TBR News February 6, 2011

Feb 06 2011

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. February 6, 2011: “The so-called Stuxnet virus that wreaked so much havoc in Iran recently, was put together in a CIA front lab located in Vancouver, B.C. We have recently received a set of interesting photos and papers on the subject which could well find their way into the public view quite shortly. Also, I think it is obvious that a blanket of official silence has fallen over Julian’s WikiLeaks. After several very obvious attempts on the part of our outraged administration to grab him physically, the new program is to officially ignore him. Of course, this silence extends to the very obedient media as well. But Julian has some interesting material that is slated for pubication and, as Hitler said in 1940, “Beruhigt euch, er kommt!” When an empire starts into a period of decline, one notes that the secret police always seem to grow in size and mission. That mission is to control the public and prevent internal revolts. It is interesting and often fascinating to not how history always repeats itself. Of course people rarely learn from the past, either.”

Is WikiLeaks hi-tech terrorism or hype? Washington can’t decide

How embarrassed government officials and US intelligence agencies have reacted to the US embassy cables

February 5, 2011

by Chris McGreal in Washington

The Guardian,

US officialdom could not quite make up its collective mind. The exposé of years of diplomatic cables was either such a grave threat to national security, endangering lives and rocking the very workings of government, that WikiLeaks was akin to a terrorist organisation. Or the information laid bare was old news and the whole exercise little more than journalistic hype.

As it turned out, the release of years of US diplomatic memos did indeed shake the state department, military and US intelligence services – forcing a diplomatic blitz to reassure foreign governments, a wholesale rethink of intelligence sharing within the vast American bureaucracy, and embarrassed apologies to sources across the world.

The initial release of the cables drew a barrage of attacks in the US against WikiLeaks, its founder Julian Assange and the alleged leaker, a young American soldier, Bradley Manning. WikiLeaks was compared to al-Qaida. The military, FBI and justice department deployed a phalanx of lawyers to find ways to put Assange on trial. Members of Congress said Manning should be executed as a traitor.

Joe Biden, the vice-president, likened Assange to a “hi-tech terrorist”. Sarah Palin demanded he be hunted down like Osama bin Laden, seeming to imply he should even be killed. Visa, MasterCard and PayPal, under political pressure, stopped doing business with WikiLeaks. The state department spokesman, PJ Crowley, said that “hundreds of people have been put at potential risk” by the leaks.

But then the defence secretary, Robert Gates, said the publication of the cables was nothing to get too excited about.

“I’ve heard the impact of these releases on our foreign policy described as a meltdown, as a game-changer, and so on. I  think those descriptions are fairly significantly overwrought. The fact is, governments deal with the United States because it’s in their interest, not because they like us, not because they trust us, and not because they believe we can keep secrets. Other nations will continue to deal with us. They will continue to work with us. We will continue to share sensitive information with one another‚” he said.

But the consequences were, nonetheless, deeply embarrassing for the Americans on many fronts. Even before the first cables were published, US diplomats were scrambling to contain the damage from the exposure of damning political and personal assessments of foreign politicians to the revealing of confidential sources.

Carne Ross, a former British diplomat who now heads a consultancy called Independent Diplomat, said: “American diplomats worldwide have been required to go in and apologise to their diplomatic partners. People I’ve talked to have said they will be more circumspect in talking to American diplomats in future. I met a Singaporean ambassador who said that to me the other day.”

A state department official said that in meetings with foreign politicians and analysts, some American diplomats were told not to bring notebooks any more and assurances were sought that no names would appear in the cables.

“There are cases where individual relationships have been ruptured. There are people named in the cables who had no idea that their names would appear on paper and they are upset about it,” said a state department official who wished to remain anonymous.

The disclosure that the state department was not only spying on UN diplomats but was attempting to collect their DNA, bank account numbers and computer passwords has proved particularly awkward. But the state department official said there had also been astonishment that the cables could have been, as the government alleges, read and downloaded by a private soldier sitting in Baghdad.

“One of the things we have had to deal with is explaining to foreign officials how it is that their conversations, sometimes very critical insights into the position of their own governments, could be read by a private soldier sitting in Baghdad. I find it hard to explain to myself,” the state department official said.

The WikiLeaks cables have forced the US government to reassess the policies it put in place after the 9/11 Commission. Following that investigation into the attacks on 11 September 2001, the directive went out that there must be a much greater sharing of intelligence between rival agencies, such as the CIA and FBI. This led to the pooling of a large chunk of secret military and diplomatic information (although the CIA steadfastly limited its participation). Now Washington is rowing back on that.

“There had been a real attempt to reduce barriers to access throughout the government, but WikiLeaks has brought that era to an end,” said Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists.

Congressman Peter Hoekstra, a member of the House of Representatives intelligence committee, said that the post-9/11 push to share intelligence information went too far. “What we did is we created an environment that enabled this stuff to be stolen by putting it all in one place,” he told the Politico website. “You have to ask yourself a question, ‘Why would a private first class, sitting in Baghdad, have access to this kind of information?'”

Manning is alleged to have pulled at least some of the information obtained by WikiLeaks from a web of defence and state department computers known as the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (Siprnet), which an estimated 500,000 people, from high-level diplomats and homeland security officials to national guard officers and battle zone privates, had access to. The state department has now pulled its diplomatic traffic from Siprnet and its use is more closely monitored, including the introduction of measures to tell if users are downloading information on to external drives.

The Pentagon, too, has ordered a disabling on all of its computers of the ability to copy data to memory sticks, CDs and other removable storage devices. It also restricted the ability to move classified information to computers meant solely to handle unclassified material.

In early January, the White House sent out a memo requiring all government agencies to address “any perceived vulnerabilities, weaknesses, or gaps in automated systems in the post-WikiLeaks environment”. Among other things, government agencies were asked to keep an eye out for workers doing “post-employment” visits to leaker sites, although it does not explain how they are supposed to do this and stay within the law. However, in a sign that there is still some way to go, the document was itself promptly leaked.

The Pentagon set in place new procedures to effectively spy on its staff and their use of computers. And although the CIA concluded that the documents contained little that was directly about or embarrassing to the agency, shortly before Christmas it set up a taskforce of more than two dozen officials at its headquarters in Virginia to assess the impact of the leak.

Officially called the WikiLeaks Task Force, around the CIA’s headquarters it was irreverently known by its apt acronym: WTF.

Among other things, the taskforce is looking at whether the appearance of informants’ names in the leaked documents will hinder the agency’s ability to recruit foreign spies. The CIA says there have been intelligence consequences from the leaks, but won’t discuss them.

While dire warnings poured forth from American officialdom, the government moved to prevent its own staff from reading what was available to the rest of the world at the click of a mouse.

The White House sent a memo forbidding federal government employees and contractors from looking at the leaked documents. The Library of Congress blocked access on its computers. The US air force went further and stopped its computers from accessing the Guardian, New York Times and other websites that published the WikiLeaks documents.

The state department even went so far as to warn universities to tell their students that discussing or distributing the documents could jeopardise their chances of working for the US government because it would call into question their “ability to deal with confidential information”.

Yet the noise around the leaks obscured the content of the cables to many in America – even some of those that had the potential to do the most political damage, such as the revelations that laid bare Pakistani intelligence support for the Taliban in fighting US forces, and the extent of corruption in the Afghan government.

“I think the American reaction has been odd and it’s been partly coloured by the furore over WikiLeaks itself,” said Ross. “Everybody’s got an opinion about WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, but remarkably few people seem to be reading the cables.”

Our favourite diplomats

The US diplomat William Burns could have been a prizewinning New York Times writer or novelist. Everyone likes Burns’s vivid and impressionistic dispatch from a wedding in Dagestan, but more astonishing still is his 7,500-word cable on the war in Chechnya: a brilliant and passionate piece of analysis on one of the world’s darkest conflicts. Russia is a land of rumour, misinformation, and outright lies. But with Burns – who was ambassador there from 2005 to 2008 – you feel you get the truth, or at least as close as we will ever get to it, written in sharp, crystalline prose. This career diplomat, who served briefly as acting US secretary of state before Hillary Clinton was sworn in, is now the highest-ranking diplomat in the US foreign service and the under-secretary of state for political affairs.

Anne Patterson , the US ambassador in Pakistan, was quietly shuffled out of her post in October, just weeks before the US embassy cables leak. Her departure does not seem to be a coincidence: in a series of classified dispatches back to Washington she accused Pakistan’s government of supporting militants, including the Taliban in Afghanistan, largely because of Pakistan’s fear of India. Despite the US having given more than £10bn worth of aid to Islamabad since 2001, the regime still regards New Delhi – and not homegrown jihadi extremists – as its principal strategic threat, she wrote.

Now labouring under the title of principal deputy co-ordinator for counter-terrorism, Robert Godec was the US ambassador to Tunisia from 2006 to 2009. His frank cables portrayed the Tunisian government as corrupt and sclerotic, “with little freedom of expression or association, and serious human rights problems”. In one cable he detailed a dinner at the home of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali’s son-in-law, who seemed to regard himself as a man of the people despite keeping a tiger as a pet and having his ice-cream flown in from St Tropez (which, for the ambassador, must make a nice change from Ferrero Rocher).

Still serving as American ambassador to the Kyrgyz Republic, Tatiana Gfoeller had the misfortune to attend a dire-sounding brunch with Prince Andrew, which dragged on twice as long as it was supposed to while the prince indulged in jingoistic claptrap, railed against the “idiocy” of anti-corruption investigations into the al-Yamamah arms deal, and criticised “those [expletive] journalists from the National [sic] Guardian, who poke their noses everywhere”. The other guests – mostly British businessmen with interests in the region – clapped and cheered. In her subsequent cable, Gfoeller seemed slightly mystified by proceedings. She speaks six languages fluently, but Idiot clearly isn’t one of them.

There are many hardship postings. But it is clear from the anguished dispatches of Ron McMullen – the US ambassador in Eritrea – that he sees himself as the state department’s most unlucky diplomat. A cable from March 2009 begins: “Young Eritreans are fleeing their country in droves, the economy appears to be in a death spiral, Eritrea’s prisons are overflowing, and the country’s unhinged dictator remains cruel and defiant.”

Letters to the Editor

Date: Fri, 4 Feb 2011 09:18:37 -0800
From: captaindragonfarstar@yahoo.com
Subject: The Egyptian Drama; A Different Perspective….

We’ve all been watching the drama in Egypt, and we’ve read all sorts of opinion pieces written by those who position themselves as unofficial explainers. No matter where you look on the political spectrum you will find someone, or several someones, with knowledge and insight on how things are and what this means for the future. They, all of them, say just what is expected of them. From the far, far left to the far, far right, what they have said is very predictable.

Let’s you and I step back and take a broad overview. The manufactured celebrity writers are bound by the limits of their Reality Box. Maybe there’s more here than meets the eye.

The left and the right all factor in Israel’s response to the drama, and speculate on the effect it has or will have on Israel. As if! As if the effect on Israel was the center of the universe and all the other states in the Middle East were to be regarded as secondary players. There has been much more said about the effect on Israel than has been said about the effect on Egypt. Sad, but true. And that’s why you and I are going to take a look from a different perspective. All the writers and newscasters have focused on the current situation. What is the First Cause? Why Egypt, and why now?

Spontaneous uprising? When it is over it may be sold as such. But odds are that it was not. Even the American Revolution was not a “spontaneous uprising” and for sure the majority of the people did not participate in it. You see a revolution anywhere in the world, first thought is the CIA. Even here in America, with the coup d’etat in 1963, it was the CIA. So let’s go with that one.

The CIA is the action arm. But who gave the order? That we may never know, but we can maybe understand the “why” of it if we step into the Wayback Machine and look at Israel. Israel, and the Egyptian drama’s effect on Israel, is the subject of much discussion and speculation. That’s a clue.

I read many years ago that Israel was set up to fall. Not fail. Fall. As in be taken down. The Zionists who created the state, the top of the Zionist food chain, they weren’t really sympathetic to the jewish people at all. They had a larger objective; world domination. Israel had a part to play in their scheme. Took ’em two world wars, but they got it done. And so it was that ever since Harry Truman recognized Israel as a state, the US has supported and protected them. We all know of the jewish influence on affairs American, so we don’t need to review that subject.

So the money flowed to Israel and some of it came back to the states in the form of influence purchased. The arms dealers made tons of money selling weapons to terrified Arab states. It was a great system for lobbyists, Israel, the oil companies, and the arms manufacturers. Worked just fine right up until the day that it wouldn’t work any more.

Peek out the window of the Wayback Machine and you’ll see Israel demanding that we bomb Iran. This was five or so years ago. Either George W. wouldn’t or was not allowed to, but either way, it didn’t happen. We can review the practical reasons for that later.

Fast forward the Wayback Machine to the Gaza massacre. It stunned the world. And the attack on the relief vessels pulled Israel’s image way, way, down. They had finally gone too far. The world had had enough.

Fast forward the Wayback Machine again, and we’re at June of 2009. The Bilderbergers had a meeting. In Israel! This is what I wrote about it back then:

“There will be a Bilderberger meeting on the 12th. In Israel. In Mafia parlance, it’s the Commission. And they’re coming to the local Godfather’s home base to get the message across. The message?

The party’s over, Israel. Sit down. Shut up. Take orders.”

They almost did. Netanyahu even went so far as to endorse a Palestinian state and a pull-back to pre-1967 borders.

He just couldn’t bring himself to pull it off. It’s been nearly two years now, and Israel has not done as they were told.

Follow me so far? One more thing to know. Zbigniew B. has never been a supporter of Israel. He has always worked to put the US at war with Russia. For some reason he hates Russia. Zbig is Big O’s advisor. ‘Nuff said.

If it is as I once read that Israel was created to be destroyed, then perhaps someone has decided that the time has come for that to happen. Israel’s stature among nations of the world has taken a beating last two or three years. Russia has endorsed a Palestinian state. Venezuela has already recognized it as one. There have been other setbacks.

There is no doubt that Mubarak is president because the CIA made it happen. Mubarak has kept Egypt at peace with Israel for all these years. The US has no doubt paid a helluva price for that, and so has the rest of the Middle East. With a new regime in Egypt, the whole Middle East political situation may change. Israel will be politically isolated.

The original Zionist plan was probably for Israel to be destroyed by war. That plan was laid long ago. No one back then dreamed of missiles that would make surface ships obsolete. No one back then dreamed that the world would be going through a transformation, an uptick in vibration, that would make war as we’ve always known it obsolete.

My over-the-event-horizon radar says that this is the beginning of the end of Israel’s influence in world affairs. A Palestinian state is coming. The Arab people will have a voice in their own affairs. The end of brutal dictatorships that keep the population suppressed so as to prevent a revolt against Israel? Looks that way to me. I don’t see an Arab war against Israel. I do see Israel falling apart from internal stress once the US cuts their life support. Maybe the Israeli people will do what the Tunisian people did, and the Egyptian people are now doing. Maybe they’ll get rid of their corrupt leaders, too. Won’t happen this week, but it’s a definite maybe.

To summarize, the Commission came down hard on the Godfather. The Godfather told ’em where to stuff it. You don’t mess with the Commission. So now the Commission, known in polite society as the Bilderbergers, has decided that Israel is a drag on finance and execution of policy. Israel is being taken down, and it looks Oh! so natural.

That’s the way I see it from here. I’m not passing this along with the pretension that it is anything more than the product of a mind free to roam.

Comments? Questions? Open for discussion.



You have forgotten Hezbollah.

They now have, from the Russians via Syria, long-range surface-to-surface missiles that can reach any part of Israel. The Israelis know this and have been demanding that the U.S. carpet bomb southern Lebanon to destroy this obvious menace on their doorstep.

The Bush people did not want to go that far so it did not come off. Now, Israel sends out daily intelligence drones at a high altitude to watch the areas where missiles could be launched from.

Their problem is that the launching devices are not permanent and can be set up very quickly. By the time this is done, on some farmyard, and the missile loaded and fired, the drone is elsewhere. Even if it were right overhead, by the time the information reached the military countermeasure units, the launchers would be long gone. An air strike might destroy the farm, a dozen goats and the tubular metal launching devices but not much else. And these are not tiny missiles.

I have the gen on these but not the time to send it on. Trust me when I say that Hezbollah could do terrible damage in built-up Tel Aviv.

If Egypt has a change of government, as now seems very likely, no one knows just who will then run the show but believe it that Muslim militants would quickly move into position for a take-over. In that case, Gaza would no longer be isolated and trade and security can open up on the current closed border.

The U.S. Army has been monitoring radio, telephone and internet traffic between Israeli government units now in place in Washington plus they have informants inside the pro-Israel CIA at Langley (and elsewhere in the area)

From a friend in the Pentagon, I get nice overviews of the frenzied flood of pleas and demands. I always said Israel would go too far and now she will reap the rewards of decades of brutal arrogance.

Will Hezbollah attack? For a certainty, but only when they are ready and as part of a concerted program, not merely as random acts of vengeance.

I don’t know all the details of this but someone I am in constant contact with certainly does. The Bilderburgers have nothing at all to do with this but the destruction you speak of is moving closer and closer to fulfillment.

Why the US fears Arab democracy

February 5, 2011
by Pepe Escobar

Asia Times

Condoleeza, Condoleeza
Get him a visa

– Chant heard on Tahrir Square

Anybody believing that Washington’s “orderly transition” led by Vice President Omar Suleiman (aka Sheikh al-Torture, according to protesters and human-rights activists) could satisfy Egyptian popular will believes Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin could have gotten away with a facelift.

The young, urban masses in Egypt fighting for bread, freedom, democracy, Internet, jobs and a decent future – as well as their counterparts across the Arab world, two-thirds of the overall population – see right through it.

Real “change we can believe in” (the Egyptian version) means not only getting rid of the dictator of 30 years but of his torturer-in-chief, who happens to be so far a key interlocutor of Washington, Tel Aviv and European capitals, and a key exponent of a regime rotten to the core, dependent on pitiless exploitation of its own citizens, and receiver of US aid to pursue agendas virtually no one would vote for in the Arab world.

“Orderly transition” may also be regarded as a ghastly euphemism for sitting on the fence – way distinct from an explicit call for democracy. The White House has morphed into a succession of white pretzels trying to salvage the concept. But the fact is that as much as Pharaoh Mubarak is a slave to US foreign policy, US President Barack Obama is boxed in by geopolitical imperatives and enormous corporate interests he cannot even dream of upsetting.

A crash course on ‘stability’

To cut to the chase; it’s all about oil and Israel. That’s the essence of Washington’s foreign policy for the past six decades as far as the Middle East, Arabs and the Muslim world at large are concerned. This has implied coddling an array of dictators and assorted autocracies, and sprinkling their countries with military bases. A crucial example – the story on how the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) brought down democracy in Iran in 1953. [1] Geostrategically, the code word for this state of things is “stability”.

Egypt plays out a very special strategic role. This is how Obama himself spelled out the strategic value of Hosni Mubarak and his regime when he went to Cairo in June 2009 to deliver his freedom message to the Arab world; “He has been a stalwart ally in many respects to the United States. He has sustained peace with Israel which is a very difficult thing to do in that region.”

So as one of the pillars of the “cold peace” with Israel, Egypt is a paradigm. It’s a bipartisan phenomenon, in US terms; Republicans and Democrats see it the same way. There’s the Suez Canal, through which flows 1.8 million barrels of crude a day. But “partner with Israel” in the 1979 Camp David accords is what explains all the billions of dollars showered on the Egyptian military and the three decades of unconditional support to the corrupt Mubarak military dictatorship (and make no mistake, the US implication in that vast shop of horrors is all documented in the vaults of the regime). On a parallel track, “stability” also translates as a lousy quality of life for virtually the totality of Egyptians; democratic rights of local populations are always secondary to geostrategic considerations.

The dominant geostrategic status quo in the Middle East, that is that is the Washington/Tel Aviv axis, has hypnotized Western public opinion to accept the myth that Arab democracy = Islamic fundamentalism, disregarding how all attempts of popular rebellion in the Arab world over the past decades have been squashed. The Israeli government goes beyond this equation; for Tel Aviv it’s Islamic fundamentalism = terrorism, ergo, Arab democracy = terrorism. Under this framework, Mubarakism is an essential ally more than ever.

It’s me or chaos

Yet the fact that former president Anwar Sadat made a deal with Israel in 1979 in exchange of precious gifts from the US – a system perpetuated under Mubarak – does not mean that Egypt and Israel engage in French-kissing.

Take for example Egyptian state TV insistently spreading the blatant lie of Israeli spies in the streets of Cairo disguised as Western journalists; that led to concerted, terrifying attacks not only on foreign journalists but on Egyptians working with them. And, believe it or not, Mubarakism had the gall to include the Israeli Mossad, along with the US, plus Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas as co-participants in a huge conspiracy to overthrow it.

This happens while in fact it was the Jihad Amn-Ad-Dawlah (“The Security of the State Apparatus”) – the most sinister of the state security agencies, a counter-terrorism unit with extremely close ties with the CIA, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Mossad – that unleashed its goon squads over the protesters and foreign media alike, funded by the billionaire cronies of Mubarak’s son Gamal (who has not fled to London after all).

To add to the perversity, Mubarak then says he’s “fed up” and wants to quit but can’t because otherwise there will be chaos – the chaos the regime’s own goons provoked; meanwhile his number two, Suleiman, blames the Muslim Brotherhood for the “riots”.

As much as the revolution threatens the political survival of an entire ruling class in Egypt – including the current military junta of Suleiman, Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, Defense Minister Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi and Lieutenant General Sami Annan, chief of staff of the army – the new young actors, because they are an expression of local communities, are not manipulated by foreign powers. These are new, more autonomous, more unpredictable, more self-respecting actors. Another factor to scare the US “stability” myth.

What’s most extraordinary is that as these new actors emerging in the Maghreb, Mashrek and Middle East directly collide with the Israeli obsession in keeping the extremely unbalanced status quo (which includes the genocide in slow motion of Palestine), they provoke a major strategic clash between US interests and Israel.

The Obama administration had understood that the absolutely crucial issue to be solved was the Palestinian tragedy. Now the administration is absolutely helpless to deal with an Israel under the acute paranoia of being encircled by “hostile” forces; Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, an ever more assertive mildly Islamist Turkey, a “nuclear” Iran, an Egypt dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood …

Truth will set you free – maybe

“But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed, confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice, government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people, the freedom to live as you choose. These are not just American ideas. They are human rights. And that is why we will support them everywhere.”

This was Obama in Cairo in 2009. Is America really supporting these rights now that Egyptians are willing to die for them?

As much as Obama went to Cairo to “sell” the case for democracy (and one may say he’s succeeded), one may bet that the Washington establishment will do all it can to try to “damage control” really democratic elections in Egypt. The financial markets and Machiavellian politicians (and we’re not even considering rabid rightwingers) are almost praying for the Brotherhood to become an alternative reality so they can finally legitimate the concept of an Egyptian military dictatorship forever.

It escapes them that the real actors in Egypt, the urban, middle class masses – the people peacefully protesting in Tahrir square – know very well that fundamentalist Islam is not the solution.

The two top mass organizations in Egypt are the Brotherhood and the Christian Coptic church – both persecuted by the Mubarak regime. But it’s new movements that will be crucial in the future, such as the young labor activists of April 6, associations of white and blue collar workers, as well as the New Wafd Party, a revival of the party that dominated Egypt from the 1920s to the 1950s, when the country had real parliamentary elections and real prime ministers.

The Brotherhood hardly would get more than 30% of the votes in a free and fair election (and they are firm believers in parliamentary democracy). They are not hegemonic, and definitely not the face of the new Egypt. In fact there’s a strong possibility they would evolve to become similar to the AKP (Justice and Development Party) in Turkey. Moreover, according to a recent Pew poll, 59% of Egyptians want parliamentary democracy, and 60% are against religious extremism.

Egypt essentially makes money out of tourism, tolls in the Suez Canal, manufacture and agricultural exports, and aid (mostly military) such as the annual $1.5 billion from the US. It badly needs to import grain (the reason behind increasing food prices, one of the key reasons for the protests). All of this spells out a dependency on the outside world. The Egyptian souq (the bazaar), with a large Coptic Christian community, totally depends on foreign tourists.

It’s fair to imagine a really representative, democratic government in Egypt would inevitably open the Gaza border and de facto liberate hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. And that those Palestinians, fully supported by their neighbors in Egypt, Lebanon and Syria in the fight for their legitimate rights, would turn the “stability” of the region upside down.

So it boils down to the same old song. For bipartisan Washington, there are “good” democracies (those that keep serving US strategic interests) and “bad” democracies which vote “wrong” (such as in Gaza, or in a future Egypt, against US interests).

This is the dirty secret of the “orderly transition” in Egypt – which implies Washington only meekly condemning the bloody Mubarakism wave of repression of protesters and international media. That’s considered OK – as long as the military dictatorship remains in place and the glacial status quo is maintained. Moreover, sacrosanct Israel came out swinging praising Mubarak; this also means Tel Aviv will do everything to “veto” Mohamed ElBaradei as an opposition leader.

You’re talking to me?

Washington after all bought Egypt and its army. Suleiman works for Washington, not Cairo. That’s another meaning of “stability”.

Washington never really cared about Egypt’s martial law, the crushing of labor demands, the human rights abuses, not to mention the high unemployment among the young, and college graduates barely surviving under a mega-corrupted system. Over the years, “stability” literally killed a Nile of labor activists, young idealists, human rights workers and progressive democrats.

In a sane world – and if Obama had the will – the White House would back people power unconditionally. One can imagine, in terms of improving the US’s image, what a roaring success that would be.

For starters, it would instantly erase the perception in the Arab street that Mubarak’s Frankenstein response – totally ignoring Obama – shows how the dictator believes he can get away with it. One more instance of US irrelevance in the Middle East – the tail wagging the dog.

Shameless self-aggrandizing Mubarak must have thought; if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can publicly humiliate Obama, why not me?

The Arab street is very much aware how the Mubarak system was bribed to send natural gas to Israel at ridiculous prices; how it enforces the blockade against civilians in Gaza; and how, bribed by the US, it acts as Israel’s bouncer. Netanyahu stealing Palestinian land or starving Gaza to death, and Mubarak using billions in US military aid to crush people power – this is all seen by the Arab street as supported by Washington. And then clueless US rightwingers carp on “why do they hate us”.

Obama saying to Mubarak “now” means “now” – and meaning not only himself but the whole gang in uniform – would alienate the hyper-powerful Zio-con lobby. Not such a bad deal, considering that after all the oil is in Arab lands, which double as the crux of Middle East politics. But that won’t happen. “Orderly transition”? Beware of what you wish for.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com.

Battle lines begin to take shape
February 5, 2011

by Victor Kotsev

Asia Times

Just a couple of days ago, a chorus of analysts – including this one – concluded that Hosni Mubarak was finished. The overall prediction still stands: his regime will never be the same again, and in all likelihood, it is just a matter of time before he goes. [1] However, for now, the Egyptian president, aged 83, seems intent on holding onto power, despite all odds.

“After 62 years in public service, I have had enough. I want to go … [But] if I resign today, there will be chaos,” he said on Thursday evening in an interview with ABC. As for United States President Barack Obama’s pressure on him, he claimed that he had told Obama personally: “You don’t understand the Egyptian culture and what would happen if I stepped down now.”

Meanwhile, at least 10 people died and hundreds were wounded on Thursday in violent clashes that started the previous day between anti-government protesters calling for the president’s resignation and Mubarak supporters.

According to numerous reports, rocks, sticks and improvised fire bombs became the weapons of choice, and even automatic gunfire rang sporadically. The army moved in briefly to separate the two groups and to push the pro-Mubarak group off a strategic bridge, but subsequently switched into a more passive role, in line with its behavior since Tuesday’s speech by Mubarak in which he vowed not to run for re-election in September.

The leaders of the opposition, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mohamed ElBaradei and representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood, further entrenched the stand-off by refusing to negotiate with Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, and by insisting that Mubarak should first quit.

The protesters declared Tahrir (Liberation) Square in Cairo “an autonomous republic of the Egyptian people” outside government control. They largely blamed the violence on the regime and claimed they had recovered police and ruling party identification documents from a number of captured attackers.

“Several people interviewed independently said that ruling party operatives had offered them 50 Egyptian pounds, less than $10, if they agreed to demonstrate in the square on Mr Mubarak’s behalf,” The New York Times reported, adding that the pro-Mubarak demonstrations seemed carefully orchestrated.

Also on Thursday, a number of foreign journalists were arrested by the police or harassed by the government supporters, in what many interpreted as an attempt to suppress media coverage.

The Egyptian president and his government attempted to distance themselves from the violence. “I was very unhappy about yesterday. I do not want to see Egyptians fighting each other,” Mubarak told ABC. Shafiq, claimed that “there is no excuse to attack peaceful protesters”, and, in a very unusual move, apologized publicly. Vice President General Omar Suleiman blamed the violence on a “conspiracy” and promised a thorough investigation.

Thus, two separate narratives continue to battle out in parallel with the physical battles. According to one, backed by the opposition and a number of foreign media, Mubarak is simply lying. He is hell-bent on staying in power, at any price. If that means instigating chaos and throwing away human lives to justify a crackdown, so be it. For this purpose, he has hired thugs and sent in plain-clothes policemen.

In this scenario, Mubarak is probably betting on the chance that his public concessions – and likely secret understandings with key military figures – have shielded him from a military coup. Courting the army’s loyalty is also a major explanation for the cabinet reshuffle last week, from which military generals emerged in central roles.

As for American pressure, once Obama threw his weight behind the protesters, he lost most of his leverage with Mubarak. Moreover, it is extremely unlikely that the Americans will cut off aid to Egypt, despite their threats to do so. If that happens, it would mean a major loss of leverage with the Egyptian army, and this could be fatal for American interests in the region. Knowing this, the Egyptian president probably feels that he has little left to lose and that this is as opportune a moment as any for a last desperate attempt to stay in power.

The second narrative belongs to the government and the state-owned media. It relies more heavily on pathos and portrays Mubarak as a caring and popular leader facing an unruly mob of ingrates instigated from abroad. It emphasizes the chaos and looting that took place, blames it on the opposition, and claims that only the current regime can ensure the rule of law.

There is solid evidence in support of large parts of the first narrative, but we must look for nuances. It is almost clear that the crisis has deepened divisions inside the regime. Once his grip on power was loosened by the demonstrations, it became doubtful whether Mubarak could control all his former supporters. Many of them have an agenda and fears of their own. According to an insightful analysis by Simon Allison (see Let them eat bread, Asia Times Online, February 2:

There is an understandable tendency to personify the government, to blame Mubarak himself for all that’s gone wrong. But Mubarak does not operate alone; hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Egyptians are directly implicated in his regime. From the security chiefs, the cabinet and the members of parliament to civil service bureaucrats, businessmen, local government heads, police officers and informers, a large chunk of the population stands to lose everything if Mubarak is comprehensively overthrown. With him would go the source of all their power, be it great or petty.

These people, or at least some of them, are likely to react with force and independently of the top leaders, as has happened time and again during popular uprisings against entrenched authoritarian regimes, for example in Eastern Europe.

An especially important division to pay attention to is that between the police and the army. The real power base of Mubarak and his ruling party is – or until recently used to be – the police, while the army was always more of a symbol of national unity. Mubarak’s decision to represent the army heavily, almost exclusively, in his new government last week unnerved the police.

It is quite conceivable that some of them decided to act on their own and to escalate the crisis to demonstrate that they cannot be disregarded. Another motivation could have been to try to draw the army into the violence, thus eroding the latter’s popular standing. The president probably anticipated these actions, and certainly took advantage of them (to claim that he is necessary to prevent the chaos), but he did not necessarily order them and cannot necessarily control them.

However, it was not the police alone that went out to demonstrate. Entire neighborhoods in Cairo, for example Zamalek and Mohandiseen, sympathize with the regime. According to a report by the Israeli daily newspaper Ha’aretz, “The large majority [of 20,000 government supporters demonstrating in Mohandiseen on Wednesday] were middle-class families, some of whom said Mubarak’s concessions were enough and that they feared continued instability and shortages of food and other supplies if protests continue.” The unity between protesters from all levels of society that characterized the initial demonstrations seems to have faded significantly.

The army holds the key to the future, especially in the near term. There are reports of massive American pressure on it to force Mubarak out (something that raises substantial questions about the exact extent of American involvement in the protests). Despite the president’s best efforts to counter that pressure, the possibility remains that what happened to Tunisia’s president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali will happen also to him. A lot will probably depend on the extent of police involvement in the violence, on whether Mubarak is implicated in it, and on how much exactly the military leaders were unsettled by it.

If the army does not stage a coup against him, however, this will give him some breathing space. “Mubarak seems to be playing a long game – entrenching and stretching out the standoff, keeping the country disrupted while blaming the protesters for the disruption,” writes Ahsraf Khalil for Foreign Policy. “In the coming days, he can count on his still formidable media machine to paint him as a beloved father figure whose efforts are unappreciated and who deserves, at least, to leave the stage with dignity.”

We should not underestimate the power of symbols in Arab culture – nor the powerful symbolism of the father figure, an image that Mubarak, similarly to many other authoritarian leaders, has sought to cultivate during the 30 years of his reign. Even the circumstance of his old age plays to his benefit in stirring popular sentiments.

The images of protesters hanging effigies of the president offended the sensitivities of many – including in the army, which since Tuesday has been calling on the demonstrators to go home. Such disrespect toward the president is in some ways seen as disrespect toward national honor, in a part of the world where honor is often more important than lives.

Beyond Egypt, the region continues to be restive as well. On Wednesday, Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in the face of popular protests, promised that neither he nor his son would contend for the post in next election. In Syria, opposition groups have planned a “day of rage” on Friday (seeking to emulate the Egyptian “day of rage” last Friday that turned the tide against Mubarak).

Earlier, Jordan also saw a number of protests, but even though the ethnic divisions in the country threaten its long-term stability, for now the regime does not seem to be in danger. On Tuesday, Jordan’s King Abdullah II caved in to the protests and sacked the government of former prime minister Samir Rifai, appointing in his place a widely respected retired general, Marouf Bakhit. The measure seems to be working so far: on Thursday, Jordanian news agency Ammon News showed pictures of the king socializing jovially with representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic Action Front during a discussion of the political and social situation.

According to an analyst who prefers to stay anonymous, the wave of mass protests will impact Arab dictatorships much more powerfully than Arab monarchies. Arab monarchies such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia are more stable and resilient in the face of popular unrest, and are specifically less susceptible to subversion by Islamist forces.

This is because they are firmly rooted in a long religious, cultural and political tradition. It helps that most of their rulers claim some form of descent from the Prophet Mohammad – Jordan’s current king, for example, claims to be the Prophet’s 43rd direct descendent. In the Muslim world, such a genealogy matters.

Victor Kotsev is a journalist and political analyst based in Tel Aviv.

Cairo protesters hold firm

US envoy says Mubarak must stay to steer through reforms, as tens of thousands in Tahrir Square call for him to resign.

February 5, 2011


Demonstrators are standing their ground in Cairo a day after hundreds of thousands of people gathered to call for Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, to quit.

The protests entered their twelfth day on Saturday, after the city’s Tahrir Square, the focal point of protests in Egypt, saw demonstrators observe a “Day of Departure” on Friday.

About 10,000 pro-democracy protesters also gathered outside the main train station in Egypt’s second city, Alexandria, Al Jazeera’s correspondent there reported.

The leadership of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) resigned en masse on Saturday, according to state television.

Hossam Badrawi has been appointed the new secretary-general of the party, replacing Safwat El-Sherif, a Mubarak loyalist, in that post.

Badrawi, seen by many as a liberal voice in the NDP, will also replace Gamal Mubarak, Hosni Mubarak’s son, as head of the party’s policies bureau.

Frank Wisner, a special envoy for Barack Obama, the US president, has said Hosni Mubarak “must stay in office to steer” a process of gathering “national consensus around the preconditions” for the way forward.

The comment represents the strongest statement from a US government official in support of Mubarak remaining in office since protests began on January 25.

Obama administration officials welcomed the resignation of Gamal Mubarak, terming it a “positive” move.

Despite the continuing demonstrations and the resignations, Ahmed Shafiq, the prime minister, said stability was returning to the country and that he was confident a deal could be reached on constitutional reforms.

At a news conference aired on state television, Shafiq suggested that the government was seeking to enter into talks with enough opposition representatives to isolate street protesters.

Saturday’s protests in Cairo were calm, and protesters were seen lighting campfires across the square as night drew in.

With the exception of a standoff between two groups who were chanting slogans, there was no violence reported on Saturday.

One of Al Jazeera’s correspondents in Cairo said there were about 10,000 people in Tahrir Square and queues of people trying to get in. About 500 people joined the protesters from the port city of Suez.

Our correspondent reported that the army was “behaving as if it’s back to business as usual tomorrow [Sunday]”. He said that the military had removed checkpoints on the 6th of October bridge, allowing traffic to resume normally.

“The army is still securing the square, but their agenda appears to be isolating the protesters – keeping them safe, yes, but also minimising their impact on the surrounding areas,” our correspondent said.

General rejected

At one point, General Hassan El-Rawani, the head of the army’s central command, entered the square and asked protesters to leave.

They responded with chants of “We are not leaving, he [Mubarak] is leaving!”

Protest organisers have now called for a “Day of the Martyred” to be observed in honour of those who have died in the protests so far, while Copts in Egypt have called for Sunday mass this week to be observed in Tahrir Square.

Security in the square remains tight, with the military engaging in negotiations with protesters to dismantle some of the barricades that they had put up.

“There is very tight security today [Saturday] because there have been all sorts of unconfirmed rumours of bombs being planted in different areas, which has caused a bit of panic,” she said.

Another of our correspondents reported that soldiers had formed a line inside the square, around 100 metres beyond the museum barricade, and are separating the protesters inside the square from those manning the barricade.

“If I had to guess, I’d say the plan is to limit the number of protesters who can get to the museum barricade and then disassemble it, so that the army can regain control of that entrance,” he said.

“It looked like there might’ve been some altercation there; protesters were hopping over the barricades to the outside.

“They’ve now formed their own human chain, facing outward, along the exterior of the barricade.”

Cabinet meeting

Meanwhile, state media reported that Mubarak met ministers responsible for the main economic portfolios in his new government on Saturday.

The meeting included the prime minister, finance minister, oil minister and the trade and industry minister. The central bank governor also attended.

On Friday, Egypt’s prosecutor-general had barred Rashid Mohammed Rashid, the former trade and industry minister, from leaving the country, and had frozen his bank accounts.

The same measures was also taken against Habib al-Adly, the former interior minister, and Ahmed Ezz, a businessman.

‘Death or freedom’

Friday’s “Day of Departure” commenced after afternoon prayers, and saw huge numbers also gather in the cities of Alexandria, Mahalla and Giza.

Protests continued into the night, in defiance of a curfew that has not been observed since it was first announced last week.

The newly relaxed curfew now runs from 7pm to 6am local time, according to state television.

One protester in Cairo told Al Jazeera that demonstrations will continue until Mubarak steps down.

“It’s either death, or freedom,” he said.

Ahmed Shafiq, Egypt’s new prime minister, however, said on Friday that Mubarak would not be handing over powers to Omar Suleiman, the vice-president, before the September elections. In statements carried by the official MENA news agency, Shafiq “ruled out” an early exit for Mubarak.

“We need President Mubarak to stay for legislative reasons,” he said.

One of our correspondents said some people outside Tahrir Square are beginning to become angry because they are not going to work, they do not have money and shops are running out of food.

“Who is going to represent [the protesters]? Who is going to lead negotiations with the government? Whoever you speak to has a different idea of what is to come because the demonstrators are a very diverse group,” she said.

Speaking on Friday in Washington, Barack Obama, the US president, said it was “clear that there must be a transition process that begins now … and leads to free and fair elections”.

On Saturday, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah al-Sheikh, Saudi Arabia’s top religious authority, warned that anti-regime uprisings are “chaotic acts” aimed at “tearing .. apart” the Muslim world.

Journalists detained

On Saturday, authorities arrested an Al Jazeera journalist who was returning from leave in Cairo to Doha at Cairo’s international airport. He was released later in the day, along with Al Jazeera’ bureau chief in Cairo, who was detained on Friday and another journalist who was arrested three days ago.

One other Al Jazeera journalist remained in custody.

On Friday, Al Jazeera’s offices in Cairo were attacked by “gangs of thugs”, according to a statement from the network. The office was burned, along with the equipment inside it.

Security forces also earlier broke into the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood’s website and arrested 12 journalists there, Al Masry Al Youm, the country’s largest independent newspaper, and the Associated Press reported on Friday.

An Egyptian journalist wounded in earlier anti-government protests has died of his injuries, his wife told Al Jazeera on Friday.

Ahmed Mohammed Mahmoud, who worked with state-owned daily al-Ahram, was wounded on January 29 during anti-government protests. He is the first journalist known to have died in the unrest.

Amnesty International, the international human rights group, meanwhile, has said that two of its employees have been missing since last Thursday, and that a total of 30 human rights activists have have disappeared in recent days.

Top leadership quits Egypt ruling party

February 5, 2011


Top leadership, including Mubarak’s son, resign from National Democratic Party as anti-government protesters continue demonstrations in Cairo; earlier reports that Hosni Mubarak also resigned were retracted.

The top leadership body of Egypt’s ruling party resigned Saturday, including the president’s son, but the regime appeared to be digging in its heels, calculating that it can ride out street demonstrations and keep President Hosni Mubarak in office.

The ruling party leaders who resigned included the country’s most powerful political figures – and its most unpopular among many Egyptians. The move may have been aimed at convincing protesters in the streets that the regime is sincere in implementing democratic reforms they demand.

Earlier on Saturday, February Al Arabiya television retracted its report that President Hosni Mubarak had resigned as head of Egypt’s ruling party.

State TV, announcing the resignations, still identified head of state Mubarak as president of the ruling party in a sign he would remain in authority. And Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq said Saturday that stability was returning to the country, appearing confident that a deal on future reforms can be reached with the multiple opposition movements to defuse protests without the 82-year-old Mubarak necessarily leaving power immediately.

Gamal Mubarak and the secretary-general of Egypt’s ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), Safwat el-Sharif, resigned in a gesture to protesters carrying out a 12-day-old wave of anti-government demonstrations, State TV reported.

An official in the U.S. administration, which has called for an orderly transition of power in Egypt, said reports that Gamal had quit his leadership position, was a positive step, adding that the administration looked forward to further steps.

The ruling party’s six-member Steering Committee of the General Secretariat stepped down and was replaced. The council was the party’s highest decision-making body, and el-Sharif and other outgoing members were some of the most powerful – and to many Egyptians, unpopular – political figures in the regime.

Both were to be replaced by Hossam Badrawi – a member of the Upper Chamber of Egyptian Parliament, known as the Shura Council. He is also a senior NDP member and part of the party’s board of governors.

The new appointments to the Steering Committee were largely young figures, one of the replacements Mohammed Kamal told The Associated Press. “It’s a good change. It reflects the mood of change that is sweeping the country,” he said.

Anti-government protests entered their 12th straight day in Egypt on Saturday, as solutions were being mulled to bring about a power shift to end the country’s political paralysis.

Gamal Mubarak, who was a member of the Steering Committee, was widely seen as being groomed by his father Hosni Mubarak to succeed him as president. But Vice President Omar Suleiman promised earlier in the week that Gamal would not run for president in elections due in September.

The younger Mubarak was also head of the party’s powerful policies committee, where for the past decade he led a campaign of economic liberalization. State TV said Gamal was also removed from that post and replaced by Badrawi.

Leaders of Egypt’s unprecedented wave of anti-government protests have held talks with the prime minister over ways to ease President Mubarak out of office, but the government appeared Saturday to be digging in its heels, calculating that it can ride out street demonstrations without Mubarak’s resignation.

Global food prices hit record high

February 4, 2011


World food prices have hit their highest level on record in January, the United Nations has said.

It said on Thursday that its Food and Agriculture Organisation Food Price Index rose for the seventh month in a row to reach 231, topping the peak of 224.1 last seen in June 2008.

It is the highest level the index has reached since records began in 1990.

“The new figures clearly show that the upward pressure on world food prices is not abating. These high prices are likely to persist in the months to come,” said Abdolreza Abbassian, an economist for FAO, which is based in Rome.

Rising food prices have been cited among the driving forces behind the recent popular revolts in north Africa, including the uprising in Egypt and the toppling of Tunisia’s long-time president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

In response, some countries are increasing food imports and have built stockpiles to meet their domestic needs.

Among them is Algeria, wary after food riots in early January. It has made huge wheat purchases to avoid shortages, and on Thursday it announced plans to lift a 19-year-old state of emergency in a bid to to avert spreading protests.

Capital Economics, a consultancy in London warned that “Even if the crisis in Egypt eases soon, the actions taken by governments elsewhere to prevent similar uprisings in their own countries will add to the upward pressure on global agricultural commodity prices.”

In Central America, Honduras has frozen prices on many basic foodstuffs despite complaints from farmers.

El Salvador is increasing anti-poverty programs by 30 per cent, and Guatemala is considering slashing import tariffs on wheat and is handing out food and cash vouchers to landless peasants.

Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s biggest economy, last week bought 820,000 tonnes of rice, lifting rice prices, while suspending import duties on rice, soybeans and wheat.

Robert Zoellick, World Bank President urged world leaders to “wake up” to the dangers of rising food inflation.

“We are going to be facing a broader trend of increasing commodity prices, including food commodity prices,” he said.

During the last food price crisis, the World Bank estimated that some 870 million people in developing countries were hungry or malnourished. The FAO estimates that number has increased to 925 million.

The FAO data showed that prices for dairy products rose by 6.2 per cent from December, oils and fats gained 5.6 per cent, while cereals went up by 3.0 per cent because of lower global supply of wheat and maize.

Alarming situation

The problem is set to worsen after a massive snowstorm in the United States and floods in Australia. And economists warned that chaos in Egypt could push prices up further and foment more unrest in the region.

Sugar prices also have surged to three-decade highs on fears of the damage that Cyclone Yasi would bring to the Australian cane crop.

Prices for Malaysian palm oil, a cooking staple in the developing world, hit 3-year highs on flooding.

Big companies have had to adjust to higher raw material costs.

Kellogg Co, the world’s largest breakfast cereal company, said on Thursday that it has boosted prices on many of its products to offset rising costs for ingredients such as grains and sugar.

“Today’s announcement by the Food and Agriculture Organization should ring alarm bells in capitals around the world,” said Gawain Kripke, a policy and research director for Oxfam America, an international development group.

“Governments must avoid repeating the mistakes of the past when countries reacted to spiraling prices by banning exports and hoarding food. This will only make the situation worse and it is the world’s poorest people who will pay the price,” he said.

Janis Huebner, economist at Germany’s DekaBank said inflation partly fuelled by increasing food prices could in turn trigger interest rate rises in several countries this year.

“This could mean a slowing down of growth in the countries which raise their interest rates,” he said.

The report showed that Somalia and Uganda have been particularly hard hit in Africa and that the ongoing unrest in Ivory Coast has helped push up prices in West Africa as a whole because of its status as a key transport hub.

But the most dramatic rises were seen in Asia, with a surge in prices across the board in India due to “unseasonal rains” during the harvest season “which resulted in severe damage to the summer crop and supply shortages,” FAO said.

Josette Sheeran, the UN World Food Programme’s executive director said that the world is now in an era where it has to be very serious about food supply.

“If people don’t have enough to eat they only have three options: they can revolt, they can migrate or they can die. We need a better action plan,” she said.

Edgar Bronfman Jr. convicted in France

January 21, 2011

by Ingrid Rosseau

Globe and Mail UK

Paris— A French court, in a surprise ruling, on Friday convicted and fined Warner Music Group chairman and chief executive officer Edgar Bronfman Jr. for insider trading and former high-flying Vivendi CEO Jean-Marie Messier for misusing company funds and misleading investors.

Mr. Bronfman, a former executive vice-president of Vivendi Universal, was fined €5-million ($6.7-million U.S.) and given a 15-month suspended sentence for insider trading around the Vivendi media conglomerate when he was a top executive there. Mr. Messier was handed a three-year suspended prison sentence and a €150,000 fine. The unexpected convictions came despite the prosecutor’s recommendations that the two men and other ex-Vivendi executives be cleared of all charges for lack of evidence that they duped investors.

Both said they would appeal the verdict, which deals a blow to the two men once considered masterminds of massive mergers in the media and telecommunications sectors.

Mr. Messier was acquitted of charges that he manipulated Vivendi’s stock price during his leadership of the company. His conviction for misusing company funds related to a €20-million severance package that he eventually renounced.

Two other former Vivendi executives, Eric Licoys and Guillaume Hannezo, were given suspended prison sentences, with Mr. Hanzo also getting a €850,000 fine. Three others on trial were acquitted.

The conviction came even though the prosecutor had recommended acquittal following the high-profile Vivendi trial last year. She said the executives did not have enough information themselves about the company’s health.

Mr. Bronfman’s lawyer Thierry Marembert said he is “disappointed” that the court did not follow the prosecutor’s recommendations and said he would appeal the case and “continue to vigorously defend against this charge.” Mr. Bronfman has denied wrongdoing.

The head of a small shareholders’ group that was a party to the case, Didier Cornardeau of APPAC, called the verdict a “huge victory.”

Mr. Messier was a star of the French business world during his 1996-2002 reign at Vivendi, when the company expanded from the water utility Generale des Eaux into a major media group.

However, Vivendi’s shares lost more than 80 per cent of their value as the company ran up billions of dollars of debt in making acquisitions including the Universal film studios and music label in the United States.

By the time Mr. Messier left, Vivendi Universal was swamped under €35-billion in debt — prompting the company to sell off many of its businesses, including Universal, to right itself.

Mr. Messier was sacked by Vivendi’s board of directors in 2002 and the company underwent drastic restructuring.

In a similar trial in New York, the U.S. District Court in Manhattan ruled a year ago against Vivendi SA and in favour of U.S. and European shareholders who said the media group lied to the public about its shaky finances. The court ruled that Mr. Messier himself was not liable.

Conversations with the Crow

When the CIA discovered that their former Deputy Director of Clandestine Affairs, Robert  T. Crowley, had been talking with author Gregory Douglas, they became fearful (because of what Crowley knew) and outraged (because they knew Douglas would publish eventually) and made many efforts to silence Crowley, mostly by having dozens of FBI agents call or visit him at his Washington home and try to convince him to stop talking to Douglas, whom they considered to be an evil, loose cannon.

Crowley did not listen to them (no one else ever does, either) and Douglas made through shorthand notes of each and every one of their many conversation. TBR News published most of these (some of the really vile ones were left out of the book but will be included on this site as a later addendum ) and the entire collection was later produced as an Ebook.

Now, we reliably learn, various Washington alphabet agencies are trying to find a way to block the circulation of this highly negative, entertaining and dangerous work, so to show our solidarity with our beloved leaders and protectors, and our sincere appreciation for their corrupt and coercive actions, we are going to reprint the entire work, chapter by chapter. (The complete book can be obtained by going to:


Here is the sixty-first chapter

Conversation No. 61

Date: Thursday, January 23, 1997

Commenced: 1:45 PM CST

Concluded: 2:12 PM CST

RTC: Good morning, Gregory. What can we do for you today?

GD: I don’t mean to bother you, Robert, but I am doing some research on this Kennedy thing and I have a couple of questions for you.

RTC: I’ll do what I can.

GD: If it’s a problem….

RTC: No, not at all.

GD: You were telling me Oswald was not involved. Why would anyone want to stick him with the thing?

RTC: He served his purpose. Jim Angleton was determined to blame the killing on the Russians. He hated them, and Jim was a very single minded man and very determined. I guess later he began to get a little crazy, but at that time he was very good at his job. Look at it this way: Oswald was a public Marxist. He was ordered to be a Marxist by both the ONI and us. He defected to Russia. He married the niece of a top MVD officer. He came back to the States, pretending to be pro-Castro. He lived in Dallas when Dallas was chosen to be the place where Kennedy was nailed out in public. You see, Jim wanted Russia blamed for the killing. He basically wanted to have all paths lead to Moscow.

GD: He was inviting a war.

RTC: Of course he was. He wanted a war with Russia and said so many times to me and the DCI among others. Now when Oswald came back, he was still connected and got this classified job with the photography company. We do that for our people. If we hadn’t smoothed his way, he never would have gotten the job there. But he never knew a thing about the Kennedy business. He was a very convenient patsy with a wonderful and provable background of being a Soviet sympathizer.

GD: I know you were a friend of Angleton and I’m not questioning his intelligence. Mueller told me about him. He personally thought he was crazy however.

RTC: At the end, everyone else thought so. Towards the end, Jim became obsessed with things better left unsaid. He thought the entire Company was infiltrated by the KGB and that Colby himself, he was the DCI at that point, was a Soviet agent. And then there was the Nosenko business. That was this so-called KRG defector. You see, the Russians got wind of what Angleton was up to, stirring up a war and all that, and they sent this Nosenko over to us as a fake defector. His most important mission was to convince everyone that Oswald had nothing to do with their agency and they had nothing to do with him. In short, they had no prior knowledge of the Kennedy business. This terrified Jim who got his hands on Nosenko and locked him up down on the Farm for two years. Put him in solitary and kept everyone away from him. Jim was afraid others would believe Nosenko and then start looking where they should not. Finally, and it really saddened me, Jim got so crazy that they forced him out and cut his department back to almost nothing. Jim had lung cancer…my God, the man smoked like a chimney…and I remember my last visit with him. He died in ’87. We met him at the Army-Navy Club for dinner. Very, very sad occasion. He was a great man, or he had been in his prime, and to see him slowly dying and forced out by that asshole Colby was devastating.

GD: What happened to the Ukrainian?

RTC: What Ukrainian?

GD: Nosenko is a Ukrainian name, Robert. Ends with an O.

RTC: Whatever happened to him? They let him out, got him a set of new teeth and paid him a stipend for his troubles.

GD: Was he telling the truth?

RTC: Oh yes, of course. The Russians had nothing to do with the business. They are far too professional to use someone with such connections with them. A defector, married to the niece of a top intelligence officer, spouting Marxist propaganda on the street corners? No, they would have done what they did when they tried to kill the Pope in ‘81. Get the Bulgarians to hire a right wing Turkish terrorist. Plausible deniability.

GD: The favorite words of Ronnie Reagan.

RTC: Exactly so. No, Oswald had much closer connections with American intelligence than with the Russians and we both knew it. Jim did not know it, believe me. Once he got something in his head, he never let go of it. At the end, before they gave him the sack, he was probably paranoid beyond redemption. Not stupid, but very deluded. He saw moles everywhere. He thought LBJ was a spy and half of Congress, for God’s sake. And his fondness for college students was getting a little obvious. A genuine tragedy, Gregory, a fine mind gone to seed.

GD: Male college students. Mueller caught him in bed with one at the Plaza.

RTC: Leave town and enter a new and dangerous world.

(Concluded at 2:12 PM CST)

Dramatis personae:

James Jesus Angleton: Once head of the CIA’s Counterintelligence division, later fired because of his obsessive and illegal behavior, tapping the phones of many important government officials in search of elusive Soviet spies. A good friend of Robert Crowley and a co-conspirator with him in the assassination of President Kennedy

James P. Atwood: (April 16, 1930-April 20, 1997) A CIA employee, located in Berlin, Atwood had a most interesting career. He worked for any other intelligence agency, domestic or foreign, that would pay him, was involved in selling surplus Russian atomic artillery shells to the Pakistan government and was also most successful in the manufacturing of counterfeit German dress daggers. Too talkative, Atwood eventually had a sudden, and fatal, “seizure” while lunching with CIA associates.

William Corson: A Marine Corps Colonel and President Carter’s representative to the CIA. A friend of Crowley and Kimmel, Corson was an intelligent man whose main failing was a frantic desire to be seen as an important person. This led to his making fictional or highly exaggerated claims.

John Costello: A British historian who was popular with revisionist circles. Died of AIDS on a trans-Atlantic flight to the United States.

James Critchfield: Former U.S. Army Colonel who worked for the CIA and organizaed the Cehlen Org. at Pullach, Germany. This organization was filled to the Plimsoll line with former Gestapo and SD personnel, many of whom were wanted for various purported crimes. He hired Heinrich Müller in 1948 and went on to represent the CIA in the Persian Gulf.

Robert T. Crowley: Once the deputy director of Clandestine Operations and head of the group that interacted with corporate America. A former West Point football player who was one of the founders of the original CIA. Crowley was involved at a very high level with many of the machinations of the CIA.

Gregory Douglas: A retired newspaperman, onetime friend of Heinrich Müller and latterly, of Robert Crowley. Inherited stacks of files from the former (along with many interesting works of art acquired during the war and even more papers from Robert Crowley.) Lives comfortably in a nice house overlooking the Mediterranean.

Reinhard Gehlen: A retired German general who had once been in charge of the intelligence for the German high command on Russian military activities. Fired by Hitler for incompetence, he was therefore naturally hired by first, the U.S. Army and then, as his level of incompetence rose, with the CIA. His Nazi-stuffed organizaion eventually became the current German Bundes Nachrichten Dienst.

Thomas K. Kimmel, Jr: A grandson of Admiral Husband Kimmel, Naval commander at Pearl Harbor who was scapegoated after the Japanese attack. Kimmel was a senior FBI official who knew both Gregory Douglas and Robert Crowley and made a number of attempts to discourage Crowley from talking with Douglas. He was singularly unsuccessful. Kimmel subsequently retired, [1]lives in Florida, and works for the CIA as an “advisor.”

Willi Krichbaum: A Senior Colonel (Oberführer) in the SS, head of the wartime Secret Field Police of the German Army and Heinrich Müller’s standing deputy in the Gestapo. After the war, Krichbaum went to work for the Critchfield organization and was their chief recruiter and hired many of his former SS friends. Krichbaum put Critchfield in touch with Müller in 1948.

Heinrich Müller: A former military pilot in the Bavarian Army in WWI, Müller  became a political police officer in Munich and was later made the head of the Secret State Police or Gestapo. After the war, Müller escaped to Switzerland where he worked for Swiss intelligence as a specialist on Communist espionage and was hired by James Critchfield, head of the Gehlen Organization, in 1948. Müller subsequently was moved to Washington where he worked for the CIA until he retired.

Joseph Trento: A writer on intelligence subjects, Trento and his wife “assisted” both Crowley and Corson in writing a book on the Russian KGB. Trento believed that he would inherit all of Crowley’s extensive files but after Crowley’s death, he discovered that the files had been gutted and the most important, and sensitive, ones given to Gregory Douglas. Trento was not happy about this. Neither were his employers.

Frank Wisner: A Founding Father of the CIA who promised much to the Hungarian and then failed them. First, a raging lunatic who was removed from Langley, screaming, in a strait jacket and later, blowing off the top of his head with a shotgun.

Robert Wolfe: A retired librarian from the National Archives who worked closely with the CIA on covering up embarrassing historical material in the files of the Archives. A strong supporter of holocaust writers

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