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Russia ratchets up US tensions with arms sales to Iran and Venezuela September 18, 2008

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Tony Halpin
London Times
Thursday, Sept 18, 2008

Russia snubbed its nose at the United States today by announcing plans to sell military equipment to both Iran and Venezuela.

The head of the state arms exporter said that Russia was negotiating to sell new anti-aircraft systems to Iran despite American objections.

“Contacts between our countries are continuing and we do not see any reason to suspend them,” Anatoly Isaikin, general director of Rosoboronexport, told Ria-Novosti at an arms fair in South Africa.

Reports have circulated for some time that Russia is preparing to sell its S-300 surface-to-air missile system to Iran, offering greater protection against a possible US or Israeli attack on the Islamic republic’s nuclear facilities. The missiles have a range of more than 150 kilometres and can intercept jets approaching at low altitudes.

Ruslan Pukhov, director of the Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies in Moscow, said that it was logical to conclude a lucrative contract with Iran “in the current situation, when the US and the West in general are stubbornly gearing toward a confrontation with Russia”.

Russia has already delivered 29 Tor-M1 missile systems under a $700 million deal with Iran in 2005.

[read more]

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The images you are not supposed to see: the wounds of Tskhinvali August 26, 2008

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US and Israel will soon be isolated from the rest of the world August 25, 2008

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Ian Brockwell

At first glance, the title of this article may sound too incredible to imagine and many (in the US and Israel) will dismiss it as pure fantasy. But is it?

In the last couple of weeks we have seen changes taking place that suggest the balance of global power is beginning to move in a different direction.

Despite the “valiant” efforts of the Mainstream Media (mostly controlled by those supportive of the Bush administration and Israel), in trying to “brainwash” their readers into believing that Russia is now the “bad guy” again. It is encouraging to see that their tactics are not working quite as well as they have done in the past, and people are starting to ask questions.

But what has caused this sudden change? This can be answered in two words: Greed and Stupidity!

Once upon a time, America was a great country, it really was the land of opportunity and everyone wanted to go there to make their dreams come true. Many other countries tried to copy their success and developed a more western style. Unfortunately, some time between then and now, America stopped leading by example and decided that it should “force” its lifestyle on others (whether they wanted it or not).

At some point, America abandoned its belief in “freedom and democracy” and became an “enforcer”, a country that bullied others and dictated terms to them, the very thing that the American people have been brought up to despise.

Sadly, this change in tactics has been accepted by many Americans as the “correct” thing to do and some truly believe that America has a right to impose its beliefs on others. However, if the situation was reversed, would American citizens consider this acceptable? We have already seen the reaction of some to the increase in immigrants from Mexico and the growing use of Spanish in the United States. There is also a growing fear that Islam may play a more active part in the religious make-up of the country. How would Americans feel if they were taken over (by force) by one of these groups and told that it was in their best interests? There are many who still haven´t noticed that Israel has more influence over their country than any other group in the USA.

Since Bush was “elected”, Russia has had to listen to his insults (and those of Cheney, Rice and others), but has made every attempt to respond in a diplomatic way. However, there is always a limit to what people can accept and that line has well and truly been crossed now.

Even though the Bush administration have illegally invaded Iraq and Afghanistan, and recently carried out attacks within the sovereign territory of Pakistan (killing many civilians), you do not see reports in the Russian press with headlines like “Russia demand that the US pullout of Iraq” or “The US must be punished for their invasion of Iraq”. Maybe we should, but you don´t. Russia has preferred (at least until recently) to use diplomatic methods (talk) to resolve situations. But how can you “talk” with a country that does not want to listen and seeks your destruction?  [read more]

Russia considers recognising Georgian separatists August 25, 2008

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..more bad news for US and Israel, read on…

MOSCOW (AFP) — Russian lawmakers were set Monday to consider recognising Georgia’s two breakaway regions as independent, a move that would pour fuel on the fire in simmering relations with the West.

Both houses of Russia’s parliament were to convene emergency sessions to examine appeals for recognition from South Ossetia — where fighting this month prompted Russia to send in tanks and troops — and Abkhazia.

Recognition would mean crossing a threshold for Moscow, which has backed the separatists in Abkhazia and South Ossetia since their break with Tbilisi in the early 1990s but stopped short of declaring them independent from Georgia.

The regions are internationally recognised as part of Georgia and a move to declare them independent countries would further dent relations with the West, which have plunged to their lowest point since the end of the Cold War over Russia’s intervention and insistence on maintaining positions deep inside Georgia.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who negotiated on behalf of the European Union the peace plan which ended nearly a week of fighting, on Sunday announced a special European summit on the crisis in Georgia will be held September 1.

The summit in Brussels will discuss the future of relations between the EU and Russia and on aid to Georgia, Sarkozy’s office said.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner had warned that Sarkozy might convene the emergency EU meeting if Russia failed to pull back its forces from positions in the former Soviet republic.  [read more]

Making Money on a New Cold War August 24, 2008

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The Russia-Georgia clash has generated heated anti-Moscow rhetoric from John McCain and U.S. neoconservatives about a new Cold War, a prospect that most people might see in a negative light but which many military contractors surely view as a financial plus.

One unstated reality about revived tensions between Washington and Moscow is that it will mean a bonanza in military spending – billions of additional dollars for anti-missile weapons systems, larger armies, construction of new bases in Eastern Europe, etc.

Indeed, the spending on Cold War II could dwarf what military contractors are now making on the “war on terror” – and the prospect of spending on both conflicts simultaneously should make arms industry executives drool.

Others who stand to profit grandly from a new East-West showdown include tough-talking politicians and their friends in Washington think tanks – like Heritage, AEI and CSIS – that have long fattened up on contributions from the defense industry and related corporations.

There would be losers, too, like taxpayers who would see more of their dollars go to “national security” and less to domestic needs, from repairs to the crumbling infrastructure to the costs of health care, education, the environment and Social Security.

But, in many ways, the exploitation of Cold War fears – to divert money away from domestic needs to the coffers of what Dwight Eisenhower dubbed “the military-industrial complex” – is nothing new.

Arguably, the original Cold War ended under Eisenhower’s former Vice President, Richard Nixon, who as President returned from Moscow in 1972 carrying a strategic agreement that he had reached with what was already a rapidly decaying Soviet Union.

“In Moscow, we witnessed the beginning of the end of that era which began in 1945,” Nixon said. “With this step, we have enhanced the security of both nations. We have begun to reduce the level of fear, by reducing the causes of fear, our two peoples, and for all the peoples of the world.”

Nixon unveiled a new era of realpolitik cooperation between Washington and Moscow that he called “détente.”

However, while reducing fears and lowering tensions might be good news for many people, it wasn’t welcomed by the corporations that profited from the fears and the tensions, nor by the intellectual hired guns who had built lucrative careers in politics, media and academia by exaggerating those fears and exacerbating those tensions.

Sabotaging Détente

So, Nixon’s era of “détente” was short-lived. After his ouster over the Watergate scandal in 1974, a new batch of Cold Warriors – some operating from conviction and others from expediency – returned to the old patterns of hyping threats and stoking paranoia.

In 1975, with President Gerald Ford confronting an internal Republican challenge from Ronald Reagan on the Right, many key figures associated with “détente” were purged, while hard-liners were given key jobs.

The so-called Halloween Massacre saw Henry Kissinger, the chief architect of détente, stripped of his post as national security adviser to be replaced by Gen. Brent Scowcroft; James Schlesinger was out as Defense Secretary while Donald Rumsfeld was in; CIA Director William Colby lost his job to George H.W. Bush; and Dick Cheney was promoted to Ford’s White House chief of staff.

Soon, alarming rumors began spreading around Washington about a new Soviet secret weapon, a nuclear-armed submarine that was undetectable to American technology. These Soviet subs could be lurking off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts ready to launch a nuclear attack without warning, a frightened public was told.  [read more]

Time magazine. One big loser in the Russian-Georgian war was Israel August 22, 2008

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How is it if you stand up to bully like Russia that makes you a loser

TIME MAGAZINE

It is important that the entire world understands that what is happening in Georgia now will affect the entire world order,” Georgian Cabinet Minister Temur Yakobashvili said last weekend. “It’s not just Georgia’s business, but the entire world’s business.” Such sentiments would have been unremarkable but for the fact that Yakobashvili was expressing himself in fluent Hebrew, telling Israeli Army Radio that “Israel should be proud of its military, which trained Georgian soldiers.”

However, the impression that Israel had helped bolster the Georgian military was one the Israeli Foreign Ministry was anxious to avoid. Last Saturday it reportedly recommended a freeze on the further supply of equipment and expertise to Georgia by Israeli defense contractors. (Israel doesn’t supply foreign militaries directly, but its private contractors must get Defense Ministry approval for such deals.) The Israelis decided to refrain from authorizing new defense contracts, although those currently in effect will be fulfilled. Israel stressed that the contracts are to provide equipment for defensive purposes. But if the Israelis were looking to downplay the significance of military ties, they weren’t helped by comments like Yakobashvili’s — or by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s enthusing at a press conference earlier this week that “the Israeli weapons have been very effective.”

Nor did the Russians fail to notice. “Israel armed the Georgian army,” grumbled General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy chief of staff of the Russian military, at a press conference in Moscow earlier this week. An Israeli paper had, last weekend, quoted an unnamed official warning that Israel needed “to be very careful and sensitive these days. The Russians are selling many arms to Iran and Syria, and there is no need to offer them an excuse to sell even more advanced weapons.” As if on cue, on Wednesday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad arrived in Moscow hoping to persuade Russia to sell him sophisticated air-defense systems — and reportedly offering the Russian navy the use of one of its Mediterranean ports. Late on Wednesday, the Israeli Foreign Ministry announced that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev had spoken on the phone to clear the air over the Georgia conflict and Russian arms sales to Syria.

The extent of involvement in Georgia by Israeli defense contractors may be overstated, and most of the equipment used by the Georgian military comes from the U.S. and other suppliers. Still, Israeli companies had been sufficiently involved in supplying specialized equipment and advanced tactical training to the Georgian military that the connection — and Russia’s perception of it — created a ripple of anxiety in Israeli government circles. Israeli officials say that, in anticipation of a showdown between Georgia and Russia, Israel began to scale back the involvement of Israeli companies in Georgia as early as the end of 2007. Georgia’s Yakobashvili charged this week that Israel, “at Russia’s behest,” had downgraded military ties with Georgia, a decision he branded a “disgrace.”

Israel’s weapons sales, just like Russia’s, are driven by the commercial interests of domestic arms industries. Israeli military exports to Georgia are driven more by the logic of business than by a strategic choice to back Tbilisi against Moscow — indeed, the Israeli response since the outbreak of hostilities is a reminder that, on balance, even a relatively cool friendship with Russia may be more important to Israel than a close alliance with tiny Georgia. Despite Israel’s pecuniary imperative, Georgia has used these commercial military ties to press closer ties on Israel.

President Saakashvili has noted that both his minister responsible for negotiations over South Ossetia (Yakobashvili) and his Defense Minister, Davit Kezerashvili, had lived in Israel before moving to post-Soviet Georgia. According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, the Georgian leader this week enthused that in Tbilisi, “both war and peace are in the hands of Israeli Jews.” Working through the Georgian Defense Ministry (and with the approval of its Israeli counterpart), Israeli companies are reported to have supplied the Georgians with pilotless drones, night-vision equipment, anti-aircraft equipment, shells, rockets and various electronic systems. Even more important than equipment may have been the advanced tactical training and consultancy provided, as private contractors, by retired top Israeli generals such as Yisrael Ziv and Gal Hirsch, the man who commanded Israeli ground forces during their disastrous foray into Lebanon in 2006. (Never one to resist an opportunity to mock his enemies, Hizballah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah quipped in a speech this week, “Gal Hirsch, who was defeated in Lebanon, went to Georgia, and they too lost because of him.”) Not necessarily: Russia applied overwhelming force against the tiny Georgian military, which, according to Israeli assessments, still managed to punch above its weight.

The Russians were piqued by Israel’s military trade with Georgia even before the latest outbreak of hostilities — Moscow expressed its annoyance over the pilotless drones supplied by an Israeli company to the Georgians, three of which were downed by Russian aircraft over South Ossetia in recent months. Obviously mindful of the need to avoid provoking Russia, Israel declared off-limits certain weapons systems the Georgians had asked for, such as Merkava tanks and advanced anti-aircraft systems. “We have turned down many requests involving arms sales to Georgia, and the ones that have been approved have been duly scrutinized,” a Defense Ministry official told the Israeli daily Yediot Ahoronot amid concerns raised over a possible fallout from the Israeli ties to the Georgian military. The extent of damage to the Israeli-Russia relationship — if indeed there is any — remains to be seen. Despite General Nogovitsyn’s comments, Israeli officials say they have received no formal complaints from Russia over ties with Georgia.

Israel’s strategic priority now is countering the threat it sees in Iran’s nuclear program, and on that front, Russian cooperation is essential. If the Israelis are to achieve their objective of forcing Iran to end uranium enrichment through diplomatic coercion, they will need Russian support for escalating U.N. sanctions — a course of action for which Russia has thus far shown little enthusiasm. And if Israel were to opt for trying to destroy Tehran’s nuclear facilities through a series of air strikes, then the presence of the sophisticated Russian S-300 missile system in Iran would considerably raise the risk to Israeli pilots. Unfortunately for Israel, however, there may be little it can do to shape Moscow’s Iran policy for the simple reason that Israel is not a major factor in Russia’s strategic outlook. Moscow’s actions on Iran are less likely to be determined by Israel supplying a few drones to Georgia than they are to be shaped, for example, by the deployment over extreme Russian objections of U.S. interceptor missiles on Polish soil.

[source]

Bush Fulfills His Grandfather’s Dream: to install a fascist dictatorship in US August 16, 2008

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It’s remarkably common for a grandson to take up his grandfather’s major project. This occurred to me when I read recently of Thor Heyerdahl’s grandson taking up his mission to cross the Pacific on a raft. But what really struck me was the BBC story aired on July 23rd, 2007, documenting President George W. Bush’s grandfather’s involvement in a 1933 plot to overthrow the U.S. government and install a fascist dictatorship. I knew the story, but had not considered the possibility that the grandson was trying to accomplish what his grandfather had failed to achieve.

Prescott Sheldon Bush (1895 to 1972) attended Yale University and joined the secret society known as Skull and Bones. Prescott is widely reported to have stolen the skull of Native American leader Geronimo. As far as I know, this has not actually been confirmed. In fact, Prescott seems to have had a habit of making things up. He sent letters home from World War I claiming he’d received medals for heroism. After the letters were printed in newspapers, he had to retract his claims.

If this does not yet sound like the life of a George W. Bush ancestor, try this on for size: Prescott Bush’s early business efforts tended to fail. He married the daughter of a very rich man named George Herbert Walker (the guy with the compound at Kennebunkport, Maine, that now belongs to the Bush family, and the origin of Dubya’s middle initial). Walker installed Prescott Bush as an executive in Thyssen and Flick. From then on, Prescott’s business dealings went better, and he entered politics.

Now, the name Thyssen comes from a German named Fritz Thyssen, major financial backer of the rise of Adolph Hitler. Thyssen was referred to in the New York Herald-Tribune as “Hitler’s Angel.” During the 1930s and early 1940s, and even as late as 1951, Prescott Bush was involved in business dealings with Thyssen, and was inevitably aware of both Thyssen’s political activities and the fact that the companies involved were financially benefiting the nation of Germany. In addition, the companies Prescott Bush profited from included one engaged in mining operations in Poland using slave labor from Auschwitz. Two former slave laborers have sued the U.S. government and the heirs of Prescott Bush for $40 billion.

Until the United States entered World War II it was legal for Americans to do business with Germany, but in late 1942 Prescott Bush’s businesses interests were seized under the Trading with the Enemy Act. Among those businesses involved was the Hamburg America Lines, for which Prescott Bush served as a manager. A Congressional committee, in a report called the McCormack-Dickstein Report, found that Hamburg America Lines had offered free passage to Germany for journalists willing to write favorably about the Nazis, and had brought Nazi sympathizers to America. (Is this starting to remind anyone of our current president’s relationship to the freedom of the press?)

The McCormack-Dickstein Committee was established to investigate a homegrown American fascist plot hatched in 1933. Here’s how the BBC promoted its recent story:

“Document uncovers details of a planned coup in the USA in 1933 by right-wing American businessmen. The coup was aimed at toppling President Franklin D Roosevelt with the help of half-a-million war veterans. The plotters, who were alleged to involve some of the most famous families in America, (owners of Heinz, Birds Eye, Goodtea, Maxwell Hse & George Bush´s Grandfather, Prescott) believed that their country should adopt the policies of Hitler and Mussolini to beat the great depression. Mike Thomson investigates why so little is known about this biggest ever peacetime threat to American democracy.”

Actually, if you listen to the 30-minute BBC story, there is not one word of so much as speculation as to why this story is so little known. I think a clue to the answer can be found by looking into why this BBC report has not led to any U.S. media outlets picking up the story this week.

The BBC report provides a good account of the basic story. Some of the wealthiest men in America approached Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler, beloved of many World War I veterans, many of them embittered by the government’s treatment of them. Prescott Bush’s group asked Butler to lead 500,000 veterans in a take-over of Washington and the White House. Butler refused and recounted the affair to the congressional committee. His account was corroborated in part by a number of witnesses, and the committee concluded that the plot was real. But the names of wealthy backers of the plot were blacked out in the committee’s records, and nobody was prosecuted. According to the BBC, President Roosevelt cut a deal. He refrained from prosecuting some of the wealthiest men in America for treason. They agreed to end Wall Street’s opposition to the New Deal. [read more]