Thursday, August 28, 2008 proudly presents BMP Sessions

a night featuring:

-Bob Daktari spinning anti-folk records backwards to get messages from the other side while playing his geetar and showing off his vocal skills

-Websta and his wrestling moves vs DiscoNinja's stabby toy throwing mayhem

-Bn1 hanging from the roof hook by his genitals, and not screaming in pain.

-Lelo performing an extended 20 minute DJ set (ie: putting on a cd then getting horribly drunk)

Date: September 12th, 8pm start
Location: Orchid
Street: Ponsonby Road

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Rockets, guile and the lessons of history: the Taleban besiege Kabul

By Jeremy Page in Kabul

23/08/08 "The Times" -- - The lorry drivers who bring the Pepsi and petrol for Nato troops in Kabul have their own way of calculating the Taleban's progress towards the Afghan capital: they simply count the lorries destroyed on the main roads.

By that measure, and many others, this looks increasingly like a city under siege as the Taleban start to disrupt supply routes, mimicking tactics used against the British in 1841 and the Soviets two decades ago.

Abdul Hamid, 35, was ferrying Nato supplies from the Pakistani border last month when Taleban fighters appeared on the rocks above and aimed their rocket-launchers at him, 40miles (65km) east of Kabul. “They just missed me but hit the two trucks behind,” he said. “This road used to be safe, but in the last month they've been attacking more and more.”

The road from Kabul to Kandahar is even more treacherous, according to other drivers. “If the Afghan Army isn't there, a fly cannot pass,” said Bashir, a lorry owner, pointing to the scorched shells of three vehicles he retrieved from a Taleban raid on the Kandahar road last week. Of 60 lorries, 13 were destroyed, he said. “Why can't the Americans stop this?”

Seven years after a US-led invasion toppled the Taleban, that is the question now troubling President Karzai and Nato forces in Afghanistan.

Despite the presence of 70,000 foreign troops, the Taleban have advanced on Kabul this year and hold territory just outside Maydan Shar, the capital of Wardak province, 20 miles southwest of the capital.

Militants in Wardak mount almost daily raids on the Kandahar road, which also links the main US bases in Afghanistan. In the past month, they have stepped up attacks on the road from Kabul to Pakistan via Jalalabad - the main supply route for food, fuel and water.

This week they killed ten French soldiers in Sarobi, 30 miles along the Jalalabad road from Kabul. Simultaneously, they attacked the biggest US base in eastern Afghanistan. Such is the fear of a Taleban “spectacular” in Kabul, that when Gordon Brown visited on Thursday he was taken around by helicopter rather than being driven through the streets.

“We're seeing history repeat itself,” said Haroun Mir, co-founder of the Afghanistan Centre for Research and Policy Studies and a former aide to Ahmad Shah Massoud, the assassinated Mujahidin commander. “The Taleban's trying to cut the main roads to Kabul to target supplies for foreign forces, just like the Mujahidin did with the Soviets. If the highways are cut even for two days, it could also create riots in the city.”

Kabul is vulnerable to blockades because it is surrounded by mountains and has to ship in supplies on three roads leading north, east and southwest. The British learnt this the hard way during the siege of Kabul in 1841, documented by Lady Florentia Sale in A Journal of the Disasters in Afghanistan. “Khojeh Meer says that he has no more grain,” she wrote on December 3, 1841. “He also says that the moolahs have been to all the villages and laid the people under ban not to assist the English and that consequently the Mussulman population are as one man against us.” A month later, the British began their retreat from Kabul.

In the 1980s it was Soviet forces encircled in Kabul by the Mujahidin. They withrew in 1989. In 1996 the Taleban took Kabul after capturing Wardak and Jalalabad and blockading the capital. Isaf, the International Security Assistance Force, says that circumstances are different today: it has superior air support and logistics to the Soviets and the Taleban. The militants, though, have experience on their side, thanks to former Mujahidin commanders who have blockaded Kabul before.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taleban spokesman, said that their new strategy was announced by the brother and deputy of Mullah Omar, the Taleban leader, in late 2007. “The Taleban will surround Kabul politically and militarily to make it hard for Nato forces to receive logistic convoys,” he told The Times. “That will mean less Nato movement and will show we can make trouble in the capital.”

Local officials say that the Taleban, which derive most of their support from ethnic Pashtuns, are enlisting villages around Kabul and feeding off frustration with the lack of development since 2001. They fear that the next target will be the northern routes to the borders of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

The Afghan Government insists that it controls the country's main roads and Des Browne, the British Defence Secretary, this week dismissed recent Taleban raids near Kabul as

indiscriminate. “In no sense have they created, or can they make, a strategic threat to the Government of Afghanistan,” he said. Brigadier-General Richard Blanchette, an Isaf spokesman, said: “We're fine for fuel and food. With the air power we have, and the quality of troops on the ground, there is no way they can win.”

But monthly foreign troop casualties are on the rise, surpassing those in Iraq, and set to make this year Afghanistan's bloodiest since 2001.

The Taleban's strategy is also impeding aid agencies, especially since militants shot dead three women aid workers last week. Ebadullah Ebadi, of the World Food Programme, said that 20 of its convoys had been attacked so far this year, compared with 30 in all of 2007, many in parts of southeastern Afghanistan previously considered safe.

The lorry drivers know the risks, but say there is no other work. “They used to warn us not to supply the infidel,” said Mr Hamid. “If they catch me now, they'll throw me in my own container, cover me in petrol and burn me alive.”

The Afghan Interior Ministry said that 76 civilians, including 50 children and 19 women, were killed yesterday by US-led coalition forces in the western province of Herat. Western forces confirmed the operation, but said only 30 Taleban had been killed.

History of war in Afghanistan

1839 British invade Afghanistan to install compliant king
1842 British retreat from Kabul; 16,500 troops and civilians killed; one survivor
1878-80 Second Anglo-Afghan War
1979 Soviet forces invade to prop up Communist Government
1988-89 Soviets retreat
1989-92 Civil war among warlords
1996 Taleban take over
2001 US-led invasion topples Taleban Government

Monday, August 25, 2008

Men with small dicks

I grewupexpecting nuclear war to be the means of my departure from this life and with the end of the coldwar I watched a generation emerge who hadn't grown up under the threat of the bomb - a generation that is so much more positive than mine for that and many other factors that came from our changing world.

It is bloody depressing seeing the world head back to the old hatred and fear of day gone by.

As a person without faith I figured humanity would evolve past our selfish instinct to kill, maim and subjugate others... and perhaps we still will - if climate change, resource war and the ever growing desire from some quarters to resume a war with no end.

Everyday I am bombarded with emails informing me of how I can enhance my manhood - perhaps our world leaders could take the advice from these emails and not inflict their small mindedness and manliness on us all...

Nuclear Chicken in Poland - Putin Can't Afford to Back Down
By Mike Whitney

"Don’t blame the mirror if your face is crooked." Vladimir Putin quoting Russian proverb

24/08/08 If the Bush administration proceeds with its plan to deploy its Missile Defense System in Poland, Russian Prime Minister Putin will be forced to remove it militarily. He has no other option. The proposed system integrates the the entire US nuclear arsenal into one operational-unit a mere 115 miles from the Russian border. It's no different than Khrushchev's plan to deploy nuclear missiles in Cuba in the 1960s.

Early last year, at a press conference that was censored in the United States, Putin explained his concerns about Bush's plan:

“Once the missile defense system is put in place it will work automatically with the entire nuclear capability of the United States. It will be an integral part of the US nuclear capability....And, for the first time in history---and I want to emphasize this---there will be elements of the US nuclear capability on the European continent. It simply changes the whole configuration of international security…..Of course, we have to respond to that.”

Nuclear weapons specialist, Francis A. Boyle, says the Bush administration's plans represent the “longstanding US policy of nuclear first-strike against Russia." In Boyle’s article “US Missiles in Europe: Beyond Deterrence to First Strike Threat” he states:

“By means of a US first strike about 99%+ of Russian nuclear forces would be taken out. Namely, the United States Government believes that with the deployment of a facially successful first strike capability, they can move beyond deterrence and into "compellence."… This has been analyzed ad nauseam in the professional literature. But especially by one of Harvard's premier warmongers in chief, Thomas Schelling --winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics granted by the Bank of Sweden-- who developed the term "compellence" and distinguished it from "deterrence." …The USG is breaking out of a "deterrence" posture and moving into a "compellence" posture. (Global Research 6-6-07)

Bush's real goal is to force Moscow to conform to Washington’s diktats or face the prospect of first-strike nuclear annihilation. Putin must respond.

Putin needs to present his case before the UN General Assembly emphasizing how the proposed US system upsets the nuclear balance of power and poses a direct threat to Russia's national security. He should give an account of US activities in Central Asia since the fall of the Berlin Wall showing how the Bush administration has pursued a hostile policy of encirclement and strangulation towards the Russian Federation. The US has brought most of the former Soviet satellites into NATO, including Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and now is seeking membership for Georgia and Ukraine right on Russia's border.

The US has expanded its military installations in other areas of Central Asia, primarily Afghanistan, posing long-range problems for the entire region.

The Bush administration has also used its intelligence agencies and NGOs to foment political unrest and topple regimes which were sympathetic to Moscow in its "color-coded" revolutions. Eurasia is now inundated with American puppets who get their marching-orders from the White House.

Also, the US and its allies have declared Kosovo, a vital part of Serbian territory, independent without UN approval. Serbia is a traditional ally of Russia's. Many analysts now believe that the recent fighting in South Ossetia was directly connected to the Bush administration's blatant disregard for Serbia's sovereignty.

Putin recently responded to these developments saying:

“Some people have the illusion that you can do everything just as you want, regardless of the interests of other people. Of course it is for precisely this reason that the international situation gets worse and eventually results in an arms race. But we are not the instigators. We do not want it. Why would we want to divert resources to this? And we are not jeopardizing our relations with anyone. But we must respond. Name even one step that we have taken or one action of ours designed to worsen the situation. There are none. We are not interested in that. We are interested in maintaining a good atmosphere." Putin added exasperated, “So what should we do?” The present situation has brought us “the brink of disaster!”

Russia has complied with its treaty obligations and removed all of its heavy weapons from the Eastern Europe and put them behind the Ural Mountains. They have reduced their military by 300,000.

At the same time Washington has increased its arms shipments to new allies in Eastern Europe and is building two new military bases in Romania and Bulgaria. Missile Defense components and radar are going up in the Czech Republic and Poland. Obviously, Russia cannot continue to disarm unilaterally while neighboring states bulk up with new US-made weapons systems. When Putin heard that the Bush administration was developing "bunker-busting" nuclear weapons he said to Bush:

“It would be better to look for other ways to fight terrorism than create low-yield nuclear weapons that lower the threshold for using these weapons, and thereby put humankind on the brink of nuclear catastrophe. But they don’t listen to us. They are not looking for compromise. Their entire point of view can be summed-up in one sentence: ‘Whoever is not with us is against us.’”
It wasn't Russia who scrapped the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) That was the Bush administration, too.

American expansionism has thrust the world into another arms race pitting East against West Cold War-style. The present system of international security has been upended and we are moving inexorably towards a military showdown between the two nuclear-armed powers.

As Putin stated at the press conference, "I am convinced that we have reached that decisive moment when we must seriously think about the architecture of global security.”


Russia is experiencing a Renaissance. 20 million people have been raised from poverty since Putin took office 8 years ago. The Russian economy has been growing by 7% a year, real incomes are growing by an astonishing 12% per year and Moscow has become a thriving center of global trade. Oil and natural gas have restored Russia to its formal role as one of the great world's great powers. The last thing Putin wants is a nuclear standoff with the United States. But he will not shirk from his responsibilities either. If the Missile Defense system is deployed, Putin will be forced to raise the stakes and send warplanes over the construction site. That is the logical first-step that any responsible leader would take before removing the site altogether.

Bush should consider very carefully whether he wants to go ahead with this game of nuclear chicken or not. Putting a knife to Moscow's throat is an act of aggression equal to invading Iraq, only this time the victim has the ability to fight back.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Georgia was tricked, but by Russia or US?

By Ian Bell

23/08/08 "Sunday Herald" -- LET'S RUN through this again. Vladimir Putin is not a nice man. The KGB, with whom the young Vlad earned his reputation as a people person, was not Russia's answer to the Rotary Club. As a direct consequence, Russian traditions of democracy remain wafer thin, a cracked veneer that fails utterly to conceal thuggery, rigged votes, oligarchic mafias, corruption, and the corpses of journalists. Are we clear?

Russia's current identity is composed, meanwhile, of a volatile mixture of intense nationalism and paranoia. Its rulers, whatever their labels, take it as read that their country exists under permanent threat of encirclement by its enemies. Now, here's the tricky part: there is nothing currently to suggest that they are mistaken. Intense nationalists of a different stripe, feed the paranoia of the intense nationalists in Moscow.

This is not, of course, the story we have been hearing. When the United States − having shredded the anti-ballistic missile treaty that gave nuclear deterrence its single justification − bribes Poland into housing rockets pointed at the Russians, we hear only of a "shield". When Georgia launches smaller rockets at a South Ossetian town, in defiance of all the humanitarian rules, we hear only that a freedom-loving but "provoked" Georgian leader has stepped into a cunning Russian trap.

It may be, of course, that Georgia's President Saakashvili committed just such an act of astonishing, inexplicable folly. North Ossetia, ethnic and cultural twin to its disputed neighbour in the south, is part of the Russian Federation. Putin and those who support him - a clear majority, as no-one disputes, of Russians and Ossetians - meanwhile have difficulty understanding the concept of Georgian independence.

But when Saakashvili offered the gift of a direct military challenge by shelling Ossetian Tskhinvali, hospitals, parliament and all, how was Russia supposed to react? By asking politely for clarification of Georgian intentions? Imagine the French have just shelled the Channel Islands. What's our next move?

A daft analogy? Not as daft, I suspect, as the claim that the US, with military advisers on site in Georgia busily equipping and training its army, tried and failed to dissuade Saakashvili from launching a war. Does America have so little influence over a tiny client state that depends entirely on American goodwill? Or did Saakashvili somehow get the wrong idea from someone somewhere about the nature and scale of likely US support and US responses? Nothing else makes any sense.

Much of the West's media have accepted the script as written, and accepted it with enthusiasm. Some people, it seems, really miss the Cold War. As political eminences in the US tell it, that conflict never ended. Who knew? George Bush senior and the "new world order" never happened. Without missing a beat, we are back to "containing Russia". The proportionate response to a five-day war in a postage-stamp region of the Caucasus is the placing of missiles in Poland. Perhaps the Cubans should offer a view?

Let's say, for argument's sake, that Saakashvili did indeed make a grievous error. Let's accept that a Harvard education cannot eradicate a tendency to hot-headedness. It's still either/or. Either Saakashvili was misled, or he is dumb. Either way, does that qualify him to be in a position to whistle-up the nuclear arsenals of Nato should he have another rush of blood to the head?

David Miliband, our vastly-experienced Foreign Secretary, thinks it does. The latest junior Churchill argues that, precisely because Georgia took a kicking from the Russians, its membership of Nato should be nodded through forthwith. This was precisely the outcome sought by the US at a Nato meeting in Bucharest in the spring, long before anyone had heard of South Ossetia.

You can see how that one would run in State Department strategic gaming. So the Russians get a little war, they would say, and the chance to flaunt their cojones. If this plays, we get to overcome the objections of the Germans, the French and the Italians and plant another Nato flag in Russia's back yard. This is known, I think, at least to the never-recently-sane, as a price worth paying.

Does a leader with Saakashvili's lamentable credentials in war, and as a democrat, really become entitled to have another crack at the Russians with full Nato backing? Such is the meaning of article V of the organisation's treaty: one for all and all for one. If a Nato member is attacked, its brethren must come to its aid militarily. We should grant that licence to the Rocket Man of Tbilisi? Miliband says we should.

Putin and his stooge, Russian "President" Dmitry Medvedev, are reliable villains. Russia says that Poland, with its planned shield, must go back on the nuclear target list: the Apocalypse Express gets its headline. Yet none of this, bizarre as it sounds, should be Europe's real concern.

We are being sucked in, suckered and conscripted. As an economically embattled US flails after former glories, it fashions Nato into a blunt instrument. Whatever the organisation's purpose during the Cold War, it currently stands revealed as an expeditionary force on behalf of Washington's interests. That is not a useful development for Nato, Europe, America or the world.

Georgia should be proof enough. We know that Putin's Russia is not to be trusted. But we also know a simple fact: in South Ossetia, Saakashvili started the shooting. Had the United Nations been allowed to function we might have been talking about faults on both sides. Instead, we are offered a new Cold War as though no other alternative is possible.

Far off in Afghanistan, meanwhile, 10 young Frenchmen die in a single engagement; then three Poles. They join the list of Britons, Canadians, Dutch and Americans that creeps towards 200 lives lost in 2008 alone, mostly for the sake of a Nato mission in a war on terrorism declared, forgotten, botched, forgotten and botched again under Washington's direction. So remind me: where is Kabul, exactly, in relation to the North Atlantic?

The city is rather closer to Pakistan, source of the Taliban's endlessly-replenished supplies of men and guns, a country that has just discarded America's latest favourite general. Pervez Musharraf leaves behind a state with ungovernable borders that is also − let's take another bow − armed with real, rather than Iranian potentially-perhaps nuclear weapons. Those in the Taliban and al Qaeda, people who would do us actual harm in our own towns and cities, given the chance, cannot feel too disgruntled.

Another Cold War in Europe and a hot war on the old Northwest Frontier: as a scorecard for Nato, these involve precious few bonus points. You would have to mark them as abject failures. Afghanistan begins to seem very like Europe's long-avoided Vietnam. The disastrous challenge and counter-challenge with Russia meanwhile has a very creaky and disreputable sort of plot line. Nato, amid it all, has become America's proxy.

It was always that, in most senses. You suspect, however, that an expiring Bush administration has found its gimmick, finally. How to draw the sceptical and under-achieving Europeans back in to the great global cause without deferring to their doubts and finer feelings?

Forget threats, insults, or expressions of undying friendship: binding treaties will do. Treaties, that is, and a couple of decent scripts. Wag the dog. Do it all with a crisis in a place with a name that might just have been invented. Do it with an unending war on the authors of permanent, inchoate, indefinable alien threat.

Putin, Saakashvili, and some Afghan warlords will be happy to oblige. David Miliband will not even hesitate. And the matinee crowds will be none the wiser.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

No Badgers but still way cool - the olympics we didn't seeon freeview

New images reveal, for the first time, that man's most trusted ally, the guinea pig, holds a yearly competition. The Guinea Pig Games (GPG) pits two teams of athletic Cavia porcellus against each other to win gold, silver, and bronze medals

The Guinea Pig Games

Friday, August 22, 2008

I don't want to play

This is the 85th most read blog from NZ according to this

I dunno what to make of that or the postbooze feeling in my stomach this morning

New Villalobos mix on the pod to get me to work

outlook sunny

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Who started Cold War II?

By Patrick J. Buchanan


The American people should be eternally grateful to Old Europe for having spiked the Bush-McCain plan to bring Georgia into NATO.

Had Georgia been in NATO when Mikheil Saakashvili invaded South Ossetia, we would be eyeball to eyeball with Russia, facing war in the Caucasus, where Moscow's superiority is as great as U.S. superiority in the Caribbean during the Cuban missile crisis.

If the Russia-Georgia war proves nothing else, it is the insanity of giving erratic hotheads in volatile nations the power to drag the United States into war.

From Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan, as Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, U.S. presidents have sought to avoid shooting wars with Russia, even when the Bear was at its most beastly.

Truman refused to use force to break Stalin's Berlin blockade. Ike refused to intervene when the Butcher of Budapest drowned the Hungarian Revolution in blood. LBJ sat impotent as Leonid Brezhnev's tanks crushed the Prague Spring. Jimmy Carter's response to Brezhnev's invasion of Afghanistan was to boycott the Moscow Olympics. When Brezhnev ordered his Warsaw satraps to crush Solidarity and shot down a South Korean airliner killing scores of U.S. citizens, including a congressman, Reagan did – nothing.

These presidents were not cowards. They simply would not go to war when no vital U.S. interest was at risk to justify a war. Yet, had George W. Bush prevailed and were Georgia in NATO, U.S. Marines could be fighting Russian troops over whose flag should fly over a province of 70,000 South Ossetians who prefer Russians to Georgians.

The arrogant folly of the architects of U.S. post-Cold War policy is today on display. By bringing three ex-Soviet republics into NATO, we have moved the U.S. red line for war from the Elbe almost to within artillery range of the old Leningrad.

Should America admit Ukraine into NATO, Yalta, vacation resort of the czars, will be a NATO port and Sevastopol, traditional home of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, will become a naval base for the U.S. Sixth Fleet. This is altogether a bridge too far.

And can we not understand how a Russian patriot like Vladimir Putin would be incensed by this U.S. encirclement after Russia shed its empire and sought our friendship? How would Andy Jackson have reacted to such crowding by the British Empire?

As of 1991, the oil of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan belonged to Moscow. Can we not understand why Putin would smolder as avaricious Yankees built pipelines to siphon the oil and gas of the Caspian Basin through breakaway Georgia to the West?

For a dozen years, Putin & Co. watched as U.S. agents helped to dump over regimes in Ukraine and Georgia that were friendly to Moscow.

If Cold War II is coming, who started it, if not us?

The swift and decisive action of Putin's army in running the Georgian forces out of South Ossetia in 24 hours after Saakashvili began his barrage and invasion suggests Putin knew exactly what Saakashvili was up to and dropped the hammer on him.

What did we know? Did we know Georgia was about to walk into Putin's trap? Did we not see the Russians lying in wait north of the border? Did we give Saakashvili a green light?

Joe Biden ought to be conducting public hearings on who caused this U.S. humiliation.

The war in Georgia has exposed the dangerous overextension of U.S. power. There is no way America can fight a war with Russia in the Caucasus with our army tied down in Afghanistan and Iraq. Nor should we. Hence, it is demented to be offering, as John McCain and Barack Obama are, NATO membership to Tbilisi.

The United States must decide whether it wants a partner in a flawed Russia or a second Cold War. For if we want another Cold War, we are, by cutting Russia out of the oil of the Caspian and pushing NATO into her face, going about it exactly the right way.

Vladimir Putin is no Stalin. He is a nationalist determined, as ruler of a proud and powerful country, to assert his nation's primacy in its own sphere, just as U.S. presidents from James Monroe to Bush have done on our side of the Atlantic.

A resurgent Russia is no threat to any vital interests of the United States. It is a threat to an American Empire that presumes some God-given right to plant U.S. military power in the backyard or on the front porch of Mother Russia.

Who rules Abkhazia and South Ossetia is none of our business. And after this madcap adventure of Saakashvili, why not let the people of these provinces decide their own future in plebiscites conducted by the United Nations or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe?

As for Saakashvili, he's probably toast in Tbilisi after this stunt. Let the neocons find him an endowed chair at the American Enterprise Institute

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A 10" 78... the world we live in

Kitty Daisy & Lewis are no ordinary band. The three siblings -- now aged 15,18 and 17 - first came together onstage at a country and rockabilly jam in a North London pub. Over five years later the 50s music, fashion and technology obsessed family have built a massive word of mouth audience through a stream of rapturously received gigs and festival appearances and are ready to release their first long player on Rob da Bank's Sunday Best label on 28th July 2008.

The single 'Going Up The Country' is a perfectly rounded summer holiday feel-good jam, full of harmonica solos, handclaps and lyrics about leaving the city smog for fairer country hills. Coming out on 7", authentic 78rpm 10", CD and download

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Cease Fire

From The Times
August 12, 2008

Another battle in the 1,000 year Russia-Georgia grudge match

Retaking Ossetia is just one part of Russia's campaign to reassert dominance over the Caucasus - and defy America

Simon Sebag Montefiore

The Russian tank columns rumbling into Georgia reveal the anger of a tiger finally swatting the mouse that has teased it for years. South Ossetia may seem as distant, trivial and complicated as the 19th-century Schleswig-Holstein question but Russia's fury is about much more than the Ossetians. The Caucasus matters greatly to the Russians for all sorts of reasons, none greater than the fact that it now also matters to us.

The troubles in Georgia are not the equivalent of an assassinated archduke in Sarajevo. But historians may well point to this little war, beside the spectacular Olympic launch of resurgent China, as the start of the twilight of America's sole world hegemony. If the new Great Game is for the oil of the Caucasus and Central Asia, the West may be in the process of losing it.

I've been visiting Georgia since the fall of the Soviet Empire in 1991. I've known all three Georgian presidents since independence, and witnessed the wars and revolutions of the Caucasian tinderbox. In 1991 the chief of the Georgian partisans in the first Ossetian war, a dentist turned warlord, drove me up to villages around Tskhinvali, highlands of lusciously green beauty, where a vicious war between Georgian and Ossetian farmers was being waged with the ferocity of intimate neighbours, using comically armoured tractors instead of tanks.

My Georgian hosts leant their guns against a tree and took me to an open-air feast at a table stacked with delicacies in honour of a local boy killed that day. During the long drunken banquet I asked where the boy was buried. “He hasn't been buried,” replied my host, “he's under your feet.” Paling, I looked and there he lay, stretched out under the table, cradled with bouquets of flowers.

To understand this week's events, we must travel back a thousand years: long before Russia existed, Georgia was a Christian-warrior kingdom. The Caucasus was the natural borderland of the three great empires of the Near East: the battlefield between Orthodox Russia, the Islamic Ottomans and Persians. In 1783 the embattled King Eralke II was forced to claim the protection of Prince Potemkin, Catherine the Great's partner-in-power. Between 1801 and 1810 Russia swallowed the last Georgian principalities. In 1918 Georgia enjoyed independence for three years before Stalin seized it back for Moscow.

No one understood its ethnic complexity and strategic significance like Stalin, that Georgian romantic turned Russian imperialist, who had been born in Gori, the town that has been overrun by Russian forces and where a marble temple now stands over the hut where he was born. The Ossetians who straddled the border had early sought Russian alliance, earning Georgian disdain. Hence Stalin was accused by his enemies of being an Ossetian: his father was of Ossetian descent, though long since Georgianised. Stalin drew the borders of the Soviet republics to ensure Georgia contained autonomous ethnic entities, South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Adzharia, through which Moscow could keep Georgia in order.

When that proud, cocky bantam, Georgia, became independent in 1991, the Russian double-headed eagle was humiliated. Ever since, Russian interference and skulduggery has bedevilled Georgia. Russia encouraged southern Ossetia to establish a statelet within Georgia, whose inept, insane first President, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, had inflamed ethnic tensions. As Ossetians fought Georgians who themselves rebelled against Gamsakhurdia, I sat in his office: he was a Shakespearean scholar and quoted King Lear to me.

Gamsakhurdia was either murdered or committed suicide. In 1993, his successor Eduard Shevardnadze, the former Soviet Foreign Minister and Politburo member, lost Abkhazia in another bloody Russian-orchestrated war. But Shevardnadze won the peace. Georgia, which had longed to be part of Europe, embraced Western democracy and US friendship. Yet Shevardnadze recognised the limits of Georgian defiance, once telling me as we flew in 1993 in his plane to make peace with the Kremlin: “The destiny of Russia is reflected in the Caucasus like the rays of the sun are reflected in a drop of water.”

Old, autocratic Shevardnadze was toppled in the Rose Revolution of 2003 by an energetic and decent if impulsive US-educated lawyer, Mikhail Saakashvili, who hoped to escape Moscow for ever by joining the EU and Nato - as did Russia's huge neighbour, Ukraine. This prospect of encirclement by triumphant America infuriated Russia. Imagine if newly independent Wales cockily joined the Warsaw Pact.

Russia is no longer the spineless giant of the Nineties: Vladimir Putin's musclebound, oil-fuelled authoritarian regime has aggressively reinvigorated Russia. He had already shown his ruthless determination to master the Caucasus by crushing Chechnya. Nato in Georgia would have made that meaningless. The Kremlin has used its clients, Abkhazia and Ossetia, as Trojan Horses to ruin Tbilisi's independence - recently raising the tension by offering Russian passports to all Ossetians and testing Georgian resolve with cross-border skirmishing: the trap of a practised imperial power.

Georgia is not guiltless: most Georgians I know care little about Ossetia even though it is part of sovereign Georgia. But in order to join Nato, President Saakashvili wanted to settle Georgia's instability by reclaiming Ossetia and Abkhazia. By seizing Tskhinvali, he took one hell of a gamble that Russia wouldn't intervene. Georgia is paying a high price for this. To finish this vicious circle, Russian attacks show how badly Georgia needs EU/Nato protection, yet Georgia will never get it while embroiled in fighting.

The retaking of Ossetia is a minor part of the Russian campaign. More significant is the attack on Georgia proper, which reasserts Russia's hegemony over the Caucasus, assuages the humiliations of the past 20 years, subverts Georgian democracy - and defies and defangs American superpowerdom. The swaggering arrival of Vladimir Putin, now the Prime Minister, across the border, macho in his tight jeans and white leather jacket, shows he, not President Medvedev, remains Russia's paramount leader.

This war is really a celebration of ferocious force in the realm of international power, a dangerous precedent. The West must protest with unified resolve; Russia both despises Western hypocrisy and craves Western approval. Georgian democracy and sovereignty matter. So do our oil supplies: the West built a pipeline to bring oil from Azerbaijan and Central Asian across Georgia to Turkey, free of Russian interference.

Russia's clumsy ferocity could ignite a Caucasian tinderbox that even Moscow cannot extinguish. But faced with Western outrage, the Kremlin might toss Stalin's words back at President Bush: “How many divisions has the Pope?” None: Washington and London are not sending the 101st Airborne or the SAS.

Russia, which appears to be pushing its tanks into Georgia to overthrow its democratically elected president, has demonstrated gleefully the limits of US power and Moscow's historic destiny as regional hegemon and restored 21st-century superpower. The Empire has struck back and shaken the order of the world.

Simon Sebag Montefiore is the author of Young Stalin. His latest book is a novel, Sashenka

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Why the Drug War is a Crime against Humanity Explained

Why the Drug War is a Crime against Humanity Explained

By Carmen Yarrusso

09/08/08 "ICH" -- - Like the Iraq war and the “war on terror”, the so-called “drug war” is a government contrived “war” based on lies that generates massive profits for a few while causing massive suffering for many.

The drug war is futile by design (and thus never-ending) because it doesn’t “fight” drugs—quite the contrary—it strongly encourages production and distribution of prohibited drugs by guaranteeing extremely high profits.

But the most insidious and evil aspect of the drug war is it manufactures its own enemies by criminalizing the most basic of human rights—the right of sovereignty over your own body. The drug war could not exist without first inventing a bogus crime.

Our government wastes billions of tax dollars each year harassing and jailing millions of decent, productive Americans for a government-invented “crime”. The use of drugs (even dangerous drugs like alcohol and nicotine) simply doesn’t meet any reasonable definition of “crime”.

Real crime requires action that harms another. Real crime requires both a victim and a perpetrator. For example, robbery harms another and has both a victim and a perpetrator. Only a corrupt, depraved government could invent a crime you commit against yourself.

If you use certain drugs, our government claims you’re both a criminal and a victim at the same time. Since the perpetrator can't be separated from the victim, the victim is further punished for the “crime”. This pathetic perversion of justice is vigorously championed by our government for selfish political reasons.

More than 50 government agencies share billions of your tax dollars each year “fighting” a government-created crime. Of the millions of illegal drug users, the vast majority use marijuana. If marijuana were legal like alcohol, these government agencies would suddenly lose billions of dollars because millions of former “criminals” would suddenly be granted sovereignty over their own bodies. The vast army amassed to fight the drug war would need to be dissolved at great cost.

That’s why our government strongly opposes even honest debate about marijuana legalization because this massive money-making scam would soon end.

Ingesting nicotine, alcohol, fatty foods, or certain drugs may be unwise. But why is it a crime? If a drug user or a non-drug user harms another they should be treated equally. But the bogus “crime” of drug use doesn't require harming anyone. Nor does it require a victim and a perpetrator. It only requires a government-invented, bogus criminal/victim, a drug user.

By using lies and deception our government convinces gullible Americans that simply putting something into your own body is a serious crime. But evidence clearly shows that nearly all the harm associated with drug use is caused by creating the bogus crime, not from the actual drug use. There are millions of drug users, but relatively few are harmed by their drug use. These few should be patients, not criminals.

But it’s not just the millions arrested for drug use who suffer from this gross injustice. We gullible Americans have allowed our government to invent a bogus crime that causes massive misery worldwide while costing the taxpayers billions.

Consider the following list of easily avoidable human tragedies that are the direct result of a government-invented, bogus crime: A tax-free, unregulated, multi-billion-dollar drug industry necessarily run by violent criminals; a giant law enforcement bureaucracy wasting billions in a futile attempt to curtail this drug industry, which, in fact, guarantees its extreme profitability; a deteriorating public education system robbed of billions to support this law enforcement bureaucracy; courts and prisons overflowing with non-violent "criminals" while murderers, rapists and real criminals go free; tens of thousands of children enduring the suffering and stigma of having one or both parents in jail for a bogus "crime”; the gradual erosion of our Constitution as more and more civil liberties are sacrificed to fight a crime "made in USA."; rampant corruption of foreign governments (like Mexico and Columbia), so driven by US drug profits that life and human rights are secondary; thousands of adults and children infected and dying from HIV because distributing clean needles is a “crime”; violent street gangs with little incentive for education or legitimate jobs reaping huge drug profits made possible by a bogus crime; a growing death toll from police breaking down doors to catch people using substances less dangerous than tobacco, alcohol or fatty foods; a growing cynicism and disrespect for all laws and authority fueled by the knowledge our government can arbitrarily invent a bogus crime…

This sordid list goes on and on.

We're appalled when Islamic regimes invent bogus crimes against reading certain books, or listening to certain music. Using certain drugs is our government's version of the same thing. But the worldwide consequences of US drug prohibition are far more serious and severe. All of these "crimes" lack the moral basis of real crime. All are clear cases of a repressive government dictating the private personal behavior of its citizens.

If real crime is knowingly causing harm to others, then the real crime here is not drug use, but making drug use a “crime”. And the real criminals are not drug users, but ordinary people like us, who sit back and condone a ruthless scam that has been exported and exploited around the world leaving massive human suffering in its wake.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Lies Of Hiroshima Are The Lies Of Today

By John Pilger

06/08/08 "ICH" -- - On the anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, John Pilger describes the 'progression of lies' from the dust of that detonated city, to the wars of today - and the threatened attack on Iran.

When I first went to Hiroshima in 1967, the shadow on the steps was still there. It was an almost perfect impression of a human being at ease: legs splayed, back bent, one hand by her side as she sat waiting for a bank to open. At a quarter past eight on the morning of August 6, 1945, she and her silhouette were burned into the granite. I stared at the shadow for an hour or more, then walked down to the river and met a man called Yukio, whose chest was still etched with the pattern of the shirt he was wearing when the atomic bomb was dropped.

He and his family still lived in a shack thrown up in the dust of an atomic desert. He described a huge flash over the city, "a bluish light, something like an electrical short", after which wind blew like a tornado and black rain fell. "I was thrown on the ground and noticed only the stalks of my flowers were left. Everything was still and quiet, and when I got up, there were people naked, not saying anything. Some of them had no skin or hair. I was certain I was dead." Nine years later, when I returned to look for him, he was dead from leukaemia.

In the immediate aftermath of the bomb, the allied occupation authorities banned all mention of radiation poisoning and insisted that people had been killed or injured only by the bomb's blast. It was the first big lie. "No radioactivity in Hiroshima ruin" said the front page of the New York Times, a classic of disinformation and journalistic abdication, which the Australian reporter Wilfred Burchett put right with his scoop of the century. "I write this as a warning to the world," reported Burchett in the Daily Express, having reached Hiroshima after a perilous journey, the first correspondent to dare. He described hospital wards filled with people with no visible injuries but who were dying from what he called "an atomic plague". For telling this truth, his press accreditation was withdrawn, he was pilloried and smeared - and vindicated.

The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a criminal act on an epic scale. It was premeditated mass murder that unleashed a weapon of intrinsic criminality. For this reason its apologists have sought refuge in the mythology of the ultimate "good war", whose "ethical bath", as Richard Drayton called it, has allowed the west not only to expiate its bloody imperial past but to promote 60 years of rapacious war, always beneath the shadow of The Bomb.

The most enduring lie is that the atomic bomb was dropped to end the war in the Pacific and save lives. "Even without the atomic bombing attacks," concluded the United States Strategic Bombing Survey of 1946, "air supremacy over Japan could have exerted sufficient pressure to bring about unconditional surrender and obviate the need for invasion. Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts, and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey's opinion that ... Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated."

The National Archives in Washington contain US government documents that chart Japanese peace overtures as early as 1943. None was pursued. A cable sent on May 5, 1945 by the German ambassador in Tokyo and intercepted by the US dispels any doubt that the Japanese were desperate to sue for peace, including "capitulation even if the terms were hard". Instead, the US secretary of war, Henry Stimson, told President Truman he was "fearful" that the US air force would have Japan so "bombed out" that the new weapon would not be able "to show its strength". He later admitted that "no effort was made, and none was seriously considered, to achieve surrender merely in order not to have to use the bomb". His foreign policy colleagues were eager "to browbeat the Russians with the bomb held rather ostentatiously on our hip". General Leslie Groves, director of the Manhattan Project that made the bomb, testified: "There was never any illusion on my part that Russia was our enemy, and that the project was conducted on that basis." The day after Hiroshima was obliterated, President Truman voiced his satisfaction with the "overwhelming success" of "the experiment".

Since 1945, the United States is believed to have been on the brink of using nuclear weapons at least three times. In waging their bogus "war on terror", the present governments in Washington and London have declared they are prepared to make "pre-emptive" nuclear strikes against non-nuclear states. With each stroke toward the midnight of a nuclear Armageddon, the lies of justification grow more outrageous. Iran is the current "threat". But Iran has no nuclear weapons and the disinformation that it is planning a nuclear arsenal comes largely from a discredited CIA-sponsored Iranian opposition group, the MEK - just as the lies about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction originated with the Iraqi National Congress, set up by Washington.

The role of western journalism in erecting this straw man is critical. That America's Defence Intelligence Estimate says "with high confidence" that Iran gave up its nuclear weapons programme in 2003 has been consigned to the memory hole. That Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad never threatened to "wipe Israel off the map" is of no interest. But such has been the mantra of this media "fact" that in his recent, obsequious performance before the Israeli parliament, Gordon Brown alluded to it as he threatened Iran, yet again.

This progression of lies has brought us to one of the most dangerous nuclear crises since 1945, because the real threat remains almost unmentionable in western establishment circles and therefore in the media. There is only one rampant nuclear power in the Middle East and that is Israel. The heroic Mordechai Vanunu tried to warn the world in 1986 when he smuggled out evidence that Israel was building as many as 200 nuclear warheads. In defiance of UN resolutions, Israel is today clearly itching to attack Iran, fearful that a new American administration might, just might, conduct genuine negotiations with a nation the west has defiled since Britain and America overthrew Iranian democracy in 1953.

In the New York Times on July 18, the Israeli historian Benny Morris, once considered a liberal and now a consultant to his country's political and military establishment, threatened "an Iran turned into a nuclear wasteland". This would be mass murder. For a Jew, the irony cries out.

The question begs: are the rest of us to be mere bystanders, claiming, as good Germans did, that "we did not know"? Do we hide ever more behind what Richard Falk has called "a self-righteous, one-way, legal/moral screen [with] positive images of western values and innocence portrayed as threatened, validating a campaign of unrestricted violence"? Catching war criminals is fashionable again. Radovan Karadzic stands in the dock, but Sharon and Olmert, Bush and Blair do not. Why not? The memory of Hiroshima requires an answer.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Home Truths You'll Never Read in the Press

Who's Really Running Iraq?

04/08/08 "Counterpunch" --- American politicians and journalists have repeatedly made the same mistake in Iraq over the past five years. This is to assume that the US is far more in control of events in the country than has ever truly been the case. This was true after the fall of Saddam Hussein when President Bush and his viceroy in Baghdad Paul Bremer believed that what Iraqis thought and did could safely be ignored. Within months guerrilla war against American forces was raging across central Iraq.

The ability of America to make unilateral decisions in Iraq is diminishing by the month, but the White House was still horrified to hear the Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki appearing to endorse Barack Obama’s plan for the withdrawal of American combat troops over 16 months. This cut the ground from under the feet of John McCain who has repeatedly declared that ‘victory’ is at last within America’s grasp because of the great achievements of ‘the Surge’, the American reinforcements sent to Iraq in 2007 to regain control of Baghdad.

The success of ‘the Surge’ is becoming almost received wisdom in the US. This is strange since, if the US strategy did win such an important victory, why do America generals need more soldiers, currently 147,000 of them, in Iraq than they did before ‘the Surge’ started? But belief in this so-called victory is in keeping with the American tradition of seeing everything that happens in Iraq as being the result of actions by the US alone. The complex political landscape of Iraq is ignored. US commentators have never quite taken on board that there are not one but three wars being fought out in the country since 2003: the first is the war of resistance against the American occupation by insurgents from the Sunni Arab community. The second is the battle between the Sunni and Shia communities as to who should rule the Iraqi state in succession to Saddam Hussein. The third conflict is a proxy war between the US and Iran to decide who should be the predominant foreign power in Iraq. The real, though exaggerated, fall in violence in Iraq over the last year is a consequence of developments in all three of these wars, but they do not necessarily have much to do with ‘the Surge’.

The reduction in violence is in any case only in comparison to the bloodbath of 2005-7 when Baghdad and central Iraq was ravaged by a sectarian civil war. There were 554 Iraqis killed in the fighting in June 2008, which is only a third of the figure for the same month a year earlier. This is progress, but it still makes Baghdad the most dangerous city in the world. Asked on television about the security situation, Iraqis often respond that ‘things are getting better’ and so they undoubtedly are, but people usually mean that things are better than the terror of two years ago. Foreign television correspondents laud the improved security in the Iraqi capital and are pictured apparently strolling down a peaceful and busy street. What the television viewer does not see are the armed guards standing behind the cameraman, without whom the correspondents would not dare set foot outside their heavily guarded offices.

I do drive around Baghdad without armed guards and have always done so. But I sit in the back of a car with an Arabic newspaper and a jacket or shirt on a hanger masking the window next to me. I have a second car behind me in contact with us by field radios to make sure that we are not being followed. It is true that security is better, but this can be overstated. Each district iin Baghdad is sealed off by concrete walls. There are checkpoints every few hundred yards. Sunni and Shia do not visit each other areas unless they have to. The best barometer for the real state of security in Baghdad is the attitude of Iraqi refugees, particularly the 2.4 million people who fled to Jordan and Syria. Though often living in miserable conditions and with their money running out, the refugees are generally not coming home to Iraq and, when they do, they seldom return to houses from which they have been forced to flee. If they do try to do so the results are often fatal. Baghdad has few mixed areas left and today is 75-80 per cent a Shia city. The demographic balance in the capital has shifted against the Sunni and this is unlikely to change. The battle for Baghdad was won by the Shia and was ending even before ‘the Surge’ began in February 2007.

It was the outcome of the struggle for the capital that caused a large part of the anti-American resistance to make a dramatic change of sides, switching suddenly from fighting to supporting US troops. The attempt by al-Qa’ida in Iraq to take over the whole of the anti-occupation resistance in late 2006 was important in forcing other insurgent groups to ally themselves with the US as al-Sahwa or the Awakening movement. But perhaps a more important reason for the rise of al-Sahwa was that there was no point in the Sunni insurgents attacking the Americans if they were being driven from Iraq by the Shia. There are now some 90,000 former Sunni resistance fighters on the American payroll, but they happily express open hatred and contempt for the Iraqi government. Sectarian divisions in the country remain very deep. In the Fallujah area, for instance, it is very dangerous for either the Sunni chief of police or the al-Sahwa commander (they are brothers) to enter Baghdad. This is because Abu Ghraib at the entrance to the city is controlled by the much-feared and heavily-Shia al-Muthana Brigade, who might kill either of them on sight.

Another reason why violence has fallen in Iraq over the last eighteen months has little to do with ‘the Surge’, but is the consequence of the Shia militiamen of the Mehdi Army being stood down by its leader Muqtada al-Sadr. The one constant theme in his strategy, ever since he fought the US Marines in Najaf in 2004, has been to avoid direct military conflict with the US armed forces or his Shia rivals when backed by US firepower. This was true at the start of ‘the Surge’ in February 2007 and Muqtada has sought truces and ceasefires ever since. He did so after fighting with the Iraqi police in Kerbala in August 2007 and he renewed the truce six months later. In March this year the Iraqi army launched a military offensive to take Basra from the Mehdi Army, an attack which at first failed to make headway until backed by US airpower. But in Basra and later in Sadr City in Baghdad, Muqtada agreed to ceasefires which allowed his former bastions to be taken over by the Iraqi army. Muqtada did not fight because he knew his men must lose at the end of the day. For a military confrontation with the Iraqi army and the US he would need the support of Iran and this was not forthcoming.

McCain and other American politicians who believe that ‘the Surge’ has brought them close to victory, seldom understand the role Iran has played in Iraq in the last two years. Paradoxically, Iran and the US together are the two main supporters of the present Iraqi government. For Iran, Nouri al-Maliki in power in Baghdad leading a coalition of Shia religious parties allied to the Kurds is as good as it is going to get. The Iranians may vie with the US for influence over this government, but both want it to stay in power. “People fail to realise that the success of ‘the Surge’ was the result of a tacit agreement between the US and Iran,” one Iraqi leader told me. “There really is an Iranian-American condominium ruling Iraq these days,” said another.

Suppose McCain is elected US president in November and acts as if the US is the only decision maker in Iraq then he will face a renewed war. Iraqis will not accept the occupation continuing indefinitely and Iran will not allow itself to be marginalized. If McCain were to try to win a military victory in Iraq he could find the supposed achievements of ‘the Surge’ rapidly evaporating.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Bono - retire from public life and we'll donate a ton of money to fight AIDS

The Objective: To get Bono to retire from public life (so he'll stop leading misguided counter-productive philanthropy efforts) ....and, simultaneously.... to make a huge donation to fight AIDS

The Pitch: Bono’s philanthropy efforts are self-righteous, ineffective, & counter-productive.
The RED campaign has managed to spend $40 million more on marketing that it has raised from RED product sales, while sending consumers a dangerous message. Read more

Many involved in the global fight against AIDS worry that RED will make it harder to raise funds, and that the oversimplified & disempowered image of Africa that Bono perpetuates. , as exemplified in these incredibly condescending lyrics from the Band Aid Xmas song Bono helped create, obscures and undermines the assets African nations must focus on to defeat AIDS and poverty.

The grassroots leaders of the global fight against AIDS didn’t ask for Bono to be their frontman. Its time for Bono to step down. We’ll all pledge donations to the Global Fund, but no pledges are collected until Bono retires from public life. If he wants to moan bland melodies he’ll have to do it quietly in his bedroom. If he want to fight AIDS he can make a direct donation instead of buying a sweatshop GAP T-shirt. As the pledges grow, Bono will have to decide what matters more, fighting AIDS effectively, or him being the movement’s frontman.

The Website

at last a useful purpose for Bono