Thursday, February 23, 2006

WHAT THE PRICE OF GOLD MAY BE TELLING US

WHAT THE PRICE OF GOLD MAY BE TELLING US - by Stephen Lendman

Markets are often the best forecasters since their direction supposedly represents the collective wisdom of the smartest people moving them - the professionals, not the public that just goes along for the ride where they're taken. The way the dominant "players" view the future is how they decide where they want to place their financial bets. Now, however, the financial markets (stocks, bonds and other money instruments) are in a tug-of-war with the price of gold, which is typically seen as a safe haven in times of uncertainty and in the past has moved inversely with the price of equities. Since 2003, when the Iraq war began, world equity markets have soared and still are moving up strongly except in the US where since 2004 they've gone up modestly. All are stable or rising, however, seeming to be pointing to good economic times ahead. The global bond markets seem to concur as they've been surprisingly stable as well and in the face of 14 consecutive interest rate hikes by the US Federal Reserve. The equity markets love wars because they're good for business - as long as they go well. The markets always discount the future about 6 months ahead, and today's valuations represent that view - that all is well, profits will keep rising and so will stock valuations.

GOLD'S AWAKENING FROM A 25 YEAR SLUMBER

If the equity and bond markets are right and the future is rosy, why then is gold also soaring after a 25 year slumber following its decline after peaking at $850 an ounce in 1980. Since early 2001 it's more than doubled in price from around $250 an ounce to around $550, and gold forecasting pundits fearlessly predict much higher valuations ahead. Amazingly the highest number I've seen is $5,000. Wow. Now that forecaster surely must also be predicting some kind of financial or other type Armageddon or worse.

I'm not an economist, Wall Street whiz or professional fearless forecaster. And I'll admit straight up I'm not sure what gold is telling us, but I have some ideas. Read on, and I'll play a mug's game laying out what I think, right or wrong. The best and brightest in the financial world do it every day, and even when they're wrong, often enough, clients pay dearly for their advice. I'll give it to you free of charge, and I may turn out to be smarter than they are, or maybe just luckier in making a good call. But, as the saying goes, you get what you pay for.

FACTORS AFFECTING GOLD PRICES

Ask a gold expert what factors affect gold prices and you'll get some pretty standard answers, usually right. Gold is a global thermometer that reflects monetary, political and economic stability as well as marketplace demand for the metal itself as jewelry, investors' (including central bankers') desire to hold it for any reason or a as hedge against the uncertain value of fiat money, which is just paper currency from a government printing press that can be produced in any amount.

Governments, Wall Street and business around the world hate it when gold prices rise because it usually reflects an early warning of some kind of trouble ahead, nearly always financial. It may be signaling rising inflation or deflation as well as a general lack of confidence in fiat or paper currency. When the gold price rises sharply against a country's currency, as it has in the US, it points to trouble ahead for that country's economy and monetary policy. At least it's worked that way in the past. What's also worked is that when gold vies with an inflated paper currency (because too much of it has been printed), gold always wins. If investors lose faith in a paper currency or just have enough uncertainty about it, they usually turn to gold.

Just retired and now former US Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan was very fond of the printing press. He must have been since he used it liberally. He doubled the money supply since 1991 and increased it over 40% since 2001. Of course, being above all else a consummate politician, he had to do it to please his constituents (Wall Street and the big banks) and especially to help George Bush and the Congress spend like drunken politicians to fund an expensive war with no end in Iraq and lots of others on the drawing board. You need big bucks for that, there's no end in sight, and the new Fed chairman will probably be just as friendly to the warmakers and make things even worse ultimately - that is, keep the printing press active enough to pay the war profiteers well and the economy moving ahead, for now at least.

Ben Bernacke, the new chairman, begins his tenure with a nickname he may live to regret - "Helicopter Ben." Now there's a dubious handle for a former distinguished academic at Princeton and now Fed chairman. He got it after his remark that he'd drop dollars from a helicopter if that was needed to stimulate the economy - meaning, of course, he'd keep the printing press running "full out" if that's what it took. Central bankers never run out of paper or ink.

ARE THE PUNDITS MISSING THE REAL MESSAGE FROM THE GOLD MARKET

I don't know, and they're a lot smarter than I am, but I'll stick my neck out. World stability changed direction after 9/11 when the Bush administration declared war on the world - at least all parts of it not subservient to US interests. The price of peace with the US is "knowing who's boss" and being respectful and obedient - just like organized crime family members are to "The Godfather." But just as mob bosses mete out punishment to disobedient underlings, so too will be the fate of any nation daring to go its own way, independent of US wishes. It'll likely see some hostile action against it - political, economic, military or all three.

The "fun and games" began for real against Afghanistan a month after 9/11 and went into overdrive against Iraq in March, 2003. Now the war drums are audible against Iran, at the head of the target country queue, with Venezuela and Syria likely next in line and other choices to be named later to follow. Despite the enormous cost (an economic boon at the outset and for a while), the Bush administration declared a "permanent state of war" and doesn't want to be accused of running out of targets. To keep the war economy going they'll always have another one at the ready.

Looking back, the price for good times that were too good or for reckless behavior that was too reckless has always been the same - the day comes when you "gotta pay the piper." That may not be this week or next month, but I'll speculate that the sharply rising gold price in the US is discounting more than the usual financial rebalancing its price action usually indicates. Ask any gold seer and they'll explain that while geopolitical events may affect the price of gold, they're never a major factor. I'll be contrarian and speculate that along with whatever other message the gold market is sending, it's also signaling concern about the geopolitical threat to peace and world stability, especially in the strategically important Middle East. High oil prices may be sending the same signal, although of late prices have stabilized and come off a bit.

My best guess is that the rising gold price may be the canary in the mine shaft warning of a growing and dangerous change in world stability reflected in investor sentiment. At times of growing economic or geopolitical tension, uncertainty or danger, gold is seen as a conservative asset or "safe haven" and a way to preserve wealth as it always has been for the past 6,000 years. That's a track record even the Dow Jones averages can't match.

There's a lot for investors to worry about now along with the new war drums beating I'll discuss below. There's the perceived threat of terrorist attacks, the continued loss of civil liberties in the West and especially in the US, the possible disruption of oil supplies, and at some point that "piper" waiting to be repaid for years of financial profligacy in the US to fund all the "adventuresomeness" and excess stimulus to keep the economy humming. And there's one other factor affecting the US dollar. Many currency experts believe the currency is in a long-term bear market that began in 2002, even though it rebounded well last year and is holding its own so far this year (a cyclical rally in a longer term secular bear market say the dollar bears). Some of the reasons given for this trend are the emergence of the euro as a competitor to the dollar in December, 2001 by the 12 European nations using it and the desire of other nations to diversify into other currencies (as well as gold). And its interesting that some Islamic nations have begun doing some bilateral commerce in gold dinars and China now has its first gold exchange. All this signals a potential or maybe likely shift away from the almighty dollar as the world's primary reserve currency.

ANOTHER MIDDLE EAST WAR MAY BE ONE TOO MANY

Now to those war drums and the speculation that's now rife that the Bush administration has chosen Iran as its next target. I read about it every day as well as hear the same kind of strong administration rhetoric hostile to Iran that we heard in the run-up to the Iraq war. The demonizing campaign moved ahead further in mid-February when Secretary of State Rice told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee the US would "actively confront" Iran and asked for an extra $75 million in funding for anti-Tehran propaganda and support for opposition groups inside and outside the country. It all points to one thing. The US may launch an attack against the Iranians and do it as early as March when Iran opens a new oil bourse and begins trading in euros. Saddam did the same thing in 2000, providing the US an added reason to attack him, and other oil producing countries including Venezuela, Russia, Indonesia, Libya and Malaysia have also agreed to sell oil in euros.

The sale of oil worldwide in dollars has been a key support for the dollar and its stability through the years. The US will do whatever it takes to preserve this. If enough countries begin selling their oil in euros or other currencies (the Japanese yen is the only other possibility), it would seriously undermine the dollar and have grave consequences for the US economy. The US, and especially the Bush administration, will surely go to war to prevent this.

MORE CLUES POINTING TO WAR WITH IRAN

If the gold market and those reading this need more evidence, consider these two jarring tidbits. Last year former chief UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter said George Bush received and signed off on orders for an aerial attack on Iran planned for last June. It didn't happen then, but former CIA officer Philip Giraldi also claims he has information that the Pentagon was ordered by Vice President Dick Cheney to draw up plans to attack Iran "to be employed in response to another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States... (and)... As in the case of Iraq, the response is not conditional on Iran actually being involved in the act of terrorism directed against the United States......Iran is being set up for an unprovoked nuclear attack" against them by the US.

Nervous anyone, especially those of us convinced our own government was behind or complicit in the first 9/11 attack. A number of US government officials and private "terrorism" experts are on record saying it's just a matter of when, not if, the US will be struck again. On June 6, 2003, the AP quoted a US government report saying "There is a 'high probability' that al-Qaida will attempt an attack with weapons of mass destruction in the next two years." Are we being set up to be duped again if there's a major strike against us? You know the drill by now - a major attack happens on US soil, the Bush administration and complicit corporate media hype what happened, scare the public and get them mad enough to demand retribution, they blame it on Iran claiming secret intelligence they can't reveal, and it's (nuclear) bombs away - and George Bush's approval rating skyrockets just like after 9/11, and the Republicans keep control of both houses of Congress in November.

HOLD ON TO YOUR BULLION (IF YOU HAVE ANY) -THINGS ARE WORSE THAN YOU THINK

As disturbing as another real or faked "terrorist" attack is plus a new war, consider this. Under the radar the US has been waging "nuclear war" against Iraq by using so-called depleted uranium weapons (DU) since the Gulf war in 1991. We also used them against Afghanistan in 2001 and later as well as against Serbia/Kosovo in 1999. These are radioactive and chemically toxic weapons that are banned under the Geneva and Hague Conventions, and any use of them in combat or for any purpose is a war crime.

The military loves these weapons and uses them because DU is a "dense metal" able to penetrate hard targets like tanks and structures and explode inside them. However, after exploding they also aerosolize into a fine spray of submicroscopic particles that contaminate the air, water and soil with toxic radiation. They're also swept by winds into the atmosphere and carried long distances, falling to earth along the way and contaminating vast areas far from the combat zone. The result in Iraq from the Gulf war, repeated bombings using these weapons all through the 1990s, and now with their intensive use for nearly the last 3 years, is that vast areas of the country are an irremediable, irradiated, toxic wasteland. The country is largely unsafe for human habitation forever (the radiation contamination has a half-life of 4.5 billion years) even with an end to hostilities, and there's no sign of that which only makes things even worse.

The Bush administration has now stated its intention to use so-called "mini-nukes" or "bunker-busters" as conventional weapons in any area of conflict. They're not "mini", but they sure are "nukes", about one third as powerful as a Hiroshima bomb or stronger as they can be made to any desired potency. Officially, these weapons are called "Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrators", and they work the same as other DU weapons - penetrating a designated target before exploding including those underground for protection. But since these weapons are much stronger than the ones now being used, the destruction and fallout from them will be much greater. And should they be used, it's likely that world instability will increase and cause great reverberations including in the financial and gold markets.

If the US attacks Iran, even by a "shock and awe" strike from the air only with no invasion and with so-called "mini-nukes", the Middle East may boil over even more than it now has. But there's even speculation the US will make a targeted invasion into the area known as Khuzestan, the Iranian province bordering Basra in Southern Iraq, where most of the nation's oil is located (possibly as much as 90% by some estimates). Make no mistake, the situation in Iraq is hopeless, the war is lost and the US knows it and will find a way to exit eventually even though it's now spending billions on as many as 14 permanent bases in the country. With that quagmire to resolve and with the Arab street and entire Muslim world justifiably inflamed, it's hard to imagine the US would risk making things even worse by attacking Iran. But that's what many writers and Middle East analysts are now predicting. If they're right, the very risky and uncertain fallout from it is what the gold market may be signaling as the price of the precious metal heads higher.

IRAN IS IN FULL COMPLIANCE WITH NPT - YOU'D NEVER KNOW IT FROM THE ONE-SIDED HOSTILE NEWS REPORTING

Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or NPT and is in full compliance with it. The core of NPT is in Article IV which gives signatories "an inalienable right to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes" and acquire technology from other signatories to do so. That's exactly what Iran is doing as opposed to Israel which is not an NPT signatory and is known to have 200 or more nuclear bombs, a stated intent to use them if they choose, and no condemnation of this by the world community. Of course, Israel is a valued strategic ally while Iran is an "outlier", going its own way and refusing to bow to the dictates of the "Godfather" (a no-no), Israel or any other nation. It follows that launching an attack against them has nothing to do with its legal right to develop commercial nuclear power or even its right to defend itself against a hostile US and Israel by building any weapons it feels it needs. It's only about the long-term US desire for regime change in this oil rich country. As in Iraq (and also Venezuela and Syria) we want a government subservient to the US, and, of course, we want the oil - not access to it, but control of it, the profits from it and being able to decide who gets it and who does not. The plan isn't to take over Iran's exports of carpets (the finest in the world), fruit or pistachio nuts, but maybe the war hawks might want to on second thought as they're worth about $39 billion a year.

CONCLUSION

So where are we, and what's it all add up to - trouble likely, maybe big trouble down the road that may come sooner than most think. Will it, and is that what I'm predicting? I've always loved the answer Hollywood film mogul Louis B. Mayer once gave an interviewer when asked how well he thought his newest movie would do at the box office. He said he never liked making predictions, especially about the future. Louis was a lot smarter than I am, and I'll go along with him on that one. I don't know what the US, in fact, will do (or how gold and the financial markets will react) and neither does anyone else outside the power circles making these decisions. They may even be unsure themselves at this time. But my best judgment is that the gold market senses trouble and is sending an ominous message that all is not well in the world, and it's better to take cover in the traditional safest of all safe havens than risk potential big losses in the financial markets. As one market seer once said - we'll know for sure "in the fullness of time." Place your bets, and stay tuned.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also, visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

Monday, February 13, 2006

LIFE IN OCCUPIED PALESTINE

LIFE IN OCCUPIED PALESTINE - by Stephen Lendman

Try to imagine daily life under these conditions:

You live in limbo in a country occupied by a repressive foreign army and a system of institutionalized and codified racism. You have no recognized nation, no right of citizenship and no power over your own daily life. You live in a constant state of fear. The occupier imposes economic strangulation and collective punishment by restricting free movement; enclosing population centers; closing borders; barring most of your people from working inside "its country"; imposing regular curfews, roadblocks, checkpoints, electric fences and separation walls and continues to build new settlements in your Occupied Territories (on your land in your country) violating the Geneva Conventions prohibiting an occupier from settling its population on conquered land.

The occupier denies your people their basic human rights including those under the Fourth Geneva Convention which governs the treatment of civilians in war and under occupation. There are 149 articles of this Convention. The occupier violates almost all of them and in so doing is committing war crimes according to international law. The UN Human Rights Commission determined it's also committing "crimes against humanity" against your people. This concept comes from the 1945 Nuremberg Charter drafted by the U.S. to try Nazi war criminals. The international notion of a "crime against humanity" was established to define what Hitler did to the Jews. The UNHRC ruled this is what the occupier is doing to your people, and that this act is the historical and legal precursor to the international crime of genocide as defined by the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

The occupier also sends its troops, tanks and heavy armor into neighborhoods at will to maraud and destroy. It also strikes at will from the air with sophisticated missle-firing attack helicopters and F-16s and deliberately inflicts eardrum shattering and terrifying sonic booms. And it gives its military/security forces the right to freely harass, arrest or kill extra-judicially any of your people - man, woman or child on any pretext with impunity. It bulldozes homes and the people in them if they don't escape in time (usually in middle of the night and without warning or notice) as punishment or for lacking a permit to build on their own land, in their own country or for any other reason. It steals land relentlessly hoping it will have it all one day or at least all the parts it wants. It detains, imprisons and tortures thousands of your people for the real or perceived crime of fighting for their freedom against an oppressive occupier.

To enact vengeance and to provide security for its illegal settlers in your Occupied Territories, it restricts or prevents access to essential and emergency health care, education, employment, the right to move goods and services from producer/suppliers to end users, and even enough food and water. It created a state of economic siege forcing up to nearly two-thirds of your people (according to the UN) below the poverty line of $2.20 a day (and half of those two-thirds on $1.60 a day or less) and over half the work force to be unemployed (the number varying with the intensity of the Israeli lockdown). It destroys your peoples' crops and orchards including more than 1 million olive trees. It imposes punitive taxes and provides few services or withholds them at will as collective punishment. You have no power to stop any of these abuses or receive any redress in the occupier's courts. How can you as a Muslim in a racist Jewish state.

DEMONIZATION OF MUSLIMS AND ISLAM IN A TIME OF MANUFACTURED FEAR AND ANXIETY

It's always been open season in Israel and the West to demonize Muslims and Islam with language like "fundamentalist extremists", "crazed Arabs", "Jihadists" and "terrorists." The late renown and redoubtable Palestinian - American scholar, humanist and activist Edward Said explained in his most influential book - Orientalism - that as early as the 14th century Muslims and Islam were demonized with pronounced vitriol in Dante's most famous work - The Divine Comedy - and that his characterizations of Islam were common in much English literature that followed.

9/11 just gave it added impetus to become practically de regueur. The "extreme right" in Israel and the West used a heightened and hyped climate of fear to use an old and easy scapegoat to advance their extremist imperial agenda behind the easy cover of patriotism
and protecting national security. It wasn't hard to portray Muslims and Islam as intolerant, inferior, violent and anti-western, especially Muslims of color or from Arab countries.

Former Israeli leaders were just as intolerant, referring to Palestinians in the most degrading terms, such as - Prime Ministers Menahim Begin calling them "cockroaches" and "beasts walking on two legs", Ehud Barak calling them "crocodiles", and Golda Maier saying "There was no such thing as Palestinians, they never existed." Even Israel's George Washington and first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, said after expelling the Palestinians from their homes and land by brute force in the 1948 war establishing the State of Israel: "We must do everything to insure they (the Palestinians) never do return." He also said at that time: "We have come and we have stolen their country." He expressed the same sentiment a decade earlier in a letter to his son when he wrote: "We will expel the Arabs and take their places.....with the force at our disposal." He thought they'd get away with it and that Palestinians would never come back when he added: "The old will die and the young will forget." He was right (so far) on the first point and dead wrong on the second.

MUSLIM WITCH-HUNTING IN ISRAEL AND THE WEST

The current war against Muslims and Islam is now raging in the West. Witness a Muslim cleric in London, Abu Hamza al Masri, being sentenced to 7 years in prison for daring to speak out against Muslim persecution and being convicted of inciting terrorism. The U.S. also seeks his extradiction. Witness Mounir el Motassadeq's conviction in Germany of supposedly belonging to the al Queda cell that plotted the 9/11 attack. He insisted he had no involvement even though he knew some of the hijackers - to no avail. What chance could he have for "due process" in a country whose new Chancellor compares Islam with the "rise of fascism." Witness the many Western countries that now have draconian immigration laws principally aimed at people of color and Muslims behind the facade of a fraudulent "war on terror" and supposed border protection. And witness the current furor and backlash from the "cartoons" published in Denmark and other countries portraying a blasphemous image of the Prophet Mohammed. Imagine the response in the West if a similar portrayal of Christ appeared in a Muslim publication.

These images in print are just another part of the propaganda war on Islam used to justify the real thing in Iraq and Afghanistan and maybe soon in Iran and Syria. Call this episode "cartoon war." It's a glaring example of how the Western corporate media promote their governments' racist campaign to degrade Muslims, portray them as inferior, label them terrorists, hope to stir up violence to prove it, give cover to Israeli oppression, and sell wars.

Israel as well has a long history of demonizing Muslims. They likely wrote the modern book on it. And they use it to justify "removing" anyone considered a threat to their authority and dominance. Recent examples include regular targeted assassinations (and willingness to commit them in other countries including the U.S.) and the fraudulent conviction on trumped up charges of Marwan Barghouti, the Palestinian leader who was imprisoned for life by the Israelis for the crime of being an influential freedom fighter. Barghouti, however, is still alive. Most often Israel prefers a sentence of elimination or targeted assassination. It's much simpler when they can say "case closed" forever. Israel does it all the time with impunity and no condemnation by the world community of nations for these continued cold-blooded murders.

Influential Muslims or even some of their key supporters or defenders seen as a threat to the West don't fare much better outside Israel. It's never been easy for them, but since 9/11 the gloves have come off and the persecution has become fearsome and relentless. In the U.S., the number of those harassed, detained, imprisoned or deported runs into the thousands. No one outside the government knows exactly how many have been affected.

Three recent headline-making cases in the U.S. illustrate what's so worrisome and disturbing. The most recent just concluded is the case of Dr. Rafil Dhafir, a Muslim American of Iraqi descent and practicing oncologist until his license was revoked. In a U.S. style "kangaroo court" type trial he was convicted of violating the Iraqi Sanctions Regulations (the IEEPA) because he used his own funds and what he was able to get from donors to bring desperately needed humanitarian aid, including food and medical supplies, to Iraqi people unable to get them because of the U.S./UN imposed punitive sanctions. He did it through his Help the Needy charity. For his saintly work he was charged and unbelievably convicted of such claimed offenses as violating the sanctions, tax fraud, money laundering, and mail and wire fraud - a total of 60 counts and found guilty on 59 of them. The verdict - 22 years in prison. Everyone should visit Katherine Hughes' website - dhafirtrial.net - for her account of the trial and outcome in her "must read" article "Crime of Compassion." Katherine suspended her personal life to sit through the entire 17 week trial, became an advocate for justice for Dr. Dhafir and wrote and spoke out about it. What happened to Dr. Dhafir, a blessed, giving man, is a threat to us all. Katherine explained that the verdict sends a clear message to the Muslim community and everyone else - "If we can get Rafil Dhafir, we can get anyone."

A second instance thankfully had a better outcome, at least for now. It's the terrorism conspiracy case brought against Florida Professor Sami Al-Arian in which a jury exonerated him on the 8 most serious of 17 total counts against him and deadlocked on the other 9. The Justice Department trumped up the charges alleging Professor Al-Arian's legitimate organizations that included the Islamic Committee for Palestine, World Islam Studies Enterprise, and Islamic Academy of Florida were fronts for Palestinian Islamic Jihad, an organization on the U.S so-called "terrorist" list. The real intent of the trial was to silence an important voice supporting justice for the beleaguered and oppressed Palestinian people. It's not known whether the persecution of Professor Al-Arian has ended as the Justice Department witch-hunters don't quit easily. It's quite likely they'll return new charges and put an innocent man through more misery and expense until they find a way either to convict, bankrupt or break him.

The third case is one I've followed since inception and have given my financial support to its victim. It's the case of Lynne Stewart, a New York City criminal defense attorney with a long career of defending "unpopular" clients because she believes, as we all should, that they, like anyone else charged, are entitled to the right of "due process" and "their day in court." Lynne was asked by former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark to serve as a member of the court-appointed defense team for Sheik Abdel Rahman, convicted and now serving a life sentence in connection with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Lynne was convicted in a gross miscarriage of justice for violating special administrative prison rules and providing material support to terrorists. In fact, she was convicted in the Justice Department's assault on the Bill of Rights. The baseless charges brought against her stemmed from communications she had with and about her client, which she had every right to do to conduct a proper defense, but which were twisted and distorted in her indictment. She was convicted of defrauding the government, conspiracy, providing material support to terrorists and making false statements. She was also disbarred and now faces a long prison term - at her age, a life sentence unless it's overturned in an upcoming appeal.

The lesson from these 3 cases is clear. Challenge state authority, in these cases in the U.S, even in the pursuit of bringing humanitarian aid to the desperately needy, speaking up publicly on their behalf, or aiding them in their pursuit of justice, and you risk being the victim of ruthless and relentless police state type persecution to put you in prison for a long time. Even if they fail to do it, they can break you financially and ruin your life. That's how the system works. Understand it and be prepared.

HOW THE ISRAELIS CONTROL THE PALESTINIAN POLITICAL PROCESS

Until the election of Hamas in January, 2006, Israel coopted the ruling corrupted Fatah party. It managed to control (rig) the electoral process (when they allowed it) to insure its preferred candidates won who then would serve their Israeli bosses as a quisling or proxy government to hold in check or even oppress their own people while ignoring their needs. It hid all this behind the facade of a democratic process that prevented any candidate from running for a leadership position who might put the needs of the Palestinian people ahead of those of Israelis. It's made daily life almost impossible and created overwhelming hardships and human misery. And it concealed it all with the help and complicity of the world community of nations (principally those in the so-called "Quartet" - the US, EU, UN and Russia) and the duplicitous facade of a sham "peace process" that never was and never will be as things now stand. After repeated failures, there's always a new incarnation - the current one is called the "Road Map" (to nowhere).

Instead of being given any rights and humane treatment, Palestinians are portrayed as terrorists, militants and gunmen preying on the Israeli people. What they are, in fact, are victims and freedom-fighters. And no amount of Israeli concocted myth and deceit will ever change that or justify the egregious and endless crimes they commit against a near-defenseless civilian population. It matches a powerful Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) equipped with the most sophisticated high tech weapons including nuclear ones against a lightly armed civilian population unable to defend itself. It unleashes that force at will brutally on the slightest pretext and has made life unbearable for a population some human rights observers call the most oppressed and longest suffering people on earth. There's no dispute that the Palestinians are the largest and longest suffering refugee population in the world with nearly 4 million of them registered as refugees by UNRWA - the UN Relief and Work Agency responsible for them.

The web site If Americans Knew publishes and keeps current what it says "every American needs to know about Israel/Palestine." It calls the conflict "one of the world's major sources of instability" and one Americans are directly connected to and imperiled by. The current statistics on its site cover the period between September 29, 2000 and February 2, 2006. They're listed below:

--Number of Israeli children killed - 123
Number of Palestinian children killed - 707

--Total number of Israelis killed - 1084
Total number of Palestinians killed - 3790

--Number of Israelis injured - 7,633
Number of Palestinians injured - 29,395

--To the above totals add that in the 2 weeks up to
February 10, 2006, Israeli security forces killed 15 more
Palestinians and injured dozens more including 12
children. And more Palestinians are killed and injured
nearly every day, including women, children and the
elderly.

--Daily U.S. aid to Israel in dollars - $15,139,178
Daily U.S. aid to Palestinian NGOs in dollars - $232,290

--Number of UN resolutions targeting Israel - 65
Number of UN resolutions targeting the Palestinians - 0

--Number of Israelis held prisoner by the Palestinians - 0
Number of Palestinians held prisoner by the Israelis -
9,184

--Number of Israeli homes demolished by the
Palestinians - 0
Number of Palestinian homes demolished by the
Israelis - 4,170

--The current Israeli unemployment rate is - 8.9%
The current estimated Palestinian unemployment rate -
estimates vary and range up to 67% and at times even
higher.

--Number of new Israeli settlements (for Jews only) built
between March 2001 and July 11, 2003 on stolen
Palestinian land - 60+
No Palestinian settlement has ever been built on stolen
Israeli land (even though it's land Israel stole from the
Palestinians)

How did it get this way, and how can the Palestinians change it?

THE MYTH OF "WE WERE HERE FIRST" AND GOD PROMISED THE LAND (ISRAEL/PALESTINE) TO THE JEWS

Orwell explained that "those who control the present control the past, and those who control the past control the future." He meant they control the public mind by directing the flow of information including writing the history - the past as they want us to believe it. The notion Israelis want all Jews and everyone else to believe is that what is now the State of Israel was once a barren land first occupied only when the Jews arrived. Baloney. The truth is evinced by a wealth of historical and archeological evidence that civilization flourished on that land at least 1,000 years before the Jews arrived and maybe much longer. The one preceding the arrival of Jews was a Canaanite civilization that became completely Arabized after Arab invaders first came in the 7th century A.D. That transformed society became the ancestral heritage of the Palestinian people by the end of the 7th century, although the term Palestine originated with the Philistines and was used by the Roman Empire. From that early time until the State of Israel was created in 1948, the land was called Palestine, and its people, a huge Arab majority, were called Palestinians.

The origin of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict goes back to the late 19th century and the founding of Zionism. The proximate cause for its founding was virulent anti-semitism, especially in czarist Russia, and the belief by some Jews that only in a Jewish state would Jews be safe from persecution. The early Zionists were willing to consider any location but finally agreed on Palestine because of its biblical connection. They early on created the myth of calling Palestine "a land without people for a people without a land", and they just came to reclaim their ancestral home. They ignored the fact that the so-called "empty land" had a flourishing population of Palestinian Arabs and few Jews. But their real plan was to completely dispossess the indigenous Arab population and create a wholly Jewish state for Jews alone - as racist a notion as the Nazis wanting a pure Aryan state along with its philosophy of a "Master Race." They were aided by the duplicitous British after WW I who made Palestine part of their empire and in their 1917 Balfour declaration gave its support for a Jewish homeland there while at the same time promising the Arabs the land would become independent.

Once the Palestinian Arabs caught on to the Zionists real intentions, they understood the threat to their own existence and strongly opposed further Jewish immigration. Had it not been for the political and military support from the British colonial ruler, the Zionist goal for a Jewish state never would have been realized. With that support, immigration continued, the real threat of dispossession grew, and therein lay the root of the intractable conflict that continues to this day with no sign of resolution.

CREATION OF THE STATE OF ISRAEL

On May 14, 1948 the State of Israel was born on the ruins of Palestine and its people, and on the day the British mandate over Palestine expired. Earlier on November 29, 1947 the UN General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the establishment of a Jewish
state. It voted to partition Palestine into 2 independent states, one for Jews and the other for the majority Arab population. At that time the Jews comprised one third of the population and owned 6% of the land. But the partition plan gave them 55% of it and created added pressure that led to the 1948 war the Palestinian people didn't want.

War began on May 15 when the armies from 7 Arab countries (including Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon) crossed into Israel and began hostilities. Despite the Israeli myth that they were outgunned and outnumbered, in fact, they had a superior force in manpower and military strength for most of the war (but not the beginning). They also had a great tactical advantage especially against Arab armies that were uncoordinated, didn't use what they had effectively, and were not fully committed to fighting on territory outside of their own.

Hostilities ended in 1949 when Israel signed separate armistice agreements with its 4 major warring countries. The agreements allowed Israel to establish its own borders which included 78% of British mandatory Palestine, 50% more than the UN partition plan allotted. The cease-fire lines agreed to became known as the "Green Line." Gaza was occupied by Egypt, and the West Bank by Jordan. For the victorious Israelis, this was their moment of triumph in their War of Liberation, but for the defeated and forcibly displaced Palestinians, it became known as "al Nakba" - "The Catastrophe." An unknown number of Palestinians were killed in the war, but 700,000 became refugees. Many of them had fled during the fighting out of fear, but many others were attacked and "ethnically cleansed" (a term not yet in the vocabulary).

The Israeli belligerents committed documented atrocities during the fighting. One of the most extreme was at Deir Yassin (the symbolic beginning of nearly 6 decades of conflict), weeks before Israel became a state in 1948, where Zionist gangs (including the Irgun, headed by future Prime Minister Menachem Begin) massacred about 120 defenseless Palestinian civilians including women, children and the elderly. Sadly, it was just the beginning.

THE ISRAELIS TAKE IT ALL AND THE CREATION OF THE "OCCUPIED TERRITORIES"

In June, 1967 Israel launched a preemptive war of aggression against Egypt, Jordan and Syria (the so-called 6 day war) seizing the rest of Palestine not until then part of Israel - the West Bank including Arab East Jerusalem from Jordan, Gaza and the Sinai from Egypt and for good measure the Golan Heights from Syria. Israel falsely claimed they took defensive action, but it was clear the Arab states didn't want war. Israel took advantage of tensions at the time, that could have been resolved diplomatically, to achieve what they wanted since establishing the state of Israel in 1948 - to seize what they called "Judea" and "Summaria" (land west and southwest of the Jordan River) - the remaining part of biblical Israel/Palestine they didn't have but wanted. They took it and more.

Israel's dramatic victory in 1967 had a big impact on the Johnson administration that was mired in the growing quagmire of Vietnam at the time. It became clear how important a strategic ally Israel was and in the vital region of the Middle East. From that time until today, Israel along with Turkey (and Iran until 1979 when the Shah was deposed) became our "cops on the beat" to help guard and protect the vital resources of the region. It was at that time that U.S. aid to Israel began to increase dramatically as well as full U.S. support overall for even the most controversial Israeli policies. For many years now Israel has been the leading recipient of U.S. foreign aid and now receives about $3 billion annually as well as about $3 billion more in loan guarantees and grants, the latest U.S. military technology and weapons and additional help in various ways when Israeli leaders request it. In total since 1949, U.S. economic and military aid to Israel is approaching $150 billion. This aid has let Israel be able to build the most powerful military force in the region, fund and solidify its occupation through the building of settlements in occupied Palestine, construct its separation or "apartheid" wall, and create virtual open air prisons in the West Bank and Gaza.

The wall around Jerusalem alone will give Israel full control of that city and effectively strangle what's left of the West Bank economy. And the theft of thousands of dunums of Palestinian agricultural land and the Western Aquifer (50% of the West Bank's water supply) makes things that much worse. In addition, the so-called Gaza withdrawal was a hoax and shameless act with the small Israeli settler population there being resettled and the IDF just being redeployed to new positions but still in control of Palestinian life as it was before.

After the 1967 war, the UN Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 242 as its proposal to end the state of belligerency between the warring states. The Resolution stressed "the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war" and called for the "withdrawal of the Israeli armed forces from territory occupied in the recent conflict" and the right of each country "to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries." It was an attempt to achieve "land for peace." But it failed as Israel interpreted the ruling its own way and never withdrew as was called for. And the Palestinians objected because it didn't acknowledge their right to self-determination.

Earlier in 1948 the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 194 that affirmed the right of refugees to return to their homes as codified in Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. There it's stated that "everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country." It also states in Article 15 that "everyone has the right to a nationality." Various other Geneva Conventions also affirm this right in their articles and provisions, thus clearly establishing in international law the absolute and universal "right of return."

Resolution 194 specifically applied the right of return to the Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war expelling them. In it, Paragraph 11 states "that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live in peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so.....and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property......" Israel is bound by this Resolution even though it's from the General Assembly, as its admittance to the UN as a member state, through Resolution 273, was conditioned on its acceptance and implementing of Resolution 194 - which to this day it's never done and refuses to do. Until this most fundamental of human rights issues is resolved, it's hard to imagine any settlement of the current and intractable conflict.

PALESTINIAN LEADERSHIP - FROM THE PALESTINIAN LIBERATION ORGANIZATION (PLO) TO HAMAS

The PLO was founded in 1964, and Yasser Arafat became its leader in 1969. Early on it was militantly opposed to Israel's right to exist and that Palestine was the national state for the Palestinians alone. But by the mid-seventies the PLO's views softened to accept the international consensus favoring a 2 state solution. That new conciliatory position led in 1978 to the Camp David Accords and a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. It's U.S. broker wanted a more stable Middle East with its vitally important oil reserves, Israel wanted peace but on its terms, and Egypt was convinced to along with promises of considerable U.S. financial aid and the return of the Sinai. The Palestinians, one of the Camp David participants, were left out in the cold. The Accords did nothing, in fact, to help their just pursuit of an independent Palestinian state, and it implicitly renounced the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland.

The predictable result was festering anger in the Occupied Territories that was fueled by extreme Israeli daily repression including the theft of Palestinian land for the building of large numbers of settlements for Jews only. It exploded in what became the first Intifada in 1987, the central demand of which was a free and independent Palestinian state. The term itself is the Arabic word for an uprising or rebellion and literally means "shaking off." It pitted young Palestinians armed mostly with rocks and their will not to take it any more against the Israeli IDF with its heavy weapons, its willingness to use them, and its history of extreme violence and brutality against all Arab foes. The result was predictable. Hundreds of Palestinians were killed until the uprising subsided in 1992, and things went back to square one.

CREATION OF THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY

The Middle East exploded again when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in August, 1990 leading to the Gulf war in 1991. When it ended the U.S. and Soviet Union jointly sponsored the watershed Madrid peace conference at which Israel negotiated face-to-face with Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and the Palestinians for the first time. The conference was the catalyst leading to the Oslo Accords and their so-called Declaration of Principles. From Oslo Israel got what it wanted - a fig leaf to hide their ongoing colonization of the Occupied Terrorities. The Palestinians were again betrayed - by their leaders they hoped would help them. Instead they were sold out and got nothing back for recognizing Israel's right to exist as well as renouncing armed struggle, especially what they wanted most - an independent Palestinian state and the right of their refugees to return to their homeland. Israel was able to establish a new Palestinian Authority (PA) to be their enforcers - to control a restive indigenous population. Yasser Arafat and other PLO leaders who had been in exile in Tunis, got to come back, take control of their people, and be rewarded with the perks the Israelis allowed them for being their hard-nosed policemen - to do their dirty work. All the tough and most important issues were put off for future resolution - an independent state, the right of return, status of Jerusalem, settlements in the Occupied Territories and established borders.

Oslo I led to Oslo II in 1995 that made things even worse by dividing the West Bank into 3 zones - Areas A, B, and C plus a fourth area of Israeli occupied East Jerusalem. A complicated system of control was established, and in Area C, under Israeli control, Israel built its settlements on the most valuable land with its water resources. It connected them with many special by-pass roads built on stolen Palestinian land and for use only by Israelis. By 2000, 59% of the West Bank was in Area C. In Gaza, a small Israeli settler population occupied about one third of the land and over 1 million Palestinians had the rest.

So-called "permanent status" talks began in July, 2000 at Camp David at which President Clinton hosted Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat. It resulted in one more betrayal of the Palestinian people, although at the time, the major western media portrayed Barak as having made a generous offer that Arafat turned down choosing conflict and violence instead. Barak insisted Arafat sign a "final agreement" and declare an "end of conflict" giving up any legal basis for demanding additional land in the West Bank and Gaza.

In fact, there never was an Israeli offer in writing (no documentation, no maps). All Barak offered the Palestinians was from a May, 2000 West Bank map dividing the area into 4 intolerable and isolated cantons or "Bantustans", with no direct links to each other or to Jordan and surrounded by expanding Israeli settlements and continued occupation. In addition, about 40 more Israeli settlements were inside these cantons with their surrounding roads for settler use only that further divided and isolated the Palestinians into smaller enclaves. As duplicitous as Arafat was, he could never accept this as a final settlement. To have done so would have given up any hope for a real Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capitol and the right of refugees to return to their homeland. Arafat had already sold out his people at Camp David in 1978 and in Oslo I and II but kept up the false hope that things could change. Had he ever agreed to Barak's demands (a one-sided deal giving the Palestinians essentially nothing), he'd have been run out of the Occupied Territories on a rail if he were even able to get out alive. For his part, it's clear Barak's intention at Camp David was to take all, give little or nothing, ignore any hope for reconciliation or resolution of the most intractable issues and continue the conflict. He certainly succeeded. And if he needed more help he got it when Ariel Sharon succeeded him as Prime Minister in February, 2001 and refused to negotiate at all with the Palestinians.

In a fair and just world, a man like Ariel Sharon would never have achieved public prominence, let alone become Prime Minister. This is a man who as a teenager became a militant Zionist and made a career out of extreme hostility and brutality against the Palestinians and other Arabs. He was a ruthless military commander who served as Israeli Defense Minister during the 1982 Lebanon war that killed nearly 18,000 mostly civilian Lebanese and less than 700 Israelis. During the conflict he was held "personally responsible" for what noted British journalist Robert Fisk called "one of the most shocking war crimes of the 20th century." Sharon was in command of the IDF that sent a proxy Lebanese Phalange militia into the Sabra and Shatila camps where they massacred as many as 3,000 or more men, women and children along with any PLO fighters that may have been there. The ICRC reported counting 2,750 bodies. Many Palestinians claim the number was as high as 3,500.

THE SECOND INTIFADA, ELECTION OF ARIEL SHARON, AND END OF THE ARAFAT ERA

Before Sharon even became Prime Minister, the conflict resumed. It was sparked by then member of the Israeli Knesset Sharon making a provocative visit to the holy Al Aqsa Mosque site in September, 2000 accompanied by a large security force. It ignited the second Intifada that had been building because of continued Israeli oppression with no sign of it ending. It just needed a spark to set it off, and Ariel Sharon was willing to oblige. As always before, the Israelis used brute and lethal force that included bombing, shelling and sniper killings against mostly young, rock-throwing Palestinians or any other Palestinian man, woman or child in a targeted area. There were also extra-judicial assassinations of targeted Hamas and other Palestinian leaders Israel wanted to eliminate. Israeli forces also attacked medical personel and ambulances, including those of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). By March, 2002 Amnesty International reported over 1000 Palestinians killed including more than 200 children.

Palestinians retaliated with suicide bombings, Arafat was blamed for not preventing them, and the result was the Israelis isolating him in his Ramallah compound and after another suicide bombing provocation attacking and destroying a large part of it. Israeli forces also invaded and attacked all the Palestinian West Bank cities causing great damage and an unknown number of civilian casualties and deaths. The most infamous assault was against Jenin in April, 2002 where the IDF invaded this city of 35,000 (including the Jenin refugee camp), cut it off from any outside help, destroyed hundreds of buildings (many with people inside buried under the rubble), cut off power and availability of food and water from the outside, refused to allow outside help to enter the city (including medical aid) and murdered an unknown number of Palestinian men, women and children. By any standard, the Jenin assault alone was a grevious war crime and crime against humanity, one that has gone unpunished, and now has been put down "the memory hole" and forgotten - except by its survivors who'll never forget or likely forgive it.

On November 11, 2004 an era ended when Yasser Afafat died in a French hospital. Before being allowed to leave his Ramallah compound for medical treatment in France, the Israelis had held him a virtual prisoner for 3 years. A new election was held in January, 2005 and Mahmoud Abbas was elected President succeeding Arafat. Abbas was Israel's preferred candidate. He had a proven record of deference to Israeli policy post-Oslo and, like Arafat until his fall from grace after September, 2000, was considered a Palestinian leader likely to knuckle under to Israeli authority and serve as its obedient proxy to keep the Palestinians in line, or at least try. The man Palestinians preferred to succeed Arafat and considered by many of them as the Nelson Mandela of Palestine, Marwan Barghouti, was not allowed to run. In June, 2004 he was convicted in a Tel Aviv kangaroo court as a "terrorist" and sentenced to 5 life terms plus 40 years. Barghouti was a longtime activist and freedom fighter who denounced the Israeli occupation and oppression and fought to end it. The Israelis considered him a threat because had he been allowed to run he most likely would have become the elected Palestinian leader and one who couldn't be bought off.

But it can be argued that any election held under occupation, with the occupying power controlling the process (who can and can't run, who can vote and who can't, who's allowed to run an effective campaign to reach the voters and who can't and more) is fraudulent on its face. The Palestinian people aren't free, they live in an occupied country under the oppressive heel of an Israeli occupier, and their daily lives are affected by what that occupying power will or won't let them do. Under these conditions, elections are just a smokescreen to divert public attention from the ongoing daily oppression trying to make them believe they have a democratic process which they don't - not as long as the Israelis hold all the trump cards and especially if the people they elect go along with them.

THE PALESTINIANS SPURN FATAH AND ELECT HAMAS - CALL IT THE THIRD INTIFADA (THROUGH THE BALLOT BOX)

On January 25, 2006, elections were held for seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). When it was over the earth had moved, and the consensus view had not prevailed. Fatah and its old PLO structure long headed by Yasser Arafat until his death, was out and Hamas was in and in big. Fed up with its leadership that had institutionalized corruption and surrendered to the Israelis at Camp David and in the Oslo agreements, the Palestinians shocked the Israelis and Washington by defeating the ruling Fatah party and its quisling leader Mahmoud Abbas (who is still President). Hamas won 76 seats to Fatah's 43 out of a total of 132 total representatives. While he was alive, the larger than life figure of Yasser Arafat allowed Fatah to hold on to its leadership. But with Arafat gone, Fatah was doomed. It was just a matter of when, and even Israel's iron control over the election process to reelect it and its U.S secret funding couldn't stop it.

Unlike Fatah that fielded a slate of unsavory and corrupted candidates, Hamas chose people untainted either by corruption or subservience to the Israelis. Hamas has always been in the wings since it was formed in the 1980s during the first Intifada to counter Israeli oppression. The Arabic word Hamas means courage and bravery. It's also an abbreviation of the Arabic words meaning Islamic Resistence Movement. Hamas had built an effective resistance and social movement against the Israeli occupation. They provided essential services the Israelis and Fatah did not or not enough of that included health care and education in the Occupied Territories. Its kindergartens and schools offered free meals for children, education centers for women, and youth and sports clubs. It ran medical clinics offering subsidized treatment for the sick, and extended financial and technical help to those whose homes had been destroyed and for refugees in the camps. Israel calls that "terrorism."

Hamas is a heterogeneous democratic movement with skilled and dedicated leaders, headed by Ismail Hania. It's an independent movement of Muslim and Christian Palestinians united against their oppressive Israeli occupiers. They have nothing to do with so-called terrorism or religious fundamentalism although Israeli and Western propaganda paint them with those labels. They're very moderate in their religious views, much more so than the religious zealot coaltion Likud partners in the Israeli Knesset or the extreme fundamentalist Christians that greatly influence Bush administration policy. Unlike Palestinian leadership under Hamas, both the U.S. and Israel are moving ever closer to becoming hard line religious fundamentalist states.

Hamas has always called for peace with Israel and is willing to negotiate a settlement now based on the principle of a "hudnah" or temporary truce. It's founder (who the Israelis murdered in cold blood), Sheikh Ahmed Yassin said: "If the Zionist entity completely evacuates....all the Jewish settlements and military bases....on the Gaza Strip, we can start a new phase of calmness in order to discuss the issues of Jerusalem, the West Bank, the prisoners and the refugees...Hamas was willing to stop its operations if the Zionists ended its occupation of Palestinian territories and stopped killing Palestinian women, children and innocent civilians." Israel ignored him, obviously preferring continued violence they mostly instigated.

Early signs from Acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government so far show little change from that policy and clear signs they'll likely turn up the heat including an economic squeeze on an already desperate and impoverished population with help at least from the US, EU and UN. The Sharon/Olmert Kadima party openly shows its intentions by calling for "fixing the borders of Israel unilaterally" - meaning unilateral annexation of (the Occupied) territory. They also say they'll never negotiate with Hamas as their charter calls for the destruction of Israel. This is just a replay of the 70s and 80s when the PLO charter had the same language and Israeli leaders wouldn't talk to them. Eventually that changed and accords were struck, although only one-sided ones favoring Israel.

One other note on the Hamas victory and overall PLC election. Of the 132 Palestinians who won seats, 15 of them are in prisons - 14 held by the Israelis and 1 by the Palestinians; 11 are from Hamas, 3 with Fatah and 1 with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (the PFLP).

ISRAEL'S REAL INTENTIONS

All Israeli governments only made a pretense of wanting peace and being willing to negotiate with the Palestinians. Behind the facade of a fake "peace process" under various names and plans like the current "Road Map", Israeli governments have really wanted a continued state of conflict intending to wear down the Palestinians until they either accepted defeat or gave up and emigrated to other Arab countries. Israel also needs cover to absolve itself from its crimes of aggression, land theft and endless oppression. They've done it by portraying their Palestinian victims as transgressors and themselves as the aggrieved and up to now have gotten most of the community of nations to go along with them, especially the so-called "Quartet."

But how long can this sham go on, especially as below the surface the most extremist Zionists want all the land of "Eretz Israel", the biblical Jewish homeland many Jews believe God gave to the 12 tribes of Israel. It includes much more than present day Israel and the Occupied Territories - Lebanon, most of Syria, part of Egypt and a large portion on Jordan. The people and leaders of those countries might have other ideas which down the road may well set off another major conflict.

Unlike other countries, Israel has no fixed borders - deliberately. It's to give itself lots of wiggle room to establish them one day where they choose. And their intent is to include within them the ancient lands of "Judea" and "Summaria", the West Bank biblical parts of Israel the Palestinians claim as their homeland. Israel has kept up the pretence of being willing to allow the Palestinians an independent state. But by continued encroachment through expanding settlements and building new ones in the Occupied Territories and the construction of the "separation" wall, it's real plans are to seize at least all the most valuable Palestinian land there for its own use.

THE SETTLEMENTS AND "SEPARATION" OR "APARTHEID" WALL

Last August and September Israel evacuated its 8,500 settlers and 21 settlements from Gaza in its so-called Gaza Withdrawal Plan. It was touted as Ariel Sharon's show of good faith in his pursuit of peace. The plan also called for evacuating 4 small settlements on the West Bank. Despite all the hype and well-publicized anguish of the Gaza Jewish residents, the Sharon plan was just another Israeli subterfuge. The Gaza settlers were withdrawn, but only to be resettled elsewhere in Israel proper or on the West Bank, which is also Palestinian land. During the withdrawal period, the West Bank settler population grew by nearly another 16,000. Furthermore, the IDF did not withdraw. It was merely redeployed away from the settlements they were guarding to new positions on the border. Gaza continues to be sealed off, and the IDF is prepared to reenter it any time and on any pretext with as much control over Palestinian life as before.

Under these conditions it's no exaggeration to describe Gaza and it 1.4 million residents as living in the world's largest open air prison. In essence, nothing has changed except the Palestinians got more land in Gaza to use and an agreement was made with Egypt to allow Palestinians free entry and exit between Gaza and Egypt (as long as Israel and/or Egypt don't annul the agreement). Israel, however got rid of its Gaza headache - the expense and trouble of having to guard a small settler population in an area without valuable resources (except its access to the sea) and that has no historical places sacred to the Israelis. It also hoped to divert attention away from its continued settler expansion in the West Bank that goes on unabated.

Currently about 250,000 Israeli settlers live in the occupied West Bank (and about the same number of Palestinians) on about 200 settlements and over 70 non-contiguous outposts. About another 200,000 live in Jerusalem. In addition, thousands of new settlers arrive each year. While 4 small West Bank settlements are scheduled to be evacuated, new larger ones are planned as construction for Israeli settlers continues unabated.

Central to the Israeli plan is its intent to annex and control all of Jerusalem including Arab East Jerusalem. It plans to do it by cutting the West Bank in half with its "separation" wall separating about 200,000 Arab Jerusalemites from the 100,000 remaining Arab population in Jerusalem on the other side of the wall or who live in satellite areas of the city. The idea is to force out of the city and surrounding areas as many Palestinians as possible (ethnically cleanse the area) to Judaize the city and prevent the eastern part from ever becoming the capitol of an independent Palestinian state. Once the wall is completed it will destroy the economic, social and political viability of Palestinian life in and around the city and negate any possibility of a two-state solution. But that's the whole idea, and so far Israel is getting away with it.

The "separation" or "apartheid" wall is key to Israel's plans. It's being built on the pretext of needed security protection from Palestinian "terrorist" attacks. But that's just another Israeli deception and ploy to add to all the others through the years. In fact, the intent of the wall is to achieve a "land grab" to facilitate settlement expansion, prevent the possibility of a two-state solution, help solve Israel's so-called "demographic problem" (as a faster growing Palestinian population is making them a majority in an otherwise "Jewish state"), and also destroy Palestinian society - its political, economic and social viability. There's an ugly word for that which takes in all other Israeli crimes over nearly 6 decades against the Palestinian people - it's called genocide. It's also called state terrorism which is far more destructive than a hoard of suicide bombers.

The wall is being built on Palestinian land, and its construction is destroying Palestinian villages, homes, orchards and crop land, and the lives of the people affected. Israel's Supreme Court ruled that the state has the "authority in principle" to erect the wall on occupied Palestinian land. But the World Court in the Hague disagrees. It ruled that its construction is "contrary to international law", in part because it "destroyed and confiscated" property, it greatly restricts Palestinian movement, and it "severely impedes the exercise by the Palestinian people of (the) right to self-determination."
The Court ruled 14 - 1 that construction must end at once, the existing portion already built must be taken down, and affected Palestinians must be compensated for their losses. The Court cited the binding international law codified in the Hague Regulations of 1907 (dealing with the laws of war and war crimes) and the Fourth Geneva Convention (that relates to the protection of civilians in time of war) in their ruling. They ruled that Israel was required to comply with the international humanitarian law in the Regulation and Article 49 of the Convention. The UN General Assembly also passed a resolution by 150 - 6 calling on Israel to adhere to the World Court decision. Only Israel, the US, Australia and 3 Pacific island states most people never heard of voted against the resolution. Israel ignored the World Court verdict and UN resolution. The world community of nations remained silent, especially the "Quartet."

THE ONE-SIDED WESTERN SUPPORT FOR ISRAEL AND GREAT COVER-UP OF ANY SERIOUS CRITICISM

No subject is more sensitive in the West, especially in the U.S., than criticism of Israel. It's the metaphorical "third rail." Touch it and pay dearly - severe denounciation, labeled an anti-semite or self-hating Jew, even ostracism. As mentioned earlier, the Israeli quick and decisive victory in their 1967 war convinced the U.S. of its value as a strategic partner. From that time forward, Israel got strong U.S. political and financial support and could do no wrong. It was aided by prominent Jews and Jewish supporters in government and business and its powerful AIPAC lobby.

Today AIPAC is part of an unholy alliance of itself, the equally powerful right wing Christian fundamentalists and dominant neoconservatives running the Republican party and the country. That triumvirate has a fourth unofficial member, the most powerful of all in that "fearsome foursome" - the dominant corporate media. It controls the message the public and world hears, and that message supports all things good for business and profits which includes full support for Israel. They help promote and maintain the manufactured myths, and you can read where they stand posted on their collective board room walls - "no criticism of Israel allowed." Any public official or independent voice daring to violate this binding rule will be metaphorically skinned (or eaten) alive. Those in Congress will face likely defeat at the polls, and those in the mainstream media can expect relentless and intense condemnation and possible job loss. Even most in the so-called progressive community and its media tread lightly around this very touchy subject - a little criticism is OK, just don't go too far or be too tough.

Eminent Middle East scholar and expert Professor Norman Finkelstein is an exception. He's courageously stood apart from the mainstream one-sided and hypocritical view as a longtime critic of Israeli policy. In 2 of his important books (The Holocaust Industry and Beyond Chutzpah) he explains how Israel and its influential supporters, underwriters and promoters (flacks) help build sympathy and support and deflect public criticism. He shows how they've done it by resurrecting the myth (at opportune times) of a virulent and pervasive "new anti-semitism" and by copyrighting Hitler's genocide against the Jews, rebranding it as "The Holocaust", claiming it was a unique event in history only affecting the Jews under the Nazis, and creating a supporting myth of "unique Jewish suffering." With no resonant message to counteract this propaganda, it's easy to understand why the public accepts it.

CAN JUSTICE FOR THE PALESTINIANS EVER BE ACHIEVED - OF COURSE, BUT IT WON'T BE EASY

It won't happen unless the world public knows the truth about Israeli imperialism, racism (religious, not racial) and criminality and forces its leaders (principally from the "Quartet") to combat it - no more baloney, halfway measures, or finessing; no more peace plans; no more scam of good Jews and bad Arabs; no more Muslim demonizing, anti-Muslim polemics or inflammatory Judeo-Christian superiority and Muslim inferiority, no more acceptance of the racist notion of the Jews as "the chosen people" and all Arabs as "untermenschen" (or subhumans). The only way forward to resolution is to destroy the myth of Israeli good intentions and Palestinian intransigence and militancy and demand the oversized and overused Israeli boot be removed from the Palestinian face.

Some feeble efforts toward establishing peace in the Middle East between Israel and its Arab neighbors and the Palestinians have been ongoing, on and off, at least since the 1970s. A key beginning was Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's diplomacy after the 1973 Yom Kipper War. While other Arab states continued their state of war with Israel, Sadat made his unprecedented visit to Jerusalem in November 1977 to negotiate and address the Israeli Knesset. It led to the Camp David Accords in 1978. All the other efforts in the continued reincarnations of the so-called "peace process" followed that were discussed earlier - but to what end.

Israeli has peace, sometimes uneasy, with its Arab neighbors but none with the Palestinians. With them it's always back to "square one" because the Israelis don't want peace with their Arab denizens and never did. They want all the land of Israel including the Occupied Territories, ethnically cleansed, except for possibly a handful of isolated and surrounded cantons on tiny fractions of isolated, undesirable land Israel for now can do without - open air prisons locked down tight. Should this happen, the bottom line for the Palestinians will be no Palestinian state or any hope of ever getting one, no coherent territory, no capital in Jerusalem, no right of return, no economy, no real polity, no sovereignty - nothing but the right to continued Israeli oppression and serfdom if Israel chooses to use them as cheap labor.

If real justice is ever to be achieved, 6 decades of Israeli Zionist oppression must be fully exposed and condemned for what it's been and still is - crimes as grievous as everything the Nazis did to the Jews except for the mass production death camps. The Zionists have their own type death camps - slow motion genocide behind the false facade of conciliation. The fraud, abuse and manufactured myths must end along with the often reconfigured "peace process" with catchy new names and be replaced with forceful action - boycotts, sanctions with teeth, isolation and prosecution of Israelis guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Full Palestinian rights must be restored beginning with the return of their stolen land and the right of their refugee population to return to their homeland or be compensated for their loss if they choose not to. The Palestinian people and its leaders should accept nothing less. And the world community of nations, especially the "Quartet", must stand with them to be sure they finally get it.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA -
IT'S SPELLED C-O-R-R-U-P-T-I-O-N

DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA - IT'S SPELLED C-O-R-R-U-P-T-I-O-N - by Stephen Lendman

The headlines are blaring daily about another big corruption scandal that has the makings of being the mother of them all - at least for a generation or so. We won't know how big until one well-connected influence peddling lobbyist under multiple indictments involving crony capitalism and corruption begins to sing to the Justice Department after copping a plea in return for a lighter sentence. It's likely that before this ends, it may involve many Republican members of Congress and some Democrats including some high level ones from both parties as well as their aides, members of the Executive Branch and various other Republican party figures. It may even go higher than most observers now expect.

While we're focused on the current political and financial scandal, we're not hearing or reading that corruption can take different forms. And they extend to the core principles of how this country is governed, who wins, who loses and what it means for a nation calling itself a democracy as well as for all other nations affected by our policies and actions. I'd like to suggest a broader definition of corruption that reflects the scope of what's covered below.

CORRUPTION DEFINED FOR THIS ESSAY

For purposes of this essay, corruption includes all policies and actions by those elected or other officials in or connected to government, the net result of which improperly, unjustly or illegally distributes the nation's wealth (and that of other nations we exploit and dominate) to benefit an elite minority and at the expense of the vast majority of the people (at home and abroad). It includes and involves those individuals, organizations and institutions that are the main beneficiaries of these government policies and actions (business, the military, academia and even organized religion) or that work cooperatively with them or aid them. In a word, it's the net result of the incestuous relationship between government and the powerful and influential "special interests" that benefit most from it that deprives or takes from the many, the most defenseless and most in need and gives to the elite and well-off few. While retaining a facade of fairness, it does it through a sham democracy for those of privilege by rigging the political process to work for their benefit. And it functions within or outside the law, and usually both ways.

CORRUPTION - POLITICAL AND FINANCIAL

What corruption usually refers to is the misuse of power by elected or appointed officials in return for illegal cash bribes, payoffs of various sorts or other forms or items of value received for special favors or preferential treatment such as favorable legislation or voting the "right way." It can be as crude as wads of cash in paper bags or smaller amounts in envelopes or as subtle as promises of high paid future employment, expensive junkets, sky box seats at sporting events or meals in fancy restaurants. It also assumes those in power can be bought. The only issue is the price and what's for sale.

It's a fair guess most people believe this stuff goes on all the time, and they're probably right. Usually the offenders don't get caught, but using the "roach" theory, when one does it's likely there's a lot more of them out there we haven't (yet) found. In sum, the way the political system works is best explained in the title of the Greg Palast book - The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. Those who can pay can play, and those who can't have no say, don't get their way and had better pray for a better day.

What's it all mean? It means the political game is rigged, the books are cooked and the notion that voters go to the polls to elect representatives who'll serve their interests is cockeyed hooey. The real game is "you scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours." But you better have lots of "scratch." As stated above, it's an incestuous relationship between powerful interests, usually big business and government with high-powered, well paid lobbyists (aka influencing peddling "bagmen") "greasing the wheels" to make the system work. All "players" win, and the dirty game goes on and on and never ends. The public knows the game's going on but not the sordid details until a "player" stumbles, gets caught and the latest chicanery comes to light. Then the game plan is punish the "bad apple" and cleanse an otherwise honest system. Does anyone really believe that? The real game plan is "cut your losses" and go back to business as usual but out of the public's eye and daily headlines. The same thing is true in government and in big business. Anything goes that's self-serving, as long as you don't get caught. That's the only crime. And when it comes to exploiting other nations, there are no rules. It's "snatch and grab" all you can, just like a street bully does it against an easy mark.

THE NATION'S BUSINESS - THE POWER OF TRANSNATIONAL CORPORATIONS

Calvin Coolidge, our 30th president, said "the business of America is business." If he were alive today, he might rephrase that maxim and say it's big business, really big. Ralph Nader has updated and corrected Coolidge by saying the country is run by giant corporations, and both political parties are just proxies for them. In Nader's colorful language, it's government for General Motors, by Dupont and for Exxon Mobil. If the 50 largest corporations were nations, half of the largest 100 of them would be corporations. And along with size goes power and influence - to decide who governs, serves on our courts and occupies the White House. The voting public may think they have a say, but that's just an illusion, or more accurately a delusion. The big business power brokers make all the rules and decide everything important. Their cronies and proxies then "grease the wheels" with lots of "grease" to be sure all goes as planned. Big business also decides what laws are enacted or changed. They even write them to assure what they want gets in and what they don't want stays out. It all goes on sub rosa, and the public has no say or right of appeal when provisions harm their interests. Most often the public is in the dark and doesn't even know or understand it's been harmed.

We call this "democracy." In fact, it's a distorted variant of it that's only a democracy for the few - the privileged class sociologist and social scientist C. Wright Mills called "The Power Elite" in his notable 1956 book by that title. Mills' elite included those "in command of the major hierarchies and organizations of modern society"....the ones who "rule the big corporations......run the machinery of state.... direct the military establishment. They occupy the strategic command posts of the social structure...." In Mills' day, large corporations had great power but would be judged small or medium-sized compared to their largest behemoth counterparts today. Since 1950 the nation's gross domestic product has increased in size over 35-fold in constant dollars. It's well over $10 trillion today. The largest U.S. corporations, however, have increased even faster because of their many mergers and acquisitions in addition to their growth. A single division of General Electric today, with its many divisions, is larger than the entire company was 50 years ago. With that size has come enormous power and influence, so much so that if Mills were alive and revised his book today, corporate America would dominate and virtually own "the strategic command posts" he wrote about. All other institutions are now subordinate and function to serve these omnipotent giants. Using part of the title of David Korten's book, today giant transnational "corporations rule the world."

THE LAW AND HOW IT AFFECTS CORPORATE BEHAVIOR

All publicly owned corporations are mandated above all else to serve only the best interests of their shareholders. The courts have deemed this to mean, and it's now a settled issue in corporate law, that these businesses must work to maximize shareholder value and do so by increasing profits. Corporate law prohibits the board of directors or senior executives from taking any action that may deviate from that primary responsibility, such as providing services to the community or safeguarding the environment. If doing so adds expense and reduces profits, the corporation would be in violation of its mandate and liable to suit by shareholders for harming profitability and share value. It would also subject the CEO and other top executives to likely dismissal.

Corporate power and influence grew over many generations and was aided by favorable legislation and many important Supreme Court decisions. However, the crucial, defining moment happened in 1886 when the Supreme Court granted corporations the legal status of personhood in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railway - a simple tax dispute case unrelated to the issue of corporate personhood. The story of that decision, how it came about and what it means is lucidly explained in Thom Hartmann's important book - Unequal Protection. Hartmann documents and explains that it wasn't the Justices who decided corporations are persons, but the Court's reporter (J.C. Bancroft Davis) who after the decision was rendered wrote it in his "headnotes". The Court did nothing to refute them, likely by intent, and the result was what corporations had long coveted.

That decision, most people never heard of but one of the most crucial in our history, changed everything. It granted corporations the same constitutional rights as people, but because of their limited liability status, protected shareholders from the obligations of their debts, other obligations, and many of the responsibilities individuals legally have. For many years prior to Santa Clara, corporations wanted but were never able to gain this right and all the benefits from it. After they finally had it, they were able to win many additional favorable court decisions that continue to the present day. They also gained much regulatory relief, favorable legislation and, at the same time, were protected by their limited liability status. All this through the years allowed corporations to increase their power and helped them grow to the size and dominance they've now achieved.

Think of it. Corporations aren't human, they can live forever, change their identity, reside in many places simultaneously in many countries, can't be imprisoned for wrongdoing and can change themselves into new persons at will for any reason. They have the same rights and protections under the Bill of Rights as people but not the responsibilities. And they got all this because a court reporter gave it to them in his "headnotes", after the fact, in a Supreme Court decision involving a lawsuit unrelated to this crucial right wanted and now granted. From that right, corporations were then unbound, free to grow and gain immense power and be able to become the dominant institution that now runs the country, the world and all our lives. Most important, they got an unwritten license from their government servants in all 3 branches to operate freely for their own benefit and others of their privileged class and at the expense of the great majority everywhere. Because of the harm they cause to so many from their behavior, the damage they do to the environment, and the costly wars fought on their behalf to enhance their profits, it's fair to say, in military terminology, the giant transnationals today are truly "weapons of mass destruction."

It's important to note a little known event in our early history that might have changed everything had Thomas Jefferson and James Madison gotten their way. Jefferson and Madison were able to add the first 10 amendments, or Bill of Rights, to our Constitution but lost a battle with the Federalists led by John Adams and Alexander Hamilton to include 2 others. Jefferson and Madison believed that to protect the liberty of the people the Bill of Rights should include "freedom from monopolies in commerce" (what are now giant corporations) and "freedom from a permanent military", or standing armies. Adams and Hamilton believed otherwise, and the final compromise included the first 10 amendments that are now the law but not the other 2. Had Jefferson and Madison gotten their way, try to imagine how different our subsequent history might have been and what our country might be like today.

In 2003, The Corporation, the film, was made. It was based on law professor Joel Bakan's book - The Corporation: the Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power. With commentaries from diverse observers ranging from Noam Chomsky and Michael Moore to Milton Friedman and corporate CEOs, the film explores the nature of corporations and how they operate. It portrays a classic conflict between an overriding concern with the "bottom line" and social good. Overall, the picture painted is not pretty, especially a dramatic moment drawn from the work of Canadian psychiatrist Robert Hare who concludes the corporation meets the clinical definition of a psychopath. It's amoral, deceitful, manipulative, completely self-interested, it breaches social and legal standards yet suffers no guilt, it has a callous unconcern for others and a disregard for their safety and is unable to maintain long-term relationships. It could also be argued (but not mentioned in the film) that corporations also fit the definition of a sociopath whose behavior is extremely antisocial, is lacking in conscience and has no sense of social or moral responsibility.

THE GROWTH OF SOCIAL SERVICES - UNLIKE TODAY, RESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT ONCE ADDED NEW ONES

The golden age of social service benefits and worker protections and rights emerged during the Great Depression years of the 1930s, but didn't begin then. As early as our colonial times there was a recognition of an obligation to help the needy although there was no organized effort. But as the nation became less agrarian and more industrial, a number of States began to add services like cash allowances, mothers' pensions and by the mid-twenties old age assistance to the blind. Also, at that time and earlier, the States and Federal government began to recognize the need for a social insurance approach to public welfare that would be financed through contributions and would guarantee protection for all rather than just public assistance for the needy.

Social insurance first began in 1908 with a Federal workers' compensation law for some government employees. States then followed with their own, and by 1929 these laws were in effect in all but 4 States. There were other social efforts as well, such as State and local retirement plans and Federal benefits and services for veterans. Also, the private sector shared a responsibility by beginning to provide health care, pensions, life insurance and sickness payments to their employees.

THE GREAT DEPRESSION AND "THE NEW DEAL"

By 1932, the hard times of the Great Depression and loose regulation that preceded it demanded a greater Federal government role to aid the needy and reform the economy. In his 1933 inaugural address Franklin Roosevelt said he would not stand by and watch the Depression deepen and asked the Congress for the power to combat the emergency. He claimed "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself", but that was little comfort to the 25% of the working public unemployed that year. In his 1937 inaugural address, FDR agreed with them when he said "I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished." From the beginning of his presidency Roosevelt knew he had to act, but it wasn't out of compassion for the needy he spoke of. With support from some key corporate chieftains, he and they knew he had to do it to save capitalism, to bail out the bankers and the rich, and to prevent a possible workers' revolution similar to what happened in Russia in 1917.

And act he did with loans and grants to help the States and landmark measures like the FDIC, insuring bank deposits, the SEC, to regulate the stock exchanges, and the NLRB, with the passage of the Wagner Act, that guaranteed labor the right to bargain collectively on equal terms with management. Most important were a broad array of social programs. They included Federal emergency relief, public works programs, and other initiatives, begun under an "alphabet soup" listing of names that tried to jump-start a moribund economy by providing work and relief for the unemployed. The seminal moment came in 1935 with the passage of the Social Security Act that to this day is the single most important piece of social legislation in our history and the one most responsible for keeping a vast number of the elderly out of poverty as well as providing other services and benefits for those in need.

Other important social legislation in the 1930s included Unemployment Insurance (a State - Federal government partnership with States as administrators), the Railroad Retirement System, Public Housing and Social Security Old-Age and Survivors Insurance.

POST - WW II SOCIAL PROGRAMS

After WW II there was the National School Lunch Program, Aid to the Permanently and Totally Disability (later the SSI program), Social Security Disability Insurance, Medical Assistance for the Aged (prior to Medicaid), Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), the Food Stamp Program, School Breakfast Program, Black Lung Benefits Program, Supplemental Security Income Program, the WIC food assistance program, Earned Income Tax Credit, Low Income Home Energy Assistance and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) among others. Along with Social Security, the other most important social program established was Medicare and along with it Medicaid in 1965. Those 2 programs assured the elderly and indigent of health care coverage at affordable cost or at minimal or no cost to the needy. All of the above was the good news, except for TANF which will be discussed below.

THE EROSION OF SOCIAL SERVICES

Things began to change after 1980 and the election of Ronald Reagan. Since then and over the last 25 years, it's been a long downhill slide that's included the erosion of worker rights, and continued cuts in vital social and other needed services directly or in more subtle ways. The 2 bedrock social programs so far have remained largely in tact, but even they have been eroded through higher payroll taxes (that affect low and middle income workers), raising the retirement age, and increases in Medicare premiums and cuts in Medicaid for the poor.

THE REAGAN YEARS

Ronald Reagan's administration was characterized by large increases in military spending, big tax cuts mainly benefitting the rich and big business while at the same time slashing social spending and running up huge budget deficits. Domestic discretionary spending (which includes most all social spending other than Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid) was cut by one-third from 1981 to 1988. Programs for those with low incomes were hardest hit suffering a 54% cut during the Reagan years, subsidized housing (adjusted for inflation) lost over 80% of its support, training and employment services over 68%, and housing assistance for the elderly 47%.

The Reagan administration also showed its contempt for organized labor and one-sided support for big business beginning with the firing of 11,000 striking air traffic controllers in August, 1981, jailing its PATCO leaders, fining the union millions of dollars and finally "busting" the union. It also used federal tax dollars to finance strike-breaking and worked to reduce worker health and safety protections and to change federal statutes guaranteeing worker rights to organize and bargain collectively.

THE GEORGE H.W. BUSH YEARS

The elder George Bush was elected on promises of a "kinder and gentler" presidency. He sought not to continue the Reagan slash and burn tactics and instead worked to reverse some of them. Working with a Democrat controlled Congress, there were increases in federal spending for education, child care and advanced technology R & D. He also approved legislation to improve the interstate highway system. Probably his most important act was his signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 that was probably the most significant piece of civil rights legislation in a decade and provided the disabled with important rights they hadn't had. Bush also reauthorized the Clean Air Act that mandated higher air quality standards and required cleaner burning fuels. Clearly, the elder Bush presidency was a respite from the one-sided business-friendly agenda of the Reagan years. In a budget deal with the Congress he even raised taxes (anathema for Republicans), going back on his campaign pledge of "no new taxes." Republicans never forgave him, and the electorate denied him a second term.

THE CLINTON YEARS

Aside from the few social gains under the elder Bush, the other Reagan era cuts have never been recouped. In fact, they continued to decline through the Clinton years. In addition, the Clinton administration made its own "contribution" to the continued assault on the needy with the passage a heartless and disgraceful "welfare reform" bill called the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA). Prior to that time, welfare payments to the needy were distributed through the Aid to Families with Dependent Children or AFDC program. That program worked well but came under attack after Republicans gained control of both Houses of Congress in 1994 and cutting welfare became point 3 (out of 10 points) in the Republicans' Contract with America (that opponents called the Contract on America).

Under "welfare reform" a time limit was set, and no one could receive welfare payments for more than 5 years. The 1996 act created a new program for distributing aid called the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or TANF that called for the Federal government to provide fixed block grants to the states (unrelated to the amount of need for help) and let them administer aid at their discretion. Also, under this plan, most recipients must participate in some kind of work or training for work to get help. This created a great hardship for many recipients, especially single mothers with small children. That hardship got even worse during and after the 2001-2002 recession, when the economy was first losing large numbers of jobs, and then even after recovery when job growth was only modest and still is less than robust. And most new jobs now created are in lower paying service areas and temporary or part-time positions, often with few or no benefits like health care insurance.

The Clinton administration's main social initiative was its failed attempt to reform how Americans get their health care. It was a complicated plan based on the notion of "managed competition" and marketplace medicine rather than a "single-payer", government run national health insurance program like those in Western Europe and Canada. It tried to convince the public to accept less choice for more affordability and coverage for all. But it wanted to do it by allowing big insurers and health maintenance organizations (HMOs) to run the show. Because these organizations are committed to maximizing profits, they need to control costs. That means less care for the sick, especially the expensive kind they go all out to restrict.

Thankfully Clinton's Health Security plan arrived stillborn but only because it pitted the interests of competing health care providers against each other in a zero-sum game. Under the Clinton plan, "big Pharma" would have been a "big loser" with "big insurers" and "big HMOs" able to buy drugs at lower prices. But "big Pharma" and other private interest losers had their own "big guns" and were able defeat another feeble attempt at so-called health care reform and also prevent any needed government control over the delivery of health care services.

THE GEORGE W. BUSH YEARS

After the Clinton years, the pace of social spending cuts accelerated under George Bush and continues unabated with the Bush administration's stated intent to make annual additional cuts. The Bush years so far have been characterized by very big increases in military spending including tens of billions annually since 2003 off-the-books to fund the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and continued conflicts in both countries - with no end in sight. (Before it ends, the Iraq conflict is expected to cost between $1 and $2 trillion according to an estimate released in January, 2005 by Nobel Laureate and former World Bank chief economist Joseph Stiglitz). In addition, there have been several rounds of tax cuts mostly benefitting the rich and big business. The net result has been big annual budget deficits and increased hardship for the most disadvantaged.

EDUCATION UNDER G.W. BUSH

Some of the damage done since Bush took office has included his disastrous education initiative called The No Child Left Behind Act which focuses on testing. It's been a boon to corporations involved in testing but done nothing to enhance learning. Teachers hate it as it forces them to teach "to the test" rather than educate their students properly in the course material. The result in recent years is that the quality of education in urban schools has deteriorated and the level of racial segregation is now as great as in the 1960s according to Jonathan Kozol in his new book The Shame of the Nation. The data in big cities is shocking. In Chicago where I live in 2002-03, 87% of public school enrollment was black or Hispanic; in Washington, D.C. it's a startling 94%; in St. Louis it's 82%; in Philadelphia and Cleveland 79%; in Los Angeles 84%; in Detroit startling again at 96%; in Baltimore 89%; in New York almost 75%. Looking ahead, things seem to be getting worse, not better.

The Bush education agenda also includes so-called school vouchers that disguise a broader goal to privatize public education and aid parochial (religious) schools. The use of them has been upheld by the Supreme Court in the Zelman v. Simmons-Harris city of Cleveland case in a 5 - 4 ruling but under strict conditions that the program be part of multiple educational options, offer parents real choice between religious and secular schools and ensure that benefits go to public and private schools, religious or not. Despite this narrow circumscribing, in many areas where they're now allowed, 80% of vouchers are for use in schools where the central mission is religious education or training. This is a serious blow to the health of democracy by violating the constitutional principle of separation of church and state. But it's also a blow that threatens the institution of public education that's been in place throughout our history and has been the bedrock of primary and secondary education until choice through vouchers was first proposed in the 1980s by conservative economist Milton Friedman.

Those supporting vouchers believe choice will improve school performance through competition in the marketplace. But those opposing them fear, with justification, that draining already inadequate funding from the public schools will eventually destroy them. In addition, the monetary amount of vouchers offered is only a small fraction of the tuition cost at most private schools, making them unusable for low-income parents. It's also likely and already proven in some cases that where public corporations run the schools the quality of education suffers because of these corporations' legally mandated requirement to maximize profits. To do so may and usually does require them to cut costs and reduce services, and that can only result in lower quality education.

Things aren't much better for those needing college aid either as the Bush administration for 3 straight years cut or froze the maximum allowable Pell Grant amount. In the face of inexorable tuition and fee increases (way above the inflation rate) combined with a trend toward less government aid, this means a growing number of low-income students are now deprived of a chance for higher education.

HEALTH CARE UNDER G.W. BUSH

The state of health care has also gotten worse under George Bush with about 46 million having no coverage in 2004 and many millions more being underinsured. The situation is greatly exacerbated by spiralling health care costs including rising premiums on Medicare Part B, and cuts in Medicaid. It's questionable what relief if any will result from the Medicare Act of 2003 that added prescription drug coverage for Medicare recipients. The plan is confusing, even Kafkaesque in some ways, and doesn't at all benefit many on Medicare. This writer, now on Medicare, won't touch it. It does benefit its main intended beneficiary, the big pharmaceutical companies that get big subsidies from it and can maintain and charge high prices - now you see a benefit, and now you don't. And in the latest disturbing twist, as the new plan takes effect, some of the largest pharmaceutical companies are ending their programs of providing free or deeply discounted drugs to needy seniors and the disabled. As many as 1 million people may be affected who earn too much to qualify for government aid and who will now have the added burden of higher out-of-pocket costs for the medications they need, if they can afford them at all.

OTHER BUSH SOCIAL POLICIES

Ordinary working people have also suffered under Bush's policies. His administration killed OSHA workplace ergonomic rules that were more than 10 years in the making, revoked grants to study workplace safety and health, cut funding for job training, cut enforcement positions in OSHA and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (a key reason for the recent Sago and Alma mine deaths in W. Virginia and 230 total coal miner deaths in 206 mine accidents), proposed paying welfare recipients below-minimum wages, denied Homeland Security employees the right to collective bargaining and protection for being a whisleblower, blocked release of funds to monitor the health of rescue workers at Ground Zero in New York, cut health care benefits for veterans, proposed privatizing 850,000 federal jobs over a number of years, changed overtime work rules (despite House and Senate majority votes against his proposed changes) that will deprive millions of overtime pay, made it much harder for low-income workers to get the Earned Income Tax Credit and much more.

If they get their way, the Bush heartless agenda also intends to cut 30% of the funding to train doctors at children's hospitals; wants a 15% cut in winter energy assistance for the needy; another 15% cut in budget to repair rundown public housing; a 13% cut for the Corps of Engineers for programs to prevent flooding; a 10% cut for efforts to reduce job-related deaths, injuries and ailments; and added cuts in funding for environmental protection programs, transportation improvements and aid to farm families forced off their land. The U.S. Senate at year end 2005, also passed a budget reconciliation bill (part of a House - Senate conference committee) that cuts $40 billion over 5 years in entitlement programs - mainly affecting student loans and Medicaid benefits. Once the slight differences between the House and Senate bills are reconciled and the bill is signed into law, it will become the first entitlement cutback since so-called "welfare reform" in 1996.

The Bush administration's top domestic priority goal has been to privatize Social Security, beginning with just a small portion of it. So far mass public opposition combined with multiple Washington scandals and Bush's plummeting approval rating has stopped it and temporarily taken it off the agenda. While the administration won't admit it, their real goal is to end Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid by privatizing all 3 programs. If they ever succeed in doing this, it would wreak severe harm on the many millions of lower income recipients especially who rely on these programs to keep them out of poverty and give them essential health care that might otherwise be unaffordable. The privatization of Medicare prescription drug benefits (a terrible bill passed in the middle of the night by a forced vote through intimidation after the first roll call vote defeated it) is one step toward the full privatization of all health care, the overall result of which will likely greatly increase the number of uninsured and force many others to "buy" lesser quality coverage (and thus less health care) than they now receive.

THE NET RESULT OF POLICIES SINCE 1980

The net result of the last 25 years has been a steady, disturbing erosion of the most essential social services people rely on. And it's come at a time when those services are more needed than ever since the Great Depression years. Manufacturing and other higher paying jobs have been exported for years to lower wage countries, and since the 1980s, union membership and worker bargaining power have greatly declined. The result is a nation oriented to services and mostly offering lower paying jobs with fewer or no benefits. One almost unlimited job opportunity is available. It could be promoted with the slogan "join the navy (or army, air force or marines) and see the world" - or at least a certain part of it in the Middle East. Most of those now joining up will never get the benefits they're promised - another deception. Instead, they'll be commodified and consumed on the endless battlefields of Iraq, Afghanistan and other planned conflicts in an insane endless war to "win hearts and minds", "spread democracy", force all others to think and act as we do, and rule the world.

Along with a permanent state of war and garrison state, there's also been a continued transfer of wealth from the poor and middle class to the most well-off through personal and corporate tax cuts (a third of the 275 largest companies paid no federal income tax in at least one year from 2001 - 2003 or got a refund). Corporations have also gotten big corporate welfare subsidies (the public pays for them with our taxes) including huge increases in military spending, which goes to the defense contractors and the many thousands of other companies that receive sub-contracts or sell to the defense related sector. The Center for Defense Information reported that since 1945 over $21 trillion in constant dollars has been spent on the military. Its been done largely to benefit big corporations and fight wars for them, not to defend the nation against real enemies. And its result has been the denial of a fair portion of it being used for vitally needed social services. Unless these policies can be stopped and reversed, essential social benefits will continue to be lost, oppressive corporate power will get stronger, and the gap between rich and poor will become even greater, increasing poverty and destroying the principles this country was founded on of equal opportunity and freedom and justice for all. As former Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis once explained - "We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both." Unless we can reinvigorate the democracy Brandeis spoke of, America the beautiful will only exist for the privileged few and no one else.

HOW THEY GET AWAY WITH IT

I've long believed the greatest threat to democracy is an uninformed electorate. Unfortunately, that disturbing state clearly characterizes the overall U.S. public that's locked in a prison of its collective mind created by state controlled programming or brainwashing. To control the public, especially when the state is ill-serving it, only techniques of mind control will work. If it's done effectively, the public can be convinced to go along with some of the most audacious policies that go against its own self-interest by a combination of state-induced fear, distraction, consumerism and when the first three fail lockdown.

George Orwell explained that "those who control the present control the past, and those who control the past control the future." It's called programming the public mind or thought control. That's how it worked in Orwell's classic "1984", and it's disturbingly similar today in the U.S. In "1984" Big Brother was watching (through the omnipresent telescreen) to be sure people were "good citizens." Today, Big Brother in the U.S. is "Uncle Sam" watching to keep us in line and using the Orwellian techniques of "newspeak", "doublethink" and "beat em up and lock em up" when the propaganda message is misunderstood, ignored or resisted. It worked in the fictional "1984", and it works well most often for most of us in the real but often surreal-like world right here, but more subtly except when things get rough.

THE DOCTRINE OF THE "FREE MARKET" - HOW IT'S PURSUED, PROTECTED AND PRESERVED

In the west, especially in the U.S., we're taught to believe in the doctrine of the "free market" uber alles, and that government should stay out of the way except to protect us from enemies (46 million with no health insurance and millions of poor single mothers and their children denied further desperately needed welfare help might disagree). The result is a society based on consumerism and a shop-till-you-drop and buy the latest and greatest "gadgets and trinkets" mindset. And a subset of sorts of consumerism is the element of "distraction." Instead of focusing on the state of the world or affairs of state, the government and its corporate media allies want us concentrating on the alluring array at the mall or who'll win the Super Bowl. We'll take care of the rest, they tell us. Trust us, we know what's best. As far as we can throw them, I'd respond. And I'd add the wisdom and admonition of the great independent American journalist I.F. Stone when he explained that: "All governments are run by liars. Nothing they say should be believed." He then shortened it to two words in his advice to aspiring journalists: "Governments lie."

Stone would have easily recognized and reported fearlessly on the mendacity of the Bush administration's current behavior. By using an ill-defined sham threat of terrorism and easy-picking dictators like Saddam, other "crazed Arabs" (Noam Chomsky's characterization), and labeling all other leaders who forget "who's boss" threats to our security, they've created an unjustifiable fear to support a permanent state of war, national security state, and "lockdown" America. They've done it to justify a strong military and homeland guardians to protect us from all those "barbarians at our gates." As Machiavelli said in The Prince - "It's better to be feared than loved." But when that leads to the unrestrained and reckless use of power, its outcome is a Hobbesian "war of all against all." The threat is bogus, a big lie, but it's repeated endlessly until almost everyone believes it. What's really intended is a plan to serve the interests of giant, powerful corporations whose bottom line depends on big government spending to support them. Those corporations also depend on military muscle when needed to open and secure new markets abroad so they can grow even bigger, more powerful and, above all, more profitable. Our military is used to open those new markets, not protect us from predators. Its called empire building.

George Washington understood it even in his day when he referred to the nation as a "rising empire." He helped build it during the Revolutionary War by his savage treatment of native Indians, all of whom he thought of as subhumans (American Untermenschen). He compared them to wolves and "beasts of prey" and called for their total destruction. And he did it when he sent General John Sullivan and 5,000 troops to attack the noncombatant Onondaga people in 1779 with orders to destroy all their villages, homes, fields, food supplies, cattle herds and orchards. He hoped to kill as many as possible and succeeded. He also stole Indian land including from the Onieda people who aided Washington when he was most in need at Valley Forge. The "Father of our country" and all other leaders who followed him pursued a genocidal assault against our native people that was one of the inspirations and models for Adolph Hitler in designing his own plan to exterminate the Jews, Gypsies, Slavs and other Untermenschen of his day.

Imperialism by its very nature is predatory and brutal. It's a scorched earth, take-no-prisoners strategy to achieve continued economic and geopolitical growth and expansion. It's in the DNA of a capitalist system as the great political economist Harry Magdoff, who died on January 1 at age 92, explained in his 1969 book The Age of Imperialism when he wrote: "Imperialism is not a matter of choice for a capitalist society; it is the way of life of such a society." Historian Henry Steele Commager said it his way when he once wrote that a national security state and its bureaucracy lends its great talents (and resources) "not to devising ways of reducing tensions and avoiding war, but to ways of exacerbating tensions and preparing for war.......For in this Alice-in-Wonderland bureaucratic world you achieve peace through war, order through chaos, security through violence, the reign of law through lawlessness."

And in his unguarded and candid pithy statement, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge also explained it in 1895 when he said "commerce follows the flag." He might have added that the flag also follows commerce. The U.S. had no real enemies then and none since WW II, but all administrations had to convince us we did so they could divert a huge amount of the federal budget to the military and national security. To do it enemies had to be "invented" - the Russians (they were never coming), Saddam (never a threat), North Korea (they've been seeking normalization with us since the late 1980s), and today in Iran (the ayatollahs and elected government also want normalization) and in Venezuela (President Hugo Chavez is a peaceful populist democrat loved by the great majority of his people).

Since WW II, the absence of a real threat has been the greatest threat all U.S. administrations have feared most and had to overcome to pursue their real agenda. When the Soviet Union began disintegrating in the late 80s and finally broke up into 15 independent states at the end of 1991, the first Bush administration was desperate to find a new enemy. They did first with Manuel Noriega, the Panamanian tyrant and former close ally, in late 1989 and then with Saddam, another once close ally, in 1991. Now the war drums are getting louder against Iran and Syria and are also audible against Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. And, of course, an endless war continues against so-called, mostly unnamed "terrorists" as well as the real thing in Iraq and Afghanistan. At a budgeted cost (on and off the books) that likely exceeds $600 billion a year (including the 2 real wars and the national and homeland security costs), business is a big winner, but the public loses and must be convinced otherwise, and future generations have to pay the cost.

The convincing goes on from cradle to grave. From pre-school to the doctoral level, we're taught acceptable doctrine. And our senses are bombarded constantly through the dominant corporate media and their public relations partners as well as the sights and sounds we encounter all around us at work, in our cities and communities, even in our places of worship. There's almost no escape except to venture on our own to discover hidden truths willfully kept from us. But if we're too good at discovery and even better at spreading the "heretical doctrine" of truths that refute the party line, communicating effectively with the greater public, we then risk the power of the state acting to stop us by any means - just like it tries to overthrow leaders of "outlier" nations that dare "go their own way" and forget "who's boss."

THE SHAME OF WHAT'S CALLED OUR SYSTEM OF JUSTICE

The U.S. "gulag" prison system is proof enough that they mean business and will act tough to squelch any serious dissent. (We already know plenty about what goes on at the Pentagon and CIA authorized "torture-prisons" at Guantanamo and many Abu Graibs around the world.) Conditions have grown especially repressive against the poor and disadvantaged and immigrants of color under the Bush administration's fear-induced permanent state of war and sham "global war on terrorism." The notion of due process has been usurped by systemic criminal injustice for those unable to afford a proper defense, most often the poor and people of color. As a result, the prison population has grown each year and more people are behind bars today than in any other country. In June, 2004 that number reached 2.1 million, and nearly half of them were blacks and another 15% hispanics. Those imprisoned for non-violent offenses accounted for about half the total prison population and half of those (about 500,000) are drug related. And there's a sizable number of political prisoners, especially post 9/11, locked up on bogus charges because of their views and ability to spread them, not any crimes they committed. Some are on death row and at times murdered by the state despite their innocence.

The death penalty itself is the most contentious part of the criminal-injustice system and how prisoners are treated once incarcerated. Only 2 countries in the Global North, the U.S. and Japan, have so far failed to ban it. In the U.S. at year end 2004, 36 states and the Federal prison system held 3,315 prisoners on death row. Since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, over 1000 executions have taken place. (In Japan, only about 50 have been executed in the last dozen years and about an equal number are awaiting execution.) Many opponents of the death penalty call these acts institutionalized, state-sponsored, ritualistic acts of torture-murder. They say "torture" because often the prisoner is so hated that their executioners "deliberately" try to inflict pain during the process of killing them. And while that alone is inhumane and barbaric enough, all too often the accused are innocent. But because most often they're a person of color, poor and unable to afford a proper defense, they become victims of a system based not on justice but on vengeance, indifference and the belief by elected officials that being "tough on crime" is a good vote-getter.

As a result, a huge prison-industrial complex system has arisen, and spending for it continues to grow exponentially and now exceeds $40 billion annually. (The annual per prisoner cost today almost equals a year's tuition at Harvard.) In some states the annual budget for prisons exceeds that for education, and overall the rate of prison spending growth has greatly exceeded that for education over the past 25 years. All this is part of an effort to control dissent by a combination of a state-induced climate of fear and hard line police state tactics to keep a restive population in line. The population should be even more restive as the wealth gap grows, wages have stagnated and at times fallen, low paid service jobs replace higher paying manufacturing ones as more good jobs are exported and lost, and social services continue to erode. There's less carrot and more stick as the Bush administration has cracked down hard at home against dissent and conducted a racist war against immigrants, muslims and people of color.

THE ULTIMATE CORRUPTION - A HOSTILE TAKEOVER OF WORLD CIVIL SOCIETY BY A LAWLESS, RAMPAGING ROGUE STATE

The Bush administration has used the pretext of what happened on 9/11 as justification for all its policies and actions since that fateful day. In so doing it trashed the Constitution, international law, all treaty obligations in their way, the Geneva and Hague Conventions, other UN Conventions and Covenants including the Universal Declaration of Human rights, the Magna Carta establishing the foundation for our sacred habeas rights, and whatever else they decide to disregard. Law for them is only what they say it is. They rampage unchecked and unchallenged in pursuit of a reckless and insane intent to rule the world even if they destroy it in the attempt. They continue committing the most egregious war crimes and crimes against humanity in two ongoing immoral and illegal wars while claiming (through lies and deceit) to be doing it in the name of "democracy." In fact, they're committing mass slaughter using illegal weapons, illegal occupations, exploitation and unrestrained depravity without end to control the world's resources, markets and cheap labor.

Now they're planning new wars and coups against "uncooperative" and "independent" heads of state who've ignored the message of "who's boss" and "gone their own way." They plan to continue taking (stealing) from the most disadvantaged and ordinary working people at home and most desperately in need worldwide to fund their endless imperial wars to enrich their corporate partners (masters) and further serve the most privileged and well-off. In sum, they've spat in the face of all humanity in their scorched earth, take no prisoners policies. They've created a permanent "darkness at noon", a totalitarian nightmare like the dystopian "1984" where the US is a real life Oceania. No one anywhere is safe, we're all being illegally surveilled, unwanted or unacceptable history and truths go down the "memory hole" of silence, and anyone, anywhere, for any reason may be forcibly taken away to be "detained", tortured, even murdered - all in the name of "democracy" and a government fighting to protect us and keep us "free." Orwell summed it up well when he wrote: "If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face----forever...."

WHERE IT'S LED US AND WHAT'S AHEAD

Things are far more dire than the public now realizes. Using wartime contingency "national security initiatives" established during the Reagan years that gave the President the power to suspend the Constitution and impose martial law, George Bush signed executive orders post 9/11 giving himself absolute power in times of whatever he alone decides is a "national emergency." That power would make him a dictator, accountable to no one, and he's given himself the right to seize it any time he chooses and for any pretext he claims warrants it. Both Reagan and Bush may have used Richard Nixon as their criminal role model in approving their own plans to achieve absolute power. In his reckless attempt to quell dissent, Nixon in 1970 approved the "Houston plan" that authorized illegal wiretapping, mail intercepts and home and office burglarizing to obtain sensitive records - all activities that moved the nation a long way toward becoming a police state and led to the Watergate scandal.

Things today appear far worse than under Nixon or Reagan. And an unambiguous signal of what's now at stake was clear and present at the January signing ceremony for the FY 06 Defense Authorization Bill. That bill contained the McCain Amendment (banning the torture of detainees) and Graham-Levin Amendment (effectively denying detainees their sacred habeas rights and taking a reckless first step toward denying those rights to all of us). At the ceremony, George Bush made an unguarded and extraordinary statement. In it he effectively nullified "McCain" entirely by claiming the right to govern as a "Unitary Executive" with the power to abrogate the separation of powers doctrine (implied though not specifically stated in the Constitution), bypass the Congress and courts and act as he chooses to protect national security. In effect, he was saying to protect the nation, he would ignore the law if he chooses and govern by presidential edict - an unequivocal usurpation of dictatorial power. In doing this Bush also violated the notion of "judicial supremacy" articulated by Chief Justice John Marshall in 1803 in the famous Marbury v. Madison case, which established the principle that the Court is the final arbiter of what is and is not the law. Most disturbing, Bush's declaration met no howls of protest or headline stories in the corporate media. It's just business as usual as the nation moves perilously closer to a full-blown totalitarian state - with delusions of grandeur. What this administration wants is nothing less than is stated in their language of "full spectrum dominance." It's their intent to control the whole planet, including the oceans, air above it and all outer space by any means including using war as a strategy to achieve it. They actually put this stuff in writing anyone can look up and read and get scared as hell.

How can this be stopped before it's too late? There may be little time left, and we must use it and act. The Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal after WW II said we're obliged to act to avoid being complicit in war crimes and related criminal acts. They said: "Anyone with knowledge of illegal activity and an opportunity to do something is a potential criminal under international law unless the person takes affirmative measures to prevent the commission of the crimes." The ultimate and final authority rests with the people.

The all-powerful rampaging U.S. juggernaut is not invulnerable. It faces at least 2 serious challenges. One is its own imperial arrogance, hubris and potentially fatal overreach that may hasten its own demise. The other is mass world public opinion that by using its "ultimate authority", becoming aroused and energized, flexing its collective muscle, can make even superpowers give ground. The great Indian writer, Arundhati Roy, told us her view how to do it in her 2003 book War Talk when she wrote:

"We can re-invent civil disobedience in a million
different ways.......we can come up with a million
ways of becoming a collective pain in the ass.
When George Bush says 'you're either with us, or
you are with the terrorists,' we can say 'No thank
you.' We can let him know that the people of the
world do not need to choose between a Malevolent
Mickey Mouse and the Mad Mullahs.

Our strategy should be not only to confront the
Empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of
oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art,
our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our
joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness - and
our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are
different from the ones we're being brainwashed
to believe.

The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse
to buy what they are selling - their ideas, their
version of history, their wars, their weapons, their
notion of inevitability.

Remember this: We be many and they be few.
They need us more than we need them."

The renowned anthropologist, Margaret Mead, author of 44 books and thousands of articles and who "shone a light of understanding on human nature" and believed we should "cherish the life of the world" thought it was even simpler to achieve a better world when she wrote: "Never underestimate the ability of a small group of committed individuals to change the world." And Gandhi observed that "even the most powerful cannot rule without the cooperation of the ruled."

I would just add that with our collective will, in large or smaller numbers, we can indeed shake the world, remake it in our own just image, and reclaim it from theirs.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net