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Tear down the Freedom Tower

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By Tom Engelhardt

Let’s bag it.

I’m talking about the 10th anniversary ceremonies for 9/11, and everything that goes with them: the solemn reading of the names of the dead, the tolling of bells, the honoring of first responders, the gathering of presidents, the dedication of the new memorial, the moments of silence. The works.

Let’s just can it all. Shut down Ground Zero. Lock out the tourists. Close “Reflecting Absence,” the memorial built in the “footprints” of the former towers with its grove of trees, giant pools, and multiple waterfalls before it can be unveiled this Sunday. Discontinue work on the underground National September 11 Museum due to open in 2012. Tear down the Freedom Tower (redubbed 1 World Trade Center after our “freedom” wars wentawry), 102 stories of “the most expensive skyscraper ever constructed in the United States”. (Estimated price tag: $3.3 billion.)

Eliminate that still-being-constructed, hubris-filled 1,776 feet tall building, planned in the heyday of George W Bush and soaring into the Manhattan sky like a nyaah-nyaah invitation to future terrorists. Dismantle the other three office towers being built there as part of an $11 billion government-sponsored construction program. Let’s get rid of it all. If we had wanted a memorial to 9/11, it would have been more appropriate to leave one of the giant shards of broken tower there untouched.

Ask yourself this: 10 years into the post-9/11 era, haven’t we had enough of ourselves? If we have any respect for history or humanity or decency left, isn’t it time to rip the Band-Aid off the wound, to remove 9/11 from our collective consciousness? No more invocations of those attacks to explain otherwise inexplicable wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and our oh-so-global “war on terror”.

No more invocations of 9/11 to keep the Pentagon and the national security state flooded with money. No more invocations of 9/11 to justify every encroachment on liberty, every new step in the surveillance of Americans, every advance in pat-downs and wand-downs and strip downs that keeps fear high and the homeland security state afloat.

The attacks of September 11, 2001, were in every sense abusive, horrific acts. And the saddest thing is that the victims of those suicidal monstrosities have been misused here ever since under the guise of pious remembrance. This country has become dependent on the dead of 9/11 – who have no way of defending themselves against how they have been used – as an all-purpose explanation for our own goodness and the horrors we’ve visited on others, for the many towers-worth of dead in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere whose blood is on our hands.

Isn’t it finally time to go cold turkey? To let go of the dead? Why keep repeating our 9/11 mantra as if it were some kind of old-time religion, when we’ve proven that we, as a nation, can’t handle it – and worse yet, that we don’t deserve it?

We would have been better off consigning our memories of 9/11 to oblivion, forgetting it all if only we could. We can’t, of course. But we could stop the anniversary remembrances. We could stop invoking 9/11 in every imaginable way so many years later. We could stop using it to make ourselves feel like a far better country than we are. We could, in short, leave the dead in peace and take a good, hard look at ourselves, the living, in the nearest mirror.

Ceremonies of hubris

Within 24 hours of the attacks of September 11, 2001, the first newspaper had already labeled the site in New York as “Ground Zero”. If anyone needed a sign that we were about to run off the rails, as a misassessment of what had actually occurred that should have been enough. Previously, the phrase “ground zero” had only one meaning: it was the spot where a nuclear explosion had occurred.

The facts of 9/11 are, in this sense, simple enough. It was not a nuclear attack. It was not apocalyptic. The cloud of smoke where the towers stood was no mushroom cloud. It was not potentially civilization ending. It did not endanger the existence of our country – or even of New York City. Spectacular as it looked and staggering as the casualty figures were, the operation was hardly more technologically advanced than the failed attack on a single tower of the World Trade Center in 1993 by Islamists using a rented Ryder truck packed with explosives.

A second irreality went with the first. Almost immediately, key Republicans like Senator John McCain, followed by George W Bush, top figures in his administration, and soon after, in a drumbeat of agreement, the mainstream media declared that we were “at war”. This was, Bush would say only three days after the attacks, “the first war of the twenty-first century”. Only problem: it wasn’t.

Despite the screaming headlines, Ground Zero wasn’t Pearl Harbor. Al-Qaeda wasn’t Japan, nor was it Nazi Germany. It wasn’t the Soviet Union. It had no army, nor finances to speak of, and possessed no state (though it had the minimalist protection of a hapless government in Afghanistan, one of the most backward, poverty-stricken lands on the planet).

And yet – in another sign of where we were heading – anyone who suggested that this wasn’t war, that it was a criminal act and some sort of international police action was in order, was simply laughed (or derided or insulted) out of the American room. And so the empire prepared to strike back (just as Osama bin Laden hoped it would) in an apocalyptic, planet-wide “war” for domination that masqueraded as a war for survival.

In the meantime, the populace was mustered through repetitive, nationwide 9/11 rites emphasizing that we Americans were the greatest victims, greatest survivors, and greatest dominators on planet Earth. It was in this cause that the dead of 9/11 were turned into potent recruiting agents for a revitalized American way of war.

From all this, in the brief mission-accomplished months after Kabul and then Baghdad fell, American hubris seemed to know no bounds – and it was this moment, not 9/11 itself, from which the true inspiration for the gargantuan “Freedom Tower” and the then-billion-dollar project for a memorial on the site of the New York attacks would materialize. It was this sense of hubris that those gargantuan projects were intended to memorialize.

On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, for an imperial power that is distinctly tattered, visibly in decline, teetering at the edge of financial disaster, and battered by never-ending wars, political paralysis, terrible economic times, disintegrating infrastructure, and weird weather, all of this should be simple and obvious. That it’s not tells us much about the kind of shock therapy we still need.

Burying the worst urges in American life

It’s commonplace, even today, to speak of Ground Zero as “hallowed ground”. How untrue. Ten years later, it is defiled ground, and it’s we who have defiled it. It could have been different. The 9/11 attacks could have been like the Blitz in London in World War II. Something to remember forever with grim pride, stiff upper lip and all.

And if it were only the reactions of those in New York City that we had to remember, both the dead and the living, the first responders and the last responders, the people who created impromptu memorials to the dead and message centers for the missing in Manhattan, we might recall 9/11 with similar pride.

Generally speaking, New Yorkers were respectful, heartfelt, thoughtful, and not vengeful. They didn’t have prior plans that, on September 12, 2001, they were ready to rally those nearly 3,000 dead to support. They weren’t prepared at the moment of the catastrophe to – as secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld so classically said – “Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not.”

Unfortunately, they were not the measure of the moment. As a result, the uses of 9/11 in the decade since have added up to a profile in cowardice, not courage, and if we let it be used that way in the next decade, we will go down in history as a nation of cowards.

There is little on this planet of the living more important, or more human, than the burial and remembrance of the dead. Even Neanderthals buried their dead, possibly with flowers, and tens of thousands of years ago, the earliest humans, the Cro-Magnon, were already burying their dead elaborately, in one case in clothing onto which more than 3,000 ivory beads had been sewn, perhaps as objects of reverence and even remembrance. Much of what we know of human prehistory and the earliest eras of our history comes from graves and tombs where the dead were provided for.

And surely it’s our duty in this world of loss to remember the dead, those close to us and those more removed who mattered in our national or even planetary lives. Many of those who loved and were close to the victims of 9/11 are undoubtedly attached to the yearly ceremonies that surround their deceased wives, husbands, lovers, children, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters. For the nightmare of 9/11, they deserve a memorial. But we don’t.

If September 11 was indeed a nightmare, 9/11 as a memorial and Ground Zero as a “consecrated” place have turned out to be a blank check for the American war state, funding an endless trip to hell. They have helped lead us into fields of carnage that put the dead of 9/11 to shame.

Every dead person will, of course, be forgotten sooner or later, no matter how tightly we clasp their memories or what memorials we build. In my mind, I have a private memorial to my own dead parents. Whenever I leaf through my mother’s childhood photo album and recognize just about no one but her among all the faces, however, I’m also aware that there is no one left on this planet to ask about any of them. And when I die, my little memorial to them will go with me.

This will be the fate, sooner or later, of everyone who, on September 11, 2001, was murdered in those buildings in New York, in that field in Pennsylvania, and in the Pentagon, as well as those who sacrificed their lives in rescue attempts, or may now be dying as a result. Under such circumstances, who would not want to remember them all in a special way?

It’s a terrible thing to ask those still missing the dead of 9/11 to forgo the public spectacle that accompanies their memory, but worse is what we have: repeated solemn ceremonies to the ongoing health of the American war state and the wildest dreams of Osama bin Laden.

Memory is usually so important, but in this case we would have been better off with oblivion. It’s time to truly inter not the dead, but the worst urges in American life since 9/11 and the ceremonies which, for a decade, have gone with them. Better to bury all of that at sea with Bin Laden and then mourn the dead, each in our own way, in silence and, above all, in peace.

Rebel Government Opens Libyan Embassy In Washington

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Washington — The Libyan Embassy in Washington officially re-opened Thursday under the control of the Transitional National Council, a senior State Department official and the new Libyan ambassador told CNN.

Ali Aujali, the former Libyan ambassador to the United States, was formally accredited Thursday as the head of the Libyan mission.

“This is a message that Gadhafi can no more rule Libya,” Aujali said in a phone interview. “The recognition of this embassy under the leadership of the TNC is a clear message to the regime the U.S. recognizes the council and they recognize the new Libya.”

Calling the re-opening of the embassy “a great day for Libyan-American relations,” Aujali said “the Libyan people appreciate this very much.”

The move also allows Aujali to regain control of the embassy’s frozen bank account, worth about $13 million. Aujuli said he talked with State Department officials Thursday about the Obama administration’s efforts to help the TNC gain access to some $30 billion in frozen Libyan assets.

In March, the State Department ordered the embassy closed and expelled diplomats loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Aujali had resigned his post as the regime’s ambassador to the United States in February and has since represented the opposition in Washington.

The United States on July 15 recognized the rebel movement based in Benghazi as Libya’s rightful government.

The re-opening of the embassy comes amid internal strife in the rebel movement. Libyan Transitional National Council Chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil has dismissed the rebels’ 14-member executive board following the death of the rebel government’s military commander, Gen. Abdel Fattah Younis, on July 28. But concerns have been raised that the mysterious assassination of Younis might have been carried out by feuding rebel groups.

NATO has been bombing Libya for more than four months under a U.N. mandate to protect civilians from troops loyal to Gadhafi. The U.S. Embassy in Tripoli was shuttered and American personnel evacuated by sea and air in late February after the revolt erupted.

Libyan and U.S. officials held face-to-face talks in Tunisia last month, but Washington says the sole point of the meeting was to repeat its demand that Gadhafi “must go.”

How America will collapse in the near future a

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A soft landing for America 40 years from now? Don’t bet on it. The demise of the United States as the global superpower could come far more quickly than anyone imagines. If Washington is dreaming of 2040 or 2050 as the end of the American Century, a more realistic assessment of domestic and global trends suggests that in 2025, just 15 years from now, it could all be over except for the shouting.

Despite the aura of omnipotence most empires project, a look at their history should remind us that they are fragile organisms. So delicate is their ecology of power that, when things start to go truly bad, empires regularly unravel with unholy speed: just a year for Portugal, two years for the Soviet Union, eight years for France, 11 years for the Ottomans, 17 years for Great Britain, and, in all likelihood, 22 years for the United States, counting from the crucial year 2003.

Future historians are likely to identify the Bush administration’s rash invasion of Iraq in that year as the start of America’s downfall. However, instead of the bloodshed that marked the end of so many past empires, with cities burning and civilians slaughtered, this twenty-first century imperial collapse could come relatively quietly through the invisible tendrils of economic collapse or cyberwarfare.

But have no doubt: when Washington’s global dominion finally ends, there will be painful daily reminders of what such a loss of power means for Americans in every walk of life. As a half-dozen European nations have discovered, imperial decline tends to have a remarkably demoralizing impact on a society, regularly bringing at least a generation of economic privation. As the economy cools, political temperatures rise, often sparking serious domestic unrest.

Available economic, educational, and military data indicate that, when it comes to U.S. global power, negative trends will aggregate rapidly by 2020 and are likely to reach a critical mass no later than 2030. The American Century, proclaimed so triumphantly at the start of World War II, will be tattered and fading by 2025, its eighth decade, and could be history by 2030.

Significantly, in 2008, the U.S. National Intelligence Council admitted for the first time that America’s global power was indeed on a declining trajectory. In one of its periodic futuristic reports, Global Trends 2025, the Council cited “the transfer of global wealth and economic power now under way, roughly from West to East” and “without precedent in modern history,” as the primary factor in the decline of the “United States’ relative strength — even in the military realm.” Like many in Washington, however, the Council’s analysts anticipated a very long, very soft landing for American global preeminence, and harbored the hope that somehow the U.S. would long “retain unique military capabilities… to project military power globally” for decades to come.

No such luck. Under current projections, the United States will find itself in second place behind China (already the world’s second largest economy) in economic output around 2026, and behind India by 2050. Similarly, Chinese innovation is on a trajectory toward world leadership in applied science and military technology sometime between 2020 and 2030, just as America’s current supply of brilliant scientists and engineers retires, without adequate replacement by an ill-educated younger generation.

By 2020, according to current plans, the Pentagon will throw a military Hail Mary pass for a dying empire. It will launch a lethal triple canopy of advanced aerospace robotics that represents Washington’s last best hope of retaining global power despite its waning economic influence. By that year, however, China’s global network of communications satellites, backed by the world’s most powerful supercomputers, will also be fully operational, providing Beijing with an independent platform for the weaponization of space and a powerful communications system for missile- or cyber-strikes into every quadrant of the globe.

Wrapped in imperial hubris, like Whitehall or Quai d’Orsay before it, the White House still seems to imagine that American decline will be gradual, gentle, and partial. In his State of the Union address last January, President Obama offered the reassurance that “I do not accept second place for the United States of America.” A few days later, Vice President Biden ridiculed the very idea that “we are destined to fulfill [historian Paul] Kennedy’s prophecy that we are going to be a great nation that has failed because we lost control of our economy and overextended.” Similarly, writing in the November issue of the establishment journal Foreign Affairs, neo-liberal foreign policy guru Joseph Nye waved away talk of China’s economic and military rise, dismissing “misleading metaphors of organic decline” and denying that any deterioration in U.S. global power was underway.

Ordinary Americans, watching their jobs head overseas, have a more realistic view than their cosseted leaders. An opinion poll in August 2010 found that 65 percent of Americans believed the country was now “in a state of decline.” Already, Australia and Turkey, traditional U.S. military allies, are using their American-manufactured weapons for joint air and naval maneuvers with China. Already, America’s closest economic partners are backing away from Washington’s opposition to China’s rigged currency rates. As the president flew back from his Asian tour last month, a gloomy New York Times headline summed the moment up this way: “Obama’s Economic View Is Rejected on World Stage, China, Britain and Germany Challenge U.S., Trade Talks With Seoul Fail, Too.”

Viewed historically, the question is not whether the United States will lose its unchallenged global power, but just how precipitous and wrenching the decline will be. In place of Washington’s wishful thinking, let’s use the National Intelligence Council’s own futuristic methodology to suggest four realistic scenarios for how, whether with a bang or a whimper, U.S. global power could reach its end in the 2020s (along with four accompanying assessments of just where we are today). The future scenarios include: economic decline, oil shock, military misadventure, and World War III. While these are hardly the only possibilities when it comes to American decline or even collapse, they offer a window into an onrushing future.

Economic Decline: Present Situation

Today, three main threats exist to America’s dominant position in the global economy: loss of economic clout thanks to a shrinking share of world trade, the decline of American technological innovation, and the end of the dollar’s privileged status as the global reserve currency.

By 2008, the United States had already fallen to number three in global merchandise exports, with just 11 percent of them compared to 12 percent for China and 16 percent for the European Union. There is no reason to believe that this trend will reverse itself.

Similarly, American leadership in technological innovation is on the wane. In 2008, the U.S. was still number two behind Japan in worldwide patent applications with 232,000, but China was closing fast at 195,000, thanks to a blistering 400 percent increase since 2000. A harbinger of further decline: in 2009 the U.S. hit rock bottom in ranking among the 40 nations surveyed by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation when it came to “change” in “global innovation-based competitiveness” during the previous decade. Adding substance to these statistics, in October China’s Defense Ministry unveiled the world’s fastest supercomputer, the Tianhe-1A, so powerful, said one U.S. expert, that it “blows away the existing No. 1 machine” in America.

Add to this clear evidence that the U.S. education system, that source of future scientists and innovators, has been falling behind its competitors. After leading the world for decades in 25- to 34-year-olds with university degrees, the country sank to 12th place in 2010. The World Economic Forum ranked the United States at a mediocre 52nd among 139 nations in the quality of its university math and science instruction in 2010. Nearly half of all graduate students in the sciences in the U.S. are now foreigners, most of whom will be heading home, not staying here as once would have happened. By 2025, in other words, the United States is likely to face a critical shortage of talented scientists.

Such negative trends are encouraging increasingly sharp criticism of the dollar’s role as the world’s reserve currency. “Other countries are no longer willing to buy into the idea that the U.S. knows best on economic policy,” observed Kenneth S. Rogoff, a former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund. In mid-2009, with the world’s central banks holding an astronomical $4 trillion in U.S. Treasury notes, Russian president Dimitri Medvedev insisted that it was time to end “the artificially maintained unipolar system” based on “one formerly strong reserve currency.”

Simultaneously, China’s central bank governor suggested that the future might lie with a global reserve currency “disconnected from individual nations” (that is, the U.S. dollar). Take these as signposts of a world to come, and of a possible attempt, as economist Michael Hudson has argued, “to hasten the bankruptcy of the U.S. financial-military world order.”

Economic Decline: Scenario 2020

After years of swelling deficits fed by incessant warfare in distant lands, in 2020, as long expected, the U.S. dollar finally loses its special status as the world’s reserve currency. Suddenly, the cost of imports soars. Unable to pay for swelling deficits by selling now-devalued Treasury notes abroad, Washington is finally forced to slash its bloated military budget. Under pressure at home and abroad, Washington slowly pulls U.S. forces back from hundreds of overseas bases to a continental perimeter. By now, however, it is far too late.

Faced with a fading superpower incapable of paying the bills, China, India, Iran, Russia, and other powers, great and regional, provocatively challenge U.S. dominion over the oceans, space, and cyberspace. Meanwhile, amid soaring prices, ever-rising unemployment, and a continuing decline in real wages, domestic divisions widen into violent clashes and divisive debates, often over remarkably irrelevant issues. Riding a political tide of disillusionment and despair, a far-right patriot captures the presidency with thundering rhetoric, demanding respect for American authority and threatening military retaliation or economic reprisal. The world pays next to no attention as the American Century ends in silence.

Oil Shock: Present Situation

One casualty of America’s waning economic power has been its lock on global oil supplies. Speeding by America’s gas-guzzling economy in the passing lane, China became the world’s number one energy consumer this summer, a position the U.S. had held for over a century. Energy specialist Michael Klare has argued that this change means China will “set the pace in shaping our global future.”

By 2025, Iran and Russia will control almost half of the world’s natural gas supply, which will potentially give them enormous leverage over energy-starved Europe. Add petroleum reserves to the mix and, as the National Intelligence Council has warned, in just 15 years two countries, Russia and Iran, could “emerge as energy kingpins.”

Despite remarkable ingenuity, the major oil powers are now draining the big basins of petroleum reserves that are amenable to easy, cheap extraction. The real lesson of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico was not BP’s sloppy safety standards, but the simple fact everyone saw on “spillcam”: one of the corporate energy giants had little choice but to search for what Klare calls “tough oil” miles beneath the surface of the ocean to keep its profits up.

Compounding the problem, the Chinese and Indians have suddenly become far heavier energy consumers. Even if fossil fuel supplies were to remain constant (which they won’t), demand, and so costs, are almost certain to rise — and sharply at that. Other developed nations are meeting this threat aggressively by plunging into experimental programs to develop alternative energy sources. The United States has taken a different path, doing far too little to develop alternative sources while, in the last three decades, doubling its dependence on foreign oil imports. Between 1973 and 2007, oil imports have risen from 36 percent of energy consumed in the U.S. to 66 percent.

Oil Shock: Scenario 2025

The United States remains so dependent upon foreign oil that a few adverse developments in the global energy market in 2025 spark an oil shock. By comparison, it makes the 1973 oil shock (when prices quadrupled in just months) look like the proverbial molehill. Angered at the dollar’s plummeting value, OPEC oil ministers, meeting in Riyadh, demand future energy payments in a “basket” of Yen, Yuan, and Euros. That only hikes the cost of U.S. oil imports further. At the same moment, while signing a new series of long-term delivery contracts with China, the Saudis stabilize their own foreign exchange reserves by switching to the Yuan. Meanwhile, China pours countless billions into building a massive trans-Asia pipeline and funding Iran’s exploitation of the world largest percent natural gas field at South Pars in the Persian Gulf.

Concerned that the U.S. Navy might no longer be able to protect the oil tankers traveling from the Persian Gulf to fuel East Asia, a coalition of Tehran, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi form an unexpected new Gulf alliance and affirm that China’s new fleet of swift aircraft carriers will henceforth patrol the Persian Gulf from a base on the Gulf of Oman. Under heavy economic pressure, London agrees to cancel the U.S. lease on its Indian Ocean island base of Diego Garcia, while Canberra, pressured by the Chinese, informs Washington that the Seventh Fleet is no longer welcome to use Fremantle as a homeport, effectively evicting the U.S. Navy from the Indian Ocean.

With just a few strokes of the pen and some terse announcements, the “Carter Doctrine,” by which U.S. military power was to eternally protect the Persian Gulf, is laid to rest in 2025. All the elements that long assured the United States limitless supplies of low-cost oil from that region — logistics, exchange rates, and naval power — evaporate. At this point, the U.S. can still cover only an insignificant 12 percent of its energy needs from its nascent alternative energy industry, and remains dependent on imported oil for half of its energy consumption.

The oil shock that follows hits the country like a hurricane, sending prices to startling heights, making travel a staggeringly expensive proposition, putting real wages (which had long been declining) into freefall, and rendering non-competitive whatever American exports remained. With thermostats dropping, gas prices climbing through the roof, and dollars flowing overseas in return for costly oil, the American economy is paralyzed. With long-fraying alliances at an end and fiscal pressures mounting, U.S. military forces finally begin a staged withdrawal from their overseas bases.

Within a few years, the U.S. is functionally bankrupt and the clock is ticking toward midnight on the American Century.

Military Misadventure: Present Situation

Counterintuitively, as their power wanes, empires often plunge into ill-advised military misadventures. This phenomenon is known among historians of empire as “micro-militarism” and seems to involve psychologically compensatory efforts to salve the sting of retreat or defeat by occupying new territories, however briefly and catastrophically. These operations, irrational even from an imperial point of view, often yield hemorrhaging expenditures or humiliating defeats that only accelerate the loss of power.

Embattled empires through the ages suffer an arrogance that drives them to plunge ever deeper into military misadventures until defeat becomes debacle. In 413 BCE, a weakened Athens sent 200 ships to be slaughtered in Sicily. In 1921, a dying imperial Spain dispatched 20,000 soldiers to be massacred by Berber guerrillas in Morocco. In 1956, a fading British Empire destroyed its prestige by attacking Suez. And in 2001 and 2003, the U.S. occupied Afghanistan and invaded Iraq. With the hubris that marks empires over the millennia, Washington has increased its troops in Afghanistan to 100,000, expanded the war into Pakistan, and extended its commitment to 2014 and beyond, courting disasters large and small in this guerilla-infested, nuclear-armed graveyard of empires.

Military Misadventure: Scenario 2014

So irrational, so unpredictable is “micro-militarism” that seemingly fanciful scenarios are soon outdone by actual events. With the U.S. military stretched thin from Somalia to the Philippines and tensions rising in Israel, Iran, and Korea, possible combinations for a disastrous military crisis abroad are multifold.

It’s mid-summer 2014 and a drawn-down U.S. garrison in embattled Kandahar in southern Afghanistan is suddenly, unexpectedly overrun by Taliban guerrillas, while U.S. aircraft are grounded by a blinding sandstorm. Heavy loses are taken and in retaliation, an embarrassed American war commander looses B-1 bombers and F-16 fighters to demolish whole neighborhoods of the city that are believed to be under Taliban control, while AC-130U “Spooky” gunships rake the rubble with devastating cannon fire.

Soon, mullahs are preaching jihad from mosques throughout the region, and Afghan Army units, long trained by American forces to turn the tide of the war, begin to desert en masse. Taliban fighters then launch a series of remarkably sophisticated strikes aimed at U.S. garrisons across the country, sending American casualties soaring. In scenes reminiscent of Saigon in 1975, U.S. helicopters rescue American soldiers and civilians from rooftops in Kabul and Kandahar.

Meanwhile, angry at the endless, decades-long stalemate over Palestine, OPEC’s leaders impose a new oil embargo on the U.S. to protest its backing of Israel as well as the killing of untold numbers of Muslim civilians in its ongoing wars across the Greater Middle East. With gas prices soaring and refineries running dry, Washington makes its move, sending in Special Operations forces to seize oil ports in the Persian Gulf. This, in turn, sparks a rash of suicide attacks and the sabotage of pipelines and oil wells. As black clouds billow skyward and diplomats rise at the U.N. to bitterly denounce American actions, commentators worldwide reach back into history to brand this “America’s Suez,” a telling reference to the 1956 debacle that marked the end of the British Empire.

World War III: Present Situation

In the summer of 2010, military tensions between the U.S. and China began to rise in the western Pacific, once considered an American “lake.” Even a year earlier no one would have predicted such a development. As Washington played upon its alliance with London to appropriate much of Britain’s global power after World War II, so China is now using the profits from its export trade with the U.S. to fund what is likely to become a military challenge to American dominion over the waterways of Asia and the Pacific.

With its growing resources, Beijing is claiming a vast maritime arc from Korea to Indonesia long dominated by the U.S. Navy. In August, after Washington expressed a “national interest” in the South China Sea and conducted naval exercises there to reinforce that claim, Beijing’s official Global Times responded angrily, saying, “The U.S.-China wrestling match over the South China Sea issue has raised the stakes in deciding who the real future ruler of the planet will be.”

Amid growing tensions, the Pentagon reported that Beijing now holds “the capability to attack… [U.S.] aircraft carriers in the western Pacific Ocean” and target “nuclear forces throughout… the continental United States.” By developing “offensive nuclear, space, and cyber warfare capabilities,” China seems determined to vie for dominance of what the Pentagon calls “the information spectrum in all dimensions of the modern battlespace.” With ongoing development of the powerful Long March V booster rocket, as well as the launch of two satellites in January 2010 and another in July, for a total of five, Beijing signaled that the country was making rapid strides toward an “independent” network of 35 satellites for global positioning, communications, and reconnaissance capabilities by 2020.

To check China and extend its military position globally, Washington is intent on building a new digital network of air and space robotics, advanced cyberwarfare capabilities, and electronic surveillance. Military planners expect this integrated system to envelop the Earth in a cyber-grid capable of blinding entire armies on the battlefield or taking out a single terrorist in field or favela. By 2020, if all goes according to plan, the Pentagon will launch a three-tiered shield of space drones — reaching from stratosphere to exosphere, armed with agile missiles, linked by a resilient modular satellite system, and operated through total telescopic surveillance.

Last April, the Pentagon made history. It extended drone operations into the exosphere by quietly launching the X-37B unmanned space shuttle into a low orbit 255 miles above the planet. The X-37B is the first in a new generation of unmanned vehicles that will mark the full weaponization of space, creating an arena for future warfare unlike anything that has gone before.

World War III: Scenario 2025

The technology of space and cyberwarfare is so new and untested that even the most outlandish scenarios may soon be superseded by a reality still hard to conceive. If we simply employ the sort of scenarios that the Air Force itself used in its 2009 Future Capabilities Game, however, we can gain “a better understanding of how air, space and cyberspace overlap in warfare,” and so begin to imagine how the next world war might actually be fought.

It’s 11:59 p.m. on Thanksgiving Thursday in 2025. While cyber-shoppers pound the portals of Best Buy for deep discounts on the latest home electronics from China, U.S. Air Force technicians at the Space Surveillance Telescope (SST) on Maui choke on their coffee as their panoramic screens suddenly blip to black. Thousands of miles away at the U.S. CyberCommand’s operations center in Texas, cyberwarriors soon detect malicious binaries that, though fired anonymously, show the distinctive digital fingerprints of China’s People’s Liberation Army.

The first overt strike is one nobody predicted. Chinese “malware” seizes control of the robotics aboard an unmanned solar-powered U.S. “Vulture” drone as it flies at 70,000 feet over the Tsushima Strait between Korea and Japan. It suddenly fires all the rocket pods beneath its enormous 400-foot wingspan, sending dozens of lethal missiles plunging harmlessly into the Yellow Sea, effectively disarming this formidable weapon.

Determined to fight fire with fire, the White House authorizes a retaliatory strike. Confident that its F-6 “Fractionated, Free-Flying” satellite system is impenetrable, Air Force commanders in California transmit robotic codes to the flotilla of X-37B space drones orbiting 250 miles above the Earth, ordering them to launch their “Triple Terminator” missiles at China’s 35 satellites. Zero response. In near panic, the Air Force launches its Falcon Hypersonic Cruise Vehicle into an arc 100 miles above the Pacific Ocean and then, just 20 minutes later, sends the computer codes to fire missiles at seven Chinese satellites in nearby orbits. The launch codes are suddenly inoperative.

As the Chinese virus spreads uncontrollably through the F-6 satellite architecture, while those second-rate U.S. supercomputers fail to crack the malware’s devilishly complex code, GPS signals crucial to the navigation of U.S. ships and aircraft worldwide are compromised. Carrier fleets begin steaming in circles in the mid-Pacific. Fighter squadrons are grounded. Reaper drones fly aimlessly toward the horizon, crashing when their fuel is exhausted. Suddenly, the United States loses what the U.S. Air Force has long called “the ultimate high ground”: space. Within hours, the military power that had dominated the globe for nearly a century has been defeated in World War III without a single human casualty.

A New World Order?

Even if future events prove duller than these four scenarios suggest, every significant trend points toward a far more striking decline in American global power by 2025 than anything Washington now seems to be envisioning.

As allies worldwide begin to realign their policies to take cognizance of rising Asian powers, the cost of maintaining 800 or more overseas military bases will simply become unsustainable, finally forcing a staged withdrawal on a still-unwilling Washington. With both the U.S. and China in a race to weaponize space and cyberspace, tensions between the two powers are bound to rise, making military conflict by 2025 at least feasible, if hardly guaranteed.

Complicating matters even more, the economic, military, and technological trends outlined above will not operate in tidy isolation. As happened to European empires after World War II, such negative forces will undoubtedly prove synergistic. They will combine in thoroughly unexpected ways, create crises for which Americans are remarkably unprepared, and threaten to spin the economy into a sudden downward spiral, consigning this country to a generation or more of economic misery.

As U.S. power recedes, the past offers a spectrum of possibilities for a future world order. At one end of this spectrum, the rise of a new global superpower, however unlikely, cannot be ruled out. Yet both China and Russia evince self-referential cultures, recondite non-roman scripts, regional defense strategies, and underdeveloped legal systems, denying them key instruments for global dominion. At the moment then, no single superpower seems to be on the horizon likely to succeed the U.S.

In a dark, dystopian version of our global future, a coalition of transnational corporations, multilateral forces like NATO, and an international financial elite could conceivably forge a single, possibly unstable, supra-national nexus that would make it no longer meaningful to speak of national empires at all. While denationalized corporations and multinational elites would assumedly rule such a world from secure urban enclaves, the multitudes would be relegated to urban and rural wastelands.

In “Planet of Slums,” Mike Davis offers at least a partial vision of such a world from the bottom up. He argues that the billion people already packed into fetid favela-style slums worldwide (rising to two billion by 2030) will make “the ‘feral, failed cities’ of the Third World… the distinctive battlespace of the twenty-first century.” As darkness settles over some future super-favela, “the empire can deploy Orwellian technologies of repression” as “hornet-like helicopter gun-ships stalk enigmatic enemies in the narrow streets of the slum districts… Every morning the slums reply with suicide bombers and eloquent explosions.”

At a midpoint on the spectrum of possible futures, a new global oligopoly might emerge between 2020 and 2040, with rising powers China, Russia, India, and Brazil collaborating with receding powers like Britain, Germany, Japan, and the United States to enforce an ad hoc global dominion, akin to the loose alliance of European empires that ruled half of humanity circa 1900.

Another possibility: the rise of regional hegemons in a return to something reminiscent of the international system that operated before modern empires took shape. In this neo-Westphalian world order, with its endless vistas of micro-violence and unchecked exploitation, each hegemon would dominate its immediate region — Brasilia in South America, Washington in North America, Pretoria in southern Africa, and so on. Space, cyberspace, and the maritime deeps, removed from the control of the former planetary “policeman,” the United States, might even become a new global commons, controlled through an expanded U.N. Security Council or some ad hoc body.

All of these scenarios extrapolate existing trends into the future on the assumption that Americans, blinded by the arrogance of decades of historically unparalleled power, cannot or will not take steps to manage the unchecked erosion of their global position.

If America’s decline is in fact on a 22-year trajectory from 2003 to 2025, then we have already frittered away most of the first decade of that decline with wars that distracted us from long-term problems and, like water tossed onto desert sands, wasted trillions of desperately needed dollars.

If only 15 years remain, the odds of frittering them all away still remain high. Congress and the president are now in gridlock; the American system is flooded with corporate money meant to jam up the works; and there is little suggestion that any issues of significance, including our wars, our bloated national security state, our starved education system, and our antiquated energy supplies, will be addressed with sufficient seriousness to assure the sort of soft landing that might maximize our country’s role and prosperity in a changing world.

Europe’s empires are gone and America’s imperium is going. It seems increasingly doubtful that the United States will have anything like Britain’s success in shaping a succeeding world order that protects its interests, preserves its prosperity, and bears the imprint of its best values.

Narendra Modi – hated by minorities, loved by businesses

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By HEATHER TIMMONS

GANDHINAGAR, India – In a soaring, unfinished conference hall in western India, thousands of businessmen and diplomats from around the world gathered recently for an investment meeting. They were there to pay homage to a politician for accomplishing something once thought almost impossible in India: making it easy to do business.

The politician, Narendra Modi, the chief minister of the state of Gujarat, sat onstage, stroking his close-cropped white beard, as executives from the United States, Canada, Japan and elsewhere showered him with praise.


Narendra Modi, chief minister of the state of Gujarat, spoke at a conference last month that was meant to promote business.

Ron Somers, head of an American trade group, called him a progressive leader. Michael Kadoorie, a Hong Kong billionaire, enveloped him in a hug.

“I would encourage you all to invest here,” Mr. Kadoorie, chairman of the Asian power company CLP Group, told the audience, “because it has been an even playing field for me.”

The coastal state of Gujarat, famous as the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi, has become an investment magnet. The state’s gross domestic product is growing at an 11 percent annual rate – even faster than the overall growth rate for India, which despite its problems is zipping along at 9 percent clip.

And Mr. Modi receives – some would say claims – much of the credit. The year before he took office in 2001, Gujarat’s economy shrank by 5 percent.

But critics of Mr. Modi, a Hindu nationalist, point to another legacy of his early days in office – something that has made him one of the most polarizing figures in Indian politics. Months after he became chief minister, Gujarat erupted in brutal Hindu-Muslim riots that killed more than 1,000 people, most of them Muslims.

Despite Mr. Modi’s subsequent denials, he has not fully escaped a cloud of accusations by rival political groups, victims and their families, and human rights groups that he and his aides condoned the attacks against Muslims and – as one case now before the Supreme Court charges – may even have encouraged them.

A special investigation team formed by the Supreme Court has filed a 600-page investigative report on the riots, which has not been officially released. Numerous other lawsuits related to the riots are also winding through India’s courts. In 2005 the United States refused to grant Mr. Modi a visa, on grounds of religious intolerance. Meanwhile, environmental activists and local tribesman who have been protesting the construction of seven dams in Gujarat that will displace 25,000 people say they the protesters have been regularly jailed by the state police, charged with being Naxalites, a militant rebel group.

Mr. Modi, who has declined interview requests from The New York Times for several years, did not comment for this article.

Of the lingering controversies, a spokesman for Mr. Modi, Steven King, with the Washington public relations firm APCO Worldwide, wrote in an e-mail responding to questions: “The government has very highly developed grievance proceedings.”

Corporate executives, though, tend to concentrate on Mr. Modi’s pro-business attributes, which they see as something of an anomaly in an India where government bureaucracy, bumbling or corruption too often impedes commerce.

“In India there is a sense that efficiency is at such a premium because there is so little to go around,” said Eswar Prasad, a professor of trade policy at Cornell who has served as an adviser to the Indian government. “When people find an effective politician who can make things happen on the ground, they are willing to ignore the character flaws.”

Under Mr. Modi’s watch, the energy companies Royal Dutch Shell and Total have opened a major liquid natural gas terminal in Gujarat, and Torrent Power, an Indian company, has built a huge power plant. Meanwhile, Tata Motors, DuPont, General Motors, Hitachi and dozens of other foreign and Indian companies have built factories, expanded operations or invested in projects in the state.

When the Canadian heavy machinery company Bombardier won a contract to supply subway cars to the Delhi Metro in 2007, it needed a factory site, quickly. It found one in Savli, an industrial estate in Gujarat. Just 18 months later- when in many parts of India, the permit process might still be grinding away – the factory was built and operating.

“It was incredible,” said Rajeev Jyoti, the managing director of Bombardier in India, “and it was a world record within Bombardier.”

Compared with most other states, Gujarat has smoother roads and less garbage next to the streets. More than 99 percent of Gujarat’s villages have electricity, compared with less than 85 percent nationally.

In 2009, Gujarat attracted more planned investment than any other state in the country, about $54 billion by value of announced plans, according to Assocham, a trade association of Indian chambers of commerce.

Mr. Modi, who has no business or economics background, deserves praise for this, corporate leaders say. Before entering politics in his late 30s, he was a religious volunteer for the Hindu nationalist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which sponsors schools and provides aid during natural disasters, but has also been widely criticized as being intolerant of other religions and of secular Hindus.

In India, where corrupt politicians often seem to be raiding the public coffers to benefit their offspring, Mr. Modi’s success is sometimes attributed to his apparent lack of a family life. Acquaintances and local news reports say he was married at a young age but separated soon after from his wife. Mr. Modi has never commented on reports about his personal life.

Mr. Modi’s administration has brought novel solutions to some of India’s most tenacious problems. Corruption became less widespread after the state government put a large amount of its activities online, from permits that companies need to build or expand, to bids for contracts. To plow through a multiyear backlog of court cases, and prevent day laborers from losing income, Mr. Modi asked judges to work extra hours in night courts.

Mr. Modi uses a chief executive style of managing the bureaucrats who work under him, according to associates and business executives in Gujarat. He gives promising people positions of responsibility, sets goals and expects people to meet them. Nonperformers are pushed aside.

It may seem an obvious way to administer a state with more than 50 million people and a budget in the billions of dollars.

But this approach runs counter to India’s tradition of cronyism. In a recent reshuffle of India’s national cabinet ministers, for example, the minister of highways who substantially missed targets for road-building was made minister for urban development, a crucial position for a rapidly urbanizing nation struggling to build livable cities.

Even in another state considered pro-business, Tamil Nadu in the south, the ruling party, D.M.K., has been dogged by accusations of corruption.

In Mr. Modi’s case, the accolades once would have been unthinkable. After the Hindu-Muslim riots a decade ago, he was considered a liability for his political party, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. But these days, with Gujarat’s soaring economy, Mr. Modi is sometimes mentioned as his party’s most likely candidate for prime minister in 2014, when the next general election is expected.

Despite his lack of executive experience, Mr. Modi’s supporters credit him with a politician’s innate sense of marketing. Images of Mr. Modi were plastered on billboards throughout Gujarat during the investment summit meeting, proclaiming the state’s support not only for investment but for social programs like support of girls’ education – a particularly important subject in India where there is a large literacy gap between men and women.

Within Gujarat, which has a centuries-old reputation for business acumen, even Mr. Modi’s fans sometimes grumble that he and his image makers may be taking outsize credit for its economic growth. And they say that the headline numbers that Mr. Modi’s government trumpets can be misleading.

For example, the $450 billion in “memorandums of understanding” – essentially, pledges to do business in the state – that the government says were signed during the January investment summit meeting double-count some deals, according to businessmen in attendance, because they include loans and investments for the same projects. Mr. Modi’s spokesman confirmed there might be some redundancy in the $450 billion figure, but said it was impossible to break out the loans from the investments.

Yet, no one disputes Gujarat’s rapid growth. And Mr. Modi’s supporters say India’s economic success will depend on each state’s adopting many of the same measures he has employed. India’s central government may apportion budgets and write overall laws, they say, but it is the states that are responsible for overseeing everything from land allocation to electricity distribution.

“If you are an investor in India,” said Mr. Somers, of the United States trade group, “Gujarat must be at the top of your list.”

Obama signs law barring Gitmo trials in US

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* Bill includes sections blocking funding for transfer of suspects from Gitmo to US

WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama, in a setback to hopes for the quick closing of the Guantanamo Bay prison, reluctantly signed a bill on Friday barring suspects held there from being brought to the United States for trial.

Making plain he would fight to repeal language in the law obstructing civilian US trials for Guantanamo terrorism suspects, Obama said he was left with no choice but to sign the defence authorisation act for fiscal 2011.

“Despite my strong objection to these provisions, which my administration has consistently opposed, I have signed this act because of the importance of authorising appropriations for, among other things, our military activities in 2011,” Obama said in a statement. Obama has vowed to close the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which has drawn international condemnation for the treatment of detainees, but has met stiff resistance at home.

The bill includes sections blocking funding for the transfer of suspects from the Guantanamo prison to the United States. It also restricts the use of funds to ship them to other countries, unless specified conditions are met.

“The prosecution of terrorists in federal court is a powerful tool in our efforts to protect the nation and must be among the options available to us,” Obama said. “Any attempt to deprive the executive branch of that tool undermines our nation’s counter-terrorism efforts.”

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said the legislation Obama signed into law showed there was overwhelming bipartisan opposition to bringing Guantanamo detainees to the United States for trial and detention. “When it comes to terrorism, we should err on the side of protecting the American people,” McConnell said in a statement.

The provisions expire on September 30, at the end of the current fiscal year.

AIPAC ORDERED BUSH TO ATTACK IRAN

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By Gordon Duff STAFF

In a unique interview with an official at the highest policy levels of the Pentagon, White House and, eventually, CIA, we are offered a unique “behind the curtains” look at areas of policy making during the period between 1999 and 2007. Extensive notes have been taken of meetings with President Bush and all his top policy advisors. This is only a teaser.

A highly placed source within the White House and CIA confirmed, in an interview, that the invasion of Iran was sheduled for 2006 but planned in 1999. We have heard some of this before but not with so many pieces and, I am told, more to

WHITE HOUSE INSIDERS PLAN WAR ON TERROR

come. In an interview with a Bush administration policy official:

Q. What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of your work at the White House? You have read my articles, what do you think of my take on things?

A. You are closer than anyone else in understanding how things worked, the only person willing to simply put it out there. You also come at things like the Pentagon people I have worked with, the ones who stood against Bush, Cheney and the AIPAC gang at the NSC (National Security Council.) I can also see that you don’t have background material that you need. Some of it you have wrong, particularly the motives for Iraq. It was always Iran, Iraq was simply a door.

“The Iraq invasion was a ‘done deal’ in 1999, but not as you thought to steal oil and bilk billions, that was all gravy. Iraq, the entire Bush presidency, had one purpose, to remove Iran from the picture.”

Q. You talk about journalists. What has your experience been?

A. I have good friends at the New York Times, Time Magazine, the Washington Post and others. They know all of this. They aren’t fooled. They could write anything but it would never hit print.

Q. Back to the 2000 election. The first impediment was, I am told, removing John McCain from the picture. Was this the case?

READ ABOUT SEX, LIES AND VIDEO TAPE, 9/11, IRAQ AND NEOCON AMERICA

A. “He was enemy # 1, stubborn, unpredictable and already tarnished by the Keating 5 scandal, with all his faults, he didn’t have the serous skeletons in his closet that would fit the bill. McCain couldn’t be blackmailed like Bush, thus McCain is a risk. Unless you can be controlled, blackmailed or bought or both, you will go nowhere in Washington.

McCain is a womanizer, the real thing. For a war hero, with McCain’s charm that’s nothing, he would never fall into the kind of trap Clinton did. Rove was assigned the job of getting rid of McCain. We all saw what was done in South Carolina. It was a masterful job.”

Q. When you talk about McCain not being vulnerable, he certainly was in South Carolina, a few rumors and smears and he was gone. You say Bush is more vulnerable?

A. “A window into a lot of this can be found in the Rosen-AIPAC lawsuit. Bush has serious issues, let’s just leave it at that.

As for Rosen, he just wasn’t an AIPAC lobbyist, he sat inside the National Security Council until 2005 as the Rand Corporation’s Director of Foreign Policy. When the press talks about an AIPAC employee and spying, he didn’t join AIPAC until later, after his arrest.

The FBI investigation and his indictement for spying covered a time when he was at the center of the Bush administration, a key policy formulator at the highest levels of government. Rosen, indicted in 2004 for spying for Israel, was responsible for formulating American policy in the Middle East and largely responsible for the fate of the Palestinian people, a bit of a conflict of interest for an Israeli lobbyist and accused spy.”

Q. Rosen has made some accusations, says AIPAC spies all the time and that they do nothing but watch pornography there. You worked with this guy, what do you know?

A. “Rosen has dirt on absolutely everyone. His divorce depositions are fascinating reading. They are sealed now but there are copies out there. I know that reporters at Time Magazine have them, others too. The FBI has tons, they were after Rosen for years. As for AIPAC, Rosen told me of their spy operations many times, but nobody needed telling, they were more than obvious to all of us.

Q. You talk about Rosen and his “black book,” that he has dirt on “everyone.” The news stories mentioned only porn. That doesn’t sound so
serious. Dirt, not just porn, what kind of dirt?

A. “Mostly sex stuff, gay bondage, clubs, expense money being spent on sex, liasons in public restrooms, that kind of thing. Many of the key people around the president are involved and there is FBI surveillance, massive amounts of it, photographs, videos, and one or more undercover informants recorded conversations with top National Security Council members. Spying, nuclear secrets passed to Israel, this was common place.

I witnessed, with two others, the top Bush counter-terrorism official, actally primary advisor to Bush on counter-terrorism, who had served Clinton and others, pass nuclear weapons plans to an Israeli agent, like it was nothing.”

Q. Did the FBI know about this?

A. “For years, FBI agents, I have a list of names, worked to stop this. Then I learned that the Department of Justice killed the prosecution, Rosen’s lasted into the Obama administration before it was dropped. Witnesses were threatened with prosecution and the guilty, the spies, were allowed to keep doing what they are doing. This is what Rosen knows and what he is talking about when he says AIPAC was involved in spying. It isn’t just that AIPAC is said to receive information it is that it came from top administration officials.”

Q. Let’s get back to the sex thing. How high up does it go?

A. “One famous joke around the NSC, there was a photo of someone kissing Laura Bush on the cheek and shaking hands with President Bush. The same person had, not that long before, using those same lips and hands in a men’s restroom.”

Q. What do you know about 9/11?

A. “9/11 was planned as early as 1999 or before, to be executed as soon as the Bush team was in place. One meeting in April 2001, a meeting outlining the invasion of Iraq, may have been the green light.’ Chalibi was in place early on, from day number one. I remember telling them he was a known crook, totally disreputable and that things in Iraq would fall apart immediately. Nobody in the National Security Council ever spoke about what they would do once Saddam was overthrown. Nobody really seemed to care.

Of course, none of those people have real experience with military issues or, in fact, much of anything else.”

Q. How was the Iran invasion supposed to work?

A. “This is where so many have it wrong. In fact, there was never serous discussion about terrorism or Al Qaeda or bin Laden. These things weren’t even a sideshow. The only talk about any of it was how it could be used to justify going into Iraq and then attacking Iran.

Q. The intel on Iraq, we all know it was wrong. When was that learned?

A. “The administration didn’t believe false intelligence, it created it, order it in place before the election to be ready for, well I guess, 9/11. Silencing Plame and Joe Wilson, those were the same people who planned the creation of the phony intelligence. There was never a discussion of a serious terrorist threat against the United States. These guys would have fallen off their chairs laughing themselves to death. It was all a joke to them, 9/11, the Iraq invasion, all of it.”

Q. Back to Iran, how was the invasion to start?

A. “Everything was going to happen in Bahrain. Plans were to attack Americans, blow up clubs, restaurants. There were plans to stage a “Tonkin Gulf’ type attack and blame it on Iranian torpedo boats. Guys in the military were aware of this and there was strong opposition. Marine Colonel Joe Molofsky was the real hero here. He did more to scramble administration plans than anyone else, Molofky and General Mattis. These were really straight shooters, how I learned to trust the Marine Corps.

The government there, their security services, I believe they were deeply involved. It would have been good to see something about this in Wikileaks.”

Q. You said that war had to start by 2006. Was there a timetable?

A. “Absolutely. General Petraeus was sent to Iraq to quiet things down, not to win a war or create a lasting peace, nothing like that. His job was to shut things down so an operation against Iran could be staged from Iraq.”

Q. But that never got off the ground…

A. “No kidding, and Bush was enranged. It was the only reason he was put in office in the first place, as long as Iran survived, he was a failure, no matter what happened to the US.”

Q. Didn’t they know that war with Iran would have driven oil to $300 a barrel and collapsed the American economy?

A. “There were never briefings on that like there were never briefings on stabilizing Iraq. Nobody cared, nobody noticed and it was never discussed. It was really all about Iran and orders came in and people did what they were told like good little soldiers.”

Q. Orders? From where?

A. “All of it, all foreign policy issues, were out of AIPAC, they ran everything in the Bush adminsitration. That was the whole point of it. We never were told why we had to destroy Iran only that it had to be done. Nobody ever asked why. Nobody ever believed Iran had a credible nuclear program and, eventually, we were all very certain they never would. There was never an issue about Iran being a threat or not. There was never an issue of motive of any kind. These were orders, plain and simple, the administration that will come into office in 2001 will be tasked with destroying Iran, tasked by AIPAC who will control all key position in the administration.”

Q. Was there talk about Lebanon and the threat of Hizbollah?

A. “There really weren’t talks at all, only planning on how to follow policy, never on what policy should be or what was right or wrong. There was never a discussion about the United States, what was good for America or bad for America. People were generally oblivious to there being an America.”

India divided

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By: Swati Gauri Sharma

A powerful Hindu extremist party has held a firm grip on Maharashtra. But the people are starting to fight back.

ANTI-IMMIGRANT and anti-Muslim sentiment is spreading fast in Europe and the United States. In India, these sentiments aren’t new, and have long been a tactic used by Hindu extremists to retain power in the western state of Maharashtra. Their party, the Shiv Sena, also opposes the influence of Western culture, putting it at sword’s point not just with Muslims but with the growing cosmopolitan community in India as well. How this conflict plays out will be a test of India’s democracy.

Last month, the Shiv Sena, which means “God’s army” in Hindi, initiated aggressive protests and book burnings against a novel, Rohinton Mishtry’s “Such a Long Journey,” because the Sena claimed it made derogatory remarks about the party and its constituents. In a surprise response to the protests, the University of Mumbai has banned the book, which had been short-listed for the Booker Prize.

The Sena also recently protested against the two Pakistani participants of a popular reality show, “Big Boss,” which is India’s version of “Big Brother.” The protests resulted in many cable operators banning the channel that aired the show.

Now, the party has decided it would like to ban the burqa, a troubling issue for a secular country with at least 100 million Muslims.

Although the power of Shiv Sena and other Hindu fundamentalist groups throughout the country has dwindled over the years as India has prospered, the Sena always held on to their base by insisting on government jobs for natives of Maharashtra and denying them to immigrants from other parts of India.

Because of the Sena’s strong hold on Maharashtra and its largest city, Mumbai, the entertainment and financial hub of India, few have successfully spoken out against the party. But the country’s new urban and intellectual class became concerned that that the university and cable operators’ concessions to Sena pressure would institutionalize the party’s regressive and racist platform.

The secular community’s most recent successful push-back against the Hindu fundamentalists involved Shahrukh Khan, one of the most popular stars of the Mumbai-based film industry in India, known as Bollywood. Khan, a Muslim from North India, was demonized by the Sena for his comments supporting the inclusion of Pakistan’s cricket team in India’s Premier League and rejecting the party’s anti-immigrant rhetoric. In response to Khan’s statements, the Sena protested and threatened to use violence and political will to limit Khan’s latest Bollywood release, which was one of the most anticipated films of the year.

In previous such showdowns, Bollywood stars and filmmakers have often ended up apologizing to the Sena in fear of financial and social repercussions. But in a surprise move, Khan stood firmly against the party. Opposed by much of the film fraternity and the business community, the Sena lost this battle, and the film went on to be one of the largest box-office hits in Bollywood history.

In the wake of the devastating terrorist attacks in Mumbai in November of 2008, India showed the world that Hindus and Muslims can live peacefully together. Peace marches took the place of the communal violence that had been a usual aftermath to terrorist attacks. Today, while the Sena objects to Pakistani participants in the reality TV show, there are other musical shows dedicated to promoting peace between India and Pakistan by having Pakistani and Indian judges and contestants.

As other nations around the world are struggling with a growing vocal and often institutionalized intolerance of Muslims, Indians are beginning to stand up against religious extremists’ regressive campaigns. With luck, India’s economy will continue to flourish, and Hindu extremism will wane.