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The Daily Journal: January 8, 2007

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Nukes vs. Nukes
Israel Plans Nuclear Strike on Iran

It wasn't that long ago--a quarter century or so--when Iran counted itself among Israel's friends, and vice versa. Those were the days of the Shah, of the Nixon Doctrine and of Kissinger's skill at joining key regional players at those parts of national anatomies, a little lower than the hip, that rhyme with ass. The London Times now reports that Israel has ready plans to strike its old friend, to spare the United States the trouble:

Israel has drawn up secret plans to destroy Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities with tactical nuclear weapons. Two Israeli air force squadrons are training to blow up an Iranian facility using low-yield nuclear “bunker-busters”, according to several Israeli military sources. The attack would be the first with nuclear weapons since 1945, when the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Israeli weapons would each have a force equivalent to one-fifteenth of the Hiroshima bomb. Under the plans, conventional laser-guided bombs would open “tunnels” into the targets. “Mini-nukes” would then immediately be fired into a plant at Natanz, exploding deep underground to reduce the risk of radioactive fallout. “As soon as the green light is given, it will be one mission, one strike and the Iranian nuclear project will be demolished,” said one of the sources. The plans, disclosed to The Sunday Times last week, have been prompted in part by the Israeli intelligence service Mossad’s assessment that Iran is on the verge of producing enough enriched uranium to make nuclear weapons within two years. [...] Israeli and American officials have met several times to consider military action. Military analysts said the disclosure of the plans could be intended to put pressure on Tehran to halt enrichment, cajole America into action or soften up world opinion in advance of an Israeli attack. [...] Israeli pilots have flown to Gibraltar in recent weeks to train for the 2,000-mile round trip to the Iranian targets. Three possible routes have been mapped out, including one over Turkey. [...] Scientists have calculated that although contamination from the bunker-busters could be limited, tons of radioactive uranium compounds would be released. [The full story...]

Denials from Israel were swift as a squadron's illegal overflight of Lebanon:

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Iraq: The SpOILs of War
How the West Will make a Killing on Iraqi Oil Riches

While just about everyone is focused on George W. Bush's latest diversionary tactic, the true purpose of the American occupation of Iraq is following its course virtually unmolested by much media attention. They do pay attention to that sort of thing in England and a few other European medai, but not in the United States, where the "20,000 troop surge"--the equivalent of throwing good blood after bad--is unfortunately focusing all the attention. Meanwhile, as the Independent reports, "Iraq's massive oil reserves, the third-largest in the world, are about to be thrown open for large-scale exploitation by Western oil companies under a controversial law which is expected to come before the Iraqi parliament within days":

The US government has been involved in drawing up the law, a draft of which has been seen by The Independent on Sunday. It would give big oil companies such as BP, Shell and Exxon 30-year contracts to extract Iraqi crude and allow the first large-scale operation of foreign oil interests in the country since the industry was nationalised in 1972. The huge potential prizes for Western firms will give ammunition to critics who say the Iraq war was fought for oil. They point to statements such as one from Vice-President Dick Cheney, who said in 1999, while he was still chief executive of the oil services company Halliburton, that the world would need an additional 50 million barrels of oil a day by 2010. "So where is the oil going to come from?... The Middle East, with two-thirds of the world's oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies," he said. Oil industry executives and analysts say the law, which would permit Western companies to pocket up to three-quarters of profits in the early years, is the only way to get Iraq's oil industry back on its feet after years of sanctions, war and loss of expertise. But it will operate through "production-sharing agreements" (or PSAs) which are highly unusual in the Middle East, where the oil industry in Saudi Arabia and Iran, the world's two largest producers, is state controlled.[...] Supporters say the provision allowing oil companies to take up to 75 per cent of the profits will last until they have recouped initial drilling costs. After that, they would collect about 20 per cent of all profits, according to industry sources in Iraq. But that is twice the industry average for such deals. The full story...

In other words, this is a return to pre-1973 "arrangements" when the United States controlled much of the oil extraction and the profits out of Arab soil, until Arabs got wise to the schemes and ended the game. There's another word for it: The Nixon Doctrine. Remember this Times OpEd from Ted Koppel back in February:

Fifty-three years ago, British and American intelligence officers conspired to help bring about the overthrow of Iran's prime minister, Mohammed Mossadegh. Mossadegh's shortcomings, in the eyes of Whitehall and the State Department, were an unseemly affinity for the Tudeh Party (the Iranian Communists) and his plans to nationalize the Iranian oil industry. The prospect of the British oil industry being forced to give way to Soviet influence over the Iranian oil spigot called for drastic action. Following a military coup, Mossadegh was arrested, imprisoned for three years and then held under house arrest until his death in 1967. Power was then effectively concentrated in the hands of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. The shah's unswerving commitment to the free flow and marketing of Iranian oil would, by the end of the 1960's, become a central pillar of the so-called Nixon Doctrine, in which American allies were tapped to be regional surrogates to maintain peace and security. The sales of sophisticated American weapons to Iran served the twin purposes of sopping up billions of what came to be known as ''petro-dollars,'' while equipping (in particular) the shah's air force. [The full column]

Conclusion: "For now, the reason for America's rapt attention to the security of the Persian Gulf is what it has always been. It's about the oil" Except that Koppel was, in his only-miled reprobation of establishment policy, being coy, too. It isn;t justs security the United States is seeking. It's profits, unregulated and, for a few decades anyway, seemingly limitless.

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Saigon to Baghdad
The Timely Death of Gerald Ford

Frank Rich in the Sunday Times: "The very strange and very long Gerald Ford funeral marathon was about many things, but Gerald Ford wasn’t always paramount among them. Forty percent of today’s American population was not alive during the Ford presidency. The remaining 60 percent probably spent less time recollecting his unelected 29-month term than they did James Brown’s “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag.” Despite the lachrymose logorrhea of television anchors and the somber musical fanfares, the country was less likely to be found in deep mourning than in deep football. It’s a safe bet that the Ford funeral attracted far fewer viewers than the most consequential death video of the New Year’s weekend, the lynching of Saddam Hussein. But those two deaths were inextricably related: it was in tandem that they created a funereal mood that left us mourning for our own historical moment more than for Mr. Ford. What the Ford obsequies were most about was the Beltway establishment’s grim verdict on George W. Bush and his war in Iraq. Every Ford attribute, big and small, was trotted out by Washington eulogists with a wink, as an implicit rebuke of the White House’s current occupant. Mr. Ford was a healer, not a partisan divider. He was an all-American football star, not a cheerleader. He didn’t fritter away time on pranks at his college fraternity, Delta Kappa Epsilon, because he had to work his way through school as a dishwasher. He was in the top third of his class at Yale Law. He fought his way into dangerous combat service during World War II rather than accept his cushy original posting. He was pals with reporters and Democrats. He encouraged dissent in his inner circle. He had no enemies, no ego, no agenda, no ideology, no concern for his image. He described himself as “a Ford, not a Lincoln,” rather than likening himself to, say, Truman. Under the guise of not speaking ill of a dead president, the bevy of bloviators so relentlessly trashed the living incumbent that it bordered on farce. No wonder President Bush, who once hustled from Crawford to Washington to sign a bill interfering in Terri Schiavo’s medical treatment, remained at his ranch last weekend rather than join Betty Ford and Dick Cheney for the state ceremony in the Capitol rotunda." The full column...

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Civil Liberties, RIP
FBI Targets Britons (Among Others)

This, by the way, is only an extension of the program that already hits American(and all other) passengers traveling into or out of the United States. You travel, you have a dossier. From the Guardian: "Millions of Britons who visit the United States are to have their fingerprints stored on the FBI database alongside those of criminals, in a move that has outraged civil rights groups. The Observer has established that under new plans to combat terrorism, the US government will demand that visitors have all 10 fingers scanned when they enter the country. The information will be shared with intelligence agencies, including the FBI, with no restrictions on their international use. US airport scanners now take only two fingerprints from travellers. The move to 10 allows the information to be compatible with the FBI database. [...] The scheme will cover most of the major airports frequently used by British travellers, including New York, Washington and Miami. Countries subject to the new scheme include Britain, other European Union nations, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. [...] Security experts warned the scale of the scheme might jeopardise its success. 'This maniacal proposal will turn thousands of law-abiding British travellers into terrorist suspects,' said Simon Davies, head of Privacy International, a campaign against intrusive surveillance. 'The technology at US airports will be far less reliable. That means anyone could be the victim of a false match, Davies said. 'Be warned. A San Francisco Bay family holiday may easily become a nightmare.' [...] A recent report by the civil liberties group Statewatch highlighted a Japanese study that tested 15 biometric systems and found 11 of them failed to detect 'false' fingerprints were being used in the form of a latex strip covering a person's fingers. Britons already have their credit card details and email accounts inspected by the American authorities following a deal between the EU and the Department of Homeland Security. Now passengers face having all their credit card transactions traced when using one to book a flight. And travellers giving an email address to an airline will be open to having all messages they send and receive from that address scrutinised. [...] In America, the 10-digit fingerprint plan has sparked concern among civil rights groups, which accuse the government of using the excuse of terrorism to expand its ability to monitor individuals. The scheme uses an electronic scanner. Fingerprint information is then fed into a Department of Homeland Security database that stores material from domestic security organisations such as the FBI, as well as international bodies like Interpol. It already holds 71 million fingerprints and is growing."

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L’Infâme: Submitting to the Taliban
Afghanistan Bans Movie Critical of Fanatics

This, then, is the country that Americans and Europeans are dying for (516 so far).: "Afghanistan has banned an Indian-made film set around the fall of the Taliban after an outcry from the ethnic Hazara minority, which is described in the movie as "the most dangerous tribe" in the country," reports Agence France Press (by way of Lebanon's Daily Star). The Information and Culture Ministry said Saturday the government film directorate had banned the purchase, selling and showing of "Kabul Express," which has yet to be released in Afghanistan but is available in pirated form." As Wikepedia describes the film, "Kabul Express" is about

the story of five individuals linked by hate and fear, but brought together by fate to finally recognize each other. Five people from different worlds, their paths are destined to cross in a ruthless country devastated by war – Afghanistan. [...] Their road trip becomes hell when the two journalists are kidnapped at gunpoint by a Pakistani soldier who was once part of the Taliban regime. The soldier called Imran (Salman Shahid) orders them to drive him to the Pakistani-Afghan border. Jessica is soon captured by Imran after she mistakenly follows the jeep thinking that the journalists have found a huge story. The film follows the next 48 hours of the five individuals. As the film unfolds, a special relationship develops between an Afghan, a Pakistani, two Indians and an American.

Certainly the stuff of bans and censorship. But to be fair, it's not as simple as it appears according to the AFP story:

Hazaras, from the Shiite minority, have suffered violent discrimination for generations in Afghanistan. Ethnic tensions still exist today despite efforts to push national reconciliation. The Culture Ministry said in a statement announcing the ban that the film "has scenes, dialogues and behaviors which are insulting to a tribe and in fact to all our nation." It said the Indian company, Camera Art, that made the film and director Kabir Khan had apologized when contacted by the ministry and promised to "edit out irritating and insulting scenes."

Still: no nation accounts for its historical blights by blighting them off the map further. An accounting is by necessity as painful as it must be honest.

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Poppies from a Friend
Afghan Heroin Flooding U.S. Streets

From McClatchy: "More heroin from Afghanistan is hitting U.S. city streets, five years after the United States toppled the country's fundamentalist Taliban regime. The surge comes as Afghanistan's opium production reached an all-time high last year despite attempts by the United States and its allies to beat back a resurgence of the Taliban and to reduce poppy cultivation. Almost 90 percent of the world's opium is made from poppies grown in Afghanistan. Once refined, most of the heroin is shipped throughout Europe. As a result, the Afghan drug trade has been portrayed primarily as a European problem, rather than an American one. But internal drug-enforcement reports indicate that U.S. authorities are seizing more Afghan heroin at U.S. ports and from low-level dealers in American cities. The reports contradict the public statements of drug enforcement officials, who maintain that the amount of heroin reaching the United States from Afghanistan hasn't increased. [...] The increase in the U.S. supply of Afghan heroin is further evidence that Afghanistan is awash in illicit opium and plagued by official corruption. The United Nations has concluded that drug corruption in the country is widespread and entrenched. Last year, opium production reached historic levels, increasing 50 percent. [...] Most heroin in the United States continues to come from Mexico and Colombia, experts said. Also, heroin addiction isn't as pervasive in the United States as cocaine and methamphetamine addiction. But a DEA internal analysis found that 14 percent of the heroin seized in the United States in 2004 originated in Afghanistan, compared with 8 percent the year before. DEA officials refused to provide 2005 figures, saying they were still preliminary. [The full story...]

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Amniotic Cavalry to the Rescue
End of the Stem-Cell Debate?

From the Washington Post: "A type of cell that floats freely in the amniotic fluid of pregnant women has been found to have many of the same traits as embryonic stem cells, including an ability to grow into brain, muscle and other tissues that could be used to treat a variety of diseases, scientists reported today. The cells, shed by the developing fetus and easily retrieved during routine prenatal testing, are easier to maintain in laboratory dishes than embryonic stem cells -- the highly versatile cells that come from destroyed human embryos and are at the center of a heated congressional debate that will resume this week. Moreover, because the cells are a genetic match to the developing fetus, tissues grown from them in the laboratory will not be rejected if they are used to treat birth defects in that newborn, researchers said. Alternatively, the cells could be frozen, providing a personalized tissue bank for use later in life. The new cells are adding credence to an emerging consensus among experts that the popular distinction between embryonic and "adult" stem cells -- those isolated from adult bone marrow and other organs -- is artificial." The full story...

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In 20 Seconds Flat
From Tyrant to Martyr
From Brazil's Latuff at Tales of Iraq War
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