Daily Archives: September 17, 2007

French Foreign Minister: “Prepare For War” With Iran

“I have suggested that an alternative road may bypass the main path of history, short-circuiting the organic stages of consensus, value formation, and the experiences of common enterprise generally believed to underlie political community. This relies on a grave crisis or war to bring about a sudden transformation in national attitudes sufficient for the purpose. According to this version, the order we examine may be brought into existence as a result of a series of sudden, nasty, and traumatic shocks. But does this sufficiently lay the basis for genuine community, adequate to create a durable World Order? The transforming experience, whether evolutionary or revolutionary, must, to achieve the foundation of consensus requisite for community, be enough to reach and move great masses of people, many of whom are not now touched by governmental processes, or a fortiori by international relations. In the end, the question of feasibility can only be answered with a prediction: once critical mass had taken place, however tentatively or suspiciously, a new and essentially unpredictable dynamic would have been set in motion…”

- In “A World Effectively Controlled By The United Nations”, prepared for the Institute for Defense Analyses Feb 24, 1961 by Lincoln P. Bloomfield, currently (in 2007) Professor of Political Science Emeritus at MIT. He developed the RAND/MIT political game, and directed MIT’s Arms Control Project as well as the UN and Interdependence projects. Bloomfield also co-authored International Military Forces, Outer Space: Prospects for Man and Society, Controlling Small Wars and Management of Global Disorder. From 1989-1992 Bloomfield hosted the national TV program “Fifty Years Ago Today”. He worked in the the State Department 11 years and was Director of Global Issues in the National Security Council.

. . .

bernard-kouchner

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner

EURSOC | Sep 17, 2007

France’s Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said yesterday that the world needed to “prepare for the worst, which is war” in confronting Iran’s nuclear programme.

Kouchner was speaking as the UN Security Council five plus Germany are preparing to draft a new resolution on sanctions against Iran, which continues to defy UN calls to halt its uranium enrichment programme. China and Russia have resisted tougher measures against Tehran; Kouchner and President Nicolas Sarkozy’s recent remarks demonstrate that the new regime in Paris is determined to take a hard line on the nuclear programme Tehran insists is purely for civilian purposes.

France’s chief of diplomacy appeared to echo the US line that diplomacy and negotiations are the preferred means of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. He said that negotiations must go on “right to the end” but added that an Iranian nuke would be a “threat to the entire world.” Earlier in September, Sarkozy spoke of two catastrophic outcomes – Iran having a bomb, or Iran being bombarded.

Iran has already denounced what it calls the “extremism” of Sarkozy and Kouchner.

Kouchner took things further. He said that “major state plans were in preparation”, but quickly corrected his remark, adding that nothing was happening “tomorrow” and that the French army was not associated with any such plans.

Israel warmly welcomed Kouchner’s statement. A spokesman for the foreign ministry said that it was important that the world showed it would not sit with its arms folded while Iran developed a bomb. “Iran will cease its nuclear arms program only when it understands that the international community is serious, united and determined in its opposition”, he added.

kouchner_rice

Clearly, the US will welcome this change of heart by France.

Late into Jacques Chirac’s Presidency, he argued that the world might have to accept an Iranian bomb, adding that it wouldn’t be much use to Iran anyway, as using it would guarantee the destruction of the country. Nevertheless, if Washington is indeed planning a strike against Iran, it would be wise to make its plans without factoring in French involvement.

Despite reports in the newspapers, we believe that a US strike on Iran is unlikely. And if it did happen, the prospect of French aircraft or ground troops fighting in Iran is even more unlikely.

France has long seen Iran as a serious problem. Only a year or so ago, a poll showed that the French believed Iran to be the biggest threat to peace in the world – remarkably for France, even more of a threat than Israel and the United States (who came second and third). This does not mean that France would support a war on Iran, any more than they fancy lining up against the Israelis and the Yanks.

Kouchner, unlike previous French foreign ministers, does not have an anti-American reflex. Indeed, he did not oppose regime change in Iraq and his written about the west’s duty to intervene in genocide and human rights crises.

He is one of France’s most popular politicians, but one who is, it could be argued, slightly out of step. He is a leftist who joined the conservative Sarkozy’s cabinet. He is a member of the Socialist Party who argued for the removal of Saddam Hussein – moreover, he is a Frenchman who supported the removal of Saddam Hussein: A view shared by only around 8 percent of his countrymen when the US invaded in 2003.

The President traditionally takes the lead in French foreign policy. Sarkozy has stocked his cabinet with people who are likely to argue with him. (Kouchner and other leftists, as well as the Prime Minister, are reported to oppose plans for DNA tests to ensure immigrant families are not making fraudelent claims.)

But while Kouchner and Sarkozy are at odds on some domestic issues, they share a vision of international politics.

Sarkozy, who would have the last word on these matters, has talked tough too, as we noted before. However there is no discussion whatsover in the French press about the possibility of war against Iran. Certainly, like other European newspapers, France’s press discusses US plans or the possibility that Israel might try to knock out Iran’s weapons facilities. But France fighting Iran? You can get an idea of just how alien this prospect is for the French – even for Kouchner’s enemies – from that fact that no-one has yet to condemn him for yesterday’s speech. It is almost as if the opposition is dumbfounded by this sudden step up in France’s rhetoric, and needs to find its bearings before replying.

Similarly, it is hard to imagine the French public reacting warmly to government proposals to join the US in another Middle Eastern adventure, especially as Britain has all-but-ruled-out the use of force.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will be in New York next week for the UN’s General Assembly. He is also expected to meet other international leaders and some Iranians living in the US.

As YNET News reports, the fundamentalist President feels the hand of god on his shoulder when he visits the UN:

“Following his first visit on September 2005, (Ahmadinejad) told one of Iran’s radical clerics that during his speech at the UN someone had told him that he was “surrounded by a divine halo” and that the attention of all the world’s leaders was focused on him.

“Ahmadinejad had said at the time, “I also felt that, and I sensed that the atmosphere had suddenly changed and that all the leaders did not even blink for about 27 or 28 minutes, and I’m not exaggerating.”

He flies to Venezuela to meet his ally Hugo Chavez after the two-day visit, his third since winning power in 2005.

Blackwater banned from Iraq after killing civilians

US firm had ‘opened fire randomly at citizens’.
storyblackwatercoptergi

Members of the Blackwater private security company fly around in black helicopters over Baghdad

RTE News | Sep 17, 2007

US security contractor Blackwater has been banned from operating in Iraq after eight civilians were killed in Baghdad yesterday.

Blackwater offers personal security to US officials working in Iraq and is one of the better known firms involved in what critics call the privatisation of the war in Iraq.

Yesterday, a US diplomatic convoy came under fire in the Iraqi capital’s western al-Yarmukh neighbourhood.

Blackwater members accompanying the convoy returned fire, leaving nine people dead, one of whom was an Iraqi police officer.

All of the other fatalities were civilian bystanders.

Iraqi Brigadier-General Abdul-Karim Khalaf confirmed that a mortar had landed close to the convoy and said the US firm had ‘opened fire randomly at citizens’.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has strongly condemned the company’s actions and denounced what he called the criminal response of the US contractors.

And today Iraqi Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani issued an order to cancel Blackwater’s licence and prohibit the company from operating anywhere in Iraq.

Mr Bolani also confirmed that a criminal investigation had been launched following the incident.

A US embassy official only said that security vehicles of the ‘Department of State’ were involved in an incident near al-Nissur Square.

Blackwater representatives were not immediately available for comment.

Thousands of private security contractors, many of them US and European, have worked in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003.

Following a number of similar incidents in recent years, foreign private security firms have been accused of operating outside the law with little or no accountability either to the Iraqi government or US military forces.

Maddie detective accused of child-kill confession cover-up

 goncalo-amaral.

Chief Inspector Goncalo Amaral, who heads the Policia Judiciaria in Portimao — the nearest town to Praia da Luz, from where Madeleine vanished — could appear before a secret criminal hearing as early as next month. He is accused of concealing evidence over allegations that three of his colleagues tortured Cipriano, over 48 hours’ continuous interrogation, to secure a confession.

Daily Mail | Sep 17, 2007

by David Rose and Charles Miranda

THE top cop in the Madeleine McCann case has been accused of covering up evidence that police tortured the mother of another missing girl into confessing to murder.

Leonor Cipriano later recanted her confession, but is serving 16 years’ jail for the murder of her daughter, who vanished in Portugal’s Algarve region three years ago.

The body of Joana Cipriano, 8, has never been found.

Chief Inspector Goncalo Amaral, who heads the Policia Judiciaria in Portimao — the nearest town to Praia da Luz, from where Madeleine vanished — could appear before a secret criminal hearing as early as next month.

He is accused of concealing evidence over allegations that three of his colleagues tortured Cipriano, over 48 hours’ continuous interrogation, to secure a confession.

All four — and a fifth accused of fabricating evidence — deny the allegations.

They say Cipriano was injured when she tried to kill herself by throwing herself down police station stairs.

Portugal’s police have faced increasing criticism of their handling of the McCann case.

The Mail on Sunday claims fragments of hair found in the McCanns’ hire car — said to be Madeleine’s — cannot be matched to the missing four-year-old.

Sources close to the forensic scientists investigating the case say they have concluded the hair could belong to any number of people.

This undermines earlier claims that DNA evidence proved the McCanns used the car to move Madeleine’s body.

The Cipriano case has been adopted by the public prosecutor. Next month’s hearing, which may be the first of several, aims to gather further evidence to help him decide whether to proceed to trial.

Cipriano was unable to pick out any assailants from among the accused officers.

Sources say the prosecutor is now investigating the allegation that police paid outside thugs to beat her up.

One of the police officers accused of involvement in torture in the Cipriano case is recently retired chief inspector Paulo Pereira Cristovao.

He has been writing a daily column on the Madeleine case for a Portuguese newspaper that has been reporting sensational stories leaked by sources close to the police inquiry, some of which have later proved untrue.

He makes it clear he considers the McCanns are probably responsible for Madeleine’s death or disappearance.

Like Chief Insp Amaral, he denies all wrongdoing in the Cipriano case.

In Britain, Gerry and Kate McCann are putting $200,000 of their own money into a Europe-wide advertising campaign, featuring Madeleine’s face on billboards, TV and newspapers, to try to solve her May 3 disappearance.

It comes as Portuguese police planned to stage a full reconstruction of Madeleine’s disappearance.

And British police will quiz Mrs McCann themselves early next week.

Two days ago, Portuguese police declined a BBC offer to film a reconstruction for its successful Crimewatch show. This prompted the McCanns to launch their own campaign.

The McCanns’ village of Rothley, in Leicestershire, has been inundated with up to a thousand letters a day from all over the world, many containing money.

Neil Bush link to federal No Child Left Behind funds questioned

 neil-bush3

Neil Bush claims Ignite’s growth is not due to political influence. “I’m not saying it hasn’t opened any doors. It may have helped with some sales.”

Austin American-Statesman | Sep 15, 2007

By Larry Lipman

WASHINGTON — A nonpartisan ethics watchdog group has urged the Education Department’s inspector general to investigate why federal money has been spent on educational products sold by a company founded and headed by Neil Bush, President Bush’s younger brother.

The company, Ignite! Learning, based in Austin, has sold curriculum-loaded projectors worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to school districts around the country, partially funded through the federal No Child Left Behind Act promoted by the president, according to a letter sent Wednesday from the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

Over the past five years, Austin has spent $70,940 for the units, of which nearly $42,400 was federal money, according to documents filed with the letter to the inspector general. Longview has spent $126,400 for the units, of which $94,060 was federal money, according to documents.

In its letter, the watchdog group said there is no evidence the units meet standards in the No Child Left Behind Act.

“It is astonishing that taxpayer dollars are being spent on unproven educational products to the financial benefit of the president’s brother,” said Melanie Sloan, the group’s executive director. “The IG should investigate whether children’s educations are being sacrificed so that Neil Bush can rake in federal funds.”

Devon Price, director of marketing for Ignite! Learning, confirmed that Neil Bush is the company’s founder and chief executive. Bush could not be reached for comment.

The company “has no control over how school districts choose to spend federal funds,” a statement said.

It also claimed that the group’s letter contains inaccurate statements about the Ignite curriculum, which it said is used in 22 states.

“What we can say is that Title I and other federal monies have been used to purchase Ignite products, just as they have been used to purchase products from every other educational publisher and provider,” the statement said.

. . .

Related

No Bush Left Behind
Across the country, some teachers complain that President George W. Bush’s makeover of public education promotes “teaching to the test.” The President’s younger brother Neil takes a different tack: He’s selling to the test. The No Child Left Behind Act compels schools to prove students’ mastery of certain facts by means of standardized exams. Pressure to perform has energized the $1.9 billion-a-year instructional software industry. Now, after five years of development and backing by investors like Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal and onetime junk-bond king Michael R. Milken, Neil Bush aims to roll his high-tech teacher’s helpers into classrooms nationwide. He calls them “curriculum on wheels,” or COWs. The $3,800 purple plug-and-play computer/projectors display lively videos and cartoons: the XYZ Affair of the late 1790s as operetta, the 1828 Tariff of Abominations as horror flick. The device plays songs that are supposed to aid the memorization of the 22 rivers of Texas or other facts that might crop up in state tests of “essential knowledge.” Bush’s Ignite! Inc. has sold 1,700 COWs since 2005, mainly in Texas, where Bush lives and his brother was once governor. In August, Houston’s school board authorized expenditures of up to $200,000 for COWs. The company expects 2006 revenue of $5 million. Says Bush about the impact of his name: “I’m not saying it hasn’t opened any doors. It may have helped with some sales.”

Bush’s Family Profits from ‘No Child’ Act

Notorious Golden Triangle opium trade eclipsed by Afghan Golden Crescent

The shift to Afghanistan has led to a near doubling of global opium production in less than two decades

afghan-opium

Soldier cuts through an opium poppy field in Afghanistan

International Herald Tribune | Sep 11, 2007

By Thomas Fuller

BANNA SALA, Laos: Fields of brightly colored opium poppies, Corsican gangsters and the CIA’s secret war: The mystique of the Golden Triangle clings to the jungle-covered mountains here like the morning mist.

But the prosaic reality is that after years of producing the lion’s share of the world’s opium, the Golden Triangle is now only a bit player in the business. Three decades ago, the northernmost reaches of Laos, Thailand and Myanmar produced more than 70 percent of all opium sold worldwide, most of it refined into heroin. Today the area averages about 5 percent of the world total, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

“The mystique may remain, and the geography will be celebrated in the future by novelists,” said Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the UN anti-drug agency, in an interview. “But from our vantage point, we see a region that is rapidly moving towards an opium-free status.”

The Golden Triangle has been eclipsed by the Golden Crescent – the poppy-growing area in and around Afghanistan that is now the source of an estimated 92 percent of the world’s opium, according to the United Nations, which bases its statistics on satellite imagery of poppy fields.

The shift to Afghanistan has led to a near doubling of global opium production in less than two decades because Afghanistan is a much more efficient opium producer. Poppies are grown in fertile valleys of southern Afghanistan where they yield on average of four times more opium than in the less hospitable soil of upland Southeast Asia, UN data shows.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of the decline of the Golden Triangle is the role played by China in pressuring opium growing regions to eradicate the crop. Three decades ago, the heroin produced here landed on the streets of American cities, and U.S. authorities took the most active role in curtailing the drug trade. Today China is one of the biggest markets for Golden Triangle heroin, a trend that has increased the number of HIV infections spread by sharing dirty needles.

Thanks in part to Chinese pressure, the area of Myanmar along the Chinese border that once produced about 30 percent of the country’s opium was last year declared opium-free by the United Nations. Local authorities, who are from the Wa tribe and are autonomous from Myanmar’s central government, banned poppy cultivation and welcomed Chinese investment in rubber, sugar cane and tea plantations, casinos and other businesses.

“China has had an underestimated role,” said Martin Jelsma, a Dutch researcher who has written extensively on the illicit drug trade in Asia. “Their main leverage is economic: These border areas of Burma are by now economically much more connected to China than the rest of Burma,” he said, using the former name for Myanmar. “For local authorities it’s quite clear that, for any investments they want to attract, cooperation with China is a necessity.”

Data scheduled for release later this year will show an uptick in Myanmar’s 2007 opium cultivation by several percentage points, but not enough to offset the dramatic 80 percent decline of the past decade, said Costa of the United Nations.

Opium has long been used by insurgent groups to help finance civil war in the Golden Triangle, whether by Myanmar hill tribes fighting the central government or Hmong rebels allied with the Central Intelligence Agency during the “secret war” in Laos against communist forces in the 1960s and 1970s.

But one surprising development in recent years has been that some insurgent groups that once tolerated or encouraged opium production in the region are now campaigning to destroy the crop. At least one faction of the Shan State Army, a group with longstanding ties to the heroin business, is now leading eradication efforts.

Kon Jern, a military commander for the rebel group based along Myanmar’s border with northern Thailand, says he is cracking down on opium because it profits government militias and corrupt officials. “They sell the drugs, they buy weapons, and they use those weapons to attack us,” he said in an interview near his headquarters at Doi Kor Wan, a village along the border.

The United Nations offers a different assessment, crediting Myanmar’s central government with leading eradication in Shan areas, where the vast majority of the country’s opium is cultivated.

Some analysts dispute the magnitude of the overall declines in Myanmar, saying that by growing in the off-season farmers have avoided eradication. But Terry Daru, director of the Narcotics Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, said he had “no reason to second-guess” the UN statistics.

Opium poppies have been used in traditional medicine for centuries in the Golden Triangle, but commercial production did not really take off until the 1950s and 1960s, after China’s new Communist government banned the crop and the business migrated south.

In Laos, opium production expanded with the help of Corsican gangs, a legacy of French colonial rule in Indochina. U.S. soldiers fighting in Vietnam became important consumers of heroin supplied by Hmong fighters or ethnic Chinese gangs who brought chemists from Hong Kong to process the opium. As opium production waned in Turkey, Mexico, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Golden Triangle became the most important source of heroin on the streets of New York, Los Angeles and Sydney.

Now, with opium on the decline, erstwhile heroin traffickers have branched out into other businesses, notably synthetic drugs that are easier to conceal from authorities.

“Methamphetamine tablets are the threat, and continue to be produced in Burma along the border with Thailand,” said Daru, the U.S. anti-narcotics official.

Madonna meets with Shimon Peres, saying she’s “an ambassador for Judaism”

madonna-confessions-tour

Madonna on her “Confessions” tour, mock crucified, wearing a crown of thorns

Associated Press | Sep 16, 2007

JERUSALEM: Visiting pop idol Madonna toasted the Jewish new year with Israeli President Shimon Peres and declared herself an “ambassador for Judaism,” local newspapers reported Sunday.

The singer, who is not Jewish, met Peres at his official Jerusalem residence on Saturday evening, and the two exchanged gifts, with Madonna receiving a lavishly-bound copy of the Old Testament.

She presented Peres a volume of “The Book of Splendor,” the guiding text of Jewish mysticism, or Kabbalah, inscribed, “To Shimon Peres, the man I admire and love, Madonna,” the Yediot Ahronot daily said.

A Peres aide confirmed the meeting but had no details.

Madonna arrived in Israel Wednesday night, the eve of the new year, with her film director husband, Guy Ritchie, to attend a Kabbalah conference.

Other celebrities who flew in for the event included movie star Demi Moore and her husband, actor Ashton Kutcher, ex-talk show host Rosie O’Donnell and fashion designer Donna Karan.

“You don’t know how popular the Book of Splendor is among Hollywood actors,” Yediot quoted Madonna as telling Peres. “Everyone I meet talks to me only about that. I am an ambassador for Judaism.”

The Haaretz daily quoted Kutcher as telling a group of Israeli businessmen and entertainers on Saturday that Kabbalah had answered fundamental questions in his life and made him a better actor.

Madonna’s interest in Kabbalah in recent years has been criticized by Orthodox Jews, who say it is an abomination.

Rabbis who specialize in Kabbalah have criticized the interest by non-Jewish celebrities in the subject. Jewish tradition holds that Kabbalah is so powerful and complicated that only bonafide students may begin to approach it and then only after age 40. Among the elements of Kabbalah are mystical revelations drawn from holy books by recombination of letters and other signs.

Rabbis were particularly incensed by Madonna’s song, “Isaac,” about the revered 16th-century Kabbalist rabbi Yitzhak Luria, which featured on her 2005 album, “Confessions on a Dance Floor.”

Madonna, who was raised a Roman Catholic, has taken the Hebrew name Esther, and has been seen wearing a red thread on her wrist in a Jewish tradition to ward off the evil eye. During her visit she plans to visit sites sacred to Kabbalists. It was not known how long she intends to stay.

Madonna paid her first visit to Israel three years ago, on another Kabbalah-centered trip.

“I can’t believe that I’m celebrating the new year with you in Israel,” Maariv newspaper quoted her as telling Peres on Saturday. “It’s a dream come true.”