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The P5+1 Meeting with Iran

Did Somebody Blink?

By SASAN FAYAZMANESH | CounterPunch | March 7, 2013

On March 1, 2010, an essay in Haaretz titled “Who will blink first in Iran’s nuclear poker game?” stated that “Israel is on the verge of a preemptive war to try to foil Iran’s nuclear program.” So, the question was who would blink first? Would it be Iran that would give up its nuclear program? Would it be Israel that would be forced to withdraw its threat of military attack? Or would it be the US that would ratchet up the pressure on Iran to please Israel?

Similar arguments continued to appear in the next two years. For example, On March 2, 2012, in an interview titled “Between The U.S., Israel And Iran, Who Blinks First?” NPR asked Martin Indyk to elaborate on his comment in The New York Times that we “are now engaged in a three-way game of chicken, which makes blinking more dangerous than confrontation.”  Indyk, the former executive director of the Israeli lobby group The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, advisor to President Clinton, and US Ambassador to Israel, answered:

Well, essentially we’re now in a vicious cycle. In order to calm the Israelis down and get them to back away from their intense interest in taking care of the [Iranian nuclear] program militarily, we are ratcheting up sanctions that essentially are aimed at Iran’s economic jugular. We are doing that on the theory that the more pressure we put on them, the more we bring their economy to its knees, the more likely the Iranians are to cry uncle, to blink, to say, OK, we’ll negotiate meaningful curbs on our nuclear program. . . And unless somebody blinks, I’m afraid it’s going to lead to a confrontation.

It seems that after many years of this “three-way game of chicken” somebody finally blinked; and that somebody was not Iran.

Last week, following a long hiatus and much anticipation, there was a meeting in Kazakhstan between Iran and the so-called P5+1, the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany. Such meetings are usually shrouded in secrecy and it is often difficult to get an accurate picture of what goes on behind closed doors.  For example, on February 27, 2013, after the conclusion of the two-day meeting, a press release was issued by “EU High Representative Catherine Ashton,” the convener of these meetings, which basically stated: “We put what we call a confidence building proposal on the table.”

What the proposal stated remained secret. However, from various reports in the US, Israeli, and Iranian media one could surmise that the US, which is the main force behind these meetings, advanced the following proposal. In exchange for some so-called sanction relief, Iran would: 1) “significantly restrict” its accumulation of 20% enriched uranium, but would keep sufficient amount to fuel its Tehran Research Reactor that produces isotope for medical purposes; 2) suspend enrichment at Fordow underground facility and accept conditions that “constrain” the ability to quickly resume enrichment at Fordow; and 3) allow more regular and thorough monitoring of its nuclear facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

If what was reported were true, and if there were no deception involved, then the US had indeed blinked and had withdrawn its previous and punishing proposal, a proposal that is usually referred to as “stop, shut and ship.” The earlier proposal, as summarized by Ashton on June 19, 2012, demanded from Iran: “stopping 20 percent enrichment activities, shutting the Fordow nuclear facility and shipping out stockpiled 20 percent enriched nuclear materials.”

The latest P5+1 proposal not only did not ask for shutting down Fordow and stopping 20 percent enrichment, but would let Iran retain some of its medium level enriched uranium to make fuel. More importantly, the proposal would implicitly recognize the right of Iran to enrich uranium for civilian purposes, something that Iran has been asking for years and the US and Israel have consistently denied.

Understandably, the Iranian side was pleased and stated that on some points the P5+1 got closer to the Iranian perspective. Indeed, the US had, to the chagrin of The Washington Post editorial piece on February 28, 2013, “kowtowed,” or more accurately, blinked. But what about Israel, the third party in the “three-way game of chicken,” did it also blink?

The “stop, shut and ship” proposal was originally manufactured in Israel. On April 4, 2012, The Jerusalem Post reported that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak “has held discussions with American and European officials in recent weeks with the goal of convincing them to set clear goals for the planned talks with Iran.” The report went on to say that according to Barak, Israel’s demands are: “1) [the] transfer of all uranium enriched to 20 percent—approximately 120 kg.—out of Iran to a third party country; 2) the transfer of the majority of the 5 tons of uranium enriched to 3.5% out of Iran, leaving just enough needed for energy purposes; 3) the closure of the Fordow enrichment facility, buried under a mountain near the city of Qom; [and] 4) the transfer of fuel rods from a third party country to Iran for the purpose of activating the Tehran Research Reactor.” The US slightly modified these demands and presented them at the P5+1 and Iran meeting in June 2012.

After the June meeting, Ha’aretz reported that “representatives of the powers are expected to fly to Israel and update its leaders” (June 18, 2012). On the same day Israeli Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon tried to exert more pressure on the P5+1 by stating that Israel could find itself facing the dilemma of “a bomb, or to bomb” (Reuters). “Should that be the choice,” Yaalon, stated, “then bombing (Iran) is preferable to a bomb (in Iran’s hands). . . I hope we do not face that dilemma.”

Delivering the Israeli manufactured demands to Iran and then going to Israel to report on the Iranian reaction were not new. After the May meeting between Iran and the P5+1, Haaretz reported on May 25, 2012, that Wendy Sherman, the US representative at the meeting, went straight to Israel. As the report stated, Sherman was going to “update Israeli officials on the talks in Baghdad, and on preparations for the third round of talks in Moscow on June 18 and 19.” The report also stated that according to the State Department, Sherman will also “reaffirm our unshakable commitment to Israel’s security.”

The following day, on May 26, Haaretz published a more extensive piece about Sherman’s visit. It quoted an unnamed US official as saying: “We updated the Israelis in detail before we updated our own government.” He was also quoted as saying: “There are no gaps between the U.S. and Israel in anything related to talks between Iran and the six world powers over the future of Iran’s nuclear program. . . Even if we do not have the patience, we need to give diplomacy a chance before military action.” In addition, the report stated that Sherman arrived in Israel “along with officials from the White House National Security Council working on the Iran nuclear issue—Gary Seymour and Puneet Talwar.” “The American team,” the report went on to say, “had a three-hour meeting with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, with National Security advisor Yaakov Amidror, and a number of other senior Israeli officials who deal with the Iran issue.” Not surprisingly, Gary Samore, President Obama’s Coordinator for Weapons of Mass Destruction Counter-Terrorism and Arms Control, was one of the original founders of the Israeli lobby group “United Against Nuclear Iran.”

The February 2013 meeting between the P5+1 and Iran was also followed by a similar visit to Israel. On February 26, 2013, Haaretz reported that the “American administration, along with the U.K., France and Germany, are in close contact with Israel and have been coordinating with it ahead of the [P5+1] talks in Kazakhstan. Immediately after the talks, an American negotiating team headed by Wendy Sherman, the under secretary for political affairs, is expected to come to Jerusalem.”  “Sherman,” the report went on to add, “intends to meet with National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror, Foreign Ministry Director General for Strategic Affairs Jeremy Issacharoff and other high-ranking officials to update them about the content of the talks with Iran.” The report also stated: “Last week, Amidror visited Washington and discussed the Iranian nuclear program with his American counterpart, Thomas E. Donilon.”

Given the close coordination between the US and Israel, one has to conclude that not only the US, but also Israel blinked at the February 2013 meeting. This, of course, comes as no surprise, since Israeli officials, particularly Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, had bluffed and blinked many times before. After many years of crying wolf and threatening Iran, Netanyahu’s most public blinking came on September 27, 2012, when he appeared before the UN General Assembly and held up a diagram of a cartoonish-looking bomb with a fuse and drew a redline on it at 90% enriched uranium. The bizarre spectacle, which was mocked by some as “Bibi’s Wiley E. Coyote-style cartoon bomb,” was not only the proverbial “one too many times” that Mr. Netanyahu had cried wolf, but it was also the beginning of the end of Israel’s intense and unsuccessful campaign to make the US attack Iran or intensify the sanctions. The “decisive year” of 2012, as Israeli newspaper Maariv pointed out, was passing “without decisiveness” (Reuters, September 28, 2012).

What made the US and Israel blink? The answer requires a detailed analysis of Obama Administration’s policy of “tough diplomacy,” an analysis that will appear in my forthcoming book. However, a short answer is that the US and Israel seem to have run out of options in overthrowing the current government in Iran and replacing it with a friendly regime. “Tough diplomacy”—which was formulated mostly by Dennis Ross, currently the counselor to The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and formerly special assistant to President Obama—threw at Iran everything the US had in terms of sanctions, sabotage, cyber-attacks and possibly assassinations of the Iranian nuclear scientists. Yet, the last step in this policy, which was supposed to be a naval blockade of Iran and military attack, could not be taken. Why? Because in order to wage a war against Iran the economic conditions in that country must become as dismal as they were in Iraq before it was invaded; and that, at the present, is not the case. Even though the accumulated result of 33 years of sanctions against Iran, particularly the most brutal and unprecedented ones in the last 4 years, have helped to create massive hardship in Iran, there is no sign that the Iranian economy is actually collapsing. There are also hardly any Iranian entities or individuals left to sanction. The US and Israel seem to be coming to terms with the reality and beginning to blink.

Sasan Fayazmanesh is Professor Emeritus of Economics at California State University, Fresno. He can be reached at: sasan.fayazmanesh@gmail.com.

March 7, 2013 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Chavez: the Motive-Hunting of a Malignant NGO

By Joe Emersberger | ZCommunications | March 7th 2013

The death of Hugo Chavez provoked HRW to immediately (within hours) smear the Chavez government’s legacy.

“Chávez’s Authoritarian Legacy: Dramatic Concentration of Power and Open Disregard for Basic Human Rights” said the Washington DC based NGO.

If that isn’t harsh enough, in a tweet sent out in June of 2012, Ken Roth, executive director of HRW, described Venezuela as being one of the “most abusive” in Latin America. Ecuador and Bolivia were the other two states that Roth singled out.

In November of 2012, HRW also rushed out a letter demanding that Venezuela be excluded from the UN’s Human Rights Council on the grounds that the Chavez government “fell far short of acceptable standards”

It is staggeringly obvious that HRW did not simply regard the Chavez government as one which could be validly criticized, like any other in the world, on human rights grounds. HRW regarded Venezuela under Chavez as one of the “most abusive” countries in the world. Make no mistake, if Venezuela is more abusive than Colombia, as Roth alleged, then that would  easily place Venezuela among the worst human rights abusers on earth.

The day Hugo Chavez died, HRW rehashed the accusations it has been making for years:

1) “Assault on Judicial Independence”

2) “Assault on Press Freedoms”

3) “Rejection of Human Rights Scrutiny”

4) “Embracing Abusive Governments”

Without exploring any details at all about these criticisms something should stand out right away. Putting aside HRW’s remarkably shoddy attempts to substantiate them, how could these criticisms place the Chavez government among the most abusive countries in the world? How could HRW’s assessment, even taken at face value, make Venezuela unworthy to sit on the UN’s Human Rights Council next to the USA?

Daniel Kovalik pointed out the following amazing facts last year in a Counterpunch article:

… in a November 19, 2009 U.S. Embassy Cable, entitled, ” International Narcotics Control Strategy Report,” the U.S. Embassy in Bogota acknowledges, as a mere aside, the horrific truth:257,089 registered victimsof the right-wing paramilitaries. And, as Human Rights Watch just reported in its 2012 annual report on Colombia, these paramilitaries continue to work hand-in-glove with the U.S.-supported Colombian military….

… the U.S. has been quite aware of this death toll for over two years, though this knowledge has done nothing to change U.S. policy toward Colombia — which is slated to receive over $500 million in military and police aid from the U.S. in the next two years.

…. Indeed, as the U.S. Embassy acknowledges in a February 26, 2010 Embassy Cable entitled, ” Against Indigenous Shows Upward Trend,” such violence is pushing 34 indigenous groups to the point of extinction. This violence, therefore, can only be described as genocidal.

Either Ken Roth is unfamiliar with his own organization’s reports, or something very rotten drives his groups’ ludicrously disproportionate criticism of Venezuela.

I’ll borrow from HRW’s playbook and do some rehash of my own. I’ll rehash some of the questions I’ve been asking them for years. HRW has never attempted to answer.

1) When a coup deposed Chavez for 2 days in 2002, why did HRW’ public statements fail to do obvious things like denounce the coup, call on other countries not to recognize the regime, invoke the OAS charter, and (especially since HRW is based in Washington) call for an investigation of US involvement?

2) Very similarly, when a coup deposed Haiti’ democratically elected government in 2004, why didn’t HRW condemn the coup, call on other countries not to recognize the regime, invoke the OAS charter, and call for an investigation of the US role? Many of these things were done by the community of Caribbean nations (CARICOM). A third of the UN General Assembly called for an investigation into the overthrow of Aristide. Why didn’ HRW back them up?

3) Since 2004, why has HRW written about 20 times more about Venezuela than about Haiti despite the fact that the coup in Haiti created a human rights catastrophe in which thousands of political murders were perpetrated and the jails filled with political prisoners? Haiti’ judiciary remains stacked with holdovers from the coup installed regime.

In honour of Chavez and of the Venezuelan movements which will hopefully expand on the progress made towards making Venezuela a more democratic and humane country, lets recall some achievements of his government on the international stage that HRW would never applaud. Let’s remember Hugo Chavez strongly opposing the US bombing of Afghanistan in 2001; the war in Iraq, the 2004 coup in Haiti, the 2009 coup in Honduras, NATO’s bombing of Libya, the lethal militarization of the conflict in Syria, the attempted coups against Morales in Bolivia and against Correa in Ecuador, Israel’s aggression in Lebanon and in the Occupied Territories.

None of that impressed HRW in the least. It may even have aggravated HRW’s hatred of the Chavez government, but it should impress people who really care about human rights.

March 7, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 5 Comments

Fukushima’s Nuclear Casualties

By JOSEPH J. MANGANO | CounterPunch | March 7, 2013

Exactly two years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, perhaps the most crucial issue to be addressed is how many people were harmed by radioactive emissions.

The full tally won’t be known for years, after many scientific studies. But some have rushed to judgment, proclaiming exposures were so small that there will be virtually no harm from Fukushima fallout.

This knee-jerk reaction after a meltdown is nothing new. Nearly 12 years after the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, there were no journal articles examining changes in local cancer rates. But 31 articles in publications like the Journal of Trauma and Stress and Psychosomatic Medicine had already explored psychological consequences.

Eventually, the first articles on cancer cases showed that in the five years after the accident, there was a whopping 64% increase in the cancer cases within 10 miles of Three Mile Island. But the writers, from Columbia University, concluded radiation could not account for this rise, suggesting stress be considered instead. While this was later contested by researchers from the University of North Carolina, many officials still subscribe to the slogan “nobody died at Three Mile Island.”

In 1986, after the Chernobyl catastrophe, officials in the Soviet Union and elsewhere raced to play damage control. The Soviet government admitted 31 rescue workers had died soon after absorbing huge radiation doses extinguishing the fire and trying to bury the red-hot reactor. For years, 31 was often cited as the “total” deaths from Chernobyl. Journal articles on disease and death rates near Chernobyl were slow and limited. The first articles were on rising numbers of local children with thyroid cancer – a very rare condition.

Finally, 20 years after the meltdown, a conference of the World Health Organization, International Atomic Energy Agency, and other groups admitted to 9,000 cancers worldwide from Chernobyl. But this was a tiny fraction of what others were finding. A 2009 New York Academy of Sciences book estimated 985,000 deaths (and rising) worldwide from Chernobyl fallout. The team, led by Alexey Yablokov, examined 5,000 articles and reports, most in Slavic language never before available to researchers.

Fukushima was next. While estimates of releases remain variable and inexact, nobody disputes that Fukushima was the worst or second-worst meltdown in history. But predictably, nuclear proponents raced to assure the public that little or no harm would ensue.

First to cover up and minimize damage was the Japanese government and nuclear industry. John Boice of Vanderbilt University went a step further, declaring “there is no opportunity to conduct epidemiologic studies that have any chance of detecting excess cancer risk. The doses are just too low.” At a public hearing in Alabama in December, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission official Victor McCree stated “there was no significant exposure to radiation from the accident at Fukushima Daiichi.” Just days ago, a World Health Organization report concluded there would be no measurable increase in cancer rates from Fukushima – other than a very slight rise in exposed children living closest to the site.

Others have made estimates of the eventual toll from Fukushima. Welsh physicist Christopher Busby projects 417,000 additional cancers just within 125 miles of the plant. American engineer Arnold Gundersen calculates that the meltdown will cause 1 million cancer deaths.

Internist-toxicologist Janette Sherman and I are determined to make public any data on changes in health, as quickly as possible. In the December 2011 International Journal of Health Services, we documented a “bump” in U.S. deaths in the 3-4 months after Fukushima, especially among infants – the same “bump” after Chernobyl. Our recent study in the Open Journal of Pediatrics showed rising numbers of infants born with an under-active thyroid gland – which is highly sensitive to radiation – on the West Coast, where Fukushima fallout was greatest.

It is crucial that researchers don’t wait years before analyzing and presenting data, even though the amount of available information is still modest. To remain silent while allowing the “no harm” mantra to spread would repeat the experiences after Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, and allow perpetration of the myth that meltdowns are harmless. Researchers must be vigilant in pursuing an understanding of what Fukushima did to people – so that all-too-common meltdown will be a thing of the past.

Joseph J. Mangano MPH MBA is Executive Director of the Radiation and Public Health Project.

March 7, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Nuclear Power | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Fukushima’s Nuclear Casualties

Preparing for a Post-Chávez Venezuela

Not One Step Backward, Ni Un Paso Atrás

By GEORGE CICCARIELLO-MAHER | CounterPunch | March 6, 2013

Hugo Chávez is no more, and yet the symbolic importance of the Venezuelan President that exceeded his physical persona in life, providing a condensation point around which popular struggles coalesced, will inevitably continue to function long after his death. It’s not for nothing that the words of the great revolutionary folk singer Alí Primera are on the tip of many tongues:

Los que mueren por la vida

no pueden llamarse muertos

Those who die for life

cannot be called dead.

A Barefoot Revolutionary

Hugo Chávez was a poor kid from the country, which tells you much of what you need to know about him. Bare feet, mud hut, perpetual sunburn, gleaning hard lessons and a strong dose of audacity from everyday experiences in that wild part of the Venezuelan flatlands, or llanos, that crash abruptly into the towering Andes mountains.

While politics was in the soil under his feet and in his every social interaction, Chávez’s first formal contact with revolutionary politics came through his elder brother, Adán, a member of the still-clandestine former guerrilla organization, Party of the Venezuelan Revolution (PRV). It was the PRV that refused intransigently to come down from the mountains in the late 1960s when the Venezuelan Communist Party decided to withdraw from the armed struggle, and it was the PRV more than any other organization that resisted Marxist orthodoxy by excavating Venezuelan and Latin American revolutionary traditions under the umbrella of “Bolivarianism.”

Through Adán, Chávez the younger was imbued with the legacy of this Venezuelan guerrilla struggle and its aspirations, a necessary and portentous counterbalance to the official doctrine he would learn in the military academy. But even as a soldier, Chávez was always irreverent to the core, and it wasn’t long before he had begun to organize with other radical officers. Their conspiratorial grouping would eventually be called the MBR-200, the Bolivarian Revolutionary Movement, and it was not a purely military affair, evolving in close contact with revolutionary communist guerrillas from the PRV and elsewhere.

The Old Venezuela

The old Venezuela is no more. The Venezuelan ancien regime was one of self-professed harmony, and it cultivated this myth to the very end. For political scientists, this translated as “Venezuelan exceptionalism”: in a sea of unrest and dictatorship, it alone remained relatively stable and “democratic.” But this was a harmony premised on the invisibility of the majority, and a stability crafted through the incorporation and neutralization of any and all oppositional movements. Those who refused to concede were murdered or imprisoned in the gulags of this “exceptional” democracy.

When Hugo Chávez first attempted to overthrow the Venezuelan government of Carlos Andrés Pérez in 1992, he was attacking a democracy in name only. Decades of two-party rule had created a system that was utterly unresponsive to the needs of the vast majority, and as economic crisis set in during the “lost decade” of the 1980s, the poor turned to rebellion and the government to brute repression. In only the most spectacular of many moments of resistance, the week-long 1989 rebellion known as the Caracazo, somewhere between 300 and 3,000 were slaughtered as Pérez ordered the military to “restore order” in the poor barrios that surround Caracas and other Venezuelan cities.

It was this rebellion more than any other, and the repression it unleashed, that led, nay forced, Chávez and others to attempt a coup with the support of revolutionary grassroots movements, and it was this coup more than any other event that led to his eventual election in 1998. Finally someone had taken a stand, and when Chávez promised on national television that the conspirators had only failed “por ahora, for now,” he was effectively promising, as did Fidel Castro nearly 40 years prior, that history would absolve him.

The New Venezuela

In many ways, it has. Under Chávez’s watch, Venezuela has become more equal, the most egalitarian country in Latin America in fact, according to the Gini coefficient of income distribution. Poverty has been reduced significantly, and extreme poverty almost stamped out. Illiteracy has been eliminated and education is freely accessible, through the university level, to even the poorest Venezuelans. Health care is free and universal. Despite catastrophic language used by the Venezuelan opposition and foreign press, the economy is strong, and has weathered the global economic crisis better than most (notably, the United States).

More important than this improvement in the social welfare of the Venezuelan majority, however, are the political transformations that the Venezuelan state and people have undergone, transformations that remain far from complete. This was not merely a populist government that sought to buy votes through handouts, but a radically democratic government that sought, often despite its own autocratic tendencies, to empower the people to intervene from below as the true “protagonists” of history. Through communal councils, cooperatives, communes, and popular militias, the Venezuelan government has radically empowered the radical grassroots, albeit not without resistance from its own bureaucrats.

But these accomplishments do not belong to Chávez alone, and in fact, they do not belong to Chávez at all. Long before Chávez, there were the revolutionary movements that tried, failed, and tried better, generating the experiences, organizations, and outlooks that would eventually propel Chávez to the helm of an untrustworthy state. Any celebration of Chávez that presents him as a savior is an insult to the people he held in such high esteem, and whose orders he followed.

Inversely, some ill-informed leftists decry him as not having been revolutionary enough, not moving quickly enough toward socialism: the revolution must be all at once or not at all. Others, here taking a page from the liberals, attack him for being authoritarian, autocratic, and undemocratic. But this all misses the most fundamental point: that the Venezuelan revolution is not Chávez. If we fail to understand why many millions of Venezuelans are in mourning today, then we have voluntarily abandoned any serious effort to understand what is going on in Venezuela.

A Combative Democrat

Even as President, Chávez’s rural persona always managed to break through the polite veneer of political leadership: as when he would often spontaneously break into llanero song, speak in country parables and refrains, or brutally attack opponents and allies alike on live television. Also arguably a legacy of the countryside was his paradoxical democratic authoritarianism: deeply respectful of the people and fervently egalitarian, he would not take no for an answer when it came to revolutionizing the country. While Chávez had long dreamed of becoming a major league pitcher, his childhood nickname, latigo, the whip, described his approach to politics at least as well as it described his fastball.

But this contradiction was not his own: direct democracy and representative democracy are rarely the sympathetic allies their names might suggest, and one of the seeming paradoxes of the Bolivarian Revolution is that it has taken a firm push from above to clear the way for radically democratic participation from below. This is what critics of Chávez and the Bolivarian Revolution mean when they suggest that he has run roughshod over democratic “checks and balances,” failing to note that such institutional constraints, however justifiable, are often far from democratic.

As a result, the two sides seem to speak completely different languages: for the one, which seems to include Republican Congressman Ed Royce bid a quick “good riddance” to Chávez, the leader was an authoritarian dictator. Such claims come as a surprise to Chavistas, however, who have elected him many times, repeatedly choosing the path of an increasingly radical revolutionary process, and who are quick to point out the contradiction between their democratic will and term limits. Many poor Venezuelans, too, were surprised at the outrage that ensued when Chávez referred to George W. Bush as “the devil” or as a “donkey.” The poor rarely grasp the role of politeness in politics, seeing it instead, intuitively but correctly, as the realm of powerful oppositions, of Bush’s own “you’re with us or you’re against us.”

The Manichean nature of Venezuelan politics in recent years has been undeniable, but we would be well advised to recognize, with Frantz Fanon, that this division between us and them, Chavistas and escualidos (or more recently, majunches), was more a reflection of a structural reality than the fault of Chávez or the Revolution. While elite Venezuelans began to mourn the disappearance of Venezuelan “harmony,” what they really meant was that, all of a sudden, poor and dark-skinned Venezuelans had appeared, had made their presence felt, and had even assumed the mantle of the government as a mechanism for pressing their demands.

Chávez certainly courted Manicheanism to mobilize the people in the struggle, but this Manicheanism also came to him, for phenotypic as well as political reasons: dark-skinned, with a wide nose and large ears, “with his very image, Chávez has shaken up the beehive of social harmony… His image upsets the wealthy women of Cuarimare.” Chávez and his supporters have long been racialized in terms that would seem scandalous anywhere else: monkey, blackie, scum, horde, rabble. Open racism exploded during the 2002 coup that unseated Chávez for less than two days, in many ways forcing him to recognize it publicly in a country that had often celebrated mestizaje and insisted that there was no racism in Venezuela. In the end, this Manicheanism has become the most important motor for driving the revolutionary process forward, unifying the people against a common enemy and preparing them for the struggle ahead.

I was supposed to meet Hugo Chávez, but he cancelled at the last minute. His unpredictability stemmed from a combination of security concerns and an irrepressible desire to do everything himself. The closest I ever got was about 10 feet away, awash in a rushing torrent of red-shirted Chavistas on the Avenida Bolívar in 2007, as the now late President drove by atop a truck. As he passed, I reached up and performed my favorite Chavista gesture: pounding palm with fist to symbolize the brutal pummeling of the opposition. As though confirming the centrality of combat in a Revolution that would outlive him, he looked at me and did the same.

The Revolution Will Not Be Reversed

What will happen next? Within 30 days, there will be elections, in which Chávez’s hand-picked successor Nicólas Maduro will almost certainly prevail against an opposition that only seems to ever come together for the purposes of then falling apart. But the future in the longer term remains unwritten. While nothing is inevitable, however, a great many poor and radicalized Venezuelans will tell you that they will not take ni un paso atras, a single step back, and that conversely, no volverán, they shall not return. And they mean it.

This is a revolutionary assurance that has never depended solely on the figure of Chávez. As I write in the introduction to my forthcoming book We Created Chávez:

“The Bolivarian Revolution is not about Hugo Chávez. He is not the center, not the driving force, not the individual revolutionary genius on whom the process as a whole relies or in whom it finds a quasi-divine inspiration. To paraphrase the great Trinidadian theorist and historian C.L.R. James: Chávez, like the Haitian revolutionary Toussaint L’Ouverture, ‘did not make the revolution. It was the revolution that made’ Chávez. Or, as a Venezuelan organizer told me, ‘Chavez didn’t create the movements, we created him.’”

In 1959, Frantz Fanon declared the Algerian Revolution irreversible, despite the fact that the country would not gain formal independence for another three years. Studying closely the transformation of Algerian culture during the course of the struggle and the creation of what he called a “new humanity,” Fanon was certain that a point of no return had been reached, writing that:

“An army can at any time reconquer the ground lost, but how can the inferiority complex, the fear and the despair of the past be re-implanted in the consciousness of the people?”

In revolution, there are no guarantees, and there’s no saying that the historical dialectic cannot be bent back upon itself, beaten and bloody. The point is simply that for the forces of reaction to do so will be no easy task. Long ago, the Venezuelan people stood up, and it is difficult if not impossible to tell a people on their feet to get back down on their knees.

George Ciccariello-Maher, teaches political theory at Drexel University in Philadelphia. He is the author of We Created Chávez: A People’s History of the Venezuelan Revolution (Duke University Press, May 2013), and can be reached at gjcm(at)drexel.edu.

March 7, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Comments Off on Preparing for a Post-Chávez Venezuela

Iran nuclear issue overhyped: Ex-IAEA chief Hans Blix

Press TV – March 7, 2013

On February 22, 2012, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said Iran considers the pursuit and possession of nuclear weapons “a grave sin” from every logical, religious and theoretical standpoint.

The Leader described the proliferation of nuclear weapons as “senseless, destructive and dangerous,” adding that the Iranian nation has never sought and will never seek atomic bombs as the country already has the conventional capacity to challenge the nuclear-backed powers.
A former chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has dismissed as “overhyped” the Western propaganda over the ‘threat of nuclear-armed Iran,’ saying there is no evidence that Tehran is even interested in producing weapons of mass destruction.

“So far Iran has not violated the NPT (Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons) and there is no evidence right now that suggests that Iran is producing nuclear weapons,” Hans Blix said in Dubai.

He added that no action can be justified against Iran’s nuclear activities on “mere suspicions or intentions that may not exist.”

The former IAEA chief had previously said that Iran has been more open to international inspections than most other countries would be.

Iran has repeatedly expressed its strong opposition to any production, possession or use of nuclear weapons, saying such arms have no place in the Islamic Republic’s nuclear doctrine.

On February 22, 2012, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said Iran considers the pursuit and possession of nuclear weapons “a grave sin” from every logical, religious and theoretical standpoint.

The Leader described the proliferation of nuclear weapons as “senseless, destructive and dangerous,” adding that the Iranian nation has never sought and will never seek atomic bombs as the country already has the conventional capacity to challenge the nuclear-backed powers.

The US, Israel, and some of their allies have repeatedly accused Iran of pursuing non-civilian objectives in its nuclear energy program.

Iran rejects the allegations, arguing that as a committed signatory to the NPT and a member of the IAEA, it has the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

Despite the IAEA’s numerous inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities, the UN nuclear agency has never found any evidence showing that Iran’s civilian nuclear program has been diverted to nuclear weapons production.

March 7, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Comments Off on Iran nuclear issue overhyped: Ex-IAEA chief Hans Blix

Chomsky Acknowledges the Neocons as the Dominant Force in Pushing for Iraq War

By Stephen J. Sniegoski | The Passionate Attachment | March 7, 2012

Thanks to the efforts of the indefatigable James Morris, a seeming transformation of the view of the illustrious Noam Chomsky was revealed, which, if not equivalent to the change that Saul of Tarsus underwent while on the road to Damascus, was significant nonetheless. Morris seems to have a knack for ferreting out the unknown views of the famous, as was illustrated in his 2010 email exchange with General David Petraeus, then head of U.S. Central Command, in which he was able to reveal the latter’s close relationship with neocon Max Boot and his ardent desire to propitiate the pro-Zionist Jewish community at a time when it was generally thought that Petraeus was critical of the negative effects of the intimate U.S.-Israeli relationship on America’s position in the Middle East.

The Chomsky revelation took place while the latter was a guest on Phil Tourney’s “Your Voice Counts” program on Republic Broadcasting Network from 2:00 pm to 3:00pm Eastern Standard Time on Sunday, February 24, 2013. While Chomsky is a strong and very knowledgeable critic of Israel, he also has been (at least, was before this program) a stringent critic of the idea that the neocons have any significant impact on American Middle East policy. Rather, he presents a somewhat nebulous, quasi-monolithic, corporate elite, which includes the oil interests, as determining American policy in that region—as it does everywhere else in the globe—for its own economic interests. In what has been Chomsky’s view, Israel only serves as an instrument for American imperialism; that it too might benefit from American policies is, presumably, only an incidental by-product.

Chomsky was quite impressive on the program as he demonstrated extensive knowledge of the USS Liberty issue, which is a major issue of the program, since Tourney was a seaman on that ill-fated ship that was deliberately attacked by Israeli planes and gunboats during the Six Day War in June 1967, causing the deaths of 34 U.S. seamen and wounding 171 others out of a crew of 297.

Chomsky included an injection of his standard theme that Israel became a valuable strategic asset to the United States with the 1967 war when it wrecked Nasser and secular Arab nationalism in general, thus aiding America’s conservative client states, such as Saudi Arabia.

Listener phone calls were restricted to the last 15 minutes. Consequently, James Morris wasn’t able to get on the program until the last five minutes when he tried to get Chomsky to address the issue of the connection between the neocons and Israel. Morris cited then-Secretary of State Powell’s reference to the “JINSA crowd” (Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs) as the primary force for the war on Iraq within the Bush Administration. Morris went on to say that the neocons were a leading element of the Israel lobby.

After Morris made these statements, Chomsky amazingly blurted out that he “agreed completely” with him regarding the importance of the neocons—describing the neocons as “tremendously important.” Chomsky acknowledged that the neoconservatives had been the “dominant force” in the Bush administration, and that they had “pushed through” the Iraq war over many objections even from within the government. What Chomsky had said about the importance of the neocons was radically different from his usual portrayal of a monolithic corporatist dominance of U.S. Middle East policy. Chomsky even seemed to agree that the neocons held positions that diverged from those of the traditional foreign policy establishment—Morris had earlier mentioned Scowcroft and Brzezinski as opponents of the neocons.

What Chomsky said pertaining to the neocons being the leading force for the Iraq war is essentially identical to my position in “The Transparent Cabal.” And it is not only the opposite of what it appeared that he used to hold but what his protégé Norman Finkelstein continues to expound, as I discuss in my article, “Norman Finkelstein and Neocon Denial.”

Finkelstein denies that the neocons were a factor in causing the U.S. to go to war—and has nothing to do with my book, describing it as conspiracist—but he does not seem to realize that his position contrasts with that of his mentor. Since the two are quite close, it would seem that Chomsky has not even expressed this new view to Finkelstein in private conversation. When Finkelstein finds out that his mentor holds that the neocons were the “dominant force” for war with Iraq, one wonders if he will then charge him with believing in a conspiracy.

Unfortunately, however, Chomsky still stops far short of the full truth. For in his response to Morris, he went on to maintain that the neocons are different from the Israel lobby—definitely implying, though not explicitly stating, that the neocons are not motivated by the interests of Israel. He quickly put forth two arguments for this contention. First, he claimed that the neocons are simply a mainstream force in American conservatism going back to the Reagan administration. Even if true, this would not necessarily preclude their being biased in favor of Israel. However, it is not true—the neocons did not just fit into existing mainstream conservatism, but altered it to fit their own goals.

As I bring out in “The Transparent Cabal” (with numerous citations from secondary sources, this being a rather conventional view), the neocon movement originated among liberal Democrats, mainly Jewish, who gravitated to the right in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In significant part, this reflected a concern that American liberalism was moving leftward in ways detrimental to Jewish interests. In foreign policy, this involved diminished support by American liberals for Israel—in line with the world left’s support for Third World movements that included the Palestinians—and the liberals’ turn against an anti-Communist foreign policy, as a reaction to the Vietnam imbroglio, at a time when the Soviet Union’s policies were exhibiting discrimination against Soviet Jewry and opposition to Israel in support of its Arab enemies. In opposing what they saw as liberalism’s move to the left, these proto-neoconservatives did not see themselves as becoming conservative, but were dubbed with the moniker “neoconservative” by left-wing social critic Michael Harrington, who intended it as a pejorative term, and the name soon stuck.

Neoconservatives basically wanted to return mainstream American liberalism to the anti-Communist Cold War positions exemplified by President Harry Truman (1945–1953), which had held sway through the administration of Lyndon B. Johnson (1963–1969). When this effort failed to achieve success, neocons would turn to Ronald Reagan in the 1980. Despite being newcomers to the conservative camp, neoconservatives were able to find significant places in the Reagan administration, especially in the national security and foreign policy areas, although at less than Cabinet-level status.

Neoconservatives, however, did not become traditional conservatives, but instead altered the content of conservatism to their liking. “The neoconservative impulse,” pro-neocon Murray Friedman maintains in his book “The Neoconservative Revolution,” “was the spontaneous response of a group of liberal intellectuals, mainly Jewish, who sought to shape a perspective of their own while standing apart from more traditional forms of conservatism.”[Quoted in “Transparent Cabal,” pp. 39-40]

In domestic policy, neoconservatives supported the modern welfare state, in contrast to the traditional conservatives, who emphasized small government, states’ rights, and relatively unfettered capitalism. Most importantly, they differed significantly from the conservative position on foreign policy. Although the American conservatives of the Cold War era were anti-Communist and pro-military, they harbored a strain of isolationism. Their interventionism was limited largely to fighting Communism, but not to nation-building and the export of democracy, the expressed goals of the neocons. Nor did traditional conservatives view the United States as the policeman of the world. Most significantly, traditional conservatives had never championed Israel.

While traditional conservatives welcomed neoconservatives as allies in their fight against Soviet Communism and domestic liberalism, the neocons in effect acted as a Trojan Horse within conservatism: they managed to secure dominant positions in the conservative political and intellectual movement, and as soon as they gained power, they purged those traditional conservatives who opposed their agenda, particularly as it involved Israel. Support for Israel and its policies had become, and remains, a veritable litmus test for being a member of the multitudinous political action groups and think tanks that comprise the conservative movement.

In his 1996 book, “The Essential Neoconservative Reader,” editor Mark Gerson, a neocon himself who served on the board of directors of the Project for the New American Century, jubilantly observed: “The neoconservatives have so changed conservatism that what we now identify as conservatism is largely what was once neoconservatism. And in so doing, they have defined the way that vast numbers of Americans view their economy, their polity, and their society.” [Quoted in “Transparent Cabal”, p. 42]

While in domestic policy Gerson’s analysis might not be completely accurate, it would seem to be so in US national security policy, as illustrated by the near unanimous Republican opposition in the US Senate to the nomination of Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense because of his past statements critical of both US all-out support for Israel and its hardline position toward Iran (currently Israel’s foremost enemy) that might lead to war.

Now the fact that Cheney and Rumsfeld may not be motivated by a desire to aid Israel in their support for neocon Middle East policy, the Middle East policies they have supported have been formulated by those who identify with Israel. Since both of them have been closely associated with the neocons, Cheney more so than Rumsfeld, they were undoubtedly influenced by the pro-Israel neocons. Cheney even went so far as to serve on JINSA’s Advisory Board. And JINSA was set up in 1976 to put “the U.S.-Israel strategic relationship first.”

Moreover, as Vice President, Cheney specifically relied on advice from the eminent historian of the Middle East, Bernard Lewis, a right-wing Zionist and one of the neocons’ foremost gurus, who strongly advocated war against Iraq and other Middle Eastern states. (Barton Gellman, “Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency,” p. 231) Chomsky has said that “Bernard Lewis is nothing but a vile propagandist,” and he presumably means a propagandist for Israel.

The influence of ideas per se was not the only factor that likely motivated Cheney. The fact that Cheney and his wife, Lynne, who was with the American Enterprise Institute (AEI—known as “neocon central”), had close personal and professional relations with the neocons also would have predisposed him to give his support to the neoconservatives and their agenda.

The same arguments would apply for Rumsfeld, with one additional one: a war on Iraq would give him the chance to demonstrate the value of his concept of a smaller, mobile, high tech American military. Rumsfeld held that a small, streamlined invasion force would be sufficient to defeat Iraq. As Bob Woodward writes in his book, “State of Denial”: “The Iraq war plan was the chess board on which Rumsfeld would test, develop, expand and modify his ideas about military transformation. And the driving concept was ‘less is more’ – new thinking about a lighter, swifter, smaller force that could do the job better. Rumsfeld’s blitzkrieg would vindicate his leadership of the Pentagon.”[“State of Denial,” p. 82]

For the neocons, Rumsfeld’s approach would not have the drawbacks of the conventional full-scale invasion initially sought by the military brass. The neocons feared that no neighboring country would provide the necessary bases from which to launch such a massive conventional attack, or that during the lengthy time period needed to assemble a large force, diplomacy might avert war or that peace forces in the U.S. might increase their size and political clout and do likewise. In short, it was this convergence on interests between the Rumsfeld and the neocons that made them so supportive of each other in the early years of the George W. Bush administration.

It must be acknowledged that the neocon Middle East war agenda did resonate with both Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s general positions on national security policy, but there is little reason to think that they would have come up with the specifics of the policy, including even the identification of Iraq as the target, if it had not been for their neocon associates, whose policy reflected their close identification with Israel. It should also be pointed out that in Chomsky’s usual presentation of an American foreign policy shaped by the corporate elite, the actual government officials who implemented the policy were not necessarily members of the corporate elite nor motivated by a desire to advance the interests of the corporate elite as opposed to the national interest of the United States. In order for any type of elite to be successful, it is essential that it attract significant numbers of people outside of itself, which Chomsky himself has discussed at length regarding the corporate elite. This is also the very purpose of the neoconservative network and the information that it disseminates.

Acknowledging as much as he did, it is hard to see how Chomsky can fail to discern that the neocons identify with Israel. The evidence is overwhelming. The following are a few examples of this connection.

The effort to prevent Chuck Hagel from becoming the Secretary of Defense has been spearheaded by the Emergency Committee for Israel, the creation of which in 2010 was in large part the work of leading neocon, Bill Kristol, and which claims “to provide citizens with the facts they need to be sure that their public officials are supporting a strong U.S.-Israel relationship.” As Bill Kristol states: “We’re the pro-Israel wing of the pro-Israel community.” Kristol had co-founded the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), which promoted the war on Iraq. Kristol’s father, the late Irving Kristol, a godfather of neoconservatism, is noted for his identification with Israel. In 1973, he said: “Jews don’t like big military budgets. But it is now an interest of the Jews to have a large and powerful military establishment in the United States . . . American Jews who care about the survival of the state of Israel have to say, no, we don’t want to cut the military budget, it is important to keep that military budget big, so that we can defend Israel.” [Congress Bi-Weekly (1973), published by the American Jewish Congress]

Noah Pollak, a contributor to “Commentary” magazine, is the Emergency Committee’s executive director and, while living in Israel for two years, was an assistant editor at the Jerusalem-based Shalem Center.

Eliot Cohen, a veteran neocon, was a founding signatory of the Project for the New American Century and advised the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. He coined the term “World War IV” for the war on terror. During the George Bush administration, he served on the Defense Policy Board in Bush’s first term and was closely affiliated with those neocons around Vice President Cheney. He is on the International Academic Advisory Board of the Began Sadat Center for Strategic Studies in Israel, which is affiliated with Bar Ilan University, and is involved in contract work for the Israeli government.

Douglas Feith, who as the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy in George W. Bush’s first term set up and controlled the Office of Special Plans, which spread the most specious war propaganda, was closely associated with the right-wing Zionist group, the Zionist Organization of America. In 1997, he co-founded One Jerusalem, a group whose objective was “saving a united Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel.” Before entering the Bush administration, Feith ran a small Washington-based law firm, which had one international office – in Israel. And the majority of the firm’s work consisted of representing Israeli interests.

Richard Perle has had very close personal connections with Israeli government officials, and has been accused of providing classified information to that country on a number of occasions. Perle not only expounded pro-Zionist views, but was a board member of the pro-Likud “Jerusalem Post” and had worked as a lobbyist for the Israeli weapons manufacturer Soltam.

Norman Podhoretz is considered a godfather, along with Irving Kristol, of the neoconservative movement. When editor of “Commentary” magazine, he wrote that “the formative question for his politics would heretofore be, ‘Is it good for the Jews?’” (“Commentary,” February 1972) In 2007, Podhoretz received the Guardian of Zion Award, which is given to individuals for their support for Israel, from Bar-Ilan University in Israel. Neocon Charles Krauthammer was the 2002 winner of the Guardian of Zion Award.

Max Singer, co-founder of the neocon Hudson Institute and its former president, who pushed for the war on Iraq, has moved to Israel, where he is a citizen and has been involved with the Institute for Zionist Strategies, which advocates the need to better infuse Zionist ideology in the Jewish people of Israel.

The neocons’ support for Israel does not necessarily mean that they were deliberately promoting the interest of Israel at the expense of the United States. Instead, as I point out in “The Transparent Cabal,” they maintained that an identity of interests existed between the two countries – Israel’s enemies being ipso facto America’s enemies. However, it is apparent from their backgrounds that the neoconservatives viewed American foreign policy in the Middle East through the lens of Israeli interest, as Israeli interest was perceived by the Likudniks.

Despite this professed view of the identity of American and Israel interests, sometimes the neocons’ actions verged on putting Israel interests above those of the United States government. For example, some leading neocons—David Wurmser, Richard Perle, and Douglas Feith—developed the “Clean Break” proposal outlining an aggressive policy for Israel intended to enhance its geostrategic position, which they presented in 1996 to then-incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. One part of the plan was to get the United States to disassociate itself from peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine and simply let Israel treat the Palestinians as it saw fit. “Israel,” stated the report, “can manage it’s own affairs. Such self-reliance will grant Israel greater freedom of action and remove a significant lever of [US] pressure used against it in the past.” It was highly noteworthy that the neocons would devise a strategy to enable Israel to become free from adhering to the goals of their own country. [“Transparent Cabal,” p. 93]

In conclusion, while Chomsky’s change was far from being complete, his acknowledgement that the neoconservatives were the “dominant force” in driving the U.S. to the war on Iraq in 2003 is, nonetheless, very significant. Chomsky, who was voted the “world’s top public intellectual” in a 2005 poll, certainly influences many people, most particularly on the anti-war left, and his new view should make them rethink their belief that the war was all about oil. It is to be hoped that Chomsky’s words were not a one-time aberration and that he will not revert to his previous publicly-espoused position. Rather, it is to be hoped that he will now look more deeply into the neocons’ activities and thus discern their close connection to Israel.

Stephen J. Sniegoski is the author of The Transparent Cabal: The Neoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel.

March 7, 2013 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Chomsky Acknowledges the Neocons as the Dominant Force in Pushing for Iraq War

Neuroscience, Special Forces and Yale

The Ethics of Deception Detection Research

By ROY EIDELSON | CounterPunch | March 6, 2013

Last month, a proposal to establish a U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) Center for Excellence in Operational Neuroscience at Yale University died a not-so-quiet death. The broad goal of “operational neuroscience” is to use research on the human brain and nervous system to protect and give tactical advantage to U.S. war fighters in the field. Crucial questions remain unanswered about the proposed center’s mission and the unusual circumstances surrounding its demise. But just as importantly, this episode brings much needed attention to the morally fraught and murky terrain where partnerships between university researchers and national security agencies lie.

A Brief Chronology

Let’s start with what transpired, according to the news reports and official press releases. In late January, the Yale Herald reported that the Department of Defense had awarded $1.8 million to Yale University’s School of Medicine for the creation of the new center under the direction of Yale psychiatrist Charles Morgan III. Descriptions of the proposed center’s work revolved around the teaching of Morgan’s interviewing techniques to U.S. Special Forces in order to improve their intelligence gathering. To heighten the soldiers’ cross-cultural awareness and sensitivity, Morgan reportedly intended to draw volunteer interviewees from New Haven’s immigrant communities.

Such details typically become public only after a university center has been formally established and its funding officially secured. In this case, however, the early news reports – which included statements from director-to-be Morgan – quickly led last month to a widely circulated Yale Daily News op-ed, an online petition, a Facebook page, and protests by students and local groups outraged over reports of Yale’s support for the military center and plans to treat immigrants as “guinea pigs.” According to ABC News/Univision, in response Morgan explained that he was approached by the Defense Department to help “promote better relations between U.S. troops and the people whose villages they work in and around” – by teaching soldiers “better communication skills” and “how to ask non-leading questions, how to listen to what people are saying, how to understand them.”

A public affairs officer for U.S. SOCOM initially confirmed that it was providing funding for the center. Shortly thereafter, Yale University representatives issued a conflicting statement. Characterizing the center as “an educational and research center with a goal of promoting humane and culturally respectful interview practices among a limited number of members of the armed forces, including medics,” they emphasized that no formal proposal had been submitted for academic and ethical review. Yale also noted that volunteer interviewees “selected from diverse ethnic groups” would be protected by university oversight, and that public reports about the center were in part “based on speculation and incomplete information.” Three days later, SOCOM’s spokesperson retracted his previous statement, explaining that the information provided had been incorrect, and that no funds for the center would be forthcoming. Yale confirmed that the center would not be established at the university. Two days later, SOCOM declared that, in fact, they had decided a year earlier not to fund Morgan’s proposal.

Ethical Risks of Operational Neuroscience

The name of the proposed center – the U.S. SOCOM Center of Excellence for Operational Neuroscience – deserves more attention and scrutiny than it has received thus far. The burgeoning interdisciplinary field of operational neuroscience – supported by hundreds of millions of dollars from the Department of Defense – is indisputably much larger and much more worrisome from an ethical perspective than the mere teaching of interview techniques and people skills would suggest. What makes this particular domain of scientific work so controversial is not only its explicit purpose of advancing military goals. The methods by which these ends are pursued are equally disquieting because they raise the specter of “mind control” and threaten our deeply held convictions about personhood and personal autonomy.

In a presentation to the intelligence community five years ago, program manager Amy Kruse from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) identified operational neuroscience as DARPA’s latest significant accomplishment, preceded by milestone projects that included the Stealth Fighter, ARPANET, the GPS, and the Predator drone. National security interests in operational neuroscience encompass non-invasive, non-contact approaches for interacting with a person’s central and peripheral nervous systems; the use of sophisticated narratives to influence the neural mechanisms responsible for generating and maintaining collective action; applications of biotechnology to degrade enemy performance and artificially overwhelm cognitive capabilities; remote control of brain activity using ultrasound; indicators of individual differences in adaptability and resilience in extreme environments; the effects of sleep deprivation on performance and circadian rhythms; and neurophysiologic methods for measuring stress during military survival training.

Anthropologist Hugh Gusterson, bioethicist Jonathan Moreno, and other outspoken scholars have offered strong warnings about potential perils associated with the “militarization of neuroscience” and the proliferation of “neuroweapons.” Comparing the circumstances facing neuroscientists today with those faced by nuclear scientists during World War II, Gusterson has written, “We’ve seen this story before: The Pentagon takes an interest in a rapidly changing area of scientific knowledge, and the world is forever changed. And not for the better.” Neuroscientist Curtis Bell has called for colleagues to pledge that they will refrain from any research that applies neuroscience in ways that violate international law or human rights; he cites aggressive war and coercive interrogation methods as two examples.

Research Misapplied: SERE and “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques”

Some may argue that these concerns are overblown, but the risks associated with “dual use” research are well recognized and well documented. Even though a particular project may be designed to pursue outcomes that society recognizes as beneficial and worthy, the technologies or discoveries may still be susceptible to distressing misuse. As a government request for public comment recently highlighted, certain types of research conducted for legitimate purposes “can be reasonably anticipated to provide knowledge, information, products, or technologies that could be directly misapplied to pose a significant threat with broad potential consequences to public health and safety….”

Yale’s Morgan must surely be aware that operational neuroscience research can be used for purposes contrary to its purported intent – as this appears to be what happened with some of his own work. Morgan’s biographical sketch on the School of Medicine website refers to his research on the “psycho-neurobiology of resilience in elite soldiers” and “human performance under conditions of high stress.” Both of these topics are related to his extensive study of the effects of the military’s physically and psychologically grueling Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) training program. In SERE training, soldiers are subjected to extreme conditions in order to inoculate them against enemy interrogation should they be captured and subjected to torture by forces that don’t observe international laws prohibiting prisoner abuse. The techniques applied during the trainee’s simulated incarceration and mock interrogations include isolation, stress positions, sleep and food deprivation, loud noises, sexual humiliation, extreme temperatures, confinement in small spaces, and in some cases waterboarding.

Along with colleagues, Morgan has published a series of research articles examining the psychological, physiological, and biological effects of the SERE program. In summarizing key findings of this research, Morgan and his co-authors highlighted the following: the stress induced by SERE is within the range of real-world stress; SERE students recover normally and do not show negative effects from the training; and the mock interrogations do not produce lasting adverse reactions as measured by physiological and biological indicators. However, after reviewing these same studies, the authors of a Physicians for Human Rights report reached a starkly different conclusion: “SERE … techniques, even when used in limited and controlled settings, produce harmful health effects on consenting soldier-subjects exposed to them.” They also emphasized that during the training many students experienced dissociative reactions and hormone level changes comparable to major surgery or actual combat; the post-training assessments were short-term and insufficient to evaluate soldiers for PTSD and related disorders; and the soldiers benefited from knowing that they could end their participation whenever they chose to do so.

SERE research like that conducted by Morgan and his colleagues was subsequently misused by the Bush Administration after the 9/11 terrorist attacks to illegitimately authorize the abuse and torture of national security detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Bagram Air Base, and CIA “black sites.” The infamous“enhanced interrogation techniques” (EITs) were developed by former SERE psychologists – working for the CIA – who “reverse-engineered” the SERE interrogation tactics. But even more importantly here, a crucial 2002 Office of Legal Counsel “torture memo” asserted that the EITs did not cause lasting psychological harm, and it cited as evidence consultation with interrogation experts and outside psychologists, as well as a review of the “relevant literature” – which plausibly would have included Morgan’s own extensive work in the area. In short, this appears to be a striking and tragic instance where operational neuroscience research, undertaken in a different context, was subsequently appropriated and misapplied for unconscionable purposes. It is worth adding that these prisoners were subjected to indefinite detention without trial and they were not free to discontinue their torturous interrogations at will. Their torture sessions were also substantially longer and the techniques were instituted more frequently and with greater intensity than Morgan’s research subjects experienced.

Morgan’s Deception Detection Research

Another significant area of operational neuroscience research for Morgan has been deception detection – that is, figuring out when someone isn’t being truthful during an interview, or an interrogation. According to his online CV, he has received Department of Defense funding totaling nearly $2 million for this work over the past several years. Research on this same topic reportedly also became an important focus of attention for several intelligence agencies – including the CIA – immediately after the 9/11 attacks. Befitting his expertise and stature in the field, Morgan has been involved in a variety of high-level initiatives designed to bring together university researchers and personnel from the defense and intelligence sectors.

For example, Morgan is among the listed attendees at a July 2003 invitation-only workshop on “The Science of Deception: Integration of Theory and Practice.” The event was co-hosted by the American Psychological Association (APA) and the RAND Corporation, with generous funding from the CIA. The participants discussed various scenarios, including one focused on law enforcement interrogation and debriefing, and another on intelligence gathering. They also explored specific research questions, such as which pharmacological agents affect truth-telling, and whether it might be possible to overwhelm a person’s senses so as to reduce his capacity to engage in deception during an interrogation. Psychologist Jeffrey Kaye has noted that, in a very unusual step, the APA has scrubbed most of the information about this workshop from its website.

In June 2004 Morgan was a participant at another invitation-only workshop – co-sponsored by the Department of Justice, the FBI, and the APA – titled “The Nature and Influence of Intuition in Law Enforcement: Integration of Theory and Practice.” Among the topics examined were the extent to which police officers, intelligence analysts, interrogators, and others can effectively use “intuition” in their work – for instance, in order to detect deception – and how such capabilities might be applied to counterterrorism efforts. The proceedings from this event identify Morgan as “Senior Research Scientist, Behavioral Science StaffCentral Intelligence Agency” – a professional affiliation that does not appear on his online CV.

Morgan is credited with a similar affiliation in the 2006 report “Educing Information,” published by the National Defense Intelligence College. As a member of the Government Experts Committee, Morgan is listed as working for the “Intelligence Technology Innovation Center,” an administrative unit that falls under the CIA. The foreword to the report describes the volume as “a primer on the ‘science and art’ of both interrogation and intelligence gathering.” Included is a chapter on deception detection by Morgan’s close research colleague, psychologist Gary Hazlett. One of Hazlett’s recommendations in the report is that “the United States adopt an aggressive, focused plan to support research and development of enhanced capabilities to validate information and the veracity of sources.” He also notes that the most troubling limitation of deception research thus far is the lack of “various Asian, Middle Eastern, Central and South American, or African populations” as research participants.

Responding to Morgan’s reported plans for a new center at Yale, local advocacy group Junta for Progressive Action issued a statement of concern last month. It noted that, “As a city that has worked to establish itself as a welcoming and inclusive city for immigrants, the idea of targeting immigrants specifically for the purpose of identifying the distinction of how they lie is offensive, disrespectful and out of line with the values of New Haven.” In a recent newspaper report, Morgan called rumors that the proposed center at Yale would teach new interrogation techniques mere “hype and fantasy,” explaining that he instead “suggested to the Army that perhaps some training in people skills – how to talk to and listen to people might be helpful and create better relations.” Even assuming that this reassuring account is true, it’s certainly not unreasonable to question whether deception detection research and training might have been part of the proposed center’s future operational neuroscience agenda.

Classified and Unclassified Research on Campus

There are broader questions beyond those focused specifically on the uncertain details and background surrounding the not-to-be Center of Excellence for Operational Neuroscience at Yale. The unusual sequence of events that unfolded in New Haven last month should ideally serve as a springboard for open discussion of the opportunities and pitfalls associated with research partnerships between universities and national security agencies. To its credit, Yale University has a clear policy that explicitly prohibits its faculty from conducting secret or classified research:

The University does not conduct or permit its faculty to conduct secret or classified research. This policy arises from concern about the impact of such restrictions on two of the University’s essential purposes: to impart knowledge and to enlarge humanity’s store of knowledge. Both are clearly inhibited when open publication, free discussion, or access to research are limited.

But not all academic institutions have such stringent rules, which are necessary to promote full transparency, informed critiques by other scholars and researchers, and constructive engagement beyond the walls of higher education institutions. At the same time, it should be noted that, even at Yale, voluntary faculty members – Morgan’s official status at the university – do not need to disclose research activities that are not being conducted on behalf of Yale.

Some of the most challenging ethical issues remain even when classified research is not conducted on university campuses. As psychologist Stephen Soldz has highlighted, in cases of unclassified research funded by national security agencies, the academic researchers are not necessarily informed about the totality of the projects to which they are contributing. He offers the example of findings from seemingly uncontroversial deception detection studies, which may ultimately become the basis for the capture, indefinite detention, and torturous interrogation of prisoners in undisclosed locations – well beyond the university researchers’ awareness. Soldz also warns that researchers may never know if their campus work has become “part of a vast secret effort to unlock the mystery of mind control and develop techniques for coercive interrogations, as happened to hundreds of behavioral scientists and others in the decades of the CIA’s MKULTRA and other Cold War behavioral science initiatives.” These risks are further exacerbated for psychologists, psychiatrists, and other health professionals for whom a “do no harm” ethic intrinsically poses conflicts with research projects aimed at identifying and destroying those who are considered adversaries.

Next Steps

There are applications of operational neuroscience – such as improved prosthetic limbs for injured veterans and more effective treatments for victims of brain injury – that are compelling in their apparent value and their promotion of human welfare. But other applications raise profound concerns, especially where the defining goals and priorities of a university and its medical researchers and scientists diverge from those of national security and intelligence operatives. Community health sciences professor Michael Siegel – a graduate of Yale’s School of Medicine – emphasized this point when he was interviewed on Democracy Now! last month. Siegel noted: “The practice of medicine was designed to improve people’s health, and the school of medicine should not be taking part in either training or research that is primarily designed to enhance military objectives.”

In this context it’s worthwhile to recall exactly who Morgan envisioned as the trainees for his proposed “people skills” interview project at the medical school: U.S. Special Forces, the highly skilled soldiers often assigned the military’s most difficult and dangerous missions. These forces – over 60,000 strong including military personnel and civilians – are now covertly deployed around the globe. Journalists Dana Priest and William Arkin have described them as“America’s secret army.” Their counterterrorism operations include intelligence-gathering missions and lethal raids – not only in Afghanistan but also in countries where the United States is not at war. They’ve been authorized to keep “kill lists” of individuals who can be assassinated rather than captured, and some have conducted brutal interrogations at secret detention sites. The Army refers to its Special Forces as the “most specialized experts in unconventional warfare.”

At this point, signs clearly indicate that a U.S. SOCOM Center of Excellence for Operational Neuroscience will not be coming to Yale. But it would be a mistake to assume that this research – and the very considerable national security sector funding it attracts – will not find another home. This is why it’s important that the current controversy not be dismissed without fuller engagement and discussion among all stakeholders of pressing practical and ethical considerations – before a similar project appears on another campus or resurfaces in a reconfigured form in New Haven. The prospect of all defense-related neuroscience research being conducted clandestinely by government or corporate entities – away from the public and expert oversight that universities can offer – is far from reassuring, so difficult issues like this must be tackled head-on.

One valuable next step would be an open forum at Yale. Dr. Morgan could have the opportunity to describe in greater detail the nature of his deception detection work and related projects – including his ongoing research in New Haven about which Yale recently claimed it was unaware. Other distinguished scientists, ethicists, and human rights experts could provide their commentaries. And community members, students, faculty, and administrators could offer their own perspectives and pose questions. Such an event would not likely produce consensus, but the sharing of information, the free expression of differing viewpoints, and informed debate are among the most vital functions of a university. Pending further developments, there are very good reasons to be concerned – and confused – about the recent twists and turns surrounding the proposed center at Yale. Many of the most critical questions still await answers.

Roy Eidelson is a clinical psychologist and the president of Eidelson Consulting, where he studies, writes about, and consults on the role of psychological issues in political, organizational, and group conflict settings. He is a past president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, associate director of the Solomon Asch Center for Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict at Bryn Mawr College, and a member of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology.

March 7, 2013 Posted by | Militarism, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | , , , | Comments Off on Neuroscience, Special Forces and Yale

US military funded, oversaw detention and torture sites during Iraq invasion

Press TV – March 7, 2013

The US military used veterans of its “dirty wars” in Latin America to set up secret detention and torture centers in Iraq and overseeing ‘some of the worst acts of torture’ during the US-led invasion of the country, a British daily reports.

Sectarian commando units, operating under direct supervision of American Special Forces veterans, who were involved in the so-called US counter-insurgency efforts against opponents of some of the most brutal Washington-backed dictatorships in Central America, “conducted some of the worst acts of torture during the US occupation and accelerated the country’s descent into full-scale civil war,” The Guardian reports Thursday.

The principal US commanders of its detention and torture operations in Iraq, according to the report, were Colonel James Steel, who directly reported to then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and a retired colonel named James Coffman, who reported directly to General David Petraeus who later became the top American commander in Iraq and Afghanistan before his rise to directorship of the CIA spy agency.

Petraeus later resigned from his latest post after admitting to maintaining an extramarital affair with his biographer since he was a top US military commander.

The network of detention and torture centers in Iraq were funded “with millions of dollars of US funding,” the report insists.

“Coffman reported to Petraeus and described himself in an interview with the US military newspaper Star and Stripes as Petraeus’s ‘eyes and ears out on the ground’ in Iraq,” according to the daily.

“They worked hand in hand,” said Iraqi General Muntadher al-Samari, quoted in the report, which adds that he worked with Steele and Coffman for a year while the detention and torture centers were being set up.

“I never saw them apart in the 40 or 50 times I saw them inside the detention centers. They knew everything that was going on there … the torture, the most horrible kinds of torture,” General al-Samari added.

The daily says its probe of the US-sponsored detention and torture operations was triggered with the publication of classified US military logs by whistleblower group WikiLeaks, detailing “hundreds of incidents where US soldiers came across tortured detainees in a network of detention centers” run by US-funded sectarian commandos throughout Iraq.

The report further cites American and Iraqi sources as confirming that top US military commanders and officials, including Petraeus, were fully aware of the highly abusive detention and torture operations during the destructive US-led war in Iraq.

March 7, 2013 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | Comments Off on US military funded, oversaw detention and torture sites during Iraq invasion

France to ban website documenting police violence against Muslims

PressTVGlobalNews | March 6, 2013

March 7, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture, Video | , | Comments Off on France to ban website documenting police violence against Muslims