Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Wolcott isn't Bullish on Bolton

Wag the Frog

Nothing tops off a nice lunch better than the juvenating prospect of a bombing campaign--John Bolton's idea of a suitable last hurrah.

Bolton, currently receiving wingnut welfare from the wolfman division of the American Enterprise Institute (and Norman Ornstein in his innocence wonders why some malign that collegial nest of applied intellects and cast such ugly, guilt-by-association aspersions) and about to release his new rootin' tootin' manifesto Surrender Is Not an Option, recently sat down for lunch at Washington's Mayflower Hotel with Edward Luce of the Financial Times. Donald Rumsfeld was also in the restaurant, making a cameo appearance. It's a lively chat, with occasional lapses into Awkward Pauses, and finally each reaches his food intake quota for the afternoon.

As we wait for the bill, we finally get round to the subject of Iran. Bolton finishes with a flourish, confidently predicting that George W. Bush will launch a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities before leaving office.

He can’t resist one last European dig. "Four years of European diplomacy have given the Iranians the one asset they could not have purchased--and that was time," he says, wagging his finger. "And now, irony of ironies, after fiddling around with all this futile diplomacy, we finally have a French president [Nicolas Sarkozy] who sounds just like we do on Iran." C'est la guerre, I think. A sobering conclusion to a sober Anglo-Saxon meal.

If John Bolton ever wagged a finger at me, I'd be tempted to break it in two, especially if it were being wagged a conductor's baton downbeat to war. From such winks and nods from such plugged-in operators, you can't help but conclude that a military attack on Iran has been decided, an aura of inevitability is being woven into place, and any debate about its wisdom or morality will be a scenery-shifting pause (as with the invasion of Iraq) while the media and our elected representatives flex their lower halves before full complete abject kneeling capitulation. Heed the words of Scott Ritter, whose counsel, had it been taken, would have spared thousands upon thousands of lives in Iraq:

Iran today is a nation suffering under the combined effects of decades of sanctions, conflict and governmental mismanagement. There is a growing recognition inside Iran, reaching to the highest levels of government that something needs to be done to effect a change in course for the Islamic Republic. Iran has long since ceased engaging in the kind of irresponsible international adventurism which characterized its export of the Islamic Revolution. Iran’s nuclear program, declared as being exclusively for energy use, has become an impediment towards the normalization of relations with the world, and Iran would be willing to negotiate it away if the appropriate diplomatic environment could be created, especially vis-à-vis the United States. Iran’s relationship with Hezbollah in Lebanon could likewise be moderated through genuine diplomatic engagement which sought a resolution to the crisis in southern Lebanon in a manner which respected the sovereign will of the citizens of south Lebanon.

The bottom line is that while one may be able to articulate justification for prudent military contingency planning in the Middle East inclusive of an Iranian scenario (I myself participated in such planning in the mid-1980’s), there must be a distinction between planning and implementation. Implementation of military action should only come in the face of an identified viable threat, authorized by proper authorities in accordance with due process set forth by legal mandate, and then only when all venues short of conflict have been exhausted in seeking a resolution to the situation. None of these prerequisites for conflict have been met in the case of the current state of affairs between Iran and the United States. Simply put, there is no justification whatsoever for the United States to be planning for the implementation of a pre-emptive war of aggression against Iran.

But lack of justification hasn't stopped the US before, which is why Bolton sounds so sanguine as he makes his exit stage-right.

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Ah, so This Is Why We Want to Bomb Iran!

Power Plays: Iran Completes Move Away From Dollar Reserves
Submitted by BuzzFlash on Tue, 10/23/2007 - 9:08am. Gloria R. Lalumia

The World Energy Watch presents recent news and analysis highlighting the activities of the players involved in the power struggle for the world's remaining energy resources.

(, United Arab Emirates)

Iran's central bank governor has said that the country has completed the process of diversifying its external reserves away from the dollar. Tahmasb Maaheri, who took over as the central bank governor of the country, told Washington-based Emerging Market magazine the process of diversification is almost 100 per cent. "We have done our best to implement this diversification in both our resources, instruments and forex reserves in order to get maximum out of our assets," he said. Currently, most of Iran's trading partners are making payments for oil in currencies other than the dollar. Iran's move to diversify away from the dollar has been partly motivated by political tensions with the US and partly due to the weakness of the dollar in the past two years. In recent years, Iran has been calling for reserve diversification and pricing of oil against a basket of currencies. Although many countries in the Middle East are not as vocal as Iran, recent statistics from US Treasury Department indicate that many of them are diversifying their reserves away from dollar denominated assets. ... Gulf central banks, which hold only a fraction of their total foreign exchange reserves, continue to maintain more than 70 per cent of their reserves in dollar denominated assets. However, the government-owned investment funds who control the bulk of oil export earnings, are understood to be diversifying away from dollar-denominated assets. While Qatar recently admitted that it has diversified more than 50 per cent of its assets, investment banking sources have confirmed that most Gulf-based sovereign wealth funds have active currency strategies and many of them are diversifying their holdings

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Extraordinary Rendition ...Frontline...November 6

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Priests Against Torture

Priests Sentenced in Fort Huachuca Torture Protest Case
by Valtin
Tue Oct 23, 2007 at 09:11:45 AM PDT

On October 17, Louis Vitale and Stephen Kelly, two priests arrested for trespassing as they sought to deliver a letter protesting U.S. violations of the Geneva Convention in relation to torture, were sentenced to five months in prison. Fr. Vitale is 75 years old.

On November 19, 2006, Vitale and Kelly had tried to give their protest letter to Major General Barbara Fast, then-commandant of Fort Huachuca Army Base, and previously intelligence chief for the U.S. command in Baghdad during the period the worst abuses took place at Abu Ghraib. Fort Huachuca itself is the site for the U.S. Army Intelligence Center and School. It is alleged that torture techniques are taught at the school. See my article "Torture on Trial in Arizona Desert" for more on the trial and on Ft. Huachuca. Most notable was the judge's refusal in the case to allow any evidence about U.S. use of torture or "the morality or immorality of the government’s use of interrogation techniques..."

* Valtin's diary :: ::

According to an article in the Arizona Daily Star:

U.S. Magistrate Héctor C. Estrada said he was reluctantly sending the priests to prison. He said he would have preferred that they do community-service work and remain under court supervision while living in their communities.

But Vitale and Kelly had previously said they would not comply with any kind of court supervision because it would mean giving up their social-justice work.

Additionally, one of the conditions of probation was that Vitale and Kelly not associate with non-violent protest groups, such as School of the Americas Watch. Meanwhile, SOA has published the two priests statement made upon sentencing, reproduced here in full (emphases added):

The real crime here has always been the teaching of torture at Fort Huachuca and the practice of torture around the world. We sought to deliver a letter asking that the teaching of torture be stopped and were arrested. We tried to put the evidence of torture on full and honest display in the courthouse and were denied. We were prepared to put on evidence about the widespread use of torture and human rights abuses committed during interrogations at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo in Iraq and Afghanistan. This evidence was gathered by the military itself and by governmental and human rights investigations. Because the court will not allow the truth of torture to be a part of our trial, we plead no contest. We are uninterested in a court hearing limited to who was walking where and how many steps it was to the gate. History will judge whether silencing the facts of torture is just or not. Far too many people have died because of our national silence about torture. Far too many of our young people in the military have been permanently damaged after following orders to torture and violate the human rights of other humans. We will keep trying to stop the teaching and practice of torture whether we are sent to jail or out. We have done our part. Now it is up to every woman and man of conscience to do their part to stop the injustice of torture.

One can only deeply admire and appreciate the courage of these two men and their supporters. It is one thing to hold up signs protesting the war in Iraq in relatively safe and liberal San Francisco or Chicago or Boston, it is another to put yourself on the line in bastions of militarism and support for Bush's "war on terror" such as the bleak cacti-strewn sands of the Arizona desert.

The monks in Burma got a lot of press coverage in this country for standing up to the military dictatorship of that benighted land. But in this country, the names Louis Vitale and Stephen Kelly are barely known. The mainstream press will not lionize their courage or publicize their cause. As you go through your day, think of these men standing up for their beliefs, who will not be silent, sitting in prison in America, and if you get a chance, send some support their way. Then think. Think hard. How will I help change things in this country?

Write a note of support to Fr. Kelly and Fr. Vitale. They were taken to a privately run detention center in Florence, Arizona the day of their sentencing. Since it is not currently known where or when they may be transferred, please send individually addressed letters to them c/o The Nuclear Resister, PO Box 43383, Tucson, AZ 85733 and they will be forwarded.

Fr. Kelly and Fr. Vitale ask that every woman and man of conscience do all that they can to protest the injustice of torture and to end U.S. policy that sanctions torture. They encourage people to participate in the protests at Ft. Benning, Georgia and Ft. Huachuca, Arizona on November 17 and 18, or consider having a protest in your community. For more information, visit School of the Americas Watch (protest at Ft. Benning) and Southwest Weekend of Witness (protest at Ft. Huachuca)

Their commissary needs are taken care of but contributions for prison support expenses are welcome. Checks can be made payable to the Nuclear Resister (please put Torture on Trial on the memo line) and mailed to the Nuclear Resister, PO Box 43383, Tucson, AZ 85733. Contributions can also be made online at [their] secure Donations page.

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