Archive for the 'Asia' Category

US Anticommunist Extermination Programs 1945-2000

Tuesday, September 1st, 2020

The Jakarta Method, Washington’s Anticommunist Crusade & the Mass Murder Program that Shaped Our World, Vincent Bevins, 2020

Zhou Enlai Nehru Nasser Sukarno Nehru

In 1955 President Sukarno of Indonesia organized a conference of the leaders of the non aligned third world nations (former colonies) held in Bandung Java Indonesia. The conference was attended by representatives of 29 former colonial nations. Notable attendees in addition to Sukarno were Jawaharlal Nehru of India, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, and Zhou Enlai of China. The core principles of the Bandung Conference were political self-determination, mutual respect for sovereignty, non-aggression, non-interference in internal affairs, and equality. US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles (older brother of Allen Dulles) was strongly opposed to the conference. The Bandung conference represented the high point of the attempt to forge cooperation among non aligned third world nations.

This book features two contrasting Americans, Frank Wisner who worked for Allen Dulles in the WWII OSS and after at the CIA as Dulles’ master of covert (black ops) operations until Wisner killed himself in 1965; and Howard P. Jones, who served as US Ambassador to Indonesia from 1958 to 1964 and as Chancellor of the East West Center University of Hawaii from 1965 to 1968. President Truman wanted the CIA to serve as intelligence gatherers only, so Allen Dulles maneuvered Frank Wisner into position as OPC Chief and by 1952 OPC was operating 47 overseas stations operating out of US embassys and consulates and employed 3000 people. Wisner is the mastermind behind the early 1953 Iran coup (executed by Kermit Roosevelt) and the Guatemala coup of 1954 and every black ops through the 1964 Brazilian coup and the 1965 Indonesian coup.

Unlike Wisner, who was a die hard crusader, Jones had a completely different approach to the rest of the world. Rather than viewing every situation in terms of a black and white global struggle, he sought to engage deeply with the complexities of each situation.

Sukarno with Jones

Jones played an important role in repairing the damaged caused to United States-Indonesian relations by the Eisenhower Administration’s covert support for the failed PRRI/Permesta regional uprisings in Sumatra and the Celebes. Following the capture of an American pilot Allen Lawrence Pope (in 1958) who was participating in a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) black op in support of the Permesta rebels, Jones portrayed Pope as an American “paid soldier of fortune” and expressed his regret at the involvement of an American.

JFK traveled widely after WWII, visiting Indonesia twice. When JFK became President he told Jones that Jones was solely in charge of relations with Sukarno and Indonesia. Reeling from the Bay of Pigs disaster, JFK no longer trusted the CIA and wanted Jones to have a hand free of interference from CIA black ops. After JFK’s assassination, LBJ, with almost no international experience but listening to JFK’s holdover advisors, stopped all cooperation with Sukarno and recalled Ambassador Jones. The CIA now had a free hand to move forward with overthrowing the Sukarno government and attacking the PKI communist party of Indonesia, at the time the third largest communist political party behind China and the Soviet Union. The coup began on Sept. 30, 1965 and on October 2, an unknown (except to key US policy makers) army general Suharto took over the government. On Oct 5, Ambassador Howard Green cabled the State Department:

Spread the story of PKI’s guilt, treachery and brutality (this priority effort is perhaps most needed immediate assistance we can giver army if we can find way to do it without identifying it as solely or largely US effort). .. The army now has the opportunity to move against Communist Party if it moves quickly…”It’s now or never.”

On Oct 29 Frank Wisner killed himself.

On Nov 22, D.N. Aidit, leader to PKI in Central Java was arrested and executed. The military reported and Newsweek published Aidit’s confession that the PKI planned to take over the country. His confession was impossible and a part of an anticommunist black propaganda operation.

In Jan. 1966, Bobby Kennedy was the only American politician to speak up:

We have spoken out against the inhuman slaughters perpetrated by the Nazis and the Communists. But will we speak out also against the inhuman slaughter in Indonesia, where over 100,000 alleged Communists have not been perpetrators but victims

What followed was a state sponsored massacre and genocide of a million Indonesians, many ethnic Chinese. These events are largely unknown in the US although a 2012 documentary The Act of Killing and a companion 2014 documentary The Look of Silence raised awareness for some Americans and others around the world. Indonesia is the only country that engaged in genocide and never attempted an accounting or reconciliation.

…in the years 1945-1990, a loose network of US-backed anticommunist extermination programs emerged around the world, and they carried out mass murder in at least twenty-two countries. there was no central plan, no master control room where the whole thing was orchestrated, but I think that the extermination programs in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, East Timor, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Indonesia, Iraq, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, the Philippines, South Korea, Sudan, Taiwan, Thailand, Uruguay, Venezuela, and Vietnam should be seen as interconnected and a crucial part of the US victory in the Cold War… The men carrying out purposeful executions of dissidents and unarmed civilians learned from one another. Sometimes they even named their operations after other programs they sought to emulate. I found evidence indirectly linking the metaphor “jakarta”, taken from the largest and most important of these programs, to at least eleven countries. But even the regimes that were never influenced by that specific language would have been able to see, very clearly, what the Indonesian military had done and the success and prestige it enjoyed in the West afterwards.

Following are the conclusions of Harvard historian Odd Arne Westad:

We can see the Cold War as the global circumstances under which the vast majority of the world’s countries moved from direct colonial rule to something else, to a new place in a new global system. If we view it this way, then there is not a simple winner/loser binary between the United States and the Soviet Union. In the third world, there were many paths each country could take; more importantly, most of them are still on the specific path that was shaped and taken during the Cold War

The primary subject of this book is the CIA led mass murder programs designed to eliminate communist and any left leaning populations, but Bevins does spend some attention on the enormous economic pressures the US is able to exert on any government it is trying to undermine. The combination of trade policy, withholding of capital investment and International Monetary Fund (IMF) Neo-Liberal lending can bring any third world economy to its knees without any resort to CIA inspired mass murder programs. Neo-Liberal policies first found their experimental base in the 1972-3 Chili coup when several Chili native Chicago School graduates took charge of Chili’s economy under Pinochet and invited their professor Milt Friedman to advice them. Since that time, Neo-Liberal Chicago School economics have dominated most of the first world approach to the third world and Southern Europe and Ireland.

This book is very personal to this reader. In June 1965, I arrived as a graduate student grantee at the East West Center to work on a masters degree in International Relations with a goal of becoming a State Department diplomat. Chancellor (Ambassador) Howard Jones arrived at the East-West Center a month later.
Under the grant, students from the US and Asia study at the University of Hawaii for one year and then are granted a one year field trip in Asia or America. I passed the foreign service exam in Hawaii and was scheduled for an oral interview in Karachi Pakistan. There were a number of students from Indonesia at the Center and we all socialized so I was somewhat aware of events in Indonesia as they unfolded.

Hotel Indonesia Kempinski built by Sukarno in 1962

When I left Hawaii, I had heard that as many as a half million Indonesians, many of them of Chinese ancestry had been killed. Sometime in late 1966, I arrived in Jakarta for a couple of week visit. I was met by an American from the Embassy who claimed to be there by chance. I am sure he was sent specifically to escort me. He insisted I was required to stay at the Intercontinental Hotel (five star, now Hotel Indonesia Kempinski) and was required to arrange any travel through the official travel agency located in the hotel’s arcade. The nightly room cost alone put a huge dent in my monthly travel stipend. Then I got lucky. The young Indonesian woman at the travel agency, realizing I knew Indonesian students studying in Hawaii arranged a great itinerary; by bus and train to Bandung, then on to Yogyakarta (the old pre-colonial capital). During the train trip to Yogyakarta, I met a young, Dutch trained military officer who was on his way to his wedding. He invited me meet his beautiful fiancee and to the reception, an Indonesian feast. From there I traveled by bus to the coast where I boarded a WWII landing craft to cross to Bali. All hotels were Dutch colonial era with ceiling fans. In Bali, plans were underway for a massive tourist buildup with an enlarged airport and numerous beachfront hotels. Outrigger canoes were arriving from Hawaii and Hawaiians were busily training Balinese for the expected tourists. There were nightly gamelan tourist performances in Denpasar but if I walked away from town guided by the gongs, I could find natural events in the nearby villages. I met an engineer living in a beachfront cottage who was working on the airport expansion. I then flew back to Jakarta where I explored for a few more days. At no point did anyone mention the killings. Bevins says that one of the Bali tourist hotels is called Ku De Ta, which he thinks may be Indonesian humor. It is possible this hotel and others have been built on mass beach front burial grounds. Bali experienced the highest level of killings per capita anywhere in Indonesia.

I met other US diplomats on my travels and quickly concluded that the State Department was not for me. One of my professors in Hawaii was a Bengal Communist who introduced me to several Indian Communist Labor leaders. I met one in Delhi who told me about a labor demonstration scheduled for that day. I got a bicycle rickshaw and dropped by the demonstration on my way to an evening party at the US Embassy. The demonstration was met by armed police who opened fire and killed a number of demonstrators. That evening I asked a reporter from Time Magazine and several diplomats about the demonstration and the killings and no-one had heard anything. A month later, while I was in Calcutta, a Communist labor leader told me about an upcoming general strike. A few days later, Calcutta was completely shut down by a massive, coordinated labor strike. In the 1967 general election the Communist Party won a majority in the state of Kerala. India somehow was spared the “jakarta” mass extermination experience. I later met diplomats and their wives in Katmandu who were all miserable and disappointed with their career paths. I never showed up for my Karachi interview and have never regretted that decision.

Optimist anticipates participatory socialism and social federalism

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020

Capital and Ideology, Thomas Piketty, 2020
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A continuation of Piketty’s earlier 2014 work extending his previous analysis starting from 1500 to the present and adding France, India, China, Germany, Spain. the Nordic countries, Russia and Eastern Europe, the Petro-Monarchies, etc.
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Today, the postcommunist societies of Russia, China, and to a certain extent Eastern Europe…have become hypercapitalism’s staunchest allies. This is a direct consequence of the disaster of Socialism and Marxism and the consequence of all egalitarian internationalist ambitions. So great was the communist disaster that it overshadowed even the damage done by the ideologies of slavery, colonialism, and racialism and obscured the ties between those ideologies and the ideology of ownership and hypercapitalism–no mean feat.

Furthermore, social democrats never really reconsidered the issue of just ownership after the collapse of communism. The postwar social-democratic compromise was built in haste, and issues such as progressive taxation, temporary ownership, circulation of ownership (for example, by means of a universal capital grant financed by a progressive tax on property and inheritances), power sharing in firms (via co-management or self management), democratic budgeting and public ownership were never explored as fully or systematically as they might have been.

It (modern property law) originated…with Christian doctrine, which sought over many centuries to secure the property rights of the Church as both a religious and a property-owning organization.

…the concentration of private property, which was already extremely high in 1800-1810, only slightly lower than on the eve of the (French) Revolution, steadily increased throughout the nineteenth century and up to the eve of World War I…The case of Paris is especially noteworthy; there, the wealthiest 1 percent owned nearly 50 percent of all property in 1800-1810 and more than 65 percent on the eve of World War I.

As for achieving real equality, however, the great promise of the (French) Revolution went unfulfilled…And when a progressive income tax was finally adoption on July 15, 1914, it was not to finance schools or public services but to pay for war with Germany.

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When slavery was abolished in the 19th Century, the discussion in slave owning nations concerned compensation for the owner’s of slaves, never about compensation for the slaves.

It is easy to see that in a society where slaves represented virtually the entire work force, their market value could reach astronomical levels, potentially as high as seven or eight years of annual production…Recall that France saddled Haiti with a debt equivalent to three years of Haitian nation income in 1825 yet remained convinced that it was making sacrifices compared to what slaves in Saint-Dominique actually yielded in profit.

In 1860, the market value of (US) slaves (4 million in number) exceeded 250 percent of the annual income of the southern states and came close to 100 percent of the annual income of all the states. If compensation had been paid, it would have been saddled with interest and principal payments for decades.

The secession of the southern states and the resulting Civil War ended these discussions and US slave owners were never compensated for their loss of property as a result of the war and the emancipation proclamation.

Piketty follows the transformation, starting around 1500, of society from Ternary (Clergy, Nobility, Third estate–the workers) to Ownership societies with a centralized state. This transformation was accompanied by the rapid development of arms, warships, and navigation, needed to support the endless wars among the new nation states. This technological development of war tools enabled the co development of slavery and colonialism. Even the Ottoman and Chinese Empires were no match for the modern war machine. Gunboat diplomacy reigned supreme into the twentieth century. An extreme example are the two opium wars of Britain against China in the mid nineteenth century. Not only did China have to allow the sale of opium in China, but China was saddled with massive reparations for the costs of the wars.

Japanese Depiction of Perry’s black ships
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Japan reacted to the American (Admiral Perry), French and British visit by warship in the mid nineteenth century with the Meiji reformation, whereby Japan acquired and built its own advanced arms and warships and became a colonial power in its own right.

In the period 1880-1914, the United Kingdom and France earned so much from their investments in the rest of the world (roughly 5 percent additional national income for France and more than 8 percent for the United Kingdom) that they could allow themselves to run persistent structural trade deficits (an average of 1-2 percent of national income for both countries) while continuing to accumulate claims on the rest of the world at an accelerated pace. In other words, the rest of the world labored to increase consumption and standard of living of the colonial powers, even as it became increasingly indebted to those powers.

On Colonial state tax revenues in the eighteenth century:

…both countries (England and France) were taking in 600-900 tons of silver in 1700, 800-1100 tons in the 1750’s, and 1600-1900 tons in the 1780’s, leaving all other European powers far behind. Importantly, Ottoman tax receipts remained virtually unchanged from 1500 to 1780; barely 150-200 tons. After 1750, it was not only France and England that had a far greater tax capacity than the Ottoman Empire; so did Austria, Prussia, Spain, and Holland.

…the development of the modern state involved two great leaps forward. The first unfolded between 1500 and 1800 in the leading states of Europe, which were able to increase their tax revenues from barely 1-2 percent of national income to about 6-8 percent. This process was accompanied by the development of ownership societies at home and colonial empires abroad. The second leap forward came in the period 1930-1980, when the rich countries as a group went from tax revenues of 8-10 percent of national income on the eve of World War I to revenues of 30-50 percent of national income in the 1980s. This transformation was accompanied by a broad process of economic development and historic improvement in living conditions and gave rise to various forms of social-democratic society…It proved difficult to extend the second leap forward to poorer countries in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries…

If we include all military conflicts across the continent in each period, we find that European countries were at war 95 percent in the sixteenth centry, 94 percent in the seventeenth century, and still 78 percent in the eighteenth century (compared to 40 percent in the nineteenth century and 54 percent in the twentieth century). The period 1500-1800 was one of incessant rivalry among Europe’s military powers, and this is what fueled the development of unprecedented fiscal capacity as well as numerous technological innovations, particularly in the areas of artillery and warships.

By the end of the American Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (1792-1815), British public debt had soared to more than 200 percent of national income, the debt was so high that one-third of the taxes paid by British taxpayers between 1815 and 1914 (mainly by people of middle and low income) was devoted to repayment of the debt and interest (profiting the wealthy who had lent the government money to pay for the wars)…It also might have been preferable to tax the wealthy rather than allow them to become still wealthier by buying government bonds…with political power in the hands of the wealthy, the choice was made to spend money on the military and to finance it with public debt, and this helped to secure European domination over the rest of the world.

…these protectionist and mercantilist measures, imposed on the the rest of the world at gunpoint, played a significant role in achieving British and European industrial domination. According to available estimates, the Chinese and Indian share of global manufacturing output, which was still 53 percent in 1800, had fallen to 5 percent by 1900.

The colonial ideology that seeks to liberate and civilize nations in spite of themselves generally leads to disaster, no matter what the color of the colonizer’s skin (Japan).

The success of Japan’s proprietarian and industrial transition shows that the mechanisms at work have nothing whatsoever to do with Christian culture or Eueopean civilization…the Japanese experiences shows that proactive policies, especially regarding public infrastructure and investments in education, can overcome very strong and longstanding status inequalities in a matter of decades…we will see that the reduction of social inequality in Japan was further assisted by an ambitious program of agrarian reform in the period 1945-1950 as well as by highly progressive taxation of top incomes and large estates.

The fall of ownership society in the period 1914-1945 can be analyzed as a consequence of three challenges; the challenge of inequality with European ownership societies, which led to the emergence first of counterdiscourses and then of communist and social-democratic counter-regimes in the late nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries; the challenge of inequality among countries, which led to critiques of the colonial order and the rise of increasingly powerful independence movements in the same period; and finally a nationalist and identitarian challenge, which heightened competition among the European powers and eventually led to their self-destruction through war and genocide in the period 1914-1945.

The period from 1726-1914 saw low inflation and complete stability in the value of the pound sterling and the French gold franc. World War I put an end to monetary stability and the suspension of convertibility of their currencies into silver or gold.

…from 1914 to 1950 inflation averaged 13 percent a year in France (equivalent to a hundred fold increase in the price level) and 17 percent in Germany (a three hundredfold price increase).

…ownership societies that seemed so prosperous and solid on the eve of World War I collapsed between 1914-and 1945. The collapse was so complete that nominally capitalist countries actually turned into social democracies between 1950 and 1980 through a mixture of policies including nationalizations, public education, health and pension reforms, and progressive taxation of the highest incomes and largest fortunes. Despite undeniable success, however, these social-democratic societies began to run into trouble in the 1980’s. Specifically, they proved unable to cope with rampant inequality that began to develop more of less everywhere around that time.

Why did social democratic societies fail after 1980?

Ronald Reagan (R) and Margaret Thatcher wave after their arrival in Camp David, 22 december 1984, before their meeting. (Photo credit should read ARCHIVES UPI/AFP/Getty Images)

In the first place, attempts to institute new forms of power sharing and social ownership of firms remained confined to a small number of countries (especially German and Sweden). This avenue of reform was never explored fully as it might have been, even though it offered one of the most promising responses to the challenge of transcending private property and capitalism. Second, social democracy did not have a good answer to one pressing question; how to provide equal access to education and knowledge, particularly higher education. Finally, we will look at social-democratic thinking about taxation, especially progressive taxation of wealth. Social democracy did not succeed in building new transnational federal forms of shared sovereignty or social and fiscal justice. Today’s globalized economy is one in which regulation in all its forms has been undermined by free trade and free circulation of capital, instituted by agreements to which social democrats consented or even instigated. In any case, they had no alternative to offer. The resulting heightened international competition has gravely endangered the social contract (and consent to taxation) on which the social-democratic states of the twentieth century were built.

The French and British never embraced corporate power sharing and social ownership preferring nationalization of private companies:

Then in 1986-1988 the Gaullist and liberal parties returned to power in a new context of privatization and deregulation under Thatcher and Reagan, while at the the same time the Communist bloc was slowly crumbling. This led to the privatization of most of the companies that had been nationalized between 1945-1982.

…from 1917 to 1991, new thinking about private property was blocked by the bipolar opposition of Soviet Communism and American capitalism. One was either for unlimited state ownership or for full private shareholder ownership….The fall of the Soviet Union inaugurated a new period of unlimited faith in private property from which we have not yet completely emerged but which is beginning to show serious signs of exhaustion.

On the massive inequality that developed in the United States from about 1980:

The bottom 50 percent of the income distribution claimed about 20 percent of national income from 1960 to 1980, but that share has been divided in half, falling to just 12 percent in 2010-2015. The top centile’s share has moved in the opposite direction, from barely 11 percent to more than 20 percent…the share of total income going to the bottom 50 percent in Europe remains significantly larger than the share going to the top centile.

To sum up: in the light of the history of the past two centuries, educational equality played a more important sole in economic development than the sacrilization of inequality, property, and stability. More generally, history demonstrated the recurrent risk of an “inequality trap” which many societies have faced throughout the ages. Elite discourse tends to overvalue stability, and especially the perpetuation of existing property rights, whereas development often requires a redefinition of property relations and opening up of opportunities to new groups.

On the failures of progressive taxation:

First, parties of the left failed to foster the kind of international cooperation needed to protect and extend progressive taxation; indeed at times they contributed to the fiscal competition that has proved devastating to the very idea of fiscal justice. Second, thinking about just taxation too often neglected the idea of a progressive wealth tax, despite its importance for any ambitious attempt to transcend private capitalism, particularly if used to finance a universal capital endowment and promote greater circulation of wealth.

…we now know that the top centile’s share of total wealth can fall from 70 percent to 20 percent without impeding growth (quite the contrary, as Western European experience in the twentieth century shows). We know from experience with Germanic and Nordic versions of co-management that employee and shareholder representatives can each control half the voting rights in a firm and that such power sharing can improve overall economic performance.

On tax havens:

…this minimum estimate implies that the financial assets tucked away in tax havens are roughly equal to the total amount of all financial assets legal owned by Russian households inside Russia (roughly one year of national income). In other words, off shore property has become at least as important in macroeconomic terms as legal financial property…In a sense, illegality has become the norm.

…by exploiting data made public by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) and the Swiss National Bank (SNB) on countries where assets are held, one can estimate each country’s approximate share of offshore assets held in tax havens relative to the total (lawful and unlawful) assets held by residents of each country. The results are as follows; “only” 4 percent for the United States, 10 percent for Europe, 22 percent for Latin America, 30 percent for Africa, 50 percent for Russia, and 57 percent for the petroleum monarchies.

On China:

China thus appears to have settled on a mixed-economy property structure: the country is no longer communist since nearly 70 percent of all property is now private, but it is not completely capitalist either because public property still accounts for a little more than 30 percent of the total–a minority share but still substantial. Because the Chinese government, led by the CCP, owns a third of all there is to own in the country, its scope for economic intervention is large: it can decide where to invest, create jobs, and launch regional development programs.

If we compare China to the other Asian giant, India, it is clear that since the early 1980s China has been both more efficient in terms of growth and more egualitarian in terms of income distribution (or, rather, less inegalitarian, in the sense that concentration of income has increased less dramatically than in India)…one reason for this difference is that China has been able to invest more in public infrastructure, education, and health care. China achieved a much higher level of tax revenue than India, where basic health-care and educational services remain notoriously underfinanced. China has nearly matched Western levels of taxation, taking in roughly 30 percent of national income in taxes (and roughly 40 percent if one includes profits from public firms and sale of public lands).

On the dangers posed by the central banks:

After the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in September 2008 and the ensuing financial panic, things changed completely…The world’s major central banks devised increasingly complex money-creation schemes collectively described by the enigmatic term “quantitative easing” (QE). In concrete terms, QE involves lending to the banking sectors for longer and longer periods (three months, six months, or even a year rather than a few days or weeks) and buying bonds issued by private firms and governments with even longer duration (of several years) and in much greater quantities than before. The Federal Reserve was the first to react In September 2008 its balance sheet increased from the equivalent of 5 percent of GDP to 15 percent; in other words the Fed created money equivalent to 10 percent of US GDP in a few weeks time. This proactive stance would continue in subsequent years; the Fed’s balance sheet had risen to 25 percent of GDP by the end of 2014…In Europe the reaction was slower. The ECB and other European authorities took longer to understand that massive intervention by the central bank was the only way to stabilize financial markets and reduce the “spread” between the interest rates of the various European countries. Since then, the ECB purchases of public and private bonds have accelerated, however, and the ECB’s balance sheet stood at 40 percent of Eurozone GDP at the end of 2018…By avoiding cascading bank failures and acting as “lender of last resort”, the Fed and ECB did not repeat the errors that the central banks committed in the interwar years, when orthodox “liquidationist” thinking (based on the idea that bad banks must be allowed to fail so that the economy can restart) helped push the world over the edge of the the abyss…What makes central banks so powerful is their ability to act extremely rapidly.

Piketty does not discuss the New Deal US Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation FDIC program which allows the federal government to instantly take over failing banks, reorganize them with new management, and reopen them after a single weekend, assuring depositors that their savings are insured and immediately available. Obama and his treasury secretary Tim Geithner refused to allow the Shiela Bair led FDIC to break up and reorganize the failing banks during the 2008 crisis. This would have been the available and desired solution to the failures.

…the danger is that these monetary policies, by avoiding the worst gave the impression that no broader structural change in social, fiscal, or economic policy was necessary. Nevertheless, the fact is that central banks are not equipped to solve all the world’s problems or to serve as the ultimate regulator of the capitalist system…To combat excessive financial deregulation, rising inequality, and climate change, other public institutions are necessary; laws, taxes, and treaties drafted by parliaments relying on collective deliberation and democratic procedures.

In the abstract, there is nothing to stop central banks from enlarging their balance sheets by a factor of ten or even more…From a strickly technical standpoint, the Fed or ECB could create dollars or euros worth 600 percent of GDP and attempt to buy all the private wealth of the United States or Western Europe…central banks and their boards of governors are no better equipped to administer all of a country’s property than were the Soviet Union’s central planners.

…the Bank of Japan and Swiss National Bank both have balance sheets in excess of 100 percent of GDP…It is nevertheless impossible to rule out that similar things will someday happen to the Eurozone or the United States. Financial globalization has assumed such proportions that it may lead those responsible for setting monetary policy step by step toward decisions that would have been unthinkable only a few years before.

Many citizens have quite understandably begun to ask why such sums were created to bail out financial institutions, with little apparent effect in jump-starting the European economy, and why it shouldn’t be possible to mobilize similar resource to help struggling workers, develop public infrastructure, or finance large investments in renewable sources of energy. Indeed it would be by no means absurd for European governments to borrow at current low interest rates to finance useful investments, on two conditions; first, such investments should be decided democratically, in parliament with open debate, and not by a Governing Council meeting behind closed doors; and second, it would be dangerous to lend credence to the notion that every problem can be resolved by printing money and taking on debt. The principal instrument for mobilizing resources to undertake common political projects was and remains taxation, democratically decided and levied on the base of each taxpayer’s economic resources and ability to pay, in total transparency.

And yet the Democratic presidents who followed Reagan, Bill Clinton (1992-2000) and Barack Obama (2008-2016) never made any real attempt to revise the narrative or reverse the policies of the 1980s. In particular, in regard to the reduction of the progressive income tax (whose top marginal rate fell to an average of 39 percent from 1980 to 2018, half its level in the period 1932-1980) and the de-indexing of the federal minimum wage (which led to a clear loss of purchasing power since 1980), the Clinton and Obama administrations basically validated and perpetuated the basic thrust of policy under Reagan…But it may also be that acceptance of the new fiscal and social agenda was partly due to the transformation of the Democratic electorate and to a political and strategic choice to rely more heavily on the party’s new and highly educated supporters, who may have found the turn toward less redistributive policies personally advantageous.

In particular, higher-income voters voted more heavily for Tony Blair’s New Labour in the period 1997-2005 than they had voted for Labour previously. That may seem logical given that New Labour also attracted more and more votes among college-educated people and its fiscal policies were relatively favorable to high earners. Just as the Clinton (1992-2000) and Obama (2008-2016) administrations had validated and perpetuated the Reagan reforms of the 1980s, New Labour governments in the period 1997-2010 largely validated and perpetuated the fiscal reforms of the Thatcher era.

I have tried to highlight the significant dangers posed by the rise of socioeconomic inequality since 1980. In a period marked by internationalization of trade and rapid expansion of higher education, social-democratic parties failed to adapt quickly enough, and the left-right cleavage that had made possible the mid-twentieth-century reduction of inequality gradually fell apart. The conservative revolution of the 1980s, the collapse of Soviet communism, and the development of neo-proprietarian ideology vastly increased the concentration of income and wealth in the first two decades of the twenty first century. For want of a constructive egalitarian and universal political outlet, these tensions have fostered the kinds of nationalist identity cleavages that we see today in practically every part of the world…When people are told that there is no credible alternative to the socioeconomic organization and class inequality that exists today, it is not surprising that they invest their hopes in defending their borders and identities instead.

In the broadest terms, the tax system of the just society would rest on three principal progressive taxes: a progressive annual tax on property, a progressive tax on inheritances, and a progressive tax on income. As indicated here, the annual property tax and the inheritance tax would together yield about 5 percent of national income, all of which would be used to finance capital endowments. The progressive income tax, would yield about 45 percent of national income, which would be used to finance all other public expenditures, including the basic income and, above all, the welfare state (which would cover health, education, pensions, and so on).

The model of participatory socialism proposed here rests on two key pillars; first, social ownership and shared voting rights in firms, and second, temporary ownership and circulation of capital. These are the essential tools for transcending the current system of private ownership. By combining them, we can achieve a system of ownership that has little in common with today’s private capitalism; indeed it amounts to a a genuine transcendence of capitalism.

If every individual is to have a chance of finding decently remunerated employment, we must put an end to the hypocritical practice of investing more in elitist educational programs and institutions than in institutions that cater to the disadvantaged. The labor code and, more generally the entire legal system need to be overhauled. New systems of wage bargaining, a higher minimum wage, a fairer wage scale, and sharing of voting rights within firms between workers and shareholders can all contribute to the establishment of a just wage, a more equal distribution of economic power, and a deeper involvement of workers in shaping the strategy of their employers.

The central goal of democratic equality vouchers is to promote participatory and egalitarian democracy. Currently, the prevalence of private (political) financing significantly biases the political process. This is particularly true of the United States where campaign finance laws (always inadequate) have been set aside by recent decisions of the Supreme Court. But it is also true in emerging democracies such as India and Brazil as well as in Europe, where current laws are equally inadequate and in some cases totally scandalous.

The redefinition of the global legal framework will require abandonment of some existing treaties, most notably those concerning the free circulation of capital that came into effect in the 1980s-1990s because these stand in the way of meeting the above mentioned goals. These treaties will need to be replaced by new rules based on the principles of financial transparency, fiscal cooperation, and transnational democracy.

Finally it should be noted that this book was written before the start of the global covid19 pandemic and the global recession/depression. Undoubtedly much is about to change socially and politically in response.

Grieving our Dying Planet Earth

Saturday, July 27th, 2019

The End of Ice; Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption, Dahr Jamail,2019
Dahr Jamail

We are already facing mass extinction. There is no removing the heat we have introduced into the oceans, nor the 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide we pump into the atmosphere every single year. There may be no changing what is happening, and far worse things are coming. How, then, shall we meet this?
“The question is not are we going to fail. The question is how,” author and storyteller Stephen Jenkinson, who has worked in palliative care for decades, states, “The question is, What shall be the manner of our inability to care for what was entrusted to us? The Question is our manner of failing.” Jenkinson, who now makes his living by teaching about grief and the acceptance of death as an integral part of living, spoke eloquently about grief and climate disruption during a lecture he gave at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. When he talks about our failure to care for what is entrusted to us, he is also saying that the time to change our ways is long past. Grief requires us to know the time we’re in,” Jenkinson continues, “The great enemy of grief is hope. Hope is the four-letter word for people who are willing to know things for what they are. Our time requires us to be hope-free. To burn through the false choice of being hopeful and hopeless. They are two side of the same con job. Grief is required to proceed.”

Accelerated Melting of Greenland Ice Cap

This short work is a world wide tour of glaciers, Bering Straight fishing villages, mountain tops, coral reefs, rain and other forests, while interviewing leading experts in the areas he visits.
Miami Beach
In his chapter “The Coming Atlantis” he visits Miami and the Everglades. He meets an engineer who is raising roads in Miami Beach 2 feet while leaving all buildings and infrastructure alone. James Hansen points out that Sea level rise is absolutely non-linear. Hansen has a plausible 15 foot rise by 2100 and 10 foot rise by 2050. The entire of South Florida and its aquifer would be totally lost at 10 feet, as would Mumbai and many other large coastal cities and areas. One scientist living in south Florida is planning to retire to Washington D.C. He fully expects his South Florida home to be worthless by the time he retires. It is estimated that by 2100 75% of Florida homes will be underwater. Jamail thinks that only when homeowners fail to find mortgages or insurance for their homes will denial stop. Miami and Miami Beach continue to build high rise condominiums. Current estimates have 2 billion refugees from sea level rise by 2100.
Global Coral Bleaching
In his chapter “Farewell Coral” Jamail points out that if the amount of human generated heat we added to the oceans between 1955 and 2010 were placed in the atmosphere instead, global temperatures would have risen by 97 degrees F. This added heat melts the polar ice and bleaches the coral. Because we know so little about the oceans we can only imagine the impact on sea species and their extinction.

His trips to the forests finds even the redwoods succumbing to the changes as beetles attack them. As forests die they burn releasing their CO2. The Amazon rainforest will soon transit to net positive contribution to CO2 emissions. We can only imagine the mass extinction of species not yet discovered as the rainforests change.
Changing patterns of rain, flooding, and droughts worldwide will severely reduce our ability to grow our food. The inability to grow food locally is estimated to contribute another 2 billion food refugees by 2100.

A willingness to live without hope allows me to accept the heartbreaking truth of our situation, however calamitous it is. Grieving for what is happening to the planet also now brings me gratitude for the smallest, most mundane things. Grief is also a way to honor what we are losing.

FDA Fails to Assure Safe Generic Drug Supply

Monday, July 15th, 2019

Bottle of Lies; The Inside Story of the Generic Drug Boom, Katherine Eban, 2019
Katherine Eban
The US government is prevented from negotiating drug prices through Medicare, Medicaid, and the ACA because of industry lobbies. The exclusive way the government has chosen to attempt to control runaway drug prices is through generic drugs. Generic drugs must be proven to be bioequivalent to brand-name drugs. Healthy volunteers are given the drug and their blood measured to determine the maximum concentration (Tmax) and peak concentration (Cmax) of drug in the blood. The blood can not fall below 80% or rise above 125% of the brand-names concentration. Companies are required to impose a 90% confidence interval on their testing to assure that less then 20% of samples fall outside the range. Drug companies are required to run these tests themselves. What happens if a foreign or domestic drug company sets out to systematically generate false test results in order to deceive and defraud the FDA? This is the story of one such company Ranbaxy Laboratory of India.
To increase companies incentives to produce generic drugs, the FDA offered a six month exclusive to whichever company first filed an application to produce a generic dug. On Aug 19, 2002, Ranbaxy submitted a 7,500 page application to produce Pfizer’s Lipitor then a blockbuster drug at $2.5 Billion annually. The Lipitor patent was set to expire in 2011.
Ranbaxy hired two Indians working for Bristol-Meyers Squibb. Rashmi Barbihaiya had been developing drugs for BMS for 21 years. Dinesh Thakur specialized in the application of robotics to eliminate human error from the manufacturing process. Thakur had helped Barbihaiya transfer and reconcile data from a BMS purchase. Barbihaiya decided to join Ranbaxy, set to acheive sales of $1 billion in 2002, and suggested Thakur join him. Thakur arrived in India on Aug 17,2002, two days before the Lipitor application was filed. Thakur had just become a US citizen.
Barbihaiya mysteriously quit Ranbaxy in 2004 receiving a sizable severance package (Hush money?). Thakur’s new boss in 2004 was London trained Arun Kumar who immediately started finding troubling discrepancies in testing and data. In mid 2004 he assigned Thakur to thouroughly research the records and data. On October 14,2004 Kumar met with members of the scientific committee of the Ranbaxy board of directors. Kumar showed a PowerPoint of 24 slides prepared by Thakur entitled “Risk Management for ANDA Portfolio”. The presentation showed that Ranbaxy had lied to regulators, falsified data, and endangered patient safety in almost every country where it sold drugs. More than 200 products in more than 40 countries had data that were fabricated to support business needs. The board asked Kumar if he could bury the data. Realizing the problems were systemic coming from the top, Kumar resigned. Ranbaxy did not know Thakur had prepared the presentation.
Dinesh Thakur
Thakur’s grandmother read him tails from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata and he credits his moral and ethical grounding in these stories. He resigned Ranbaxy after 32 months and with no plans for what to do next. On Aug 15, 2005, after wrestling with his conscience for four months following his resignation, Thakur posted, in broken English, an email using a newly created Yahoo account. Thakur did not consult his wife about his action, because whistle-blowing in India can be fatal with no legal protection. Finally on Nov 2, 2005, Thakur sent the incriminating Power Point Presentation to FDA’s Rivera-Martinez. Andrew Beato’s whistleblower law firm agreed to represent Thakur. Thakur was now protected and his identity would remain secret.
On Nov 30, 2011 the FDA notified Ranbaxy that it was approved to start producing generic Lipitor. Ranbaxy promised they would purchase the active ingredient from Pfizer and produce the drug in an FDA approved facility. They did neither, using their own non approved active ingredient and producing in a non approved facility. The FDA did nothing about this deception believing Ranbaxy would need the revenue from generic Lipitor to pay the settlement. Ranbaxy shipped $600 million in their 6 month exclusive period.
The case was settled May 13, 2013 for $500 million. Thakur received $48 million for his role as whistleblower. No individual was held to account. It had taken the FDA and Justice Dept. almost 8 years to settle the case. Japanese drug maker Daiichi Sankyo had purchased Ranbaxy during this period relying on false information so they sought redress from the International Court of Arbitration in Singapore. In Apr 2016 the court ordered to Singh brothers to pay Daiichi Sankyo $550 million in legal damages.
Former Ranbaxy employees, all highly trained in fraudulent data manipulation and generation are today scattered throughout the industry, even in the US.

The Ranbaxy case defied the imagination of US regulators and investigators so long because the fraud was so all-encompassing. The company’s intricate system for faking data involved hundreds of people. And the US government all but volunteered to be fooled by announcing its inspections in advance.

Rajiv Malik $25 million per year
Another company featured here is Mylan Pharmaceuticals, a Pennsylvania based company registered in the Netherlands. In June 2003, Rajiv Malik resigned from Ranbaxy. In Jan 2007, Mylan acquired Matrix Laboratories, an Indian publicly traded drug manufacture. Along with Matrix, Mylan acquired Malik who became executive VP in charge of global technical operations. Malik brought his team of specialists from Ranbaxy with him to Mylan. He quickly rose to become Mylan COO. Heather Bresch, daughter of West Virginia senator Joe Manchin, became CEO of Mylan in 2012. She advocated for and got passed in Jan 2012 the Generic Drug User Fee Amendment (GDUFA) which called for drug producers to pay fees into a fund at the FDA in increase inspections. The fees were also intended to speed up applications for new drugs which had a huge backlog.
Bresch did not understand that her own corporate culture, thanks in large park to Malik, was in need of massive reform.
Mylan agreed to purchase for $1.6 billion, Agila Specialists in India. In June 2013 the FDA scheduled an inspection at a sterile injectable plant in India as part of the Agila purchase. FDA inspector extraordinaire Peter Baker was part of the inspection team. The problems uncovered were massive. Inspection Problems at two more Agila plants followed. All three plants had to be shut down. These plants also supplied Pfizer and GSK creating a worldwide panic.
Deb Autor FDA’s Revolving Door
Mylan hired Deb Autor, one of FDA’s top officials as its senior vp of strategic global quality and regulatory policy. Malik had suceeded in corrupting almost every Mylan owned plant in India. A Mylan whistleblower came to FDA headquarters with detailed accusations about Malik’s data fraud in India. His detailed information could have guided further inspections of specific plants. The FDA did nothing for a full Year. Remember that Deb Autor was formerly at the FDA and Bresch was a Senator’s daughter. The whistleblower in July 2016 jolted the FDA in an email, holding the FDA accountable for what happened to US patients and suggesting that the FDA revolving door (Autor) was responsible for their inaction. Two inspections at Nashik (India) and Morgantown followed.
Tom Cosgrove Covington Food, Drug and Device Practice Group 2017
In May 2017 FDA’s director Tom Cosgrove downgraded the FDA findings from Official Action Indicated to Voluntary Action Indicated. Cosgrove then left the FDA.
Another whistleblower from within the Morgantown plant came forward in early 2018 saying that Mylan had developed an embedded culture that permitted fraud. The Ranbaxy fraud virus had spread to the US.

From 2012 to 2018, the agency (FDA) downgraded 112 inspections in India to make the final classification less severe. For company after company — Mylan, Cipla, Aurobindo, Dr. Reddy’s, Sun Pharma, Glenmark — findings of Official Action Indicated (OAI) became Voluntary Action Indicated (VAI). These downgraded essentially nullified the judgments made by its investigators in the field and replaced them with judgements made by bureaucrats in Maryland. Cosgrove and other officials waived import restriction. They chose to communicate confidentially with some firms through so-called untitled letters instead of issuing public reprimands. Politics seemed to guide the agency’s enforcement actions.

Peter Baker FDA Inspector

After Baker’s inspection at the Pfizer-affiliated Zhejiang Hisun plant, the FDA restricted the import of thirty of the plant’s drug products. But fifteen of the drug ingredients were in short supply in the United States, so the agency lifted the restriction on about half of the drugs, including a crucial chemotherapy drug for treating Leukemia and breast and ovarian cancers.
To Baker, the decision made no sense. According to regulations, the drugs had no place in the US supply. They weren’t good or safe enough. Shortages didn’t change that fact.

In July 2018 a widely used active ingredient for Valsartin a blood pressure medication was found to contain a cancer causing toxin known as NDMA. The ingredient was made by Chinese Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceuticals who had changed its production process in 2012. In the US more than a dozen manufactures had to recall their product as did dozens more worldwide. Some patients had been consuming the toxins for 6 years. Just a year earlier the FDA had downgraded an investigators report of impurities at another Valsartin ingredient plant to VAI. The company was let off the hook only to end up in the middle of a worldwide scandal a year later.

In 2013 Harry Lever, cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic, sent a detailed letter to the FDA concerning Wockhardt’s generic metropolol succinate which he found could not control patient’s chest pain, heart rate, or blood pressure. NPR’s The People’s Pharmacy radio program with the Graedons had been flooded with complaints about this generic. The FDA sent Peter Baker to inspect the plant in India. Baker on July 24, 2013 joined two Indian FDA inspectors already on site. Baker had previosly inspected this plant in March. On this inspection they got a partial confession from an employee and amassed further damaging information. One of the inspectors became ill and their hotel room was bugged. Both Wockhardt and Dr. Reddy’s recalled their metoprolol succinate from the market with admission that the drugs were not bioequivalent at all. Lever had been right after all.
In 2008, again reacting to the People’s Pharmacy and Harry Lever’s patient’s generic Toprol XL experience, The Graedons began to focus on extended release (ER) drugs. In 2006 Teva began marketing a generic antidepresent for Wellbutrin XL sold by GSK. The FDA didn’t respond to the deluge of complaints. The FDA had 85 independent reports in 2007 which they ignored. Consumerlabs joined the fight and tested the Teva generic against the GSK. The result was that the generic dumped four times as much active ingredient in the first two hours as the brand name did. So a new, largely unidentified cause, dose dumping, came to the forefront of Doctor’s attention but not that of the FDA. The FDA’s bioequivalence tests were set in 1992. New drugs often feature extended release (ER). They release their doses evenly over a twelve hour period. If a generic dumps its dose quickly, the patient can be potentially harmed, sometimes in dramatic ways. The FDA 1992 bioequivalence definition is out of date and unable to account for the time pattern of dosage for an ER drug. The FDA ignored the results and one official even suggested the difference in dosage might be an advantage. On Apr 16, 2008 the FDA asserted that they had been right to approve the generic. Reading the report, it was clear the FDA had tested the 150 mg and not the 300 mg dose where all the complaints were centered. When asked, the FDA said they were afraid to test the 300 mg because it “might lead to seizures”. When Graedon looked at the 150 test results, the dosage dumping of the generic was still clear and unmistakable. It took five years for the FDA to agree to revisit the tests. They finally agreed that Teva’s drug was not bioequivalent. In 2010, the FDA official obstructing the Teva investigation, Gary Buehler, left the FDA to become vp of global regulatory intelligence and policy at Teva, another classic example of regulatory capture and the FDA revolving door.
Gary Buehler FDA To Teva
In June 2018 a woman arrived at Cleveland Clinic suffering from chest pain and shortness of breath. The 35 year old woman had had a successful heart transplant three years previously and had been taking the immunosuppressant Prograf daily to prevent organ rejection. But six months earlier, a CVS pharmacy refilled her prescription with generic tacrolimus, made by Dr. Reddy’s. Over the six months she felt progressively worse. Lever and his colleague Randall Starling sent her blood tests and tacrolimus capsules to a Massachusetts laboratory. The patient died of a heart attack in Sept. 2018. Preliminary test results from Massachusetts showed that tacrolimus released its active ingredient very rapidly compared with the brand.
Revising bioequivalence to address ER and dose dumping has not been done by the FDA. Peter Baker was no longer sent to do inspections and has left the FDA.

The Patient Investigative Journalist

Tuesday, September 4th, 2018

Reporter; A Memoir, Seymour M. Hersh, 2018
This is Hersh’s eleventh book. His Henry Kissinger book was first published in 1983, long after Kissinger left the government. We are still awaiting his Dick Cheney book. Hersh explains that writing always came easy to him:

<> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> Sy Hersh

I grew up in a world where the incentive to learn came from within me, as did a sense of whom to trust and whom to believe. I was guided as a confused and uncertain eighteen year old by a professor who saw potential in me, as did Carroll Arimond at the Associated Press, William Shawn at The New Yorker, and Abe Rosenthal at The New York Times. They published what I wrote without censorship and reaffirmed my faith in trusting those in the military and intelligence world whose information and friendship, I valued but whose names I could never utter. I found my way when it came to issues of life and death in war to those special people who had the integrity and intelligence to carefully distinguish between what they knew — from firsthand observation at the center — from what they believed. The trust went two ways; I often obtained documents I could not use for fear of inadvertently exposing the sources, and there were stories I dared not write for the same reason.
I never did an interview without learning all I could about the person with whom I was meeting, and I did all I could to let those I was criticizing or putting in professional jeopardy just what I was planning to publish about them.
I will return to the Cheney book when the time is right, and when those who helped me learn what I did after 9/11 will not be in peril.

Kissinger Cheney Bush

Cardinal O’Conner Archbishop of New York told Hersh:

“My son, God has put you on earth for a reason, and that is to do the kind of work you do, no matter how much it upsets others. It is your calling.”

<> <> <> <> <> Abe Rosenthal

Some of the more interesting parts of this book deal with the relationship of Hersh with Abe Rosenthal, Executive Editor of The New York Times. Their first interaction was a phone call while Hersh was working on the Meadlo (a soldier at the My Lai massacre) story. A copy of the story had been sent to the Times and Rosenthal wanted to send a Times reporter to interview Meadlo. Hersh grabbed the phone:

“Mr. Rosenthal, it’s Sy Hersh. Listen, you want an interview with Paul Meadlo? Well he’s somewhere in New York. Find him.”

Hersh slammed the phone down. Seconds later the phone rings again. Hersh grabs it:

“Mr. Hersh”, Abe Rosenthal yelled, ” Do you know who I am?”. “Yes”, replied Hersh and hung up on him again.

CBS Evening News aired Mike Wallace’s interview with Paul Meadlo that same evening. Hersh later regretted his temper tantrum but Rosenthal hired him anyway.
William Calley, the only soldier court martialed for My Lai served three months in prison. Stories continue to break about the attempted cover up and the role of higher officers. My Lai was not an isolated event. On the same day as the My Lai 4 massacre, at My Khe 4, another massacre occurred with more than a hundred civilian deaths.
The Times hired Hersh on the basis of his My Lai reporting. Hersh wanted to pursue three other stories at the Times; the secret bombing of Cambodia and military falsification of documents; Nixon, Kisssinger, and the CIA’s interference with the Allende government in Chili; and the several hundred million dollar effort by the military to recover a Soviet Nuclear submarine sunk in the Pacific. Rosenthal, however, was tired of reading the daily Washington Post reporting by Berstein and Woodward on the Watergate break in and reassigned Hersh to this story. Hersh uncovered the existence of the Nixon plumbers operation and the break in of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychoanalyst’s office in California. Nixon was paranoid that Ellsberg might have other documents beyond the Pentagon papers that might be damaging to him. Ellsberg and Hersh became friends and saw Oliver Stone’s movie Platoon together. Ellsberg did have additional documents about nuclear war planning which he hid in a trash dump. A mud slide destroyed those files and Ellsberg spent almost 50 years reconstructing them for his latest doomsday machine book.
When the Nixon white house tapes were found, the Watergate story exploded and Bob Woodward and Hersh started sharing information to save duplication and time. They often met over tennis and Woodward quipped that Hersh never paid for the tennis time. Hersh clarifies here that Katharine Graham, publisher of the Washington Post was paying for the court time.

William Calley 3 months Reality Winter 5 years

This book doesn’t deal with whistle-blowers other than to note how tough Obama was on them. Virtually all NSA whistle-blowers have had their careers ruined. The latest, Reality Winter, has been sentenced to at least five years for telling the public that the Russians attempted to hack electoral systems and voter lists during the 2016 elections. Calley, convicted of killing 21 innocent Vietnamese, served three months.

<> <> <> <> <> <> Mob Fixer Korshak

Hersh briefly dipped into an investigation of organized crime with a series of articles on the Chicago Jewish fixer attorney for the mob Sidney Korshak. Korshak’s influence with the Teamsters in New York prevented delivery of part 1 of the Times Korshak story.

When Hersh undertook to investigate the New York based corporation Gulf and Western, he hired a graduate school knowledgeable about securities issues to help him. Unfortunately, Punch Sulzberger, publisher of the Times did not want to offend his club buddies from Gulf and Western and the articles were mercilessly edited and all anonymous quotations removed. Rosentenhal was unable to defend Hersh and this was the start of the end of Hersh’s career at the Times. Nonetheless, John Kenneth Galbraith, Harvard economist wrote Hersh:

“The pieces on Gulf and Western are excellent — better than most readers will know. Extracting usable information from these characters, as I can attest from slight experience, is more difficult by a factor of ten than from the CIA. Thanks again.”

<> <> <> <> <> <> John Kenneth Galbraith

Hersh wondered why there was still so little cooperation between the intelligence community even after 9/11. He asked a long time CIA operative:

Don’t you get it Sy? The FBI catches bank robbers. We rob banks. And the NSA? Do you really expect me to talk to dweebs with protractors in their pockets who are always looking down at their brown shoes?”

When Hersh had a story about the killing of Osama Bin Laden that contradicted much of the Obama administration account, neither the Times nor the New Yorker (under David Remnick) would touch the story and Hersh published the story with the London Review of Books. He then published the book about the killing. Steve Cole in his recent book about Afghanistan and Pakistan entitled Directorate S does not mention Hersh’s killing account but seems to endorse the Obama version of events. Hersh comments:

<> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <>

The possibility that two dozen navy SEALs could escape observation and get to bin Laden without some help from the Pakistani military and intelligence community was nil.

Hersh says the focus of the coverage should have been the double cross of Pakistan, not the refusal of the Times and The New Yorker to publish the story. During his long career he has often been challenged sometimes very bitterly. Hersh replies;

I will happily permit history to be the judge of my recent work.

Hersh discovered that James Jesus Angleton oversaw CIA domestic spying on Vietnam war protestors from 1967. Hersh’s story led to Angleton’s resignation in 1974.

<> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <>

Hersh disclosed that in 1968 6,000 sheep died in a nerve gas experiment gone wrong at the Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. A different wind could have carried the gas to Salt Lake City.

<> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <>

Also featured in this book is Harrison Salisbury who covered the Soviet Union for the Times from 1949 to 1954. He returned to New York where he covered the civil rights movement, the assassination of JFK and other stories until he retired from the Times as associate editor in 1973. He wrote his book on the Times, Without Fear or Favor in 1980. In this book, Salisbury wrote about the Watergate investigation:

“It was as though Sy Hersh had been born for this moment.”

In all Salisbury wrote 29 books including the 1969 Siege of Leningrad. He witnessed the Tienanmen demonstrations and massacre in 1989 and wrote The New Emperors: China in the era of Mao and Deng in 1992, portraying Mao and much of the leadership as Opium addled. Salisbury was from the beginning against the Vietnam War and was the first American journalist to be given a visa to visit Hanoi in 1966. He wrote extensively about the US bombing of Hanoi at this time. Hersh was the second American reporter to be given a visa to Hanoi. There he met Defense Minister Vo Ngyuyen Giap and the Paris negotiator Le Duc Tho .

The Steel Factory

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China, Ezra F. Vogel, 2011

Three Stampers

A thorough (800 pages) account of the life and impact of Deng on the modernization of China. Deng’s history including his years in France, where he first met Zhou Enlai and Ho Chi Min, and Russia, his roles in the war against Japan and the Civil War against the Guomindang and the early years of the Communist rule of China up to the Cultural Revolution are covered in only 45 pages. The tale really begins in 1967, when Deng, age 63, is placed under house arrest. In 1969 with the plane crash that killed Lin Biao and the first Soviet incursions into Outer Mongolia, Mao has Deng sent to Jiangi province where he was given light factory work in an army controlled facility. He would not be recalled to Beijing until 1974, when Zhou Enlai had again fallen from Mao’s grace and was dying of cancer and Mao himself was fast failing from Lou Gerhig’s disease. After some success in restoring order to the railroads and key provinces, Deng again is attacked by Mao starting in 1975. Zhou Enlai dies in early 1976 and Mao attempts a quiet ceremony only to see Beijing and Tiananmen overrun with spontaneous mourners. On April 5 1976 a massive demonstration is held in Tiananmen Square for Zhou and Deng. Jiang Qing (Mao’s separated wife) and the Gang of Four (so named by Mao) set out to quell the demonstration and continue the criticism of Deng. Hua Guofeng is named Mao’s successor and Mao dies on September 9, 1976. Hua immediately moves to arrest the Gang of Four who are tried and executed for their role in the Cultural Revolution and the purge following the April 5 demonstration. Deng immediately consolidates his power in the military and foreign affairs and quietly sets out to remove Hua. Deng never assumes the titles of leadership and never creates a cult of personality around himself.

The “Four Modernizations” to develop agriculture, industry, national defense, science and technology was formalized by Zhou Enlai in 1963 and underpinned the policies of Deng after 1977. Mao had believed in the need for continuous revolution which resulted in the chaos and tragedies that were the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. Mao engaged in perpetual war against the landlords and capitalists. But Mao also attacked the intellectuals and educated Chinese and Deng led in the purges of the Hundred Flowers campaign starting in 1957. By 1977, Deng had come to realize that China would need an educated class to promote education, research, and modernization. Chinese universities had been largely destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, were occupied by the army, and were operating at a secondary school level. Deng moved to normalize relations with the US with a primary goal to send large numbers of Chinese students to US universities. He reformed the Universities to qualify students for admission to foreign Universities. Deng explained that working with your mind was the same as working with your hands and all work should be honored. Asked if Deng wasn’t worried that the students would stay abroad, Deng responded that it didn’t matter because they were still Chinese and would help China wherever they chose to live and work. As it turned out sizable numbers of students did return to China where they played key roles in China’s transformation.

Shenzhen old and new

Deng was famous for his memorable quotes “It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice.” and “When you open the door, flies will get in.” to explain his openness to economic and market experimentation and willingness to tolerate some corruption if economic progress results. The usual focus is on China’s development of the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) led by Shenzhen near Hong Kong which grew from a sleepy village of 20,000 to a metropolis of several million with tall modern buildings and all infrastructure needed to support modern manufacturing. But equally important to the transformation of China were allowing certain regions to move from collective farming to household farming resulting in huge increases in food production and the promotion of small enterprises at the collective and household level to produce and market products wanted and needed by the people Household farming and small scale enterprise came to produce half of China’s GNP.

Particularly interesting were Vogel’s reasons why China developed so differently from the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. He points out the China had a long history as a culturally unified area dominated by the Han people. The entire country had a single written language and Mandarin was long the official government spoken language. Mao simplified the written language and made sure all Chinese were taught Mandarin and simplified Chinese writing. Second, China has a long coastline and many deep water seaports unlike the other Communist countries. This advantage makes it far easier to import technology and export products. Transportation in the interior of China was limited but the coastal cities were not held back by this limitation. Third, China had the examples of Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, (the dragons) and Japan to study and emulate. Finally, many millions of Chinese were living overseas throughout the developed world. China found these overseas Chinese very ready to assist in the modernization process. Deng was advised by Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew and Hong Kong shipping magnate Y K Pao and several Chinese American Nobel laureates.

old steel and new

The largest foreign investor in China was Japan. Vogel points out that the eye opening trips made by Chinese leaders to Japan and Western countries in the late 1970s resembled the Iwakura Mission of 1871 in Meiji Japan. Like Japan, these trips served to show the Chinese how far behind they were. This was brought home most tellingly when Deng visited an automated continuous production steel plant in Japan whose production was almost the equivalent of all China’s antique plants combined. With Japan’s technical, financial, and management assistance, China today produces more steel than the US and Japan combined. Deng was equally interested in how Japan had converted from a war production economy during the war to a peacetime, consumer economy so quickly after the war ended.

Deng began his rule with two bold moves. He authorized a lightning strike military invasion of Vietnam to demonstrate that China could threaten Hanoi anytime it chose. Troops took control of all northern county capitals then withdrew to China in only 28 days. Deng calculated that this surprise move would stall Vietnam’s aggressions in Laos and Cambodia and to warn the Soviets to stay away from the southern region, would secure China for at least a decade, giving him time and space to implement his economic reforms. Second, Deng moved immediately to normalize relations with the US so that the Soviets would be detained from aggression, Chinese students could begin study in US universities to close the training gap, and the US could be encouraged to invest in China. Central in Deng’s mind was US education of China’s best students.

Vogel spends a lot of time discussing the Tiananmen Square student uprising of 1989. Deng started his leadership by normalizing relations with the US and wanted to bookmark his regime with normalized relations with the Soviet Union. Gorbachev visited Beijing in late May 1989 to finalize the normalization agreement. Hu Yaobang, as General Secretary was a reformer promoting freedom and democracy much beloved by Chinese university students. Hu was removed from office and criticized for his failure to deal with student demonstrations in 1986. When he died in 1989, the students came to Tiananmen Square to honor Hu much like the earlier mourning demonstrations in honor of Zhou. Hu replaced Zhou in the hearts of the students. Deng desperately wanted to clear the square by the time Gorbachev arrived. He wrote a tough editorial which only strengthened the resolve of the demonstrators. Days before Gorbachev and massive worldwide media arrived in Beijing the students started a hunger strike. Western press which came to cover the Gorbachev visit quickly turned their focus to the demonstrators. Deng tried to clear the square with unarmed soldiers but failed. He waited for Gorbachev and the Western press to leave then sent in heavily armed troops with orders to clear the square at any cost. Estimates of student deaths vary from 400 to several thousand. Zhao Ziyang was removed from power for disagreeing with Deng’s handling of the demonstration.

Factions remained under Deng with the reformers on the right and the conservatives led by Chen Yun on the left. The early success of creating a market economy in China resulted in double digit GNP growth for a number of years in succession. By the late 1980’s the massive growth led to inflation anticipated to be 30% in 1989. Inflation was particularly hard on the mass of Chinese living with fixed incomes. Chen and the conservatives blamed the Tiananmen demonstrations on this inflation and moved too aggressively to contain it bringing the Chinese economy to a hard landing with growth under 4%. The conservatives remained in control until 1992 until Deng, then 87 years old initiated one final movement during his winter vacation in the south. During visits in Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Guangzhou, and Shanghai, Deng spoke out colorfully and strongly for liberalization and expansion of his socialist market economy. Hong Kong media quickly picked up on Deng’s tour and began broadcasting coverage of his talked via television which was now widely available in the regions near Hong Kong. Popular support for his views exploded and his hand picked successor Jiang Zemin quickly changed sides from the Chen led conservatives to the Deng led reformers. In his last movement, Deng thus set the stage for the resumption of the fast growth that continues to this day. From this time forward, inflation fighting measure assured that the economy would have a soft landing and rapid growth continue.

the Steel Factory melts the Iron Lady

The British handover of Hong Kong took place in 1997 just months after Deng’s death. Preparations for the handover occupied a central part of Deng’s attention during his rule. He knew that Hong Kong would be invaluable as a financial and trade center as it had since the revolution in 1949. Deng consistency pressed the one country – two systems approach to dealing with Hong Kong. He continued to develop personal relationships with key Hong Kong businessmen and made sure that the right people from China were appointed to Hong Kong and that Hong Kong leaders were developed to be able to take over when the British administrators left. One of Vogel’s better stories is the visit of Margaret Thatcher (the Iron Lady) to Deng (the Steel Factory) in September 1982. Thatcher was riding high after her victory in the Falken Islands and intended to tell Deng that Britain had decided to keep administering Hong Kong indefinitely. Deng changed her mind for once and all. China would administer Hong Kong and warned Britain not to attempt to drain assets from Hong Kong prior to the handover.

China’s efforts to reassure the residents of Hong Kong received a big setback after the Tiananmen Square repressions and individual residents continued to leave Hong Kong for Canada and other destinations taking as much wealth with them as possible. For all the drama, the handover went smoothly and Hong Kong continues its role today as financial center and trading center for China and Hong Kong’s residents continue to prosper.

Modern Shanghai Bund

What about Shanghai, China’s largest manufacturing center when Deng took over? Shanghai was initially excluded from the SEZ creations because of its size and complexity and because Deng was worried that the SEZs would be seen as a recreation of the colonial past with the foreign concessions. Shanghai was allowed to modernize later and Deng’s successor Jiang Zemin made his reputation in Shanghai.

It is difficult for those in China an abroad who became adults after Deng stepped down to realize the enormity of the problems Deng faced as he began this journey; a country closed to fundamentally new ways of thinking; deep rifts between those who had been attacked during the Cultural Revolution and their attackers; proud military leaders who were resistant to downsizing and budget reductions; public animosity toward imperialists and foreign capitalists; an entrenched conservative socialist structure in both the countryside and the cities; a reluctance by urban residence to accept over 200 million migrants from the countryside; and dissension as some people continued to live in poverty while others became rich…It is doubtful that anyone else had the combination of authority, depth and breadth of experience, strategic sense, assurance, personal relationships, and political judgement needed to manage China’s transformation with comparable success.

Four Generations

Another reason to study this work is for the insights it gives into the inner workings of the political system, the campaigns, the training and promotion of leaders, the complex intrigues between ruling cliques. Deng watched events unfold as labor unions struck in Poland, Nicolai Ceausescu was overthrown in Romania, and as Gorbachev set out to reform the communist party only to see the collapse of the entire Soviet system. Deng was determined to keep a strong single communist party with adherence to the thought of Lenin, Marx, and Mao (with Deng as the high priest of interpretation). At the same time he believed that leaders should experiment, make mistakes, admit their mistakes, correct their mistakes, and experiment again. He carefully avoided the Kruschev mistake of critizing Stalin, finding quotes from Mao that he was correct 70% of time, in other words Mao made mistakes such as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, for which Mao accepted responsibility (he did?), corrected, and moved on to new experiments.

Deng believed that training leaders, giving them freedom to experiment, judging the results (did the cat catch mice? were the flies tolerable?), correcting mistakes, including changing leaders if necessary is the key role of the communist party leadership. Deng believed that reform and economic transformation could only be accomplished by the selection of the proper leadership at the national and regional levels. Deng and his cohort were the second and last generation to have experienced the wars as leaders. Deng was determined to force his cohort of old revolutionaries to retire with him and to pass the reigns to a much younger generation of leaders who grew up in very different conditions. We have now seem several and are about to see the next changing of the guard as the next generation assumes power in a peaceful transfer. All this is the rightful legacy of Deng.

Greg goes to Afghanistan – Kashmir

Friday, March 19th, 2010

Stones into Schools, Greg Mortenson, 2009

Update June 21, 2013. In 2011 allegations of fabrication and misconduct were made against Mortenson and CAI. For a comprehensive summary of his book “Three Cups of Tea”, the 60 minutes expose, and Jon Krakauer’s findings see Wikipedia‘s entry.
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Here is an update on the activities of Mortenson, the Central Asia Institute (CAI) and his self selecting “Dirty Dozen” following up on his previous Three Cups of Tea. Greg begins with an event from 1999 while he was visiting the Charpurson Valley. He had just met Sarfraz Khan, former mujahedin fighter with a disfigured hand who is making his living trading across the mountains into the Wakhan Corridor of Afghanistan (“no much success”) when they spot a group of 14 Kirghiz (nomadic Afghan) horsemen straight out of the 13th Century riding toward them. Their leader is the young son of the Kirghiz headman and he has heard that Mortenson is in the area and has ridden across the mountains to meet him and see if he would be willing to build a school for their children. Greg is so moved that he impulsively promises their school knowing full well he can’t go into Taliban controlled Afghanistan. It takes him ten years to keep his promise.


Video by Sarfraz Khan

Greg is so impressed with Sarfraz, who speaks seven languages and whose ancestors are Waki from the Corridor, that he hires him as his remote areas project manager. Thus begins what Greg calls the closest friendship of his life.

The promise of the school and the hiring of Sarfraz are the sort of impulsive decision making that make the CAI unique among NGOs. The other unique feature is their “last place first” philosophy, probably owing its origin to the first school Greg built in Korphe Pakistan a village so remote he first had to raise more money so he could build a bridge across a river in order to transport building materials to the village. Korphe was the village that rescued and nursed Greg after his failed attempt to climb nearby K2 and its headman Haji Ali is credited with Greg’s first and best education in the area (“After 3 cups of tea you will be friends forever.”). Haji Ali wanted a school for his grandaughter Jahan Ali, who became CAIs first high school graduate. The emphasis on girl’s education Greg acquired while growing up in Africa (where his father ran a hospital near Mount Kilimanjaro) and where he learned the expression “educate a boy and you educate an individual, educate a girl and you educate a community”. Greg has observed his girl students teaching their mothers to read and write proving to him the truth of this saying.

CAI offers scholarships to the smartest girls to continue their eduction. Once offered, these scholarships can be accepted at any time in the future. One girl was unable to accept a scholarship to become a health worker because of the opposition of the local headman. She married, raised children, and ten years later, the new headman asked her to accept her scholarship. She did, received her education, and returned to her village to help pregnant woman and their babies. Childbirth and infant mortality rates in her village fell to zero. She thinks that her own experiences as a wife and mother have helped her become a better trained health worker and she is grateful for the delay. This type of patience both by CAI and the students is one of the important lessons Greg has learned from his experience.

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Wakhan Corridor

After 9/11 and the US displacement of the Taliban, Greg and Safran entered the Wakhan Corridor of Afghanistan and Safran began his education of Greg into Afghan “style“. Safran not only speaks the various languages of the area, but he adapts his accent to the specific region, speaking a fast, clipped Dari in Kabul, and slowing, softening, and rounding the language as he travels further into the Corridor until he morphs seamlessly into the next language of the region. He also adjusts his dress according to region and teaches Greg to follow him. Greg must have felt a little like Sir Richard Burton, the master of disguises. Safran also taught Greg about identifying the real decision makers during a Jirga (meeting of elders) just from their subtle gestures and body language. They develop close friendships with the leaders of the Waki and Tajik groups of the Corridor as well as the border security commander, Wohid Khan, who comes to their aid time after time. They build a series of more than 20 schools in the area. Safran also taught Greg the skills of avoiding kidnapping by never revealing your destination and changing transport frequently. This also assures that the driver is familiar with local conditions. They are constantly moving large sums of money from the Kabul bank to their remote schools to pay teachers, buy supplies and pay for construction. They are never robbed.

In 2005 the report that Americans had put a Koran down the toilet in an Iraqi prison set off riots throughout the Islamic world. NGO workers fled to Kabul and their offices and abandoned vehicles were destroyed. Greg stayed put as a guest in a house where he met for the first time the headman of the Kirghiz, Abdul Rashid Khan the father of horseman Greg and Safran had met in 1999. Abdul Rashid is returning empty handed from several months in Kabul where he had hoped to get help for his isolated people. Hamid Karzi made some half hearted promises which he had no intention of keeping. Abdul Radhid had spent much of his remaining capital to finance the trip. The government eventually sent one rusted out van to the Kirghiz who have no roads. Greg is able to again promise that CAI will build a school in Kirghiz so the old man can return home with some hope. The next day Greg traveled through scenes of destruction (the NGO offices) on his way to determine the fate of his nearby school. The school stood untouched because the village elders had stood in front of it explaining that the school belongs to the village. The rioters departed elsewhere. Greg credits the CAI strategy of making sure the local community takes full pride and ownership of their own schools with saving this school in the riots. The school was not viewed as international by the elders. Again on the NGOs, Greg comments that they insist on dressing in western clothes, drive the latest SUVs complete with nine foot satellite antennas, and generally just scream rich foreigners to the impoverished Afghanis. No wonder they find themselves targets of violence and resentment.

Greg is constantly approached by people wanting schools for their villages. Among those was the desk clerk at the Kabul guest house where Safran and Greg stay when in town. The clerk is a young Pashtun, Wakil Karimi, who grew up in Pakistani refugee camps and speaks several languages including English which is how he got the guest house job. Wakil persists about his school in visit after visit and Safran and Greg get to like him for his intelligence, energy, and persistence. They offer him a job as Afghan project manager and Safran begins Wakil’s boot camp training in Afghan “style“. Wakil’s village is in Taliban country but they visit and decide to let Wakil build his school once they see that the village elders really want it.

azad kashmir
Azad Kashmir

Then, in 2005, a massive earthquake devastates much of Pakistani controlled Kashmir. The CAI rushes to the area to see what they can do. Most schools in the area have collapsed and many students have died. The CAI manage to get some tents for temporary schools and start traveling among their tent schools to give aid and pay the teachers. They can’t rebuild schools because people are on the move, farming terraces and drinking water springs have disappeared, the students are afraid to be inside buildings, and their usual stone construction would just collapse in the next earthquake. The CAI scrounged some PVC piping and found itself restoring water supplies so the girls could stop carrying water and return to school. This infuriated some NGOs who had lucrative contracts to restore water but CAI could care less. They just wanted to get their schools functioning again and the NGOs would probably never get the job done.

Greg is always emphasizing the importance of listening. His daughter asked him one day how the earthquake victim children played. Greg thought maybe they didn’t play at all so his young daughter launched a personal effort to round up jump ropes. Mothers joined in and soon he returned to Pakistan carrying hundreds of jump ropes. They were a big success in Kashmir and soon CAI is buying jump ropes locally. Greg starts thinking that while a couple of school have play fields (for soccer), none have a playground with slides, swings, and see-saws. CAI starts adding these to their schools. He relates a story on Bill Moyer’s Journal and in this book about a group of pro Taliban elders who come to see one of CAIs schools. They spend 30 minutes playing on the playground equipment and then started to leave. Greg asked them if they don’t want to see the school. They say no, they already decided they want CAI to build them a school like this one but they insist it must have a playground.

In another instance of listening carefully, Greg finally got one traumatized girl to relate the experience of the earthquake in her tent class. When Greg asked her why so few students had returned to class she said it was because there were no desks and it didn’t seem like a school. The students somehow associated having a desk with the learning and security of school. Greg immediately set villagers to work finding salvageable desks in the school’s rubble and building new ones. The students returned to school, some even without tents sitting under a tree once the desks were available.

Greg returned home to Montana to raise more money but Safran meanwhile uncovered some Chinese engineers in Pakistan who have experience building earthquake resistant structures in Xinjiang Province China. He arranges for the Chinese to design and fabricate three schools in Xinjiang, arranges transport for the materials from Xinjiang, and sets the logistics in place to compete the schools on site in Kashmir in only one month. Lastly, (after already committing CAI to the schools without authorization) he faxes Greg in Montana for the $54k needed for the schools catching Greg by total surprise. Greg takes the schematics for the buildings which are prefabricated from wood and designed to move in a quake to a civil engineering professor in Bozeman. they are to be assembled on a floating concrete pad which can also move in the quake. They are designed to withstand a magnitude 8.2 earthquake. The professor declares the designs sound and Greg gets CAI board approval, as always, to proceed. The schools are ready for occupation in 19 days. Just another typical CAI project.

The following link shows a video with one of these earthquake resistant schools, the Balseri Girls School, Patika, Azad Kashmir, Pakistan in the background.

Greg comments that they encountered very few NGOs in remote Kashmir but the extremists groups including the one that later bombed Mumbai were very effective at reaching the remotest villages and setting up madrasas, extremist Islamic schools often led by illiterate teachers who have memorized a little of the Koran. They feed most effectively on remote and ignorant villagers.

Greg and Safran are terrible at dealing with bureaucracies and are busy building schools throughout the outer regions of Afghanistan without any license or sanction from the central government. They initially tried to register CAI as a NGO with the government but quickly gave up. One official contradictorily claimed 1) there are already hundreds of schools in the Wakhan (there were none); 2) the Corridor is actually a part of China (never); and 3) no one lives in the Wakhan (there are three distinct ethnic groups in the Corridor, each with several thousand members).

Wakil took upon himself the task of getting CAI an NGO license. He spent a full month in the process, finally yelling and shaming the bureaucrats into stamping his final document. Unstated but implied is the refusal of CAI ever to pay a bribe to a government official even when it is clear all other NGOs have paid bribes to get their paperwork approved. CAI stretches their dollars and can construct a typical school and fund it for five years for about $40k. In this context, the cost of even a modest bribe would be intolerable to them.

Greg knows that some of the elders that support his schools make much of their income from poppies and the drug trade. He acknowledges that there are few other opportunities to make money in Afghanistan and praises those that give most of the proceeds back to the people in the form of low cost loans, seed, and other assistance. He regrets the some Afghanis become opium addicts, the cost of which further impoverishes them.

Greg discusses his strange relationship with the US military. He was initially opposed to the US military actions in Afghanistan while welcoming the removal of the Taliban from power, allowing CAI to operate to build schools in the country. As he saw it, a single US missile costing $850k could be used instead to build 20 schools which is a far more productive use of resources.

Then the earthquake struck in Kashmir and the US military loaned a number of Chinook helicopters from Afghanistan to transport supplies in and wounded earthquake victims out and Greg came to see the now popular crews in a new humanitarian light. The crews themselves, after Iraq and Afghanistan also came to see themselves in this new popular humanitarian light and liked it.

The other strange thing that happened was that military wives came across the Parade magazine article about the CAI and started reading “Three Cups of Tea” and discussing the book at their women’s clubs. Their enthusiasm spilled over and soon their husbands, serving or having served in Afghanistan started reading the book, particularly, counter insurgence soldiers. Pretty soon, “Three Cups of Tea” was required reading in counter insurgence academies. Greg discovered all this when forward base commander Christopher Kolenda asked if CAI could build a school near his base in Kunar Province. Kunar Province certainly fits the description of an “end place” but it is also Taliban country. Nevertheless, Wakil and Safran visit Kolenda then sat down with the village elders and decided to build the school.

kunar province
Soldier Invites CAI to build school in Kunar Province

Thus began a major effort by CAI to build schools across the heart of Taliban country including Kunar Province and Nangarhar Province, the location of several Al Qaeda camps that includes the now famous Tora Bora caves where Bin Laden was thought to have hidden before slipping across the border into Pakistan. For one particularly vulnerable school they convinced a respected local Mullah to be headmaster. When warnings started appearing on the school, the Mullah went directly to Taliban leaders and convinced them to leave the school alone. They did. While CAI has had a little violence and threats at their schools, none have been damaged or closed unlike many other new schools that have been closed, students and teachers killed, and girls attacked with acid. Greg attributes the difference to the strong support the schools have had from the local elders and leaders. Even though CAIs schools are secular, they receive strong support from the local Mullahs.

CAI has by now received widespread recognition. Great Britain’s Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, visited one of the Kashmir earthquake resistant schools; Greg became the recipient of the Star of Pakistan the highest civilian award in Pakistan; Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, opened one of the Panjshir Valley schools; and Gen. David Petraeus and Gen. Stanley McCrystal are both Mortenson fans.

mullen mortenson
Admiral Mullen with Mortenson

Greg quotes Mike Mullen to show how far the military has come:

The Muslim community is a subtle world we don’t fully – and don’t always – attempt to understand. Only through a shared appreciation of the people’s culture, needs, and hopes for the future can we hope to supplant the extremist narrative. We cannot capture hearts and minds. We must engage them; we must listen to them, one heart, and one mind at a time.

Quite a contrast to the usual nightly news Neanderthal general spouting nonsense about getting the bad guys like he’s playing some kind of video game, which incidentally, is how young military minds are recruited these days – through video games.

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Kirghiz porting their school

In late 2009 the nomadic Kirghiz finally got their school built on the very roof of the world at 12,500 feet. The logistics of getting materials and workers to the site required some miracle planning and an approach from three sides. Money and lighter materials like the door and window frames traveled across the Wakhan Corridor to the end of road where they were loaded onto Yaks for the three day journey to the site. Trained masons hiked over the mountain passes from the Charpurson Valley in Pakistan. A truck laden with cement, roof beams and other heavy construction material drove across Tajikistan to an old Soviet tank trail leading south toward a lake in Kirghiz. To get permission for the truck to cross Tajikistan, border commander Wohid Khan agreed to personally accompany the truck. From the lake, more Yaks and men transported the heavy materials the final 15 miles to the building site. Greg considers this his last best school even though illness has prevented him from seeing it. In fact fate has twice prevented Greg from entering Kirghiz. But after 10 long years, he has finally kept his promise.

For those wanting a good introduction of this region this book is one of the best. Greg furnishes a series of maps but it is hard to grasp the impact of all those massive mountain ranges. For a while Safran shuttled overland between Kashmir and the Wakhan Corridor to supervise his various building projects. Although the bird flight distance is only 200 miles. Safran needed to cross three different mountain ranges. For two he could drive CAIs 28 year old Land Cruiser across but for the third, into the Wakhan, he used his horse. His first horse died of exhaustion in 2006 and he acquired a new horse which is pictured in the book (They mistakenly identify the horse in the picture as the one who died, probably in the rush to publish. There are a few nonsense sentences in the book as well.). The most startling of the maps shows the ethnic distribution of the area (Pakistan and Afghanistan). There are 18 distinct ethnic groups shown here, one of which is “other” which implies there are even more groups. With the mountains and the ethnic diversity no wonder everyone is confused.

For an account of how the boundaries defining the various countries, including Afghanistan and Pakistan came to be and why Kashmir ended up in India (none of which has very much to do with ethnic boundaries) read the untold story of India’s Partition the tragedy that set off the chain of events leading to our current state. The “Great Game” between Russia and England, which contributed to the partition and boundaries predates the Cold War by a hundred years.

For a recent history of Afghanistan, the Soviet occupation, the CIA (Charlie Wilson’s War) and Pakistani intelligence backing of the Afghan mujahedin, followed by the abandonment of Afghanistan after the Soviet pullout giving rise to the Taliban read Steve Coll’s Ghost Wars.

Homeland Insecurity

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

Israel Is Real, Rich Cohen, 2009

A 350 page history of the Jewish people from Abraham, Moses, David, through to Zionism and today’s Israel is tough sledding for the reader. Cohen is American, doesn’t speak Hebrew, at one point claims he is Christian to be allowed into the Jerusalem old city, and writes with a strange mixture of empathy and puzzlement at the Jewish story and fate.

jerusalem-layers
Jerusalem – Layers of History

His history is fleeting with special attention to the life arch of King David, from Shepard, to hero, to king, to wife stealer, (he sends the husband to die as a soldier), to sad old man yearning for his lost son. He credits David with the transition from wandering tribe carrying the Ark of the Covenant everywhere to building a permanent temple on the Temple Mount, thus fixing Jewish fate to a single geographic location. He also gives special attention to the Roman conquest and role of the warrior Jewish Zealots in the death and destruction of Judea including the second temple. The Roman built a temple to Jupiter on Temple Mount but within a few hundred years, the Caesars had converted to Christianity as had many Jews.

yadvashem yad-vashem2
Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum

He discusses the 2000 year plight of the Jews with alternating pogroms, assimilation, ghettos, leading up to the Holocaust, which he says has been turned into a new religion with its own temples (museums now include Berlin and Washington) throughout the world centered by Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem, leading via Zionism to the formation of Israel.

He says after the Roman conquest, the Jews succeeded in turning the lost temple with its rituals into a book (or really several books) that they could again carry with them everywhere in their wanderings. Unlike the Ark, the book could be multiplied so every Jew could have his own copy wherever he went. He attributes the strength of the Jewish identity to possession of this book.

One interesting section deals with the rise of the notion of race which was intended to doom the prospects for assimilation since the Jews would never be considered Arlan even if they converted to Christianity. So, to counter the race argument, some Jews discovered a lost tribe of red headed Jews who for a short time around 700 AD ruled a small kingdom called Khazaria. But the concept of race somehow got buried deep in the psyche and today Jews are themselves very race conscience with their distinctions between Ashkenazi Diaspora-Caucasian Jews and Sephardic Jews from the Middle East, North Africa, and Spain.

He traces the origins of Zionism, the movement to return and create a Jewish state in Palestine to people like Disraeli, the first and only Jewish British prime minister and American journalist Mordecai Noah, or more interestingly, to German-Polish Jew Moses Hess who knew and shared a coffeehouse with Marx and Engels. Credit is generally given to Theodor Herzl near the end of the nineteenth century.

He traces the arch of the State of Israel through its key leaders and heroes, particularly warrior Ariel Sharon, hero of 1948, 1967, and 1973. He draws some parallels between Sharon and David and even Sharon and Moses. Sharon’s bold aggressive style of warfare finally came into disgrace in the 1982 Lebanon invasion following the Christian massacre of Palestinians in several refugee camps in Lebanon. In the final stage of the arch, we follow embittered Sharon as he leads a band of police to the mosque on the Temple Mount during Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza.

sharontemple
Ariel Sharon Visits Temple Mount

Most memorable are his stories of the 1973 Yom Kippur war which Israel almost lost. We see once heroic one eyed Moshe Dayan losing it when it appears Syria will prevail in Golan, ranting about the loss of the third temple and scaring everyone around him; we see tough Golda Meir taking a cigarette break to collect herself at the height of the crisis then calmly declaring “Let’s go back to work.”

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Tough Mother Golda and her cigarette

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Force Zvika

Then there is the amazing story of 21 year old tank commander Zvika Greengold, who commands the only remaining functional Israeli tank and enters the Hula Valley alone at dusk to try to hold off hundreds of assembled Syrian tanks until Israeli reinforcements can arrive. In an all night tank battle, without lights, Greengold maneuvered among and knocked out uncountable tanks and stopped the Syrian advance for 22 hours. He was aided by the fact that his aging tank was a Sherman the same that Syria was using, and that any tank he could find in the dark would be an enemy but the Syrian couldn’t identify him as an enemy. To confuse the Syrians further, he used his radio to command his “Force Zvika” tanks during the action. When reinforcements finally arrive the Israeli commander asks Greengold “Where is Force Zvika?” and he answers “I am Force Zvika”.

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Dayan and Sharon during Yom Kippur War

The other Moses-like story concerns Ariel Sharon in the Sinai dessert in 1973. Two divisions of Egyptian soldier have driven the Israelis deep into the dessert where their advance is finally stopped. Some scouts report an incredible discovery; the two Egyptian divisions have left a gap fifteen miles wide between them. Sharon asks his timid commander Gonan for permission to drive through this gap to Suez. Gonan refuses but Sharon, of course, goes anyway. He gets to the Canal by morning and asks Gonan for bridges to cross. Gonan refuses again, so Sharon finds some derelict old landing craft and manages to get several hundred troops and equipment including tanks across the canal. The Egyptians awake to discover their supply lines cut (including water), Israeli troops camped a short drive from Cairo, and two divisions trapped in the dessert. An Egyptian MiG fighter attacks Sharon’s position and Sharon is wounded. Sharon is called back to Sinai for a meeting (shouting match) with Gonan with the result that reinforcements are sent to hold Sharon’s Egyptian position but not under Sharon’s command. Anwar Sadat is forced to negotiate a peace.

jerusalem-panorama
Jerusalem Epicenter of Western Religions – and Graveyard

He talks about visiting Israel and of the Jerusalem Syndrome which affects most visitors to the old city, possibly excepting Asian tourists whose culture is outside the Christian, Muslim, and Jewish traditions. Few visitors actually become psychotic but the effects of seeing all the layer upon layer of history built one upon the other and the sites that are central to the three major western religious traditions is somehow overpowering. One wishes that the entire city could be preserved as an international museum, protected from all the struggles and politics but of course Jerusalem is home to a diverse collection of people going about their daily lives, an idea inconsistent with the notion of museum.

The big dynamic today seems to be population, as the Arabs outproduce the Jews changing the political dynamic that would ultimately lead to an Arab controlled democracy. Cohen himself was criticized for being Jewish and for living in the safe US instead of returning to his Jewish homeland. If all American Jews emigrated to Israel (they automatically have Israeli citizenship) the population disparity would be instantly corrected and the Jews would dominate the country. This is the ultimate contradiction buried in the very concept of a religious state. It is something that Ataturk understood when he declared Turkey to be a secular state but that the Zionists and Ayatollahs of Iran have somehow missed.

Scottish odyssey

Saturday, October 10th, 2009

The Places In Between, Rory Stewart, 2006

I first discovered the Scotsman Rory Stewart on the Bill Moyer’s Journal. Rory Stewart is now director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Lynn Sherr introduced Stewart as advisor to both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke. The following is a small part of the transcript:

LYNN SHERR: What do you tell them?

RORY STEWART: Again, my message is: focus on what we can do. We don’t have a moral obligation to do what we can’t. People can get very fixed by saying, “But surely you’re not saying we ought to do nothing? Surely you’re not saying we ought to allow the Taliban to do this or that?” And I just keep saying “ought” implies “can”– you don’t have a moral obligation to do what you can’t do.

LYNN SHERR: How is your advice taken?

RORY STEWART: I think what I see at the moment is that people are polite, because they imagine maybe I have some experience with Afghanistan. But I’m one of a broad community of people — we have nine people working in my center at Harvard who’ve worked there for 20 or 30 years and the problem we all have is that if the Administration has for some reason already decided that they’re going to increase troops, they’re going to do a counterinsurgency campaign, it’s very difficult for them to take on board people coming back and saying, “Look, actually, I don’t think this is going to work. It’s a great idea. I can see why you want to do it. But by trying to do the impossible, you may end up doing nothing. I’d like to present an alternative strategy, which is lighter, more intelligent, and may end up actually achieving something.”

LYNN SHERR: And again, their reaction? They listen politely, you say?

RORY STEWART: They listen politely, but in the end, of course, basically the policy decision is made. What they would like is little advice on some small bit. I mean, the analogy that one of my colleagues used recently is this: it’s as though they come to you and they say, “We’re planning to drive our car off a cliff. Do we wear a seatbelt or not?” And we say, “Don’t drive your car off the cliff.” And they say, “No, no, no. That decision’s already made. The question is should we wear our seatbelts?” And you say, “Why by all means wear a seatbelt.” And they say, “Okay, we consulted with policy expert, Rory Stewart,” et cetera.

So much for being an expert today.

Rory Stewart’s biography sounds like fiction. Born in Hong Kong in 1973, he was educated at Eton and Oxford. He was tutor to Prince Harry and Prince William. In the 90’s he joined the Secret Intelligence Service and served in the embassy in Jakarta dealing with East Timor. He was next appointed British representative to Montenegro dealing with Kosovo.

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Rory Stewart in Afghan garb with Mastiff Babur

This book recounts a small part of an amazing walking journey historian Rory Undertook over 20 months to recreate the 1514 journey of Babur (descendant of Timur and Genghis Khan) from Samarkand, Uzbekistan to Kabul which he conquered. By 1527 Babur had conquered all of Northern India establishing the Mogul dynasty with Agra his capital.

Rory spent 16 months walking from Iran to Nepal. The government of Iran took his visa away and he was refused entry to Afghanistan by the Taliban so he resumed his journey in Pakistan, crossing to Katmandu where, in December 2001, he heard that the Taliban had fallen, so he returned to Herat to pick up his journey from Herat to Kabul. Babur had made his journey through the mountains in the dead of winter and Rory seemed to find the prospect of doing the same thing in 2002 appealing. U.N. workers called him “a nutter” for his walk which he took as a complement.

This book recounts the kind of travel that is far more common in Europe than in America. Herman Hesse in Narcissus and Goldmund describes a young man wandering around medieval Germany indicating that this coming of age European “Walkabout” has been a tradition for a long time. Overland trips from Europe to India and Nepal by motorcycle, van, and bus were common in the 1960s and 1970s but with the Iranian Revolution and Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 such journeys died down. A recent German biopic, Eight Miles High, of Uschi Obermaier features a three year trip with boyfriend adventurer Dieter Bockhorn by customize bus from Germany to India in 1973. Their adventure lasted three years and was highlighted by their wedding, complete with elephants, in India. God seems to protect the young and naive which is why most young travelers, despite taking crazy risks, seem to come through relatively unscarred by the experience.

As if walking through the mountains alone in the dead of winter were not enough challenge, Rory somehow acquires a dog, a half wild, uncared for 140 pound mastiff of indeterminate age that he names Babur. So not only does he have to beg for food and shelter in each village for himself, he must find food and shelter for his huge dog in a culture where dogs are considered unclean. A boy who is in training to become a mullah informs Rory that the Koran declares dogs to be unclean. When Rory asks to see the passage, the boy says he doesn’t know where it is. “But haven’t you memorized the entire Koran in your studies? Yes, but it is written in Arabic and I don’t understand Arabic.” Like Roman Catholics who loved the Latin mass they cannot understand, this boy has memorized the entire Koran without understanding anything in it. In many villages he has to fight off with his walking stick packs of dogs sent by children to harass him and his dog.

The journey itself is pretty bleak. Rory walks in sub zero temperatures, through blizzards with zero viability, fighting to forge a path through waist deep snow, and trying to break through thick ice to reach drinking water. Through the first half of his trek, he follows the Hari Rud river, climbing to its source. In Herat, Rory collects a series of letters of introduction which he hopes will result in offers of hospitality along his route. This plan is quickly dashed as a village headman demands the letters (for his own use) and Rory discovers that the local head men are mostly illiterate so cannot write much less read such letters. He falls back on an oral tradition where he recounts the list of men who have recently offered him hospitality and memorizes the names of important men he is likely to meet at the next villages. To make life more miserable Rory suffers from constant dysentery and headaches. He tries to document his travels by writing in his journal, sketching people he meets (some are reproduced in the book) and taking very dark black and white film photographs in which the features of people pictured can hardly be made out.

From Herat he is accompanied by two security soldiers who are ordered to walk with him halfway to Kabul. Both are wearing American camouflage overalls and ill fitting boots which damage their feet. The leader is a congenital liar who introduces Rory as an Ukrainian (Soviet), American Spy, U.N. high official with millions to disperse to the local authorities. After the two start suffering from dysentery and foot sores, Rory is finally able to bribe them to leave him and they return to Herat. With the occasional local guide as part of local hospitality, Rory completes his walk largely on his own.

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Minaret at Jam

Rory comes to the ancient city of Jam, destroyed by Genghis Khan. A lone minaret remains of what was once a major trading center. In the 1970s professional archeologists were busy excavating the historic city but the Soviet invasion forced them to leave and they have never returned. Rory encounters hundreds of local villagers randomly digging throughout the ruins looking for any artifacts which they will be able to sell to collectors for $1 or $2 dollars.

Rory’s route took through all four major ethnic groups making up Afghanistan. The Pashtun posed the biggest threat to Rory’s trek. When he asks village elders who they want to lead a new Afghanistan they invariably start by naming their local strongman. When Rory persists, they all mention Ahmed Shah Massoud the Tajiks fighter assassinated by al Qaeda. When he asks their opinion of Hamid Karzai, the most remote villagers immediately respond that Karzai is America’s puppet.

Stewart encounters more U.N. and other aid workers and writes one the best accounts of this new breed that I have seen anywhere (as a footnote):

Critics have accused this new breed of administrators as neocolonialism. But in fact their approach is not that of a nineteenth century colonial officer. Colonial administration may have been racist and exploitative, but they did, at least work seriously at the business of understanding the people they were governing. They recruited people prepared to spend their entire careers in dangerous provinces of a single alien nation.They invested in teaching administrators and military officers the local language. They established effective departments of state, trained a local elite, and continued the countless academic studies of their subjects through institutes and museums, royal geographic societies, and royal botanical gardens. They balanced the local budget and generated fiscal revenue because if they didn’t their home government would rarely bail them out. If they failed to govern fairly, the population would mutiny.

Post-conflict experts have got the prestige without the effort or stigma of imperialism. Their implicit denial of the difference between cultures is the new brand of international intervention. Their policy fails but no one notices. There are not credible monitoring bodies and there is no one to take formal responsibility. Individual officers are never in any one place and rarely in any one organization long enough to be adequately assessed. The colonial enterprise could be judged by the security or revenue it delivered, but neocolonialists have no such performance criteria. In fact their very uselessness benefits them. By avoiding any serious action or judgment they, unlike their colonial predecessors, are able to escape accusations of racism, exploitation, or oppression.

Perhaps it is because no one requires more than a charming illusion of action in the developing world. If the policy makers know little about the Afghans, the public knows even less, and few care about policy failure when the effects are felt only in Afghanistan… A year before they had been in Kosovo or East Timor and a year later they would be in Iraq or offices in New York and Washington.

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Murad Khane District of Kabul

A year after his Afghan trek, Rory Stewart was appointed Coalition (civilian) Deputy Governor of Maysan and Senior Adviser in Dhi Qar, two provinces in southern Iraq. From this experience he penned his second book The Prince of the Marshes: And Other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq. For this he was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire at age 31. In 2005, he founded an NGO, the Turquoise Mountain Foundation and spends much of his time in Afghanistan. Chalk one up for the neocolonialists.

Poppies in the Great Game

Monday, August 31st, 2009

Seeds of Terror, Gretchen Peters, 2009

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Poppy Harvest

This book can usefully be read as a companion volume to Steve Coll’s Ghost Wars. Where Coll’s sterile account of U.S. CIA involvement in Afghanistan focuses on the role of the CIA in pushing funds and arms matched by equal funding from Saudi Arabian intelligence through Pakistan’s ISI to clandestinely support the Mujahideen extremists, this book tells in a confused and disorganized fashion the same tale with a central focus on the role of opium and heroin smuggling in the same time frame.

In this account, drugs were a major source of funding for the Mujahideen throughout the period of anti Soviet insurgency and gave the fighters sources of revenue and arms independent of CIA or ISI influence. The Soviets found themselves fighting extreme levels of troop drug addiction similar to the U.S. problem with drugs in Vietnam. After the Soviet withdrawal in the late 1980’s, drugs became the major source of revenue and weapons for the fighting factions within Afghanistan.

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Stages of Opium Production – Mujahideen

In Peter’s account, some American officials were aware of the extent and impact of drug trafficking but were completely ignored in the maniacal focus on embarrassing the Soviet Union with their own version of Vietnam. Beyond this single goal all other factors were conveniently ignored. It probably helped that very little of Afghanistan’s heroin found its way to the U.S. even though it certainly was central to the drug problem of Great Britain and other NATO countries. For a look at the impact of this drug traffic on Britain see the BBC miniseries Traffik. This ignoring the drug problem continued after the withdrawal of the Soviet Union, throughout the tribal battle for control of Afghanistan after the Soviet period, through the rise of the Taliban, the overthrow of the Taliban, and up to today. In particular, the U.S. military has consistently ignored the drug problem, highlighted by Donald Rumsfeld’s pronouncement that “We (U.S. military) don’t do drugs.” Even today there is virtually no cooperation between drug enforcement efforts and military efforts in the country.

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A few Drug Smuggling Routes

Peter’s conclusions are pretty stark and shocking and it is a shame the book isn’t better written . Poppies and drug trafficking account for 30% of Afghanistan’s GDP. If you add the value of other illegal smuggling activity (electronics, appliances, vehicles, weapons) illegal activity probably accounts for more than half of Afghanistan’s economy. The corruption of the Karzai government, local officials, and police start from this dominant fact. Afghanistan is awash in illegal money, weapons, and goods. Bribery and corruption must follow from this fact.

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Drug Dealer Wali and brother Hamid Karzai

The American media have given the public the impression that the Taliban and al Qaeda are opposed to drugs and both have made pronouncements that good Muslims should never use them. This impression was enhanced when the Taliban ordered that Poppies not be planted in the year 2000. What the media never told us was that al Quada and the Taliban had stockpiled huge quantities of opium and heroin, the equivalent of about three years of world wide supply, because a glut in the market had driven prices to an all time low. By forbidding the growing of poppies, the Taliban created an instant shortage or perception of a shortage and prices skyrocketed. (Sounds a little like OPEC and oil).

Peters asks how a group of illiterate thugs (Taliban) could organize and run a global market in drug production and distribution. She thinks they can’t, which means that the Taliban has always been backed by drug kingpins who used to Taliban for security and enforcement in return for huge quantities of money and arms and other needed items like Toyota Land Cruisers and Hiluxes. Peter’s has no doubt that both the Taliban and al Qaeda have relied heavily on the drug trade to supply themselves even though the leadership may not have engaged directly in drug deals.

Today the media is continuing to do its number on us by referring to all insurgents in Afghanistan as Taliban. The insurgents themselves seems willing to go along with this designation even though few are connected in any way with the original Mullah Omar group which is still hiding somewhere in the tribal region of Pakistan. We are not facing an organized and integrated Taliban group where it is possible to sit down and negotiate with the leadership. The insurgency is very fragmented. The thought that dollars can be used to buy a change of loyalty of the insurgents is maybe possible but the U.S. would need to outbid the drug lords and it could prove very costly and may not result in any long term changes or improved stability.

When the U.S. pulled back from Afghanistan to focus on Iraq, they turned the fighting over to the NATO coalition. A U.S. coordinator complains that he spends more time in Europe than in Afghanistan. Britain has been given responsibility for anti drug efforts but these efforts are almost never coordinated with the military which makes raids and arrests next to impossible. The U.S. DEA has people in Afghanistan today but they get no more cooperation than the British. Arrests and seizures are few and ineffective and do not impact total drug exports. When military commanders accidentally stumble on a drug cache or convoy or find a major drug lord there is no guarantee the kingpin will be detained or the drugs destroyed. Such is the lack of coordination with the military

Neighboring Iran and Pakistan as well as the former Soviet Stans and Russia are experiencing huge increases in drug addiction and drug crime as a result of the environment in Afghanistan.

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Rare Drug Seizure at Sea

Afghanistan remains a medieval place where modern financial networks don’t exist. Much of the drug trade is barter and where cash transfers take place they are done through the tradition hawala networks which are based on a honor system where actual money is not moved or even recorded in a way that can be traced. Attempts to regulate these networks are currently ineffective.

What happened to those stinger missiles that Coll reported the U.S. supplied to shoot down Soviet helicopters and planes and that the CIA tried to buy back after the Soviet withdrawal? Some were sold by drug runners back to the CIA for enormous sums of money and other were and may still be used to protect drug smuggling convoys making their way to the Iran border.

Corruption extends equally to Pakistan and Iran as well as other middle eastern drug destinations or transit routes. Attacking the drug problem would have to be at the core of any efforts to stabilize Afghanistan and it is clear the problem can’t be attacked without a coordinated regional effort. It is not clear the Obama administration even understands the extent of the problem or has prevailed on the dominant U.S. military to force it to address the problem, cooperating with law enforcement and drug enforcement groups and with intelligence gathering groups. It’s not clear to Peters that the lessons of 9/11 have been learned, much less the lessons of Vietnam. (Remember that U.S. military planes were used to smuggle drugs to the U.S. during Vietnam see biopic – American Gangster starring Denzel Washington.)

Peters makes a good case that drugs are the central funding source behind Islamic extremist terrorists and that the networks cannot be controlled as long as Afghanistan’s drug supply continues. Unfortunately it still seems politically unpopular for politicians to discuss the problem and meanwhile the military continues its resistance to recognition of the centrality of the problem. The book blurb asks Obama to read this but by all indications he hasn’t.