Greenwald: Obama’s “bad negotiating” is actually shrewd negotiating

I’m too busy to write at the moment, so I’m just going to highlite Glenn Greenwald’s latest piece in which he does a great job of shattering the “incompetence theorist” myth that continues to propose that poor Obama keeps on “failing” to enact progressive policies, while being “forced” to enact corporatist friendly ones.

It’s a point that I made here last week, and it’s really nice to see that Glenn and I are on the same wavelength, because he’s awesome.

Obama’s “bad negotiating” is actually shrewd negotiating

Wednesday, Apr 13, 2011 09:14 ET

By Glenn Greenwald

In December, President Obama signed legislation to extend hundreds of billions of dollars in Bush tax cuts, benefiting the wealthiest Americans. Last week, Obama agreed to billions of dollars in cuts that will impose the greatest burden on the poorest Americans. And now, virtually everyone in Washington believes, the President is about to embark on a path that will ultimately lead to some type of reductions in Social Security, Medicare and/or Medicaid benefits under the banner of “reform.” Tax cuts for the rich — budget cuts for the poor — “reform” of the Democratic Party’s signature safety net programs — a continuation of Bush/Cheney Terrorism policies and a new Middle East war launched without Congressional approval. That’s quite a legacy combination for a Democratic President.

All of that has led to a spate of negotiation advice from the liberal punditocracy advising the President how he can better defend progressive policy aims — as though the Obama White House deeply wishes for different results but just can’t figure out how to achieve them. Jon Chait, Josh Marshall, and Matt Yglesias all insist that the President is “losing” on these battles because of bad negotiating strategy, and will continue to lose unless it improves. Ezra Klein says “it makes absolutely no sense” that Democrats didn’t just raise the debt ceiling in December, when they had the majority and could have done it with no budget cuts. Once it became clear that the White House was not following their recommended action of demanding a “clean” vote on raising the debt ceiling — thus ensuring there will be another, probably larger round of budget cuts — Yglesias lamented that the White House had “flunked bargaining 101.” Their assumption is that Obama loathes these outcomes but is the victim of his own weak negotiating strategy.

I don’t understand that assumption at all. Does anyone believe that Obama and his army of veteran Washington advisers are incapable of discovering these tactics on their own or devising better strategies for trying to avoid these outcomes if that’s what they really wanted to do? What evidence is there that Obama has some inner, intense desire for more progressive outcomes? These are the results they’re getting because these are the results they want — for reasons that make perfectly rational political sense.

Conventional D.C. wisdom — that which Obama vowed to subvert but has done as much as any President to bolster — has held for decades that Democratic Presidents succeed politically by being as “centrist” or even as conservative as possible. That attracts independents, diffuses GOP enthusiasm, casts the President as a triangulating conciliator, and generates raves from the DC press corps — all while keeping more than enough Democrats and progressives in line through a combination of anti-GOP fear-mongering and partisan loyalty.

Isn’t that exactly the winning combination that will maximize the President’s re-election chances? Just consider the polling data on last week’s budget cuts, which most liberal commentators scorned. Americans support the “compromise” by a margin of 58-38%; that support includes a majority of independents, substantial GOP factions, and 2/3 of Democrats. Why would Democrats overwhelmingly support domestic budget cuts that burden the poor? Because, as Yglesias correctly observed, “just about anything Barack Obama does will be met with approval by most Democrats.” In other words, once Obama lends his support to a policy — no matter how much of a departure it is from ostensible Democratic beliefs — then most self-identified Democrats will support it because Obama supports it, because it then becomes the “Democratic policy,” by definition. Adopting “centrist” or even right-wing policies will always produce the same combination — approval of independents, dilution of GOP anger, media raves, and continued Democratic voter loyalty — that is ideal for the President’s re-election prospects.

That tactic in the context of economic policy has the added benefit of keeping corporate and banking money on Obama’s side (where it overwhelmingly was in 2008), or at least preventing a massive influx to GOP coffers. And just look at the team of economic advisers surrounding Obama from the start: does anyone think that Bill Daley, Tim Geithner and his army of Rubin acolytes and former Goldman Sachs executives are sitting around in rooms desperately trying to prevent budget cuts and entitlement “reforms”?

Why would Obama possibly want to do anything different? Why would he possibly want a major political war over the debt ceiling where he looks like a divisive figure and looks to be opposing budget cuts? Why would he possibly want to draw a line in the sand defending Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security from any “reforms”? There would be only two reasons to do any of that: (1) fear that he would lose too much of his base if he compromised with the GOP in these areas, or (2) a genuine conviction that such compromises are morally or economically intolerable. Since he so plainly lacks both — a fear of losing the base or genuine convictions about this or anything else — there’s simply nothing to drive him to fight for those outcomes.

Like most first-term Presidents after two years, Obama is preoccupied with his re-election, and perceives — not unreasonably — that that goal is best accomplished by adopting GOP policies. The only factor that could subvert that political calculation — fear that he could go too far and cause Democratic voters not to support him — is a fear that he simply does not have: probably for good reason. In fact, not only does Obama not fear alienating progressive supporters, the White House seems to view that alienation as a positive, as it only serves to bolster Obama’s above-it-all, centrist credentials. Here’s what CNN’s White House Correspondent Ed Henry and Gloria Borger said last night about the upcoming fight over entitlements and the debt ceiling:

Henry: I was talking to a senior Democrat who advises the White House, outside the White House today who was saying look, every time this president sits down with Speaker Boehner, to Gloria’s point about negotiating skills, the president seems to give up another 5 billion dollars, 10 billion dollars, 20 billions dollars. It’ s like the spending cuts keep going up. If you think about where the congressional Democrats started a couple of months ago they were talking about no spending cuts on the table. It keeps going up.

But this president has a much different reality than congressional Democrats.

Borger (sagely): Right.

Henry: He’s going for re-election, him going to the middle and having liberal Democrats mad at him is not a bad thing.

Borger: Exactly.

That’s why I experience such cognitive dissonance when I read all of these laments from liberal pundits that Obama isn’t pursuing the right negotiating tactics, that he’s not being as shrewd as he should be. He’s pursuing exactly the right negotiating tactics and is being extremely shrewd — he just doesn’t want the same results that these liberal pundits want and which they like to imagine the President wants, too. He’s not trying to prevent budget cuts or entitlement reforms; he wants exactly those things because of how politically beneficial they are to him — to say nothing of whether he agrees with them on the merits.

When I first began blogging five years ago, I used to write posts like that all the time. I’d lament that Democrats weren’t more effectively opposing Bush/Cheney National Security State policies or defending civil liberties. I’d attribute those failures to poor strategizing or a lack of political courage and write post after post urging them to adopt better tactics to enable better outcomes or be more politically “strong.” But then I realized that they weren’t poor tacticians getting stuck with results they hated. They simply weren’t interested in generating the same outcomes as the ones I wanted.

It wasn’t that they eagerly wished to defeat these Bush policies but just couldn’t figure out how to do it. The opposite was true: they were content to acquiesce to those policies, if not outright supportive of them, because they perceived no political advantage in doing anything else. Many of them supported those policies on the merits while many others were perfectly content with their continuation. So I stopped trying to give them tactical advice on how to achieve outcomes they didn’t really want to achieve, and stopped attributing their failures to oppose these policies to bad strategizing or political cowardice. Instead, I simply accepted that these were the outcomes they most wanted, that Democratic Party officials on the whole — obviously with some exceptions — weren’t working toward the outcomes I had originally assumed (and which they often claimed). Once you accept that reality, events in Washington make far more sense.

That Obama’s agenda includes an affirmative desire for serious budget cuts and entitlement “reforms” has been glaringly obvious from the start; it’s not some unintended, recent by-product of Tea Party ascendancy. Since before Obama was even inaugurated, Digby has been repeatedly warning of his support for a so-called “Grand Bargain” that would include cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. And Jane Hamsher and Ezra Klein had a fairly acrimonious exchange very early on in the Obama presidency over the former’s observation that Obama officials were expressly advocating cuts in Social Security while Klein insisted that this would never happen (yesterday, Klein reported that Obama would be supportive of Bowles-Simpson, which proposes deep cuts to Social Security, and boasted of his anticipation weeks ago that this would happen). Before Obama’s inauguration, I wrote that the most baffling thing to me about the enthusiasm of his hardest-core supporters was the belief that he was pioneering a “new form of politics” when, it seemed obvious, it was just a re-branded re-tread of Clintonian triangulation and the same “centrist”, scorn-the-base playbook Democratic politicians had used for decades.

What amazes me most is the brazen claims of presidential impotence necessary to excuse all of this. Atrios has written for weeks about the “can’t do” spirit that has overtaken the country generally, but that mindset pervades how the President’s supporters depict both him and the powers of his office: no bad outcomes are ever his fault because he’s just powerless in the face of circumstance. That claim is being made now by pointing to a GOP Congress, but the same claim was made when there was a Democratic Congress as well: recall the disagreements I had with his most loyal supporters in 2009 and 2010 over their claims that he was basically powerless even to influence his own party’s policy-making in Congress.

Such excuse-making stands in very sharp contrast to what we heard in 2008 and what we will hear again in 2012: that the only thing that matters is that Obama win the Presidency because of how powerful and influential an office it is, how disaster will befall us all if this vast power falls into Republican hands. It also contradicts the central promise of the Obama candidacy: that he would change, rather than bolster, the standard power dynamic in Washington. And it is especially inconsistent with Obama’s claimed desire to be a “transformational” President in much the way that Ronald Reagan was (but, Obama said to such controversy, Bill Clinton was not). Gaudy claims of Fundamental Change and Transformation and Yes, We Can! have given way to an endless parade of excuse-making that he’s powerless, weak and there’s nothing he can do.

Obama’s most loyal supporters often mock the notion that a President’s greatest power is his “bully pulpit,” but there’s no question that this is true. Reagan was able to transform how Americans perceived numerous political issues because he relentlessly argued for his ideological and especially economic world-view: a rising tide lifts all boats, government is not the solution but is the problem, etc. — a whole slew of platitudes and slogans that convinced Americans that conservative economic policy was optimal despite how much it undermined their own economic interests. Reagan was “transformational” because he changed conventional wisdom and those premises continue to pervade our political discourse.

When has Obama ever done any of that? When does he offer stirring, impassioned defenses of the Democrats’ vision on anything, or attempt to transform (rather than dutifully follow) how Americans think about anything? It’s not that he lacks the ability to do that. Americans responded to him as an inspirational figure and his skills of oratory are as effective as any politician in our lifetime. It’s that he evinces no interest in it. He doesn’t try because those aren’t his goals. It’s not that he or the office of the Presidency are powerless to engender other outcomes; it’s that he doesn’t use the power he has to achieve them because, quite obviously, achieving them is not his priority or even desire.

Whether in economic policy, national security, civil liberties, or the permanent consortium of corporate power that runs Washington, Obama, above all else, is content to be (one could even say eager to be) guardian of the status quo. And the forces of the status quo want tax cuts for the rich, serious cuts in government spending that don’t benefit them (social programs and progressive regulatory schemes), and entitlement “reform” — so that’s what Obama will do. He won’t advocate, and will actually oppose, steps as extreme as the ones Paul Ryan is proposing: that’s how he will retain his “centrist” political identity and keep the fear levels high among his voting base. He’ll pay lip service to some Democratic economic dogma and defend some financially inconsequential culture war positions: that’s how he will signal to the base that he’s still on their side. But the direction will be the same as the GOP desires and, most importantly, how the most powerful economic factions demand: not because he can’t figure out how to change that dynamic, but because that’s what benefits him and thus what he wants.

Ironically, Obama is turning out to be “transformational” in his own way — by taking what was once the defining GOP approach to numerous policy areas and converting them into Democratic ones, and thus ensconcing them in the invulnerable protective shield of “bipartisan consensus.” As Digby put it: “Reagan was a hard-core ideologue who didn’t just tweak some processes but radically changed the prevailing conventional wisdom. Unfortunately, Obama is actually extending the Reagan consensus, even as he pursues his own agenda of creating a Grand Bargain that will bring peace among the dueling parties (a dubious goal in itself.)” That has been one of the most consequential outcomes of the first two years of his presidency in terms of Terrorism and civil liberties, and is now being consecrated in the realm of economic policy as well.

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Psywar: We are the dog that they wag

Psywar is a brand new documentary film that I believe is a potential game-changer, in that it is presented in such a way as to be palatable to someone who is new to, and even resistant to the idea that there has been a coordinated effort to herd the citizenry of the U.S. into needless wars that only benefit a tiny fraction of the population, otherwise known as “the elite.”

“If it is your desire to understand how we are manipulated into believing the things we do — watch this film. Every American should see it…for the sake of our future.”

~Timothy Gatto, fmr Chairman, Liberal Party of America

Trailer:

Please watch the entire film here:

The CIA, Likud, and the October Surprise

In case you weren’t already aware of the October Surprise, here’s a bit of background.

In 1953, the CIA’s Operation Ajax unseated Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister, Mohammed Mossadegh, and inserted the U.S. friendly Mohammed Reza Pahlavi as the Shah (ancestral Monarch).  Mossadegh had to go because he was the chief architect of the nationalization of the Iranian oil industry, which was a serious bummer for the British-owned Anglo-Iranian Oil Company.  Within a year of the coup, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company became British Petroleum (BP), who you may or may not have heard about recently due to a minor problem they’re experiencing in the Gulf of Mexico.

Anyhow…

In January of 1979, the Iranians were fed up with the Shah and his western corporatist ways, so they had themselves a revolution, and Ayatollah Khomeini assumed power.

A bit later that same year, the deposed Shah was diagnosed with lymphoma, and he sought treatment in the U.S., which really annoyed the Iranian revolutionaries because the U.S. is Satan (their words), and generally had been meddling in their affairs for ages.

With all of that as the backdrop, on November 4, 1979, the U.S. Embassy in Tehran was seized by Iranian revolutionaries, and 66 U.S. citizens were taken hostage.  A short time later, some of the hostages were released, but 52 of them remained for 444 days.

Jimmy Carter was President of the United States at the time, and he was running against Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush for reelection.  In the weeks before the election, former CIA director Bush, along with William Casey (who became CIA Director under Reagan) and a rogues gallery of U.S. and Israeli intelligence assets met in secret with the Iranians and struck a deal that guaranteed that the hostages would NOT be released until AFTER Reagan was elected.  In exchange, Iran was to receive 52 million in arms sales (Iran Contra), and Israel would get rid of Carter, who had the audacity to force them to concede Sinai back to Egypt, and was about to put a serious cramp in their occupation of … oops, I mean their settlements in the West Bank.

This secret agreement is known as the October Surprise, but it’s generally been resigned, by an obedient press corps, to the wacky conspiracy theory file of history.  After all, we can’t have people believing that America the beautiful would ever involve itself in such chicanery.

And now that you’re up to speed, I’m presenting a far more detailed article by the George Polk Award winning Robert Parry.   He connects a lot of the dots that rarely get connected, so set aside 15 or 20 minutes of your time and dig in.

The CIA/Likud Sinking of Jimmy Carter

By Robert Parry (A Special Report)
June 24, 2010

As the Official Story of the 1980 October Surprise case crumbles – with new revelations that key evidence was hidden from investigators of a congressional task force and that internal doubts were suppressed – history must finally confront the troubling impression that remains: that disgruntled elements of the CIA and Israel’s Likud hardliners teamed up to remove a U.S. president from office.

Indeed, it is this disturbing conclusion – perhaps even more than the idea of a Republican dirty trick – that may explain the longstanding and determined cover-up of this political scandal.

Too many powerful interests do not want the American people to accept even the possibility that U.S. intelligence operatives and a longtime ally could intervene to oust a president who had impinged on what those two groups considered their vital interests.

To accept that scenario would mean that two of the great fears of American democracy had come true – George Washington’s warning against the dangers of “entangling alliances” and Harry Truman’s concern that the clandestine operations of the CIA had the makings of an “American Gestapo.”

It is far easier to assure the American people that no such thing could occur, that Israel’s Likud – whatever its differences with Washington over Middle East peace policies – would never seek to subvert a U.S. president, and that CIA dissidents – no matter how frustrated by political constraints – would never sabotage their own government.

But the evidence points in that direction, and there are some points that are not in dispute. For instance, there is no doubt that CIA Old Boys and Likudniks had strong motives for seeking President Jimmy Carter’s defeat in 1980.

Inside the CIA, Carter and his CIA Director Stansfield Turner were blamed for firing many of the free-wheeling covert operatives from the Vietnam era, for ousting legendary spymaster Ted Shackley, and for failing to protect longtime U.S. allies (and friends of the CIA), such as Iran’s Shah and Nicaragua’s dictator Anastasio Somoza.

As for Israel, Likud Prime Minister Menachem Begin was furious over Carter’s high-handed actions at Camp David in 1978 forcing Israel to trade the occupied Sinai to Egypt for a peace deal. Begin feared that Carter would use his second term to bully Israel into accepting a Palestinian state on West Bank lands that Likud considered part of Israel’s divinely granted territory.

Former Mossad and Foreign Ministry official David Kimche described Begin’s attitude in his 1991 book, The Last Option, saying that Israeli officials had gotten wind of “collusion” between Carter and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat “to force Israel to abandon her refusal to withdraw from territories occupied in 1967, including Jerusalem, and to agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state.”

Kimche continued, “This plan – prepared behind Israel’s back and without her knowledge – must rank as a unique attempt in United States’s diplomatic history of short-changing a friend and ally by deceit and manipulation.”

However, Begin recognized that the scheme required Carter winning a second term in 1980 when, Kimche wrote, “he would be free to compel Israel to accept a settlement of the Palestinian problem on his and Egyptian terms, without having to fear the backlash of the American Jewish lobby.”

In his 1992 memoir, Profits of War, Ari Ben-Menashe, an Israeli military intelligence officer who worked with Likud, agreed that Begin and other Likud leaders held Carter in contempt.

“Begin loathed Carter for the peace agreement forced upon him at Camp David,” Ben-Menashe wrote. “As Begin saw it, the agreement took away Sinai from Israel, did not create a comprehensive peace, and left the Palestinian issue hanging on Israel’s back.”

So, in order to buy time for Israel to “change the facts on the ground” by moving Jewish settlers into the West Bank, Begin felt Carter’s reelection had to be prevented. A different president also presumably would give Israel a freer hand to deal with problems on its northern border with Lebanon.

Much more at the link.

$1 Trillion in minerals: What Afghanistan is really about

They hate us for our freedom.

We’re fighting over there so that we don’t have to fight them over here.

Oh, and let’s not forget that Afghanistan is the good war. That one never gets old, does it?

Never mind that the New York Times is reporting that Afghanistan has $1 trillion in mineral deposits.  And never mind that they’re reporting it as if it’s some shocking new revelation that’s never been reported before.

Forget that Hamid Karzai made the exact same claim in January of this year.

Forget that Earth Magazine reported in July of 2009 that Afghanistan has “vast untapped mineral wealth, including coal, gems like emeralds and metals like copper and iron,” and that U.S. Geological Survey scientists “have worked with Afghan scientists to map and develop the country’s resources for nearly 40 years.”

Forget that way back in 2000, the USGS noted that Afghanistan has “additional economic potential because of its strategic geographical position as a transit route for Central Asian hydrocarbons to the Arabian Sea.”

And forget that Afghanistan’s heroin production was banned by Taliban leader Mohammed Omar in July of 2000, which cut production by 91%.  And never mind that production has increased by approximately an assload (from 7,606 hectares in 2001, to 193,000 hectares in 2007) since the U.S. invasion in 2001 deposed the Taliban and installed a puppet regime.

And whatever you do, never think for a minute about the possibility that the U.S. could be protecting Afghanistan’s heroin production, or that the CIA could be involved in any way.  After all, that would be illegal.

And for fuck’s sake, please don’t tell anybody that Osama Bin Laden and the Mujaheddin (which became Al Qaeda) were trained and funded by western intelligence agencies, including the CIA, in the 80s and 90s.

Nope, forget about all of that, and just keep repeating to yourself that Afghanistan is the good war™, they hate us for our freedom™, and we’re fighting them there so that we don’t have to fight them here™.

UPDATE:

The reason for China’s exorbitant loans to the U.S. just became clear to me.  The U.S. isn’t the Policeman of the World.  No, that’s just a smokescreen for it’s real role as the Resource Procurement Agency of the world.

It must be far cheaper to loan money to an existing military super power than to become one yourself, and hey, why should they send Chinese boys off to die in Afghanistan when the U.S. government is more than willing to send Americans?

What, you thought China was loaning us hundreds of billions of dollars and expected nothing in return?

China’s thirst for copper could hold key to Afghanistan’s future

By Jonathan S. Landay | McClatchy Newspapers

March 8, 2009

JALREZ VALLEY, Afghanistan — In this Taliban stronghold in the mountains south of Kabul, the U.S. Army is providing the security that will enable China to exploit one of the world’s largest unexploited deposits of copper, earn tens of billions of dollars and feed its voracious appetite for raw materials.

U.S. troops set up bases last month along a dirt track that a Chinese firm is paving as part of a $3 billion project to gain access to the Aynak copper reserves. Some troops made camp outside a compound built for the Chinese road crews, who are about to return from winter break. American forces also have expanded their presence in neighboring Logar province, where the Aynak deposit is.

The U.S. deployment wasn’t intended to protect the Chinese investment — the largest in Afghanistan’s history — but to strangle Taliban infiltration into the capital of Kabul. But if the mission provides the security that a project to revive Afghanistan’s economy needs, the synergy will be welcome.

“When you have men who don’t have jobs, you can’t bring peace,” said Abdel Rahman Ashraf, a German-trained geology professor who’s Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s chief mining and energy adviser.

“When we take money and invest it in a project like Aynak, we give jobs to the people.” Indeed, the project could inject hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties and taxes into Afghanistan’s meager coffers and create thousands of desperately needed jobs.

Beijing faces enormous challenges in completing the project and gaining access to the estimated 240 million tons of copper ore that are accessible through surface mining. Taliban-led insurgents operate in large parts of Logar and Wardak; the area is sown with mines; and China must complete an ambitious set of infrastructure projects, including Afghanistan’s first national railway, as part of the deal.

China’s willingness to gamble so much in one of the world’s poorest and riskiest nations testifies to its determination to acquire the commodities it needs to maintain its economic growth and social stability.

In Mt. Toromocho in the Peruvian Andes, for example, the only copper deposit said to be larger than Aynak, China is relocating a town and its inhabitants to get at a mountain of copper ore.

“Why the Chinese? Because they have money, they have lots of money,” Ashraf said. “One day, when there is no more copper elsewhere in the world, the Chinese will have copper.”

“If they (Chinese leaders) don’t feed their immense industrial complex, their populace could become disruptive,” said a Western official, who asked not to be further identified so he could speak freely. “We expect to see more such competitions” over Afghanistan’s huge untapped reserves of natural resources.

Although China is contributing a much smaller share of the more than $25 billion in international assistance that’s been pledged to Afghanistan since 2001 than the U.S. is, the Obama administration isn’t complaining. China’s investment in Aynak dovetails with the administration’s emerging strategy for ending the war in part by delivering on unfulfilled vows to better the lives of the poor Afghans who constitute the vast majority of the Taliban’s foot soldiers.

“The problem of security, the problem of the Taliban, we cannot solve these problems with the military,” Ashraf said.

Site preparation work has begun. But it’ll be some years before state-owned China Metallurgical Construction Corp. can begin the projected 15 to 20 years of production at the site 30 miles south of Kabul.

Copper is used in everything from batteries and electrical wire to computers and coins. International prices were high when MCC won the 30-year lease in April 2007 — one estimate at that time put the potential earnings at $42 billion — but they’ve fallen dramatically since. Still, China and Afghanistan stand to make a healthy profit, especially if demand recovers as expected.

The site was discovered by an Afghan-Soviet team in 1974. However, in the face of armed resistance during their 1979-89 occupation of Afghanistan, the Soviets were never able to develop the site or harvest the ore.

The main challenge to MCC is the Taliban, who moved into Kabul’s southern fringes after China clinched the deal, prompting the January deployment in Logar and Wardak of more than 2,000 troops from the Army’s 10th Mountain Division from Fort Drum, N.Y. On Tuesday, a roadside bomb injured three policemen protecting a crew building an access road to Aynak.

“We have stopped our work,” said Noorzaman Stanakzai, the road contractor. “The enemies of Afghanistan are preventing families from putting loaves of bread in their children’s mouths.”

Other challenges include transporting equipment and materials into the landlocked nation from Pakistan and Central Asia; Kabul’s inexperience in handling massive projects; endemic corruption — World Bank monitors, however, blessed the Aynak bidding process — lax enforcement of laws and the global economic meltdown.

Moreover, China must deliver the infrastructure projects that helped it snag the deal over six rivals, including Phelps Dodge Corp., which was acquired by Phoenix-based Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. in 2007.

These include an onsite copper smelter, a $500 million generating station to power the project and augment Kabul’s electricity supply, a coal mine to fuel the power station, a groundwater system, roads, new homes, hospitals and schools for mine workers and their families, and a railway line from the country’s northern border with Uzbekistan to its southeastern border with Pakistan.

The deal, Ashraf said, is structured so that by the seventh year, the entire work force will be Afghan. Beginning in 2010, 60 Afghan engineering students a year will study in China, he said, adding that Chinese language courses have begun at Kabul University.

Employment projections vary, but there’s general agreement that as many as 10,000 workers could be hired at Aynak and the coal mine in central Afghanistan, which the Jalrez Valley road project will link to the copper field. The railway will need thousands more.

Tens of thousands of indirect jobs are also projected to be created.

“The big question is whether they (China) will deliver on all that or not,” said a second Western official, who requested anonymity to speak freely. “The transparency going forward will be all important. We don’t want this great resource potential to become a great resource curse, as has happened in other countries.”

There may be some cause for concern.

A January 2008 report by Integrity Watch Afghanistan, a European research group, said that MCC extracted more copper than expected from a mine in Sandaik, Pakistan, but that the project has “had virtually no spillover effect on the local economy to date.”

The report also warned of the potential for an “environmental and social disaster” if Aynak isn’t properly managed, noting that the area is home to some 90,000 people and a source of Kabul’s water supply.

Ashraf said that the government will ensure that MCC takes rigorous precautions, including systems to store the highly toxic wastes produced by copper smelting.

“The sediment will go into a holding lake, and the water will be cleaned and then provided for agriculture,” said Ashraf, a veteran geologist who’s worked the world over, including in China.

China may hope that the Aynak deal will help it position it to compete for more projects in Afghanistan, where three tectonic plates converge. The region is thought to hold some of the world’s last major untapped deposits of iron, copper, gold, uranium, precious gems and other raw materials.

“It’s the last frontier,” said the second Western official.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that Afghanistan also has more than 1.5 billion barrels of oil — almost untapped since soldiers of Alexander the Great discovered pools of oil in the north more than 2,000 years ago — and 15 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Two other major copper deposits are close to Aynak, and the government is preparing to solicit bids for a lease to develop the Hajigak iron mine, which Minister of Mines Ibrahim Adil last year said contains an estimated 60 billion tons of ore.

Ashraf said that China and India have shown an interest in Hajigak.

“When we have a little security here, this will be a paradise to come and mine,” he said. “We are near the markets. Those markets are China and India. The transportation is not difficult. The difficulty is that everyone says, ‘We must have security and then we will invest.'”

Greenwald: Obama’s approval of war crimes and torture

As Glenn Greenwald makes absolutely clear, not only is the Nobel Laureate in Chief NOT prosecuting the Bush administration for war crimes and torture, he is, even more astonishingly, punishing the whistle blowers who bring such crimes to his attention.

Yet another hope-filled shit sandwich for the heads in the sand crowd.

A growing part of the Obama legacy

By Glenn Greenwald
Tuesday, Jun 8, 2010 10:09 ET

AP

Physicians for Human Rights yesterday released a report documenting (while relying on heavily redacted material) that “medical professionals who were involved in the Central Intelligence Agency’s interrogations of terrorism suspects engaged in forms of human research and experimentation in violation of medical ethics and domestic and international law.”  To those paying close attention, the evidence suggesting that this occurred has long been clear.  Today, The New York Times Editorial Page said this:

The report from the physicians’ group does not prove its case beyond doubt — how could it when so much is still hidden? — but it rightly calls on the White House and Congress to investigate the potentially illegal human experimentation and whether those who authorized or conducted it should be punished. Those are just two of the many unresolved issues from the Bush administration that President Obama and Congressional leaders have swept under the carpet.

When the history of the Bush era is written, the obvious question will be:  what was done about the systematic war crimes, torture regime, chronic lawbreaking, and even human experimentation which that administration perpetrated on the world?  And the answer is now just as obvious:  nothing, because the subsequent President — Barack Obama — decreed that We Must Look Forward, Not Backward, and then engaged in extreme measures to carry out that imperial, Orwellian dictate by shielding those crimes from investigation, review, adjudication and accountability.

All of that would be bad enough if his generous immunity were being applied across the board.  But it isn’t.  Numerous incidents now demonstrate that as high-level Bush lawbreakers are vested with presidential immunity, low-level whistle blowers who exposed serious wrongdoing and allowed citizens some minimal glimpse into what our government does are being persecuted by the Obama administration with a vengeance.  Yesterday it was revealed by Wired that the Army intelligence officer analyst who reportedly leaked the Apache helicopter attack video to Wikileaks — and thus enabled Americans to see what we are really doing in Iraq and other countries which we occupy and attack — has been arrested (Wikileaks denies the part of that report claiming that the whistle blower also leaked to it “hundreds of thousands of classified State Department records”).  This latest episode led Der Spiegel today to decry Obama’s “war on whistle blowers” as more severe than the one waged by the Bush administration (English translation here).

At least in these areas, that’s the Obama administration in a nutshell:  protecting Bush extremism and war crimes from any form of accountability while significantly escalating the punishment for those who tried to bring about some minimal degree of transparency (thereby also escalating the intimidation toward those who might want to do so in the future).  As the very pro-Obama NYT Editorial Page puts it today:  the human experimentation accusation and the question of whether crimes were committed are just “two of the many unresolved issues from the Bush administration that President Obama and Congressional leaders have swept under the carpet.”  If you really think about it, that’s a rather damning statement.

* * * * *

Crimes Are Crimes – No Matter Who Does Them

Here’s something else that will make oodles of self-described liberals and progressives mad at ME instead of mad at Obama.  I’m talking about the ones who seem to have checked their consciences at the door to the Hope and Change Magical Ball, where extrajudicial assassinations are normalized, troop surges in undeclared wars are suddenly ok, the continued deterioration of our civil liberties is excused, and push-button murder is reduced to the same type of twisted punchline as W’s famous “where are those dadgum WMDs hiding?” schtick.

This phenomenon of liberal progressives allowing a supposed liberal progressive President to get away with the exact type of corporo-militarist policies that precipitated howls of “FASCIST!!!” when they were carried out by a Republican President is precisely why the election of Barack Obama was an act of system legitimizing brilliance.

Until people (of ALL political philosophies) view leaders through the unbiased lens of intellectual honesty, instead of through Democrat-colored, or Republican-colored glasses, we will continue to get the corporo-militarist asshole leaders that we deserve.

Thankfully, we finally have a group of high-profile progressives who see the Obama administration as nothing more than a continuation of the corporo-militarist junta that has ruled the United States for the past three decades (at minimum).   Please read on to see what you can do to help this group raise awareness, so that we might stand a chance in reclaiming a government that represents normal people, instead of one that only represents corporo-militarist interests.

Crimes Are Crimes – No Matter Who Does Them

Join Cindy Sheehan, Cornel West, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hedges, Daniel Ellsberg, Noam Chomsky, Ray McGovern, Carl Dix, Bill Quigley, William Blum, Joyce Kozloff, Ann Messner, David Swanson, Sunsara Taylor, Stephen Rohde, Fr. Bob Bossie, Peter Phillips, Jed Stone, Tomás Olmos, Peter McLaren, Jodie Evans, Margaret Lawrence, Matthis Chiroux, Larry Everest, Andy Worthington, Blasé Bonpane, William Ayers, Dahr Jamail, Kathy Kelly, Mike Gravel, Rev. Dr. George F. Regas, Donald Freed, Frank Summers, Rocky Anderson, Tom Morello, Ann Wright, Edward Asner, Sarah Kunstler, Emily Kunstler, Michael Ratner, James Cromwell and M. Cherif Bassiouni in saying:

The things that were crimes under Bush are crimes under Obama.
Outrages under Bush are outrages under Obama.
All this MUST STOP.
And all this MUST BE RESISTED by anyone who claims a shred of conscience or integrity.

In the past few weeks, it has become common knowledge that Barack Obama has openly ordered the assassination of an American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, because he is suspected of participating in plots by Al Qaeda. Al-Awlaki denies these charges. No matter. Without trial or other judicial proceeding, the administration has simply put him on the to-be-killed list.

During this same period, a video leaked by whistleblowers in the military showing U.S. troops firing on an unarmed party of Iraqis in 2007, including two journalists, and then firing on those who attempted to rescue them – including two children – became public. As ugly as this video of the killing of 12 Iraqis was, the chatter recorded from the helicopter cockpit was even more chilling and monstrous. Yet the Pentagon said that there would be no charges against these soldiers; and the media focused on absolving them of blame – “they were under stress,” the story went, “and after all our brave men and women must be supported.” Meanwhile, those who leaked and publicized the video came under government surveillance and are targeted as “national security” threats.

Also during this period, the Pentagon acknowledged, after denials, a massacre near the city of Gardez, Afghanistan, on February 12, 2010, in which 5 people were killed, including two pregnant women, leaving 16 children motherless.  The U.S. military first said the two men killed were insurgents, and the women, victims of a family “honor killing.”  The Afghan government has accepted the eyewitness reports that U.S. Special Forces killed the men, (a police officer and lawyer) and the women, and then dug their own bullets out of the women’s bodies to destroy evidence. Top U.S. military officials have now admitted that U.S. soldiers killed the family in their house.

Just weeks earlier, a story broken in Harper’s by Scott Horton carried news that three supposed suicides of detainees in Guantánamo in 2006 were not actual suicides, but homicides carried out by American personnel. This passed almost without comment.

In some respects, this is worse than Bush. First, because Obama has claimed the right to assassinate American citizens whom he suspects of “terrorism,” merely on the grounds of his own suspicion or that of the CIA, something Bush never claimed publicly. Second, Obama says that the government can detain you indefinitely, even if you have been exonerated in a trial, and he has publicly floated the idea of “preventive detention.” Third, the Obama administration, in expanding the use of unmanned drone attacks, argues that the U.S. has the authority under international law to use such lethal force and extrajudicial killing in sovereign countries with which it is not at war.

Such measures by Bush were widely considered by liberals and progressives to be outrages and were roundly, and correctly, protested. But those acts which may have been construed (wishfully or not) as anomalies under the Bush regime, have now been consecrated into “standard operating procedure” by Obama, who claims, as did Bush, executive privilege and state secrecy in defending the crime of aggressive war.

Unsurprisingly, the Obama administration has refused to prosecute any members of the Bush regime who are responsible for war crimes, including some who admitted to waterboarding and other forms of torture, thereby making their actions acceptable for him or any future president, Democrat or Republican.

We must end the complicity of silence and say loud and clear:

The things that were crimes under Bush are crimes under Obama.
Outrages under Bush are outrages under Obama.
All this MUST STOP.
And all this MUST BE RESISTED by anyone who claims a shred of conscience or integrity.

Of drones and WMD

Gosh, all this killing by remote control is really funny stuff.

Hardy har har, and whatnot.

I just hope that Obama doesn’t go after the Jonas Brothers while they are attending a wedding.  Let’s reserve that type of uncivilized slaughter for those dirty Mooslims in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen.

Oh, and don’t forget that the souped up, extrajudicial White House Assassination Policy allows Obama to engage in the targeted killing (the word “assassination” is sooooo last week) of American citizens, just as long as an unnamed intelligence officer labels them as terrorists.  And as I said here, I’m 100% certain that this godlike power will never be misused.  It will only be used to kill honest to god, CIA certified terrorists.

Yuk yuk yuk.

They sure do hate us for our freedom.