Wednesday, October 13, 2010

China’s Pipelineistan “War”

Anteing up, betting, and bluffing in the new Great Game
by Pepe Escobar

Future historians may well agree that the 21st century Silk Road first opened for business on Dec. 14, 2009. That was the day a crucial stretch of pipeline officially went into operation linking the fabulously energy-rich state of Turkmenistan (via Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan) to Xinjiang province in China’s far west. Hyperbole did not deter the spectacularly named Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, Turkmenistan’s president, from bragging, “This project has not only commercial or economic value. It is also political. China, through its wise and farsighted policy, has become one of the key guarantors of global security.”

The bottom line is that, by 2013, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Hong Kong will be cruising to ever more dizzying economic heights courtesy of natural gas supplied by the 1,833-kilometer-long Central Asia Pipeline, then projected to be operating at full capacity. And to think that, in a few more years, China’s big cities will undoubtedly also be getting a taste of Iraq’s fabulous, barely tapped oil reserves, conservatively estimated at 115 billion barrels, but possibly closer to 143 billion barrels, which would put it ahead of Iran. When the Bush administration’s armchair generals launched their Global War on Terror, this was not exactly what they had in mind.

China’s economy is thirsty, and so it’s drinking deeper and planning deeper yet. It craves Iraq’s oil and Turkmenistan’s natural gas, as well as oil from Kazakhstan. Yet instead of spending more than a trillion dollars on an illegal war in Iraq or setting up military bases all over the Greater Middle East and Central Asia, China used its state oil companies to get some of the energy it needed simply by bidding for it in a perfectly legal Iraqi oil auction.

Meanwhile, in the New Great Game in Eurasia, China had the good sense not to send a soldier anywhere or get bogged down in an infinite quagmire in Afghanistan. Instead, the Chinese simply made a direct commercial deal with Turkmenistan and, profiting from that country’s disagreements with Moscow, built itself a pipeline which will provide much of the natural gas it needs.

No wonder the Obama administration’s Eurasian energy czar Richard Morningstar was forced to admit at a congressional hearing that the U.S. simply cannot compete with China when it comes to Central Asia’s energy wealth. If only he had delivered the same message to the Pentagon.

That Iranian Equation

In Beijing, they take the matter of diversifying oil supplies very, very seriously. When oil reached $150 a barrel in 2008 – before the U.S.-unleashed global financial meltdown hit – Chinese state media had taken to calling foreign Big Oil “international petroleum crocodiles,” with the implication that the West’s hidden agenda was ultimately to stop China’s relentless development dead in its tracks.

Twenty-eight percent of what’s left of the world’s proven oil reserves are in the Arab world. China could easily gobble it all up. Few may know that China itself is actually the world’s fifth largest oil producer, at 3.7 million barrels per day (bpd), just below Iran and slightly above Mexico. In 1980, China consumed only 3 percent of the world’s oil. Now, its take is around 10 percent, making it the planet’s second largest consumer. It has already surpassed Japan in that category, even if it’s still way behind the U.S., which eats up 27 percent of global oil each year. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), China will account for over 40 percent of the increase in global oil demand until 2030. And that’s assuming China will grow at “only” a 6 percent annual rate which, based on present growth, seems unlikely.

Saudi Arabia controls 13 percent of world oil production. At the moment, it is the only swing producer – one, that is, that can move the amount of oil being pumped up or down at will – capable of substantially increasing output. It’s no accident, then, that, pumping 500,000 bpd, it has become one of Beijing’s major oil suppliers. The top three, according to China’s Ministry of Commerce, are Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Angola. By 2013-2014, if all goes well, the Chinese expect to add Iraq to that list in a big way, but first that troubled country’s oil production needs to start cranking up. In the meantime, it’s the Iranian part of the Eurasian energy equation that’s really nerve-racking for China’s leaders.

Chinese companies have invested a staggering $120 billion in Iran’s energy sector over the past five years. Already Iran is China’s number two oil supplier, accounting for up to 14 percent of its imports; and the Chinese energy giant Sinopec has committed an additional $6.5 billion to building oil refineries there. Due to harsh U.N.-imposed and American sanctions and years of economic mismanagement, however, the country lacks the high-tech know-how to provide for itself, and its industrial structure is in a shambles. The head of the National Iranian Oil Company, Ahmad Ghalebani, has publicly admitted that machinery and parts used in Iran’s oil production still have to be imported from China.

Sanctions can be a killer, slowing investment, increasing the cost of trade by over 20 percent, and severely constricting Tehran’s ability to borrow in global markets. Nonetheless, trade between China and Iran grew by 35 percent in 2009 to $27 billion. So while the West has been slamming Iran with sanctions, embargoes, and blockades, Iran has been slowly evolving as a crucial trade corridor for China – as well as Russia and energy-poor India. Unlike the West, they are all investing like crazy there because it’s easy to get concessions from the government; it’s easy and relatively cheap to build infrastructure; and being on the inside when it comes to Iranian energy reserves is a necessity for any country that wants to be a crucial player in Pipelineistan, that contested chessboard of crucial energy pipelines over which much of the New Great Game in Eurasia takes place. Undoubtedly, the leaders of all three countries are offering thanks to whatever gods they care to worship that Washington continues to make it so easy (and lucrative) for them.

Few in the U.S. may know that last year Saudi Arabia – now (re)arming to the teeth, courtesy of Washington, and little short of paranoid about the Iranian nuclear program – offered to supply the Chinese with the same amount of oil the country currently imports from Iran at a much cheaper price. But Beijing, for whom Iran is a key long-term strategic ally, scotched the deal.

As if Iran’s structural problems weren’t enough, the country has done little to diversify its economy beyond oil and natural gas exports in the past 30 years; inflation’s running at more than 20 percent; unemployment at more than 20 percent; and young, well-educated people are fleeing abroad, a major brain drain for that embattled land. And don’t think that’s the end of its litany of problems. It would like to be a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) – the multi-layered economic/military cooperation union that is a sort of Asian response to NATO – but is only an official SCO observer because the group does not admit any country under U.N. sanctions. Tehran, in other words, would like some great power protection against the possibility of an attack from the U.S. or Israel. As much as Iran may be on the verge of becoming a far more influential player in the Central Asian energy game thanks to Russian and Chinese investment, it’s extremely unlikely that either of those countries would actually risk war against the U.S. to “save” the Iranian regime.

The Great Escape

From Beijing’s point of view, the title of the movie version of the intractable U.S. vs. Iran conflict and a simmering U.S. vs. China strategic competition in Pipelineistan could be Escape From Hormuz and Malacca.

The Strait of Hormuz is the definition of a potential strategic bottleneck. It is, after all, the only entryway to the Persian Gulf and through it now flow roughly 20 percent of China’s oil imports. At its narrowest, it is only 36 kilometers wide, with Iran to the north and Oman to the south. China’s leaders fret about the constant presence of U.S. aircraft carrier battle groups on station and patrolling nearby.

With Singapore to the North and Indonesia to the south, the Strait of Malacca is another potential bottleneck if ever there was one – and through it flow as much as 80 percent of China’s oil imports. At its narrowest, it is only 54 kilometers wide and like the Strait of Hormuz, its security is also of the made-in-USA variety. In a future face-off with Washington, both straits could quickly be closed or controlled by the U.S. Navy.

Hence, China’s increasing emphasis on developing a land-based Central Asian energy strategy could be summed up as: Bye-bye, Hormuz! Bye-bye, Malacca! And a hearty welcome to a pipeline-driven new Silk Road from the Caspian Sea to China’s Far West in Xinjiang.

Kazakhstan has 3 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves, but its largest oil fields are not far from the Chinese border. China sees that country as a key alternative oil supplier via future pipelines that would link the Kazakh oil fields to Chinese oil refineries in its far west. In fact, China’s first transnational Pipelineistan adventure is already in place: the 2005 China-Kazakhstan oil project, financed by Chinese energy giant CNPC.

Much more is to come, and Chinese leaders expect energy-rich Russia to play a significant part in China’s escape-hatch planning as well. Strategically, this represents a crucial step in regional energy integration, tightening the Russia/China partnership inside the SCO as well as at the U.N. Security Council.

When it comes to oil, the name of the game is the immense Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean (ESPO) pipeline. Last August, a 4,000-kilometer-long Russian section from Taishet in eastern Siberia to Nakhodka, still inside Russian territory, was begun. Russian Premier Vladimir Putin hailed ESPO as “a really comprehensive project that has strengthened our energy cooperation.” And in late September, the Russians and the Chinese inaugurated a 999-kilometer-long pipeline from Skovorodino in Russia’s Amur region to the petrochemical hub Daqing in northeast China.

Russia is currently delivering up to 130 million tons of Russian oil a year to Europe. Soon, no less than 50 million tons may be heading to China and the Pacific region as well.

There are, however, hidden tensions between the Russians and the Chinese when it comes to energy matters. The Russian leadership is understandably wary of China’s startling strides in Central Asia, the former Soviet Union’s former “near abroad.” After all, as the Chinese have been doing in Africa in their search for energy, in Central Asia, too, the Chinese are building railways and introducing high-tech trains, among other modern wonders, in exchange for oil and gas concessions.

Despite the simmering tensions between China, Russia, and the U.S., it’s too early to be sure just who is likely to emerge as the victor in the new Great Game in Central Asia, but one thing is clear enough. The Central Asian “stans” are becoming ever more powerful poker players in their own right as Russia tries not to lose its hegemony there, Washington places all its chips on pipelines meant to bypass Russia (including the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan [BTC] pipeline that pumps oil from Azerbaijan to Turkey via Georgia) and China antes up big time for its Central Asian future. Whoever loses, this is a game that the “stans” cannot but profit from.

Recently, our man Gurbanguly, the Turkmen leader, chose China as his go-to country for an extra $4.18 billion loan for the development of South Yolotan, his country’s largest gas field. (The Chinese had already shelled out $3 billion to help develop it.) Energy bureaucrats in Brussels were devastated. With estimated reserves of up to 14 trillion cubic meters of natural gas, the field has the potential to flood the energy-starved European Union with gas for more than 20 years. Goodbye to all that?

In 2009, Turkmenistan’s proven gas reserves were estimated at a staggering 8.1 trillion cubic meters, fourth largest in the world after Russia, Iran, and Qatar. Not surprisingly, from the point of view of Ashgabat, the country’s capital, it invariably seems to be raining gas. Nonetheless, experts doubt that the landlocked, idiosyncratic Central Asian republic actually has enough blue gold to supply Russia (which absorbed 70 percent of Turkmenistan’s supply before the pipeline to China opened), China, Western Europe, and Iran all at the same time.

Currently, Turkmenistan sells its gas to: China via the world’s largest gas pipeline, 7,000 kilometers long and designed for a capacity of 40 billion cubic meters per year, Russia (10 billion cubic meters per year, down from 30 billion per year until 2008), and Iran (14 billion cubic meters per year). Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad always gets a red-carpet welcome from Gurbanguly, and the Russian energy giant Gazprom, thanks to an improved pricing policy, is treated as a preferred customer.

At present, however, the Chinese are atop the heap, and more generally, whatever happens, there can be little question that Central Asia will be China’s major foreign supplier of natural gas. On the other hand, the fact that Turkmenistan has, in practice, committed its entire future gas exports to China, Russia, and Iran means the virtual death of various trans-Caspian Sea pipeline plans long favored by Washington and the European Union.

IPI vs. TAPI All Over Again

On the oil front, even if all the “stans” sold China every barrel of oil they currently pump, less than half of China’s daily import needs would be met. Ultimately, only the Middle East can quench China’s thirst for oil. According to the International Energy Agency, China’s overall oil needs will rise to 11.3 million barrels per day by 2015, even with domestic production peaking at 4.0 million bpd. Compare that to what some of China’s alternative suppliers are now producing: Angola, 1.4 million bpd; Kazakhstan, 1.4 million as well; and Sudan, 400,000.

On the other hand, Saudi Arabia produces 10.9 million bpd, Iran around 4.0 million, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) 3.0 million, Kuwait 2.7 million – and then there’s Iraq, presently at 2.5 million and likely to reach at least 4.0 million by 2015. Still, Beijing has yet to be fully convinced that this is a safe supply, especially given all those U.S. “forward operating sites” in the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman, plus those roaming naval battle groups in the Persian Gulf.

On the gas front, China definitely counts on a South Asian game changer. Beijing has already spent $200 million on the first phase in the construction of a deepwater port at Gwadar in Pakistan’s Balochistan province. It wanted, and got from Islamabad, “sovereign guarantees to the port’s facilities.” Gwadar is only 400 kilometers from Hormuz. With Gwadar, the Chinese Navy would have a home port that would easily allow it to monitor traffic in the strait and someday perhaps even thwart the U.S. Navy’s expansionist designs in the Indian Ocean.

But Gwadar has another, infinitely juicier future role. It could prove the pivot in a competition between two long-discussed pipelines: TAPI and IPI. TAPI stands for the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline, which can never be built as long as U.S. and NATO occupation forces are fighting the resistance umbrella conveniently labeled “Taliban” in Afghanistan. IPI, however, is the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline, also known as the “peace pipeline” (which, of course, would make TAPI the “war pipeline”). To Washington’s immeasurable distress, last June, Iran and Pakistan finally closed the deal to build the “IP” part of IPI, with Pakistan assuring Iran that either India or China could later be brought into the project.

Whether it’s IP, IPI, or IPC, Gwadar will be a key node. If, under pressure from Washington, which treats Tehran like the plague, India is forced to pull out of the project, China already has made it clear that it wants in. The Chinese would then build a Pipelineistan link from Gwadar along the Karakorum highway in Pakistan to China via the Khunjerab Pass – another overland corridor that would prove immune to U.S. interference. It would have the added benefit of radically cutting down the 20,000-kilometer-long tanker route around the southern rim of Asia.

Arguably, for the Indians it would be a strategically sound move to align with IPI, trumping a deep suspicion that the Chinese will move to outflank them in the search for foreign energy with a “string of pearls” strategy: the setting up of a series of “home ports” along its key oil supply routes from Pakistan to Myanmar. In that case, Gwadar would no longer simply be a “Chinese” port.

As for Washington, it still believes that if TAPI is built, it will help keep India from fully breaking the U.S.-enforced embargo on Iran. Energy-starved Pakistan obviously prefers its “all-weather” ally China, which might commit itself to building all sorts of energy infrastructure within that flood-devastated country. In a nutshell, if the unprecedented energy cooperation between Iran, Pakistan, and China goes forward, it will signal a major defeat for Washington in the New Great Game in Eurasia, with enormous geopolitical and geo-economic repercussions.

For the moment, Beijing’s strategic priority has been to carefully develop a remarkably diverse set of energy-suppliers – a flow of energy that covers Russia, the South China Sea, Central Asia, the East China Sea, the Middle East, Africa, and South America. (China’s forays into Africa and South America will be dealt with in a future installment of our TomDispatch tour of the globe’s energy hotspots.) If China has so far proven masterly in the way it has played its cards in its Pipelineistan “war”, the U.S. hand – bypass Russia, elbow out China, isolate Iran – may soon be called for what it is: a bluff.

Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times. His latest book is Obama Does Globalistan. He may be reached at

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Judicial Caning of Jason Kenney (George Galloway)

By Rosie DiManno
The Star Columnist

Editorial: Galloway brouhaha (April)
Judge denies Galloway entry (2009
Clip: Gallowy on the Hour (Mar. 31, 2009)
Full interview on The Hour
Galloway court filings (PDF)
Jewish group proud of role in ban
Archive of March 24 discussion
YouTube: Galloway speaks at Columbia University
YouTube: Galloway debates Meir Weinstein of the Jewish Defence League of Canada
Galloway on The Hour (2006)
YouTube: Galloway meets Saddam
YouTube: The cat incident
YouTube: Galloway vs. O'Reilly
George Galloway's website
Galloway: Canada can't muzzle me (Guardian)
A selection of George Galloway’s Greatest Hits:

“Iraq is fighting for all the Arabs. Where are the Arab armies?’’

— From an interview with Abu Dhabi TV, as British troops participated in the invasion of Iraq

“Sir, I salute your courage, your strength and your indefatigability.’’

— Spoken to Saddam Hussein, 1994

“Hezbollah has never been a terrorist organization!’’

— Shrieked at a 2006 demonstration

“Democracy in Cuba is more free than in the U.K.’’

— 2006 speech to the Oxford Students Union

“Yes, I did support the Soviet Union, and I think the disappearance of the Soviet Union is the biggest catastrophe of my life. If there was a Soviet Union today, we would not be having this conversation about plunging into a new war in the Middle East, and the U.S. would not be rampaging around the globe.’’

— 2002 interview with The Guardian

“It’s not Jews that we hate. It’s the racist, apartheid occupation of Palestine.’’

— Sunday afternoon, at Toronto’s Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church

George Galloway is not a terrorist. A holy terror, self-aggrandizing loon from the radical left, foaming-at-the-mouth blovian, one-trick pony anti-war crusader and Israel demonizer — all yes. But on the evidence — and the documentation runs to thousands of pages, from U.S. Senate and British Parliamentary briefings to libel action filings — not a direct proponent of or financial contributor to terrorism.

His moral and political relativism, however, leaves much to be desired.

“I hate terrorism, be it by a man with a beard in a tunnel in Tora Bora or a man in a suit in the White House!’’ Galloway thundered Sunday to rapturous applause from an audience of some 600 or so Galloway Groupies, a full-house nuthouse of acolytes who finally got the opportunity to hear their idol speak, live and in person.

Oratory is something Galloway does well, though not so often in Westminster during his multiple terms as an elected MP, 634th out of 645 among House of Commons debate participants, at least after his expulsion from the Labour Party and ideological transition to Respect — The Unity Coalition, a Trotskyist cadre.

The reason for Galloway’s absence from the Commons was his time-consuming rant engagements when not otherwise occupied with blockade-busting “humanitarian aid’’ sorties to Gaza or fomenting revulsion for Israel.

There’s even more time for that now, having lost his seat in the last British election, a rejection that Galloway blames squarely on Jason Kenney, Canada’s Minister of Citizenship and Immigration — “Minister of Censorship and Deportation’’ — and the damaging publicity that attended last year’s successful ploy to keep the rabble-rouser out of a speaking gig in this country.

Kenney is a fool on this file. He handed Galloway a bigger platform for chest-thumping histrionics than the Scotsman would ever have enjoyed on his own dubious merits. A federal court judge said as much this past week, accusing the Conservative government of acting politically to suppress Galloway’s opinions.

Apart from manoeuvering behind the scenes to stop Galloway in his tracks for his dealings with and donations to Gaza’s elected Hamas government — which Canada categorizes as a terrorist organization — Kenney stated publicly and paternalistically at the time: “I believe folks that are supporting and promoting and helping terrorist organizations are not needed to visit Canada.’’

Quick on the heels of the judge’s non-decision last Monday — there was, technically, nothing to overturn because Galloway decided against coming to Canada, advised that he’d likely be denied entry — the limelight-luxuriating “Gorgeous George’’ hopped on a plane to make good his remanded local appearance, an invitation extended by the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War.

Which war the coalition wishes to stop, we’re not entirely sure. If Afghanistan, the Tories have already announced Canada’s troops will pull out next July. If Iraq — Galloway’s primary focus this past decade — Canada was never in.

If they mean Israel’s military aggression against the West Bank and Gaza, then we’re on familiar ground. That was clearly the matter of most hostile opposition among yesterday’s audience, with a simultaneous shout-out to American war deserters, smacked down this past week with the nay-vote on second reading to Gerard Kennedy’s resident status bill.

(“More resisters on the stage,’’ directed one of yesterday’s organizers, as the special guests assembled for Galloway’s arrival.)

In any event, it was a triumphalist turn of the screw for Galloway and his advocates. That included the lawyer who compared Canada’s door-slamming to dissident voices with censorship in Iran and China. “Canada is in line with exactly those countries.’’

Gleefully, Galloway took pugnacious pokes at “the judicial caning of a government minister’’ — that would be Kenney — comparing him, in a somewhat disjointed analogy, to those “who are always ready to fight to the last drop of someone else’s blood,’’ a favourite bumper-sticker refrain from Galloway’s anti-war hymnal that actually has nothing to do with Kenney’s Hamas reasoning.

Claiming that he’s had a rethink about abandoning a libel suit against Kenney, Galloway declared he will now “seek redress,” whilst calling the minister a “liar and deceiver and cheat.” Further, he challenged Kenney to a public debate, presumably when he can fit that in.

On rhetoric alone, Galloway would mop the floor with Kenney. Just recently returned to his radio talk-show pulpit, he is the Rush Limbaugh loudmouth of the ultraleft.

The crux, though, is this: “I am not, nor have I ever been, a terrorist or a supporter of terrorism or any kind of security threat to Canada.’’

No, no, never a threat, agreed. Just a demagogue darling of the idiot-ocracy

Syphilis and Gonorrhea infection in Guatemala

October 4 , 2010

CIA's Unethical Research Ignored
Guatemalan Research Horrors and US Hypocrisy

According to top US officials, abusing people in the name of research without their permission is awful, truly awful. In fact, it is so awful that it takes two Cabinet officials to apologize. That is, if the abuses were committed a long time ago, by researchers who are not around to be held accountable and if there is a friendly foreign government likely to be outraged about the abuse. However, US officials have so far been totally silent about horrific, unethical research conducted by US government researchers within the last decade.

Recently, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius profusely apologized for a study conducted by the US Public Health Service in which nearly 700 incarcerated people and soldiers in Guatemala were, without their knowledge, deliberately infected with syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases in order to test if penicillin could prevent infection. In a statement the two Cabinet secretaries expressed their outrage at "such reprehensible research." In fact, so disturbed is the US government at this research that President Obama reportedly will call the Guatemalan president to apologize again.

This research violated the basic ethical principles that were supposed to guide research done on people -- "human subjects research" in the professional lingo -- since World War II. These principles were codified in the Nuremberg Code internationally and in the Common Rule guiding most research on people conducted or funded by US government agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services of which the Public Health Service is a part as well as the Defense Department and the CIA. Fundamental to these and all other recent codes of research ethics are two basic principles: informed consent and minimization of harm. Thus, the Nuremberg Code, containing principles developed for the trials of German doctors who conducted horrific experiments in the Nazi concentration camps, begins with the principle of informed consent:

"The voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential. This means that the person involved should have legal capacity to give consent; should be so situated as to be able to exercise free power of choice, without the intervention of any element of force, fraud, deceit, duress, over-reaching, or other ulterior form of constraint or coercion; and should have sufficient knowledge and comprehension of the elements of the subject matter involved as to enable him to make an understanding and enlightened decision. This latter element requires that before the acceptance of an affirmative decision by the experimental subject there should be made known to him the nature, duration, and purpose of the experiment; the method and means by which it is to be conducted; all inconveniences and hazards reasonable to be expected; and the effects upon his health or person which may possibly come from his participation in the experiment."

A little later the Nuremberg Code states the obligation of medical researchers to minimize harm resulting from experimental procedures:

"The experiment should be so conducted as to avoid all unnecessary physical and mental suffering and injury.

"No experiment should be conducted where there is an a priori reason to believe that death or disabling injury will occur; except, perhaps, in those experiments where the experimental physicians also serve as subjects."

The Guatemalan study egregiously violated both these principles and deserves opprobrium. Rather than informed consent, the purpose of the study was deliberately hidden from those infected. These individuals were infected with dangerous, often deadly, illnesses. This research was awful, reprehensible, even horrific, and should never have been contemplated, let alone, conducted. I am glad that it only took a short time since historian Susan M. Reverby of Wellesley College revealed the abuses in a soon-to-be-published paper -- available in preprint form on Reverby's website -- until US government officials vociferously condemned it.

But the US government does not need to look back nearly 65 years to find horrific research conducted by US government researchers. In June 2010, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) issued a report, Experiments in Torture: Human Subject Research and Experimentation in the “Enhanced” Interrogation Program, that documented research and experimentation conducted in this century by CIA physicians and psychologists related to the abusive techniques used as part of the CIA's "enhanced interrogation" torture program.

These researchers observed the torture of CIA prisoners in the so-called "black sites" and recorded the tortured prisoners’ responses. They paid special attention to the possibility that the torture would kill the prisoners. At times they recommended changes in torture techniques, such as the addition of salt to the water used for the partial drowning techniques that have come to be known as "waterboarding" so as to prevent possible death from induced electrolyte imbalance. This change in procedure allowed the prisoners to be waterboarded many dozens of times while preventing their escape into death. As PHR argued, the main reason for this apparent safety-related research was not the protection of prisoners, but to provide legal cover for the torturers and torture policy-makers by allowing them to claim that medical professionals were assuring the prisoners’ safety.

These abuses were reported by PHR in its peer-review report back in June. (I am one of the authors of that report.) Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was notified by letter of these abuses, abuses that violate the same research ethics principles -- informed consent and minimization of harm -- that were violated by the Guatemalan STD research. But, rather than express her outrage at this "reprehensible research," Secretary Sebelius maintained her silence, as did every government official, other than a CIA press spokesman who denied our claims without presenting the slightest bit of evidence. Secretary Sebelius' department referred an official complaint regarding unethical CIA research to the very same CIA that had already publicly denied the charges. So far, no government agency has committed to investigating these CIA abuses, which occurred far more recently than the Guatemalan horrors.

In response to the over 60 year old Guatemalan abuses, the Secretaries of HHS and State announced the creation of a commission that will undertake to assure that all human subjects research conducted by US researchers meets the highest ethical standards. As NBC News reported:

"In addition to the apology, the U.S. is setting up commissions to ensure that human medical research conducted around the globe meets 'rigorous ethical standards.' U.S. officials are also launching investigations to uncover exactly what happened during the experiments."

If the purpose of the commission is really "to ensure that human medical research conducted around the globe meets 'rigorous ethical standards,'" there cannot be a double standard. The same rules must apply to all researchers, everywhere, and to all research subjects, whoever they are. Ethics are there to protect the despised and powerless, not just those deemed deserving. Those researchers aiding CIA or other classified activities cannot get a free pass. We are at an important juncture, either unethical CIA research is investigated and those responsible are held accountable or the whole regime preventing unethical research that has been developed since the world became aware of Nazi horrors will collapse in hypocrisy. We cannot afford to let that happen.

The Anti-Empire Report

The Anti-Empire Report
In Struggle With the American Mind
October 3 2010

Since the Great Flood hit Pakistan in July ...

many millions have been displaced, evacuated, stranded or lost their homes; numerous roads, schools and health clinics destroyed;
hundreds of villages washed away;
millions of livestock have perished; for the rural poor something akin to a Western stock market crash that wipes out years of savings;
countless farms decimated, including critical crops like corn; officials say the damage is in the hundreds of millions of dollars and it does not appear that Pakistan will recover within the next few years;
infectious diseases are rising sharply;
airplanes of the United States of America have flown over Pakistan and dropped bombs on dozens of occasions.
I direct these remarks to readers who have to deal with Americans who turn into a stone wall upon hearing the United States accused of acting immorally; America, they are convinced, means well; our motives are noble. And if we do something that looks bad, and the badness can't easily be covered up or explained away ... well, great powers have always done things like that, we're no worse than the other great powers of history, and a lot better than most. God bless America.

A certain percentage of such people do change eventually and stop rationalizing; this happens usually after being confronted X-number of times with evidence of the less-than-beautiful behavior of their government around the world. The value of X of course varies with the individual; so don't give up trying to educate the hardened Americans you come in contact with. You never know when your enlightening them about a particular wickedness of their favorite country will be the straw that breaks their imperialist-loving back. (But remember the warning from Friedrich Schiller of Germany: Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens. — "With stupidity even the gods
struggle in vain.")

Here's a recent revelation of wickedness that might serve to move certain of the unenlightened: New evidence has recently come to light that reinforces the view of a CIA role in the murder of Patrice Lumumba, the first prime minister of The Congo following its independence from Belgium in 1960. The United States didn't pull the trigger, but it did just about everything else, including giving the green light to the Congolese officials who had kidnaped Lumumba. CIA Station Chief Larry Devlin, we now know, was consulted by these officials about the transfer of Lumumba to his sworn enemies. Devlin signaled them that he had no objection to it. Lumumba's fate was sealed. (, New Evidence Shows U.S. Role in Congo's Decision to Send Patrice Lumumba to His Death, August 1st 2010.)

It was a classic Cold War example of anti-communism carried to absurd and cruel lengths. Years later, Under Secretary of State C. Douglas Dillon told a Senate investigating committee that the National Security Council and President Eisenhower had believed in 1960 that Lumumba was a "very difficult if not impossible person to deal with, and was dangerous to the peace and safety of the world." (See The Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities (US Senate: The Church Committee), Interim Report: Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders, November 20, 1975, p.58.)

This statement moved author Jonathan Kwitny to observe in his book , Endless Enemies: The Making of an Unfriendly World: “How far beyond the dreams of a barefoot jungle postal clerk in 1956, that in a few short years he would be dangerous to the peace and safety of the world! The perception seems insane, particularly coming from the National Security Council, which really does have the power to end all human life within hours.”

President Eisenhower personally gave the order to kill the progressive African leader,( as reported in the New York Times, February 22, 1976, p.55 .)

We can't know for sure what life for the Congolese people would have been like had Lumumba been allowed to remain in office. But we do know what followed his assassination — one vicious dictator after another presiding over 50 years of mass murder, rape, and destruction as competing national forces and neighboring states fought endlessly over the vast mineral wealth in the country. The Congo would not hold another democratic election for 46 years.

Overthrowing a country's last great hope, with disastrous consequences, is an historical pattern found throughout the long chronicle of American imperialist interventions, from Iran and Guatemala in the 1950s to Haiti and Afghanistan in the 1990s, with many examples in between. Washington has been working on Hugo Chávez in Venezuela for a decade.

Just like the commercials that warn you "Don't try this at home", I urge you not to waste your time trying to educate the likes of Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, who not long ago referred to "the men and women of the US Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps" as "the most important peacekeepers in the world for the last century." What can you say to such a man? And this is the leading foreign policy columnist for America's "newspaper of record". God help us. The man could use some adult supervision.

A man named Barack Obama

For many years I have not paid a great deal of attention to party politics in the United States. I usually have only a passing knowledge of who's who in Congress. It's policies that interest me much more than politicians. But during the 2008 presidential campaign I kept hearing the name Barack Obama when I turned on the radio, and repeatedly saw his name in headlines in various newspapers. I knew no more than that he was a senator from Illinois and ... Was he black?

Then one day I turned on my kitchen radio and was informed that Obama was about to begin a talk. I decided to listen, and did so for about 15 or 20 minutes while I washed the dishes. I listened, and listened, and then it hit me ... This man is not saying anything! It's all platitude and cliché, very little of what I would call substance. His talk could have been written by a computer, touching all the appropriate bases and saying just what could be expected to give some hope to the pessimistic and to artfully challenge the skepticism of the cynical; feel-good language for every occasion; conventional wisdom for every issue. His supporters, I would later learn, insisted that he had to talk this way to be elected, but once elected — Aha! The real genuine-progressive, anti-war Barack Obama would appear. "Change you can believe in!" Hallelujah! ... They're still saying things like that.

Last week Obama gave the traditional annual speech at the opening of the United Nations General Assembly. To give you an idea of whether the man now sincerely expresses himself "outside the box" at all, here's what he had to say about Pakistan: "Since the rains came and the floodwaters rose in Pakistan, we have pledged our assistance, and we should all support the Pakistani people as they recover and rebuild." Does he think no one in the world knows about the American bombs? Did he think he was speaking before sophisticated international diplomats or making a campaign speech before Iowa farmers?

Plus endless verbiage about the endless Israeli-Palestine issue, which could have been lifted out of almost any speech by any American president of the past 30 years. But no mention at all of Gaza. Oh, excuse me — there was one line: "the young girl in Gaza who wants to have no ceiling on her dreams". Gosh, choke. One would never know that the United States possesses huge leverage over the state of Israel — billions/trillions of dollars of military and economic aid and gifts. An American president with a minimum of courage could force Israel to make concessions, and in a struggle between a thousand-pound gorilla (Israel) and an infant (Hamas) it's the gorilla that has to give some ground.

And this: "We also know from experience that those who defend these [universal] values for their people have been our closest friends and allies, while those who have denied those rights — whether terrorist groups or tyrannical governments — have chosen to be our adversaries."

Such a lie. It would be difficult to name a single brutal dictatorship of the Western world in the second half of the 20th Century that was not supported by the United States; not only supported, but often put into power and kept in power against the wishes of the population. And in recent years as well, Washington has supported very repressive governments, such as Saudi Arabia, Honduras, Indonesia, Egypt, Kosovo, Colombia, and Israel. As to terrorist groups being adversaries of the United States — another item for the future Barack Obama Presidential Liebrary; as I've discussed in this report on several occasions, including last month, the United States has supported terrorist groups for decades. As they've supported US foreign policy.

"Yes, of course it's nice to have a president who speaks in complete sentences. But that they're coherent doesn't make them honest." — John R. MacArthur, publisher of Harper's Magazine.

The secret to understanding US foreign policy

In one of his regular "Reflections" essays, Fidel Castro recently discussed United States hostility towards Venezuela. "What they really want is Venezuela's oil," wrote the Cuban leader. This is a commonly-held viewpoint within the international left. The point is put forth, for example, in Oliver Stone's recent film "South of the Border". I must, however, take exception.

In the post-World War Two period, in Latin America alone, the US has had a similar hostile policy toward progressive governments and movements in Guatemala, Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Grenada, Dominican Republic, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Cuba, and Bolivia. What these governments and movements all had in common was that they were/are leftist; nothing to do with oil. For more than half a century Washington has been trying to block the rise of any government in Latin America that threatens to offer a viable alternative to the capitalist model. Venezuela of course fits perfectly into that scenario; oil or no oil.

This ideology was the essence of the Cold War all over the world.

The secret to understanding US foreign policy is that there is no secret. Principally, one must come to the realization that the United States strives to dominate the world. Once one understands that, much of the apparent confusion, contradiction, and ambiguity surrounding Washington's policies fades away. To express this striving for dominance numerically, one can consider that since the end of World War Two the United States has:

Endeavored to overthrow more than 50 foreign governments, most of which were democratically-elected.
Grossly interfered in democratic elections in at least 30 countries.
Waged war/military action, either directly or in conjunction with a proxy army, in some 30 countries.
Attempted to assassinate more than 50 foreign leaders.
Dropped bombs on the people of some 30 countries.
Suppressed dozens of populist/nationalist movements in every corner of the world.
The United States institutional war machine has long been, and remains, on automatic pilot.

William Blum is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, Rogue State: a guide to the World's Only Super Power. and West-Bloc Dissident: a Cold War Political Memoir.
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