Review: Open Veins of Latin America–Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent

5 Star, America (Anti-America), Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback
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Brilliantly Translated, Poetry of Pathos, Compelling, June 5, 2009

Eduardo Galeano

Kudos to Hugo Chavez for putting this book in the eye of the emerging consciousness of the US public–Obama will not read this book because he already knows the story, he is the front end of the Borg–the system, and so similar in policies to Bush as to possibly wake up the naive.

The book begins with one of the finest Forewords I have ever read, by Isabel Allende, and I offer just one quote from her spectacular introduction of the book:

“His work is a mixture of meticulous detail, political conviction, poetic flair, and good storytelling.”

The translation by Bobbye Ortiz merits special note. This book sings in English, and the translator has done justice to the original.

A major recurring theme throughout the book is that of capital squandered by the few while the many actually producing the capital dies of hunger or disease.

I list ten other recommended books at the end of this review. Early on the author makes these points:

1. The indigenous bourgeoisie are the ones who have sold out their countries to the multinational corporations. Toward the end of the book re repeats this with a chapter on the guards that opened the gates.

2. “The human murder by poverty in Latin America is secret–every year, [the equivalent of] three Hiroshima bombs.”

3. Quoting Lyndon Johnson: $5 invested in population control is equal to $100 in economic growth. This in the context of the author making the case that Latin America is under-populated in relation to Europe.

4. Imperialism and what I call predatory capitalism depends on, imposed, inequality and growing disparity on the countries rich in raw materials.

His early account of the European invasion by steel and horse and disease was unique in its time; see 1491 below for a broader more recent treatment. The indigenous population by this account dropped from 70 million to 3.5 million.

Among my notes:

1. The historical record is lie–laws were indeed passed protecting the indigenous natives, but never enforced, something history does not document as well.

2. “Ideological justifications were never in short supply.”

3. Spanish dressed up the natives in Andalucian costumes, some of the clothing we think of today as traditional was actually imposed on the natives.

4. Spanish and others moved drugs (coca) from strictly ceremonial use to the general population and then into massive export.

The history of Latin America is a history of sequential pillaging. First gold, then sugar, then rubber followed by chocolate, cotton, and coffee, then the banana–the tree of hell under United Fruit. And then Chilean nitrates, Bolivian tin, and finally the “black curse” of petroleum.

Sugar in particularly devoured both the soil and humanity, first in Brazil then in the Caribbean.

The ready use of slavery, both of indigenous natives and of imported Africans, created the economic bottleneck that survives to this day, where those actually extracting the raw materials are virtual slaves and do not derive the fruits of their labor.

The author contrasts the manner in which the US used the Homestead Act to grant land to individuals who were incentivized to develop the West, and the latifundo oligarchy that imposes perpetual poverty on generations of indigenous individual families.

Myself being a survivor of the Central American wars, and the duty officer the night land reformer Mark Pearlman was executed in El Salvador by an extreme right death squad, I read with interest about the recurring attempts to achieve agrarian reform, only to have push-back from the 14-500 families that “own” the land.

I am fascinated by the corporate war between Shell (Paraguay) and Standard Oil (Bolivia) in which the armies of those countries, and the poor of those countries, were the pawns in the “great game” of wealth confiscation.

The book is a catalog of all the dictators supported by the USA and enriched by US and European multinational corporations.

The second half of the book yields the following notes:

1. Industrial infanticide has been imposed on Latin America by protectionism and free trade (as opposed to fair trade)

2. Loans and railroads (with attendant land rights and obligations) deformed Latin America.

3. The International Monetary Fund (IMB) is the knife that slits the belly of each country to let in the maggots of immoral capitalism.

4. The Ministries of Labor in each Latin American country are the new slave traders.

5. “International charity does not exist.” The role of US aid is to help the US domestically. As of the book being written, only 38% of aid was actually targeted aid, all the rest existed to bring greater benefits back to the “giving” country.

6. What Latin America has been lacking all this time is a sense of economic community within its own continent.

7. The book was banned in Chile and Uruguay.

I end this summative review with two quotes–cliff notes for the President, if he has anyone active on Amazon:

Page 261. The task lies in the hands of the dispossessed, the humiliated, the accursed. The Latin Ameerican cause is above all a social cause: the rebirth of Latin America must start with the overthrow of its masters, country by country. We are entering times of rebellion and change.

Page 285. “The system would like to be confused with the country.” and “In these lands we are not experiencing the primitive infancy of capitalism buts its vicious senility.”

Notes and index complete the work. A solid four hour read without interruptions. A great book for anyone desiring to know why the USA is being pushed back while China and Iran are displacing the West in the southern hemisphere.

Other books I recommend (you have to look for my summary reviews now, Amazon buries serious reviews with a few negative votes).
1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus
Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
War is a Racket: The Antiwar Classic by America’s Most Decorated Soldier
The Trial of Henry Kissinger
Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War
Sleeping With the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude
The Fifty-Year Wound: How America’s Cold War Victory Has Shaped Our World
The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (The American Empire Project)
The Global Class War: How America’s Bipartisan Elite Lost Our Future – and What It Will Take to Win It Back
Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of the New Global Economy

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Review DVD: The World Without US – With Niall Ferguson

3 Star, America (Anti-America), Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Reviews (DVD Only)

World Without UsClever in a sophmoric way–selective, Inconclusive, and naive, February 14, 2008

Mitch Anderson

I have been going blind the past two weeks doing the index to the new edited work by Mark Tovey, COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace, playing DVDs in the background.

This one fooled me right up to the end with its able review of the disconnect between most Arab oil going to China and Europe (so why should the US protect it), the great strengths of the German and Japanese economies, the great wealth of the Arab countries to whom we give most of our foreign military assistance….

I was especially intregued by his use of putative candidates for president promising to pull all our troops back and reinvest in the homeland, something Mayor Mike Bloomberg has been harping on.

Then he pulled the plug with, as I say, a clever but sophmoric conclusion that is NOT, as one “official” review would have it, conclusive at all–the DVD ends with a nuclear explosion and a replay of Hiroshima, with one Asian mother in the rubble asking another to tell her daughter (who is assuredly vaporized) that she loves here. Then she dies and the movie dies with her.

This happens to be my lifetime focus, so here are a few thoughts:

1) For what we spend on war all over the world, $1.3 trillion a year, we could use one third of it to retain essential military and law enforcement capabilites, one third of it to completely rebuild our homeland, and one third of it to invest in massive undersea, outerspace, paranormal, and inter-cultural innovation.

2) Washington DC is run by four crime families: the Clintons, the Bushes, the Republicans and the Democrats. They specialize in picking the taxpayers’ pocket, robbing the many to enrich the few. At the same time, Wall Street has migrated from being a fiduciary trust to being a financial intermediary, and as John Bogle spells out in his most recent book, these asset managers have skimmed off one fifth of the wealth as “fees” without any of the “owners” being any the wiser.

3) The ten high level threats to mankind have now been definitively established, and they are poverty, infectious disease, environmental degradation, inter-state conflict, civil war, genocide, other atrocities, proliferation (which is best practiced by the arms mongering of the five permanent members of the Security Council), terrorism (note how this is NINTH yet consuming the current White House), and transnational crime (the latter a $2 trillion a year endeavor, against $7 trillion in the “legal” economy and an almost certain $1 trillion in corporate fraud and tax avoidance and another $1 trillion in barter and intangible exchange.

The USA needs the following:

1) Electoral reform and a citizenship mindful of its civic duties.

2) Honest politicians committed to transparent open government and no legislation without pre-publication in detail.

3) A strategy that commits to eradicating the ten high level threats, and buy-outs or force-oputs for the 44 dictators, 42 of whom we love to love, two of whom we love to hate (one being Cuba, which has the best health care in the world, the only sustainable agricultural model without pesticide and with full employment, and oh yes, they can send 10,000 doctors to Venezuela without blinking.

4) Recognition that all ten threats, poverty for example, require the harmonization of twelve policis from Agriculture to Water (for example, US wastes roughly a third of the food it grows, which consumed water we cannot afford to lose).

5) Recognize that nothing the US or EUR do will matter unless we can create an EarthGame that serves as the Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, and presents in compelling terms sustainable architectures that can be adopted by the eight demographic giants who–if they repeat our mistakes–will consume the entire planet within 3 to five generations.

Enough. This is an annoying movie for its lack of nuance and serious understanding of the complexities as well as the opportunities that lie before us.

Better DVDs:
The Fog of War – Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara
Why We Fight
Tibet – Cry of the Snow Lion
Gandhi (Widescreen Two-Disc Special Edition)
The Snow Walker

Better Books:
The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People
Breaking the Real Axis of Evil: How to Oust the World’s Last Dictators by 2025
The leadership of civilization building: Administrative and civilization theory, symbolic dialogue, and citizen skills for the 21st century
A Power Governments Cannot Suppress
The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism

Afterthought: anyone can search on the terms in brackets for more:
[Chinese Irregular Warfare Memorandum]
[Steele Joint Forces Quarterly Asymmetric]
[Steele Alternative Paradigm for National Security]
[Steele Presidential Leadership]

And of course there are the books I have written and the ones we are publishing and providing free online at Earth Intelligence Network.

Review DVD: The Assassination of Richard Nixon

5 Star, America (Anti-America), Culture, DVD - Light, Reviews (DVD Only)

Richard NixonDrew Me In and Fasciated Me, February 4, 2008

Sean Penn

I was offered a free rental today, and casting around for something I had never seen before, I grabbed this one thinking it would be about how Nixon was outed from office, not actually assassinated. I put it in on background as I struggled with creating the index to a 550 page new book, and within 15 minutes I stopped and the movie had my undivided attention.

Sean Penn is perfect, deep, emotional, and inspires commitment to the movie and to his plight as a failure who is honest. As I am a student of how “honest” governments are in fact a form of legalized organized crime, I may have appreciated this movie more than most, but I do not hesitate to recommend it to anyone. What price integrity?

Other DVDs that have captured my imagination (we are limited to ten links) include:
Death of a President (Widescreen)
Fight Club (Widescreen Edition)
A Man Called Horse
The Last Samurai (Two-Disc Special Edition)
Lawrence of Arabia (Single Disc Edition)
Lord of War (Full Screen)
The Snow Walker

Review: What We Say Goes

5 Star, America (Anti-America), Crime (Government), Culture, Research, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback
Amazon Page
Amazon Page
5.0 out of 5 stars Dick Cheney Pulls Noam Chomsky to the Center (Relatively Speaking)
October 18, 2007
Noam Chomsky
Edit of 15 Jun 09 to correct factual error in original review (nuclear deal with Iran under Gerald Ford, not Ronald Reagan, in 1974).

Chomsky is actually starting to win over the balanced middle with his common sense. I have long respected him, but it took Dick Cheney and his merry band of nakedly amoral and obliviously delusional henchmen to really bring home to America how much his straight talk and logical thinking can help us.

There is virtually no repetition from past works. This series of interviews took place in 2006 and early 2007, and I found a great deal here worth noting.

* In 70 New York Times editorials on Iraq, not once did they mention international law or the United Nations Charter. He uses this and several other examples to show how pallid, how myopic, how unprofessional our mainstream media has become.

* A wonderful section talks about how civil *obedience* of immoral and illegal orders is our biggest challenge in this era, and I agree. The “failure of generalship” in the Pentagon resulted from a well-meaning but profoundly misdirected confusion of loyalty to the civilian chain of command, however lunatic, with the integrity that each of our senior swore to the Constitution and to We the People in their Oath of Office.

* His knowledge of Lebanon, a country I have come to love as representative of all that is good in the Middle East, is most helpful. His many remarks, all documented, make it clear that Israel has been abducting people for decades, and that the Lebanese have quite properly come to equate US “freedom” with the “kiss of death.” I am especially impressed with his discussion of Hezbollah as having legitimacy based on providing social services to those ignored by past governments, and as having a significant strategic value to Iran as a flank on Israel. His observations on how the US consistently refuses to recognize honest elections that do not go as the policymakers (not the US public) wish, are valid.

* He reminds us that the US made an enormous strategic mistake in using Saudi Arabian extremist Islam as a counterpoint to Nasser’s natural Arab nationalism. As Robert Baer puts it, we see no evil and slept with the devil like a common whore lusting for oil.

* His comments on China and the Shi’ites who sit on most of the reserves (including Saudi reserves in one corner of that country, are provocative. I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that the USA needs to cede the oil to China and execute a Manhattan Project to leverage solar power from space, tidal power, air power, and–for storage–hydrogen power made with renewable resources.

* Chomsky’s comments on Chavez track with my own understanding. Chavez is a serious and well-off revolutionary who is sharing energy with his Latin American brethren, and leading the independence of Latin America from the overbearing and often hypocritical and predatory US government and US multinational corporations.

* He offers compelling thoughts on how India is sacrificing hundreds of thousands of poor rural people who now commit suicide or migrate to cities after losing their lands, for the sake of the high technology investments. I wonder why India is not doing more to teach the poor “one cell call at a time.”

* His observations on US electoral fraud are brilliant. He points out that the fact that elections are stolen is much less important than the fact that the entire electoral process in the US is fraudulent, without substance, only posturing and platitudes.

* He discusses how the US public is completely divorced from the policy choices of the dual tyranny of the US (political) government and the US corporate sector.

* At every turn Chomsky offers common sense observations, for instance, Pakistan, not Iran, is vastly more likely to leak nuclear capabilities to jihadists. In passing, he points out that it was the US that gave the Shah of Iran an entire MIT nuclear program and substantive assistance that is now being harvested by Iran, in 1975. Kissinger, Cheney,Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz as well as Gerald Ford are mentioned by name.

* He observes that Israeli influence is vastly larger than the lobbying effort, because the entire US intellectual network has “bought into” the Israeli myths and lies. The American fascists (see American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America), the Christian fundamentalists, are actually anti-Semitic, but support Israel because of their belief in the apocalypse.

* The Internet is having a pernicious effect on dialog and debate and compromise, because it creates little cul-de-sacs for lunatics of like mind to find and reinforce one another, divorced from larger realities.

* Avian flu (and our lack of preparation for it) is vastly more dangerous than a nuclear event. (See my review of the DVD Pandemic).

* Missile “defense” is actually code for allowing a first strike by the US on Russia or China, as a means to moderating their counter-strike. This is the first time I have heard it put this way, and I agree. All Americans should oppose “missile defense.”

* State secrecy is about keeping our own citizens ignorant of the crimes being done “in our name” not about keeping secrets from the enemies we a re covertly screwing over time and again.

* Darfur is being dumbed down, at the same time that the *millions* being genocided in the Congo are being ignored.

* He ends on two good notes. Like Thomas Jefferson (A Nation’s best defense is an educated citizenry”) he says that “educating the American people is the main thing to be done,” and love of the people is fundamental.

Great book, completely fresh and absolutely worth reading for the mainstream that might have in the past written Chomsky off as a perennial leftist, which he is not. Chomsky is what we must all seek to be: an educated engaged citizen.

See also:
Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency
The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America’s Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11
Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil
The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (The American Empire Project)
Rogue Nation: American Unilateralism and the Failure of Good Intentions
State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III
Bush’s Brain
Why We Fight

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Review DVD: The Wind and the Lion

5 Star, America (Anti-America), Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Reviews (DVD Only)

DVD Wind Lion5.0 out of 5 stars Honor Above War, Love Above Loyalty

August 24, 2007

Sean Connery, Chris Aller

I sometimes tire of non-fiction (reality) and escape into DVDs, but many of them are either reality or a sembalnce of reality that merits respect. This is such a film.

I would also add a note of caution to those who would demean this film as “corny.” NOT right. This film was ahead of its time. In this film, the moderate Islamists (represented by Sean Connery) are upset with foreign presence (Western Europe), and the USA with its bully Theodore and its aggressive Marines, are in the wrong until the Marines are led back on track by the female American protagonist (Candice Bergen) and free the Lion of Islam to fight again.

TAKEAWAY: Americans can be, are, morally wrong (as are all immoral predatory nations), and moderate Islamists are, in their own place that we have invaded, morally correct. Our God is NOT, as LtGen Jerry Boykin, one of my top five greatest generals ever (out of 75 or so I have known, most never more than a Colonel with a facelift) greater than theirs. Our God is CO-Equal to theirs, and the sooner we put Dick Cheney and Henry Kissinger behind bars, the sooner we eliminate our 750 bases overseas, the sooner the world can restore balance. Legitimacy and morality are the two strategic pillars that America has abondoned its in prostitution to Saudi oil and 42 of 44 dictators, and we can never be America the Beautiful, America the Good, unless we right ourselves.

As a patriotic estranges Republican I will say this clearly: America and Israel are the scourges of the world, followed by Saudi Aribia. We have sown the dragon’s teeth, and I weep for what we have become: virtual colonialists, unilateralist military confusing might with right, and a cheating culture that ignores the class war led by our predatory immoral Wall Street band of merry thieves laundering drug money and covering up the complicity of Dick Cheney and Rudy Gulliani in the murder of most who died on 9-11 from controlled demolitions (NYC) or a missile (the Pentagon).

Where, or where, is the American Eagle that we need so desperately? See the image I have posted above to understand where we need to go if our children, if all children, are to have a future.

Other DVDs (see also my lists):
Tibet – Cry of the Snow Lion
Why We Fight
Gandhi (Widescreen Two-Disc Special Edition)
The Last Samurai (Full Screen Edition)

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Review: Wars of Blood and Faith–The Conflicts That Will Shape the 21st Century

5 Star, America (Anti-America), Asymmetric, Cyber, Hacking, Odd War, Civil Affairs, Country/Regional, Culture, DVD - Light, Diplomacy, Force Structure (Military), Future, Geography & Mapping, History, Insurgency & Revolution, Intelligence (Government/Secret), Military & Pentagon Power, Misinformation & Propaganda, Religion & Politics of Religion, Security (Including Immigration), Terrorism & Jihad, Threats (Emerging & Perennial), Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution, War & Face of Battle

Blood and Faith5.0 out of 5 stars You Can Read This More Than Once, and Learn Each Time

July 22, 2007

Ralph Peters

Ralph Peters is one of a handful of individuals whose every work I must read. See some others I recommend at the end of this review. Ralph stands alone as a warrior-philosopher who actually walks the trail, reads the sign, and offers up ground truth.

This book is deep look at the nuances and the dangers of what he calls the wars of blood and faith. The introduction is superb, and frames the book by highlighting these core matters:

* Washington has forgotten how to think.
* The age of ideology is over. Ethnic identity will rule.
* Globalization has contradictory effects. Internet spreads hatred and dangerous knowledge (e.g. how to make an improvised explosive device).
* The post-colonial era has begun.
* Women’s freedom is the defining issue of our time.
* There is no way to wage a bloodless war.
* The media can now determine the war’s outcome. I don’t agree with the author on everything, this is one such case. If the government does not lie, the cause is just, and the endeavor is effectively managed, We the People can be steadfast.

A couple of expansions. I recently posted a list of the top ten timeless books at the request of a Stanford ’09, and i7 includes Philip Allott’s The Health of Nations: Society and Law beyond the State. Deeper in the book the author has an item on Blood Borders, and it tallies perfectly with Allott’s erudite view that the Treaty of Westphalia was a huge mistake–instead of creating artificial states (5000 distinct ethnic groups crammed into 189+ artificial political entities) we should have gone instead with Peoples and especially Indigenous Peoples whose lands and resources could not be stolen, only negotiated for peacefully. Had the USA not squandered a half trillion dollars and so many lives and so much good will, a global truth and reconciliation commission, combined with a free cell phone to every woman among the five billion poor (see next paragraph) could conceivably have achieved a peaceful reinvigoration of the planet with liberty and justice for peoples rather than power and wealth for a handful.

The author’s views on the importance of women stem from decades of observation and are supported by Michael O’Hanlon’s book, A Half Penny on the Federal Dollar: The Future of Development Aid, in which he documents that the single best return on investment for any dollar is in the education of women. They tend to be secular, appreciate sanitation and nutrition and moderation in all things. The men are more sober, responsible, and productive when their women are educated. THIS, not unilateral militarism, virtual colonialism, and predatory immoral capitalism, should be the heart of our foreign policy.

The book is organized into sections I was not expecting but that both make sense, and add to the whole. Part I is 17 short pieces addressing the Twenty-First Century Military. Here the author focuses on the strategic, lambastes Rumsfeld for not listening, and generally overlooks the fact that all our generals and admirals failed to be loyal to the Constitution and instead accepted illegal orders based on lies.

In Part II, Iraq and Its Neighbors, we have 24 pieces. The best piece by far in terms of provocative strategic value is “Blood Borders: How a Better Middle East Would Look.” Curiously he does not address Syria or Lebanon, but I expect he will since the Syrians just evacuated Lebanon and Syria and Iran appear to be planning for a pincer movement on Baghdad after they cut the ground supply line from Kuwait.

A handful of pieces, 5 in all, are grouped in Part III, The Home Front. The best two for me were “Our Strategic Intelligence Problem” in which he points out that more money and more technology are NOT going to make us smarter, it is humans with history, culture, language, and eyes on the target that will tease out the nuances no satellite can handle. He also points out how easily our satellites are deceived. I share his anguish in the piece on “Lynching the Marines.” I called and emailed the Colonel at HQMC in charge of the defense, and offered a heat stress defense that I had just learned about from a NASA engineer helping firefighters. If the body gets too hot, the brain starts to fry, and irrational behavior is the norm. The Colonel declined to acknowledge. That told me all I needed to know about how the Marines were all too eager to hang their own.

Part V was the most unfamiliar to me, covering Israel and Hezbollah. In 17 pieces, the author, an avowed supporter of Israel, pulls no punches, tarring and feathering the Israelis for being corrupt (selling off their military supplies on the black market (to whom, one wonders, since the only people in the market are terrorists?) confident the US will resupply them) and militarily and politically incompetent. To which I would add economically stupid and morally challenged–Stealing 50% of the water Israel uses to do farming that is under 5% of the GDP is both nuts and short-sighted. See the brief by Chuck Spinney at OSS.Net.

Part V, The World Beyond, is a philosophical tour of the horizon, from water wars and plagues (see my lists for books on each of the ten threats, twelve policies, and eight challengers), to precision knifing of Russia, France, and Europe. Darfur, one of over 15 genocides being ignored right now (Darfur because Sudan pretends to be helping on terrorism and the US does not have the will or the means to be effective there) is touched on.

The book ends marvelously with a piece on “The Return of the Tribes,” a piece that emphasizes the role of religion and the exclusivity of cults and specific localized tribes. They don’t want to be integrated nor do they want new members.

Robert Young Pelton’s The World’s Most Dangerous Places: 5th Edition (Robert Young Pelton the World’s Most Dangerous Places)
Sleeping with the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude
Deliver Us from Evil: Peacekeepers, Warlords and a World of Endless Conflict
Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA
The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (The American Empire Project)
The Fifty-Year Wound: How America’s Cold War Victory Has Shaped Our World
Resource Wars: The New Landscape of Global Conflict With a New Introduction by the Author
Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy

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Review: The Lucifer Principle–A Scientific Expedition into the Forces of History (Paperback)

5 Star, America (Anti-America), Complexity & Catastrophe, History, Religion & Politics of Religion, Science & Politics of Science, Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution

Amazon Page
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5.0 out of 5 stars Time to Dust This One Off–Anticipated Radical Islam and Offers Core Ideas for Surviving,

April 9, 2006
Howard Bloom
Buy and read this book if for no other reason than that the author foresaw the global radicalization of Islam against the West in terms much starker than Samuel Huntington’s clash of civilizations and much broader than Yossef Bodansky’s brilliant tome on “Bin Laden: the Man Who Declared War on America.

Leon Uris is quoted on the cover as saying that this book is “an act of astonishing intellectual courage,” and I will say that the author has pulled together an extraordinary collage of details in an intricately assembled “story” in which he challenges the assumptions of a number of major conventional intellects. There are 58 “parts” to this book, each part between two and six pages long, with an astounding array of multi-disciplinary quotes and footnotes. No scared ox goes ungored.

Some of the history in this book, of the origin of Mohammed as a possible lunatic and then a vengeful warrior using religion to grab real estate, and of the early split between Sunni and Shiite over the issue of the succession, is very useful today.

The author centers the disparate and very broad-ranging pieces of the book on three core ideas: Earth as a superorganism within which a tribe or religion is itself a superorganism; memes as unifying ideas that create us versus them for the sake of changing the pecking order and feeding off weaker tribes, and–in the only optimistic note in the book, at the end, of collaboration and information sharing as the only means to break out of the pattern of dog eat dog.

He specifically slams religion, and especially fundamentalist religion, as a false god that substitutes faith for control, and as a tool of controlling elites who need to keep the impoverished masses from waking up to the raw fact that masses of people can indeed “take over” factories and estates.

On page 94 the following quote struck me as applying equally to George Bush and Osama Bin Laden: “Leaders like Orville Faubus and Fidel Castro have skillfully manipulated a few basic rules of human nature: that every tribe regards outsiders as fair game; that every society gives permission to hate; that each culture dresses the demon of hatred in the garb of righteousness; and that the man who channels this hatred can rouse the superorganism and lead it around by the nose.”

There are numerous gifted phrases throughout this book, and I can understand the frustration of some in absorbing this dizzying array of data points, but it is surely worth making the effort.

He makes much of the evolution of the brain from reptile (survival) to mammalian (social) to primate (individual) and emphasizes that even the most advanced humans still have all three brains in some form, with the lower forms subject to arousal.

Overall I rate this book one of the ten most useful books relevant to understanding and defeating radical Islam, which the author says is “a meme growing ravenous,” a sleeping giant that has been awakened. He goes back in time to look at how the US, in forcing the French and English to give up the Suez Canal, actually helped inspire Arabia to plan for a day when the West might be sent packing. Similar, the first Gulf War, when the Coalition defeated Iraq, undermined secular Moslem regimes, and further inspired Islamic fundamentalists.

In the author’s view we erred gravely in not understanding the asymmetric scope of the threat of Bin Laden and post-Taliban Afghanistan, and we appear to have erred in a truly gigantic way in not seeing that the second Gulf War was in fact doing Iran’s bidding and accomplishing something Iran could never have done on its own. The author views Bin Laden as having replaced Russia as a “friend” to the Third World, and anticipates both a rapid spread of Islam among the poor, and a plague of animosity toward to the USA specifically.

The book includes a fascination discussion of psycho-social aspects of nations and tribes and other social groups including religions. While some have been derisive of his discussion of “pecking orders” I believe–having lived overseas most of my life–that he nails it. Not only does instability cause the accepted pecking order to go out the window, but prosperity actually destabilizes established pecking orders. When we eventually implement the grand vision of Jeffrey Sachs (see my review of “The End of Poverty” we will need to be very mindful of the animal force that will be unleashed at the same time, and not make the mistake we made in Iraq, of failing to plan for stabilization and reconstruction.

The last two ideas in this book that really grabbed me are from page 292, on how America began a perceptual shut-down and decline from 1973 onwards, culminating in the cheating culture and lazy obese children and parents that are the bane of most teachers’ lives today. America is in “slow” mode and has lost its competitive drive.

The book was hugely ambitious, and it is easy to be snide, as some reviewers are, but I for one found this as close to genius and as close to breath-taking intellectual derring-do as any book I have read in a while. If America is to survive the multiple threats to the Republic, it will take leaders capable of reading and understanding this book, and implementing a 100 year strategy for winning the six front war, beginning on the home front with a draconian reform of our educational and information sharing and distance learning environment.

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Review: Death to America–The Unreported Battle of Iraq (Paperback)

5 Star, America (Anti-America)

Amazon Page
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5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary Work for a Teen-Ager–Future Brilliant Analyst,

October 30, 2005
Ryan Mauro
NOTE: This review superceeds the written review in my third book, INFORMATION OPERATIONS: All Information, All Languages, All the Time.

I lost patience with this book after an hour of careful scrutiny of the notes and the assesertions within each chapter. However, while a mature analyst would normally receive only three stars for this work, because the author is only 19 and has done hundreds of hours of work, very good work despite the source issues, I rate this as 5 stars and a special read.

I happen to know and admire Yossef Bodansky, whose book provides the intellectual underpining for much of the book. Bodansky is the only speaker in history to be invited to address my annual conference three times, largely because of his path-finding work on Bin Laden’s declaring war on America, something the CIA and FBI refused to take seriously and still do not. Where Bodansky fails, as does this diligent and intelligent young author, is in falling prey to the false sources that claim Saddam Hussein was an active supporter of Bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Iran, Egypt, Jordan, and Pakistan are much closer to Al Qaeda, and of course their parent, Saudi Arabia.

The author is a talented young man. We have exchanged emails. I respect his intellect and his diligence, but I fear that his judgement remains somewhat immature. Virtually everyone he cites in his acknowledgements or his notes can be linked to Israeli defense committees, neo-conservative think tanks, or Jewish pro-Israel advocacy groups. This book is, in effect if not in intent (I see the author as being unwitting of the pernicious effects of his limited circle of contacts), a propaganda tract. I would go so far as to say that a substantial number of sources that he relies on are part of a nuanced and sophisticated Israeli covert action propaganda operation, in deliberate and careful connivance with the worst of the neoconservatives (the top ones having been on Israeli’s payroll years ago and perhaps still today).

It fails on three levels: first, it attempts to document deep and sustained relations between Sadaam Hussein and Al Qaeda. The author’s sources are generally well-known neo-cons and Jewish sources that have been discredited by, among others, CIA analyst Michael Scheur, of “Anonymous” fame, and CIA case officer Robert Bauer, who has actually been heavily engaged face to face with people this young man only knows indirectly.

Second, it supports Chalabi, the Iranian agent of influence, and claims that Jordan is trying to discredit Chalabi. The book avoids telling us that Chalabi worked under CIA funding and was fired for being a liar and a thief of funds intended for the Iraqui democratic movement; and it fails to tell us that Chalabi was convicted in absentia by Jordon of stealing millions of dollars in a bank fraud scheme.

Third, the author parrots the neo-con line on Iraq continuing to have active weapons of mass destruction capabilities, something every other adult on the planet has realized was not true–we were lied to by the White House and the neo-cons, and Dick Cheney may yet be forced to resign for his lies and his mis-direction of U.S. national security policy and behavior. We did a formal study for the U.S. Government on where the Iraqi program wents, and our conclusions were quite straight-forward: they destroyed the stocks, kept the cook-books, and exported the bulk of their experts to Amman, Jordan and to Birmingham, England. Some stocks may well have gone to Russia, Algeria, and Syria, but on balance, the relative of Hussein who defected and then was killed by Hussein when he re-defected home, had it right: the knowledge but not the capability remained. Iraq was not a threat to the US or to Israel.

The book reads well. Neo-cons and Jews who equate Israel’s survival with America’s survival will love it. This is not, however, a book that can be relied upon. It lacks a table of contents and an index, and its sources are largely Internet blogs and Op-Ed material from neo-conservative and pro-Israeli sources.

There are numerous turns of phrase that betray the author’s naivete, including his suggestion that Bin Laden was a “super-star” as early as 1990, which is not the case. Major funding for Bin Laden’s fundamentalist activities did not start until 1988. The author fails to give Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld proper credit for transfering to Saddam Hussein all the bio-chemical capabilities he desired in his war with Iran and his genocide against the Kurds during earlier Administrations.

What we have here is a good-hearted young savant who is being show-cased by neo-cons and their Jewish-Zionist allies. When he matures, and has access to better and more balanced sources in many more languages, he will surely be a superb analyst. Right now he is simply a pawn in the great game, an attractive, personable, intelligent, diligent individual who is being used to further agendas that are not in the best interests of America. We like and admire him. We have cautioned him about the company he is keeping. We wish him well and are *certain* of his future success.

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Review: Global Outrage–The Origins and Impact of World Opinion from the 1780s to the 21st Century (Paperback)

4 Star, America (Anti-America)

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4.0 out of 5 stars Misleading Title, Difficult Read, Useful Observations,

October 25, 2005
Peter Stearns
The title is misleading–Global Outrage is a bit strong–the book is actually a very long narrative about the emergence of “world opinion,” a phrase that appears innumberable times on every page. it is therefore a difficult read with no illustrations, charts, or tables. Somewhat tedious.

Removing one star, then, the book is never-the-less quite interesting in its topic, which the author says has not been systematically reviewed in the past, and its findings. The author reviews the early days of anti-slavery, women’s rights, labor rights, child labor, and the environment, concluding with the new campaigns against McDonald’s wrappers, sweatshops, and Central American death squads.

Among the gems that made the purchase and the effort worthwhile:

1) World opinion, when it does mobilize, is generally right.

2) World opinion is insufficient to deter a great power such as the USA from its chosen course, but it can impose great and lasting costs on that power as time goes on.

3) World opinion is equally helpless against local customs and conditions, including the economic need for child labor and the deep cultural attachment to female mutilation in some regions.

4) World opinion is a force that rises and ebbs, whose tools and techniques change across issues and times, but it is a constant force in that it exists and it can have an impact.

5) World opinion has been reduced in force by the demise of the U.S. Information Agency and the once powerful labor unions whose AFL-CIO did so much to nurture labor rights around the globe. I had two thoughts as I contemplated this observation: first, that the US and the multinationals were short-sighted in ending the one and crushing the other–it is only now that we appreciate the intangible power for good they both represented; and second, as we grapple with the needs of Public Diplomacy and Strategic Communication, it is clear we need to reinvent both.

6) The book excels at pointing out across several examples that world opinion is powered by information sharing. The most important information sharing is from the bottom up–from those who are persecuted to the outside world, and then back again in the form of petitions, letters, emails, etc. Information sharing is also important across national and cultural boundaries, helping raises expectations and standards as well as the costs of non-compliance with expectations.

7) Finally, “world opinion” is put forth by the author as the means by which humanity agrees on common standards and expectations that co-exist with regional and cultural differences, and provide a shared vision for humanity.

I found the author’s concluding suggestions quite relevant to the global Information Operations campaign that the USA is about to embark upon: he suggested that we need to research as deeply and broadly as possible where popular opinion rests on a wide variety of issues, and use that as a benchmark for evaluating the acceptability and sustainability of governmental politices as well as corporate practices; and we should, at least once a decade, examine the organizations, tools, and techniques of “world opinion” to see who they are changing, and if they are changing in the composition of constituencies or the focus of effort.

Concluding, the author is slightly optemistic about “world opinion” being a countervailing force against both militant Americans and radical Islamists, but he notes that “world opinion” is by no means a steady or assured power, only one that will have some form of influence, always varied.

This is an academic work, with a good index, notes, and recommended readings for each chapter. It can be tough going, but all things considered, a useful reading on that intangible power called “world opinion.”

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Review: Why the Rest Hates the West–Understanding the Roots of Global Rage (Paperback)

5 Star, America (Anti-America), Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback

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5.0 out of 5 stars Sane, Calm, Reasoned, Useful,

September 26, 2005
Meic Pearse
It takes a great deal of education, experience, and faith to write a book such as this. Originally a series of lectures, the author has developed some useful, and calmly articulated, thoughts on both why there is a disconnect between the “West” and “the Rest,” and why the West is on a downward spiral to oblivion in practical terms, with the triple whammy of declining birth rates (non-replenishment), increased longevity (generally among those who are not necessarily productive in their older years), and substantial apathy among the self-absorbed, self-righteous, and largely clueless teen-agers and 20-30 “me me me” generation.

There are many books that I have reviewed here for Amazon that support this author’s personal reflections, and his citations of those books that did stimulate him are more than adequate. A few themes made by the author strike me as worthy of emphasis, for they provide a road-map for any Western society that wishes to survive into the 22nd century:

1) Morality matters. It is a historical force. Will and Ariel Durant emphasized this in their “Lessons of History,” and many strategic confrontations have borne out the point. Tribes and nations that become amoral ultimately decline and fall.

2) Western myopia cannot be understated. The ignorance of the West regarding global realities and the relationship between Western behavior (inclusive of US support for 44 dictators, immoral and predatory capitalism, virtual colonialism, and the general view of others that the West is “barbaric” in sexual and other matters of fidelity and integrity) and how others view is simply unrealistic.

3) The West fails to understand that the rest of the world, where faith and integrity and loyalty to the family and tribe are often all that keeps the entire society from disintegrating in the face of more primitive environments that we ourselves experience, wants to be modern but not Western–modern with cultural cohesion, not modern with the commoditization of the individual, which both the author of Lionel Tiger (“The Manufacture of Evil”) credit with destroying family, community, tribe, and nation.

4) The author excels at discussion how Western individuals today have lost the context of history, the reverence for tradition, the utility of specified morality. Westerners are “out of touch” with the lessons of history, out of touch with the implications of our selfish decisions in the present that have implications for the future generations.

5) The author discusses competing concepts of legitimacy, and here he goes into nuances all too often lacking in “objective” Western analysis of competing social models. He sees the value of personal versus impersonal authority in the context of societies where bureaucracy is not yet developed and kinship remains the foundation for trust.

6) The author, educated at Oxford, would agree with Philip Alcott, brilliant Cambridge scholar and author of “Health of Nations,” in dismissing most nations as false constructs inconsistent with their tribal and religious networks and beliefs. This is as true of the “Nine Nations of North America” (Joel Garreau) as it is of most of Africa, where colonialism heritage is that of inevitable genocide.

The author concludes, as one would expect of a Christian moralist, that “Nothing less than a massive cultural reversal is necessary. We need to rejoin the rest of the human race.” He focuses on the renewed relevance of religious and moral vision, and here he would find common cause with David Johnson, distinguished author of books on “Faith-Based Diplomacy” and the vital role of religion in fostering reasoned dialog between West and East.

Apart from restoring the role of morality within our over-all culture, the author concludes that we must become informed–like it or not, our lives are bound up with those of everyone else all over the world. Here he is in tight agreement with both President David Boren (former Senator) of the University of Oklahoma, and David Gergen, advisor to multiple Presidents of the United States (most of whom did not listen too well). We must internationalize and modernize our educational system, restore the importance of history and international studies, and give life to the finding of E. O. Wilson from “Consilience,” to wit, that the sciences demand the humanities if they are to be in the service of humanity.

This is a most thoughtful book, reverent in its arguments, one that reminds us all of the value that can be had from listening to or reading the careful reflections of a man of the cloth, born in Wales, educated in England, and now speaking to all of us.

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Review: Dying to Win–The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism (Hardcover)

5 Star, America (Anti-America), Atrocities & Genocide, Consciousness & Social IQ, Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Terrorism & Jihad, Truth & Reconciliation, Voices Lost (Indigenous, Gender, Poor, Marginalized)

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5.0 out of 5 stars Original–A Major Contribution to Understanding,

July 12, 2005
Robert Pape
The University of Chicago is an extraordinary institution–the author, employed there, lives up to their reputation for methodical, scholarly, useful reflections grounded firmly in the facts. This work significantly advances our understanding of terrorism and of the three forms of suicidal terrorism: egotistic, altruistic, and fatalistic. The author documents his findings that most suicidal terrorists are altruistic, well-educated, nationalistically-motivated, and fully witting and dedicated to their fatal mission as a service to their community.

Of the 563 books I have reviewed–all in national security and global issues, and all but four among the best books in the field–this new work by Professor Pape stands out as startlingly original, thoughtful, useful, and directly relevant to the clear and present danger facing America: an epidemic of suicidal terrorism spawned by the “virtual colonialism” of the US in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and now Iraq as well as other countries.

I will not repeat the excellent listing of facts in the Book Description provided by the publisher–certainly that description should be read carefully. If you are a Jewish zealot, don’t bother, you will not get over the cognitive dissonance. Everyone else, including Muslim, Protestant, and Catholic contributors to Congressional and Presidential campaign funds, absolutely must read this book.

There are many other books that support the author’s key premises, all well-documented with case studies and the most complete and compelling statistics–known facts. I am persuaded by the author’s big three:

1) Suicidal terrorism correlates best with U.S. military occupation of specific countries that tend to be undemocratic and corrupt, where the U.S. in collusion with dictators and one-party elites are frustrating legitimate national aspirations of the larger underclass and middle class;

2) Virtually all of the suicidal terrorists comes from allies of the U.S. (at least nominally–they actually play the U.S. as “useful idiots”) such as Saudi Arabia, rather than Iran;

3) The three premises shared by Hezbollah, Hamas, Al Qaeda, the Tamil Tigers, and now the Iraqi insurgency, are all accurate and will continue to be so if the U.S. does not pull its military out of the Middle East, Pakistan, Indonesia, and other locations:

a) Occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, and virtual colonialism everywhere else, demand martyrdom operations;

b) Conventional inferiority mandates self-sacrifice (not only suicidal terrorism, but other asymmetric attacks including the death of a thousand cuts against key energy, water, and transportation nodes in the USA; and

c) The US and its European allies are vulnerable to coercive pressure. The withdrawal of the Americans and the French from Viet-Nam and then Lebanon, of the Israelis from the West Bank, and other concessions itemized by the author, have all made the case for suicidal terrorism. It works and it will explode.

I will mention several other books to support this author, but wish to stress that alone, his work is spectacularly successful in documenting the fallacies of the U.S. national security policy.

Among the books that support him are
Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror
The Search for Security: A U.S. Grand Strategy for the Twenty-First Century
Rogue Nation: American Unilateralism and the Failure of Good Intentions
The Fifty-Year Wound: How America’s Cold War Victory Has Shaped Our World
The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (The American Empire Project)
Tactics of the Crescent Moon: Militant Muslim Combat Methods
Understanding Terror Networks
The Global Class War: How America’s Bipartisan Elite Lost Our Future – and What It Will Take to Win It Back
The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People

This is a core reading for every officer at STRATCOM and SOCOM, and for anyone who wishes to be effective at either Public Diplomacy or Strategic Communication or Information Operations. This author should be an invited distinguished funded speaker at every single war college in the Western democracies. We cannot win without listening to him. Military withdrawals, combined with energy independence, are essential. Without them, we not only will not fully defeat the current crop of suicidal terrorists, but we will, in attempting to deal with the current threat with old counter-productive and heavy-handed means, give birth to hundreds of thousands in the next generation of suicidal terrorists.

There are not enough guns in the world to win this one, even if we had competent intelligence at the neighborhood level, which we do not. In keeping with the author’s recommendations, it is clear that moral capitalism, informed democracy, equanimity toward bottom up movements for national liberation and an end to corruption, an honest policy process in Washington, D.C.–these are the keys to victory.

This is a towering accomplishment and a major contribution to strategic thinking.

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Review: Anti-Americanism

5 Star, America (Anti-America)

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5.0 out of 5 stars Sets New Standard For What Can and Should be Known,

January 31, 2005
Jean-Francois Revel
Edit of 20 Dec 07 to add links.

This author, this book, are extraordinary. His is the kind of intellect that Harry Truman had in mind when CIA was created, with its motto, from John 8:32, regarding the importance of truth. Get the facts. This author is a master of the facts, and I am somewhat ashamed, having fallen prey to “facts” from others, that I should have to learn these facts from a Frenchman.

On every page there is an eye-opener, and what I came to realize is that this author is demonstrating what public diplomacy *should* be in America–on every single page he compares and contrasts what anti-Americans are claiming against America, what the real facts are, and what the facts are for Europe, where it is oh so fashionable to be critical of America when in fact Europe has done far less for the world, and for its own people.

Four facts stand out that bear emphasis, for they represent what this author has done so well with this book:

1) Europe provides four times the subsidies for its farmers than does America for American farmers.

2) Africa has received the equivalent of a hundred Marshall Plans since World War II, only to squander them all in corruption.

3) The US Senate rejected the Kyoto Treaty under Clinton, not Bush, and Clinton’s executive order leaving Bush holding the bag as a deliberate political gambit.

4) There is a one to one correlation between globalization and the improvement of the lot of the poor in the least developed countries.

Now, having “accepted” some of this author’s fact, which correct “facts” I had previously accepted, what really hit home with me is that we need to get all these facts on the table, subject to the collective intelligence of the people, and we need to do a much better job of communicating the facts to both our own domestic public, and the international audience. “Public diplomacy” in America stinks, in part because Otto Reich thinks he can do public diplomacy by assertion rather than by demonstration. Facts–open source intelligence–is what will work. The Department of State is not doing its homework, precisely because it refuses to be serious about open sources of information and the process of distilling information into overt intelligence.

The book is sometimes tedious but always rewarding. It is here that I learn that the Algerian terrorists were frustrated in 1994 in their plans to hijack an airplane and fly it into the Eiffel Tower. It is here that I see, explained in excellent context, the term “hyperterrorism.” It is here that I see discussed as some length the “myth of Muslim moderation,” and where I also see a persuasive condemnation of multi-culturalism and bi-lingual education.

I recommend this book be read in conjunction with Lee Harris, Civilization and Its Enemies: The Next Stage of History. Jean-Francois Revel helps us see the history of the past as we should: America with warts, but triumphant. Lee Harris helps us see the history of the future as we should: America at risk, unless it becomes ruthless at the same time that it faces reality.

This book has forced me to re-evaluate a great deal of what I took to be “scholarship” that I now realize needs to be subjected to much closer scrutiny. We need more facts on the public table. This book is a good starting point for all of us.

See also:
Fog Facts: Searching for Truth in the Land of Spin
Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’
The Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past
The Lessons of History: The Most Important Insights from the Story of Civilization

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Review: Osama’s Revenge–THE NEXT 9/11 : What the Media and the Government Haven’t Told You

4 Star, 9-11 Truth Books & DVDs, America (Anti-America), Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Media, Misinformation & Propaganda, Security (Including Immigration), Terrorism & Jihad

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Amazon Page

4.0 out of 5 stars Third of Three “Must Reads” on Bin Laden and Threat to USA,

August 13, 2004
Paul L. Williams
This is the third of three books that I am reviewing today and that I strongly recommend be read by every adult in America. The first two, in order of priority, are Mahmood Mamdani’s Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror and CIA Anonymous Executive Analyst, Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror. I should add that terror is a tactic, not an enemy, it is impossible to win a war against a tactic.

What this book does is piece together all of the English-language reports over the past ten years or so regarding the probabilities and specifics of Bin Laden and Al Qaeda’s having acquired several forms or portable nuclear devices. Although some reviewers have slammed this book for being fictional, they do not know what they are talking about. The FACTS are that the Soviet general officer responsible for the 100 suitcase nuclear bombs designed for Spetznatz use, some pre-positioned in the USA, has said publicly, in writing, and on more than one occasion that 66 of those are unaccounted for.

I took one star off for excessive reliance on two secondary sources, both excellent but never-the-less cited too often, and the commensurate lack of attention to foreign language materials that could have deepened this study considerably, especially when one takes into account the CIA executive analyst’s comments in IMPERIAL HUBRIS regarding the straight truth-telling that can be found in Bin Laden’s Arabic-language postings. “Nuclear hell storm” is out there (the author does cite this), and we had better take this more seriously than our government has.

The author opens with a notional “letter to America” from Bin Laden that is based on Bin Laden’s actual statements (as itemized in IMPERIAL HUBRIS) and is alone worth the price of the book. If we don’t take a long hard look at ourselves and correct the misbehavior that is radicalizing over a billion Muslims, we will not (not!) win this war.

The author does a really fine job, not just of amassing and stringing together a coherent story of Bin Laden’s likely possession of nuclear capabilities, but also of showing the inter-relationship between the Afghanistan drug fields that the U.S. Government has stupidly allowed to flourish, the Pakistani production facilities that take the opium to a “Number 4” level of quality, and criminal organizations as well as corrupt governments everywhere that facilitate Bin Laden’s operations. The roles of Russia, Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan (especially Pakistan) in facilitating the storage, refurbishment, and technical maintenance of the purchased nuclear elements are covered in a manner that persuades me–this is a very real threat.

The book is a useful compilation of both mistakes by the US, and events taking place from 2002-2004, and it ends with full translated copies of the 23 Aug 96 Fatwa and the related 23 Feb 98 World Islamic Statement. Within the book are some extracts from Al Qaeda training manuals, one portion of which make it clear that the “sleepers” now in the US are specifically forbidden to go to mosques or appear Islamic in any way.

Bottom line, totally consistent with the other two books I recommend: the US needs to meet Bin Laden’s reasonable demands, and redirect its focus from occupying Islamic countries toward cleaning up its own homeland. [I realize that calling Bin Laden’s demands “reasonable” in going to infuriate many people, but I have to say, based on all three books taken as a whole, that all three authors agree on this point, and they have persuaded me. We cannot win if we persist in supporting 44 dictators, occupying Muslim lands, demanding cheap oil at the expense of the Muslim populations, and supporting an Israel that is racist as well as terrorist in nature toward the Palestinians. It is what it is–the sooner we stop deceiving ourselves, and demand that our government get back to the ideals of moral capitalism and truly representative democracy, the sooner we have a chance to avoid this “nuclear hellstorm” that I believe this book credibly documents as a very real possibility.]

See also, with reviews:
Breaking the Real Axis of Evil: How to Oust the World’s Last Dictators by 2025
Blood Money: Wasted Billions, Lost Lives, and Corporate Greed in Iraq
Open Target: Where America Is Vulnerable to Attack
America the Vulnerable: How Our Government Is Failing to Protect Us from Terrorism
Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency
Running on Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It

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Review: Good Muslim, Bad Muslim–America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror

5 Star, America (Anti-America), Culture, Research, Diplomacy, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Religion & Politics of Religion

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5.0 out of 5 stars Inspired, Disciplined, Nuanced, Nobel-Level Thinking,

August 13, 2004
Mahmood Mamdani
This is an inspired, disciplined, nuanced, Nobel-level book, and if it ends up saving America from itself, then it would surely qualify the author for the Nobel Peace Prize.

This is the first of three “must read” books that I am reviewing today, and it is first because the other two are best appreciated after absorbing this one. The other two books are “IMPERIAL HUBRIS” and “OSAMA’S REVENGE.”

The main weakness of this book is the author’s lack of strong criticism of Pakistan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, and of other states that are corrupt, repressive, and therefore a huge part of the problem. Having said that, here are some of the key points:

– “West” pioneered genocide, expulsions, and religious wars, with Spanish genocide of Indians in Americas, and Spanish expulsion of first the Jews and then the Muslims as critical starting points in understanding Muslim rage today
– America adopted terrorism as a preferred means of fighting proxy wars in both Central America and Africa, when Reagan began “rollback” with the same neo-conservative advisors that guide Bush II today.
– West has four dogmas as summed up by Edward Said (who is admired by the author): 1) that Orient is aberrant, undeveloped and inferior; 2) that Orient is inflexibly tied to old religions texts, unable to adapt; 3) that Orient is inflexibly uniform and unable to do nuances; and 4) Orient is either to be feared (Green or Yellow or Brown Peril) or controlled.
– Fundamentalism actually started in the US among the Christians seeking to insert religion into the state’s business and ultimately demanding faith and loyalty as the litmus tests for acceptance.
– Earlier generations of Islamic reformists disavowed violence, but ended up adopting violence after being in state prisons (e.g. Egypt).
– Earlier incarnations of a Muslim revival were in the open literature in the 1920’s and then in the 1960’s, and lastly in the 1980’s to date–our national “intelligence” agencies appear to have missed the importance of all three
– Viet-Nam, Africa, and Central America all fostered extremely unhealthy connections between CIA covert operations and the drug trade, with CIA routinely condoning and often actively enabling massive drug operations and related money laundering, as the “price” of moving forward on covert operations.
– The obsession with winning the Cold War at all costs essentially destroyed U.S. foreign policy and set U.S. up as the enemy of the Third World [see Derek Leebaert’s “The Fifty-Year Wound”].
– Morality in the US has been perverted, as the extreme right, joining with extreme Zionists, has “captured” the U.S. government in both Congressional and Executive terms. Orwellian “spin” together with the labeling of all dissent, made possible by media corporations “going along”, has destroyed any possibility of informed, objective, or actually moral dialog.
– The Central American campaign pioneered the privatization of terrorism and proxy war by the US, with secrecy and deception of the US public being the principal role of the US government.
– The US Government is explicitly accountable for introducing bio-chemical weapons into the Iraqi arsenal, and thus accountable for the genocide and war crimes attendant to their use.
– US (AID) sponsored textbooks, such as those created by the University of Nebraska, routinely used terrorism against Russians as examples in the mathematic and other textbooks being distributed in Afghanistan.
– CIA’s main contribution to the destabilization of the world has been in its Afghan-related privatization of information about how to produce and spread violence, and its training of tens of thousands of jihad warriors from all over the world who have now returned home and are teaching and leading others.
– Under US leadership, Afghanistan has gone from providing 5% of the global opium production in 1980, to 71% in 1990, and even more today–much of which comes to the US.
– America not only accepts massive drug activities as part of the “cost of doing business”, but also ignores human rights in its rush to cozy up to corrupt dictators.
– From an Iraqi point of view, the 1.5 million or so children that died in Iraq due to the sanctions, must be seen as a major war crime and a form of terrorism, together with the air war with its indiscriminate murder of thousands if not tens of thousands civilians including women and children. The US has killed more civilians in Iraq than it did in Japan with two atomic bombs. Napalm and depleted uranium are disabling US troops as well as Iraqi civilians long after their use in the field.
– Economic sanctions, when they have the impact they did in Iraq, must be considered weapons of mass destruction, their application terrorism, and their results war crimes.
– The US Government’s general disdain for the rule of law, but the incumbent Administration’s particular focus on ignoring treaties and refusing accountability (e.g. for war crimes) sets a new low standard for immoral behavior by nation-states.
– The UN Secretary-General was forced by the US to ignore the Rwandan genocide because of a US desire to keep everyone focused on Sarajevo, and continues to us its veto power to prevent UN from being effective against racist Zionism, which is routinely committing crimes against humanity with its Palestinian campaign.

The author concludes, without sounding inflammatory, that America was built on two monumental crimes: the genocide of the Native Americans, and the enslavement of African Americans. His point: the US is in denial over this reality, while the rest of the world is completely aware of it. He agrees with Jonathan Schell, concluding as Schell does in “Unconquerable World,” that the challenge of our times is in “how to subdue and hold accountable the awesome power that the United States built up during the Cold War.” The last sentence is quite powerful: “America cannot occupy the world. It has to learn to live in it.”

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Review: Breaking the Real Axis of Evil–How to Oust the World’s Last Dictators by 2025

6 Star Top 10%, America (Anti-America), Congress (Failure, Reform), Diplomacy, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Military & Pentagon Power, Philosophy, Politics, Power (Pathologies & Utilization), Strategy, Survival & Sustainment, Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution

Amazon Page
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5.0 out of 5 stars Single Most Important Work of the Century for American Moral Diplomacy,

November 30, 2003
Mark Palmer
Edit of 21 Dec 07 to add links and new comment,

New Comment: In my view, this is the single most important work of the century with respect to American moral diplomacy. I note with concern that under Bush-Cheney “Failed States” have increased from 75 in 2005 to 177 in 2007. We’ve lost our mind, and our morals, as a Nation.

Ambassador Mark Palmer puts to rest all those generally unfair stereotypes of Foreign Service Officers as “cookie pushing” softies who fall in love with their host countries and blame America for any flaws in the bi-lateral relationship. With this book he provides an inspiring model for precisely what every Foreign Service Officer should aspire: to understand, to articulate, and then to implement very great goals that serve democracy and help extend the bounty of the American way of life–moral capitalism and shared wealth–to every corner of the world.

This is a detailed and practical book, not just visionary. It is useful and inspiring, not just a personal view. It is also a damning indictment of fifty years of US White House and Congressional politics, where in the name of anti-communism and cheap oil America–regardless of which party has been in power, has been willing to consort with the most despotic, ruthless, murderous regimes in the history of mankind. Still alive today and still very much “friends” of the U.S. Government are dictators that think nothing of murdering millions.

There has been some improvement, offset by an increase in partly free countries. From 69 countries not free at all in 1972 we now have 47. From 38 countries partly free in 1972 we now have 56, many of those remnants of the former Soviet Union. Free countries have nearly doubled from 43 to 89, but free and poor is quite a different thing from free and prosperous.

The level of detail and also of brevity in this book is quite satisfying. On the one hand, Ambassador Palmer provides ample and well-documented discussion of the state of the world, on the other he does not belabor the matter–his one to two-paragraph summative descriptions of each of the dictatorships is just enough, just right.

He distinguishes between Personalistic Dictatorships (20, now less Hussein in Iraq); Monarch Dictators (7, with Saudi Arabia being the first in class); Military Dictators (5, with US allies Sudan and Pakistan and 1 and 2 respectively); Communist Dictators (5); Dominant-Party Dictators (7); and lastly, Theocratic Dictators (1, Iran).

Ambassador Palmer makes several important points with this book, and I summarize them here: 1) conventional wisdom of the past has been flawed–we should not have sacrificed our ideals for convenience; 2) dictatorships produce inordinate amounts of collateral damage that threatens the West, from genocide and mass migrations to disease, famine, and crime; 3) there is a business case to be made for ending U.S. support for dictatorships, in that business can profit more from stable democratic regimes over the long-term; and lastly, 4) that the U.S. should sanction dictators, not their peoples, and we can begin by denying them and all their cronies visas for shopping expeditions in the US.

The book has an action agenda that is worthy, but much more important is the clear and present policy that Ambassador Palmer advocates, one that is consistent with American ideals as well as universal recognition of human rights. Ambassador Palmer’s work, on the one hand, shows how hypocritical and unethical past Administrations have been–both Democratic and Republican–and on the other, he provides a clear basis for getting us back on track.

I agree with his proposition that we should have a new Undersecretary for Democracy, with two Assistant Secretaries, one responsible for voluntary democratic transitions, the other for dealing with recalcitrant dictators. Such an expansion of the Department of State would work well with a similar change in the Pentagon, with a new Undersecretary for Peacekeeping Operations and Complex Emergencies, my own idea.

This is a very fine book, and if it helps future Foreign Service Officers to understand that diplomacy is not just about “getting along” but about making very significant changes in the world at large, then Ambassador Palmer’s work will be of lasting value to us all.

Also recommended, with reviews:
A Power Governments Cannot Suppress
The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People
Blood Money: Wasted Billions, Lost Lives, and Corporate Greed in Iraq
The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (The American Empire Project)
The Fifty-Year Wound: How America’s Cold War Victory Has Shaped Our World
War Is a Racket: The Anti-War Classic by America’s Most Decorated General, Two Other Anti=Interventionist Tracts, and Photographs from the Horror of It
The Paradox of American Power: Why the World’s Only Superpower Can’t Go It Alone
The Tao of Democracy: Using Co-Intelligence to Create a World That Works for All
The World Cafe: Shaping Our Futures Through Conversations That Matter
Faith-Based Diplomacy: Trumping Realpolitik

Forthcoming on Amazon in February and also free at OSS.Net/CIB:
COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace, edited by Mark Tovey with a Foreword by Yochai Benkler and an Afterword by the Rt. Hon. Paul Martin, Prime Minister of Canada. I have high hopes for all of us finally getting it right (Winston Churchill: “The Americans always do the right thing, they just try everything else first.”) Now is our time to get it right. We can start by electing Senator Barack Obama as our forward-thinking always listening open-minded President.

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