* * * * *

Tom Friedman can declare with a straight face that "anyone who shoots up innocent people is ... mentally imbalanced" without seeing how clearly that applies to himself and those who think like he does. It's that self-absorbed disconnect -- seeing Hasan's murder of American soldiers as an act of consummate evil and sickness while refusing to see our own acts in a similar light -- that shapes most of our warped political discourse. And note the morality on display here: Hasan attacks soldiers on a military base of a country that has spent the last decade screaming to the world that "we're at war!!," and that's a deranged and evil act, while Friedman cheers for an unprovoked war that killed hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians and displaced millions more -- all justified by sick power fantasies, lame Mafia dialogue, and cravings more appropriate for a porno film than a civilized foreign policy -- and he's the arbiter of Western reason and sanity.

But even worse is the glaring dishonesty driving everything Friedman writes here. Our perpetual war cheerleader today laments that there is a "Narrative" plaguing the Muslim world that is a "cocktail of half-truths, propaganda and outright lies about America." These crazy, stupid, irrational Muslims seem to believe "that America has declared war on Islam, as part of a grand 'American-Crusader-Zionist conspiracy' to keep Muslims down," when the reality is that "U.S. foreign policy has been largely dedicated to rescuing Muslims or trying to help free them from tyranny." They see devastating attacks launched by the U.S. and Israel collectively on six Muslim countries in the last decade (including Gaza) -- all of which Friedman (along with his fellow Muslim-condemning NYT colleague) supported, naturally -- and those Muslims simply refuse to understand why they deserved it and why it was all for their own Good. According to Friedman, these benighted Muslims simply refuse to see the truth: that our two post-9/11 wars were "primarily to destroy two tyrannical regimes -- the Taliban and the Baathists -- and to work with Afghans and Iraqis to build a different kind of politics."

Six months into the war, Friedman proudly proclaimed that "the real truth" was that we invaded Iraq to take out our "big stick" and tell them to "Suck On This," to take a 2-by-4 across their heads, and that we attacked them "because we could." In his 2003 explanation with Charlie Rose, did he even mention what he now claims was the war's "primary" purpose: "to destroy two tyrannical regimes ... and to work with Afghans and Iraqis to build a different kind of politics"? No. In a very rare moment of candor for this rank war-loving propagandist, he announced very clearly the real purpose of the war, only for him to now turn around and accuse Muslims of being blind and hateful because they heard his message loud and clear, and because they don't express enough gratitude for all the gracious Freedom Bombs we've dropped -- and continue to drop -- on their homes, their villages, their families, their children and their society. Apparently, they heard deranged, chest-beating bellowing like this from America's Top Foreign Policy Expert and took it seriously:

No, the axis-of-evil idea isn't thought through -- but that's what I like about it. It says to these countries and their terrorist pals: ''We know what you're cooking in your bathtubs. We don't know exactly what we're going to do about it, but if you think we are going to just sit back and take another dose from you, you're wrong. Meet Don Rumsfeld -- he's even crazier than you are.''

There is a lot about the Bush team's foreign policy I don't like, but their willingness to restore our deterrence, and to be as crazy as some of our enemies, is one thing they have right. It is the only way we're going to get our turkey back.

It's certainly true that -- as all government leaders do -- Muslim tyrants and radical Islamists exploit foreign threats to distract attention from their own shortcomings and entrench themselves in power. Being able to depict the U.S. as a war-mongering and aggressive threat to the Muslim world is a benefit to oppressive Arab leaders as well as radical Muslim groups. But nobody fuels that message more than the Tom Friedmans of the world, whose hate-mongering words and bloodthirsty policies endow that message with more than a sufficient amount of truth.

Obama's "decision"

Left i on the news
November 30, 2009

President Obama and the media want the American people to think that Obama has been agonizing over the Afghanistan "decision," considering things carefully. No doubt there are some details that were in question. But a feature on CNN today put the lie to the whole story - troops in Afghanistan have already been working overtime, preparing huge new expansions of the bases and other infrastructure necessary to support the increase in troops.

The "agony" of the decision was just for the suckers in the cheap seats. Mainly the liberals still harboring illusions in Obama, and maybe the Nobel Prize Committee who could still revoke his "Peace" prize before they actually hand it to him.

Palestinians organize for the Gaza Freedom March

Rami Almeghari, The Electronic Intifada, 30 November 2009

Mustafa al-Kayali
"From the besieged Gaza Strip, we call upon all peace lovers around the globe to come here to participate in our Gaza Freedom March that is aimed at breaking a repressive Israeli blockade on Gaza's 1.5 million residents." So said Mustafa al-Kayali, coordinator of the steering committee for the Gaza Freedom March.

The march is scheduled to depart by 31 December from Izbet Abed Rabbo, an area devastated during last winter's Israeli assault, and head towards Erez, the crossing point to Israel at the northern end of the Gaza Strip.

"For the past several months, since the 22-day long Israeli war on Gaza came to an end on 18 January 2009, we in the steering committee that represents civil society organizations here in Gaza, have been planning to organize such a march in an attempt to end the crippling three-year-long Israeli blockade on the coastal enclave," al-Kayali explained.

What makes this planned demonstration different is the fact it will include about a thousand participants from all over the world including about 800 people from the United States itself. Many of the American participants include members of the American pro-peace group, Code Pink.

The march is timed to coincide with the first anniversary of the devastating Israeli attack that killed more than 1,400 Palestinians in Gaza, the vast majority civilians. By heading towards Erez, organizers wish to highlight Israel's responsibility for the siege, a point emphasized in the UN-commissioned Goldstone report that found Israel responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity. "Erez is the main gate from Gaza to the Israeli apartheid state," al-Kayali said, "so marching there is also a signal of rejection by internationals of the actions of the Israeli apartheid regime."

Several civil society organizations are supporting the Gaza Freedom March, including the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), the International Campaign for Breaking the Israeli Siege, the Palestinian Workers Syndicate, the Sharek Youth Forum and the Palestinian Network of Nongovernmental Organizations (PNGO).

Dima al-Meshal
Dima al-Meshal of the Sharek Youth Forum in Gaza has been helping to publicize the Gaza Freedom March among youth groups in Gaza.

A student of medicine, al-Meshal said that the march is a reflection of the Palestinian people's determination to get rid of the Israeli repression through peaceful means.

"We will highlight Gaza's condition as a whole," al-Meshal said. "We have a message that we are a people who are in need to live in dignity. This is the first time ever that the Palestinians come together in [such] large numbers along with internationals to say no to repression."

Young people in Gaza are first and foremost motivated for "better lives and better futures. We don't care about food or anything else. I want to live normally, as many others around the world."

In recent months, people in Gaza believe the international community began to direct its attention elsewhere, neglecting the siege of Gaza. Few international media outlets pay attention to the situation here.

Al-Kayali hopes the march will begin to change that: "We call on the internationals who come here not to consider their visits as tourism. Rather, they should convey a real message from the ground to their peoples, organizations or governments."

Since January 2009, several international campaigns have attempted to come to Gaza in solidarity. About four boats, sailed by the Free Gaza Movement, managed to sail to Gaza, yet last summer the Israeli occupation authorities intercepted a further attempt, blocking the boat's arrival into the besieged coastal enclave.

According to organizers of the Gaza Freedom March, international participants will enter through the Rafah crossing terminal on the Gaza-Egypt border line in the southern Gaza Strip.

"Most of local youth with whom I talked over the Gaza Freedom March expressed excitement and enthusiasm for participation," al-Kayali said. "They are keen to send a message to the outside world that the Palestinian people are there and that humans should be united for the sake of freedom."

All images by Rami Almeghari.

Rami Almeghari is a journalist and university lecturer based in the Gaza Strip.

Global Warming: "Fixing the Climate Data around the Policy"

by Michel Chossudovsky
November 30, 2009

More than 15,000 people will be gathering in Copenhagen for COP 15: the 15th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Official delegations from 192 nations will mingle with the representatives of major multinational corporations, including Royal Dutch Shell, British Petroleum, The representatives of environmental and civil society organizations will also be in attendance. Parties & Observers

Heads of state and heads of government are slated to be in appearance in the later part of the Summit event. (See The essentials in Copenhagen - COP15 United Nations Climate Change Conference Copenhagen 2009)

It is worth noting that key decisions and orientations on COP15 had already wrapped up at the World Business Summit on Climate Change (WBSCC) held in May in Copenhagen. The WBSCC brought together some of the World's most prominent business executives and World leaders including Al Gore and UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. (The World Business Summit on Climate Change, includes webcast)

The results of these high level consultations were forwarded to the Danish government as well as to the governments of participating member states. A so-called summary report for policymakers was drafted by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, on behalf the corporate executives participating in the event. This report has very little to do with environmental protection. It largely consists in proposing a profit driven agenda, which uses the global warming consensus as a justification.
(For details see

"The underlying ambition of the Summit was to address the twin challenges of climate change and the economic crisis. Participants at the Summit considered how these risks can be turned into opportunity if business and governments work together, and what policies, incentives, and investments will most effectively stimulate low-carbon growth." (Copenhagen Climate Council)

The agenda of the Copenhagen Climate Summit (7-18 December 2009), is upheld both by the governments, the business executives and the NGO community as "one of the most significant gatherings in history. It is being called the most complex and vital agreement the world has ever seen."

CO2 emissions are heralded as the single and most important threat to the future of humanity.

The focus of the Summit is on strictly environmental issues. No mention of the word "war" --i.e. the US-NATO led war and its devastating environmental consequences.

No mention of the pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons as an instrument of "peacemaking".

No mention, as part of an environmental debate, of the radioactive fallout resulting from the Pentagon's humanitarian nuclear bombs. Tactical nuclear weapons, according to scientific opinion commissioned by the Pentagon are "safe for the surrounding civilian population".

No mention of "weather warfare" or "environmental modification techniques" (ENMOD) and climatic warfare.

No mention in the debate on climate change of the US Air Force 2025 project entitled "Owning the Weather" for military use. (See FAS, AF2025 v3c15-1 | Weather as a Force Multiplier: Owning... | (Ch 1) see also -- U.S. Military Wants to Own the Weather)

Despite a vast body of scientific knowledge, the issue of deliberate climatic manipulations for military use is no longer part of the UN agenda on climate change. It was, however, part of the agenda of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. (See Michel Chossudovsky, Environmental Warfare and Climate Change, Global Research, 27 November 2005, See also Michel Chossudovsky, Weather Warfare: Beware the US military’s experiments with climatic warfare, The Ecologist, December 2007 )

CO2 is the logo, which describes the Worldwide crisis. No other variable is contemplated.

The words "poverty", "unemployment" and "disease" resulting from a global economic depression are not a matter of emphasis because authoritative financial sources state unequivocally: "the economic recession is over".

And the war in the Middle East and Central Asia is not a war but "a humanitarian operation directed against terrorists and rogue states."

The Real Crisis

The Copenhagen Summit not only serves powerful corporate interests which have a stake in the global multibillion dollar carbon trading scheme, it also serves to divert public attention from the devastation resulting from the "real crisis" underlying the process of economic globalization and a profit driven war without borders, which the Pentagon calls "the long war".

We are at the crossroads of the most serious crisis in modern history. War and economic depression constitute the real crisis, yet both the governments and the media have focused their attention on the environmental devastation resulting from CO2 emissions, which is upheld as the greatest threat to humanity.

The Multibillion Dollar Carbon Trading System

The carbon trading system is a multibillion money-making bonanza for the financial establishment. The stakes are extremely high and the various lobby groups on behalf of Wall Street have already positioned themselves.

According to a recent report, "the carbon market could become double the size of the vast oil market, according to the new breed of City players who trade greenhouse gas emissions through the EU's emissions trading scheme... The speed of that growth will depend on whether the Copenhagen summit gives a go-ahead for a low-carbon economy, but Ager says whatever happens schemes such as the ETS will expand around the globe." (Terry Macalister, Carbon trading could be worth twice that of oil in next decade, The Guardian, 28 November 2009)

The large financial conglomerates, involved in derivative trade, including JP Morgan Chase, Bank America Merrill Lynch, Barclay's, Citi Bank, Nomura, Société Générale, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs are actively involved in carbon trading.( FACTBOX: Investment banks in carbon trading | Reuters, 14 September 2009)

The legitimacy of the carbon trading system rests on the legitimacy of Global Warming Consensus, which views CO2 emissions as the single threat to the environment. And for Wall Street the carbon trading system is a convenient and secure money-making safety-net, allowing for the transfer of billions of dollars into the pockets of a handful of conglomerates.

"Every major financial house in New York and London has set up carbon trading operations. Very big numbers are dancing in their heads, and they need them to replace the "wealth" that evaporated in the housing bust. Louis Redshaw, head of environmental markets at Barclays Capital, told the New York Times, "Carbon will be the world's biggest market over all." Barclays thinks the current $60 billion carbon market could grow to $1 trillion within a decade. Four years ago Redshaw, a former electricity trader, couldn't get anyone to talk to him about carbon." (Mark Braly, The Multibillion Dollar Carbon Trading,, 5 March 2008)

The Global Warming Data Base

Is the Global Warming Consensus based on reliable data?

There are indications that both the concepts and the data on temperature and greenhouse gas emissions including CO2 have been adjusted and shaped to fit the agenda of the UN Panel on Climate Change.

For several years, the claims of the UN Panel on Climate Change (UNPCC) including the data base have been questioned. (See Global Research's Climate Change Dossier: Archive of more than 100 articles)

Critical analysis of the climate change consensus has been conveyed in reports by several prominent scientists.

There has been, in this regard, a persistent attempt to silence the critics as conveyed in the writings of MIT meteorologist Richard S. Lindzen (See Richard Lindzen, Climate of Fear: Global-warming alarmists intimidate dissenting scientists into silence., Global Research, 7 April 2007)

Scientists who dissent from the alarmism have seen their grant funds disappear, their work derided, and themselves libelled as industry stooges, scientific hacks or worse. Consequently, lies about climate change gain credence even when they fly in the face of the science that supposedly is their basis. (Ibid)

ClimateGate and the Emails' Scandal

In November 2009, barely a few weeks before the inauguration of the Copenhagen Summit, a vast data bank of over 3000 email exchanges between key Climate Change scientists and researchers was revealed.

While the emails does not prove that the entire data was falsified, they nonetheless point to scientific dishonesty and deceit on the part of several prominent scientists who are directly linked to the UNPCC.

The emails suggest that the data was shaped, with a view to supporting a predetermined policy agenda. "Fixing the climate data to fit the policy" is modus operandi as revealed in the email messages of top scientists, directly linked to the work of the UN Panel on Climate Change?

The British media has acknowledged that the scientists were intent upon manipulating the data on Climate Change as well as excluding the critics:

[the comments below the quotes are by The Telegraph].

From: Phil Jones. To: Many. Nov 16, 1999
"I've just completed Mike's Nature [the science journal] trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie, from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith's to hide the decline."

Critics cite this as evidence that data was manipulated to mask the fact that global temperatures are falling. Prof Jones claims the meaning of "trick" has been misinterpreted

The IPCC is the UN body charged with monitoring climate change. The scientists did not want it to consider studies that challenge the view that global warming is genuine and man-made.

From: Kevin Trenberth (US National Center for Atmospheric Research). To: Michael Mann. Oct 12, 2009

"The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can't... Our observing system is inadequate"

Prof Trenberth appears to accept a key argument of global warming sceptics - that there is no evidence temperatures have increased over the past 10 years.

From: Phil Jones. To: Many. March 11, 2003
“I will be emailing the journal to tell them I’m having nothing more to do with it until they rid themselves of this troublesome editor.”

Prof Jones appears to be lobbying for the dismissal of the editor of Climate Research, a scientific journal that published papers downplaying climate change.

From Phil Jones. To: Michael Mann. Date: May 29, 2008
"Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4? Keith will do likewise."

Climate change sceptics tried to use Freedom of Information laws to obtain raw climate data submitted to an IPCC report known as AR4. The scientists did not want their email exchanges about the data to be made public.

From: Michael Mann. To: Phil Jones and Gabi Hegerl (University of Edinburgh). Date: Aug 10, 2004
"Phil and I are likely to have to respond to more crap criticisms from the idiots in the near future."

The scientists make no attempt to hide their disdain for climate change sceptics who request more information about their work

(University of East Anglia emails: the most contentious quotes - Telegraph, 23 November 2009).

The complete list of contentious emails can be consulted at Alleged CRU Emails - Searchable published by

What is significant is that the authors of the emails are directly involved in the UN Panel on Climate Change:

"[They are] the small group of scientists who have for years been more influential in driving the worldwide alarm over global warming than any others, not least through the role they play at the heart of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Professor Philip Jones, the CRU's director, is in charge of the two key sets of data used by the IPCC to draw up its reports. Through its link to the Hadley Centre, part of the UK Met Office, which selects most of the IPCC's key scientific contributors, his global temperature record is the most important of the four sets of temperature data on which the IPCC and governments rely – not least for their predictions that the world will warm to catastrophic levels unless trillions of dollars are spent to avert it.

Dr Jones is also a key part of the closely knit group of American and British scientists responsible for promoting that picture of world temperatures conveyed by Michael Mann's "hockey stick" graph which 10 years ago turned climate history on its head by showing that, after 1,000 years of decline, global temperatures have recently shot up to their highest level in recorded history. (Prof. Christopher Booker, Climate Change: This is the Worst Scientific Scandal of our Generation, The Telegraph, 28 November 2009)

One of the contentious emails by Dr Jones (published by points to the deliberate manipulation of the data:

Dear Ray, Mike and Malcolm,
Once Tim's got a diagram here we'll send that either later today or
first thing tomorrow.
I've just completed Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps
to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd from
1961 for Keith's to hide the decline. Mike's series got the annual
land and marine values while the other two got April-Sept for NH land
N of 20N. The latter two are real for 1999, while the estimate for 1999
for NH combined is +0.44C wrt 61-90. The Global estimate for 1999 with
data through Oct is +0.35C cf. 0.57 for 1998.
Thanks for the comments, Ray.


Prof. Phil Jones
Climatic Research Unit Telephone +44 xxx xxxx xxxx
School of Environmental Sciences Fax +44 xxx xxxx xxxx
University of East Anglia
Norwich Email

Source: Alleged CRU Emails - Searchable published by

US Congressional Probe

Barely two weeks before the inauguration of the Copenhagen Summit, the US Congress is now probing "the Global Warming Emails":

"U.S. congress has begun investigating climate scientists whose emails and documents were hacked into to see if their global warming theories have misrepresented the truth behind the cause of climate change.

Investigators have begun "studying" the 1,079 e-mails and over 3,800 documents that hackers stole last week from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at East Anglia University in the U.K, Rep. Darrel Issa from California told the Wall Street Journal.

Some of the leaked e-mails and files - which were posted on sites like and - show growing tensions between scientists and skeptics. Others are mundane announcements of upcoming conferences or research trips.

According to his website, Rep. James Inhofe from Oklahoma said on Monday the leaked correspondence suggested researchers "cooked the science to make this thing look as if the science was settled, when all the time of course we knew it was not."

The White House Science Adviser John Holdren has also come under investigation, after one of his emails written in 2003 to Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University, was hacked.

"I'm happy to stand by my contribution to this exchange. I think anybody who reads what I wrote in its entirety will find it a serious and balanced treatment of the question of 'burden of proof' in situations where science germane to public policy is in dispute," Holdren said.

Meanwhile, The University of East Anglia said it will cooperate with police and proceed with its own internal investigation. The University posted a statement calling the disclosure "mischievous" and saying it is aiding the police in an investigation.

The statement also quotes Jones, CRU's director, explaining his November 1999 e-mail, which said: "I've just completed Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (i.e. from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith's to hide the decline."

Jones said that the word trick was used "colloquially as in a clever thing to do" and that it "is ludicrous to suggest that it refers to anything untoward."

The leaked data comes just two weeks before the U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen will begin on Dec. 7 -18, when 192 nations will meet to discuss a solution on how to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases worldwide. (International Business Times, November 24, 2009)

Meanwhile, the "international community" (supported by the mainstream media) has launched a counteroffensive, accusing the critics of waging a smear campaign:

The chairman of the IPCC, Rajendra Pachauri, stood by his panel’s 2007 findings last week. That study is the foundation for a global climate response, including carbon emission targets proposed this week by both the US and China.

So far, climate scientists say nothing in the leaked emails [that] takes away from the fact that the climate change evidence is solid. In fact, a new study in the journal Science shows the polar ice cap melting is happening at a faster rate than predicted just a few years ago.

In a teleconference call with reporters this week, one of the scientists whose emails were leaked, Pennsylvania State University paleoclimatologist Michael Mann, said that “regardless of how cherry-picked” the emails are, there is “absolutely nothing in any of the emails that calls into the question the deep level of consensus of climate change.”


This is a “smear campaign to distract the public,” added Mann, a coauthor of the Copenhagen Diagnosis, the report on climate change released this week ahead of the Copenhagen. “Those opposed to climate action, simply don’t have the science on their side,” he added.

Professor Trevor Davies of the East Anglia CRU called the stolen data the latest example of a campaign intended “to distract from reasoned debate” about global climate change ahead of the Copenhagen summit. (As Copenhagen summit nears, ‘Climategate’ dogs global warming debate |, Christian Science Monitor, 28 November 2009, emphasis added)

But what is significant in this counteroffensive, is that the authenticity of the emails has not been challenged by the IPCC scientists.

The scientists are not saying "we did not do it". What they are saying is that the Global Warming Consensus holds irrespective of their actions to selectively manipulate the data as well as exclude the critics from the scientific debate on climate change.

What is the Stance of the Civil Society and Environmentalist Organizations

Civil society organisations are currently mobilizing with a view to pressuring the official governmental delegations:

"Two years ago, at a previous UN climate conference in Bali, all UN governments agreed on a timetable that would ensure a strong climate deal by the time of the Copenhagen conference. The implications of not achieving this goal are massive, and nearly unthinkable. Turn to our great partners film – the Age of Stupid – if you need to be convinced why.

The meeting – which should include major heads of state for the last three days, will attempt to reach a massively complex agreement on cutting carbon, providing finance for mitigation and adaptation, and supporting technology transfer from the North to the South.

This is a major milestone in history, and one where civil society must speak with one voice in calling for a fair, ambitious and binding deal. We are ready, but we need to let the leaders know the world is ready too. Are you? (COP-15 Copenhagen Climate Conference | TckTckTck)

Where do civil society activists stand in relation to the climate change email scandal?

Will these civil society organizations, many of which are funded by major foundations and governments continue to unreservedly endorse the Global Warming consensus?

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Greenpeace are among several key civil society organizations which are pushing the Copenhagen agenda. Their position is unchanged.

Most environmentalist organizations are demanding a reduction in CO2 emissions. For them, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is the "bible". It cannot be challenged even if the climate data base which supports the Global Warming Consensus turns out to be questionable or contentious.

While the mainstream NGO lobby groups including Greenpeace and WWF continue to support the consensus, there is small but growing movement which challenges the legitimacy of the Copenhagen CO15 Summit agenda, while accusing the UNPCC of manipulating the data.

The Alternative Summit: KlimaForum09

The NGOs will be meeting in a parallel alternative summit, KlimaForum09, funded by the Danish government. More than 10,000 people a day are expected to attend the sessions of KlimatForum09

Major international NGOs and environmentalist groups will be in attendance including Friends of the Earth, Campaign against Climate Change among others.

Klimaforum09 is finalize a draft declaration which "will put forth a vision of a more socially just world society, [while] emphasizing the need to create substantial changes in the social and economic structures of society in order to meet the challenges of global warming and food sovereignty." (See Declaration · Klimaforum09)

It is unlikely that within the Alternative Summit, the Global Warming consensus including the multibillion dollar carbon trading system will be challenged in a meaningful fashion. (All events · Klimaforum09).

In many regards, the rhetoric of the KlimaForum09's Danish organizers ties in with that of the host government and the official summit. (Political Platform · Klimaforum09").

There can be no real activism unless the falsehoods and manipulations underlying the activities of the UNPCC including the multibillion profit driven carbon trading scheme, are fully revealed, debated and understood.


Anti-war protest shakes up holiday shopping

Seattle, Washington
November 28, 2009

A bizarre scene unfolded amid the festive holiday atmosphere at Westlake Center on Saturday, as men in U.S. military uniforms stormed through the crowd, tossing civilians to the sidewalk and handcuffing them.

It was all part of a "street theater" style anti-war protest staged by opponents of the proposed troop surge in Afghanistan.

The uniformed men and civilians were all acting out their parts, and no bystanders were actually hurt in the holiday crowd.

But many people were caught off-guard by the unorthodox scene only a few steps from Westlake Center, where lines of young kids waited their turn to ride the carousel and shoppers hurried by with their bags.

As the "soldiers" screamed profanities at the "civilians" on the ground, many frightened young children were asking their parents what was going on. Meanwhile, some adult shoppers walked by - seemingly oblivious to the freaky scene.

The protest's organizers, a group called "The World Can't Wait," say they're trying to show what a military occupation is like by re-enacting scenes of soldiers mistreating civilians.

"A troop surge means nothing but suffering, killing ... and it's not in the interest of people living in Afghanistan or the people living in this country," says Emma Kaplan, one of the organizers.

She claimed that President Obama is planning to announce a troop surge on Tuesday that will send 34,000 more soldiers to Afghanistan, and that it is up to the American public to stop it.

"People living in this country have a responsibility to stop the crimes of their government no matter who the president is," she said.

Minarets: Ban Them, or Bomb Them?

By Matt Barganier, November 29, 2009

Well, the Swiss – or, more accurately, a majority of voters in democratic Switzerland – have gone and done something wrong and dumb, approving a referendum that bans the construction of minarets. Libertarian demerits are certainly in order. But one very wrong, very dumb thing the Swiss have not done is launch any wars of aggression against Muslim peoples, or anyone else, for that matter.

Which makes it all the more cringe-worthy to read this libel on Andrew Sullivan’s blog:

Good God. Why not synagogues? Or did a neighboring country try that already?

Wow. Straight to the Nazi jab, huh? Never let it be said that Harvard doesn’t make ‘em like they used to.

For the record, this is the same Andrew Sullivan who penned this epochal gem eight years ago:

[B]in Laden proves that the best form of persuasion in that part of the world is not rhetorical but military. Pummel them and they will respect you. Talk to them nicely and you’ll end up like Robert Fisk. Best of all, pummel them and then talk. The most persuasive piece of rhetoric yet unleashed in this conflict has been the daisy cutter bomb. It’s the only argument that much of this clearly depraved culture actually respects.

Expect more Swiss-bashing from some of the very people who have cheered on the most egregious abuses of Muslims. They’re extremely alert to the dangers of isolationism, you know.


Photo credit - REUTERS/Michael Buholzer

The truth of UK's guilt over Iraq

"Until he calls upon UN weapons inspectors themselves to deliver testimony before his inquiry, Sir John Chilcot perpetuates the perception that Britain simply can't handle the truth"

By Scott Ritter
November 27, 2009

With its troops no longer engaged in military operations inside Iraq, Great Britain has been liberated politically to conduct a postmortem of that conflict, including the sensitive issue of the primary justification used by then Prime Minister Tony Blair for going to war, namely Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, or WMD.

The failure to find any WMD in Iraq following the March 2003 invasion and subsequent occupation of that country by US and British troops continues to haunt those who were involved in making the decision for war. The issue of Iraqi WMD, and the role it played in influencing the decision for war, is at the centre of the ongoing Iraq war inquiry being conducted by Sir John Chilcot.

Among the more compelling testimonies provided to date has been that of Sir Christopher Meyer, the former British ambassador to the US, who served in that capacity during the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. Meyer convincingly portrayed an environment where the decision by the US to invade Iraq, backed by Blair, precluded any process (such as viable UN weapons inspections) that sought to compel Iraq to prove it had no WMD. Rather, Great Britain and the US were left "scrambling" to find evidence of a "smoking gun" to prove Iraq indeed possessed the WMD it was accused of having.

In short, Saddam had been found guilty of possessing WMD, and his sentence had been passed down by Washington and London void of any hard evidence that such weapons, or even related programmes, even existed. The sentence meted out – regime termination – mandated such a massive deployment of troops and material that all but the wilfully blind or intentionally ignorant had to know by the early autumn of 2002 that war with Iraq was inevitable. One simply does not initiate the movement of hundreds of thousands of troops, thousands of armoured vehicles and aircraft, and dozens of ships on a whim or to reinforce an idle threat.

President George Bush was able to disguise his blatant militarism behind the false sincerity of his ally Blair and his own secretary of state, Colin Powell. The president's task was made far easier given the role of useful idiot played by much of the mainstream media in the US and Britain, where reporters and editors alike dutifully repeated both the hyped-up charges levied against Iraq and the false pretensions that a diplomatic solution was being sought.

The tragic final act of the farce directed by Bush and Blair was the theatre of war justification known as UN weapons inspections. Having played the WMD card so forcefully in an effort to justify war with Iraq, the US (and by extension, Britain) were compelled once again to revisit the issue of disarmament. But the reality was that disarming Iraq was the furthest thing from the mind of either Bush or Blair. The decision to use military force to overthrow Saddam was made by these two leaders independent of any proof that Iraq was in possession of weapons of mass destruction. Having found Iraq guilty, the last thing those who were positioning themselves for war wanted was to re-engage a process that not only had failed to uncover any evidence Iraq's retention of WMD in the past, but was actually positioned to produce fact-based evidence that would either contradict or significantly weaken the case for war already endorsed by Bush and Blair.

The US and Britain had both abandoned aggressive UN weapons inspections in the spring of 1998. UN weapons inspectors were able and willing to conduct intrusive no-notice inspections of any site inside Iraq, including those associated with the Iraqi president, if it furthered their mandate of disarmament. But the US viewed such inspections as useful only in so far as they either manufactured a crisis that produced justification for military intervention (as was the case with inspections in March and December 1998), or sustained the notion of continued Iraqi non-compliance so as to justify the continuation of economic sanctions. An inspection process that diluted arguments of Iraq's continued retention of WMD by failing to uncover any hard evidence that would sustain such allegations, or worse, sustain Iraq's contention that it had no such weaponry, was not in the interest of US policy objectives that sought regime change, and as such required the continuation of stringent economic sanctions linked to Iraq's disarmament obligation.

The British were never willing (or able) to confront meaningfully the American policy of abusing the legitimate inspection-based mandate of the UN inspectors. Instead, London sought to manage inspection-based confrontation by insisting that before any intrusive inspection could be carried out, it would have to be backed by high-quality intelligence. But even this position collapsed in the face of an American decision, made in April 1998, to stop supporting aggressive inspections altogether.

In the end, the British were left with the role of fabricating legitimacy for an American policy of terminating weapons inspections in Iraq, supplying dated intelligence of questionable veracity about a secret weapons cache being stored in the basement of a Ba'ath party headquarters in Baghdad, which was used to trigger an inspection the US hoped the Iraqis would balk at. When the Iraqis (as hoped) balked, the US ordered the inspectors out of Iraq, leading to the initiation of Operation Desert Fox, a 72-hour bombing campaign designed to ensure that Iraq would not allow the return of UN inspectors, effectively keeping UN sanctions "frozen" in place.

As of December 1998, both the US and Britain knew there was no "smoking gun" in Iraq that could prove that Saddam's government was retaining or reconstituting a WMD capability. Nothing transpired between that time and when the decision was made in 2002 to invade Iraq that fundamentally altered that basic picture.

But having decided on war using WMD as the justification, both the US and Great Britain began the process of fabricating a case after the fact. Lacking new intelligence data on Iraqi WMD, both nations resorted to either recycling old charges that had been disproved by UN inspectors in the past, or fabricating new charges that would not withstand even the most cursory of investigations.

The reintroduction of UN weapons inspectors into Iraq in November 2002 was counterproductive for those who were using WMD as an excuse for war. This was aptly demonstrated when, in the first weeks following their return to Iraq, the inspectors discredited almost all of the intelligence-based charges both the US and Britain had levelled against Iraq, while failing to uncover any evidence of the massive stockpile of WMD that Iraq had been accused of retaining.

The decision for war had been made independently of any viable intelligence information on Iraqi WMD. As such, the work of the UN weapons inspectors inside Iraq following their return in November 2002 was not a factor in influencing the lead-up to the actual invasion of Iraq. Having decided that Saddam was guilty of possessing WMD, the failure of the UN weapons inspectors to uncover evidence of such retention made their efforts not only irrelevant, but undesirable. The inconvenience of the UN weapons inspectors when it comes to the truth about the lead-up to the war with Iraq continues to this day.

The parade of British diplomats and officials appearing before the Chilcot hearings rightly point out the absolute lack of any "smoking gun" concerning Iraq and WMD. But until Chilcot receives testimony from those best positioned to speak about Iraq's WMD programmes, namely the UN weapons inspectors themselves, all the hearings will succeed in doing is sustain the false appearance of well-meaning British officials, stampeded into a war with Iraq by an overbearing American ally, looking in vain for a "smoking gun" that would justify their decision to invade. The evidence needed to undermine any WMD-based case for war, derived from the work of the UN weapons inspectors, was always available to those officials in a position to weigh in on this matter, but either never consulted or deliberately ignored.

There is a big difference between searching for a "smoking gun" and searching for the truth. By ignoring and/or undermining the work of the UN weapons inspectors in the lead-up to the war with Iraq, British officials demonstrated that they were not interested in the truth about Iraqi WMD, a fact that testimony provided by the likes of Sir Christopher Meyer alludes to, but falls short of actually stating.

The search for truth can be an inconvenient process, especially when it threatens to expose potentially illegal activities in the prosecution of an unpopular war. Until he calls upon UN weapons inspectors themselves to deliver testimony before his inquiry, Sir John Chilcot perpetuates the perception that Britain simply can't handle the truth when it comes to uncovering the level of official British culpability in the deliberate fabrication of a case for war against Iraq that everyone knew, or should have known, was false.

‘Arab women need not apply’

By Jonathan Cook
November 30, 2009

NAZARETH // Israel’s finance minister was accused last week of trying to deflect attention from discriminatory policies keeping many of the country’s Arab families in poverty by blaming their economic troubles on what he described as Arab society’s opposition to women working.

A recent report from Israel’s National Insurance Institute showed that half of all Arab families in Israel are classified as poor compared with just 14 per cent of Jewish families.

Yuval Steinitz, the finance minister, told a conference on employment discrimination this month that the failure of Arab women to participate in the workforce was damaging Israel’s economy. Eighteen per cent of Arab women work, and only half of them full time, compared with at least 55 per cent of Jewish women.

He attributed the low employment rate to "cultural obstacles, traditional frameworks and the belief that Arab women have to remain in their home towns", adding that such restrictions were characteristic of all Arab societies.

But researchers and women’s groups pointed out that employment of Arab women in Israel is lower than almost anywhere else in the Arab world, including such employment blackspots for women as Saudi Arabia and Oman.

"Most Arab women want to work, including a large number of female graduates, but the government has refused to tackle the many and severe obstacles that have been put in their way," said Sawsan Shukha of Women Against Violence, a Nazareth-based organisation.

That assessment was supported by a survey this month revealing that 83 per cent of Israeli businesses in the main professions – including advertising, law, banking, accountancy and the media – admitted being opposed to hiring Arab graduates, whether men or women.

Yousef Jabareen, an urban planner at the Technion technical university in Haifa, who has conducted one of the largest surveys on Arab women’s employment in Israel, said the problems Arab women faced were unique.

"In Israel they face a double discrimination, both because they are women and because they are Arabs," he said.

"The average in the Arab world [for female employment] is about 40 per cent. Only women in Gaza, the West Bank and Iraq – where there are exceptional circumstances – have lower rates of employment than Arab women in Israel. That gap needs explaining and the answers aren’t to be found where the minister is looking."

He said a wide range of factors hold Arab women back, many of them the result of discriminatory policies by successive governments to prevent the 1.3-million Arab minority, which comprises one-fifth of Israel’s population, from benefiting from economic development.

These included widespread discrimination in hiring policies by both private employers and the government; a long-standing failure to locate industrial zones and factories in Arab communities; a severe lack of state-supported childcare services compared with Jewish communities; a shortage of public transport in Arab areas that prevented women reaching places of work, and a lack of training courses aimed at Arab women.

According to a study by Women Against Violence, 40 per cent of Arab women with degrees are unable to find work.

When interviewed, Mr Jabareen said, 78 per cent of non-working women blamed their situation on a lack of job opportunities.

Maali Abu Roumi, 24, from the town of Tamra in northern Israel, has been looking for a job as a social worker since she finished training two years ago. She said cash-strapped Arab schools, unlike Jewish schools, could not afford to employ a social worker, and that Israel’s Arab minority lacked the equivalent of the welfare institutions and foundations funded by wealthy overseas Jews that offered work to many Jewish social workers.

"Most of the Jews I studied with have found work, while very few of the Arabs on my course have been employed," she said. "When a job comes up, it’s usually part time and there are dozens of applicants."

The Alternative Planning Centre, an Arab organisation that studies land use in Israel, reported in 2007 that only 3.5 per cent of the country’s industrial zones were in Arab communities. Most attracted such small businesses as workshops for car repairs or carpentry that offered few opportunities for women.

"Israel’s private sector is almost entirely closed to Arab women because of discriminatory practices by employers who prefer to employ Jews," Mr Jabareen said. He added that the government had failed to provide leadership: among governmental workers, less than two per cent were Arab women, despite repeated pledges by ministers to increase Arab recruitment.

Ms Shukha said: "The civil service is a major employer, but many of these jobs are in the centre of the country, in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, a long way from the north where most Arab citizens live."

She noted that there were no regular buses from Nazareth, the largest Arab town in the country, to Jerusalem. "The transport situation is even worse in the villages where most Arab women live."

In addition, she said, most could not travel long distances to find work because of the scarcity of child-care provision. Only 25 government-run daycare centres have been established for preschool children in Arab communities out of 1,600 operating across the country. Ms Shaukha also criticised the trade and industry ministry, saying that, although it had invested heavily in training for Jewish women, only six per cent of Arab women were attending courses, and then mostly for sewing and secretarial work.

Mr Jabareen said Arab men faced massive discrimination, too, but found work because they filled a need in the economy by doing hard manual labour that most Jews refused, often travelling long distances to work on construction sites. "Women simply don’t have that option," he said. "They cannot do that kind of work and they need to stay close to their communities because they have responsibilities in the home."


U.S.: Release of secret reports delayed

By Bryan Bender
November 30, 2009

President Obama will maintain a lid of secrecy on millions of pages of military and intelligence documents that were scheduled to be declassified by the end of the year, according to administration officials.

The missed deadline spells trouble for the White House’s promises to introduce an era of government openness, say advocates, who believe that releasing historical information enforces a key check on government behavior. They cite as an example the abuses by the Central Intelligence Agency during the Cold War, including domestic spying and assassinations of foreign officials, that were publicly outlined in a set of agency documents known as the “family jewels.’’

The documents in question - all more than 25 years old - were scheduled to be declassified on Dec. 31 under an order originally signed by President Bill Clinton and amended by President George W. Bush.

But now Obama finds himself in the awkward position of extending the secrecy, despite his repeated pledges of greater transparency, because his administration has been unable to prod spy agencies into conformance.

Some of the agencies have thrown up roadblocks to disclosure, engaged in turf battles over how documents should be evaluated, and have reviewed only a fraction of the material to determine whether releasing them would jeopardize national security.

In the face of these complications, the White House has given the agencies a commitment that they will get an extension beyond Dec. 31 of an undetermined length - possibly years, said the administration officials, who spoke on the condition they not be identified discussing internal deliberations. It will be the third such extension: Clinton granted one in 2000 and Bush granted one in 2003.

The documents, dating from World War II to the early 1980s, cover the gamut of foreign relations, intelligence activities, and military operations - with the exception of nuclear weapons data, which remain protected by Congress. Limited to information generated by more than one agency, the records in question are held by the Central Intelligence Agency; the National Security Agency; the departments of Justice, State, Defense, and Energy; and other security and intelligence agencies.

None of the agencies involved responded to requests for comment, saying they could not discuss internal deliberations.

“They never want to give up their authority,’’ said Meredith Fuchs, general counsel at the National Security Archive, a research center at George Washington University that collects and publishes declassified information. “The national security bureaucracy is deeply entrenched and is not willing to give up some of the protections they feel they need for their documents.’’

The failure to meet the disclosure deadline “does not augur well for new, more ambitious efforts to advance classification reform,’’ said Steven Aftergood, a specialist on government secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists in Washington. “If binding deadlines can be extended more or less at will, then any new declassification requirements will be similarly subject to doubt or defiance.’’

Obama laid out broad goals for reforming the system in May, when he ordered a 90-day review by the National Security Council. Government, he said, “must be as transparent as possible and must not withhold information for self-serving reasons or simply to avoid embarrassment.’’

The review is part of Obama’s efforts to make all government operations more public, including his decision to release White House visitor logs and set up a new office to expedite the release of government files under the Freedom of Information Act.

Among the revisions Obama said he wanted considered were the establishment of a National Declassification Center to coordinate and speed up the process, as well as new procedures to prevent what he called “over classification.’’

But officials said an executive order that has been drafted by the White House to replace a disclosure order that Bush signed in 2003 is meeting resistance from key national security and intelligence officials, delaying its approval.

“The next phase is most crucial,’’ said William J. Bosanko, director of the Information Security Oversight Office at the National Archives and Records Administration, who was appointed by Obama in April 2008 to oversee the government classification system. “It is a bit of a test. You have an administration that has committed to certain things and tried to shape the direction but then you have the bureaucracy which is very adept at resisting change.’’

A key concern among intelligence agencies is that they could lose what amounts to veto power over disclosure of their secrets that are maintained by other agencies, according to several officials who have been privy to the agency comments on the draft executive order.

Also, a turf war has broken out over which spy agency should be represented on a panel set up in 1996 to hear appeals from people who are seeking the release of information. Obama aides want the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, set up in 2005 to oversee all spy agencies, to replace the CIA, much to the consternation of CIA officials, the officials said.

The White House is meeting even more resistance on its position that no information shall remain classified indefinitely. Depending on the type of information involved, the White House is proposing that virtually all classified information - not just some categories - be automatically released 25 years, 50 years, or in the case of records that involve intelligence sources, 75 years after they are created. The draft Obama guidelines, a copy of which were obtained by Aftergood, include an additional five-year extension for the most sensitive documents.

Defense and intelligence information undergoes a more rigorous review before being made public - often decades after it is generated - than more general government files that do not require officials to have special security clearances to handle them. The documents in question are considered part of the nation’s permanent record, and therefore hold special historical significance. Only three percent of government records are so designated.

As the delays mount, so does the backlog of classified data to be reviewed. Aftergood and others worry that if automatic deadlines are not enforced, many documents will never reach the public because the agencies who have custody of them can continue to make the same arguments.

“The only way to get a handle on this is to allow classification to expire at some point,’’ said Aftergood. “This is information that is not just from years ago, but generations ago. The new delay is discouraging because the innovations in the Clinton order are being subverted. That means even bolder reforms that some of us hope for will be that much more difficult.’’

Still, even if such information is eventually declassified, that doesn’t mean that the public will get to see it in a timely manner. Officials estimate that there are 400 million pages of historical documents that have been declassified but remain in government records centers and have not been processed at the National Archives, where the public can view them.