Monday, 27 December 2010


The year started with a devastating earthquake in Haiti and ended with a cholera outbreak in a country that remains the poorest and the most neglected in the Western Hemisphere. This is a sad commentary on the UN and its sub-agencies, on the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank, on the US and all of Haiti's Latin American neighbors that could have helped to prevent the country from sinking lower than the depths of catastrophe that confronted it at the beginning of 2010. All claim on their web sites to have extended a helping hand top Haiti, but the results speak for themselves. Maybe 2011 will be a better year for the impoverished people of Haiti.

The reckless handling of BP and the companies involved in the Gulf oil spill will leave their mark on the ecosystem for many years. Not that the US government handled the disaster with the speed and efficiency it required, but this is clearly a case of how trans-national corporations enjoy enormous influence over the state, and act arrogantly in reckless disregard for the environment and communities, both disposable in the name of profit. This is not to say that the American people should not take up a generous collection for  Tony Hayward, chief executive of BP, who demanded that 'I want my life back' after those nagging questions about how he poisoned the Gulf where 11 workers lost their lives and 206 million gallons of oil spilled into the sea. Maybe there can be a rock concert for Hayward and BP - let's call it BP-GULF AID. Has BP or any oil company or any government learned a lesson from the Gulf Oil spill? Not with the price of oil at $90 a barrel!

The US was officially declared out of recession in June 2009, but at the end of 2010 the official unemployment stands at 9.7% (14.8 million) of  American workers unofficially...well... who knows? It is actually true that the recession was over in June 2009 for corporate America only, given that corporate America is sitting on more than one trillion dollar cash reservoir, waiting for better opportunities to invest... perhaps in 2011. It is also true that bonuses, stock options, high salaries that are 500 times higher than those of the average worker, and other executive perks have continued for those valuable managers of corporate America amid the recession - some of these executives in the financial sector that caused the recession and 10% unemployment. Corporate executives really feel the pain of the unemployed worker and the middle class and will do their part to make that pain go away, just as soon as they get their cut first.

This web site has made a impact on a world scale, with its flamboyant founder Julian Assange who was determined to make an impression in the world by exposing government secrets in the name of 'free press', citizens' right to know, and serve humanity until... the price is right! This story will remain an important one in 2011 and I suspect that Assange will make a great deal more money than what he is currently receiving for the book deal. Maybe Assange can go on a tour with Lady Gaga and they can promote each other's particular talent. Could the profit motive along with fame and glory be behind WIKILEAKS, and if so, does it really matter as long as WIKILEAKS satisfies the public's right to know what governments are doing (at least a segment of the public)? With all his flaws, Assange has actually torn down the complacent and conformist blinders from mainstream media and forced it to see what reporting should be about.

The EU public debt crisis resulted in the euro's lower value, and in joint IMF-EU bailout packages for Greece and Ireland - Portugal and Spain perhaps to follow - and all EU to adopt rigid fiscal policies and generate higher unemployment and lower living standards. It is all for a noble goal, transferring money from the middle class and workers to banks and bond investors. The public debt problem proved draining to the EU finances and dealt a blow to Europe's image as a solid integrated economy whose integrity cannot be rattled by cyclical economic crises. Trying to prevail in the global competition between US and China, EU recognized that the union is strong only in the expansionary economic cycle and very fragile in the downturn. This is more a political lesson than financial or economic one. While the PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain) will have their most difficult 2011 since the Great Depression, with most of the rest of the EU suffering, the union will survive the contracting cycle and it will slowly re-emerge with positive GDP growth for most countries by 2013.

Chilean Miners captured the world's imagination and it was indeed a miracle that people from all corners of the planet were hoping and praying for the trapped miners. There have been many mining accidents in the past, including in 2010, but none captured the world's attention of the specific one in Chile. It was as though the survival and successful rescue of the specific group of miners represented the ideal that humans can prevail over natural and man made catastrophe, therefore any problem can be solved. Never mind, of course, that in similar mining accidents in 2010 people were never rescued, as long as a few make it, there is hope and that is all human beings want.

In 2010 China replaced Japan as the world's second largest economy. More important, by continuing to stimulate its economy based on export-oriented growth, China was the catalyst in keeping stability in the world economy and preventing an even worse recession. China did all this by playing a quintessentially capitalist role, supporting IMF austerity measures, and offering massive trade deals to various countries around the world. If China had lapsed into recession, as it will in the next global contracting cycle, economic hard times would have been much harder not just for China's raw material suppliers like Australia, Canada, and others, but for the G-7. China's contribution in 2010 (and ever since 2008) was that it helped the world economy from falling into a cliff. China in fact may play an instrumental stabilizing role in 2011 to make certain that bond rates of debt-ridden EU do not go through the roof if left to speculators.

In 2010, US foreign policy has had a number of successes and misses, including:
a) ameliorating relations with Russia, especially in key strategic areas that include greater cooperation through NATO and pushing for ratification the strategic nuclear arms treaty (START), despite adamant Republican opposition regarding the rapid manner by which Democrats are pushing for a quick vote. The Russians have pledged to ratify it by late January 2011.
b) pursuing co-existence without the inane rhetoric that former US administrations used has helped US-China relations. The proof of cooperation can be seen in a number of areas, above all North Korea which remains extremely sensitive area for US, Japan, Russia, and EU that presumably want to solve the crisis through diplomacy, and by extension collaborate on a common solution for Iran's nuclear program. To the degree that it can control events in N. Korea, China is the catalyst and much more important for the US than either Russia or Japan.
c) US has had no surprises in the volatile Middle East. Ending military occupation of both Iraq and Afghanistan that have drained the US of economic resources and diminished its military power is an indication that "America will always do the right thing, but only after  exhausting all other options". (Winston Churchill)  The key to the region remains the Palestinian question and there has been no progress in that front. If Obama is 'to do the right thing', 2011 is the last chance before the presidential race of 2012. That the US lifted the ban on Iraq's ability to develop a nuclear program - a prelude to also developing nuclear weapons in the future - is actually a move in the right direction in so far as the strategic balance of power may be more secure in the future - a significant issue given Iran's nuclear program that the US & EU oppose.

Because of the global recession, illegal narcotics and human trafficking that are integral parts of official and private sector corruption continued unabated in 2010. The UN Global Initiative adopted ten years ago, to which the US has signed on and provides detailed information on all countries, has not had an impact in either area of illegal activity, also linked to illegal arms sales. In many cases, girls under the age of 18 (mostly from Asia, Africa and Latin America) are the victims in the profitable human trafficking business. Just as there has been little progress in fighting the expanding human trafficking business, similarly, there has been no progress on containing the illegal narcotics trade, which naturally entails the illegal gun trade and money laundering. There will probably be a rise in narcotics trade as well as human trafficking in 2011. This is largely because of the rising poverty in poorer countries that supply the 'pleasure commodities' and the demand for 'pleasure commodities' among more affluent people and countries.

Human creativity hardly receives much attention, unless it is inexorably linked to profits, military, and/or political power. Human creativity intended and applied for the promotion of human welfare is the most valued trait we possess. Of all the achievements in the arts and sciences, I want to single out two related to medicine. First, what is described as a revolution in communication for paralyzed people suffering 'locked-in syndrome'. With a voice synthesizer implanted in the brain, it is possible to induce vowel sounds. Second, in the area of biotechnology and biology, researchers have built a synthetic bacterial genome. This discovery that can lead to revolutionizing the energy and pharmaceutical industries. 

Saturday, 25 December 2010


Mexico is a war zone as a result of a chronic drug trade, especially as a transit from Colombia. Is the solution to drugs the demand side of the equation, is it production, trade and distribution, or is it both?

In 1949, Mao inherited a nation with a serious drug addiction, prostitution, and gambling problems that had been used by the West as a way to make immense profits in China (Opium Wars) for more than a century. Mao was fairly effective in dealing with these problems using various means, including the Red Army. Today, China has returned to the pre-Mao era with the problem of drugs making an enormous impact as part of the illegal economy. The price of “market economics in an open society!”

Unlike Mao, Mexico does not link drug trade to imperialism. Would the US allow Mexico to adopt Maoist methods? Why doesn’t the US do the same for itself to rid the illegal drug trade and all the crime along with multi-billion dollar business that it carries with it?

It is very difficult to find a regime in Mexico’s history that has not been corrupt and that it has not also corrupted other institutions. The military may be better equipped to handle the drug lords than the police–actually anything would be better. But what assurances are there that the military will not become as corrupt as the police? There have been a number of published reports that drug money has in fact penetrated Mexico’s military more than any other in Latin America.

Drug money corrupts all sectors that stand in its way to make sure the flow of the trade continues, and that is part of the business. An integral part of the trade is laundering drug money. There are many reports that banks–US banks included–have been laundering drug money for decades!

The problem with illegal drugs is not primarily the producer as the US insists, but the consumer. The US which is roughly 4% of the world’s population, but consumes an estimated 25% of the world’s illegal drugs, and the domestic illegal drug industry has been rising rapidly. Americans’ increased their prescription narcotic use by 300% between 1998 and 2008.

The “drug culture” is one for which pharmaceutical companies and the entire medical profession are responsible. Should people take a pill for shyness and boosting self-confidence? Has common sense abandoned the medical professionals more so than vulnerable and desperate patients seeking quick fixes in a pill?

Let us assume that Mexico is no longer Colombia’s transit nation, and completely drug-free after the military has “won the War on Drugs.” Would this mean the end of the drug trade, and that no country will take Mexico’s place? Just look at the CIA Factbook on countries involved in drug production and trade. Can we overlook the fact that after the US invaded Afghanistan the narcotics export trade skyrocketed?
The world drug production and trade (from wholesale all the way down to the street dealer) with all its consequences on the black market economy that finds its way into mainstream financial institutions, has a corrupting influence on governments and private institutions, and above all on the health of people.

The illegal drug trade is one that revolves around hundreds of billions of dollars and that means influence can be bought in all sectors from banks to public officials, and it also means that the poor in Latin America, Africa and Asia will take part in the drug trade in order to survive. The solution to the problem is to curb consumption, and consumption seems to be associated with the more affluent consumerist societies that promote a hedonistic lifestyle. How does a country curb consumption? That is a complex topic for another conversation.

Monday, 20 December 2010


During this holiday season people of all faiths or the absence of 'religious faith' could begin to change the world by rejecting moral nihilism and asserting universal humane values; they could mark a new beginning by recognizing that what seems 'natural' behavior rooted in materialistic value system is conditioned and unnatural. This at least is a prayer that universal human (anthropocentric) values that seem unnatural could become the foundation motivating all action by individuals and institutions alike. 

Realistically, one could argue that such glowing optimism is unwarranted in an era when
a) most of the world is experiencing a lingering and deem economic recession;
b) roughly one-third of the world's population is suffering from man-made not nature-caused poverty, while a couple of hundred thousand families own such a disproportionate share of the world's wealth;
c) wars of the conventional and non-conventional types are still causing destruction and chaos, while countries and amassing weapons conventional and mass destruction breed insecurity just as they promise to deliver safety and security;
d) politicians and elites of all stripes - secular and religious - are often as credible and as honorable as commercial advertisements for used cars under the label "program vehicles";
e) it feels like we are all stuck inside the world of Charles Dickens without the uplifting ending where everything turns out to be just fine and everyone lives happily ever after.

Globalization of the market economy has resulted in globalization of values, although not always values that make us more humane and compassionate, but instead values that glorify what theologians and philosophers would consider vices or sins, such as antagonism and greed at all levels of human endeavor, as a way of life and as life's goals, values we have come to accept as natural as the sun rising in the morning. And what is so wrong with revenge, greed, antagonism, blind atomistic pursuit when they all feel good thus they must be natural? To ask people to transcend these 'seemingly natural tendencies' is to ask them to be saintly and turn their back on survival and individual progress.

Although seemingly following divergent paths, the varieties of religious experiences, as William James observed, and the humanist tradition rooted in anthropocentric values, (today closely identified with bio-diversity) have in common the positive element of asserting the desire to advance humanity's edification.

The sacred Hindu texts VEDAS eventually evolved to include universal ethics and compassion as the cornerstone of the faith that was passed on to Buddhism. The wisdom of the TORAH can be summarized as 'love your neighbor as oneself', and 'do not do to the other what is hateful to you'. The same doctrine of compassion is reflected in the New Testament as Matthew and Paul preached universal love and forgiveness in the era of the early Roman Empire. The Prophet Mohammad practiced forgiveness and compassion to the offender, passing on these humane values to the faith of Islam. No secular thinker rooted in a humanist tradition, including atheists, could disagree with the TORAH, Christianity, and Islam, all linked in the universality of their message and all sharing key doctrines in common. No secular thinker can argue with Hinduism and Buddhism that appeal to the core of what links all humanity and indeed all life together into ONE.


Friday, 17 December 2010


On 15 December 2010, the US adopted a decisive step in its Middle East policy by pushing through the UN Security Council three resolutions designed to further US strategic, economic, and political interests.  Vice President Joe Biden presided over the 15-nation U.N. Security Council meeting that ended a 19-year ban on Iraq to develop a nuclear program. Naturally, on the surface this seems like US hypocrisy given US policy toward Iran, but hypocrisy is a way of life in politics and we must judge policy on its practical merits and results positive and negative for all parties concerned.

In two other resolutions, the UN ended the very corrupt food-for-oil program in which western banks and corporations had been fraudulently draining Iraqi resources and keeping the militarily occupied nation impoverished - one reason that France abstained given that BNB Paribas had claims. The third resolution gives Iraq control over its oil, naturally a mere formal step given there are lucrative contracts with Western companies that will be honored for the duration.

In 1981 Israel bombed Iraq's nuclear reactor, on the pretext that it constituted a military threat. For the near future, Iraq wants nuclear power for medical and energy development, given that it under-produces electric power and needs to triple the capacity within the next few years in order to stimulate both the agricultural and industrial sector. Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani and Education Minister Abd Thiab al-Ajili are trying to ease the concerns of neighboring countries that Iraq has no intention of developing nuclear weapons, but this is exactly what Iran has been claiming and the result is a series of US-sponsored sanctions.

What does Iraq's nuclear program mean for IRAN, THE MIDDLE EAST, US, CHINA & RUSSIA?

1) The US could not push through the UN this resolution without Russia and China that support and assist directly and indirectly Iran's nuke program. Given China's recent move to ameliorate relations with India by doubling trade in the next five years, and its already excellent 'business' and strategic relationship with Russia, the deal on Iraq with the US keeps China on track of maintaining stability in Asia. This coincidentally taking place on the same day that governor Bill Richardson has been negotiating with Beijing over tensions in the Korean peninsula and is headed for Pyongyang on 16
December 2010.

2) The US no longer has as strong a case against Iran's nuke program (UN resolutions regarding Iran notwithstanding) because it will be helping Iraq develop its own, thereby counter-balancing Iran and depriving it of the balance of power advantage that it would enjoy otherwise.

3) The US no longer has a strong case against China and Russia that were backing Iran in its pursuit of a nuke program, something that actually helps Washington after the recent Lisbon NATO meeting where it was clear that US & Russia are headed for much closer cooperation.

4) The US will find itself in a very difficult position if it allows Israel to hit Iran's nuke facilities, after China and Russia approved the US proposal to allow Iraq develop its own nuke program. At the same time, Israel's strategic role is checked by yet another Islamic country planning to develop nuclear program, although intended as energy, it can easily be converted down the road.

5) The US will carry a lower burden of having Iraq as a satellite once it develops nuclear energy, which it can sell throughout the region and meet its domestic and foreign obligations - 5% of all energy receipts going to Kuwait to which Iraq still owes $22 billion. In November 2009, US accused a Kuwait firm called AGILITY for over-billing Iraq $8.5 billion in delivering food contracts during the course of 4 years when it provided supplies for troops, civilians and contractors.

6) Iraq is expected to commit to NON-PROLIFERATION, thus putting pressure on Iran, while Israel of course remains outside such obligation with US backing, at least for now, although I suspect the US may use the issue as leverage against Tel Aviv in negotiations regarding the Palestinian question. So far, the US is publicly easing back on Tel Aviv, but who knows what is taking place behind closed doors.

7) The nuke program projects the image to the people of Iraq and to the world that the war-ravaged country can return to normalcy and take pride in a monumental program as the US is proposing. It can be a sort of a 'positive'.

8) The nuke program delivers the kind of strategic balance that Saudi Arabia and other anti-Iran countries (other than Israel that has a nuclear deterrent) in the region were demanding. 

9)The nuke program is designed to help provide a boost for US contractors that will be
involved in the projects, one of the reasons that France was very tentative about the UN resolution and called for more details and 'wait-and-see' attitude.

10) US can use the newly approved UN resolution to pressure Iran to comply with Resolution 1929 of June 2010, dealing mostly with 'enrichment of uranium and heavy water' and 'investing abroad in nuclear and ballistic activities' (presumably N. Korea via China & Russia).

In many respects, this is the most practical solution for the US with regard to Iraq and Iran, and US position in the Middle East. The deal has been in the works for some time, and the Russians and the Chinese were influential in the negotiations, given Moscow's and Beijing's commitment to Iran's nuke program. France seems disgruntled because its firms are not getting a slice of the lucrative Iraqi nuclear pie, but Washington will probably have to make some concessions to Paris by this summer.

Earlier this year, the issue of Iraq developing a nuke program came up before the UN and IAEA, but there were hurdles over the NON-PROLIFERATION issue. These can now be used by different sides both for and against Iran and Israel, and to secure contracts in Iraq from the proposed program, and of course for diplomatic leverage. Although it is still very early and there is hardly much info on this topic, I am very optimistic about this development, in terms of perhaps engendering greater caution on the part of all countries in the region now that Iraq has the green light to build its own nuke (energy) program. Paradoxically and indeed frighteningly, peace and perhaps horizontal (multibased instead of mono-cultural) economic development may come to the Middle East through nuclear proliferation. Finally, it remains for historians of the future to explain how and why the US, which launched a war on Iraq allegedly to destroy its Weapons of Mass Destruction, ten year later sponsored a nuclear program for Iraq.

The Greek Economy during the Early Cold War

The Greek Economy, Jon Kofas
in  BACKGROUND TO CONTEMPORARY GREECE edited by Marion Sarafis (Barnes & Noble & The Merlin Press, 1990)

Monday, 13 December 2010


Is there an Iran-N. Korea-China nexus? A web search about China's connection with North Korea's relationship with Iran suggests that there are many (several thousand) published reports on the subject. If  the reader chooses not to believe these reports (including reports based on Wikileaks docs), that is his call. There is no way to verify any claim regarding top secrets of governments. However, historically the Korean peninsula was China's most significant satellite and since the Korean War China has supported N. Korea for its own geopolitical interests. I am not in a position to provide top secret documents as proof for what I write, but this is what  we know from published reports:

a) Iran has a long-standing relationship with N. Korea, at least this is what US claims and there seems to be many reports on this matter. The UN sent a report on N. Korean missile transfer to Security Council in November 2010. US had been pressing China to block such shipments, instead of facilitating them; a story that has a history predating Obama.
b) Russia and China at the very least monitor Iran's relationship with N. Korea, and at most facilitate and support.
c) US has directly confronted Russia over the alleged missiles transfer issue, primarily because the N. Korean missiles are modeled after Russian missile technology. US has been pressing China not to permit the ballistic missile transfer.

d) While it is true that American officials over-estimate Beijing's influence with N. Korea, without China there is not much leverage that N. Korea has in the world.  China is the most important ally of N. Korea. N. Korea depends on China not only for diplomatic and strategic support, but for trade, food, fuel and of course weapons. Without China, N. Korea under the current regime simply cannot survive.

The US has accused Chinese firms in May last year of supplying Iran  with a key chemical weapons precursor and assistance with operating a chemical manufacturing plant. It may very well be the case that Iran does not have a military relationship with N. Korea as the US, UN, and other governments and private organizations claim. It may all be a massive propaganda campaign for all we know. And it may be the case that Russia and China have no clue of whether N. Korea has any type of a military relationship  with Iran (or Syria). China, Russia and of course Iran categorically deny any transfer of missiles, let alone missiles going through Chinese soil. In my view, it stands to reason that China and Russia use their influence with both N. Korea and Iran to counterbalance US strategic influence in the Middle East and of course in East Asia. But unless Beijing and Moscow actually admit their actual roles in N. Korea and Iran, it is impossible to say with certainty.

"The US also accused Chinese firms in May last year of supplying Iran
with a key chemical weapons precursor and assistance with operating a
chemical manufacturing plant."

"China, Iran and North Korea have established a strategic alliance that focuses on missile and nuclear development, according to a new report."

"Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in May, expressing concern that exports by named Chinese firms "could be used for or diverted to a CW program." Clinton asked whether the suspect transfers were approved by the Chinese government and warns that sanctions may be imposed. "We request that the Chinese government take all steps necessary to investigate this matter and to prevent Iran from acquiring
dual-use equipment and technology that could be used in its CW program."
The cable noted that the United States had raised its concerns with Chinese officials on numerous occasions and listed at least 10 instances in which it said North Korean shipments of ballistic missiles parts to Iran passed unimpeded through Beijing.

"A CIA report covering 2004 indicates that Iran continued to receive “ballistic missile-related cooperation” from entities in North Korea as well as Russia and China. However, foreign assistance enabled Tehran to “move toward its goal of becoming self-sufficient in the production of ballistic missiles,” the report adds. Safavi claimed that Iran no longer requires foreign assistance for its missile programs."

Sunday, 12 December 2010


My sincere gratitude to Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich (12 December) for the generous words about my postings. I believe that any kind of discussion regarding Iran that does not fall in line with the State Department is very difficult to explain, so I appreciate Soraya’s position. Just a couple of comments to further clarify my position by adding how US containment policy has worked in Iran.

Given the massive propaganda on all sides, it is difficult for anyone other than a handful of Iranian scientists and officials to know where Iran stands on its “nuclear program,” which may be intended and designed today for energy and other non-military purposes, but which can be switched into a military program at a later date. Unless the US comes clean with Israel, and unless the Non-Proliferation Treaty becomes more meaningful so that Pakistan, India, and North Korea are signatories and the US sharply reduces its own nuclear arsenal, and unless the US joins China and India on the No First Use pledge, Iran has the right to nuclear deterrent.

Considering that only the US has used nuclear weapons so far, Iran may just be another country with a weapon that it cannot use in a hot war, but use it for diplomatic and geopolitical leverage. Pakistan has nuclear weapons and the record speaks for itself on how much nuclear deterrent has helped that country.
Where does the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) stand on Iran? In February 2010 the IAEA confirmed that Iran had begun enriching uranium to higher levels. “Altogether this raises concerns about the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile.” Western powers and IAEA are always careful to claim that Iran is on its way to developing nuclear weapons, and that is exactly what I have pointed out in previous postings. On the other hand, the IAEA has allegedly abused its authority by collecting and sharing confidential information about Iranian scientists who are then targeted for assassination. The US has skillfully used the IAEA as part of a long-standing containment policy of Iran.

As far as Iran buying North Korean missiles, that seems to be the case and China most likely facilitated the purchase in order to help Korea’s economy. There is so much propaganda on this issue, it is difficult to say that Iran purchase parts, entire missiles, or anything from North Korea. If indeed Iran bought N. Korean missiles, what else could it do given US containment policy? Besides, is there something sacred and holy about French missiles versus the inherently evil N. Korean missiles? Do missiles not kill and destroy just the same regardless of origin? Where is Iran to purchase weapons when it is cut off from most of the world owing to US containment policy?

Given the US-led Cold War against Iran, Russia and China are not only taking advantage of striking advantageous trade deals for their countries, but they are using Iran for all it is worth politically and militarily–and why not? On the other hand, it is true that the nuclear program is now a matter of national pride and widely supported by the Iranians, largely thanks to the US and Israel that made it an issue. Iranian President Ahmadinejad has been using nuclear energy development (behind which could be a military agenda) as a nationalist and patriotic catalyst to rally public support behind the regime.

In connection with the nuclear program–energy or military is not at issue–Iranian leaders have been far more defensive than they need be and of course they have been extremely anti-Zionist to the degree of losing the propaganda war with the very audience they want on their side. While I share the view of UN Resolution 3379 (Nov. 1975) that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination, I am also well aware that anti-Zionist rhetoric particularly from Iranian leaders comes across to the general public as anti-Semitic and that is exactly how western media interprets anti-Zionist rhetoric from government officials in Tehran.
Exactly what is the purpose of hyperbolic anti-Zionist rhetoric coming from the highest levels of Iranian government? I can understand it from Palestinians fighting on a daily basis for their homes, for water, for the right to see their relatives separated by the Israeli wall. Iran, however, is surrounded by Arab enemies, the Iranian public is already convinced that Israel is the enemy, thus employing anti-Zionist rhetoric defeats the purpose of gaining sympathy from western governments, NGOs, and the general public that Iran wants on its side.

Regardless of Iran’s nuclear program, the US will probably never achieve its goal of going back to the Cold War when Iran was an American satellite managed by the Shah. From what I read, and from what one of my Iranian academic friends who travels back and forth to Tehran tells me, it is true that Iran has been making immense progress in the areas of science and technology, despite US containment policy. However, Iran under the current regime is undermining its own goals of securing more allies and enjoying greater leverage internationally so that Russia and China would not be taking advantage of the country under US containment policy that is holding back Iran’s progress.

Saturday, 11 December 2010


Persian civilization is one of the oldest on earth that has made invaluable creative contributions in many domains, from mathematics to textiles and fine cuisine. Despite cultural diffusion with Ottoman Turks and Arabs influencing Persian civilization, in many respects for the better, the country managed to maintain much of its rich cultural heritage and identity largely owing to the Safavid dynasty (1501-1736) when Shia sect consolidated. Under the Qajar dynasty (1794-1925), Persia was reduced to a European, mostly British sphere of influence, along with most of Asia at the same time. Under the Qajar dynasty Persia fell into chronic external dependence and underdevelopment ensued as the country purchased finished goods from Europe that undercut its domestic production.

Interested in Iran for its oil and for strategic reasons as part of the Northern Tier (Greece, Turkey, Iran) against the USSR, the US under Truman continued the European sphere of influence foreign policy from 1953 when the CIA overthrew Mohammad Mossadeq until the Shah’s fall in 1979. The history of US-Iran cold war dates to the revolution of 1979 and the holding of US hostages until President Carter was out of the White House.

In the last three decades the US has been conducting an intense cold war and counter-insurgency operations against Iran. An anachronistic theocracy with policies that most people would characterize authoritarian, anti-women, and anti-pluralistic, the Iranian regime is a matter for its own people to decide. That the US found itself in a broader cold and hot war with Islamic nations (Iraq and Afghanistan) has only exacerbated its relations with Iran, which has inadvertently benefited from the US wars in the region and has used the US threat to retain the theocratic regime.

The issues that the US holds against Iran include but not limited to:
a) Iran is not a “democratic” country. Absolutely true! But neither are any of its neighbors, and that includes Israel where “democracy” is limited to followers of the Jewish faith. Is the US interested in supporting Iranian sovereignty and promoting democracy, or in integrating the Iranian economy under America’s aegis?
b) Iran is anti-US and it agitates in a number of countries in the region. Of course that is true. But so are many other nations in the region that do not suffer numerous US-sponsored UN sanctions or the impact of a US Cold War and covert operations. The US wants to prevent Iran from becoming the hegemonic regional power, while strengthening Israel and Arab allies like Saudi Arabia.
c) Iran does not respect human rights. That is also true. But are Iran’s neighbors that much better in observing human rights? Does the US have a clean record in this domain according to Amnesty International? Is cold war the way to persuade Iran to improve its human rights record, and is the US interested in promoting human rights or in using the issue to rally public support to punish Iran until it caves to Washington’s demands?
d) Iran is developing nuclear weapons. The evidence certainly points in that direction. Israel already possesses nukes and so does Pakistan that has been “playing” the US not just in the last decade but for a very long time. If Iran was in the American sphere of influence, would nukes and missiles be an issue? Was militarization an issue when the Shah was in power and cooperating with Israel and buying US weapons?
e) Iran has obtained long-range missiles from North Korea (Chinese-made) that could reach Moscow. But if Moscow is not exercised over this issue, why is Washington? US military intelligence estimates that it would be at least a year before Iran develops nukes in their primary phase, and probably five years before they can be operational to the degree that they can threaten Israel which has nuclear deterrence.
Iran is surrounded by hostile neighbors largely because it is a question of who determines the regional balance of power, but also because of US diplomatic influence in the Middle East. China and Russia are backing Iran not because they love its regime or its people, but because it is in their interest to use Iran to counterbalance US regional influence. Given that diplomacy and sanctions have not worked, the US it seems has raised the stakes in the last couple of years.

In January 2010, an Iranian nuclear physicist was killed in a bombing. The opposition charged that Iranian government killed him, while Tehran accused US and Israel working with the exiled opposition. Then there was the embarrassing story that broke in July 2010 about nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri, apparently abducted and claiming that CIA offered him many millions to reveal Iran’s nuke secrets and to stay in US. In addition there are periodic stories of Iranian government computers malfunctioning owing to hackers that break in to disrupt the nuke program.

On 29 November 2010 the western press reported that an Iranian nuclear physicist was killed in a bombing in Tehran, and a second scientist injured. On 8 December 2010 another bombing incident in a copycat manner targeted Iranian scientists. These attacks are the latest in a string of apparent or suspected plots against Iranian nuclear scientists.

When elected, President Obama promised a diplomatic solution to end the cold war with Iran. One month before the Amiri went public with the story that CIA offered him $50 million to stay in US, Obama lobbied the UN to slap another round of sanctions–the fourth–on Iran. No progress is expected in a diplomatic solution, and Iran is simply buying time and trying to line up allies among them China and Russia to counter-balance the US and its allies. Last week Tehran announced that it has mined and enriched its own uranium yellow-cake. The announcement came after the death of a scientist killed by a bomb and one injured.
Iran has lived under UN sanctions and a US cold war for three decades and it has made many mistakes in its foreign policy made worse by hyperbolic and often racist anti-Semitic rhetoric by officials in the highest levels of government. Iran is feeling the pain of US pressure, but primarily for domestic political reasons, devout followers of the theocratic regime on one side, and secular reformers on the other, Tehran cannot appear that it is caving in to the US.

The US desperately needs vision and leadership to launch a diplomatic initiative as Obama had promised but never delivered. While a surgical attack on Iranian nuke facilities has always been on the table, it will not take place unless the US has the green light from China and Russia. But even if that scenario were to be realized, what are the chances that Iran would fall into the US sphere of influence as it was under the Shah? The best the US can hope for is a diplomatic solution under which Iran pledges constructive co-existence and cooperation with the US in areas of mutual interest.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010


The Department of Defense (DoD), is always the last to be cut, and then only the rate of growth adjusted for inflation is cut, even amid economic contracting cycles. Practically every administration since Ford appointed Rumsfeld to head DoD promises defense 'reform' of some type. Yet, we have more of the same despite massive changes in the global power structure with the end of the Cold War as well as US economic status in the past half century.

Is there no waste in DoD and in foreign military aid programs costing billions to US taxpayers at a time of 10% unemployment, 0% salary raises for GOV employees, and 0% for social security recipients? Is there no room for cuts simply because of powerful (business and political) domestic and foreign lobbies, and because Republicans and 'Blue Dog Democrats' are adhering to Cold War thinking backed by a large segment of pro-military media that perpetuate fear among the public and the myth that spending more on defense entails greater safety? Should the entire country be held hostage because some senator and a couple of congressmen from a defense-industry state forge alliances to block cuts in defense contracts?  Is it unpatriotic to propose defense spending but patriotic to cut health care?

How can one be a fiscal conservative solely in the domain of health care and social programs, while allowing defense spending to rise amid economic contraction? A simple web search of 'waste in defense spending' will bring up to your computer screen billions of dollars in fraud and waste in the last decade alone; everything from a bottle of water at $10 for the troops in Afghanistan to multi-million dollar airplane engines never used but well-paid for thanks to powerful lobbies, congressmen and defense contractors demanding that the buying spree continue no matter the civilian economy's condition. Is there no fraud and waste in defense contracts, are they all carried out in the name of God and Country?

If we take into account  US budgetary deficit, current GDP and projected GDP growth in the next five years; combine them with estimates of NATO spending for the next five years, and VITAL (here is where there is disagreement depending on what one considers VITAL) US national security interests, and realignments within countries closely allied with US - some of which host US military bases - there can be a great deal of room to cut defense costs. But to achieve that goal it would take very strong leadership, political consensus, and a media support to sway public opinion. Divided government and corporate media means there will be no defense cuts at the same level as there are cuts in social security and social programs that have been under attack since 1981.

Defense spending cuts can best be determined by prudent diplomacy first and foremost.  State Department pursuing a policy of general arms reduction with the Great Powers and the Nuclear Club is key to lowering defense costs. In these areas there seems to be some modest progress recently. In addition, State Department needs to recognize at long last that military solutions for smaller conflicts have not worked to the benefit of the US (or anyone else except defense contractors) from Vietnam to the present. Therefore, seeking political solutions to conflicts and curbing the appetite for military interventions will save hundreds of billions of US taxpayer dollars and strengthen the US economy and military.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010


Pursuing 'Missionary Diplomacy', President Wilson appreciated the importance of molding foreign public opinion in his quest to influence Latin America and the European peace process. Missionary Diplomacy resulted in imperialism in Latin America and Wilsonian influence in Europe was hardly sufficient to prevent a second world war. Nevertheless, even during interwar isolationism, the US continued to influence foreign public opinion through various means from labor unions to journalism. The US campaign to mold public opinion abroad really took off during WWII when FDR employed many experts, including Hollywood producers, writers and directors to counter the brilliant propaganda tactics that the NAZI regime launched on a global scale.

The Cold War elevated the campaign to influence world public opinion. Every avenue from schools and labor unions to politicians and journalists was used through a number of directly-funded programs by US gov., foundations and universities, labor unions and other institutions that invited foreign nationals to visit and participate in such 'training programs' that were in fact indoctrination seminars. Funding came from Departments of State and Defense to Labor and Justice, presumably CIA according to Philip Agee, as well as from corporate sources interested in defeating Communist regimes.

Some administrations, Nixon working with Kissinger amid the Vietnam War, US counter-insurgency operations in Africa and Latin America and confrontation with the USSR over the arms race, were very interested in molding foreign public opinion through any means necessary. Carter and Cy Vance who opted to respect human rights were less aggressive in their methods of influencing world public opinion. Nevertheless,  programs designed to mold foreign public opinion involved NATO, UN agencies, friendly governments, and institutions from universities to labor unions.

After Bush launched the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, US gov. intensified the campaign to create a more pro-American atmosphere not just in Muslim countries, but around the world as it was clear from public opinion polls that the US was the least favorite country along with Israel. The solution was not to change policy, but mold foreign public opinion in favor of US GOV. A massive campaign started that included various programs among
them the Edward R. Murrow Program for Journalists that invites journalists and media professionals to participate in seminars for several weeks.

More than 600 people have taken part in this program alone since 2006 sponsored by the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. "They explore the role of a free press in a democracy, learn about the media and the social, economic and political structures of the United States and engage in professional development seminars and an international symposium with their peers."

This much is public record as is the history of US policy to influence foreign public opinion in time of war and peace in the last 100 years. What was always suspected and implied by those lacking documents to support their claims was that the US gov. was paying off foreign journalists and university professors among others in the business of influencing public opinion. Long suspected of receiving payoffs from businesses and governments, Greek journalists came under scrutiny again this week when a foreign correspondent stationed in Washington and New York, Michalis Ignatiou revealed that the US gov. contracted for favorable coverage with Greek journalists and university professors. The money of course is wasted given that Greece is one of the most anti-American countries in the world largely because of its 50-year history with the US as a dependency that could only somewhat loosen its traditional ties once it became part of the eurozone.

If the US had Greek journalists and university professors on payroll, it stands to reason, though I have no empirical proof, that Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy has been doing the same with other countries. The CIA openly advertises for Open Source Officer (foreign media analysts) and the State Department has contracted think tanks and consulting firms to determine how to best influence foreign public opinion. Given that the institutionalization of 'public diplomacy' designed to influence foreign public opinion and evidence of US gov. contracts with foreign journalists and university professors, the question is how Wikileaks fits into the picture.

For a number of months there have been UNSUBSTANTIATED stories that CIA & MOSSAD are behind Wikileaks. I have stated from the very first time that I wrote on Wikileaks that the existence of this operation raises questions about who is feeding it, why with such relative ease, why the types of documents, why the rather mild reaction by top administration officials if indeed national security is at stake. I have also stated that the entire operation, as useful as it is to scholars and to inform the public, smells of opportunism rather than ideology.

For example, just before he surrendered to police, Assange's latest surprise was to reveal US gov. secrets on UFOs. Not having any evidence of who or what, if anyone is behind Wikileaks, all one can do so far is speculate on the basis of the nature of docs Wikileaks has obtained and how they have harmed or served US gov. That Wikileaks released documents on Pakistan playing both sides - US and Taliban - and then Obama going to Lisbon to announce that NATO is planning a troop withdrawal in three to four years time seems like a 'planned coincidence'. US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that released docs embarrass the US, but foreign govts deal with the US because it is the 'indispensable nation'. That Gates has been less exercised about the leaks than one might expect is curious.

Has Wikileaks furthered US gov goals, or hindered them? That Obama had to ban Wikileaks in US govt computers and then support INTERPOL hunt-down of Assange was a political response to Republicans and to be expected, otherwise it would have confirmed that indeed US was condoning if not actually providing docs to Wikileaks which after all has been cooperating with mainstream media. Although scenarios that CIA or some other entity is behind Wikileaks may never be answered,  US gov. is making good use of Wikileaks to achieve some of its own goals and that may fall under the broader category of 'public diplomacy'.

To what degree is US public diplomacy harmed by Wikileaks and to what degree has the US harmed its own efforts by the manner it has responded? That Assange is in custody pursued by the US amid 'the epoch of terrorism' for purely political reasons will only further divide those Americans who believe in civil rights and in freedom of speech and press from those lining up behind the right wing campaign to punish anyone and everyone the US deems causing political harm to its reputation. Outside the US, the Wikileaks and Assange case will be used to accentuate the 'undemocratic' methods of American Democracy. Whether Wikileaks is exactly what it appears on the surface, or whether it is something more and there are elements behind it that are not revealed is not at issue, but rather that amid immense US and EU social and economic problems, Wikileaks serves as a distraction.

Monday, 6 December 2010


1. Brevity can be a virtue and indicative of wisdom if analysis is confined to the substantive art of 'cowing' (cows produce milk), not vacuous 'bull-s-ing' (bulls can be sterile).
2. Technology and hard sciences lend themselves to brevity; social sciences & humanities generally speaking do not.
3. Science and technology models are in tune with market economy, politics, & military, all predisposed to bottom-line catch-phrases - conquer markets, win votes, defeat the enemy.
4. Enlightenment era thinkers implored people to think for themselves, whereas contemporary culture teaches people to have everything handed to them on a fast-food disposable platter. This is best suited for military, corporate world and governments.
5. Contemporary fast-food, disposal-products culture is conditioned by marketing ideology shaped by TV-WEB-VIDEOS.
6. Within the fast-food, disposal culture, Cliff Notes, 'Idiots & Dummies guides to...', reflect: A) one-dimensional (memorizing) aspect of scholarship & B) proclivity to synopsis characteristic of TV-WEB-VIDEO mindset.
7. Short attention span is the product of education as commercial sports & entertainment, fast-food, disposal products culture shaped by virtual reality TV-WEB-VIDEO way of life.
8. Scholarly book and journal publishers set word-count limits to limit costs, whereas commercial books and magazines set word count limits to maximize profit and because they have conditioned the audience to respond to nothing beyond the catchy headlines.

Saturday, 4 December 2010


The highly publicized case of Wikileaks and the manner that the US government has been handling it raises basic questions about the Constitution, the slippery slope of adopting undemocratic measures in the name of democracy, and values US government is promoting in the 'epoch of terrorism'.

INTERPOL web site lists Julian Assange, founded of Wikileaks, as wanted for sex crimes in Gothenburg, Sweden. That he was permitted to leave Sweden, that the prosecutor refused to accept Assange's voluntary cooperation in the case, and that the lower court threw out the rape charge raises questions that his lawyers brought to light. None of this stopped presidential hopeful Sarah Palin from calling on Assange to be be hunted down, and others going further and calling for his assassination. 

Under the 'sex crimes' category, INTERPOL web site lists more than 160 other individuals, but Assange who was cleared of the rape charged and Swedish prosecutor continues to refuse cooperation is on INTERPOL's most wanted list. The US, which is INTERPOL member, is behind the campaign to hunt down Assange, as it has accused him of violating the Espionage Act promulgated in 1917 to hunt down anti-war activists, especially anarcho-syndicalists.

Let us assume that the Wikileaks founder is indeed guilty of nebulous 'sex crimes'. And let us also assume that he voluntarily returns to Sweden, he is tried, found guilty as charged and is sentenced to a prison term. At that juncture there are several things the US government must have already considered, given that the departments of State, Defense and Justice already have analysts looking at every possible angle of this issue with which they are playing politics and not seeking justice.

First, if the US is the principal force behind INTERPOL hunting down Assange in such a high-profile manner designed mostly for publicity, shouldn't people wonder why it is not equally pressing for individuals responsible for far more serious crimes?  And if he is guilty of violating the Espionage Act, is he alone in this enterprise, or is everyone connected with the documents, including the New York Times and other major media outlets with which Wikileaks cooperated?

Second, by politicizing the Wikileaks case, the US has already managed to make Assange a hero for many millions of people around the world. Regardless of how Hugo Chavez and Rafel Correa among others have tried to use Wikileaks to embarrass the US, it is Washington not Caracas or Quito that have made this Australian 'web-leaker' a martyr.  Would it best serve US interests to make a martyr of a man already a web hero for many millions and who obviously does not work alone and is merely the symbol of what many people view as an alternative method of securing accurate information?

Third, would arresting and imprisoning Assange mean the end of Wikileaks? Even if every Wikileaks employee goes to prison, would that mean the end of copycat Wikileaks? Can US government put the toothpaste back in the tube by persecuting Assange, or is it asking for more trouble by glorifying him? I am assuming that copycats are already seeking to emulate Assange and that their number will increase in the future. Can the state police web technology whose very nature lends itself to disclosure?

Fourth, some people view Assange as the web's Ernesto CHE Guevara. Some believe he is a flamboyant individual who does not really have much to reveal, given that there was general knowledge of what he makes available to the public. Still others think he out to make a name for himself and probably lots of money down the road. This third category has been my position all along. That Wikileaks has been collaborating with some of the world's most respected media outlets may indicate that Assange plans to become 'legitimate' and down the road reap the tangible rewards legitimacy brings. In fact, he is half-way there already.

Regardless of his reasons for exposing government documents, the result is that he is exposing the raw inner workings of government agencies for the public to see and therein may rest a new danger that WIkileaks may eventually go after large multinationals with the intent of exposing their dirty laundry to the public. Can the age of the information revolution that government and corporate media cannot control be regimented by resorting to police-state methods? Does the US wish to risk strengthening the culture of secrecy and be perceived by people at home and around the world as a police-state, especially at this juncture when it is trying so hard to present the image of an open society spreading freedom and democracy to the world?

Fifth, it is ironic that the Obama administration elected to create a more democratic government than Bush has banned Wikileaks from all govt. computers, including the Library of Congress and has made viewing such classified material as 'protected by the law' - I am not sure what this means in legal terms if individuals view the documents and the Justice Department has to go after them. Nor am I sure the Espionage Act charge can stand up in court, given recent previous cases. US government is sending a strong signal to the private sector mostly to appease conservatives who question Obama's resolve to 'be tough on security'.  US civil rights groups appear concerned about freedom of public information and they are raising questions that the US approach to Wikileaks is not very different than China's that the US and many Western critics regard "authoritarian".

Wikileaks offers the opportunity to determine for themselves the degree to which their governments are honest with them and with other governments. Official versions of current and historical events generally tend to eulogize the regime and institutions. Those who have studied historiography are well aware that this has been the case throughout history, with few exceptions. Thucydides was the master at allowing the reader to draw conclusions by examining both the official version of Athenian foreign policy (Pericles in the Funeral Oration) as well as the other side of those on the receiving end (The Melian Dialogue). Not much has changed in the past 2,500 years in terms of the state trying to convince the public of its clean image by not disclosing essential facts, while some independent researcher or analyst comes along to present the other side. Does the public have the right to see the other side? England, for example where Assange is hiding out, committed untold atrocities in India, but how much of that is a central theme in Britain''s official history or documentaries today?

Going after Assange is not a matter of the US govt. violating the First Amendment because in very subtle and in some not so subtle ways bending of the First Amendment has been taking place throughout US history, especially in times of hot and cold wars. Nor is this an issue of the US respecting the UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS because it has not observed it at home - hence the need for a civil rights movement - or abroad in egregious cases like South Africa under apartheid regime. This is much deeper, it is about the values that have been lost in the pursuit of hegemony that is slipping away.

The case of WIKILEAKS presents the Obama administration with an opportunity to reexamine not just its policies and values which are the source of the problem, rather than the leaking of docs. America values rooted in 18th century Enlightenment philosophical principles of freedom and democracy are yielding to authoritarianism in the 'epoch of terrorism'. In a pluralistic society, all voices need to be heard as there must also be a balance between maintaining national security and protecting  civil rights that the law must continue to protect and not override with the Espionage Act designed for time of war and used for political persecution. The US needs to consider if it wishes to follow the road to authoritarianism owing to antiquated early Cold War policies applied in the 'epoch of terrorism', or assume a new course that would revitalize the country based on the values of the Founding Fathers.

Before Obama was elected, I wrote on WAIS that the as first African-American president he was a symbol of hope who needed to prove if he was indeed a substantive and visionary leader like FDR able to undertake systemic changes to alter course for America, a country suffering from lost wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and sunk into the deepest recession since the 1930s. Two years into the administration, Obama has proved a very conventional president with a less than mediocre record on economic and labor policy, a somewhat better policy on social-cultural issues, and a dismal foreign policy record, given the lingering mess in Afghanistan and lack of resolution in the Palestinian question.

A product of the age of hollow image and politically-good sounding rhetoric, Obama lacks substance, and the vision and ability to undertake bold initiatives. At the same time, it is frightening to think that even worse is waiting in the wings in the person of Sarah Palin and Tea Party fanatics whose following among the masses is growing! God help America find its way to values that made it one of the greatest countries in the age of Lincoln and FDR!

Friday, 3 December 2010


A simple GOOGLE search of the term "recession is good", reveals that there are more than 30 million hits on the topic. Despite so many articles on why recession is good for so many reasons, these days when capitalism has triumphed over decadent Communism and has managed to conquer the world through globalization there are still scholars, politicians, journalists, web loggers,  and most people believe that recessions are bad. Scholars usually point to the Great Depression as the ultimate example of how economic contraction results in untold human suffering. This is simply not true! Economic recessions can be a refreshing beginning of unexpected personal renewal and spiritual awakening, a time of hidden opportunities in life. With my own 14 points as a tribute to President Woodrow Wilson who inherited a recession when he took office, I aim to prove why recession is good!

1. Recessions mean frugality.
For individuals, for wasteful governments, and for society as a whole living beyond its means recessions are Godsend. Is there anything better than a good economic crisis to eliminate the fat from an otherwise complacent individual, government, and society where simple folk who work for a living entertain the grand illusion that they can actually retire and enjoy comfort and leisure in their declining years like rich people?

2. Recessions eliminate inefficiency,
by eliminating jobs in the public sector and allowing unemployed government workers to compete in the private sector for minimum wage. Recessions also mean efficiency by putting small and weak companies out of business, thus freeing workers from the burden of employment until the next hiring cycle begins where they will be grateful to have any kind of work for any kind of salary, without benefits if necessary, after they have undergone career retraining and proper psychological attitude adjustment.

3. Recessions result in a leaner economy and a new and leaner you!
Embrace recession as your friend and savior for helping you with that lingering weight problem that a good steady job and good income created. Instead of enjoying a t-bone steak dinner at the neighborhood restaurant, start enjoying franks and beans or macaroni and cheese at home; much healthier than eating out and a more fitting menu for the new leaner you crying to come out.

4. Recessions help shape your moral fiber,
forcing you to drink less because you can no longer afford expensive liquor, and indulge in fewer vices associated with money. You exercise more by walking around your neighborhood to see who else is exercising instead of working. Run a few blocks around your former employer's place to check out how many cars remain parked in the lot than to enjoy a fine glass of aged whiskey after work. Be grateful that recession is saving you and so many others from the transgression of alcohol consumption and the hedonistic lifestyle you been meaning to change but never had the chance.

5. Recessions reduce crime. 
Recessions afford the opportunity to the unemployed and the poor to pray often to the Lord to deliver just a bit of what rich folks enjoy, if not the miracle of life's basic necessities so they will not have to steal. Whether they rely on public transportation or their run-down car, the poor and unemployed can't afford to drive over to the rich folks areas to steal from them. Crime rates drop making the rich feel more secure about their wealth and the just society in which they live.

6. Recessions result in cleaner environment.
People have less money to spend, so everyone saves on consumer products, generating less garbage, and cutting down fewer trees and killing fewer animals. Just think of how much is saved in energy and transportation costs when people stay home instead of commuting to work! Yes, recessions are eco-friendly and they are nature's way of protecting the environment from over-indulgent workers and middle class people who care more about their personal consumption than they do about the ecosystem.

7. Recessions help you to be more humane and less materialistic.
Wealth possession is just bad for the soul and you know it, no matter how appealing and convincing the ads about new products for your home and your family. Recession forces you to appreciate money less because you don't have as much, so you turn to family and friends more because they are all the support you need. You were just looking for an excuse to be closer to family and friends, especially if they have money, and now you have no choice because you're broke and you need them!

8. Recessions will help your love life.
You have nothing to do all day long, so to keep from sinking deeper into chronic depression you immerse yourself in 'recession-sympathy sex' with your partner who slaves away so both of you can have the luxury of a home-cooked meal and a roof over your heads. You are so appreciative that recession has given this opportunity to discover the lover in you, that you forgot all about other aspects of your life as you found the ultimate outlet in love making.

9. Recessions make you more philosophical,
helping you reflect on your personal life, and the deeper meaning of life in general, thereby bringing out the philosopher in you that was always there but too busy working, shopping, entertaining and just living good instead of thinking deep thoughts that make you a better and smarter person. And if philosophizing is not enough, you still feel good about yourself because you know that so many millions out there less fortunate than you, yet not as philosophical about it.

10. Recessions make you less materialistic,
helping you downsize and return to nature. You never really wanted that big house, that nice car, all those furnishings, clothes and just stuff that clutters your life. Well, now is your chance to prove that you are not a materialist but a person whose values rest in enjoying the great outdoors where your spouse has sent you for failing to secure a job after you have been playing naturalist for a year. 

11. Recessions enrich your character.
Is there a better teacher in life than economic hardship to make you realize that it's time to address those character flaws that cost you your job in the first place, to make you a more humble and sympathetic human being who understands that someone must make a sacrifice - and why not you - to keep banks and corporations profitable? Is there a better teacher in life than economic hardship to make you appreciate rich folks who always had so much but who will have less during the recession, whereas you never had much in the
first place, so you will never miss it? Unlike the hollow rich, you rely on inner strength of character for which recession is responsible. 

12. Recessions make you more optimistic.
While you are wallowing in your misery because your savings cannot keep pace with mounting in-coming bills, you are forced to anticipate the next boom cycle that honest politicians, journalists, and economists have been predicting. You rejoice that the system really works for you, that it was really meant to serve you but you were too self-absorbed in the misery of your unemployment to appreciate it. Suddenly, there is a burst of unexpected optimism you never thought you had, and all of it is owed to politicians, pundits, and other honest professionals who have your interests at heart!

13. Recessions reduce the death rate.
Oh, sure some of the weaker souls will decide to end it all and join their ancestors earlier than God planned for them. The majority of LES MISERABLES, however, stand to live longer because they reduce their chances of work-related accidents. Given that they are unemployed they have fewer  chances of death or injury during the commute to work or to those frequent outings  to restaurants, bars, theater, etc. And if you are really anxious about improving your health and living longer, relocate today to a very poor country like Bangladesh and you will enjoy the spiritual tranquility among the masses seeking to be more virtuous people in this life so they do not return as something abhorrent like AIG or Goldman-Sachs executives in the next life.

14. Recessions make you more spiritual.
Unemployed and modest in general  demeanor about your long-term plans for a life of comfort you have only dreamed of, your mind wonders about everything from how Divine Providence determines your destiny to how NASA's latest astro-biological findings could mean that your alien friends could beam you up soon and save you from this wretched existence. You contemplate how worry-free it will be in the afterlife that while unemployed you have come to appreciate as a concept; how much more eternally tranquil and fulfilling it will be in comparison with this life of intermittent recessions, bursts of unexpected growth and unpredictable boom cycles. Finally, it dawns on you that recessions have transformed you into a spiritual person, and for that you are eternally grateful.

SOURCE: The INDISPUTABLE proof for the 14 points listed above is provided by countless studies - too many to list here - some that are actually scholarly, conducted by reputable think tanks and universities whose research is supported by philanthropic billionaires and corporations to convince LES MISERABLES of the world to feel better about their government, institutions and about wealthy people who may not be experiencing the effects of recession but fully understand the hard times the other half is experiencing.

Thursday, 2 December 2010


To the insightful piece that Professor Robert Whealey (1 December) wrote regarding CIA, Department of State and Pentagon's relationship with academia, I just want to confirm that the evolution of fields in history is exactly as he explained it in my estimation.
Fields of specialization serving as an ideological mirror and current political trends of the times has resulted in precisely the outcomes that Professor Whealey spells out. The demand for scholarly orientation was to a certain degree shaped not by what the students or even faculty senate wished, but what US government and private sector's contemporary needs/interests that college administrations invariably implement, no matter the lofty claims about academic freedom.

The rise of Russian-Slavic Studies, East Asian Studies, etc. was determined by funds the government and well-known foundations made available, and to a degree by "think tanks" at times sponsoring or co-sponsoring research projects funded by government and/or private sector. It was well known that the Rockefeller family, for example, had a long-standing interest in Latin America, so it made money available to researchers to study the region. Given that to a large degree funds from government and private sector determined what field of study universities would pursue, the fields of specialization evolved as a reflection of the money trail.

As diplomatic historians, both Kissinger and Brzezinski were products of Harvard University and both rose to become national security advisers through the Rockefeller family that employed them and was carrying on an FDR tradition of relying on academics for advice. Not just research centers, but many faculty slots in departments were funded for specific purposes, to say nothing of non-university research centers geared to attract and produce a pre-packaged product bought and paid for--a very determinist process for something so wedded to academic freedom.

The preeminence of diplomatic history began to take a back seat in the aftermath of Vietnam, and that was certainly the case when I was in graduate school and my professors made it clear that the specific field was "old hat," and that funding was available for fields with a anthropo-cultural or psycho-historical aspect, and a new area called "public history."
Although the public history was traditionally associated with museum and archival work, in the 1970s the term assumed a new meaning for historians conducting professional or business history--not to be confused with the history of economics or history of business. Public history meant the history of the American Medical Association, the private history of corporations, and of course government at all levels. While traditional historians especially on the center and left made jokes of this field, it was the hottest field during the Reagan era.

The CIA and other agencies had lost their taste for historians and for the most part preferred "psychologists, English majors and PR journalists to manipulate Congress and the mass media," exactly as Professor Whealey points out. The era of Wilson and FDR relying heavily on academics for policy input seemed to be waning slowly during the early Cold War when a number of scientists, Robert Oppenheimer among the most famous, came under suspicion by the over-zealous J. Edgar Hoover who was feeding off and feeding Joe McCarthy to hunt down America's "commies" inside government, academia, Hollywood, and in every institution where "commies" posed a threat to the culture of conformity.
The genesis of anti-intellectualism is rooted in the early Cold War, but as Professor Whealey notes, there is an evolution of how history areas of specialization evolve and how some government agencies like intelligence opt to minimize history as a field of choice for new recruits by the time Nixon resigned.

An individual I knew who was part of the hiring process in one of the US intelligence agencies in the 1970s, mentioned to me that a college graduate working as a used car salesperson was just fine for the job of intelligence if he/she fit the profile, if she/he was a good soldier and represented the agency well. At the time, I did not understand what was taking place regarding the broader thinking of the agencies concerning the profile they were trying to construct to best reflect new post-Vietnam goals against the background of the Frank Church hearings.

Having the assumption that government is interested in a merit-based system followed from Wilson to FDR, I was surprised that there seemed to be a mistrust of intellectuals in general. This of course was right after Agee published his book and there was an underlying attitude by many career people and politicians that the Church Committee had gone too far. Too close to the situation to assess it correctly at the time, I was unable to see the US government need for "public diplomacy"; essentially the endeavor to convince US and foreign public opinion through a variety of networks from print media to motion pictures of the correctness of US policies. This was the beginning of America's antagonistic relationship with the Muslim world, against the background of the Iranian Revolution and the holding of US hostages--with TV hammering the headline every night America Held Hostage.

Although the history of public diplomacy can be traced to Wilson who was a historian, it was Eisenhower who created the US Information Agency and Voice of America, thus affording prominence to public diplomacy. The Clinton administration made it official by creating an under-secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, thus further distancing government from substance-oriented academics and opting for PR exercises that would prove fruitless.
Jimmy Carter was the last US president who can be called an intellectual and who employed a prominent historian as his top foreign policy adviser, the last president who often resisted the temptation to resort to hollow rhetoric with the intent to deceive and distract the American people; a virtue that in part cost him the re-election.

Once Reagan came to office, he brought with him corporate executives interested in furthering corporate profits. Reagan the great communicator as the media baptized him also brought shallow would-be-intellectuals from right-wing think tanks whose goal was to project a pleasant image of the president, no matter how much people disagreed with his policies. The Reagan PR team was all about image, characterized as one of the most anti-intellectual and hollow, especially coming on the heels of four years of a plain-spoken president with a sharp intellect, profoundly driven by human Christian moral convictions.
Although this is a Machiavellian idea, Reagan set the tone that nothing more than image matters, and every president since 1981 has followed that model.

After Reagan took office, academia saw itself as the outsider, while university administration took its signal from the top that image matters above all else. Academics who wished to simply go along to move up in the career ladder did what they had to. The rest were marginalized, simply hanging in there with the little they had. Self-censorship became more widespread and continued thereafter for many academics. There were the exceptions depending on the individual and the institution. Careerism set in with the Reagan era and it was more important to move ahead as an individual than to risk setbacks by publishing something controversial that could mean the end of research funding. This fear applied mostly to younger and less-known scholars.

Among others, who could continue their work without much difficulty as there were always opportunities open to them in a society that maintained its claim to pluralism, there were "big names" like Tony Judt, Noam Chomsky, I. Wallerstein, Howard Zinn, all of Jewish background, all coming of the Cold War tradition that had hunted down left-leaning Jews like Oppenheimer, and all challenging the culture of conformity. The overwhelming majority of academics in Liberal Arts settled into conformity mode, allowing the neo-conservative establishment to go fairly unchallenged in comparison with the 1960s and 1970s when many college campuses were centers of opposition.

The business model began to creep into the curriculum and shape colleges and universities whose role was to serve business and not engage in self-reflection and critical thinking. Critical and creative thinking intended to promote self-awareness and social justice was lost in the culture of conformity, power and greed; a culture that led us to destructive wars in the Middle East and the biggest recession since the Great Depression.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010


From what we know so far, it is indeed true that the latest Wikileaks docs may prove simply to confirm what the world suspected already about the policies and practices of a number of governments. After all, we do live in the age of the Internet and instant news and official leaks, despite the culture of secrecy about matters concerning public policy that prevails in many countries, among them the US. However, there are much larger questions that Wikileaks raises and they pertain to the profession of journalism.

Is Wikileaks conducting the kind of journalism that the complacent if not openly pro-status quo mainstream media should have been conducting? When was the last time that we have had some really good investigative reporting, and I don't mean one that exposes the personal habits of public officials like Berlusconi (and Gadhafi) chasing little girls? As much as Wikileaks wants to project the image of dissidence, it seems that it is motivated by more tangible benefits and not necessarily by the kind of ideological goals that characterized the era of whistle blowers like Philip Agee. I would not be at all surprised if Wikileaks is sold for some outrageous amount of money to some corporation, perhaps to Murdock's Newscorp.

A Roman Catholic and a graduate from the University of Notre Dame, Agee is world famous or infamous depending on one's perspective for publishing a book Inside the Company: CIA Diary (1975) that exposed CIA operations in the Third World, especially in Latin America where he worked mostly. After serving the agency from 1957 to 1968, Agee, resigned owing to ideological and moral disagreements he had with US foreign policy as well as operations on the ground, and with their purpose, which was to promote US corporate interests.

The year Agee left the agency there were major US and global political and social developments. On the US side, there was the divisive Democratic Convention in Chicago where Richard J. Daley (the boss with the Irish-Italian political machine) decided to play kingmaker once again as he had in 1960 by using the "Daley Machine" to manufacture Democratic consent and elect Humphrey. The Chicago convention took place against the background of the escalating Vietnam War, civil rights increasingly radicalizing and polarizing the American people after M. L. King and Bobby Kennedy's assassination that demonstrated that political differences in the 20th century are resolved in the same manner as during the Roman era.

As a case officer for the CIA, Philip Agee reflected America's dissidents, who vehemently objected to US support of authoritarian regimes and to covert operations that were the type only seen in 1950s film noir involving Soviet and Nazi agents determined to spread chaos and disrupt democratic order. Although opposed to the publishing of agents' names, the Frank Church committee investigating CIA operations that were above any US or international law, gave moral support to Agee and eventually to a few others who chose to more or less follow in Agee's footsteps.

His critics charged that the KGB and Cuban intelligence provided Agee with valuable information about covert US operations. The charge that he was making money and becoming famous by violating the oath of office is something that most people understand. Even more so, it stands to reason that he could have written a book about policies and operations without naming names, but all of this depends on whether one judges Agee politically/ideologically or from the perspective of an interested researcher.

He countered that he was only interested in helping fight what he deemed systemic injustice and insisted that naming names was the way to be effective in disrupting operations. More specifically, he argued that the CIA had infiltrated and manipulated Latin American governments and organizations. In the early 1990s, when I was writing my book on US foreign policy and Latin American labor unions, Agee's work helped to direct me toward a direction I would not have considered at the time, and colleagues in US, England, and Latin America at the time were taking the same approach. CIA had a role in the American Institute for Free Labor Development, (AIFLD) in which the AFL-CIO worked closely with US corporations and government to minimize Latin American opposition to US corporate domination of Latin America; all part of Kennedy's Alliance for Progress that on the surface appeared so progressive, but in fact designed to deradicalize and co-opt organized labor into accepting a more docile role in contract negotiations.

To accomplish the same goal in Africa where Fanonism, Pan-Africanism, and Castroism were on the rise in the 1960s, the US formed the African-American Labor Center (AALC)--again with CIA involvement. The Asian-American Free American Institute (AAFALI) was created to diminish the influence of Mao and Sukarno in Asia amid the Vietnam War--all to secure and perpetuate a capitalist political economy at the cost of social justice, according to Agee.

Agee helped to expose secret operations that would never be known to researchers who relied on official written and oral sources in order to accurately analyze political, foreign policy, economic, social and labor developments. Besides revealing some details about US use of former Nazi war criminals in a number of capacities in various agencies, Agee ended many illusions people entertained about how American democracy actually works in the operations field where torture and assassination of civilian subjects in time of peace are a patriotic duty just as in time of war.

President George H. W. Bush, a former CIA director, argued that Agee's book exposed the names of agents in the field and it cost the life of CIA station chief Richard Welch. The Harvard-educated classicist worked for the CIA in Guatemala, Guyana, Peru, Cyprus, and Greece where he was killed by the well-known ultra-left organization November 17th. The tragic case of CIA station chief Welch provided all the ammunition the US needed to begin rebuilding the culture of secrecy, silence and consent in government that culminated during the presidency of George Bush.

To discredit him, critics accused Agee of everything from alcoholism to working for Moscow and the Cubans from whom he received a sizable sum of money as their propagandist. There is no evidence that he received KGB and Cuban funds. Unless his widow reveals something, we may never know. Just the money generated from book sales would have been enough, given that it was translated into 27 languages and was best seller for a long time, and even two years after his death, it is selling rather well.

Agee belonged to an era of counterculture when America was preparing to pull out of Vietnam. It was the era of CIA involvement in Allende's assassination and numerous counterinsurgency operations in Africa, Asia and Latin America; the era when there was a Civil Rights movement at home while the US backed South Africa's apartheid regime. A segment of the American people were questioning authority and the values of conformity, because the entire society seemed on the wrong course, not just foreign affairs. Agee was driven by ideology and his Roman Catholic upbringing that caused the profound sense of guilt for what he had been doing and what the agency was doing "in the name of freedom and democracy." 

The year he resigned from the agency, Agee ran CIA operations in Mexico City during the Olympic games. He witnessed the Tlatelolco massacre. Two US athletes participating in the Olympic games decided to protest by making the black power sign--raising their arm in a tight fist while receiving the national anthem was playing. During the Cold War when people felt that they had to choose sides, Agee chose sides for ideological and moral reasons. Perhaps he was driven by some type of "Jesus complex" or by other motives, but he adamantly opposed US foreign policy and western capitalism after serving the system for a dozen years. He found support in a number of European democratic countries as well as in Communist ones, as he spent his life as a political refugee, having published the names of US and other western agents.

Agee's book when it came out was very useful both as a work of journalism and as a historical document. Many researchers used it, if not for the empirical information, for the angles he directed the reader as a CIA officer applying pressure on labor unions and politicians to conform to US policy. Agee forced people to consider if their "freedom and democracy virginity" was ever that virginal during the honorable Cold War. The conscientious whistle blower era that Agee represented with some semblance of idealism slowly came to an end in America after the Iranian and Nicaraguan revolutions coinciding with the emergence of the Reagan presidency two years later. The whistle blower era rooted in idealism and morality is now replaced by the web-era of Wikileaks behind which there is commercialism.

As much as I am delighted that Wikileaks is disclosing top secret documents, the latest round from what is revealed so far in news summaries reveals nothing of much consequence, no matter how Angela Merkel and others are offended that Wikileaks tarnished the image they wish to project. It is now obvious that Wikileaks is simply publishing anything and everything indiscriminately in the absence of any ideology, moral conviction, political agenda, etc. It is simply doing it because it attracts world-wide attention.

Bombarding the Web with massive info perhaps for the sake of becoming large and important enough to become legitimate enough to become mainstream and commercially worthy is what I see as the Wikileaks goal, though I could be proved wrong and they may very well be doing all this to secure a place in Heaven next to other ideologically and morally motivated whistle blowers like Agee.

When I had read some time ago Wikileaks had top secret info on corrupt Russian politicians with links to mobsters involved in money laundering operations, narcotics, human trafficking, etc. my reaction was that I had read lots of stories about such things in the past two decades. Will publishing such classified material result in public action and better government to serve all of the Russian people, instead of the wealthy regardless of whether they are making money legally or illegally?

Is the purpose of Wikileaks to serve the public by exposing government corruption and its links to the private sector, or is it headed toward entertainment-style journalism focused on personalities and their peculiarities? So that we do not have to be bombarded by Wikileaks one million page-docs in the future, it is time that the mainstream media distances itself from political and financial elites in order to do some honest and critical reporting intended to promote the public good, instead of eulogizing the rich and powerful so that the publication can secure the advertising space from corporate and government sponsors. Wikileaks is more a condemnation of the state of journalism than it is of the state.