zaterdag 24 juli 2010
The New Warlord of Oz
Thursday 22 July 2010
Former Australian Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke. (Illustration: Janeen / thenoodleator / Flickr)
The Order of Mates celebrated beside Sydney Harbour the other day. This is a venerable masonry in Australian political life that unites the Labor Party with the rich elite known as the big end of town. They shake hands, not hug, though the Silver Bodgie now hugs. In his prime, the Silver Bodgie, aka Bob Hawke or Hawkie, wore suits that shone, wide-bottomed trousers and shirts with the buttons undone. A bodgie is an Australian version of the 1950s English Teddy Boy, and Hawke's thick, gray-black coiffureadded inches to his abbreviated stature.
Hawke also talked out of the corner of his mouth in an accent that was said to be "ocker," or working class, although he himself was of the middle class and Oxford educated. As president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, his popularity rested on his reputation as a hard-drinking larrikin, an Australian sobriquet once prized almost as much as an imperial honor. For Hawke, it was the disguise of one whose heart belonged to the big end of town, who cooled the struggles of working Australians during the rise to power of the new property sharks, minerals barons and tax avoiders.
Indeed, as Labor Prime Minister in the 1980s, Hawke and his Treasurer Paul Keating eliminated the most equitable spread of personal income on earth: a model for the Blairites. And the great Mate across the Pacific loved Hawkie. Victor Marchetti, the CIA strategist who helped draft the treaty that gave America control over its most important spy base in the southern hemisphere, told me, "When Hawke came along ... he immediately sent signals that he knew how the game was played and who was buttering his bread. He became very co-operative, and even obsequious."
The party overlooking Sydney Harbour on 12 July was to launch a book by Hawke's wife, Blanche d'Alpuget, whose effusions about the Silver Bodgie include his single-handed rescue of Nelson Mandela from apartheid's clutches. A highlight of the occasion was the arrival of the brand new Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who proclaimed Hawke her "role model" and the "gold standard" for running Australia.
This may help explain the extraordinary and brutal rise of Gillard. In 48 hours in June, she and Mates in Labor's parliamentary caucus got rid of the elected Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Her weapons were Rudd's slide in the opinion polls and the power and prize of Australia's vast trove of minerals. To pay off the national debt, Rudd had decreed a modest special tax on the profits of giants like BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto. The response was a vicious advertising campaign against the government and a threat to shut down mines.
Within days of her coup, Gillard, who was Rudd's deputy, had reduced the new tax; and the companies' campaign was called off. It was a repeat of Hawke's capitulation to the mining companies in the 1980s when they threatened to bring down a state Labor government in Western Australia. Like her predecessors, Gillard is pursuing a land grab of the one region of Australia, the Northern Territory, where Aboriginal Australians have land and mineral rights. The deceit is spectacular and historical. The government claims it is "protecting" black Australian children from "abuse" and "neglect" within their communities. Official statistics show that the incidence of child abuse is no different from that of white Australians, and the true cause of Aboriginal suffering is a systemic, colonial racism that denies housing, water, roads, adequate health care and schools to indigenous people and harasses and imprisons them at a rate greater than in South Africa under apartheid.
Since her coup, Gillard has reaffirmed this racism at the heart of policy making. Australia takes fewer refugees than almost any other country, yet, Gillard is using their "threat" to outdo the hysterics of an especially primitive parliamentary opposition led by Tony Abbot, known as the "mad monk." Gillard's "hard line" on refugees has been welcomed by the openly racist former member of Parliament Pauline Hanson as "sweep[ing] political correctness from the debate." Hanson's One Nation Party is the equivalent of the white supremacist British National Party. Gillard, an immigrant from Wales, demanded that refugees heading for Australia be "processed" (dumped) in East Timor, an impoverished country whose genocidal occupation by Indonesia was backed by Australian governments. Now liberated, the East Timorese have read their massive, underpopulated neighbor a moral lesson by saying no.
Many of the refugees come from Afghanistan, which Australia invaded at Washington's insistence. "Our national security is at stake in Afghanistan," said Gillard on 5 July, linking a faraway tribal war and resistance to foreign invaders with three terrorist attacks in Indonesia in which Australians were killed. There is not a shred of evidence to support her statement. Australia's security is probably unique; since 1915, an estimated 22 people have died as a result of politically motivated violence.
The new prime minister's partner is a former hair products salesman called Tim Mathieson. This would be of no interest had he not been given the job of "Australia's men's health ambassador" by one of Gillard's cabinet colleagues, the health minister, even though he had no experience in health care. Mathieson is now a "rising star" in real estate, thanks to one Albert Dadon, whose company is seeking planning permission for a contentious high rise development in Melbourne. Dadon can claim membership of the Order of Mates. As head of the Australia Israel Cultural Exchange, he arranges admiring tours of Israel for politicians and journalists. Gillard went on such a junket last year in the wake of Israel's massacre of 1,400 people in Gaza, mostly women and children. She who would be the first female prime minister of Australia, drooled her uncritical supporters for their killers.
|National Iranian American Council | 1411 K. Street NW, Suite 600 | Washington, DC 20005|
donderdag 22 juli 2010
The magnitude of overfishing is often overlooked. But the fact's don't lie: oceans cover nearly 75 percent of our planet's surface and according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, 80 percent of marine fish stocks are in danger.
Ocean health affects the health of the entire Earth. »
Our planet is literally covered in water, and water ecosystems are vital to life on earth. Yet because of factors including overfishing, the health of our biggest water bodies, the oceans, are in grave danger. Marine biodiversity is essential to environmental health,the balance of animal food chains.
Don't let overfishing plague our planet's health.Speak up to make environmental sustainability the top priority of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). »
|Take action link: http://www.care2.com/go/z/e/AFztB/zk9T/Ant4n|
woensdag 21 juli 2010
"Static Kill" Growing as Option to End Gulf Oil Spill Drama
Tuesday 20 July 2010
BP wants to try a 'static kill' in the Gulf oil spill – similar to the failed 'top kill' – to stopper the top of the well until relief wells kill it from below. A decision could come as soon as Wednesday.
No news is good news for BP as its jerry-rigged containment system is holding the renegade Macondo well at bay for a sixth day in a row, meaning that US authorities could soon give the go-ahead to a “static kill” that could finally end the now three-month-long Gulf oil spill drama.
The consideration of a "static kill" is a sign of growing confidence in the new cap. It suggests that officials do not think the new cap is causing new leaks that could make the surrounding seafloor unstable.
Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, who is leading the federal relief effort, dismissed concerns about seepage near the well. The largest leak – two miles from the site – is now believed to be related to a different well. Other smaller leaks detected closer to the well are like "drips" that don't yet indicate anything wrong with the well.
Instead, pressure is continuing to build within the well – an "encouraging sign" that the well below is not severely damaged, Allen said.
That has led BP to consider the so-called "static kill" procedure, which in some ways resembles the earlier, failed “top kill” effort. But BP senior vice president Kent Wells said Tuesday that the fact that the well is currently contained means it presents far fewer challenges than when it was blowing at near full-steam during the previous attempt.
“Unlike the ‘top kill,’ where we had to pump at high rates and pressure, that is not required with the ‘static kill,’ ” Mr. Wells said. “We would start pumping at low rates and pressure and after we get some mud in the hold the pressure would start to go down. So you very quickly start seeing benefits as opposed to risk.”
Wells said the "static kill" would not replace the completing of relief wells but supplement it. While the relief well drill bits could breach the well casing as early as next week, it could take several weeks to permanently seal the well. "Static kill" could stopper the well securely in the meantime.
If “static kill” is approved by the unified incident command, which is led by Allen, BP would go ahead as quickly as possible. That decision could come as early as Wednesday.
Government scientists want to be assured that built-up pressures from the containment cap won’t damage the well casing, potentially leading to another major setback – including the possibility of oil and gas leaking up uncontrolled from the seabed.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the pressure in the well was 6,834 pounds per square inch. Ideally, engineers had hoped for pressures to build to 9,000 psi, which would indicate that all the oil was staying within the column of the well bore and pressing up against the cap – not leaking into the surrounding bedrock.
Scientists are unsure whether the lower reading suggests that some oil is leaking out of the well bore or if all the oil that has escaped into the Gulf has simply eased pressures within the reservoir.
BP: A Long, Bloody History of Reckless Greed
Wednesday 21 July 2010
by: Al Hart, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed
(Image: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: Dr. Oscar Garcia / Florida State University, pghgeorge)
British Petroleum, the company responsible for the worst single-source environmental catastrophe in U.S. history, has over its 100-year history caused a number of environmental and workplace disasters. But the harm BP has caused goes further. In the early 1950s, BP and the British government convinced the U.S. to overthrow the democratic government of Iran - an action that has had disastrous consequences for Iran, the U.S., and the Middle East to this day.
Before the Gulf disaster - and the stupidly arrogant statements of its CEO Tony Hayward - many Americans probably didn't even know that BP was a British company. In the 1980s BP began gobbling up U.S. oil companies - Standard Oil of Ohio (Sohio) in 1978, Standard Oil of Indiana (Amoco) in 1998, and Atlantic Richfield (Arco) in 2000. It's now the third-largest energy company in the world.
The April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oilrig killed 11 oil workers and started the giant oil leak that has devastated the Gulf of Mexico. For BP, this deadly explosion may be the worst, but certainly not the first. In 1965 the BP oilrig Sea Gem collapsed, killing 13 workers. In September 1999 BP agreed to pay $22 million - including a $500,000 criminal fine - for its hazardous waste dumping on Alaska's Endicott Island.
In 2005 BP's refinery in Texas City, Texas exploded, killing 15 people, injuring 180 and trapping thousands of residents in their homes. OSHA concluded that the management failures behind the explosion reached to BP's corporate headquarters in London. The company pleaded guilty to felony violations of the Clean Air Act and paid a $50 million fine. In 2009 OSHA fined BP another $87 million - the biggest OSHA fine ever - for failing to correct the hazards that caused the 2005 explosion.
To understand BP and its contempt for environmental and human rights, we have to go back to the company's origins, in British efforts to dominate Iran and its natural resources.
BP's original name was the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. It owes its existence to the corruption of Iran's monarchs, who over several decades sold off the country's resources to foreigners to support their own lavish lifestyles. The reigning Shah of Iran in 1891 sold Iran's entire tobacco industry to the British Imperial Tobacco Company for £15,000; the Tobacco Revolt, a mass boycott by the Iranian people, forced him to cancel the deal. In 1902 his son, the next shah, sold exclusive rights to Iran's oil and natural gas to a London financier, William Knox D'Arcy. A group of British investors formed the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (APOC) to exploit what was called the D'Arcy concession. By 1913, Anglo-Persian was extracting huge amounts of Iranian oil and had built the world's largest oil refinery at Abadan. With World War I imminent, at the urging of Winston Churchill the British government bought a 51 percent share of the company. (In the 1980s Margaret Thatcher privatized the government's BP holdings.)
The terms of the D'Arcy concession were obscenely one-sided. Churchill called it "a prize from fairlyland beyond our wildest dreams." Iran was promised a 16 percent royalty, but the Brits cheated on the calculation and in 1920 paid Iran a pitiful £47,000, while they made millions from its oil.
"The standard of living that people in England enjoyed all during the 1920s and '30s and '40s was due to Iranian oil," says journalist Stephen Kinzer." But at the same time, Iranians were living in some of the most miserable conditions of any people in the world."
Oil workers at the Abadan refinery - whose labor was largely responsible for Britain's prosperity - were paid 50 cents a day with no benefits. They lived in a shantytown called Kaghazabad (Persian for "Paper City") with no running water or electricity, surrounded by mud, stagnant water, and biting flies.
The monarchy's sell-off of Iran's patrimony fueled popular opposition to the Qajar dynasty, which had ruled Iran since 1794. A rebellion in 1905 forced the Shah to accept a parliament (the Majlis) and constitution. But the monarchy and the British reversed many of the democratic reforms. In 1919 the British imposed the Anglo-Persian Accord, giving them control of Iran's army, treasury, transport and communications - making Iran a virtual British colony. In a final revolt against the Qajars, the Majlis in 1925 deposed the hated Ahmad Shah and offered the Peacock Throne to an uneducated but ruthless military officer named Reza.
Reza Shah ruled with an iron fist - he allowed no labor organizing nor press freedom - but enacted some modernizing reforms and pushed back against the British. In 1928 he demanded a better deal for Iran's oil. Anglo-Persian stalled negotiations for four years. Only when the Shah angrily declared the D'Arcy concession cancelled did the company yield a little - it gave up claim to some territory, agreed to pay a minimum annual royalty of £975,000, and changed its name to Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) because the Shah did not like the name Persia.
Reza's pro-Nazi sympathies led the British to overthrow him in 1941, placing his 21-year-old son Mohammad Reza on the throne. But removing the strongman had unintended consequences.
In March, 1946, oil workers at the Abadan refinery arose in an unprecedented strike, demanding better housing, healthcare, and AIOC's compliance with Iran's labor laws. The British refused to negotiate, stirred up divisions between majority Persian workers and ethnic Arabs, and arranged for two British warships to show up just off shore. They ended the strike with promises to obey the labor laws, which they never did.
With Reza Shah gone, the Majlis also came back to life. The movement in parliament and in the nation for democracy and freedom from British domination soon centered around Mohammad Mossadegh, long one of the country's most principled and incorruptible politicians.
"The Iranian George Washington"
In early 1951, the Shah and the British lost control of Iranian politics. On March 15, with overwhelming popular support, the Majlis voted unanimously to nationalize AIOC's assets, creating the National Iranian Oil Company. On April 28 the Majlis overwhelmingly elected Mossadegh - Anglo-Iranian's strongest opponent- as prime minister.
The British sought revenge. Anglo-Iranian removed all of its managers and technicians (it had refused to train Iranians for such positions.) It refused to ship Iran's oil in its tankers (Iran owned none) and organized a global boycott of Iran's oil. The British navy even seized an Italian tanker carrying Iranian oil. The British position was that Iran had "stolen" its oil. They wanted U.S. help, but President Harry Truman was sympathetic to Iran and demanded that the British negotiate with Mossadegh - something they had no intention of doing. Truman, however was unwilling to buck the British economic blockade of Iran, which was strangling its economy and tightening the screws on its democracy.
Anglo-Iranian wanted a British military invasion of Iran. Not only did Truman object, but Labor Party Prime Minister Clement Attlee had no stomach for it.
Not so Winston Churchill, who returned to power in the 1951 British election. In the campaign, the Conservative Churchill attacked the Labor Party for lack of aggressiveness against Iran. Spies operating out of the British embassy worked to overthrow Mossadegh. When Mossadegh learned of this, he broke off diplomatic relations, closing Britain's embassy and expelling its spies as well as its diplomats.
Mossadegh came to New York in October 1951 for a UN Security Council debate on a British resolution condemning Iran's oil nationalization. Mossadegh, a skilled lawyer and parliamentary debater, clearly beat the British UN ambassador, and increased public support for Iran in the U.S. and worldwide. He went to Washington to meet President Truman, stopping in Philadelphia to visit the birthplace of American democracy, Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. Time magazine put him on its cover as "Man of the Year," calling him "the Iranian George Washington."
Over many years, Britain developed a network of Iranian agents and bribed officials. But with its Secret Intelligence Service kicked out of Iran, it couldn't do much. The 1952 election of Republican President Dwight Eisenhower revived British hopes, and the two brothers chosen to run Eisenhower's foreign policy - John Foster Dulles as secretary of state and Allen Dulles as CIA director - signed on to British coup plans even before the new administration took office. President Eisenhower resisted, but the Dulleses won him over, not on the basis of British oil interests, but with Cold War fears of an imagined Soviet takeover of Iran.
Kermit Roosevelt, a top CIA operative and grandson of Theodore Roosevelt, ran "Operation Ajax" from the U.S. embassy in Teheran. He took up where the British left off, bribing generals, newspaper publishers, street gang leaders and Muslim clergy. Stories planted in newspapers and riots by hired mobs painted a false picture of Mossadegh as an ally of Russia and an enemy of Islam.
Killing Democracy for Oil
Iranians overwhelmingly supported Mossadegh and his policies. He advanced the rights of women, enacted sick pay and unemployment compensation for workers, and freed peasants from forced labor for landlords. But with the cooperation of the Shah and key military leaders, a few CIA agents in August 1953 overthrew Mossadegh and killed democracy in Iran. The new regime arrested the 71-year-old Mossadegh, tried and convicted him of treason, and sentenced him to three years in prison and life under house arrest. He died in 1967.
The coup installed General Fazlollah Zahedi as prime minister, but he lasted only two years. The Shah regained the absolute power of earlier shahs, and he hired and fired prime ministers at will. Officers loyal to Mossadegh were shot, as were other democrats and dissidents, and for the next 26 years the Shah ruled through the terror of his secret police, the Savak.
Iranian democracy died so the British could own Iran's oil. But because the U.S. government overthrew Mossadegh, the British lost their monopoly. AIOC - renamed British Petroleum in 1954 - got 40 percent control of Iran's oil. Another 40 percent went to the five major American oil companies, and the remaining 20 percent to Royal Dutch Shell and the French Petroleum Company, now known as Total.
In 1963 the Shah gained a resolute enemy when his police arrested Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who as a young Shiite cleric had opposed Mossadegh. But the 1979 Iranian Revolution that overthrew the Shah included much more than Islamic fundamentalists. In the mass demonstrations of 1978 and '79, many carried pictures of Mossadegh. This was both a protest against his overthrow and a call for the kind of secular democracy he had represented.
The first post-revolution governments were dominated by people associated with Mossadegh and his principles, including Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan and President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr. But when President Carter allowed the ex-Shah to come to the U.S. for medical treatment, many Iranians feared a repeat of 1953 - a U.S. coup to restore the Shah. A group of Islamic militants seized the U.S. embassy - the place from which the 1953 coup had been organized - and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days. The hostage crisis doomed Carter's re-election, and enabled Islamic fundamentalists around Khomeini to consolidate power.
The past 31 years of bad U.S.-Iranian relations have their roots in the CIA overthrow of Mossadegh, on behalf of an arrogant British oil company. Few Americans remember what happened in Iran in 1953, but nearly all Iranians do. When U.S. presidents preach about the virtues of democracy, it sounds like hypocrisy to millions of people around the world who know that Iran once had the beginnings of a democracy, but the U.S. government killed it.
Long before BP poisoned the Gulf of Mexico, our government's support for that company poisoned our foreign relations. Perhaps it is time for us to do what Prime Minister Mossadegh and the Iranian people did in 1951, and declare that BP is unfit to control our resources - and that our oil, our environment, and our government should belong to us.
A highly-readable account of the 1953 coup and its impact is All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror by Stephen Kinzer, a veteran New York Times foreign correspondent (2003, 296 pages, paperback).
A People's Histor of American Empire, labor cartoonist Mike Konopacki's brilliant graphic adaptation of Howard Zinn's writings on U.S. foreign policy, helps make sense of the 1953 CIA Iran coup. Copies, signed by Konopacki, are available for UE members at $20 (includes postage).
dinsdag 20 juli 2010
The Fall of Obama
The man who seized the White House by fomenting a mood of irrational expectation is now facing the bitter price exacted by reality. The reality is that there can be no "good" American president. It's an impossible hand to play. Obama is close to being finished.
The nation's first black president promised change, at the precise moment no single man — even if endowed with the communicative powers of Franklin Roosevelt, the politic mastery of Lyndon Johnson and the brazen agility of Bill Clinton — could turn the tide that has been carrying America to disaster for 30 years.
Americans this summer are frightened. More than 100,000 of them file for bankruptcy every month. Three million homeowners face foreclosure this year. Add them to the 2.8 million who were foreclosed in 2009, Obama's first year in office. Nearly 7 million have been without jobs in the last year for six months or longer. By the time you tot up the people who have given up looking for work or the people on part time, the total is heading toward 20 million.
Fearful people are irrational. So are racists. Obama is the target of insane charges. A hefty percentage of Americans believe that he is a socialist, a charge as ludicrous as accusing the Archbishop of Canterbury of being a closet Druid. Obama reveres the capitalist system. He admires the apex predators of Wall Street who showered his campaign treasury with millions of dollars. The frightful catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico stemmed directly from the green light he and his Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, gave to BP.
It is not Obama's fault that for 30 years, America's policy under Reagan, both Bushes and Bill Clinton has been to export jobs permanently to the Third World. The jobs that Americans now desperately seek are no longer here in the homeland and never will be. They're in China, Taiwan, Vietnam, India and Indonesia.
No stimulus program giving money to cement contractors to fix potholes along the federal interstate highway system is going to bring those jobs back. Highly trained tool and die workers, the aristocrats of the manufacturing sector, are flipping hamburgers — at best — for $7.50 an hour because U.S. corporations sent their jobs to Guangzhou, with the approval of politicians flush with the money of the "free trade" lobby.
It is not Obama's fault that across 30 years more and more money has floated up to the apex of the social pyramid till America is heading back to where it was in the 1880s, a nation of tramps and millionaires. It's not his fault that every tax break, every regulation, every judicial decision tilts toward business and the rich. That was the neo-liberal America conjured into malign vitality back in the mid-1970s.
But it is Obama's fault that he did not understand this, that always, from the get-go, he flattered Americans with paeans to their greatness, without adequate warning of the political and corporate corruption destroying America and the resistance he would face if he really fought against the prevailing arrangements that were destroying America.
He offered them a free and easy pass to a better future, and now they see that the promise was empty.
It's Obama's fault, too, that as a communicator, he cannot inspire and rally the nation from its fears. From his earliest years, he has schooled himself not to be excitable, not to be an angry black man who would be alarming to his white friends at Harvard and his later corporate patrons. Self-control was his passport to the guardians of the system who were desperate to find a symbolic leader to restore America's credibility in the world after the disasters of the Bush era. He is too cool.
So now, Americans in increasing numbers have lost confidence in him. For the first time, in the polls, negative assessments outnumber the positive. He no longer commands trust. His support is drifting down to 40 percent. The straddle that allowed him to flatter corporate chieftains at the same time as blue-collar workers now seems like the most vapid opportunism. The casual campaign pledge to wipe out al-Qaida in Afghanistan is now being cashed out in a disastrous campaign viewed with dismay by a majority of Americans.
The polls portend disaster. It now looks as though the Republicans may well recapture not only the House, but conceivably the Senate. The public mood is so contrarian that even though polls show that voters think the Democrats may well have better solutions on the economy than Republicans, they will vote against incumbent Democrats in the midterm elections next fall. They just want to throw the bums out.
Obama has sought out Bill Clinton to advise him in this desperate hour. If Clinton is frank, he will remind Obama that his own hopes for a progressive first term were destroyed by the failure of his health reform in the spring of 1993. By August of that year, he was importing a Republican, David Gergen, to run the White House.
Obama had his window of opportunity last year, when he could have made jobs and financial reform his prime objectives. That's what Americans hoped for. Mesmerized by economic advisers who were creatures of the banks, he instead plunged into the Sargasso Sea of "health reform," wasted the better part of a year and ended up with something that pleases no one.
What can save Obama now? It's hard even to identify a straw he can grasp at. It's awfully early in the game to say it, but as Marlene Dietrich said to Orson Welles in "Touch of Evil," "Your future is all used up."
Alexander Cockburn is co-editor with Jeffrey St. Clair of the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch. He is also co-author of the new book "Dime's Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils," available through www.counterpunch.com. To find out more about Alexander Cockburn and read features by other columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
Amiri Told CIA Iran Has No Nuclear Bomb Program
Monday 19 July 2010
Washington - Contrary to a news media narrative that Iranian scientist Shahram Amiri has provided intelligence on covert Iranian nuclear weapons work, CIA sources familiar with the Amiri case say he told his CIA handlers that there is no such Iranian nuclear weapons programme, according to a former CIA officer.
Philip Giraldi, a former CIA counterterrorism official, told IPS that his sources are CIA officials with direct knowledge of the entire Amiri operation.
The CIA contacts say that Amiri had been reporting to the CIA for some time before being brought to the U.S. during Hajj last year, Giraldi told IPS, initially using satellite-based communication. But the contacts also say Amiri was a radiation safety specialist who was "absolutely peripheral" to Iran's nuclear programme, according to Giraldi.
Amiri provided "almost no information" about Iran's nuclear programme, said Giraldi, but had picked up "scuttlebutt" from other nuclear scientists with whom he was acquainted that the Iranians have no active nuclear weapon programme.
Giraldi said information from Amiri's debriefings was only a minor contribution to the intelligence community's reaffirmation in the latest assessment of Iran's nuclear programme of the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE)'s finding that work on a nuclear weapon has not been resumed after being halted in 2003.
Amiri's confirmation is cited in one or more footnotes to the new intelligence assessment of Iran's nuclear programme, called a "Memorandum to Holders", according to Giraldi, but it is now being reviewed, in light of Amiri's "re- defection" to Iran.
An intelligence source who has read the "Memorandum to Holders" in draft form confirmed to IPS that it presents no clear-cut departure from the 2007 NIE on the question of weaponisation. The developments in the Iranian nuclear programme since the 2007 judgment are portrayed as "subtle and complex", said the source.
CIA officials are doing their best to "burn" Amiri by characterising him as a valuable long-term intelligence asset, according to Giraldi, in part in order to sow as much distrust of him among Iranian intelligence officials as possible.
But Giraldi said it is "largely a defence mechanism" to ward off criticism of the agency for its handling of the Amiri case.
"The fact is he wasn't well vetted," said Giraldi, adding that Amiri was a "walk- in" about whom virtually nothing was known except his job.
Although an investigation has begun within the CIA of the procedures used in the case, Giraldi said, Amiri's erstwhile CIA handlers still do not believe he was a double agent or "dangle".
What convinced CIA officers of Amiri's sincerity, according to Giraldi, was Amiri's admission that he had no direct knowledge of the Iranian nuclear programme.
A "dangle" would normally be prepared with some important intelligence that the U.S. is known to value.
Amiri's extremely marginal status in relation to the Iranian nuclear programme was acknowledged by an unnamed U.S. official who told The New York Times and Associated Press Friday that Amiri was indeed a "low-level scientist", but that the CIA had hoped to use him to get to more highly placed Iranian officials.
Giraldi's revelations about Amiri's reporting debunks a media narrative in which Amiri provided some of the key evidence for a reversal by the intelligence community of its 2007 conclusion that Iran had not resumed work on nuclear weapons.
An Apr. 25 story by Washington Post reporters Joby Warrick and Greg Miller said the long-awaited reassessment of the Iranian nuclear programme had been delayed in order to incorporate a "new flow of intelligence" coming from "informants, including scientists with access to Iran's military programs&."
They quote Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair as explaining in an interview that the delay was because of "information coming in and the pace of developments".
Warrick and Miller reported that Amiri had "provided spy agencies with details about sensitive programs including a long-hidden uranium-enrichment plant near the city of Qom." Their sources were said to be "current and former officials in the United States and Europe".
Warrick and Miller could not get CIA officials to discuss Amiri. Instead they quoted the National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI) as saying that Amiri "has been associated with sensitive nuclear programs for at least a decade".
NCRI is the political arm of Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK), the anti-regime Iranian terrorist organization which has been a conduit for Israeli intelligence on the Iranian nuclear programme.
On Jun. 8, David E. Sanger of the New York Times cited "foreign diplomats and some American officials" as sources in reporting that a series of intelligence briefings for members of the U.N. Security Council last spring amounted to "a tacit admission by the United States that it is gradually backing away" from the 2007 NIE. Sanger referred to "new evidence" that allegedly led analysts to "revise and in some cases reverse" that estimate's conclusion that Iran was no longer working on a nuclear weapon.
Sanger cited "Western officials" as confirming that Amiri was providing some of the new information.
Three days later, the Washington Post ran another story quoting David Albright, director of the Institute for Science and International Security, as saying that the intelligence briefings for Security Council members had included "information about nuclear weaponisation" obtained from Amiri.
Albright said he had been briefed on the intelligence earlier that week, and the Post reported a "U.S. official" had confirmed Albright's account.
Subsequently, ABC News reported that Amiri's evidence had "helped to contradict" the 2007 NIE, and McClatchy Newspapers repeated Albright's allegation and the conclusion that the new assessment had reversed the intelligence conclusion that Iran had ceased work related to weaponisation.
In creating that false narrative, journalists have evidently been guided by personal convictions on the issue that are aligned with certain U.S., European and Israeli officials who have been pressuring the Barack Obama administration to reject the 2007 estimate.
For the Israelis and for some U.S. officials, reversing the conclusion that Iran is not actively pursuing weaponisation is considered a precondition for manoeuvring U.S. policy into a military confrontation with Iran.
*Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, "Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam", was published in 2006.
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BP's Scheme to Swindle the "Small People"
Monday 19 July 2010
by: Dahr Jamail, t r u t h o u t | Report
Clint Guidry, the Louisiana shrimp harvester representative on the Louisiana Shrimp Task Force created by Executive Order of Gov. Bobby Jindal, has called BP "liars" and "killers." (Photo: Erika Blumenfeld)
Gulf Coast fishermen and others with lost income claims against BP are outraged by a recent announcement that the $20 billion government-administered claim fund will subtract money they earn by working on the cleanup effort from any future damage claims against BP. This move, according to lawyers in Louisiana working on behalf of Louisiana fishermen and others affected by the BP oil disaster, contradicts an earlier BP statement in which the company promised it would do no such thing.
Kenneth Feinberg, who was appointed by President Obama as the independent administrator of the Gulf Claims Facility for the $20 billion BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster compensation fund, said yesterday that the wages earned by people working on BP's cleanup will be deducted from their claims against the company.
He said the fund is designed to compensate fishermen and others for their lost income, and if BP is already paying someone to help skim oil and perform other cleanup work, those wages will be subtracted from the amount they're eligible to claim from the fund.
Attorney Stephen Herman, one of two interim liaison counsel for cases pending in the eastern district of Louisiana before Judge Carl J. Barbier, told Truthout he has spoken with Feinberg and that this recent announcement contradicts an earlier statement made by BP, in which the company clearly said it would not do this.
A letter dated May 2, 2010, from Herman's firm, Herman, Herman, Katz & Cotlar LLP, in New Orleans, sent to Murray Greene in BP's Legal Department, asked Greene to confirm in writing that BP agreed to destroy voluntary waiver and release forms issued to response workers at a meeting in Venice, Louisiana, and stated:
"Lastly, we inquired as to BP's position with respect to any future claim of credit or set-off due to payments made to individuals who are assisting BP in mitigating its exposure to individuals and others for the unprecedented environmental and human losses as a result of this incident. It is our position that since my clients are effectively helping BP minimize its own future exposure as well as attempting to preserve the wetlands and the environment that BP ought not to seek any offset or reduction of claims as a result of any payments made to these individuals who courageously take on the dirty work of cleaning up BP's mess."
The next day, May 3, A.T. Chenault, a lawyer representing BP, responded in writing via letter stating, "We have no personal knowledge of the presentation of a Voluntary Waiver and Release to numerous people from Plaquemines Parish in Venice, Louisiana. However, it is the position of BP that any such documents will be rescinded and not binding on anyone signing same."
Chenault's letter concluded with a statement that directly contradicts Feinberg's recent announcement.
"Lastly, we confirm that BP will not offset payments to vessel owners or other volunteers against claims they might have," wrote Cheault, who is with the firm Fowler, Rodriguez, Valdes-Fauli.
Today, during a speech at the Economics Club in Washington, Feinberg appeared to be attempting to dissuade claimants from filing lawsuits against BP.
"You're crazy to do so, though," Feiberg said. "Because under this program, you will receive, if you're eligible, compensation without having to go to court for years, without the uncertainty of going to court, since I'll be much more generous than any court will be. And at the same time, you won't need to pay lawyers and costs."
The move is being seen by many as an attempt by Feinberg to sell the compensation fund to victims, so as to prevent more lawsuits against BP.
Herman told Truthout that he believes Feinberg has said things that "are not consistent," and that Feinberg "may not have been familiar" with the aforementioned agreement by BP to "not offset payments to vessel owners or other volunteers against claims they might have."
Herman, who has already met with Feinberg on several occasions, said he expects to meet up with Feinberg's law partner, Michael Rozen, "very soon."
Attorney Robert Wiygul in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, represents many fishermen involved in BP's oil response program, and told Truthout he "finds it very troubling" that BP and Feingold appear to be trying to position themselves to avoid future compensation claims from fishermen, as opposed to handling it on a year-to-year basis.
Clint Guidry is a Louisiana fisherman, and is on the board of directors of the Louisiana Shrimp Association. He is also the shrimp harvester representative on the Louisiana Shrimp Task Force created by executive order of Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Guidry told Truthout that he believes Feinberg is "trying to limit BP's liability," adding that "every time Feinberg announces something he changes what he said before."
According to Guidry, Feinberg first proposed a partial claim settlement that would provide settlement checks for up to three years. This would have allowed fishermen to determine if there were "holes in the ecosystem."
If the oil disaster kills off enough shrimp, for example, there would be no shrimping season next year, and no way for shrimpers to earn a living.
"But now his new plan is to do away with that by having folks take a settlement," Guidry added. "There's not much of his program I like. It appears he is protecting BP."
On May 24, in Galliano, Louisiana, Guidry testified to a delegation of US senators, congressmen and various Obama administration departments and agencies. He said:
"BP committed fraud in furnishing oil-spill-response data required to obtain a permit to enable them to drill the MC 252 location. The reality is they were not prepared to handle or control a blowout and resulting oil spill of this magnitude. Simply put, they lied.
"BP, in their haste to cut corners and save money in the completion process on the well location at MC 252, exhibited willful neglect in their duties to complete the well safely, which led to the blowout and explosion that killed 11 people. Eleven souls that will never come back. Eleven families with mothers and fathers and wives and children. Children who will never see their fathers again.
"This neglect and loss of life constitutes negligent homicide and all involved should be arrested and charged as such."
Guidry told Truthout he believes, "There has been a BP cover-up from day one," and "the US government, OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration], the Coast Guard, NIOSH [National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health], all of them are in on it."
Guidry is very concerned about the health of the fishermen he represents, of which there are approximately 600, who are working on the oil response for BP.
"These people are putting their health at risk by working for them, and now look at how they are being treated," Gui
This morning, Herman sent this letter to Rozen and Feinberg:
"Dear Mr. Rozen and Mr. Feinberg,
"It was reported in the local media last night that BP (presumably thru the Claims Facility) was going to take a credit or offset for payments to fishermen and others engaged in the Vessels of Opportunity and/or other clean-up/remediation efforts against what is owed to them for lost profits and/or diminished earning capacity.
"Please note that BP very early on agreed not to do this. (See Letter from BP Counsel A.T. Chenault to my partner Jim Klick dated May 3, 2010.)"
Herman also provided Truthout with an email he sent to persons concerned with BP's and Feinberg's recent moves, in which he expressed concern with the procedures of the Claims Facility. While Herman stated that Feinberg and Rozen "have attempted to answer some of these questions, (with perhaps some inconsistency), no one -- it seems -- has ever seen a document signed off on by BP."
Herman asked, "What, specifically, has BP committed to do? What, specifically, has BP given Mr. Feinberg (as an "independent" agent or administrator) the authority to agree to on behalf of BP? The attached letter was sent to BP's local counsel here in New Orleans on July 3rd. We have still not received a formal response, and, to my knowledge, no one (including Mr. Feinberg) has seen a formal written document (other than a White House Press Release) that purports to be authored by, signed by, agreed to or otherwise binding on BP. So, it would seem to be time to start asking BP (and/or the administration) : Where is BP? Or, perhaps stated another way: Where's the beef?"
On June 1, BP Board Chairman Henric Svanberg stated, "[President Obama] is frustrated because he cares about the small people, and we care about the small people. I hear comments sometimes that large oil companies are greedy companies or don't care, but that is not the case in BP. We care about the small people."