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Day of Reckoning? Super Rich Tax Cheats Outed by Bank Clerk
Technician in Liechtenstein Turns Over Names of Americans With Secret Bank Accounts
By BRIAN ROSS and RHONDA SCHWARTZ

July 15, 2008—

Hundreds of super-rich American tax cheats have, in effect, turned themselves in to the IRS after a bank computer technician in the tiny European country of Liechtenstein came forward with the names of US citizens who had set up secret accounts there, according to Washington lawyers investigating the scheme.

The bank clerk, Heinrich Kieber, has been branded a thief by the government of Liechtenstein for violating the country’s bank secrecy laws.

He is now in hiding but scheduled to testify to the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations Thursday via a video statement from a secret location, according to Congressional investigators.

Aides for committee chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) are scheduled to provide reporters with a background briefing later this morning in Washington on the committee’s investigation of tax haven banks in Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

Aides say the hearing will also focus on the role of the giant Swiss bank UBS and its alleged efforts to help wealthy Americans hide their money from the IRS through shell companies in Liechtenstein.

Liechtenstein’s veil of secrecy was pierced five years ago when the disgruntled technician, Kieber, downloaded the names of foreign citizens connected to the secret accounts.

Kieber reportedly sold three CD’s full of names and data to tax authorities to 12 countries including Germany, Great Britain, France, Italy and the United States.

Tax authorities in Italy published the full list of names.

In Germany, the disclosures led to the arrests of several prominent CEO’s on charges that had evaded millions of dollars in taxes.

A former UBS private banker, Bradley Birkenfeld, has agreed to a plea deal and is reported to be cooperating with US authorities in bring charges against American citizens on tax evasion charges.

The Liechtenstein bank, LGT, is owned by the tiny country’s ruling family led by Prince Hans-Adam II.

Kieber’s Washington lawyer, Jack Blum, says Kieber should be considered a whistleblower and a hero, not a thief, for revealing how the super rich hid billions of dollars using the Liechtenstein bank.

The names of the US citizens are now in the hands of the IRS and Senate investigators.

Washington lawyers say a number of prominent citizens have been subpoenaed to testify but have already indicated they will refuse to testify, asserting their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

It is not yet clear whether Senator Levin will insist they appear in front of the committee anyway.

Click Here for the Investigative Homepage.

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Project Censored: The Top 10 Stories the US News Media Missed in the Past Year

 

 

› BY AMANDA WITHERELL amanda@sfbg.com

 

The daily dispatches and nightly newscasts of the mainstream media regularly cover terrorism, but rarely discuss how the fear of attacks is used to manipulate the public and set policy. That’s the common thread of many unreported stories last year, according to an analysis by Project Censored.

 

Since 1976, Sonoma State University has released an annual survey of the top 25 stories the mainstream media failed to report or reported poorly. Culled from worldwide alternative news sources, vetted by students and faculty, and ranked by judges, the stories were not necessarily overtly censored. But their controversial subjects, challenges to the status quo, or general under-the-radar subject matter might have kept them from the front pages. Project Censored recounts them, accompanied by media analysis, in a book of the same name published annually by Seven Stories Press.

 

“This year, war and civil liberties stood out,” Peter Phillips, project director since 1996, said of the top stories. “They’re closely related and part of the War on Terror that has been the dominant theme of Project Censored for seven years, since 9/11.”

 

Whether it’s preventing what one piece of legislation calls “homegrown terrorism” by federally funding the study of radicalism, using vague concerns about security to quietly expand NAFTA, or refusing to count the number of Iraqi civilians killed in the war, the threat of terrorism is being used to silence people and expand power.

 

“The war on terror is a sort of mind terror,” said Nancy Snow, one of the project’s 24 judges and an associate professor of public diplomacy at the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. Snow — who has taught classes on war, media, and propaganda — elaborated: “You can’t declare war on terror. It’s a tactic used by groups to gain publicity and it will remain with us. But it’s unlikely that [the number of terrorist acts] will spike. It spikes in the minds of people.”

 

She pointed out that the number of terrorist attacks has dropped worldwide since 2003. Some use the absence of fresh attacks as evidence that the so-called war on terror is working. But a RAND Corporation study for the Department of Defense released in August said the war on terror hasn’t effectively undermined Al Qaeda. It suggested the phrase be replaced with the less loaded term “counterterrorism.”

 

Both Phillips and Snow agree that comprehensive, contextual reporting is missing from most of the coverage. “That’s one of my criticisms of the media,” Snow said. “They spotlight issues and don’t look at the entire landscape.”

 

This year the landscape of Project Censored itself is expanding. After talking with educators who bemoan the ongoing decline of news quality and want to help, Phillips launched the Truth Emergency Project, in which Sonoma State partners with 23 other universities. All will host classes for students to search out untold stories, vet them for accuracy, and submit them for consideration to Project Censored.

 

“There’s a renaissance of independent media,” Phillips said. He thinks bloggers and citizen journalists are filling crucial roles left vacant by staff cutbacks throughout the mainstream media. And, he said, it’s time for universities, educators, and media experts to step in and help. “It’s not just reforming the media, but supporting them in as many ways as they need, like validating stories by fact-checking.”

 

The Truth Emergency Project will also host a news service that aggregates the top 12 independent media sources and posts them on one page. “So you can get an RSS feed from all the major independent news sources we trust,” he said. Discerning newshounds can find reporting from the BBC, Democracy Now!, and Inter Press Service (IPS) in one spot. “The whole criteria,” he said, “is no corporate media.”

 

Carl Jensen, who started Project Censored in 1976, said the expansion is a new and necessary phase. “It answers the question I was always challenged with: how do you know this is the truth? Having 24 campuses reviewing all the stories and raising questions really provides a good answer. These stories will be vetted more than Sarah Palin.”

 

Phillips said he hopes to expand to 100 schools within the year, and would like the project to bring more attention to the dire need for public support for high quality news reporting. “I think it’s going to require government subsidies and nonprofit organizations doing community media projects,” he said. “It’s more than just reforming at the FCC level. It’s building independent media from the ground up.”

 

Phillips likens it to the boom in microbrewed beer and the spread of independently-owned pubs: “If we can have a renaissance in beer-making, following established purity standards, then we can do it with our media, too.” But for now, we have Project Censored, whose top 10 underreported stories for 2008 are:

 

1. HOW MANY IRAQIS HAVE DIED?

 

Nobody knows exactly how many lives the Iraq War has claimed. But even more astounding is that so few journalists have mentioned the issue or cited the top estimate: 1.2 million.

 

During August and September 2007, Opinion Research Business, a British polling group, surveyed 2,414 adults in 15 of 18 Iraqi provinces and found that more than 20 percent had experienced at least one war-related death since March 2003. Using common statistical study methods, it determined that as many as 1.2 million people had been killed since the war began.

 

The US military, claiming it keeps no count, still employs civilian death data as a marker of progress. For example, in a Sept. 10, 2007, report to Congress, Gen. David Petraeus said, “Civilian deaths of all categories, less natural causes, have also declined considerably, by over 45 percent Iraq-wide since the height of the sectarian violence in December.”

 

But whose number was he using? Estimates range wildly and are based on a variety of sources, including hospital, morgue, and media reports, as well as in-person surveys.

 

In October 2006, the British medical journal Lancet published a Johns Hopkins University study vetted by four independent sources that counted 655,000 dead, based on interviews with 1,849 households. It updated a similar study from 2004 that counted 100,000 dead. The Associated Press called it “controversial.”

 

The AP began its own count in 2005 and by 2006 said that at least 37,547 Iraqis had lost their lives due to war-related violence, but called it a minimum estimate at best and didn’t include insurgent deaths.

 

Iraq Body Count, a group of US and UK citizens who aggregate numbers from media reports on civilian deaths, puts the figure between 87,000 and 95,000. In January 2008, the World Health Organization and the Iraqi government did door-to-door surveys of nearly 10,000 households and put the number of dead at 151,000.

 

The 1.2 million figure is out there, too, which is higher than the Rwandan genocide death toll and closing in on the 1.7 million who perished in Cambodia’s killing fields. It raises questions about the real number of deaths from US aerial bombings and house raids, and challenges the common assumption that this is a war in which Iraqis are killing Iraqis.

 

Justifying the higher number, Michael Schwartz, writing on the blog AfterDowningStreet.org, pointed to a fact reported by the Brookings Institute that US troops have, over the past four years, conducted about 100 house raids a day — a number that has recently increased with assistance from Iraqi soldiers.

 

Brutality during these house searches has been documented by returning soldiers, Iraqi civilians, and independent journalists (See #9 below). Schwartz suggests the aggressive “element of surprise” tactics employed by soldiers is likely resulting in several thousands of deaths a day that either go unreported or are categorized as insurgent casualties.

 

The spin is having its intended effect: a February 2007 AP poll showed Americans gave a median estimate of 9,890 Iraqi deaths as a result of the war, a number far below that cited in any credible study.

 

Sources: “Is the United States killing 10,000 Iraqis every month? Or is it more?” Michael Schwartz, After Downing Street.org, July 6, 2007; “Iraq death toll rivals Rwanda Genocide, Cambodian killing fields,” Joshua Holland, AlterNet, Sept. 17, 2007; “Iraq conflict has killed a million: survey,” Luke Baker, Reuters, Jan. 30, 2008; “Iraq: Not our country to return to,” Maki al-Nazzal and Dahr Jamail, Inter Press Service, March 3, 2008.

 

2. NAFTA ON STEROIDS

 

Coupling the perennial issue of security with Wall Street’s measures of prosperity, the leaders of the three North American nations convened the Security and Prosperity Partnership. The White House–led initiative — launched at a March 23, 2005, meeting of President Bush, Mexico’s then-president Vicente Fox, and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin — joins beefed-up commerce with coordinated military operations to promote what it calls “borderless unity.”

 

Critics call it “NAFTA on steroids.” However, unlike NAFTA, the SPP was formed in secret, without public input.

 

“The SPP is not a law, or a treaty, or even a signed agreement,” Laura Carlsen wrote in a report for the Center for International Policy. “All these would require public debate and participation of Congress, both of which the SPP has scrupulously avoided.”

 

Instead the SPP has a special workgroup: the North American Competitiveness Council. It’s a coalition of private companies that are, according to the SPP Web site, “adding high-level business input [that] will assist governments in enhancing North America’s competitive position and engage the private sector as partners in finding solutions.”

 

The NACC includes the Chevron Corporation, Ford Motor Company, General Electric, Lockheed Martin Corporation, Merck & Co. Inc., New York Life Insurance Co., Procter & Gamble Co., and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

 

“Where are the environmental council, the labor council, and the citizen’s council in this process?” Carlsen asked.

 

A look at NAFTA’s unpopularity among citizens in all three nations is evidence of why its expansion would need to be disguised. “It’s a scheme to create a borderless North American Union under US control without barriers to trade and capital flows for corporate giants, mainly US ones,” wrote Steven Lendman in Global Research. “It’s also to insure America gets free and unlimited access to Canadian and Mexican resources, mainly oil, and in the case of Canada, water as well.”

 

Sources: “Deep Integration,” Laura Carlsen, Center for International Policy, May 30, 2007; “The Militarization and Annexation of North America,” Stephen Lendman, Global Research, July 19, 2007; “The North American Union,” Constance Fogal, Global Research, Aug. 2, 2007.

 

3. INFRAGARD GUARDS ITSELF

 

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security have effectively deputized 23,000 members of the business community, asking them to tip off the feds in exchange for preferential treatment in the event of a crisis. “The members of this rapidly growing group, called InfraGard, receive secret warnings of terrorist threats before the public does — and, at least on one occasion, before elected officials,” Matthew Rothschild wrote in the March 2008 issue of The Progressive.

 

InfraGard was created in 1996 in Cleveland as part of an FBI probe into cyberthreats. Yet after 9/11, membership jumped from 1,700 to more than 23,000, and now includes 350 of the nation’s Fortune 500 companies. Members typically have a stake in one of several crucial infrastructure industries, including agriculture, banking, defense, energy, food, telecommunications, law enforcement, and transportation. The group’s 86 chapters coordinate with 56 FBI field offices nationwide.

 

While FBI Director Robert Mueller has said he considers this segment of the private sector “the first line of defense,” the American Civil Liberties Union issued a grave warning about the potential for abuse. “There is evidence that InfraGard may be closer to a corporate TIPS program, turning private-sector corporations — some of which may be in a position to observe the activities of millions of individual customers — into surrogate eyes and ears for the FBI,” it cautioned in an August 2004 report.

 

“The FBI should not be creating a privileged class of Americans who get special treatment,” Jay Stanley, public education director of the ACLU’s technology and liberty program, told Rothschild.

 

And they are privileged: a DHS spokesperson told Rothschild that InfraGard members receive special training and readiness exercises. They’re also privy to protected information that is usually shielded from disclosure under the trade secrets provision of the Freedom of Information Act.

 

The information they have may be of critical importance to the general public, but first it goes to the privileged membership — sometimes before it’s released to elected officials. As Rothschild related in his story, on Nov. 1, 2001, the FBI sent an alert to InfraGard members about a potential threat to bridges in California. Barry Davis, who worked for Morgan Stanley, received the information and relayed it to his brother Gray, then governor of California, who released it to the public.

 

Steve Maviglio, Davis’s press secretary at the time, told Rothschild, “The governor got a lot of grief for releasing the information. In his defense, he said, ‘I was on the phone with my brother, who is an investment banker. And if he knows, why shouldn’t the public know?’<0×2009>”

 

Source: “The FBI deputizes business,” Matthew Rothschild, The Progressive, Feb. 7, 2008.

 

4. ILEA: TRAINING GROUND FOR ILLEGAL WARS?

 

The School of the Americas earned an unsavory reputation in Latin America after many graduates of the Fort Benning, Ga., facility turned into counterinsurgency death squad leaders. So the International Law Enforcement Academy recently installed by the Unites States in El Salvador — which looks, acts, and smells like the SOA — is also drawing scorn.

 

The school, which opened in June 2005 before the Salvadoran National Assembly approved it, has a satellite operation in Peru and is funded with $3.6 million from the US Treasury and staffed with instructors from the DEA, ICE, and FBI. It’s tasked with training 1,500 police officers, judges, prosecutors, and other law enforcement agents in counterterrorism techniques per year. It’s stated purpose is to make Latin America “safe for foreign investment” by “providing regional security and economic stability and combating crime.”

 

ILEAs aren’t new, but past schools located in Hungary, Thailand, Botswana, and Roswell, N.M., haven’t been terribly controversial. Yet Salvadoran human rights organizers take issue with the fact that, in true SOA fashion, the ILEA releases neither information about its curriculum nor a list of students and graduates. Additionally, the way the school slipped into existence without public oversight has raised ire.

 

As Wes Enzinna noted in a North American Congress on Latin America report, when the US decided it wanted a training ground in Latin America, El Salvador was not the first choice. In 2002 US officials selected Costa Rica as host — a country that doesn’t even have an army. The local government signed on and the plan made headlines. But when citizens learned about it, they revolted and demanded the government change the agreement. The US bailed for a more discreet second attempt in El Salvador.

 

“Members of the US Congress were not briefed about the academy, nor was the main opposition party in El Salvador, the Farabundo Martí-National Liberation Front (FMLN),” Enzinna wrote. “But once the news media reported that the two countries had signed an official agreement in September, activists in El Salvador demanded to see the text of the document.” Though they tried to garner enough opposition to kill the agreement, the National Assembly narrowly ratified it.

 

Now, after more than three years in operation, critics point out that Salvadoran police, who account for 25 percent of the graduates, have become more violent. A May 2007 report by Tutela Legal implicated Salvadoran National Police (PNC) officers in eight death squad–style assassinations in 2006.

 

El Salvador’s ILEA recently received another $2 million in US funding through the congressionally approved Mérida Initiative — but still refuses to adopt a more transparent curriculum and administration, despite partnering with a well-known human rights leader. Enzinna’s FOIA requests for course materials were rejected by the government, so no one knows exactly what the school is teaching, or to whom.

 

Sources: “Exporting US ‘Criminal Justice’ to Latin America,” “Community in Solidarity with the people of El Salvador,” Upside Down World, June 14, 2007; “Another SOA?” Wes Enzinna, NACLA Report on the Americas, March/April 2008; “ILEA funding approved by Salvadoran right wing legislators,” CISPES, March 15, 2007; “Is George Bush restarting Latin America’s ‘dirty wars?’<0×2009>” Benjamin Dangl, AlterNet, Aug. 31, 2007.

 

5. SEIZING PROTEST

 

Protesting war could get you into big trouble, according to a critical read of two executive orders recently signed by President Bush. The first, issued July 17, 2007, and titled, “Blocking property of certain persons who threaten stabilization efforts in Iraq,” allows the feds to seize assets from anyone who “directly or indirectly” poses a risk to the US war in Iraq. And, citing the modern technological ease of transferring funds and assets, the order states that no prior notice is necessary before the raid.

 

On Aug. 1, Bush signed another order, similar but directed toward anyone undermining the “sovereignty of Lebanon or its democratic processes and institutions.” In this case, the Secretary of the Treasury can seize the assets of anyone perceived as posing a risk of violence, as well as the assets of their spouses and dependents, and bans them from receiving any humanitarian aid.

 

Critics say the orders bypass the right to due process and the vague language makes manipulation and abuse possible. Protesting the war could be perceived as undermining or threatening US efforts in Iraq. “This is so sweeping, it’s staggering,” said Bruce Fein, a former Reagan administration official in the Justice Department who editorialized against it in theWashington Times. “It expands beyond terrorism, beyond seeking to use violence or the threat of violence to cower or intimidate a population.”

 

Sources: “Bush executive order: Criminalizing the antiwar movement,” Michel Chossudovsky,Global Research, July 2007; “Bush’s executive order even worse than the one on Iraq,” Matthew Rothschild, The Progressive, Aug. 2007.

 

6. RADICALS = TERRORISTS

 

On Oct. 23, 2007, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed — by a vote of 404-6 — the “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act,” designed to root out the causes of radicalization in Americans.

 

With an estimated four-year cost of $22 million, the act establishes a 10-member National Commission on the Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism, as well as a university-based Center of Excellence “to examine the social, criminal, political, psychological, and economic roots of domestic terrorism,” according to a press release from the bill’s author, Rep. Jane Harman (D-Los Angeles).

 

During debate on the bill, Harman said, “Free speech, espousing even very radical beliefs, is protected by our Constitution. But violent behavior is not.”

 

Jessica Lee, writing in the Indypendent, a newspaper put out by the New York Independent Media Center, pointed out that in a later press release Harman stated: “the National Commission [will] propose to both Congress and [Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael] Chertoff initiatives to intercede before radicalized individuals turn violent.”

 

Which could be when they’re speaking, writing, and organizing in ways that are protected by the First Amendment. This redefines civil disobedience as terrorism, say civil rights experts, and the wording is too vague. For example, the definition of “violent radicalization” is “the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious, or social change.”

 

“What is an extremist belief system? Who defines this? These are broad definitions that encompass so much…. It is criminalizing thought and ideology,” said Alejandro Queral, executive director of the Northwest Constitutional Rights Center in Portland, Ore.

 

Though the ACLU recommended some changes that were adopted, it continued to criticize the bill. Harman, in a response letter, said free speech is still free and stood by the need to curb ideologically-based violence.

 

The story didn’t make it onto the CNN ticker, but enough independent sources reported on it that the equivalent Senate Bill 1959 has since stalled. After introducing the bill, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Me.), later joined forces with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) on a report criticizing the Internet as a tool for violent Islamic extremism.

 

Despite an outcry from civil liberties groups, days after the report was released Lieberman demanded that YouTube remove a number of Islamist propaganda videos. YouTube canned some that broke their rules regarding violence and hate speech, but resisted censoring others. The ensuing battle caught the attention of the New York Times, and on May 25 it editorialized against Lieberman and S 1959.

 

Sources: “Bringing the war on terrorism home,” Jessica Lee, Indypendent, Nov. 16, 2007; “Examining the Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act,” Lindsay Beyerstein, In These Times, Nov. 2007; “The Violent Radicalization Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007,” Matt Renner, Truthout, Nov. 20, 2007

 

7. SLAVERY’S RUNNER-UP

 

Every year, about 121,000 people legally enter the United States to work with H-2 visas, a program legislators are touting as part of future immigration reform. But Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) called this guest worker program “the closest thing I’ve ever seen to slavery.”

 

The Southern Poverty Law Center likened it to “modern day indentured servitude.” They interviewed thousands of guest workers and reviewed legal cases for a report released in March 2007, in which authors Mary Bauer and Sarah Reynolds wrote, “Unlike US citizens, guest workers do not enjoy the most fundamental protection of a competitive labor market — the ability to change jobs if they are mistreated. Instead, they are bound to the employers who ‘import’ them. If guest workers complain about abuses, they face deportation, blacklisting, or other retaliation.”

 

When visas expire, workers must leave the country, hardly making this the path to permanent citizenship legislators are looking for. The H-2 program mimics the controversial bracero program, established through a joint agreement between Mexico and the United States in 1942 that brought 4.5 million workers over the border during the 22 years it was in effect.

 

Many legal protections were written into the program, but in most cases they existed only on paper in a language unreadable to employees. In 1964 the program was shuttered amid scores of human rights abuses and complaints that it undermined petitions for higher wages from US workers. Soon after, United Farm Workers organized, which César Chávez said would have been impossible if the bracero program still existed.

 

Years later, it essentially still does. The H-2A program, which accounted for 32,000 agricultural workers in 2005, has many of the same protections — and many of the same abuses. Even worse is the H-2B program, used by 89,000 non-agricultural workers annually. Created by the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, none of the safeguards of the H-2A visa are legally required for H-2B workers.

 

Still, Mexicans are literally lining up for H-2B status, the stark details of which were reported by Felicia Mello in The Nation. Furthermore, thousands of illegal immigrants are employed throughout the country, providing cheap, unprotected labor and further undermining the scant provisions of the laws. Labor contractors who connect immigrants with employers are stuffing their pockets with cash, while the workers return home with very little money.

 

The Southern Poverty Law Center outlined a list of comprehensive changes needed in the program, concluding, “For too long, our country has benefited from the labor provided by guest workers but has failed to provide a fair system that respects their human rights and upholds the most basic values of our democracy. The time has come for Congress to overhaul our shamefully abusive guest worker system.”

 

Sources: “Close to Slavery,” Mary Bauer and Sarah Reynolds, Southern Poverty Law Center, March 2007; “Coming to America,” Felicia Mello, The Nation, June 25, 2007; “Trafficking racket,” Chidanand Rajghatta, Times of India, March 10, 2008.

 

8. BUSH CHANGES THE RULES

 

The Bush administration’s Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice has been issuing classified legal opinions about surveillance for years. As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) had access to the DOJ opinions on presidential power and had three declassified to show how the judicial branch has, in a bizarre and chilling way, assisted President Bush in circumventing its own power.

 

According to the three memos:

 

“There is no constitutional requirement for a President to issue a new executive order whenever he wishes to depart from the terms of a previous executive order. Rather than violate an executive order, the President has instead modified or waived it”;

 

“The President, exercising his constitutional authority under Article II, can determine whether an action is a lawful exercise of the President’s authority under Article II,” and

 

“The Department of Justice is bound by the President’s legal determinations.”

 

Or, as Whitehouse rephrased in a Dec. 7, 2007, Senate speech: “I don’t have to follow my own rules, and I don’t have to tell you when I’m breaking them. I get to determine what my own powers are. The Department of Justice doesn’t tell me what the law is. I tell the Department of Justice what the law is.”

 

The issue arose within the context of the Protect America Act, which expands government surveillance powers and gives telecom companies legal immunity for helping. Whitehouse called it “a second-rate piece of legislation passed in a stampede in August at the behest of the Bush administration.”

 

He pointed out that the act does not prohibit spying on Americans overseas — with the exception of an executive order that permits surveillance only of Americans whom the Attorney General determines to be “agents of a foreign power.”

 

“In other words, the only thing standing between Americans traveling overseas and government wiretap is an executive order,” Whitehouse said in an April 12 speech. “An order this president, under the first legal theory I cited, claims he has no legal obligation to obey.”

 

Whitehouse, a former US Attorney, legal counsel to Rhode Island’s governor, and Rhode Island Attorney General who took office in 2006, went on to point out that Marbury vs. Madison, written by Chief Justice John Marshall in 1803, established that it is “emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is.”

 

Sources: “In FISA Speech, Whitehouse sharply criticizes Bush Administration’s assertion of executive power,” Sheldon Whitehouse, Dec. 7, 2007; “Down the Rabbit Hole,” Marcy Wheeler, The Guardian (UK), Dec. 26, 2007.

 

9. SOLDIERS SPEAK OUT

 

Hearing soldiers recount their war experiences is the closest many people come to understanding the real horror, pain, and confusion of combat. One would think that might make compelling copy or powerful footage for a news outlet. But in March, when more than 300 veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan convened for four days of public testimony on the war, they were largely ignored by the media.

 

Winter Soldier was designed to give soldiers a public forum to air some of the atrocities they witnessed. Originally convened by Vietnam Vets Against the War in January 1971, more than 100 Vietnam veterans and 16 civilians described their war experiences, including rapes, torture, brutalities, and killing of non-combatants. The testimony was entered into the Congressional Record, filmed, and shown at the Cannes Film Festival.

 

Iraq Veterans Against the War hosted the 2008 reprise of the 1971 hearings. Aaron Glantz, writing in One World, recalled testimony from former Marine Cpl. Jason Washburn, who said, “his commanders encouraged lawless behavior. ‘We were encouraged to bring ‘drop weapons,’ or shovels. In case we accidentally shot a civilian, we could drop the weapon on the body and pretend they were an insurgent.’<0×2009>”

 

An investigation by Chris Hedges and Laila Al-Arian in The Nation that included interviews with 50 Iraq war veterans also revealed an overwhelming lack of training and resources, and a general disregard for the traditional rules of war.

 

Though most major news outlets sent staff to cover New York’s Fashion Week, few made it to Silver Spring, Md. for the Winter Soldier hearings. Fortunately, KPFA and Pacifica Radio broadcast the testimonies live and, in an update to the story, said they were “deluged with phone calls, e-mails, and blog posts from service members, veterans, and military families thanking us for breaking a cultural norm of silence about the reality of war.” Testimonies can still be heard atwww.ivaw.org.

 

Sources: “Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan eyewitness accounts of the occupation,” Iraq Veterans Against the War, March 13-16, 2008; “War comes home,” Aaron Glantz, Aimee Allison, and Esther Manilla, Pacifica Radio, March 14-16, 2008; “US Soldiers testify about war crimes,” Aaron Glantz, One World, March 19, 2008; “The Other War,” Chris Hedges and Laila Al-Arian, The Nation, July 30, 2007.

 

10. APA HELPS CIA TORTURE

 

Psychologists have been assisting the CIA and US military with interrogation and torture of Guantánamo detainees — which the American Psychological Association has said is fine, despite objections from many of its 148,000 members.

 

A 10-member APA task force convened on the divisive issue in July 2005 and found that assistance from psychologists was making the interrogations safe and the group deferred to US standards on torture over international human-rights organizations’ definitions.

 

The task force was criticized by APA members for deliberating in secret, and later it was revealed that six of the 10 participants had ties to the armed services. Not only that, but as Katherine Eban reported in Vanity Fair, “Psychologists, working in secrecy, had actually designed the tactics and trained interrogators in them while on contract to the CIA.”

 

In particular, psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, neither of whom are APA members, honed a classified military training program known as SERE [Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape] that teaches soldiers how to tough out torture if captured by enemies. “Mitchell and Jessen reverse-engineered the tactics inflicted on SERE trainees for use on detainees in the global war on terror,” Eban wrote.

 

And, as Mark Benjamin noted in a Salon article, employing SERE training — which is designed to replicate torture tactics that don’t abide by Geneva Convention standards — refutes past administration assertions that current CIA torture techniques are safe and legal. “Soldiers undergoing SERE training are subject to forced nudity, stress positions, lengthy isolation, sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation, exhaustion from exercise, and the use of water to create a sensation of suffocation,” Benjamin wrote.

 

Eban’s story outlined how SERE tactics were spun as “science” despite a lack of data and the critique that building rapport works better than blows to the head. Specifically, he said, it’s been misreported that CIA torture techniques got Al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah to talk, when it was actually FBI rapport-building. In spite of this, SERE techniques became standards in interrogation manuals that eventually made their way to US officers guarding Abu Ghraib.

 

Ongoing uproar within the APA resulted in a petition to make an official policy limiting psychologists’ involvement in interrogations. On Sept. 17, a majority of 15,000 voting members approved a resolution stating that psychologists may not work in settings where “persons are held outside of, or in violation of, either International Law (e.g., the UN Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions) or the US Constitution (where appropriate), unless they are working directly for the persons being detained or for an independent third party working to protect human rights.”

 

Sources: “The CIA’s torture teachers,” Mark Benjamin, Salon, June 21, 2007; “Rorschach and awe,” Katherine Eban, Vanity Fair, July 17, 2007.

 

OTHER STORIES IN THE TOP 25

 

11. El Salvador’s Water Privatization and the Global War on Terror

 

12. Bush Profiteers Collect Billions from No Child Left Behind

 

13. Tracking Billions of Dollars Lost in Iraq

 

14. Mainstreaming Nuclear Waste

 

15. Worldwide Slavery

 

16. Annual Survey on Trade Union Rights

 

17. UN’s Empty Declaration of Indigenous Rights

 

18. Cruelty and Death in Juvenile Detention Centers

 

19. Indigenous Herders and Small Farmers Fight Livestock Extinction

 

20. Marijuana Arrests Set New Record

 

21. NATO Considers “First Strike” Nuclear Option

 

22. CARE Rejects US Food Aid

 

23. FDA Complicit in Pushing Pharmaceutical Drugs

 

24. Japan Questions 9/11 and the Global War on Terror

 

25. Bush’s Real Problem with Eliot Spitzer

 

Read them all at projectcensored.org

Sen. Bernie Sanders

Sen. Bernie Sanders

The current financial crisis facing our country has been caused by the extreme right-wing economic policies pursued by the Bush administration. These policies, which include huge tax breaks for the rich, unfettered free trade and the wholesale deregulation of commerce, have resulted in a massive redistribution of wealth from the middle class to the very wealthy.

The middle class has really been under assault. Since President Bush has been in office, nearly 6 million Americans have slipped into poverty, median family income for working Americans has declined by more than $2,000, more than 7 million Americans have lost their health insurance, over 4 million have lost their pensions, foreclosures are at an all time high, total consumer debt has more than doubled, and we have a national debt of over $9.7 trillion dollars.

While the middle class collapses, the richest people in this country have made out like bandits and have not had it so good since the 1920s. The top 0.1 percent now earn more money than the bottom 50 percent of Americans, and the top 1 percent own more wealth than the bottom 90 percent. The wealthiest 400 people in our country saw their wealth increase by $670 billion while Bush has been president. In the midst of all of this, Bush lowered taxes on the very rich so that they are paying lower income tax rates than teachers, police officers or nurses.

Now, having mismanaged the economy for eight years as well as having lied about our situation by continually insisting, “The fundamentals of our economy are strong,” the Bush administration, six weeks before an election, wants the middle class of this country to spend many hundreds of billions on a bailout. The wealthiest people, who have benefited from Bush’s policies and are in the best position to pay, are being asked for no sacrifice at all. This is absurd. This is the most extreme example that I can recall of socialism for the rich and free enterprise for the poor.

In my view, we need to go forward in addressing this financial crisis by insisting on four basic principles:

(1) The people who can best afford to pay and the people who have benefited most from Bush’s economic policies are the people who should provide the funds for the bailout. It would be immoral to ask the middle class, the people whose standard of living has declined under Bush, to pay for this bailout while the rich, once again, avoid their responsibilities. Further, if the government is going to save companies from bankruptcy, the taxpayers of this country should be rewarded for assuming the risk by sharing in the gains that result from this government bailout.

Specifically, to pay for the bailout, which is estimated to cost up to $1 trillion, the government should:

a) Impose a five-year, 10 percent surtax on income over $1 million a year for couples and over $500,000 for single taxpayers. That would raise more than $300 billion in revenue;

b) Ensure that assets purchased from banks are realistically discounted so companies are not rewarded for their risky behavior and taxpayers can recover the amount they paid for them; and

c) Require that taxpayers receive equity stakes in the bailed-out companies so that the assumption of risk is rewarded when companies’ stock goes up.

(2) There must be a major economic recovery package which puts Americans to work at decent wages. Among many other areas, we can create millions of jobs rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and moving our country from fossil fuels to energy efficiency and sustainable energy. Further, we must protect working families from the difficult times they are experiencing. We must ensure that every child has health insurance and that every American has access to quality health and dental care, that families can send their children to college, that seniors are not allowed to go without heat in the winter, and that no American goes to bed hungry.

(3) Legislation must be passed which undoes the damage caused by excessive de-regulation. That means reinstalling the regulatory firewalls that were ripped down in 1999. That means re-regulating the energy markets so that we never again see the rampant speculation in oil that helped drive up prices. That means regulating or abolishing various financial instruments that have created the enormous shadow banking system that is at the heart of the collapse of AIG and the financial services meltdown.

(4) We must end the danger posed by companies that are “too big too fail,” that is, companies whose failure would cause systemic harm to the U.S. economy. If a company is too big to fail, it is too big to exist. We need to determine which companies fall in this category and then break them up. Right now, for example, the Bank of America, the nation’s largest depository institution, has absorbed Countrywide, the nation’s largest mortgage lender, and Merrill Lynch, the nation’s largest brokerage house. We should not be trying to solve the current financial crisis by creating even larger, more powerful institutions. Their failure could cause even more harm to the entire economy.

where’s my bailout

September 18, 2008

I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion.
— Thomas Jefferson, September 1820

16 Labs Had the Killer Anthrax Strain

Page 6 of the FBI’s search warrant affidavit in the Ivins’ investigation states:

“Of the sixteen domestic government, commercial, and university laboratories that virulent RMR-1029 Ames strain Bacillus antrhracis material in their inventory prior to the attacks ….”

As the Baltimore Sun summarizes it:

“The government said that 16 government, commercial and university labs had the strain of anthrax with the same genetic mutations as the anthrax used in the attacks.

***

And even at Fort Detrick, the government said that more than 100 people had access to the flask, creating a lot of room for reasonable doubt.”

Hiroshima and Nagasaki

August 6, 2008

by Ralph Raico

http://www.lewrockwell.com/raico/raico22.html

This excerpt from Ralph Raico’s “Harry S. Truman: Advancing the Revolution” in John V. Denson, ed., Reassessing the Presidency: The Rise of the Executive State and the Decline of Freedom (Auburn, Alabama: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2001), is reprinted with permission. (The notes are numbered as they are because this is an excerpt. Read the whole article.)

The most spectacular episode of Truman’s presidency will never be forgotten, but will be forever linked to his name: the atomic bombings of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and of Nagasaki three days later. Probably around two hundred thousand persons were killed in the attacks and through radiation poisoning; the vast majority were civilians, including several thousand Korean workers. Twelve U.S. Navy fliers incarcerated in a Hiroshima jail were also among the dead.87

Great controversy has always surrounded the bombings. One thing Truman insisted on from the start: The decision to use the bombs, and the responsibility it entailed, was his. Over the years, he gave different, and contradictory, grounds for his decision. Sometimes he implied that he had acted simply out of revenge. To a clergyman who criticized him, Truman responded, testily:

Nobody is more disturbed over the use of Atomic bombs than I am but I was greatly disturbed over the unwarranted attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor and their murder of our prisoners of war. The only language they seem to understand is the one we have been using to bombard them.88

Such reasoning will not impress anyone who fails to see how the brutality of the Japanese military could justify deadly retaliation against innocent men, women, and children. Truman doubtless was aware of this, so from time to time he advanced other pretexts. On August 9, 1945, he stated: “The world will note that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base. That was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, insofar as possible, the killing of civilians.”89

This, however, is absurd. Pearl Harbor was a military base. Hiroshima was a city, inhabited by some three hundred thousand people, which contained military elements. In any case, since the harbor was mined and the U.S. Navy and Air Force were in control of the waters around Japan, whatever troops were stationed in Hiroshima had been effectively neutralized.

On other occasions, Truman claimed that Hiroshima was bombed because it was an industrial center. But, as noted in the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, “all major factories in Hiroshima were on the periphery of the city – and escaped serious damage.”90 The target was the center of the city. That Truman realized the kind of victims the bombs consumed is evident from his comment to his cabinet on August 10, explaining his reluctance to drop a third bomb: “The thought of wiping out another 100,000 people was too horrible,” he said; he didn’t like the idea of killing “all those kids.”91 Wiping out another one hundred thousand people . . . all those kids.

Moreover, the notion that Hiroshima was a major military or industrial center is implausible on the face of it. The city had remained untouched through years of devastating air attacks on the Japanese home islands, and never figured in Bomber Command’s list of the 33 primary targets.92

Thus, the rationale for the atomic bombings has come to rest on a single colossal fabrication, which has gained surprising currency: that they were necessary in order to save a half-million or more American lives. These, supposedly, are the lives that would have been lost in the planned invasion of Kyushu in December, then in the all-out invasion of Honshu the next year, if that was needed. But the worst-case scenario for a full-scale invasion of the Japanese home islands was forty-six thousand American lives lost.93 The ridiculously inflated figure of a half-million for the potential death toll – nearly twice the total of U.S. dead in all theaters in the Second World War – is now routinely repeated in high-school and college textbooks and bandied about by ignorant commentators. Unsurprisingly, the prize for sheer fatuousness on this score goes to President George H.W. Bush, who claimed in 1991 that dropping the bomb “spared millions of American lives.”94

Still, Truman’s multiple deceptions and self-deceptions are understandable, considering the horror he unleashed. It is equally understandable that the U.S. occupation authorities censored reports from the shattered cities and did not permit films and photographs of the thousands of corpses and the frightfully mutilated survivors to reach the public.95 Otherwise, Americans – and the rest of the world – might have drawn disturbing comparisons to scenes then coming to light from the Nazi concentration camps.

The bombings were condemned as barbaric and unnecessary by high American military officers, including Eisenhower and MacArthur.96 The view of Admiral William D. Leahy, Truman’s own chief of staff, was typical:

the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. . . . My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make wars in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.97

The political elite implicated in the atomic bombings feared a backlash that would aid and abet the rebirth of horrid prewar “isolationism.” Apologias were rushed into print, lest public disgust at the sickening war crime result in erosion of enthusiasm for the globalist project.98 No need to worry. A sea-change had taken place in the attitudes of the American people. Then and ever after, all surveys have shown that the great majority supported Truman, believing that the bombs were required to end the war and save hundreds of thousands of American lives, or more likely, not really caring one way or the other.

Those who may still be troubled by such a grisly exercise in cost-benefit analysis – innocent Japanese lives balanced against the lives of Allied servicemen – might reflect on the judgment of the Catholic philosopher G.E.M. Anscombe, who insisted on the supremacy of moral rules.99 When, in June 1956, Truman was awarded an honorary degree by her university, Oxford, Anscombe protested.100 Truman was a war criminal, she contended, for what is the difference between the U.S. government massacring civilians from the air, as at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the Nazis wiping out the inhabitants of some Czech or Polish village?

Anscombe’s point is worth following up. Suppose that, when we invaded Germany in early 1945, our leaders had believed that executing all the inhabitants of Aachen, or Trier, or some other Rhineland city would finally break the will of the Germans and lead them to surrender. In this way, the war might have ended quickly, saving the lives of many Allied soldiers. Would that then have justified shooting tens of thousands of German civilians, including women and children? Yet how is that different from the atomic bombings?

By early summer 1945, the Japanese fully realized that they were beaten. Why did they nonetheless fight on? As Anscombe wrote: “It was the insistence on unconditional surrender that was the root of all evil.”101

That mad formula was coined by Roosevelt at the Casablanca conference, and, with Churchill’s enthusiastic concurrence, it became the Allied shibboleth. After prolonging the war in Europe, it did its work in the Pacific. At the Potsdam conference, in July 1945, Truman issued a proclamation to the Japanese, threatening them with the “utter devastation” of their homeland unless they surrendered unconditionally. Among the Allied terms, to which “there are no alternatives,” was that there be “eliminated for all time the authority and influence of those who have deceived and misled the people of Japan into embarking on world conquest [sic].” “Stern justice,” the proclamation warned, “would be meted out to all war criminals.”102

To the Japanese, this meant that the emperor – regarded by them to be divine, the direct descendent of the goddess of the sun – would certainly be dethroned and probably put on trial as a war criminal and hanged, perhaps in front of his palace.103 It was not, in fact, the U.S. intention to dethrone or punish the emperor. But this implicit modification of unconditional surrender was never communicated to the Japanese. In the end, after Nagasaki, Washington acceded to the Japanese desire to keep the dynasty and even to retain Hirohito as emperor.

For months before, Truman had been pressed to clarify the U.S. position by many high officials within the administration, and outside of it, as well. In May 1945, at the president’s request, Herbert Hoover prepared a memorandum stressing the urgent need to end the war as soon as possible. The Japanese should be informed that we would in no way interfere with the emperor or their chosen form of government. He even raised the possibility that, as part of the terms, Japan might be allowed to hold on to Formosa (Taiwan) and Korea. After meeting with Truman, Hoover dined with Taft and other Republican leaders, and outlined his proposals.104

Establishment writers on World War II often like to deal in lurid speculations. For instance: if the United States had not entered the war, then Hitler would have “conquered the world” (a sad undervaluation of the Red Army, it would appear; moreover, wasn’t it Japan that was trying to “conquer the world”?) and killed untold millions. Now, applying conjectural history in this case: assume that the Pacific war had ended in the way wars customarily do – through negotiation of the terms of surrender. And assume the worst – that the Japanese had adamantly insisted on preserving part of their empire, say, Korea and Formosa, even Manchuria. In that event, it is quite possible that Japan would have been in a position to prevent the Communists from coming to power in China. And that could have meant that the thirty or forty million deaths now attributed to the Maoist regime would not have occurred.

But even remaining within the limits of feasible diplomacy in 1945, it is clear that Truman in no way exhausted the possibilities of ending the war without recourse to the atomic bomb. The Japanese were not informed that they would be the victims of by far the most lethal weapon ever invented (one with “more than two thousand times the blast power of the British ‘Grand Slam,’ which is the largest bomb ever yet used in the history of warfare,” as Truman boasted in his announcement of the Hiroshima attack). Nor were they told that the Soviet Union was set to declare war on Japan, an event that shocked some in Tokyo more than the bombings.105 Pleas by some of the scientists involved in the project to demonstrate the power of the bomb in some uninhabited or evacuated area were rebuffed. All that mattered was to formally preserve the unconditional surrender formula and save the servicemen’s lives that might have been lost in the effort to enforce it. Yet, as Major General J.F.C. Fuller, one of the century’s great military historians, wrote in connection with the atomic bombings:

Though to save life is laudable, it in no way justifies the employment of means which run counter to every precept of humanity and the customs of war. Should it do so, then, on the pretext of shortening a war and of saving lives, every imaginable atrocity can be justified.106

Isn’t this obviously true? And isn’t this the reason that rational and humane men, over generations, developed rules of warfare in the first place?

While the mass media parroted the government line in praising the atomic incinerations, prominent conservatives denounced them as unspeakable war crimes. Felix Morley, constitutional scholar and one of the founders of Human Events, drew attention to the horror of Hiroshima, including the “thousands of children trapped in the thirty-three schools that were destroyed.” He called on his compatriots to atone for what had been done in their name, and proposed that groups of Americans be sent to Hiroshima, as Germans were sent to witness what had been done in the Nazi camps. The Paulist priest, Father James Gillis, editor of The Catholic World and another stalwart of the Old Right, castigated the bombings as “the most powerful blow ever delivered against Christian civilization and the moral law.” David Lawrence, conservative owner of U.S. News and World Report, continued to denounce them for years.107 The distinguished conservative philosopher Richard Weaver was revolted by

the spectacle of young boys fresh out of Kansas and Texas turning nonmilitary Dresden into a holocaust . . . pulverizing ancient shrines like Monte Cassino and Nuremberg, and bringing atomic annihilation to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Weaver considered such atrocities as deeply “inimical to the foundations on which civilization is built.”108

Today, self-styled conservatives slander as “anti-American” anyone who is in the least troubled by Truman’s massacre of so many tens of thousands of Japanese innocents from the air. This shows as well as anything the difference between today’s “conservatives” and those who once deserved the name.

Leo Szilard was the world-renowned physicist who drafted the original letter to Roosevelt that Einstein signed, instigating the Manhattan Project. In 1960, shortly before his death, Szilard stated another obvious truth:

If the Germans had dropped atomic bombs on cities instead of us, we would have defined the dropping of atomic bombs on cities as a war crime, and we would have sentenced the Germans who were guilty of this crime to death at Nuremberg and hanged them.109

The destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a war crime worse than any that Japanese generals were executed for in Tokyo and Manila. If Harry Truman was not a war criminal, then no one ever was.

Notes

  1. On the atomic bombings, see Gar Alperovitz, The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture of an American Myth (New York: Knopf, 1995); and idem, “Was Harry Truman a Revisionist on Hiroshima?” Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations Newsletter 29, no. 2 (June 1998); also Martin J. Sherwin, A World Destroyed: The Atomic Bomb and the Grand Alliance (New York: Vintage, 1977); and Dennis D. Wainstock, The Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1996).
  2. Alperovitz, Decision, p. 563. Truman added: “When you deal with a beast you have to treat him as a beast. It is most regrettable but nevertheless true.” For similar statements by Truman, see ibid., p. 564. Alperovitz’s monumental work is the end-product of four decades of study of the atomic bombings and is indispensable for comprehending the often complex argumentation on the issue.
  3. Ibid., p. 521.
  4. Ibid., p. 523.
  5. Barton J. Bernstein, “Understanding the Atomic Bomb and the Japanese Surrender: Missed Opportunities, Little-Known Near Disasters, and Modern Memory,” Diplomatic History 19, no. 2 (Spring 1995): 257. General Carl Spaatz, commander of U.S. strategic bombing operations in the Pacific, was so shaken by the destruction at Hiroshima that he telephoned his superiors in Washington, proposing that the next bomb be dropped on a less populated area, so that it “would not be as devastating to the city and the people.” His suggestion was rejected. Ronald Schaffer, Wings of Judgment: American Bombing in World War II (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985), pp. 147–48.
  6. This is true also of Nagasaki.
  7. See Barton J. Bernstein, “A Post-War Myth: 500,000 U.S. Lives Saved,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 42, no. 6 (June–July 1986): 38–40; and idem, “Wrong Numbers,” The Independent Monthly (July 1995): 41–44.
  8. J. Samuel Walker, “History, Collective Memory, and the Decision to Use the Bomb,” Diplomatic History 19, no. 2 (Spring 1995): 320, 323–25. Walker details the frantic evasions of Truman’s biographer, David McCullough, when confronted with the unambiguous record.
  9. Paul Boyer, “Exotic Resonances: Hiroshima in American Memory,” Diplomatic History 19, no. 2 (Spring 1995): 299. On the fate of the bombings’ victims and the public’s restricted knowledge of them, see John W. Dower, “The Bombed: Hiroshimas and Nagasakis in Japanese Memory,” in ibid., pp. 275–95.
  10. Alperovitz, Decision, pp. 320–65. On MacArthur and Eisenhower, see ibid., pp. 352 and 355–56.
  11. William D. Leahy, I Was There (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1950), p. 441. Leahy compared the use of the atomic bomb to the treatment of civilians by Genghis Khan, and termed it “not worthy of Christian man.” Ibid., p. 442. Curiously, Truman himself supplied the foreword to Leahy’s book. In a private letter written just before he left the White House, Truman referred to the use of the atomic bomb as “murder,” stating that the bomb “is far worse than gas and biological warfare because it affects the civilian population and murders them wholesale.” Barton J. Bernstein, “Origins of the U.S. Biological Warfare Program,” Preventing a Biological Arms Race, Susan Wright, ed. (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1990), p. 9.
  12. Barton J. Bernstein, “Seizing the Contested Terrain of Early Nuclear History: Stimson, Conant, and Their Allies Explain the Decision to Use the Bomb,” Diplomatic History 17, no. 1 (Winter 1993): 35–72.
  13. One writer in no way troubled by the sacrifice of innocent Japanese to save Allied servicemen – indeed, just to save him – is Paul Fussell; see his Thank God for the Atom Bomb and Other Essays (New York: Summit, 1988). The reason for Fussell’s little Te Deum is, as he states, that he was among those scheduled to take part in the invasion of Japan, and might very well have been killed. It is a mystery why Fussell takes out his easily understandable terror, rather unchivalrously, on Japanese women and children instead of on the men in Washington who conscripted him to fight in the Pacific in the first place.
  14. G.E.M. Anscombe, “Mr. Truman’s Degree,” in idem, Collected Philosophical Papers, vol. 3, Ethics, Religion and Politics (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1981), pp. 62–71.
  15. Anscombe, “Mr. Truman’s Degree,” p. 62.
  16. Hans Adolf Jacobsen and Arthur S. Smith, Jr., eds., World War II: Policy and Strategy. Selected Documents with Commentary (Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-Clio, 1979), pp. 345–46.
  17. For some Japanese leaders, another reason for keeping the emperor was as a bulwark against a possible postwar communist takeover. See also Sherwin, A World Destroyed, p. 236: “the [Potsdam] proclamation offered the military die-hards in the Japanese government more ammunition to continue the war than it offered their opponents to end it.”
  18. Alperovitz, Decision, pp. 44–45.
  19. Cf. Bernstein, “Understanding the Atomic Bomb,” p. 254: “it does seem very likely, though certainly not definite, that a synergistic combination of guaranteeing the emperor, awaiting Soviet entry, and continuing the siege strategy would have ended the war in time to avoid the November invasion.” Bernstein, an excellent and scrupulously objective scholar, nonetheless disagrees with Alperovitz and the revisionist school on several key points.
  20. J.F.C. Fuller, The Second World War, 1939–45: A Strategical and Tactical History (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1948), p. 392. Fuller, who was similarly scathing on the terror-bombing of the German cities, characterized the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki as “a type of war that would have disgraced Tamerlane.” Cf. Barton J. Bernstein, who concludes, in “Understanding the Atomic Bomb,” p. 235:

In 1945, American leaders were not seeking to avoid the use of the A-bomb. Its use did not create ethical or political problems for them. Thus, they easily rejected or never considered most of the so-called alternatives to the bomb.

  1. Felix Morley, “The Return to Nothingness,” Human Events (August 29, 1945) reprinted in Hiroshima’s Shadow, Kai Bird and Lawrence Lifschultz, eds. (Stony Creek, Conn.: Pamphleteer’s Press, 1998), pp. 272–74; James Martin Gillis, “Nothing But Nihilism,” The Catholic World, September 1945, reprinted in ibid., pp. 278–80; Alperovitz, Decision, pp. 438–40.
  2. Richard M. Weaver, “A Dialectic on Total War,” in idem, Visions of Order: The Cultural Crisis of Our Time (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1964), pp. 98–99.
  3. Wainstock, Decision, p. 122.

August 6, 2004

Ralph Raico [send him mail] is a senior scholar of the Mises Institute.

Copyright © 2001 by the Ludwig von Mises Institute.
All rights reserved.

Ralph Raico Archives

By Noam Chomsky, Khaleej Times Online
Posted on July 12, 2008, Printed on July 15, 2008
http://www.alternet.org/story/91123/

The deal just taking shape between Iraq’s Oil Ministry and four Western oil companies raises critical questions about the nature of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq — questions that should certainly be addressed by presidential candidates and seriously discussed in the United States, and of course in occupied Iraq, where it appears that the population has little if any role in determining the future of its country.

Negotiations are under way for Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP — the original partners decades ago in the Iraq Petroleum Company, now joined by Chevron and other smaller oil companies — to renew the oil concession they lost to nationalization during the years when the oil producers took over their own resources. The no-bid contracts, apparently written by the oil corporations with the help of U.S. officials, prevailed over offers from more than 40 other companies, including companies in China, India and Russia.

“There was suspicion among many in the Arab world and among parts of the American public that the United States had gone to war in Iraq precisely to secure the oil wealth these contracts seek to extract,” Andrew E. Kramer wrote in the New York Times.

Kramer’s reference to “suspicion” is an understatement. Furthermore, it is highly likely that the military occupation has taken the initiative in restoring the hated Iraq Petroleum Company, which, as Seamus Milne writes in the U.K. Guardian, was imposed under British rule to “dine off Iraq’s wealth in a famously exploitative deal.”

Later reports speak of delays in the bidding. Much is happening in secrecy, and it would be no surprise if new scandals emerge.

The demand could hardly be more intense. Iraq contains perhaps the second-largest oil reserves in the world, which are, furthermore, very cheap to extract: no permafrost or tar sands or deep-sea drilling. For U.S. planners, it is imperative that Iraq remain under U.S. control, to the extent possible, as an obedient client state that will also house major U.S. military bases, right at the heart of the world’s major energy reserves.

That these were the primary goals of the invasion was always clear enough through the haze of successive pretexts: weapons of mass destruction, Saddam Hussein’s links with al Qaeda, democracy promotion and the war against terrorism, which, as predicted, sharply increased as a result of the invasion.

Last November, the guiding concerns were made explicit when President Bush and Iraq’s prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, signed a “Declaration of Principles,” ignoring the U.S. Congress, the Iraqi parliament and the populations of the two countries.

The declaration left open the possibility of an indefinite long-term U.S. military presence in Iraq that would presumably include the huge air bases now being built around the country, and the “embassy” in Baghdad, a city within a city, unlike any embassy in the world. These are not being constructed to be abandoned.

The declaration also had a remarkably brazen statement about exploiting the resources of Iraq. It said that the economy of Iraq — which means its oil resources — must be open to foreign investment, “especially American investments.” That comes close to a pronouncement that we invaded you so that we can control your country and have privileged access to your resources.

The seriousness of this commitment was underscored in January, when Bush issued a “signing statement” declaring that he would reject any congressional legislation that restricted funding “to establish any military installation or base for the purpose of providing for the permanent stationing of United States Armed Forces in Iraq” or “to exercise United States control of the oil resources of Iraq.”

Extensive resort to “signing statements” to expand executive power is yet another Bush innovation, condemned by the American Bar Association as “contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional separation of powers.” To no avail.

Not surprisingly, the declaration aroused immediate objections in Iraq, among others from Iraqi unions, which survive even under the harsh anti-labor laws that Hussein instituted and the occupation preserves.

In Washington propaganda, the spoiler to U.S. domination in Iraq is Iran. U.S. problems in Iraq are blamed on Iran. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sees a simple solution: “Foreign forces” and “foreign arms” should be withdrawn from Iraq — Iran’s, not ours.

The confrontation over Iran’s nuclear program heightens the tensions. The Bush administration’s “regime change” policy toward Iran comes with ominous threats of force (there Bush is joined by both U.S. presidential candidates). The policy also is reported to include terrorism within Iran — again legitimate, for the world rulers. A majority of the American people favor diplomacy and oppose the use of force. But public opinion is largely irrelevant to policy formation, not just in this case.

An irony is that Iraq is turning into a U.S.-Iranian condominium. The Maliki government is the sector of Iraqi society most supported by Iran. The so-called Iraqi army — just another militia — is largely based on the Badr brigade, which was trained in Iran and fought on the Iranian side during the Iran-Iraq War.

Nir Rosen, one of the most astute and knowledgeable correspondents in the region, observes that the main target of the U.S.-Maliki military operations, Moktada al-Sadr, is disliked by Iran as well: He’s independent and has popular support, and is therefore dangerous.

Iran “clearly supported Prime Minister Maliki and the Iraqi government against what they described as ‘illegal armed groups’ (of Moktada’s Mahdi army) in the recent conflict in Basra,” Rosen writes, “which is not surprising given that their main proxy in Iraq, the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, dominates the Iraqi state and is Maliki’s main backer.”

“There is no proxy war in Iraq,” Rosen concludes, “because the U.S. and Iran share the same proxy.”

Tehran is presumably pleased to see the United States institute and sustain a government in Iraq that’s receptive to its influence. For the Iraqi people, however, that government continues to be a disaster, very likely with worse to come.

In Foreign Affairs, Steven Simon points out that current U.S. counterinsurgency strategy is “stoking the three forces that have traditionally threatened the stability of Middle Eastern states: tribalism, warlordism and sectarianism.” The outcome might be “a strong, centralized state ruled by a military junta that would resemble” Saddam Hussein’s regime.

If Washington achieves its goals, then its actions are justified. Reactions are quite different when Vladimir Putin succeeds in pacifying Chechnya, to an extent well beyond what Gen. David Petraeus has achieved in Iraq. But that is them, and this is the United States. Criteria are therefore entirely different.

In the United States, the Democrats are silenced now because of the supposed success of the U.S. military surge in Iraq. Their silence reflects the fact that there are no principled criticisms of the war. In this way of regarding the world, if you’re achieving your goals, the war and occupation are justified. The sweetheart oil deals come with the territory.

In fact, the whole invasion is a war crime — indeed the supreme international crime, differing from other war crimes in that it encompasses all the evil that follows, in the terms of the Nuremberg judgment. This is among the topics that can’t be discussed, in the presidential campaign or elsewhere. Why are we in Iraq? What do we owe Iraqis for destroying their country? The majority of the American people favor U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. Do their voices matter?

Noam Chomsky’s writings on linguistics and politics have just been collected in The Essential Chomsky, edited by Anthony Arnove, from the New Press. Chomsky is an emeritus professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass.

© 2008 Khaleej Times Online All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/91123/
By Peter Daniels

http://www.wsws.org/articles/2008/jun2008/data-j02_prn.shtml

In recent years, it has become increasingly clear to those who follow US economic statistics that there is something dubious about the numbers released by official government agencies and used to guide many aspects of social and public policy.

The details and chronology of the corruption of economic data are presented in a new book by Kevin Phillips, the political commentator and former Republican Party adviser who has become something of a muckraking critic of the “excesses” that he helped set in motion. The book is entitled, Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism Phillips summarizes some of his main conclusions in an article in the current issue of Harper’s Magazine.

The article focuses primarily on three measures: the monthly Consumer Price Index (CPI), the quarterly Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and the monthly figure for the unemployment rate. Phillips convincingly demonstrates that the real unemployment rate in the United States is between 9 and 12 percent, not the 5 percent or less that is officially claimed. The real rate of inflation is not 2 or 3 percent, but instead, between 7 and 10 percent. And real economic growth has been about 1 percent, not the 3-4 percent officially claimed during the most recent Wall Street and housing bubble that has burst.

Phillips’s background makes his statements all the more significant. He was a prime strategist for Nixon’s 1968 presidential campaign and one of the main architects of the notorious “Southern strategy,” through which the old Republican Party of Wall Street and Main Street refashioned itself with a right-wing populist appeal, stoking racial antagonisms while above all capitalizing on the bankruptcy of American liberalism to shift the political spectrum sharply to the right.

The corruption of official statistics is not the work of one administration, and Phillips traces it back nearly 50 years. The current occupant of the White House has, in fact, been somewhat less active on this front than his predecessors.

Soon after John F. Kennedy took office in 1961, Phillips points out, he appointed a committee to recommend possible changes in the measurement of official joblessness. What soon followed was the use of the category of “discouraged workers” to exclude all those who had stopped looking for jobs because they weren’t available. Many who had lost employment in basic industry, in a trend that was just beginning to pick up steam with automation and the rise of global competitors in such industries as steel and auto production, were no longer counted as unemployed.

During the administration of Lyndon Johnson, the federal government began using the concept of a “unified budget” that combined Social Security with other expenditures, thus allowing the current Social Security surplus to disguise growing budget deficits.

As Phillips reports, Nixon tried to tackle the “problem” of statistics in typically Nixonian fashion: he actually proposed that the Labor Department simply publish whichever was the lower figure between seasonally adjusted and unadjusted unemployment numbers. This was apparently deemed too brazen an attempt at manipulation and was never implemented.

Under Nixon’s Federal Reserve chairman, Arthur Burns, however, the concept of “core inflation” was devised. This became the means of excluding certain areas like food and energy, on grounds of the “volatility” of these sectors. The suggestion was that these prices jumped and then sometimes fell, so that it was best to remove them from the prices surveyed. In fact, food and energy together accounted for an enormous portion of spending for most sections of the working class and, as Phillips also explains, these two sectors are “now verging on another 1970s-style price surge.” As of last January, Phillips writes, the price of imported goods had increased 13.7 percent compared with a year earlier, the biggest jump since these statistics began in 1982. Gasoline prices, meanwhile, have soared by more than 30 percent since just the beginning of this year.

The Reagan administration addressed itself to the pesky problem of housing in the inflation index. An “Owner Equivalent Rent” measurement was dreamed up for the purpose of artificially lowering the cost of housing—from a purely abstract statistical standpoint. Under Reagan, Phillips also points out, the armed forces began to be included in the labor force and among the employed, thus reducing the unemployment rate, even though these same members of the military would in many cases have no employment in civilian life.

George H.W. Bush and his Council of Economic Advisers proposed the recalculation of inflation statistics to give greater weight to the service and retail sectors and, again, reduce the official rate of inflation.

This change was actually implemented during the Clinton administration. Clinton also carried out other changes, including a reduction in the monthly household sampling from 60,000 to 50,000, a decrease that was concentrated in the inner cities and had the effect of reducing official jobless figures among African-Americans.

The Clinton years were an especially active time for imaginative tinkering with economic data. Three other “adjustments” in the Consumer Price Index were implemented under the Democratic administration: product substitution, geometric weighting, and hedonic adjustment.

Product substitution means that, for example, if steak gets too expensive, individuals substitute hamburger. Steak is simply removed from the typical food basket even though it has been used in the past to track price changes.

Geometric weighting is defined as lower weighting in the price index for those goods and services that are rising most rapidly in cost, on the assumption that they are consumed in lower quantities. This may of course be true, but the aim is to reduce the inflation figure, covering up the fact that some items are no longer affordable for tens of millions of people.

Phillips is particularly scathing about “hedonic adjustment,” also implemented during Clinton’s presidency. In this concept, the supposedly improved quality of some products and services is translated into a reduction in their effective cost. This is another obvious attempt to reduce official inflation. “Reversing the theory, however, the declining quality of goods or services should adjust effective prices and therefore add to inflation,” Phillips writes, “but that side of the equation generally goes missing.”

Phillips explains that every single one of the statistical revisions implemented over the past two generations have become permanent. Once initiated by a Democratic or Republican administration, they were carried over to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and other agencies in bipartisan fashion, no matter who the current occupant of the White House was.

To all of the above should be added one other element, which Phillips does not discuss, perhaps because it does not stem from the economic data itself. That is the explosive growth of the US prison population, which has soared over the last 30 years and now stands at 2.3 million, compared to an overall labor force of 153.1 million. This situation, the outcome of the misnamed war on drugs and the overall bipartisan law-and-order hysteria, keeps the official unemployment rate artificially low. Between the army and the prison system, official joblessness is reduced by perhaps 2 percent.

Phillips points out that all of the changes in economic recordkeeping over the past 50 years were not the result of some grand conspiracy. They certainly did not stem from a master plan hatched in the 1960s or 1970s, of course. This does not mean, however, that there is no logic to these developments, no broader economic and political source.

The corruption of economic data corresponds to deepening contradictions of US and world capitalism. These contradictions impelled the bourgeoisie to abandon a general policy of social reform that had lasted for more than three decades, and to embark on what has been termed a “one-sided class war,” in which the services of the pro-capitalist trade unions were utilized to carry out an unprecedented transfer of wealth from the working population to a tiny ruling elite.

There was a step-by-step logic to all of the measures that were taken to misrepresent basic economic statistics. Big business could not have carried out the policies it required without falsifying economic reality. Even though daily life became increasingly difficult for huge sections of the working class, it was necessary to divide and disorient, to intimidate millions with the claim that “there is no alternative,” and that what Reagan referred to as the magic of the marketplace was creating a veritable golden age from which everyone would benefit.

Some of the consequences of the falsification of data can be translated into dollars and cents. If the CPI had not been systematically understated, Phillips explains, Social Security checks would be 70 percent greater than they currently are.

Beyond the direct impact on Social Security and other government expenditures, an artificially low unemployment rate and poverty rate (officially reported as 12 percent, but in fact at least twice that figure) helped the financial and political establishment to reduce living standards and social conditions. How many countless think tank reports and magazine articles, trumpeted by Democratic and Republican politicians and academic figures alike, took as the gospel truth that the “Anglo-American” model of capitalism, compared to its more regulated rivals in France and Germany, meant lower unemployment? This and similar claims were based largely on lies.

American capitalism once prided itself on the accuracy of its economic statistics. An alphabet soup of regulatory agencies carried out this work. During the decades of the Cold War, the spokesmen for big business always pointed to the mockery of economic data produced by the Stalinist regimes as one more proof of the superiority of the profit system. Today, however, the growing crisis is producing a historic reversal. Where American capitalism once required accurate data, today it requires lies.

Phillips’s revelations share something with those of former White House press secretary Scott McClellan. They are not exactly news, but they represent a kind of barometer of the growing crisis that is forcing its way into the open within official and semi-official circles.

Forces of Darkness

February 9, 2008

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By John Crowley
Sunday, October 20, 1996 True scholars rarely take up their fields of study purely out of intellectual interest, or even for reasons of fashion or academic advancement. The interest is often deeply personal, obsessive even; the scholar’s work can proceed out of a primitive wounding or longing just as the poet’s can. A scholar who takes a lifelong interest in sex or magic or power or divinity can do so because there is something he or she very passionately needs to know or to avoid knowing.

Ioan Culianu was born in Romania and came to questions of sorcery, religion and power — and the connections between them — as a birthright. He was a brilliant synthesizer and would perhaps have gone on to be a brilliant original thinker as well, who might have transformed the study of the history of religion. He was 41 when he was shot in the head in the men’s room of the University of Chicago’s Divinity School on May 21, 1991.

I am obliged to say that I came to know Culianu just before his murder and was interviewed on a couple of occasions by the author of this book, though I could tell him very little. Ted Anton reports that the effect Culianu had on me he had on many others, including the poet and radio commentator Andrei Codrescu, the Israeli scholar Moshe Idel, Umberto Eco, and his own graduate students, one of whom described Culianu as inducing in his acquaintances “a sense of self-discovery, and fantastic wish-fulfillment that was mildly hallucinatory.” “Yet many people,” Anton says, “realized afterwards they did not really know him.” The most valuable and interesting part of Anton’s book is the tracing of a remarkable journey of self-creation that I, at least, was largely unaware of.

Born into a noble family of notable intellectual achievements, Culianu grew up in the few rooms of his ancestral estate which the new communist regime allowed his family to occupy (whenever they made trouble, they risked losing another room). He also grew up within a tangled and (so it would prove) inescapable history.

Romanian mystic nationalism of the prewar period, anti-Semitic and authoritarian, which his father and uncle had battled in intellectual life, had not so much been defeated or suppressed by the communists as absorbed by them. Many former “Iron Guard” fascists found homes in the secret police; other factions escaped abroad; a contingent ended up in Chicago. To that city also came Culianu’s early intellectual hero Mircea Eliade, the Romanian historian of religion who had not only studied but practiced yoga and tantra and whose early romantic novels were lifeblood to trapped young Romanians.

Culianu joined the Communist Party in order to be able to travel, study and publish; he also, after much wavering, defected while on scholarship in Italy. He wrote to Eliade in Chicago and received ambiguous replies. He nearly starved. All that kept him going was an astonishing capacity for absorbing knowledge and a steely will to work and survive. He eventually won international renown, though it was not unshadowed by the suspicion that he was somehow faking something: No one could know so much about so many things in so many languages.

In his most far-reaching book, “Eros and Magic in the Renaissance,” Culianu recovers the Renaissance theory of magic as personal power arising from the heart — not the organ that today only pumps the blood, but the spirit synthesizer that since antiquity had been located in the same place. The heart was where the sense-impressions were gathered. If the spirit that the heart contained was pure and hot, it formed a brilliant mirror of the world; passion and feeling did not cloud it but made it brighter; the mind saw and judged what was shown there and willed and acted on the basis of what the heart knew.

So the greater the strength of feeling — of eros — directed toward the world, the fuller and greater was the world contained in the heart to be acted on by the mind. Magic is love, said the Renaissance magus Giordano Bruno, whom Culianu studied, and love is magic. He meant not the gentle empathies or mild assent we sometimes call “love” but eros, the fire of transcendent desire.

We who could not really know Ioan Culianu could not know the strength of his desire nor how far it had carried him: It was at once the motor of his intellectual inquiries and their object. Bruno says that two things are necessary for magic to work between souls: The operator must believe that his processes work, and the subject must believe the operator. Ioan Culianu was, or aspired to be, a magician: a good magician, in all senses. It was a game, but he played it for keeps.

Eventually he came to Chicago, still a somewhat louche figure but on his way to becoming an American (he loved being a consumer and ordering things from glossy catalogues). Eliade, old and ill, sponsored him, in part to have someone to take over his own work; he couldn’t know that Culianu, though devoted, was moving away from the older man’s ideas. And among the papers he put in order for Eliade was evidence supporting the long-rumored connection between Eliade and the Iron Guard.

Not long after Culianu inherited Eliade’s position in Chicago’s School of Divinity, the communist regimes in Eastern Europe began to collapse. Culianu’s sister and brother-in-law were active in the liberation movement. How would Romania go? Culianu published a Swiftian fantasy of an almost magical prescience, describing an imaginary country, Jormania, in which the aging and unpopular dictator and his wife are destroyed by the secret police of the neighboring Maculist empire, using specially bred housecats called Zorabi. In the succeeding pseudo-revolution, the economy is captured by the dictator’s former henchmen, and the secret police declare themselves Immaculists. Little changes except that pornography is allowed to be printed.

Something roughly like this began happening late in 1989, though few Americans perceived it then. A plan by the KGB to eliminate the unpopular Ceausescus under the guise of popular reform got out of hand and became a revolution, forcing the Communists to become, or appear to become, democrats in order to retain power. In the new regime, ultra-nationalism again became a political force, and the suppressing of enemies abroad — something the Romanian Securitate had always taken seriously — continued on an even broader front.

Many of Culianu’s American friends didn’t know how involved he was in post-Communist Romanian public life and how much danger he was in because of it. In his scholarly work Culianu was able to project an astonishing grasp of the most recondite materials and make them seem vital, even urgent; in the scathing political and cultural criticism he now began to publish in Romanian emigre papers, he continually “left the disquieting impression that its author was only hinting at deeper ideas that he planned to disclose later.” He told his students and friends — but not the police — that he thought he was being followed, and took out additional life insurance.

In “Eros and Magic” Culianu studies a little-known work by Bruno in which Bruno shows that the bonds of desire, in the broadest sense, can be manipulated by the worker who understands how to project images that can compel the hearts of all men. Culianu saw in Bruno’s prescriptions a more sophisticated Machiavellianism, not using the brute tools of force and fraud but foreshadowing the whole panoply of propaganda, public relations and mass media that all modern states would be based on.

Anton errs in supposing that Culianu saw in the lies and manipulations of the Communist regime an expression of the bonds Bruno described. Culianu distinguishes between two types of polity: the magician state — such as the United States or Italy, where he lived when he came to the West — and the police state. The police state becomes a jailer state, “changing itself into a prison where all hope is lost,” repressing both liberty and the illusion of liberty in order to defend an out-of-date culture in which no one believes. It is bound to perish. The magician state, on the other hand, can degenerate into a sorcerer state, providing only the illusion of satisfaction, keeping the controls hidden; its faults are too much subtlety and too much flexibility. “Yet the future belongs to it anyway,” Culianu says. “Coercion and the use of force will have to yield to the subtle processes of magic, science of the past, of the present, and of the future.”

Odd tone to be taking in a scholarly work. But is it strange that those who live by language and ideas should think the world and reality are in fact made from them and can be changed by changing them? Culianu was a believer in puns, premonitions, coincidences and codes, a man who was entranced by the game of Logos, or Meaning. Whoever shot him (the case remains open, though political assassination is assumed) chose to do it in a toilet, on the victim’s mother’s name day, a near-sacred day in the Romanian ethos. Culianu was not the only one who believed in the power of pattern and connection.

Ted Anton, an associate professor of nonfiction writing at DePaul University, assembles a dazzling, even obscuring, array of connections, hints, foreshadowings, and plots from his many years of research, but he is clear that at the center of this hall of mirrors is a real life, ruined by the operations of brute power. “Chance and fate, truth and fiction, murder and illusory disappearance,” Anton sums up. “In many ways, Culianu said, these opposites are the same. The deepest tragedy is that, in the only way we understand, they are not.”

John Crowley’s novels include “Little, Big” and “Love & Sleep.”

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BILLIONAIRE investor George Soros said the world was facing the worst financial crisis since World War Two and the US was threatened with recession, according to an interview with the Austrian daily Standard.

“The situation is much more serious than any other financial crisis since the end of World War Two,” Mr Soros was quoted as saying.

He said over the past few years politics had been guided by some basic misunderstandings stemming from something which he called “market fundamentalism” – the belief financial markets tended to act as a balance.

“This is the wrong idea,” he said. “We really do have a serious financial crisis now.”

Asked whether he thought the US was headed for a recession, he said: “Yes, this is a threat in the United States”.

He added he was surprised how little understanding there had been on how recession was also a threat to Europe.

European shares fell nearly 6 per cent overnight, their biggest one-day slide since the Septemer 11 attacks of 2001, as fears of a US recession and more debt write downs.