Saturday, October 23, 2004

Good News

The Kyoto Treaty passed its final hurde yesterday, with the Russian Duma ratifying it.

This is more important news than even the US elections, Many German news I watched/read gave it the appropiate No. 1 slot, others and US news not.

I wonder about the timing. Before the US elections. What message is that supposed to send? Especially when paired with Putin's expressed support for Bush? (BTW, Bush has now three prominent backers he could do without: Putin, Iran, and - remember the Madrid bombers - al-Qaida.)

The Blairite Self-Deception (Iraq to Barroso)

A large part of the problem is not that the US does not have enough troops but that it does not have any troops trained in peacekeeping.

The above is the key quote in Robin Cook's comment in the Guardian on the British re-deployment of troops in Iraq - troops now put under US command in Central Iraq, to let the Americans have more soldiers against Fallujah. It hits right at the heart of the self-deception of those who argue that US troops must stay to "maintain order" even if the invasion was unjust.

At the core of the Blairite self-deception is the procedure of constantly backing off from your positions by accepting new excuses and reassurances from Bliar et al, excuses and reassurances you will have to back off from in further steps.

This nicely mirrors Bliar's own evolution, who after every lie made up to maintain his (self)image of rightfullness in the face of new facts, seems to soon convince himself about the truth of that lie. So I wonder if Bliar even realises how he destroys his own supposed progressive policies, as he attempts to 'compromise' against powers he fears to take on (powers that don't include public opinion, apprently and sadly, he sees that correctly).

Beyond turning from a campaigner for "ethical foreign policy" into a poodle of the most extremist US administration in years, another example is how he turned from pro-European Labour into a divider and preventer who usually sides with the worst conservative governments.

The worst conservatives are those who incude in their government (Berlusconi of Italy, Schüssel of Austria, Balkenende of The Netherlands) or accept outside support to maintain their minority government (Rasmussen of Denmark, the outside-the-EU Norwegian PM, and Portugal's Barroso) from far-right parties.

And Bliar sided with them in the complex horse-trading behind the choosing of the next head of the European Committee[*]. The best choice would have been the Belgian or the Luxemburgian PM, as both were pro-Europe, from small states (to win the support of small states), and liberals (to avoid partisan blocking from the two biggest fractions of the EP, that is the conservatives and the not socialists/social democrats) - and they were also respectable. However, for Bliar, what counted was that he thought these candidates would tilt the 'power balance' in France and Germany's favour, and that they were 'too pro-Europe' relative to what he thinks he can sell to his Eurosceptic-propagandised population (those powers Bliar fears to take on). So he nixed both, and tilted the power balance in the favour of the new European Right - and we got Barroso.

And we got a scumbag who, even if we forget all that he has done at home, and his lackey-ish support for the Iraq war, achieved several scandals with his choice of commissioners even before he came into office. It's not just Buttinglione, the Euro-Italian version of US Attorney General Ashcroft. There are a number of candidates unfit for their job, and so said the respective select committees of the EP at hearings. Among them the one from my home country, Hungary: László Kovács is supposed to become commissioner for energy. But he doesn't have a clue. He is a diplomat (was foreign minister for 4+2 years), and his idea of the energy business is somewhere on the level of that of Communist apparatnichks in the sixties. Nuclear is the solution to all, and all that stuff. His hearing at the EP was a disaster.

But Barroso doesn't want to change anyone in his team. This is how the New European Right functions. And never forget, brought to you by New Labour.

[*] (For non-Europeans and confused Europeans: the three main EU insitutions are, in order of increasing power: A) the European Parliament (EP), the only elected body, but one which can mostly only express its opinion; B) the Committee, which is kind of a government, executing what the other two decide and proposing policy, and is selected by the next and voted on by the previous; and C) the European Council (EC), which is made up of national government heads and their ministers, changing chairmanship and assembling twice-a-year, and calling all the shots after hearing the proposals of the Committee and the opinions of the EP.)

Friday, October 22, 2004

How To Solve The Shortage Of US Troops?

Mark commenting at Lunaville:

Here's an idea. Let the US invite the militaries of foreign countries to occupy and staff US military bases (army, navy, air force, and space) IN THE CONTINENTAL UNITED STATES. See, that would free up ALL US troops to "fullfill our overseas commitments."

Of course, these foreign troops here in the US would need special "force status agreements" before these allies could agree to defend the continental US. These foreign troops would need to be exempt from US laws and prosecution for whatever crimes they committed on US soil. They'd obviously need to train and manuveur through US cities, towns, corporate farms and countryside. If threatened, they'd need to defend themselves, so lawsuits against these Allies really wouldn't be practical.

This is nothing more than what the US military based on the soil of 120 countries enjoys and expects now and has enjoyed for the last sixty years plus.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

The Saddam Regime's Illegal Income

I dealt with this two posts down, but I decided to post this update as a separate post. too.

A recent NYT article mentioned $ 228 [sic! $ 229] billion Iraq gathered from surcharges on oil sold through the UN's Oil For Foods program, referencing the Duelfer Report. I searched for it in the document, and indeed it also deals with Saddam's illegal income (from page 154 of "Regime Finance and Procurement" section). Like the babbling neocons, who used some earlier estimate, here we also find a $ 11 billion total (page 218) - only they themselves admit that the largest sub-sum included, oil sold through the Jordan Protocol was legal: without it the sum is $ 6.5 billion.

As for surcharges, they were collected big-time only from 2000, and until 2003. I pointed out in the earlier post that oil surcharges were legal until rules were changed in September 2001 - so the roughly half of the $ 229 million displayed here (which is much lower than the $ 1 billion upper ceiling I estimated, and the $ 2 billion figure neocons usually babble about) that according to the table (and my estimate) came in late 2001 and in 2002 was either illegal, or it was paid late for earlier contracts.

Of the remaining $ 6.3-6.4 billion, $ 1.5 billion are kickbacks. This is not based on actual evidence, but is an estimate out of thin air: they just assumed 10% kickback on all of the oil sold by the regime through the OFFP.

What remains is the $ 4.759 billion from illegal oil exports though the Syrian Protocol and 'private sector', and the much smaller Turkey and Egypt Protocols, which are based on allegedly genuine documents from Iraq's oil ministry. The illegal oil exports claimed by the CIA are also less than the minimum I guesstimated above. But still three times the alleged UN OFFP ripoff.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Coalition Of The Willing Fighers For Oil


On the FAS report I linked to in the previous post, we also find hypocrites involuntarily exposed. On page CRS-12, in a table on trade with Iraq, Howard's Australia is in second place, Jordan third and the USA fourth - can you say 'Cheney-Halliburton'?

But I found something even more damning on page CRS-16: on a list of oil exploration contracts for after the lifting of sanctions, beyond French and Russian firms, we also find contracts held by Indian companies and British/Dutch Shell - and companies from Berlusconi's Italy and Aznar's Spain, both in the region where their troops were later stationed!...

Annan & Bribes, Iran's Nukes, Inside Fallujah

Kofi Annan rejects Duelfer's allagations against France & Russia regarding the Oil For Food program.

Elsewhere on the same issue, Josh Narins at Remain Calm exposes the questionable numbers floated regarding oil money branched off during the Oil For Food Program (OFFP). The first part of these sums is from the - legal - surcharges that were between 20 and 50 cents per barrel, but only until September 2001, until when OFFP oil exports were roughly 2.7 billion barrels (they were 3117.3 million barrels in total; see page CRS-7 here) - thus this sum is likely less than half of the claimed $ 2 billion. Second there are illegal exports. Summing up estimates in the previous report, more than doubling to 320,000 to 470,000 barrels/day after the Syrian pipeline started in late 2000 (vs. the roughly 2 million barrels/day legally). Even tough the estimates, especially the Syrian, are suspect to me, selling at the claimed half the market price would get Saddam's regime $ 6 to 10 billion - by far the largest sum, yet when neocons babble about corruption in the OFFP and quote a sum of $ 11 billion, most of the latter is from these illegal sales. Third and last are kickbacks, with zero evidence presented so far. That is, the neocons and Duelfer refer to purported Iraqi Oil Ministry documents they got from Chalabi, documents not disclosed to the public, and documents whose claims were not checked with the accused - documents that at this point don't deserve more credibility than the Niger documents.

(UPDATE 19/10: A NYT article mentioning surcharges led me to discover that the Duelfer Report also deals with Saddam's illegal income (from page 154 of "Regime Finance and Procurement" section). They also display an $ 11 billion total (page 218) - only they themselves admit that the largest sub-sum included, the Jordan Protocol was legal: without it the sum is $ 6.5 billion.

This $ 6.5 billion includes $ 1.5 billion in kickbacks. This is not based on actual evidence, but is an estimate out of thin air: they just assumed 10% kickback on all of the oil sold by the regime through the OFFP. As for surcharges, which were collected big-time only from 2000 (legally) until 2003 (then illegally) - adding up to only $ 229 million. The two biggest factors remaining are illegal oil exports though the Syrian Protocol and 'private sector', and the much smaller Turkey and Egypt Protocols, which are based on allegedly genuine documents from Iraq's oil ministry. All in all, the illegal oil exports claimed by the CIA add up to about $ 4.7 billion, also less than the minimum I guesstimated above. Still three times the alleged UN OFFP ripoff.)

Josh also had a scoop, he found an ignored sentence in Duelfer's report that has importance today: Saddam's secret service had only evidence proving Iran's nuke program is peaceful. The relevant quote is on page 30 of the report:

Iraqi intelligence collected on the Iranian nuclear
program in 2001, but did not contradict Iranian
claims that their reactors being used for peaceful
purposes, according to the former deputy director
of the IIS. Regardless, Iraq assumed Iran was
attempting to develop nuclear weapons.

Remember, Iran was Saddam's big strategic enemy. And also remember, now US government/media propaganda acknowledged this, too. It happened as they moved from "Saddam's WMD stocks" through "Saddam's WMD programmes" and later "Saddam's WMD-related programme activities" to "Saddam's intention to re-start WMD programmes once sanctions are over" (where even the latter is based on zero public evidence). And the feeble spin on the latest is that Saddam wanted WMD/didn't want to make his lack of WMD obvious because he feared Iran (which would be, as I argued even before the war when I thought Saddam might have post-1998 WMD, a use as deterrent, not a threat to neighbors - and much less to the USA or the UK).

I wrote Fallujah is invaded again with zero media presence, but the BBC managed to get out a report from Fallujah. No foreign fighters to see, clans and religion keeps fighters together, foreigners suspected to be spies, heavy bombing, bombing of civilians, people flee, people think Americans attack on hurt pride, most think 'PM' Allawi and 'President' Ghazi Yawer differ because one is Shi'a the other Sunni, but many say religion matter as the 'PM' is a puppet only following American orders. The picture is contrary to US propaganda, tough none of it news to those who paid attention in the last few months.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Stop, stop, stop, stop hurting America

Jon Stewart is a genius.

In Short

Some late news.

There was much talk on the blogs about the 'leaks' that the US is holding up major assaults until after the election, some suggesting that it will help the insurgents to prepare. I was suspicious, however, and proved right - another attack on Fallujah rolled on, with zero media presence, and with a laughable excuse - that the city refused to hand over Zarqawi, altough its representatives denied knowing of his presence there and - they know the dark irony - compared Zarqawi-in-Fallujah claims zo WMD claims.

I will acknowledge here that Kerry's promise to not keep US troops in Iraq permanently is a real difference from Bush, even if it might not mean much of a difference in practice (i.e., Kerry would stay for years to come, Bush would have to decide to give up his plans because of the insurgency in years to come).

Juan Cole finally took the Vice Presidential TV debate as ocassion to criticise Kerry/Edwards on Israel/Palestine.

Also on Juan Cole's blog, a plea to write to Iranian officials for people arrested in the recent crackdown on journalists - the apparently all-out victory of the conservatives over the reformers in Iran is another, often forgotten sad result of the Iraq war.

And the final Iraq story, also through Juan Cole, is that the Baathist Mukhabarat is re-emerging in all its extralegal awfulness and manipulativeness. Allawi apparently uses it to attack Iran-backed SCIRI (the same SCIRI US propaganda whitewashed when its centrew, Najaf, was the focus of the conflict with Sadr).

In Germany, the leader of the Christian Democrats (CDU), Angela Merkel, gave up her plan to start a signature collection against Turkey's EU membership - after there was strong opposition within the party and outrage outside. (I note that ex-chanchellor Helmut Kohl, an old CDU douchebag who probably isn't any more enthusiastic than French President Jacques Chirac, was present when his son married a Turkish woman in Turkey, after the son reportedly waited years for his fathers' approval.)

In Korea, after six months of operation, the new KTX high-speed trains exceed revenue projections of 2 billion won/day (2.087; equal to roughly 1.8 million dollars/day or 1.45 million euros/day) and carried 13.06 million passengers, more than the busiest French TGV route but much less than the Tokaido Shinkansen in Japan. They plan to triple that number in five years when remaining sections of the Seoul-Busan high-speed line are commissioned, might be a challenge. The plan is to repay investments by 2015, but even a pessimistic scenario I just calculated through has them achieving zero debt and pure profit by 2040. An example to follow. (BTW, next year, Taiwan opens its high-speed line without some important, delayed elements - notably city connections at both ends.)

Further Transatlantic Views analysis later.

Transatlantic Views - part 4

The good news on page 56 is that there is nowhere an absolute majority who think Turkish membership in the EU would be a bad thing. Most people take the indifferent position. Even better that only two countries don't have more who think it would be a good thing than those thinking it would be bad - but these are France (16% vs 35%, a third of the latter having problems with a Muslim country in the EU) and, given earlier polls to me surprisingly, Germany (26% vs. 28%) - the latter is further mystified by the very high (53%) fraction of the negatives who chose OTHER as their main reason. 73% of Turks themselves think it would be a good thing - most (70%) because of economic improvement, while for current EU members and Americans, the EU's good effect on the Middle East dominates.

More tomorrow.

Transatlantic Views - part 3

Bush's approval on international policies (page 23) sunk to 51% in the USA, now with more strong opponents (35%) than supporters (28%). Elsewhere, strong supporters are 6% at most! (UK, Italy) Topping the European list of support (strong+moderate) for Bush's policies is the only of two instances where we can discern any sign of Poland being the big ally, but this 42% (3%+39%) is still less and less intense than oppositon (51%=15% strong + 36% weak) - a reversal since last year. Everywhere else, support of any level is capped at 30%, lowest in Spain (10%), while more than a third (in Spain and Turkey majorities: 52, 62) strongly oppose, with strong increases since last year (especially Portugal: from 25 to 49, while moderate opposition fell just 3 points to 23).

On the possibility of US-EU cooperation based on still shared values (page 24), apart from Turkey (more sceptics than optimists, but many don't-knows), optimists are in majority - but apart from Italy (74%) and the USA with its many ignorant-of-the-world-opinion Bush voters (71%), not very much - predictably, most sceptics are in the Eurosceptic-infested UK (40%) and US-sceptic France (39%) and Spain (38%).

While Americans still see Europe as the region more important to their interests than Asia (54%), while in the contrasting question which to most Europeans is a DUH! question but to Atlanticists in the political elites and the US foreign policy establishment not yet, wide European majorities see the EU as more important relationship to their countries than that with the USA: Eurosceptic Britain 57% vs. 30%, Turkey 70% vs. 11%, in most others around 80% or 90% vs. single-digit%, France top at 95%; equal importance favoured in noticeable numbers only in Slovakia (16%) and Poland (12%).

Nowhere does a majority see the USA and Europe either growing closer or further apart (page 27, 28, 29), but noticeably, the growing closer fraction is highest in Italy (48%) and, tough falling since last year, exceeds the grew-further-apart fraction on Poland, Portugal and Slovakia. On how that should further develop, only in Poland is a relative majority favoring closer relationship (44% vs. 38% for more independence), while 60% Americans would like a closer relationship again - but when Iraq is included in the question, all Europeans have majorities for more independence, and with the exception of Turkey and Poland, these majorities are absolute.

NATO is seen as still essential by majorities everywhere, absolute majorities with the exception of Slovakia (47%) - France's support is lukewarm (57%), but not much less than the USA (warming to it: 62% after 56% in 2003), while Spain (55%), Turkey (53%) and Poland (52%, down from 64%) is even cooler. (Myself, tough I voted to join NATO back in 1997, now even cooler :-) )

Surprisingly, only in Slovakia do seem many people to recognise terrorism as a job for police, not military (43% pro 40% con), elsewhere support is around 80%, topped by France and the USA with both at 92% ("surrender monkeys", heh). Not surprisingly, using the military for humanitarian help is opposed by most in the USA, but still just by a mere 16% - in the case of peacekeeping, that rises to 29%, this time topped by Poland's 31%. To stop civil war, Germans stand out with 54% in opposition (a combination of pacifism and scepticism, I guess), followed by the USA (49%) and Poland (47%), while others strongly approve. Funnily, ensuring the supply of oil is a mission supported by majorities not in the USA (44% vs. 50%, down from 65% vs. 30%) only in Europe: Turkey (69%), Portugal (57%), the UK (52%) and France (50%, up from 46%, while it was down strongly in others)! I can't explain the last one - except people weren't just thinking of regime-changing invasions. Regime change for humanitarian reasons is a good reason for majorities in many countries, highest in Turkey (64%) and Portugal (63%), and Spain (55%) and France (53%) among them too - this shows most Europeans must have realised the Iraq war was a humanitarian war only in rhetoric. Here Germany (60% opposed) bucks the trend. Preventing nuclear proliferation also gets two-thirds or more support; here I'm not at all certain the majority is wise (tough maybe there are circumstances where bombs against a nuke program work while nothing else). To defend a NATO ally, big pro majorities, but only 50% of NATO-sceptic Slovaks.

Own countries' troop presence in Afghanistan is approved by absolute majorities in Germany and France and some others, but not in Spain (relative majority), Portugal (relative majority opposed), Turkey and Poland (strong opposition), and Slovakia has a strong majority rejecting an eventual deployment.

Was Iraq worth the loss of life and other costs? Not according to absolute majorities everywhere: 50% vs. 44% pro even in the USA, more (31%) pro in the Netherlands than Britain (29%), above 70% not-worth-it everywhere else (f.e. Poland 79%). If asked as a loaded question, "war to liberate the Iraqi people", the change is funny: minor reductions (lesss than 10%) in most cases, the USA unchanged, but Turkey stronger in opposition (91% instead of 88%). The own countries' troop presence is approved in the Netherlands(!) (58% vs. 40%), the USA (57% vs. 40%) and barely in the divided UK (50% vs. 47%), but opposed elsewhere - in Poland, by 73% (with 24% approving). I wonder if the Dutch position has more to do with buying the "we can't let Iraq fail" argument [which ignores the fact that we can't prevent it from failing if it does, only push it further], or with guilt felt because of Srebrenica. The countries that din't sent troops or removed them have strong majorities behind these decisions (Turkey 71%, Spain 74%, Germany 89%, France 93%), and less strong majorities for deployment only emerge when it is a part of a UN force not under US command - Kerry doesn't have a chance to move governments against such majorities even if they could be arsed into it on their own. Majorities in Poland and Slovakia want a pullout even with a non-US-commanded UN force. Increased danger of terrorism as a result of the Iraq war is recognised by large majorities (Italy and Spain at top with 76%), except in the USA - where 49% think so against 26% daydreamers who see decrease and 20% clueless who see no change. Securing UN approval is again deemed necessary by majorities everywhere, strong majorities except the USA (58%) and Turkey (59%) - as for NATO approval, the number for the last two are about the same, the others somewhat less. Interestingly, support of the main European allies is essential to more Americans (66%) but less Turkish (52%).