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NEW WORLD ORDER SUPPLEMENT (2/2/02-8/2/02) * An Orgy of Defense Spending: Bush's 'axis of evil' rhetoric fabricates a need [A splendid article from the Los Angeles Times, summed up in the title and in this sentence: ŒHis astonishing budget makes sense only if we are planning to use our mighty military in a pseudo-religious quest to create a super-dominant Pax Americana..¹] * 'Once It's Quiet, We Can Reach a State of Nonbelligerency' [An interview between evil William Safire and evil Ariel Sharon. The article is mostly about the need to topple evil Yasser Arafat and install a puppet Palestinian regime, but this extract looks at Sharon¹s anxieties over evil Iran] * Was the Clinton Administration Soft on Terror? [Short extract from interview with evil Madeleine Albright. Less punchy than she was last week.] * Grateful Powell hails Australia's war role [Powell pats Australia on the head. And if its VERY good, he might even give it a bone.] * Power, counter-power, Part 2: The fractal war [Pepe Escobar again, writing in the Asia Times. Who is he? The article doesn¹t have a lot to say about Iraq but its good stuff. This is the sort of writing we need. It is prophetic. It says that the future can be seen in in Sao Paolo. And incidentally makes the interesting point that we haven¹t seen any photos of the wonderful hi-tech, surely very photogenic caves there are supposed to be in Tora Bora.] * Arrogance and fear: an American paradox [An intelligent analysis from a pro-American viewpoint. Kaletsky thinks the US should be basking in complacent self congratulation not working itself up into a state of paranoid, mouth-frothing terror: ŒBy identifying America primarily as a military power, by asserting that it will pursue its perceived national interests regardless of international laws, coalitions or treaties, by emphasising its unchallengeable superiority over every other nation and global institution, by claiming an unconditional moral hegemony over any adversary he cares to identify, and by acting so blatantly in the interests of the US business establishment, Mr Bush is weakening America and playing into the hands of its opponents.¹] * Missile Conference Opens in Paris [France proposing an international treaty to limit the proliferation of ballistic missiles.] * Moscow revitalizes its old priorities in Asia [The other side of Moscow¹s apparent support for the ŒInternational Coalition against Terrorism¹] * Peremptory tendencies: France fires a warning shot at the US * Chavez says he's democrat not communist [This is supposed to be Chavez` backing down under pressure from Powell. But he hasn¹t backed down all the way: ŒNoting that his visit to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in Baghdad in 2000 had "irritated some people in the world," Chavez said: "What do we care? Let them get irritated. ... We are defending the sacred interests of the Venezuelan people."¹] * The quest for balance in Eurasia [Asia Times again, this time in pro-American mode. But a cool, rational - ie non American - geopolitical approach all the same. Only extracts given here.] * Eurasia: An axis of uncertainty [from part two of the same] URL ONLY: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A36140-2002Feb6.html * Questions About the Colossus by Jim Hoagland Washington, 7th February Evil Jim Hoagland in awe of evil Bush¹s proposed military budget. http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/politics/whitehouse/la 000008933feb05.column?coll=la%2Dnews%2Dpolitics%2Dwhite%5Fhouse * AN ORGY OF DEFENSE SPENDING: BUSH'S 'AXIS OF EVIL' RHETORIC FABRICATES A NEED by Robert Scheer Los Angeles Times, 5th February Now we get to see just how cowardly the Democrats in Congress can be. President Bush has proposed the most preposterous military buildup in human history--annual spending of $451 billion by 2007--and nary a word of criticism has been heard from the other side of the aisle. The president is drunk with the popularity that his war on terrorism has brought, and those sober Democrats and Republicans, who know better, are afraid to wrestle him for the keys to the budget before he drives off a cliff. The red ink that Bush wants us to bleed to line the pockets of the defense industry, along with the tax cuts for the rich, will do more damage to our country than any terrorist. The result will be an economically hobbled United States, unable to solve its major domestic problems or support meaningful foreign aid, its enormous wealth sacrificed at the altar of military hardware that is largely without purpose. Why the panic to throw billions more at the military when even the Pentagon brass have told us it is not needed? Our military forces, much maligned as inadequate by Bush during the election campaign, proved to be lacking in nothing once the administration decided to stop playing footsie with the Taliban and eliminate those monsters of our own creation. It was obviously not a lack of hardware that made us vulnerable to the cruelty of Sept. 11 but rather a failure of will by President Clinton, and then Bush, to brand the Taliban as terrorists and then to take out the well-marked camps of Al Qaeda with the counterinsurgency machine we have been perfecting since the Kennedy administration. Clinton authorized the elimination of Osama bin Laden in 1998, but the spy agencies simply failed to execute the order. Neither, apparently, were they competent enough to track Al Qaeda agents from training camps in Afghanistan to flight schools in Florida. All this even though these agencies possess secret budgets of at least $70 billion a year, combined. Despite the ability to read license plates from outer space and scan the world's e-mail, our intelligence agencies lost the trail of terrorists who easily found cover with lap dancers in strip joints. The bottom line is that we need sharper agents, not more expensive equipment. There is not an item in the Bush budget that will make us more secure from the next terrorist attack. That being obvious, Bush is now resorting to the tried and true "evil empire" rhetorical strategy, grouping the disparate regimes of Iraq, Iran and North Korea as an "axis of evil." This alleged axis then becomes the rationale for a grossly expanded military budget, the idea being that the United States must be prepared to fight a conventional war on three fronts. However, no such axis exists. North Korea is a tottering relic of a state whose nuclear operation was about to be bought off under the skilled leadership of the South Korean government when Bush jettisoned the deal. Iraq and Iran have been implacable foes for 25 years, and both were despised by the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Meanwhile, a key Muslim ally of the United States, Saudi Arabia, produced 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers--and Bin Laden. Saudi Arabia is also where Al Qaeda does its biggest fund-raising and yet, inexplicably, it is excluded from the new enemies list. Even if the accepted goal were the overthrow of the three brutal regimes targeted by President Bush, that would hardly requirean expansion of a war machine built to humble the Soviet Union in its prime. Is Bush the younger now telling us that his father failed to topple Saddam Hussein because he lacked sufficient firepower? The road to Baghdad was wide open after we obliterated the vaunted Iraqi tank army in a matter of weeks. Or does Bush the younger have even more grandiose plans in mind? His astonishing budget makes sense only if we are planning to use our mighty military in a pseudo-religious quest to create a super-dominant Pax Americana. Bizarre as that sounds, it may be the real framework for Bush's proposed spending orgy. In any case, almost every non-American speaker at the World Economic Forum in New York expressed fear at this specter. Even our own Bill Gates was alarmed at the United States' apparent hubris: "People who feel the world is tilted against them will spawn the kind of hatred that is very dangerous for all of us." Is it too much to ask that these billions, our billions, be spent to enhance our security rather than further erode it? Robert Scheer writes a syndicated column. http://www.iht.com/articles/47001.html * 'ONCE IT'S QUIET, WE CAN REACH A STATE OF NONBELLIGERENCY' by William Safire International Herald Tribune (from The New York Times), 5th February [.....] Turning to Mr. Bush's threat to Iraq, Iran and North Korea, I recalled how Mr. Sharon a decade ago criticized Israel's restraint under Iraqi missile attack in the Gulf War. If Saddam Hussein, attacked by the United States, lashed out again, would Israel hold back? "We won't be able to sit by. One dangerous development is the increased activity between Iran and Iraq. They are discussing the possibility of Iranian planes flying over Iraq to Damascus, part of the airlift of weapons, especially rockets, and then by truck through Syria to the Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon. If there is a reaction from Iraq from any direction, we will be ready for that." As reported before the capture of the Iranian-Palestinian terror ship with explosives intended to blow up Israeli civilians, Mr. Sharon is most concerned about Iran. "Iranians are active among a small number of Israeli Arabs, trying to recruit suicide bombers and espionage agents, but most prefer a normal life. Iran calls for the destruction of the state of Israel and elimination of the Jewish people. That's why it was so important for President Bush to name them as sponsors of terror last week." Can Mr. Sharon, in stepping in to personally conduct cease-fire talks, steer between a band of army reservist refuseniks on the left and Benjamin Netanyahu's call for toppling the Palestinian Authority on the right? "Too busy to worry about that," says the prime minister, eager to compare notes with President Bush this week. "We have to solve our economic problems, save Argentina's Jews, combat anti-Semitism in France, achieve a cease-fire. But I'll be able to manage it." http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,44812,00.html * WAS THE CLINTON ADMINISTRATION SOFT ON TERROR? Fox News, 5th February This is a partial transcript from On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, February 4, 2002. [.....] VAN SUSTEREN: There's no doubt in my mind that we all have the same go here, to fight terrorism. But as you look back at what the Bush administration is doing, are they doing something that's a fatal flaw, in terms of their strategy, in dealing with these countries? ALBRIGHT: Well, I think we don't know whether it's a fatal flaw, because there is no plan. I mean, all that happened is that President Bush coined this term, axis of evil, and put these three countries together. He hasn't laid out a plan. And as far as I've been following the press, they have in fact walked it back a little bit, and said that there is nothing imminent that's going to happen, they do want to have some kind of talks with the North Koreans, and they're not really threatening anything immediately. So it's very hard to know exactly what they mean. But what I think is that clearly, we have to be very tough wit Iraq and choose our moment. We would have happily gotten rid of Saddam Hussein earlier if we could have. I sure wish that the first President Bush had actually finished the job when we had 500,000 forces on the ground. But on Iran, it's a very complicated country. There are divisions in that country. And to just see it as a monolithic, determined country that's against us, and lump it with Iraq, a country it considers its enemy, is a mistake. And North Korea, we wanted to have a verified agreement that would end the export of missiles and missile technology. And the Bush administration decided it didn't want to continue with that particular track at the time, I think. So it's a question of timing, and we don't know what the plan is. [.....] http://www.theage.com.au/news/world/2002/02/07/FFXJZT50CXC.html * GRATEFUL POWELL HAILS AUSTRALIA'S WAR ROLE by Gay Alcorn The Age (Australia), 7th February The Bush administration has singled out Australia's "forward-leaning" commitment to America's war against terror, as the White House tries to strengthen its existing alliances and forge new ones. Secretary of State Colin Powell, addressing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, gave a sweeping picture of a transformed strategic outlook since September 11 - particularly improved relations with Russia and China. "We also reinvigorated our bilateral alliance with Japan, Korea and Australia," Mr Powell said. "Let me say that our Australian friends, in particular, have been forward-leaning in their efforts to support the war on terrorism. Heavily committed in East Timor already, Australia nonetheless offered its help immediately, and we have been grateful for that help." Australia has been notable among America's allies for its rapid announcement of support for military action in Afghanistan, its understanding of the White House's decision to withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia in order to pursue missile defences, and its lack of concern about America's treatment of suspected terrorists being held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Prime Minister John Howard has said he fully understands Mr Bush's labelling of North Korea, Iran and Iraq as an "axis of evil", an expression criticised by many European allies as ill-considered and inflammatory. US political analyst with the Brookings Institution, Thomas Mann, said it was "about time" the Bush administration publicly recognised Australia's strong support for America's war. "There's been so little mention (of Australia's commitment). The fact is Australia has been remarkably prompt in its support for the US and has actually made a significant contribution to the effort," said Mr Mann, who closely follows Australian domestic and foreign affairs. "Australia (has been ignored) because it is small and because Britain among the allies tends to attract all the attention." Mr Mann said Mr Bush's visit this month to Japan, South Korea and China could be "very distressing" for the administration because of the region's unease at his "axis of evil" remark, particularly concerning North Korea. It was unclear for now how Australia's backing of the US would affect its regional relationships. "The Howard government has cast its lot with the Bush administration, it has jumped aboard and there's no sign of any light appearing between the US and Australia," he said. Mr Powell stressed to the committee that Iran, Iraq and North Korea were "probably not the only ones we could have put into the club" of evil. Asked why the President left out countries such as China, which the US also accuses of developing and exporting weapons of mass destruction, Mr Powell said the administration could deal "sensibly" with China - a remarkable turnaround since September 11. He stressed there had been no change in policy towards Iran, Iraq and North Korea since Mr Bush's address. President Bush "set the nation on a course", said Mr Powell. "He was trying to make the point to our friends and allies, coalition partners and like-minded people around the world that these are very dangerous regimes and it isn't enough just to say they are dangerous regimes. "That action is going to be required doesn't mean that a war is going to start tomorrow or that we're going to invade anybody," he said. Iran and Iraq made conciliatory gestures this week in an apparent attempt to deflect America's wrath. Iran's Foreign Minister, Kamal Kharazi, said any al Qaeda or Taliban members who had fled across the border from Afghanistan would be deported. http://atimes.com/global-econ/DB07Dj01.html * POWER, COUNTER-POWER, PART 2: THE FRACTAL WAR by Pepe Escobar Part 1: The Utopian dream SAO PAULO - The New Afghan War is intimately linked to the power and counter-power struggle represented these past few days by New York and Porto Alegre. The New Afghan War was the apex of the American strategy of "zero death" plus operational liquidation. Tora Bora, allegedly the last - and only - battle against Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, was nothing but a staged B-52 showpiece. The mushroom clouds created by the B-52 bombs were an extremely symbolic smokescreen. The American media regurgitated and swallowed the myth perpetrated by obscure "intelligence sources" telling of giant James Bond-style caves and Osama in hiding like a bearded version of Dr No - or even Satan himself. The so-called "immense tunnel complex", a network with its own water supply and electricity, mosques and lifts, has never been seen by any independent source to this day. Osama himself was invisible. Those of us in Afghanistan could not advance to the main frontline because the mujahideen, now empowered with bulging suitcases full of Central Intelligence Agency dollars, would not let us. Otherwise we would report about the presence of American Special Forces. We saw the Special Forces anyway, even though they assumed they were invisibile under their scarves and shalwar-kameezes. The three mujahideen groups around Tora Bora largely benefited from the windfall - all the time issuing fake "victory communiques". Osama and the al-Qaeda leadership, of course, were nowhere to be seen even before the assault on Tora Bora. But subsequently there were a lot of bodies - conveniently kept away from the TV cameras. An unimpeachable witness told Asia Times Online he had seen "hundreds" of bodies of minor al-Qaeda members, who had all surrendered. They were killed in cold blood by mujahideen mostly loyal to commander Hazrat Ali, with the complicity of US Special Forces. The source figures about 1,000 Arabs were killed. Between the impotence of the media circus and the Pentagon obsession with secrecy, truth was a certified victim in the affair. Nobody will ever know how many were actually killed at Tora Bora. But it is absolutely certain their number, plus the number of Afghan civilian victims of the American bombing, is greater than the number of victims in the World Trade Center. The post-Afghan scenario looks increasingly murky. The United States' treatment of the non prisoners-of-war - all of them minor players - in Guantanamo continues to provoke revulsion around the world. Globetrotting "Gucci Guerrilla" Hamid Karzai's main claim to fame so far is to have lifted Afghanistan from the media war specials to the fashion spreads - he has been proclaimed "most elegant man on the planet" by Gucci's Tom Ford. Globetrotting Foreign Minister Dr Abdullah Abdullah is now seen hobnobbing with U2's Bono Vox on one of the panels at the World Economic Forum. The US was spending US$2 billion a month in Afghanistan. It won't be so generous rebuilding what it has bombed. The US pledged only $296 million over three years for reconstruction of the country. The European Union, on the other hand, pledged $487 million for 2002 alone, and Japan pledged $500 million for two-and-a-half years. Even Iran pledged $560 million over five years. The United Nations estimates that Afghanistan will need $10 billion over the next five years. It's impossible to ascertain whether and who in Afghanistan will get the money, and how it will be distributed and spent without further bloodshed between rival warlords. The fighting in Gardez this week was just a prelude of further horrors to come. The country is in fact balkanized, again, with fierce regional warlords controlling vast pockets of territory and not sparing a thought about who's in charge in Kabul. And as far as September 11 is concerned, the American establishment still doesn't get it. The best analysis of September 11 so far is arguably by French thinker Jean Baudrillard. In L'Esprit du terrorisme (Ed Galilee, Paris, 2002), Baudrillard writes: "It's the system itself that created the objective conditions of this brutal retorsion. By monopolizing all the cards to itself, it forces The Other to change the rules of the game." Baudrillard identifies the New Hot War not as a clash of civilizations, or a religious clash, or even a clash between Islam and America: "It is a fundamental antagonism that designates, through the specter of America [which is maybe the epicenter but not the only incarnation of globalization], and through the specter of Islam [which is not the incarnation of terrorism], triumphant globalization fighting itself." Baudrillard indeed recognizes we are engaged in a "world war". But it's not the third; it's the fourth, "the only one that is really global, because it involves globalization itself". The First World War, in Baudrillard's reading, "ended the supremacy of Europe and the colonial era. The second ended Nazism. The third - which already happened, under the form of Cold War and dissuasion - ended communism." So we have been walking further and further towards a single global order. Now, according to Baudrillard, we are in a "fractal war of all the cells, of all the singularities that revolt in the form of antibodies". Baudrillard states that "the spirit of terrorism" is "never to attack the system in terms of relation of forces" (that would be reverting to the old revolutionary imagination), but instead to "displace the struggle to the symbolic sphere". The struggle for a more just globalization process is being fought in the symbolic sphere as well: in this sense, Porto Alegre is the anti Davos (or anti-New York). That's why the American neoconservative effort to demonize all the different and peaceful strands of the anti-globalization movement is doomed to failure. But the greatest danger, also identified by Baudrillard, is the fact that "the idea of freedom is in the process of being obliterated". Washington now is selling freedom as war. Glitterati now marvel at Vanity Fair magazine splashing on its cover a power shot of the White House-Pentagon centerfold warriors - as if they had won the invisible war: it is never enough to remind them that the "enemy" - Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda leadership - is still armed, dangerous, and on the loose. Baudrillard's judgment is gloomy, but realistic. He sees globalization being implemented in reverse - as "police globalization, total control, security terror": "Deregulation finishes in a maximum of constraints and restrictions, equivalent to the ones imposed by a fundamentalist society." Merchants are usually right when reading the signs of society. No wonder it's now possible to buy T-shirts on the streets of Bangkok with bin Laden and Bush depicted as "The Twin Terrors". Is there a solution? Not really, says Baudrillard, "especially not war, which offers nothing but a situation of deja-vu, with the same onslaught of military forces, phantom information, pathetic discourses, technological deployment and intoxication". For all of us who have been there - and for everyone who watched the soap opera on TV - this is an extremely accurate depiction of the New Afghan War: a non-event, just like the Gulf War. A geopolitical realignment indeed took place - but not on a post-World War II scale, as some commentators are suggesting. Onetime Evil Empires like Russia and especially China now are US allies - but only in the very short term. Pakistan indeed abandoned its client Taliban regime in Afghanistan, but there are no assurances President General Pervez Musharraf and his modernizing gang can contain the Islamist drive. Iran remained neutral during the Afghan War - but now is demonized, at Israel's insistence, as part of the "axis of evil": so the Iranians will try even harder to build an alliance with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to counterbalance US interference. Tajikistan and Uzbekistan offered bases for the US during the Afghan War, but there's not much they can do without Russian consent. Moscow sources tell Asia Times Online that what Russia really wants is to rearrange the North Atlantic Treaty Organization into an East-meets-West military-political organization. What the American unilateralist obsession will make of all this in the uproar around "permanent revolution" is open to discussion. One thing is certain: the "revolution" will be highly selective. Strikes against "failed states" like Somalia, yes: strikes against Saudi Arabia, a haven of disgruntled and vengeful wahhabis, unthinkable. All sorts of operations to destabilize dictators like Satan Hussein, yes. Intimidations against dictators like Uzbekistan's Karimov, unthinkable. One does not have to be a Greek oracle - or a Tibetan oracle in Dharamsala - to see Iraq in the next line of fire. America wants to repeat the Afghan syndrome: a cheap (maximum $2 billion a month) and quick attack with a high probability of toppling Satan Hussein. The European Union - apart from pit bull Tony Blair - may not tag along, but in America under permanent revolution, Europe simply does not matter. Iraq could break up, though, and suddenly an independent Kurdistan could emerge on the world map - a nightmare not only to neighbors Turkey and Syria. In this case - and anathema to Washington - Iran would certainly have something to gain. Still in the not-so-farfetched department, the US could protect its oil and gas interests by moving deeper into Central Asia - where it has already established a substantial presence - and at the same time withdrawing its troops from Saudi Arabia in exchange for a non-Satan Hussein regime in Baghdad, the whole proposition brokered by Russia, which is owed billions of dollars by Iraq. But there's a little snag: Satan Hussein will never go down quietly. So it's all about unfinished business. Myopic analysts are pitting a "prosperous democratic West" against "Islamic extremists". But it's all much more complex. They ought to read some Baudrillard. The myopic analysts are now very fond of quoting conservative orientalist Bernard Lewis, who cleverly shifts the blame in the current Apocalypse Now scenario in Palestine to "the peoples of the Middle East" - indiscriminately accused of "hate and spite, rage and self-pity, poverty and oppression". But if "the suicide bomber will become a metaphor for the whole region" - as Lewis suggests, and as is already the case - it's not due to a masochistic impulse, but to a desperate human reaction to state terrorism, namely Israel's. The World Economic Forum (WEF) was discussing whether poverty breeds terrorism. The audience just had to book a flight to the Middle East. Colin Powell rhetorically assured the WEF that the US will combat poverty to eliminate terrorism. European Union foreign-policy supremo Javier Solana went a step further: he said we simultaneously have to fight poverty and regional conflicts - like Israel-Palestine. That's exactly what Noam Chomsky has been saying all along - upping the ante when he associates the proliferation of regional conflicts to the spread of globalization. The US invests about $350 billion a year in its defense industry, but only $10 billion on aid to development: it's the lowest proportion of any industrialized country. Take an American Airlines jet - no suicide bombers included - to Sao Paulo, a gigantic urban nebula of 18 million where civil war is a way of life. Even the Sao Paulo middle class is subjected to daily terrorism. There were more than 500 kidnappings in 2001, and 47 during this past January alone. They are perpetrated by individuals, local organized gangs, and even cross-border international gangs. They include kidnapping-light - an ordeal that lasts only for a few hours while the victim is taken on a night cruise extracting cash from scattered automated teller machines. Sao Paulo lives daily an undeclared civil war. A few weeks ago, a helicopter flew in and kidnapped two inmates inside a Sao Paulo maximum-security prison: next time they will probably leave through the main gate. A famous advertising executive was kidnapped from his bulletproof car in a fake police blitz and held captive for almost two months in a cubicle in a middle-class neighborhood. In Sao Paulo, as in many developing countries, an oligarchy - under the aegis of Market Utopia - has fomented the failure of the state. When the state is minimal or absent, the corruption of bureaucracies in charge of pacifying powers is total. Anybody who has any wealth in Sao Paulo pretends to be living on New York's Park Avenue or Paris's Avenue Foch, while the streets are an orgy of violence - from gross crimes by desperados to instances of mass rebellion. Revolt and antisocial behavior proliferate due to the absolute absence of the state. Environics International research commissioned by the WEF in 25 countries where 67 percent of the world population lives yielded some fascinating results. Let's examine Brazil - one of the "Big Five" of the 21st century according to the World Bank, alongside China, India, Russia and Indonesia. Brazil is one of a handful of countries that attracted a lot of foreign direct investment since the mid-'90s. It enjoyed the benefits of openness. It's part of the so called low-income "globalizers", along with China, India and Argentina. Most Brazilians - 62 percent - believe globalization has positive effects. But 52 percent believe workers' rights, work conditions and salaries deteriorate with globalization. Fifty percent believe that the notion of equality around the world is suffering due to globalization. Fifty-four percent believe it is responsible for the increase of poverty and homelessness. To sum it all up: 59 percent believe rich countries benefit much more from globalization than poor countries. These figures are practically the same in the other 24 countries surveyed. Even the majority of people in the Group of Seven industrialized countries don't believe people in poor countries will get as many benefits as they do from globalization. One wonders whether the globalization elite at the WEF are listening. If they aren't, the whole world will become a huge Sao Paulo: 24 hours a day of undeclared civil war, a "fractal war of all the cells". (Copyright 2002 Asia Times Online Co, Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact email@example.com for information on our sales and syndication policies.) http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/0,,248-2002062638,00.html * ARROGANCE AND FEAR: AN AMERICAN PARADOX by Anatole Kaletsky The Times, 7th February Is America about to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory? To judge by the incoherent, paranoid mood of the World Economic Forum in New York, American politicians, businessmen and media commentators appear to be on the brink of a collective nervous breakdown. Consider what America has achieved in the past six months. It has won a war that was said to be unwinnable. It has coped with a human and social tragedy on a scale not seen in the West since the Second World War, responding with an admirable combination of dignity, restraint and courage. On the economic front, a recession described by many experts as the greatest peril to face the world economy since the 1930s has ended almost before it began. The bursting of the Internet bubble ‹ widely described as the greatest financial speculation in history ‹ has left some investors severely chastened, but has done no permanent harm to the US economy or even to confidence on Wall Street. How have Americans responded to all this good news? Not since the early 1980s have I seen America¹s business elite so lacking in confidence, not just about their immediate economic prospects, but about the long-term outlook for capitalism and the world. The arrogance of American politicians on the world stage is a natural reaction to this fundamental lack of economic and social self-confidence, as it was in the early Reagan years. Whether the wider American public shares this manic-depressive paranoia is uncertain, but opinion polls suggest that it does. How else can one explain the record approval ratings of a President who tells them that ‹ far from celebrating their Afghanistan victory ‹ they should prepare for a third world war that will last for decades and expose them to unprecedented dangers? Objectively, Americans should now feel more secure than ever. The Taleban have been overthrown with little loss of American lives. An unprecedented global coalition has defended modern civilisation from a perverted medieval fundamentalism. The round-up of terrorists has been successfully extended to every corner of the world, helping to stabilise pro-Western regimes from the Philippines to Peru. Let me quote President Arroyo of the Philippines, who has far more reason to fear Islamic terrorism than any American. Speaking at the forum she said: ³Victory is now at hand. When President Bush said he would go into Afghanistan, everyone predicted that it would be a long drawn-out war, but it took only a few weeks for the back of the terrorist movement to be broken.² President Arroyo is clearly right. Hundreds of terrorists have been arrested, their plans uncovered and their networks opened to infiltration. Laws have been tightened around the world. New security measures have been introduced making aircraft and public buildings far safer than before. Technologies are being deployed to make terrorist attacks even more difficult and a repeat of September¹s massacre literally impossible. An anthrax attack on the US Congress has been dealt with and has turned out to be much less lethal than expected. Yet the Bush Administration¹s response to all these victories has been to terrify the American public with bloodcurdling rhetoric about the infinitely greater horrors of nuclear and biological terrorism that lie in wait. There are many possible reasons why Mr Bush may prefer to whip up irrational war hysteria rather than rest on his laurels.He may be genuinely convinced that terrorists are about to acquire nuclear weapons from Iraq, North Korea or Iran, but this seems unlikely, if only because there are more plausible sources of supply in Russia and the former Soviet republics, not to mention India and Pakistan. Any pretext to topple President Saddam Hussein would obviously be attractive to the White House. This would also be a great boon for the world and the Middle East, if the job could be done by internal dissident forces and accomplished with as little bloodshed as the overthrow of the Taleban. Unfortunately, this is a very big if, since there is no military opposition in Iraq comparable to the Northern Alliance and Saddam runs a modern police state, very different from the ramshackle medieval theocracy of the Taleban. There are other less creditable reasons for whipping up war hysteria. Mr Bush wants to make sure that he cannot be blamed for a lack of vigilance in the event of some totally unpredictable and random terrorist outrage, which could occur, by the law of probabilities, regardless of whatever precautions might be taken sometime in the next few years. The Pentagon has been looking for an enemy ever since Mr Bush¹s election, to justify a vastly expanded defence budget. Moreover, the interests of Israel have a commanding influence on some of the key policymakers in Washington ‹ and Israel¹s interests are unfortunately identified at present with the extreme Zionism of Ariel Sharon. For Saudi Arabia, which is increasingly recognised in America as the main wellspring of the fundamentalist poison seeping through all Islamic countries, it is convenient if America¹s anger is deflected on to Iraq and Iran. America¹s new paranoia is also driven by a domestic political agenda. The social conservatives on the Republican Right are praying (literally) that a revival of the Cold War mentality of the 1950s might restore some of the conservative moral values that were weakened by the counter-culture of the 1960s and 1970s, which were totally swept away by the Clinton Administration. War fever has given Mr Bush an excuse to tear up his promises about balanced budgets and to propose additional tax cuts that would benefit America¹s biggest corporations and richest citizens. Last, but not least, it is clearly in the Republicans¹ interest to sustain the war fever until the crucial congressional elections on November 5. All this is obvious enough ‹ and all of these themes were widely discussed in the background of the New York forum, if only sotto voce. It is also obvious that America¹s paranoia and arrogance will pose at least a temporary danger to the global anti-terrorist coalition. What is less obvious, but may prove more insidious and lasting, is the effect of the new paranoia on the global victory of American capitalist values, which seemed so decisive in the past decade. By identifying America primarily as a military power, by asserting that it will pursue its perceived national interests regardless of international laws, coalitions or treaties, by emphasising its unchallengeable superiority over every other nation and global institution, by claiming an unconditional moral hegemony over any adversary he cares to identify, and by acting so blatantly in the interests of the US business establishment, Mr Bush is weakening America and playing into the hands of its opponents. He is fostering the belief that America¹s wealth and power are illegitimate and coercive when, in reality, America is powerful because people all over the world volunteer to buy its products and absorb its values. But that is not how the world perceives things. And the more America brandishes its military power, the more it will be met with antagonism, revulsion and misunderstanding. Even US businessmen seem to be losing confidence in the legitimacy of the system that made them rich. The millionaire corporate executives at the World Economic Forum applauded enthusiastically whenever speakers mentioned injustice, inequality and the need for more government, regulation and income redistribution on a global scale. Every mention of the global triumph of US capitalist values was greeted with embarrassed silence. All this may be no bad thing. Perhaps global inequalities have become intolerable. Perhaps the imbalance between materialism and spirituality does need redressing. Perhaps Europe ‹ and especially Britain ‹ could benefit by distancing themselves further from brash American values. But as Mr Bush pushes America ever further towards the extremes of military unilateralism, there is a growing danger of a repeat of the global ideological backlash of the 1960s ‹ and a near certainty that US influence in the world will diminish. The greatest danger to America¹s dominant position today is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is the arrogance of American power. http://www.baghdad.com/?action=display&article=11829187&template=baghdad/ind exsearch.txt&index=recent * MISSILE CONFERENCE OPENS IN PARIS The Associated Press, 7th February PARIS: Representatives from 78 countries ‹ including nuclear rivals India and Pakistan ‹ are meeting in Paris for two days to help produce a set of international guidelines aimed at curbing the proliferation of ballistic missiles. Gerard Errera, the French Foreign Ministry's deputy director of political affairs, said in opening the conference Thursday that he hoped the 'International Code of Conduct against the Proliferation of Ballistic Missiles' would become an important instrument in the quest for world stability and peace. ``The fact that so many accepted our invitation is a reason for optimism,'' he said. ``This is a sign that the international community has assessed the challenges that are tied to the development ‹ qualitative and quantitative ‹ of ballistic capabilities.'' The goal of the conference is to solicit feedback from participants on a proposed code of conduct that would recognize the need to curb missile proliferation and share information about missile testing. The code would also call on nations to exercise ``maximum restraint'' in the development and deployment of ballistic missiles. The code was first proposed by French President Jacques Chirac in June 2000 and then drawn up by the Missile Technology Control Regime, an international pact that tries to discourage the export of weapons of mass destruction. According to the MTCR, a ballistic missile is one that is capable of delivering a 1,102-pound payload to a target more than 186 miles away. Ballistic missiles raise the specter of mass destruction because they can carry nuclear, biological or chemical weapons. Conference participants include the five original nuclear powers ‹ the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China ‹ and three nations that have tested nuclear weapons or are believed to be capable of doing so: India, Pakistan and Israel. According to French diplomatic sources, only two countries refused invitations: North Korea and Syria. Iraq, which is under U.N. sanctions for failing to cooperate with U.N inspectors trying to verify that Baghdad has dismantled its weapons of mass destruction, was not invited. http://atimes.com/c-asia/DB07Ag01.html * MOSCOW REVITALIZES ITS OLD PRIORITIES IN ASIA by Sergei Blagov Asia Times, 7th February MOSCOW - Russia has dismissed George W Bush's "axis of evil" claims, and appears to be looking to strengthen its old Asian alliances, notably with India and "evil" Iran, to counterbalance United States clout in Central Asia. Moscow came up with an initially muted but subsequently critical response to the US president's declaration that Iraq, North Korea and Iran were an "axis of evil". Russia was not going to cut its military ties with Iran, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov stated in Rome on February 4. Russia sells conventional arms to Iran - "it's a usual commercial practice and we won't stop it", Ivanov said, adding, "I don't think that Iran, Iraq and North Korea could be described as an 'axis of evil'." Konstantin Kosachev, deputy head of the Fatherland-All Russia pro-Kremlin faction in parliament, described the "axis of evil" claims as a mistake. Moscow should go ahead with its military ties with Iran, he said. If Russia sides with the US, it will mean ditching Russia's potential for striking international partnership, he argued on Tuesday. Apart from Iran, Russia has long been nurturing ties with Iraq and North Korea. Some Russian officials and lawmakers argue that Bush had been too harsh in his State of the Union address and that Russia should pursue its policies regardless US warnings. Russia was interested in economic and political cooperation with Iraq, Ramazan Abdulatipov, head of a Russian parliamentary delegation, stated in Baghdad, also on Tuesday. The Iraqi leadership "is ready to become Russia-oriented", claimed Abdulatipov after meeting up with Iraqi's Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz. Russia is owed a huge debt by Iraq, estimated at nearly US$10 billion. At the same time, Russian oil companies, both private and state-run, want to tap into Iraq's lucrative oil resources. Not surprisingly, Russian politicians are weary of the threat of US air strikes against Iraq. Dmitry Rogozin, head of the parliament's international affairs committee, said that US preventive strikes against Iraq, without UN approval, could destabilize the international situation. It is understood that Russia dismisses "axis of evil" rhetoric because the Kremlin is unhappy about increasing US influence in Central Asia. The US military presence there causes "agitation if not a scandal among Russia's politicians", Russia's official RIA news agency commented earlier this month. Now Moscow does not believe US promises and most Russians view the US military bases in Central Asia as a "tragic event, signifying the demise of the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] and end of centuries-long Russian influence in Central Asia". Moreover, the American "seizure" of Central Asia has a strategic dimension, since a possible deployment of US anti-missile systems at Khanabad base in Uzbekistan could affect Russian strategic facilities throughout vast areas, RIA commented. Although Russian officials are yet to come up with harsh criticism on the record, the comments of the Kremlin's official mouthpiece are indicative of what is to come. [.....] http://www.guardian.co.uk/leaders/story/0,3604,646014,00.html * PEREMPTORY TENDENCIES: FRANCE FIRES A WARNING SHOT AT THE US The Guardian, 7th February France's foreign minister, Hubert Vedrine, has become the latest European politician to voice alarm at what might be termed the peremptory tendency increasingly evident in US dealings with the world at large. The primary trigger was George Bush's state of the union address a week ago. The US president's bellicose, go-it-alone tone and his specific threat of military action against the so-called "axis of evil" - Iraq, Iran and North Korea - continues to make waves as friends and foes ponder America's true intentions. Foreign secretary Jack Straw reckoned much of this was mere mid-term electioneering. But the White House's Condoleezza Rice quickly slapped him down, insisting Mr Bush meant what he said. This appears to be Mr Vedrine's view, too. "We are threatened today by a new simplism which consists in reducing everything to the war on terrorism," he complained yesterday. It was necessary instead to tackle the root causes of conflicts, including terrorism, such as poverty, inequality, ignorance and injustice, Mr Vedrine suggested. This was well said. What a pity that no British minister has the courage and honesty to speak in such terms. Mr Bush's new hero is said to be Theodore Roosevelt. The comparison is flawed in many respects, not least because Mr Bush, far from speaking softly, backs up his big stick with much loud, noisome and foolhardy verbiage. When the likes of Paul Wolfowitz follow up by warning that pre-emptive strikes aimed "at prevention, not merely punishment" await those who oppose America's will or offend its sense of se curity, the spreading waves of unease swell and surge. The EU's Javier Solana warns of the dangers of US "global unilateralism"; Nato's George Robertson warns of an alliance split between "military pygmies" and an over-fed military giant; and Donald Rumsfeld, unrepentant champion of Camp X-Ray, renews his haughty demands that European nations spend more on ancillary forces to clean up after the American juggernaut. In Afghanistan, meanwhile, Hamid Karzai, beset by strife, pleads in vain for US troops to join the British-led stabilisation force. And in the Middle East, as Mr Vedrine points out, Ariel Sharon's block-by-block deconstruction of patient years of peace-building continues to proceed unchecked by any US censure or the most insincere mediation. That the EU and the Arab world agree that the Israeli leader's vengeful diplomatic and physical ostracism of Yasser Arafat is counter-productive, to say the least, seems to count for nothing in far-off Washington. The peremptory tendency in US policy has many other manifestations, all unfortunate. Perhaps it is a passing phase, the unlovely product of rhetoric and deep, hidden indecision over how the "war against terrorism" can now, in reality, be prosecuted. But its effects are corrosive and damaging. And it sounds a premature death knell for the September 11 global consensus. How quickly, Teddy Roosevelt might have reflected, has America's current warrior president simply squandered the opportunity presented by that rare moment of human unity and sense of shared purpose. http://europe.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/americas/02/07/venezuela.chavez.reut/index. html * CHAVEZ SAYS HE'S DEMOCRAT NOT COMMUNIST CNN, 7th February CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, facing a crisis of confidence at home amid U.S. criticism of his leftist government, has said he believes in democracy, is not a communist, and does not back terrorism. In an uncharacteristically conciliatory speech late on Wednesday, the former paratrooper even extended an olive branch to his domestic opponents, asking them to help him "sheathe his sword" and end confrontation over contested economic reforms. "I am not a communist. ... I am very clear about which direction my country is going," the 47 year-old president, who is known for his abrasive, outspoken leadership style, said in the city of Maracay after swearing in a new trade minister. In an indirect response to critical comments made on Tuesday by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, Chavez firmly defended his government's right to follow the policies it chose "because this is a sovereign and independent nation." Chavez, a firebrand populist who won a 1998 election six years after attempting a coup, spoke a day after Powell criticized his ideas on democracy, his fraternizing with U.S. enemies and his questioning of the war on terrorism. Powell's remarks dealt a further blow to already-falling investor confidence in Venezuela, the world's No. 4 oil exporter and a leading supplier of crude to the United States. The Venezuelan economy, the fourth-largest in Latin America, is coming under pressure from sliding oil prices and fears about increasing political confrontation between Chavez and opponents over his self-proclaimed leftist "revolution." In his speech, Chavez did not directly mention Powell's criticism but left no doubt that he was responding to it. "I believe, as president of Venezuela, that the government in Washington must know very well that what is currently underway in Venezuela is not a terrorist plan," he said. Suggesting U.S. officials might be suffering "confusion," Chavez dismissed as "lies, lies" accusations by opponents that he supported Marxist rebels in neighboring Colombia. The United States considers the Colombian guerrillas to be terrorists. The president also defended his three-year-old rule in Venezuela as "a democratic plan that defends and respects human rights and seeks a much better life for our people." Chavez's opponents, who in recent months have staged widely supported street protests against him, have accused him of trying to impose a Cuban-style leftist, authoritarian regime. But Chavez said he supported a "mixed" economy, combining the state with "a dynamic and enterprising private sector." Powell had repeated U.S. criticism of the Venezuelan leader's foreign policy, referring to his visits to Iraq and Cuba and his public questioning last year of President George W. Bush's war on terrorism in Afghanistan. Chavez said his government's policies "are the business of no one else in the world except Venezuelans." Noting that his visit to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in Baghdad in 2000 had "irritated some people in the world," Chavez said: "What do we care? Let them get irritated. ... We are defending the sacred interests of the Venezuelan people." Four Venezuelan journalists last week presented a video showing Venezuelan military officers meeting Colombian FARC guerrillas in July 2000. They said this showed that the Chavez administration was collaborating with the Colombian rebels. Chavez said he personally called Colombian President Andres Pastrana to explain that the operation was a humanitarian mission to rescue a Venezuelan national held by the rebels. He added, however, that the Venezuelan officers had "made a mistake" by not informing higher authorities about the mission, which took place without the assent of Colombia's government. In an apparent peace gesture to business opponents, Chavez described Venezuela's 1999 Constitution as "imperfect" and said disputed reforms passed under it were open for modification. He previously had rejected all opposition calls to revoke the reforms, which include laws redistributing rural estates to the poor and tightening state control over the oil industry. Critics say these laws will destroy jobs and investment. http://www.atimes.com/c-asia/DB07Ag02.html * THE QUEST FOR BALANCE IN EURASIA by Francesco Sisci Asia Times, 7th February [.....] Western troops forced the Afghans into submission and implanted a new government. This strategy was militarily very efficient, because it avoided the mire of a prolonged war on the ground and allowed the US to declare victory quickly. But it leaves the US largely unable to control the territory, where large swaths of land may still be in the hands of pro-Taliban forces. The geopolitical black hole of Afghanistan is no longer, but the situation is like a Swiss cheese, full of smaller black holes where the infantry has not set foot and where nobody is very clear about what is happening. A colonial police force is not an option: history has taught the West about the dangers of a colonial predicament. Therefore the risks, and opportunities, of Afghanistan are in the new political accommodation that the US must seek with neighboring countries. [.....] http://atimes.com/c-asia/DB08Ag01.html * EURASIA: AN AXIS OF UNCERTAINTY by Francesco Sisci Asia Times, 8th February [.....] In this light one could see Iraq as a true avenger for the West. Baghdad first attacked the anti-western Shi'ite regime of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Iran in the 1980s, and then it threatened the anti-Western Sunni regime in Saudi Arabia. One could also argue that a large secular Arab state based in Baghdad could have been a bastion of stability in the region, helping to keep in check Islamist fundamentalism. The problem, however, was that Baghdad's rulers were totally unpredictable and with huge ambitions. Had the Iraqis conquered the Arabian Peninsula they would have been sitting on huge oil reserves, which could have been defended with nuclear weapons, a mix sure to put the world on the brink of war. The Middle East predicament reveals the deep division among Arab countries, which are not easily labeled and where secularism is no guarantee of reliability. In fact, there are only two things that keep these governments together: their oil and their more or less latent opposition to Israel. The power of oil is waning. The world has more than it can consume, a trend that will continue. The history of the bankruptcy of Enron is also the history of oil dependency. If oil were as important as 20 years back, a giant like Enron would have endured much worse failings in accountancy. While the price of oil drops in real terms year after year, energy conservation and such innovations as fuel-cell cars could within 20 years spell diminishing political returns for the Middle East. Under that scenario, the importance of the Israeli-Arab conflict subsides as the influence of Arab countries diminishes as compared with that of Israel. The former, if they do not undergo a technological transformation, are bound to matter less than technologically innovative Israel. The economic relations between Israel and the surrounding Arab countries could be turned even more in Israel's favor, deepening the existing divisions between Arabs and Persians, Sunnis and Shi'ites. In such a situation, the only thing that could bring together the many different geopolitical realities would the universalist push of fundamentalist Islam and the new religious tinge taken by the Palestinian cause. The United States, therefore, needs to keep a strong political initiative, which might include covert operations, but it must be aware that direct military initiatives could have many drawbacks. Saudi Arabia may be the ideal example. Although suspected of having provided aid to bin Laden, it owes its existence to the US. It is protected by a foreign mercenary force and is held together by foreign technicians, leaving itself open to US influence against those within the kingdom who might protect America's enemies. Iran is a different kettle of fish. Well-armed and still militantly pro-Palestinian, it owes little or nothing to the US, which thus has limited means to pressure Tehran. The consequences of a war with Iran would be uncertain, as it would redraw the map of the region and possibly even strengthen the cause of the Kurds, something that would hurt the interests of Turkey, the West's strongest ally in the region. Yet recent Iranian initiatives toward Pakistan betray Tehran's isolation and weakness and open the door for US pressure on the country. The tables could be turned on Iran, which seeks accommodation with Pakistan in order to guarantee its historical interests in Afghanistan, in turn opening Iran to the West. And improved relations between the US and China also strengthen the American case with Iran. [.....] -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email firstname.lastname@example.org CASI's website - www.casi.org.uk - includes an archive of all postings.