Saturday, April 30, 2011

Peter Dale Scott: The Libyan War, American Power and the Decline of the Petrodollar System

Peter Dale Scott
Global Research

The present NATO campaign against Gaddafi in Libya has given rise to great confusion, both among those waging this ineffective campaign, and among those observing it. Many whose opinions I normally respect see this as a necessary war against a villain – though some choose to see Gaddafi as the villain, and others point to Obama.

My own take on this war, on the other hand, is that it is both ill-conceived and dangerous  -- a threat to the interests of Libyans, Americans, the Middle East and conceivably the entire world. Beneath the professed concern about the safety of Libyan civilians lies a deeper concern that is barely acknowledged: the West’s defense of the present global petrodollar economy, now in decline..

The confusion in Washington, matched by the absence of discussion of an overriding strategic motive for American involvement, is symptomatic of the fact that the American century is ending, and ending in a way that is both predictable in the long run, and simultaneously erratic and out of control in its details.

Confusion in Washington and in NATO

With respect to Libya’s upheaval itself, opinions in Washington range from that of John McCain, who has allegedly called on NATO to provide “every apparent means of assistance, minus ground troops,” in overthrowing Gaddafi,1 to Republican Congressman Mike Rogers, who has expressed deep concern about even passing out arms to a group of fighters we do not know well.2

We have seen the same confusion throughout the Middle East. In Egypt a coalition of non-governmental elements helped prepare for the nonviolent revolution in that country, while former US Ambassador Frank Wisner, Jr., flew to Egypt to persuade Mubarak to cling to power. Meanwhile in countries that used to be of major interest to the US, like Jordan and Yemen, it is hard to discern any coherent American policy at all.

In NATO too there is confusion that occasionally threatens to break into open discord. Of the 28 NATO members, only 14 are involved at all in the Libyan campaign, and only six are involved in the air war. Of these only three countries –the U.S., Britain, and France, are offering tactical air support to the rebels on the ground. When many NATO countries froze the bank accounts of Gaddafi and his immediate supporters, the US, in an unpublicized and dubious move, froze the entire $30 billion of Libyan government funds to which it has access. (Of this, more later.) Germany, the most powerful NATO nation after America, abstained on the UN Security Council resolution; and its foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, has since said, “We will not see a military solution, but a political solution.”3

Such chaos would have been unthinkable in the high period of US dominance. Obama appears paralyzed by the gap between his declared objective – the removal of Gaddafi from power – and the means available to him, given the nation’s costly involvement in two wars, and his domestic priorities.

To understand America’s and NATO’s confusion over Libya, one must look at other phenomena:

   • Standard & Poor’s warning of an imminent downgrade of the U.S. credit rating

   • the unprecedented rise in the price of gold to over $1500 an ounce

   • the gridlock in American politics over federal and state deficits and what to do about them

In the midst of the Libyan challenge to what remains of American hegemony, and in part as a direct consequence of America’s confused strategy in Libya, the price of oil has hit $112 a barrel. This price increase threatens to slow or even reverse America’s faltering economic recovery, and demonstrates one of the many ways in which the Libyan war is not serving American national interests.

Confusion about Libya has been evident in Washington from the outset, particularly since Secretary of State Clinton advocated a no-fly policy, President Obama said he wanted it as an option, and Secretary of Defense Gates warned against it.4 The result has been a series of interim measures, during which Obama has justified a limited U.S. response by pointing to America’s demanding commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Yet with a stalemate prevailing in Libya itself, a series of further gradual escalations are being contemplated, from the provision of arms, funds, and advisers to the rebels, to the introduction of mercenaries or even foreign troops. The American scenario begins to look more and morelike Vietnam, where the war also began modestly with the introduction of covert operators followed by military advisers.

I have to confess that on March 17 I myself was of two minds about UN Security Council 1973, which ostensibly established a no-fly zone in Libya for the protection of civilians. But since then it has become apparent that the threat to rebels from Gaddafi’s troops and rhetoric was in fact far less than was perceived at the time. To quote Prof. Alan J. Kuperman,

   . . . President Barack Obama grossly exaggerated the humanitarian threat to justify military action in Libya. The president claimed that intervention was necessary to prevent a “bloodbath’’ in Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city and last rebel stronghold. But Human Rights Watch has released data on Misurata, the next-biggest city in Libya and scene of protracted fighting, revealing that Moammar Khadafy is not deliberately massacring civilians but rather narrowly targeting the armed rebels who fight against his government. Misurata’s population is roughly 400,000. In nearly two months of war, only 257 people — including combatants — have died there. Of the 949 wounded, only 22 — less than 3 percent — are women... Nor did Khadafy ever threaten civilian massacre in Benghazi, as Obama alleged. The “no mercy’’ warning, of March 17, targeted rebels only, as reported by The New York Times, which noted that Libya’s leader promised amnesty for those “who throw their weapons away.’’ Khadafy even offered the rebels an escape route and open border to Egypt, to avoid a fight “to the bitter end.’’5

The record of ongoing US military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan suggests that we should expect a heavy human toll if the current stalemate in Libya either continues or escalates further.

The Role in this War of Oil and Financial Interests

In American War Machine, I wrote how

   By a seemingly inevitable dialectic,... prosperity in some major states fostered expansion, and expansion in dominant states created increasing income disparity.6 In this process the dominant state itself was changed, as its public services were progressively impoverished, in order to strengthen security arrangements benefiting a few while oppressing many.7

   Thus, for many years the foreign affairs of England in Asia came to be conducted in large part by the East India Company... Similarly, the American company Aramco, representing a consortium of the oil majors Esso, Mobil, Socal, and Texaco, conducted its own foreign policy in Arabia, with private connections to the CIA and FBI.8...

   In this way Britain and America inherited policies that, when adopted by the metropolitan states, became inimical to public order and safety.9

In the final stages of hegemonic power, one sees more and more naked intervention for narrow interests, abandoning earlier efforts towards creating stable international institutions. Consider the role of the conspiratorial Jameson Raid into the South African Boer Republic in late 1895, a raid, devised to further the economic interests of Cecil Rhodes, which helped to induce Britain’s Second Boer War.10 Or consider the Anglo-French conspiracy with Israel in 1956, in an absurd vain attempt to retain control of the Suez Canal.

Then consider the lobbying efforts of the oil majors as factors in the U.S. war in Vietnam (1961), Afghanistan (2001), and Iraq (2003).11 Although the role of oil companies in America’s Libyan involvement remains obscure, it is a virtual certainty that Cheney’s Energy Task Force Meetings discussed not just Iraq’s but Libya’s under-explored oil reserves, estimated to be around 41 billion barrels, or about a third of Iraq’s.12

Afterwards some in Washington expected a swift victory in Iraq would be followed by similar US attacks on Libya and Iran. General Wesley Clark told Amy Goodman on Democracy Now four years ago that soon after 9/11 a general in the Pentagon informed him that several countries would be attacked by the U.S. military. The list included Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Iran.13 In May of 2003 John Gibson, chief executive of Halliburton's Energy Service Group, told International Oil Daily in an interview, “"We hope Iraq will be the first domino and that Libya and Iran will follow. We don't like being kept out of markets because it gives our competitors an unfair advantage,"14

It is also a matter of public record that the UN no-fly resolution 1973 of March 17 followed shortly on Gaddafi’s public threat of March 2 to throw western oil companies out of Libya, and his invitation on March 14 to Chinese, Russian, and Indian firms to produce Libyan oil in their place.15 Significantly China, Russia, and India (joined by their BRICS ally Brazil), all abstained on UN Resolution 1973.

The issue of oil is closely intertwined with that of the dollar, because the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency depends largely on OPEC’s decision to denominate the dollar as the currency for OPEC oil purchases. Today’s petrodollar economy dates back to two secret agreements with the Saudisin the 1970s for the recycling of petrodollars back into the US economy. The first of these deals assured a special and on-going Saudi stake in the health of the US dollar; the second secured continuing Saudi support for the pricing of all OPEC oil in dollars. These two deals assured that the US economy would not be impoverished by OPEC oil price hikes. Since then the heaviest burden has been borne instead by the economies of less developed countries, who need to purchase dollars for their oil supplies.16

As  Ellen Brown has pointed out, first Iraq and then Libya decided to challenge the petrodollar system and stop selling all their oil for dollars, shortly before each country was attacked.

   Kenneth Schortgen Jr., writing  on, noted that "[s]ix months before the US moved into Iraq to take down Saddam Hussein, the oil nation had made the move to accept Euros instead of dollars for oil, and this became a threat to the global dominance of the dollar as the reserve currency, and its dominion as the petrodollar.."

   According to a Russian article titled "Bombing of Lybia - Punishment for Qaddafi for His Attempt to Refuse US Dollar," Qaddafi made a similarly bold move: he initiated a movement to refuse the dollar and the euro, and called on Arab and African nations to use a new currency instead, the gold dinar. Qaddafi suggested establishing a united African continent, with its 200 million people using this single currency...  The initiative was viewed negatively by the USA and the European Union, with French president Nicolas Sarkozy calling Libya a threat to the financial security of mankind; but Qaddafi continued his push for the creation of a united Africa.

And that brings us back to the puzzle of the Libyan central bank. In an article posted on the Market Oracle, Eric Encina observed:

            One seldom mentioned fact by western politicians and media pundits: the Central Bank of Libya is 100% State Owned. . . Currently, the Libyan government creates its own money, the Libyan Dinar, through the facilities of its own central bank. Few can argue that Libya is a sovereign nation with its own great resources, able to sustain its own economic destiny. One major problem for globalist banking cartels is that in order to do business with Libya, they must go through the Libyan Central Bank and its national currency, a place where they have absolutely zero dominion or power-broking ability. Hence, taking down the Central Bank of Libya (CBL) may not appear in the speeches of Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy but this is certainly at the top of the globalist agenda for absorbing Libya into its hive of compliant nations.17

   Libya not only has oil. According to the IMF, its central bank has nearly 144 tons of gold in its vaults. With that sort of asset base, who needs the BIS [Bank of International Settlements], the IMF and their rules.18

Gaddafi’s recent proposal to introduce a gold dinar for Africa revives the notion of an Islamic gold dinar floated in 2003 by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, as well as by some Islamist movements.19 The notion, which contravenes IMF rules and is designed to bypass them, has had trouble getting started. But today the countries stocking more and more gold rather than dollars include not just Libya and Iran, but also China, Russia, and India.20

The Stake of France in Terminating Gaddafi’s African Initiatives

The initiative for the air attacks appears to have come initially from France, with early support from Britain. If Qaddafi were to succeed in creating an African Union backed by Libya’s currency and gold reserves, France, still the predominant economic power in most of its former Central African colonies, would be the chief loser. Indeed, a report from Dennis Kucinich in America has corroborated the claim of Franco Bechis in Italy, transmitted by VoltaireNet in France, that “plans to spark the Benghazi rebellion were initiated by French intelligence services in November 2010.”21

If the idea to attack Libya originated with France, Obama moved swiftly to support French plans to frustrate Gaddafi’s African initiative with his unilateral declaration of a national emergency in order to freeze all of the Bank of Libya’s $30 billion of funds to which America had access. (This was misleadingly reported in the U.S. press as a freeze of the funds of “Colonel Qaddafi, his children and family, and senior members of the Libyan government.”22 But in fact the second section of Obama’s decree explicitly targeted “All property and interests... of the Government of Libya, its agencies, instrumentalities, and controlled entities, and the Central Bank of Libya.”23) While the U.S. has actively used financial weapons in recent years, the $30-billion seizure, “the largest amount ever to be frozen by a U.S. sanctions order,” had one precedent, the arguably illegal and certainly conspiratorial seizure of Iranian assets in 1979 on behalf of the threatened Chase Manhattan Bank.24

The consequences of the $30-billion freeze for Africa, as well as for Libya, have been spelled out by an African observer:

   The US$30 billion frozen by Mr Obama belong to the Libyan Central Bank and had been earmarked as the Libyan contribution to three key projects which would add the finishing touches to the African federation – the African Investment Bank in Syrte, Libya, the establishment in 2011 of the African Monetary Fund to be based in Yaounde with a US$42 billion capital fund and the Abuja-based African Central Bank in Nigeria which when it starts printing African money will ring the death knell for the CFA franc through which Paris has been able to maintain its hold on some African countries for the last fifty years. It is easy to understand the French wrath against Gaddafi.25

This same observer spells out her reasons for believing that Gaddafi’s plans for Africa have been more benign than the West’s:

   It began in 1992, when 45 African nations established RASCOM (Regional African Satellite Communication Organization) so that Africa would have its own satellite and slash communication costs in the continent. This was a time when phone calls to and from Africa were the most expensive in the world because of the annual US$500 million fee pocketed by Europe for the use of its satellites like Intelsat for phone conversations, including those within the same country.

   An African satellite only cost a onetime payment of US$400 million and the continent no longer had to pay a US$500 million annual lease. Which banker wouldn’t finance such a project? But the problem remained – how can slaves, seeking to free themselves from their master’s exploitation ask the master’s help to achieve that freedom? Not surprisingly, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the USA, Europe only made vague promises for 14 years. Gaddafi put an end to these futile pleas to the western ‘benefactors’ with their exorbitant interest rates. The Libyan guide put US$300 million on the table; the African Development Bank added US$50 million more and the West African Development Bank a further US$27 million – and that’s how Africa got its first communications satellite on 26 December 2007.26

I am not in a position to corroborate all of her claims. But, for these and other reasons, I am persuaded that western actions in Libya have been designed to frustrate Gaddafi’s plans for an authentically post-colonial Africa, not just his threatened actions against the rebels in Benghazi.


I conclude from all this confusion and misrepresentation that America is losing its ability to enforce and maintain peace, either by itself or with its nominal allies. I would submit that, if only to stabilize and reduce oil prices, it is in America’s best interest now to join with Ban Ki-Moon and the Pope in pressing for an immediate cease-fire in Libya. Negotiating a cease-fire will certainly present problems, but the probable alternative to ending this conflict is the nightmare of watching it inexorably escalate.America has  been there before with tragic consequences. We do not want to see similar casualties incurred for the sake of anunjust petrodollar system whose days may be numbered anyway.

At stake is not just America’s relation to Libya, but to China. The whole of Africa is an area where the west and the BRIC countries will both be investing. A resource-hungry China alone is expected to invest on a scale of $50 billion a year by 2015, a figure (funded by America’s trade deficit with China) which the West cannot match.27 Whether east and west can coexist peacefully in Africa in the future will depend on the west’s learning to accept a gradual diminution of its influence there, without resorting to deceitful stratagems (reminiscent of the Anglo-French Suez stratagem of 1956) in order to maintain it.

Previous transitions of global dominance have been marked by wars, by revolutions, or by both together. The final emergence through two World Wars of American hegemony over British hegemony was a transition between two powers that were essentially allied, and culturally close. The whole world has an immense stake in ensuring that the difficult transition to a post-US hegemonic order will be achieved as peacefully as possible.

Peter Dale Scott, a former Canadian diplomat and English Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, is the author of Drugs Oil and War, The Road to 9/11, The War Conspiracy: JFK, 9/11, and the Deep Politics of War. His most recent book is American War Machine: Deep Politics, the CIA Global Drug Connection and the Road to Afghanistan. He is currently Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG). This article is published in partnership with the Asia Pacific Journal. 

His website, which contains a wealth of his writings, is here.


1 “McCain calls for stronger NATO campaign,”, April 22, 2011, link.

2 Ed Hornick, “Arming Libyan Rebels: Should U.S. Do It?” CNN, March 31, 2011.

3 “Countries Agree to Try to Transfer Some of Qaddafi’s Assets to Libyan Rebels,” New York Times, April 13, 2011, link.

4 “President Obama Wants Options as Pentagon Issues Warnings About Libyan No-Fly Zone,” ABC News, March 3, 2011, link. Earlier, on February 25, Gates warned that the U.S. should avoid future land wars like those it has fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, but should not forget the difficult lessons it has learned from those conflicts.

"In my opinion, any future Defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should 'have his head examined,' as General MacArthur so delicately put it," Gates said in a speech to cadets at West Point” (Los Angeles Times, February 25, 2011, link).

5 Alan J. Kuperman, “False Pretense for War in Libya?” Boston Globe, April 14, 2011.

6 America’s income disparity, as measured by its Gini coefficient, is now among the highest in the world, along with Brazil, Mexico, and China. See Phillips, Wealth and Democracy, 38, 103; Greg Palast, Armed Madhouse (New York: Dutton, 2006), 159.

7 This is the subject of my book The Road to 9/11, 4–9.

8 Anthony Cave Brown, Oil, God, and Gold (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1999), 213.

9 Peter Dale Scott, American War Machine: Deep Politics, the CIA Global Drug Connection, and the Road to Afghanistan (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010), 32. One could cite also the experience of the French Third Republic and the Banque de l’Indochine or the Netherlands and the Dutch East India Company.

10 Elizabeth Longford, Jameson’s Raid: The Prelude to the Boer War (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1982); The Jameson Raid: a centennial retrospective (Houghton, South Africa: Brenthurst Press, 1996).

11 Wikileak documents from October and November 2002 reveal that Washington was making deals with oil companies prior to the Iraq invasion, and that the British government lobbied on behalf of BP’s being included in the deals (Paul Bignell, “Secret memos expose link between oil firms and invasion of Iraq,” Independent (London), April 19, 2011).

12 Reuters, March 23, 2011.

13 Saman Mohammadi, “The Humanitarian Empire May Strike Syria Next, Followed By Lebanon And Iran,”, March 31, 2011.

14 "Halliburton Eager for Work Across the Mideast," International Oil Daily, May 7, 2003.

15 “Gaddafi offers Libyan oil production to India, Russia, China,” Agence France-Presse, March 14, 2011, link.

16 Peter Dale Scott, “Bush’s Deep Reasons for War on Iraq: Oil, Petrodollars, and the OPEC Euro Question”; Peter Dale Scott, Drugs, Oil, and War (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003), 41-42: “From these developments emerged the twin phenomena, underlying 9/11, of triumphalist US unilateralism on the one hand, and global third-world indebtedness on the other. The secret deals increased US-Saudi interdependence at the expense of the international comity which had been the base for US prosperity since World War II.” Cf. Peter Dale Scott, The Road to 9/11 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007), 37.

17 "Globalists Target 100% State Owned Central Bank of Libya."   Link.

18 Ellen Brown, “Libya: All About Oil, or All About Banking,” Reader Supported News, April 15, 2011.

19 Peter Dale Scott, “Bush’s Deep Reasons for War on Iraq: Oil, Petrodollars, and the OPEC Euro Question”; citing “Islamic Gold Dinar Will Minimize Dependency on US Dollar,” Malaysian Times, April 19, 2003.

20 “Gold key to financing Gaddafi struggle,” Financial Times, March 21, 2011, link.

21 Franco Bechis, “French plans to topple Gaddafi on track since last November,” VoltaireNet, March 25, 2011. Cf. Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, “November 2010 War Games: ‘Southern Mistral’ Air Attack against Dictatorship in a Fictitious Country called ‘Southland,’" Global Research, April 15, 2011, link; Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, March 19, 2011.

22 New York Times, February 27, 2011.

23 Executive Order of February 25, 2011, citing International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.) (IEEPA), the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.) (NEA), and section 301 of title 3, United States Code, seizes all Libyan Govt assets, February 25, 2011, link. The authority granted to the President by the International Emergency Economic Powers Act “may only be exercised to deal with an unusual and extraordinary threat with respect to which a national emergency has been declared for purposes of this chapter and may not be exercised for any other purpose” (50 U.S.C. 1701).

24 “Billions Of Libyan Assets Frozen,” Tropic Post, March 8, 2011, link (“largest amount”); Peter Dale Scott, The Road to 9/11: Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2007), 80-89 (Iranian assets).

25 “Letter from an African Woman, Not Libyan, On Qaddafi Contribution to Continent-wide African Progress , Oggetto: ASSOCIAZIONE CASA AFRICA LA LIBIA DI GHEDDAFI HA OFFERTO A TUTTA L'AFRICA LA PRIMA RIVOLUZIONE DEI TEMPI MODERNI,” Vermont Commons, April 21, 2011, link. Cf. Manlio Dinucci, “Financial Heist of the Century: Confiscating Libya's Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWF),” Global Research, April 24, 2011, link.

26 Ibid. Cf. “The Inauguration of the African Satellite Control Center,” Libya Times, September 28, 2009, link; Jean-Paul Pougala, “The lies behind the West's war on Libya,”, April 14, 2011.

27 Leslie Hook, “China’s future in Africa, after Libya,”, March 4, 2011 ($50 billion). The U.S trade deficit with China in 2010 was $273 billion.

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Facebook accused of removing activists' pages


Protest groups claim Facebook has taken down dozens of pages over the weekend in a purge of activists' accounts

Facebook has removed dozens of profiles from its site, causing an outcry from campaigners trying to organise anti-austerity protests this weekend.

The deactivated pages include UK Uncut, and pages created by students during last December's university occupations.

A list posted on the Stop Facebook Purge group says Chesterfield Stop the Cuts, Tower Hamlet Greens, London Student Assembly, Southwark SoS and Bristol Uncut sites are no longer functioning.

Administrators for the profiles say hundreds of links between activists have been broken in the run up to the May Day bank holiday. When users click on URL links the message "the page you requested was not found" now appears.

Guy Aitchison, 26, an administrator for one of the non-functioning pages, said: "I woke up this morning to find that a lot of the groups we'd been using for anti cuts activity had disappeared. The timing of it seems suspicious, given a general political crackdown because of the wedding. It seems that dozens of other groups have also been affected, including some of the local UK Uncut groups."

It is not yet known how many groups have been affected in total. A Facebook spokeswoman explained that the profiles were suspended because they had not been registered correctly and denied that the removal of pages was politically motivated or instigated by law enforcement concerns before the royal wedding.

Facebook accounts that claim to represent individual people but are in fact groups or organisations contravene the company's "statement of rights and responsibilities".

The company said a number accounts were suspended at the same time.

Facebook uses technology to track relationships between groups and when one "fake" profile is found, pages that have links to it are also checked. This is done to maintain safety and security on the site and the removal of everything from fake celebrities to pages representing pets is a regular occurrence.

The company did not confirm how many activist accounts had been deactivated on Friday morning.

A spokeswoman for Facebook said activists would be contacted by email and told how to re-activate their accounts correctly. They said this would take several days.

Jim Killock, 38 who runs the Open Rights Group, which campaigns for civil liberties on the net, said: "It's pretty flatfooted of Facebook to pull profiles without notifying users. Clearly, if you just take down sites without any warning, people are going to feel aggrieved, they're going to have activities disrupted and be unable to organise politically," he said.

"It's a pretty bureaucratic move; it's almost impossible to know the difference between a profile and a page, so Facebook should have emailed people first and given them some notice. It's bizarre and upsetting and it's not a good way to treat their users," he said.

New EU regulations on herbal medicines come into force

Herbal remedies that have been approved for sale under the new regulations will come with this logo

New European Union rules come into force today banning hundreds of traditional herbal remedies.
The EU law aims to protect consumers from possible damaging side-effects of over-the-counter herbal medicines.

For the first time, new regulations will allow only long-established and quality-controlled medicines to be sold.

But both herbal remedy practitioners and manufacturers fear they could be forced out of business.
To date, the industry has been covered by the 1968 Medicines Act, drawn up when only a handful of herbal remedies were available and the number of herbal practitioners was very small.

But surveys show that around a quarter of all adults in the UK have used a herbal medicine in the past two years, mostly bought over the counter in health food shops and pharmacies.

The regulations will cover widely used products such as echinacea, St John's Wort and valerian, as well as traditional Chinese and Indian medicines.
But safety concerns have focused on the powerful effects of some herbal remedies, as well as the way they interact with conventional drugs.

For example, St John's Wort can interfere with the contraceptive pill, while ginkgo and ginseng are known to have a similar effect to the blood-thinning drug warfarin.

From now on only products that have been assessed by the Medicine and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) will be allowed to go on sale.

Manufacturers will have to prove that their products have been made to strict standards and contain a consistent and clearly marked dose.

And to count as a traditional medicine, products must have been in use for the past 30 years, including 15 years within the EU.

They will also only be approved for minor ailments like coughs and colds, muscular aches and pains, or sleep problems.

Remedies already on sale will be allowed to stay on the shelves until they reach their expiry date.

Free from contamination
Richard Woodfield, head of herbal medicine policy at the MHRA, says so far there have been 211 applications, of which 105 have been granted registration.

“Start Quote

We're very concerned that patients appreciate they must be very careful when they take these medicines and ideally should talk to their doctor or pharmacist”
End Quote Prof Jayne Lawrence Royal Pharmaceutical Society
"Crucially, this EU directive and the registration scheme puts consumers in the driving seat so they can identify that a product meets assured standards on safety, quality and information about safe use.
"Safety speaks for itself, but quality means, are they using the right part of the plant? Is it free from contamination? Is the claimed shelf life suitable?

"Product information will include possible side effects and interactions with other drugs, but above all it must make very clear that it is based on traditional use."

And that is a key point for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, which believes the new regime is a step forward in improving safety and quality.

But Prof Jayne Lawrence, chief science adviser to the society, says there are still some concerns about herbal products.

"They certainly haven't been tested on the same basis as a conventional medicine and some of these compounds are very potent.

"Patients might not realise that in some cases they should not take other medicines with them, or if they're going for surgery they should tell their doctors they are taking these particular medicines because there may be complications.

"So we're very concerned that patients appreciate they must be very careful when they take these medicines and, ideally, should talk to their doctor or pharmacist."

The manufacturers of herbal remedies have had seven years to prepare for the new rules after the European Directive on Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products was introduced in 2004.
Too onerous? 
These regulations apply to over-the-counter sales, which form the bulk of herbal remedies sold in the UK.
But some manufacturers and herbal practitioners have expressed concern, arguing the new rules are too onerous for many small producers.

Michael McIntyre, chairman of the European Herbal and Traditional Medicines Practitioners Association, says there will be a significant impact on herbal medicine practitioners and their suppliers, but admits the rules do need bringing up to date.

"Products that go on the market now will definitely do what it says on the bottle, while we didn't know how good they were in the past.

"But registration is expensive so perhaps there may be fewer products on the market and a smaller range.

"It's difficult to argue that the market should stay as it is, without any regulation, but how many businesses will pack up and walk away? I can't say."

How to Help Protect Yourself From Low-Level Radiation

Washington's Blog

But as I've previously noted, even low level radiation can cause big problems. Columbia provides an illustration:

Radiation can sicken or kill us by directly damaging cells:

Indeed, some radiation experts argue that the creation of a lot of free radical creation is the most dangerous mechanism of low level ionizing radiation:
During exposure to low-level doses (LLD) of ionizing radiation (IR), the most of harmful effects are produced indirectly, through radiolysis of water and formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). The antioxidant enzymes - superoxide dismutase (SOD): manganese SOD (MnSOD) and copper-zinc SOD (CuZnSOD), as well as glutathione (GSH), are the most important intracellular antioxidants in the metabolism of ROS. Overproduction of ROS challenges antioxidant enzymes.
Scientists from the Institute of Nuclear Science claim in the Archive of oncology:
Chronic exposure to low-dose radiation doses could be much more harmful than high, short-term doses because of lipid peroxidation initiated by free radicals.

Peroxidation of cell membranes increases with decreasing dose rate (Petkau effect).
(See this for more on the Petkau effect.)

Countering free radicals is therefore one of the most important ways we can help protect ourselves from the effects of low-level radiation from Japan, from Chernobyl and elsewhere.

Now that you know, I invite you to read the following articles to learn how to help counter free radicals:
Note: The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists reported that one of the best-known scientists of the 20th century - Dr. John Gofman - also believed that chronic low level radiation is more dangerous than acute exposure to high doses. Gofman was a doctor of nuclear and physical chemistry and a medical doctor who worked on the Manhattan Project, co-discovered uranium-232 and -233 and other radioactive isotopes and proved their fissionability, helped discover how to extract plutonium, led the team that discovered and characterized lipoproteins in the causation of heart disease, served as a Professor Emeritus of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California Berkeley, served as Associate Director of the Livermore National Laboratory, was asked by the Atomic Energy Commission to undertake a series of long range studies on potential dangers that might arise from the "peaceful uses of the atom", and wrote four scholarly books on radiation health effects.

But whether or not chronic, low doses of radiation cause more or less damage than acute, higher doses is beyond the scope of this article. The point is that they both can cause damage.

Israel rejects Gaza war compensation


Israel has refused to hear a petition by Palestinians that demanded compensation for damages inflicted to them during Israel's offensive against the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights, representing more than 1,000 residents of the Gaza Strip, said on Thursday that courts in Israel refused to hear their demands, Ynetnews reported.

The judges wrote that demands for compensation over damage should have been filed within two years and other damages can be filed seven years after the incident.

The Palestinian group, however, said that courts are permitted to extend the statute of limitations by three additional years in such cases.

A spokesman for the human rights center, attorney Michael Sfard, said filing a case within such a short period of time is always impossible due to Israel's refusal of entry permits.

Israel launched an all-out war on the Gaza Strip three days before the turn of 2009. The three-week war killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, including at least 300 children.

The offensive leveled 4,000 houses in the territory and devastated a large portion of infrastructure. More than 50,000 people were displaced as a result of the war.

Egypt warns Israel: Don't interfere with opening of Gaza border crossing


Rafah's opening would be a violation of an agreement reached in 2005 between the
U.S., Israel, Egypt, and the EU; Israel official tells the Wall Street Journal developments in Egypt could affect Israel's national security.

Chief of Staff of the Egyptian Armed Forces General Sami Anan warned Israel against interfering with Egypt's plan to open the Rafah border crossing with Gaza on a permanent basis, saying it was not a matter of Israel's concern, Army Radio reported on Saturday.

Egypt announced this week that it intended to permanently open the border crossing with Gaza within the next few days.

The announcement indicates a significant change in the policy on Gaza, which before Egypt's uprising, was operated in conjunction with Israel. The opening of Rafah will allow the flow of people and goods in and out of Gaza without Israeli permission or supervision, which has not been the case up until now.

An Israeli official on Friday told The Wall Street Journal that Israel was troubled by the recent developments in Egypt saying they could affect Israel's national security at a strategic level.

Israel's blockade on Gaza has been a policy used in conjunction with Egyptian police to weaken Hamas, which has ruled over the strip since 2007.

Rafah's opening would be a violation of an agreement reached in 2005 between the United States, Israel, Egypt, and the European Union, which gives EU monitors access to the crossing. The monitors were to reassure Israel that weapons and militants wouldn't get into Gaza after its pullout from the territory in the fall of 2005.

Before Egypt's uprising and ousting of longtime leader Hosni Mubarak, the border between Egypt and Gaza had been sealed. It has occasionally opened the passage for limited periods.

Obama, Congress renew push for austerity measures

World Socialist Website
By Patrick Martin
30 April 2011

The Obama administration and leading Democrats and Republicans in the US Congress are preparing the next round of austerity measures directed at slashing public services, jobs and incomes for working people, to pay for the deepening crisis of American and world capitalism.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner signaled the direction of administration policy in a speech Thursday to the Economic Club of Detroit, where he hailed the auto makers’ return to profitability—through drastic cuts in wages and intensified exploitation of labor—and reiterated Obama’s determination to make drastic spending cuts. “Reducing the deficit is a war of necessity,” he declared. “There is no alternative.”

Geithner’s speech was only one of a series of such political signals, given as backroom discussions began over the next stage in the onslaught on federal social programs, following the bipartisan agreement on the fiscal year 2011 budget, reached April 8 between the White House and House Speaker John Boehner.

This involves bipartisan talks on a measure to raise the federal debt ceiling, currently set at $14.3 trillion. The treasury department says it will reach the debt ceiling May 16, but can stave off default on federal debt payments until early July using various financial expedients.

Congressional Republicans have demanded binding measures to cut spending, focused on entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, as the price of agreeing to raise the debt ceiling. Formal negotiations are to begin May 5, chaired by Vice President Joseph Biden, but informal talks are ongoing.

Several Senate Democrats announced this week that they were prepared to join the Republicans in demanding spending cuts as part of a bill to lift the debt ceiling. These include Kent Conrad of North Dakota, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. Given the narrow 53-47 Democratic majority in the Senate, the defection of any four Democrats would ensure defeat of the debt ceiling measure, since all the Republicans are expected to oppose it.

Manchin began a statewide campaign swing by announcing his support for a Republican plan to impose legally binding caps on federal spending. The conservative Democrat openly criticized the White House position, which is that the debt ceiling measure should be passed as a stand-alone, without any policy provisions. A statement issued by his office Thursday read: “Only in Washington would people argue that the responsible thing to do is raise the debt ceiling and add trillions of dollars in more debt, without a real and responsible debt fix.”

In the House of Representatives, members of the ultra-right Republican Study Committee said they planned to propose a series of two-month increases in the debt ceiling, each of them requiring additional concessions from the White House on spending, rather than a single multi-year bill, as has been the practice in the past.

In his speech in Detroit, Geithner made no direct reference to the debt ceiling, but he came out forcefully for the kind of “enforcement mechanism” proposed by politicians of both parties in Congress to compel long-term spending cuts.

“You need fail-safe discipline that will force Congress to make choices to live within constraints and make reforms even when they find a hard time agreeing on them,” he said. He called for legislating “a broad framework that locks in reforms over a multi-year period and forces future Congresses and executive branch officials to shrink the deficit.”

The effect of such measures would be to short-circuit democratic processes, even in the extremely attenuated form in which they now exist, and insulate budget decisions from the mass popular opposition they are sure to provoke.

Congressional Republicans were already getting the first glimpses of such opposition at a series of town hall meetings held over the Easter Week recess, where thousands of people, mainly elderly, turned out to protest the plan endorsed by House Republicans to phase out Medicare and Medicaid.
There were press reports of heated exchanges and congressmen being shouted down by angry constituents in New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Wisconsin, North Carolina, California, and in many districts in Florida.

While the congressional Republicans adopt the most openly reactionary posture, the Obama administration is no less hostile to the mounting popular opposition to the policies of austerity embraced by both the big business parties.

Treasury secretary Geithner’s appearance in Detroit was just as provocative, in its own way. He traveled to the most devastated major city in America, a city virtually destroyed by the auto bosses, to declare that the administration’s economic policies were working and to give Obama credit, in particular, for the revival of the auto industry.

“For the first time since 2004, all three American automakers have an operating profit,” he boasted. “And since GM and Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy in 2009, the industry has added nearly 90,000 jobs—the strongest period of job growth in more than 10 years.”

Geithner did not mention that the wages paid to these newly hired auto workers have been slashed by 50 percent, to only $14 an hour, barely above the poverty line. Nor that the strategy of the Obama administration, backed by the auto companies and the United Auto Workers union, is to make the US auto industry a successful low-cost competitor for its overseas rivals, both in Europe and Asia, including China.

The treasury secretary hailed the latest economic figures, although by any objective standard they were dismal: GDP growth of only 1.8 percent in the first quarter of 2011, and a jump in new claims for unemployment insurance.

Geithner said, “The economy is healing and getting stronger. Today’s GDP estimate shows the economy grew for the seventh straight quarter.”

He continued, “And it’s important to note, the private sector is leading this expansion. The private sector continues to boost its investments, purchases and hiring even as government spending continues to drop.”

The truth is that American corporate CEOs are sitting on $2 trillion in cash, which they are refusing to invest in production, let alone hiring, preferring instead the more (personally) lucrative stock buybacks and speculative financial investments.

The cutback in federal, state and local government spending played a major role in the reduction in GDP growth from 3.1 percent in the last quarter of 2010 to the miserable 1.8 percent figure for the past three months.

Geithner held out the prospect that the growth rate could return to the 3-4 percent level over the next two years, although that would barely make a dent in the massive army of unemployed and underemployed workers.
The author recommends:

Oil bosses rake in record profits as US economy stalls
[29 April 2011]

UAW sets benchmark for wage-cutting in global auto industry
[25 April 2011]

Felony Stupid

William Kensler

This is a follow up on Examiner article, “Deadly Incompetence” about ATF “Project Gunrunner” that resulted in the deaths of US Border Agents, including Brian Terry, from Tucson. Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) facilitated many sales of weapons from gun shops in Phoenix and Tucson to Mexican cartel members so our Justice Department (DOJ) could track the sales and make arrests. DOJ screwed up. Agents died.

Congress wants answers. Congress subpoenaed records. DOJ has ignored Congress. Congressman Darrell Issa, Chair of the Committee on Government Oversight, called the leadership of (DOJ) “Felony stupid” and threatened contempt of Congress action.

This is a part of a letter sent by Congress last week to Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms Acting Director Kenneth E. Melson:

“The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform issued a subpoena to you on March 31, 2011. The subpoena instructed you to produce documents pertaining to Project Gunrunner and Operation Fast and Furious, conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). I wrote to you on April 11, 2011, to reiterate that, “[a]bsent a valid assertion of executive privilege over the materials sought, I expect you to produce the things identified in the March 31, 2011, subpoena’s schedule by the return date.” The April 13, 2011 deadline for compliance has passed without production of any documents …

Let me be clear…we are seeking these documents in furtherance of the proper use of our constitutional authority…we are not conducting a concurrent investigation with the Department of Justice, but rather an independent investigation o/the Department of Justice specifically, of allegations that the reckless and inappropriate decisions of Department officials have created a serious public safety hazard. We are asking for documents that relate to decisions such officials made. Congress is legally entitled to all of these documents.”

Congressman Issa said yesterday on the Roger Hedgecock radio show in San Diego“We’re not investigating the sale of guns across the border. We’re investigating the lack of judgment at the highest levels. This goes all the way to the top. … If you made a decision this felony stupid you shouldn’t be making decisions any longer on behalf of the American people”
Will calling Attorney General Holder, felony stupid get results?

Richardson, P. (2011). Pajamas Media. Issa demands Justice Dept. answer Project Gunrunner subpoenas.

Indiana GOP Threatened With 'Contempt' Amid Voter Fraud Charges Against Sec. of State Charlie White

Brad Blog
Brad Friedman

Dems accuse Repubs of 'running out clock' for new state law allowing GOP Governor to appoint replacement SoS...

 Last month we reported on the seven felony counts charged against Indiana's newly elected GOP Secretary of State, Charlie White. Three of the charges are related to voter fraud by White, the chief election official in the state with the most draconian polling place Photo ID restrictions in the nation. (Indiana's law, approved by the Rightwing U.S. Supreme Court in 2008, has already resulted in unknown numbers of disenfranchised voters, including 90 year-old nuns, elderly veterans, and untold numbers of otherwise-legal student and minority voters --- the real target of such GOP voter suppression schemes disguised as "ballot integrity" laws.)

White represents just the latest in a series of high-profile Republican voter fraud cases --- including recent allegations against Utah's former governor, Jon Huntsman, a potential 2012 Presidential hopeful, and, of course, GOP voter fraud queen Ann Coulter --- most of whom have found some way to get off the hook entirely.

White was charged by a grand jury of, among other felonies, having been registered to vote at an address where he did not live in the town of Fishers, where he previously served (apparently illegally) on the town council, and then knowingly voting in the wrong place last November as he ran to be Sec. of State. White may, or may not, be as lucky as fellow GOP voter fraud scofflaws like Huntsman and Coulter, even as his friends on the State Republican Committee seem to be doing all they can to help him run out the clock in various ways, as revealed this week during new legal volleys in both the criminal and civil complaints against White...

While the criminal case against White moves forward, a civil case is being brought by state Democrats arguing that the Indiana Recount Commission is slow-walking the Democrats' challenge to White's eligibility to have been on the ballot at all last November, since he was illegally registered. Last December, the Commission dismissed the challenge entirely, though earlier this month the judge in the civil case ruled their complaint is valid, and ordered the Commission to move forward with it. The Democrats argue White's illegal voter registration made him ineligible to be on last year's ballot and therefore, they argue, Democratic candidate Vop Osili --- the highest vote-getter legally on the ballot --- ought to named to the post.

At the same time, White's attorneys are arguing that the criminal case should be resolved before the civil case --- or action against him by the Indiana Recount Commission --- can move forward at all.
Yesterday, Carrie Ritchie and Mary Beth Schneider, reporting for the Indianapolis Star, detailed the newest developments in the case this way:

A Marion County judge has ordered the Indiana Recount Commission and the State Republican chairman to explain why they haven’t moved quickly to resolve Democrats’ challenge to Charlie White’s eligibility to serve as secretary of state. 
On April 7, Marion Circuit Court Judge Louis F. Rosenberg ruled the Democrats’ challenge is valid and told the Recount Commission to move forward with it quickly.

Attorneys for the Democrats filed a motion today to urge Rosenberg to resolve the matter in his court or to set a schedule the commission must follow to resolve the complaint.


The Democrats claim the commission hasn’t moved quickly enough to set hearing dates and they also criticized State Republican Chairman Eric Holcomb for not appointing a commission member to replace White, who serves on the three-member commission but has recused himself from matters pertaining to his own case.

“It just looks like they are trying to run out the clock,” Democratic chairman Dan Parker said this afternoon.

In an order issued this afternoon [Monday], Rosenberg ordered Holcomb to appoint someone to replace White within two days. He also ordered Holcomb and Recount Commission Director Bradley Skolnik to appear in court Thursday to “show good cause, if any there be, why the Commission should not be held in contempt” for not moving quickly, as the judge had ordered.
Clearly feeling heat from the judge, as the Star's Ritchie reports in a follow-up today, Holcomb has finally taken action by naming Thomas Wheeler, former chairman of the Indiana Election Commission, to take White's seat on the panel.

Ritchie also offers one of the reasons why Republicans may be trying to run out the clock on this case:
In the motion the Democrats filed Monday, they accused the Republicans of stalling the case so the legislature can pass a law that would ensure Gov. Mitch Daniels, a Republican, could appoint White's successor. Democrats say that if White was ineligible to run, Democrat Vop Osili should take his spot.
We'll keep an out for the results of Thursday's hearings. Should be interesting.

In the meantime, Republican legislatures across the nation continue to push various Photo ID restrictions at the polling place, claiming an evidence-free epidemic of "voter fraud," despite the fact that some 20 million legal American voters (most of them Democratic-leaning) may well be disenfranchised by such laws, according to studies cited by the League of Women Voters.

That, despite the fact that, as seen in Minnesota this week, where such a law is being pushed by GOP officials under the guise of keeping felons from illegally voting, there is usually little or no fraud committed in elections by people attempting to impersonate someone else at the polling place. Most "voter fraud", what very little there is of it, is more often committed via absentee voting, which polling place Photo ID restrictions do nothing to protect against.

On the other hand, Election fraud, in the meantime, as committed by insiders who are able to change the results of entire elections with a few keystrokes on an electronic voting tabulator, remains a serious threat to democracy, as demonstrated by scientific study after scientific study. That problem, however, is one that Republicans (as well as Democrats) have shown little interest in combating.

* * *
UPDATE 4/26/11: Today's NYTimes aptly slams the new "Republican threat to voting," described as "the largest legislative effort to scale back voting rights in a century." They describe "more than 30...states...joining the bandwagon of disenfranchisement, as Republicans outdo each other to propose bills with new voting barriers."

Friday, April 29, 2011

US Government Debt Rating Lowered to "C"

MaryHolloway Love

Weiss Research, a very well respected firm headquartered in Florida, had it's ratings section, Weiss Ratings, iniated it''s coverage of sovereign nations debt by slashing US Government Debt to a "C" rating, which is only 2 points above junk status. Many analysts and economists feel this may well result in a rift, as S&P has been making noises for over a year now about doing this very same thing.

Many signs have pointed to deep pressure put on them by some in the administration to hold off and have a wait and see attitude until after QE2, though there were no economists who believed that QE2 was going to be the magical panacea that Bernanke demanded it be.  It  remains to be seen if S&P will now take the plunge, especially with the US Dollar sinking sharply, the US monetizing it's own debt and continuing to keep the money printing presses in action, thereby contributing mightily to the devaluation of the dollar and the incoming inflation that experts say has reared it's ugly head and is about to become quite a problem, given the high unemployment numbers, the rising prices, the stagnant wages, all of which combine to put additional pressure on the Treasuries and the Dollar and neither have any good news on which to base a rally.

Spot silver is up nearly 60% just so far this year alone.  It settled at $49.13 an oz yesterday after teasing $50/oz, but still higher than 1980 when the Hunt Brothers were cornering the market in silver. Yet another day, silver made another new high. Gold also hit another record high to settle at $1539.40/oz at close of NYMerc.
Weiss Research, a very well respected firm headquartered in Florida, had it's ratings section, Weiss Ratings, iniated it''s coverage of sovereign nations debt by slashing US Government Debt to a "C" rating, which is only 2 points above junk status. Many analysts and economists feel this may well result in a rift, as S&P has been making noises for over a year now about doing this very same thing.

Many signs have pointed to deep pressure put on them by some in the administration to hold off and have a wait and see attitude until after QE2, though there were no economists who believed that QE2 was going to be the magical panacea that Bernanke demanded it be.  It  remains to be seen if S&P will now take the plunge, especially with the US Dollar sinking sharply, the US monetizing it's own debt and continuing to keep the money printing presses in action, thereby contributing mightily to the devaluation of the dollar and the incoming inflation that experts say has reared it's ugly head and is about to become quite a problem, given the high unemployment numbers, the rising prices, the stagnant wages, all of which combine to put additional pressure on the Treasuries and the Dollar and neither have any good news on which to base a rally.

Spot silver is up nearly 60% just so far this year alone.  It settled at $49.13 an oz yesterday after teasing $50/oz, but still higher than 1980 when the Hunt Brothers were cornering the market in silver. Yet another day, silver made another new high. Gold also hit another record high to settle at $1539.40/oz at close of NYMerc.

With the dollar falling and Bernanke giving the first ever scheduled Press Conference by a Federal Bank President in the 97 year history of the Federal Reserve,during which Mr. Bernanke announced the continuation of QE2 and the loose moetary policies currently in place would continue. Those words lit a fire under the precious metals and they took off once more as protection from economic chaos and also to combat and offset inflation.

Look for the equities markets to open flat to lower, and expect quite a lot of activity in the entire spectre of Precious Metals as most traders and technicians and many of the hedge funds want to go home long the metals over the weekend. It seems as if no one trading these shiny substances can bear to be barehanded. Buy any dips, and if no dips, buy and dollar price average.

Egypt to Open Gaza Border as Israel Cites Concern Over Hamas


Egypt plans to open its border crossing with the Gaza Strip, possibly within the next two weeks, the Foreign Ministry said, as Israel expressed concern over its neighbor’s ties with Hamas, which rules the territory.

“We’ll open the crossing point for individuals in a continuous way,” Menha Bakhoum, a spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry, said in an interview today. “The details are still being worked out.”

Egypt has cooperated with Israel to impose a blockade on Gaza that Israel says is necessary to prevent Hamas and other Islamist groups from importing weapons that could be used against the Jewish state. The policy, implemented by former President Hosni Mubarak, has been unpopular in Egypt and was one of the targets of the protest movement that forced Mubarak out of office in February.

A senior Israeli official, speaking anonymously because the issues are being pursued in diplomatic channels, said Israel is concerned that Egypt is upgrading its ties with Hamas, classified as a terrorist organization by Israel, the U.S. and the European Union.

Israel is also concerned about signs of a rapprochement between Egypt and Iran, which backs Hamas, and about increasing calls in Egypt for the abrogation of a peace treaty with Israel signed in 1979, the Israeli official said.

On Feb. 11, the day Mubarak stepped down, Hamas called on any new Egyptian government to reopen the Rafah border crossing and help Palestinians end the blockade.

Hamas-Fatah Accord

Egypt’s transitional military-led government this week brokered an agreement between Hamas and its rival, the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority headed by Mahmoud Abbas, to end a division lasting almost four years, create a unified administration and pave the way for Palestinian elections.

The accord follows protests in March in which thousands of Palestinians, inspired by the popular uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, called for national unity.

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Nabil el-Arabi said last month that the country is ready to “open a new page” with Iran, with which it hasn’t had full diplomatic relations since 1979, after the overthrow of Mubarak. Iran hopes to “witness further expansion of relations,” Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said in response.

Israel and Egypt maintained a blockade on Gaza since Hamas ousted Abbas’s forces and took over running the territory in 2007, after it won Palestinian parliamentary elections the previous year.

Goods Shortages

The blockade cut off most civilian traffic and restricted trade with the territory, whose residents say they face shortages in some goods as a result.

Last month Israel’s navy boarded an Egypt-bound ship and found weapons that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said were sent by Iran and intended for “terrorist forces” in the Gaza Strip. Israel came under international criticism a year ago after a naval commando raid on an aid flotilla headed for Gaza left nine Turkish citizens dead.

Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry, declined to comment today on Egypt’s plan to open the Rafah border crossing.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mariam Fam in Cairo at; Maram Mazen in Khartoum at; Gwen Ackerman in Jerusalem at

Tunisia furious as Libya fighting spills over border (VIDEO)

Global Post
Tunisia expresses "extreme indignation" after fighting spills over the border.

A Libyan photographer wounded by shrapnel is wheeled
into a hospital on the western front of Misurata on April 28, 2011.
Fighting between forces loyal to embattled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and rebels spilled over into Tunisia Thursday, infuriating the Tunisian government.

Gaddafi's forces drove rebels from an outpost near the western Libyan town of Wazen, shut off one of their supply lines and chased them across the border with Tunisia, the Wall Street Journal reports. The two sides exchanged artillery fire Thursday night near Wazen, causing more civilians to flee into Tunisia.

Tunisia authorities said they were furious with Gaddafi for the incursion by his forces as well as for the firing of Grad rockets across the border.

"Given the gravity of what has happened," a Tunisian Foreign Ministry statement said, as reported by Reuters, "the Tunisian authorities have informed the Libyans of their extreme indignation and demand measures to put an immediate stop to these violations."

Gaddafi's troops apologized after briefly crossing the border.

Rebels, who have been fighting Gaddafi's forces for the past two months, captured the strategic border post last week, enabling them to bring supplies into the country. The crossing between Dehiba in Tunisia and Wazen on the Libyan side has been critical because it serves as the only road link for Libya's rebels in the west with the outside world.

The wave of protests that have swept the Arab world began in Tunisia, leading to the overthrow of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in January.

Meanwhile, Gaddafi's forces have intensified their assault on Misurata, the city in western Libya that has seen some of the worst fighting.

And a NATO air strike Wednesday reportedly killed at least 11 rebel fighters in Misurata.

War on Terror Promises Era of Persistent Conflict

Jeff Shear

This is the last of a three-part look at the evolution of the American military.

The phrase "persistent conflict" has
become a subject of speculation in both
military and civilian circles, as America's
commitment to Iraq winds down, Afghanistan
promises to draw down troops
in July, and a new combat
mission in Libya is under way.
(MC2 Edwin L. Wriston/
Struggling to wind down the longest war in American history, retiring Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. lobbed a bomb. He described a future rife with “persistent conflict.” The phrase, which was long studied and carefully forged over several years by the Pentagon, has become a subject of speculation in both military and civilian circles, as America’s commitment to Iraq winds down, Afghanistan promises to draw down troops in July, and a new combat mission in Libya is under way, roiling the already tumultuous Middle East.

(Having fulfilled his three-year commitment, Casey stepped down on April 10, 2011, and was replaced by General Martin E. Dempsey, the commanding general at the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.)

The term represents a link in a chain of events that began in 1973 with the creation of an all-volunteer military. Less than 20 years later, those volunteers had evolved into a well-oiled professional fighting machine, able to project power anywhere around the globe.

The bloodbath in the Balkans gave rise to a second link, when the U.S. contributed troops and aircraft to separate the warring factions in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Large numbers of private contractors were hired to support the military. Those numbers multiplied in Iraq and Afghanistan, as more and more of the military’s capabilities were privatized. Without professionals and privatization, “persistent conflict” would be unlikely.

In hindsight, the nation may have been preparing for a future of “persistent conflict” since Bosnia in 1995. A one-year commitment in the Balkans ended nine years later in 2004, overlapping two other wars.

Casey began talking publicly about “persistent conflict” in an August 2007 speech before the National Press Club in Washington. His new job had begun that April as a presidential campaign ramped up and the situation in Iraq wound down.

During the first month at his desk, Casey saw four bombings in Baghdad kill 198 people. That same April, a suicide bomber entered the Iraqi Parliament building, killing one representative and wounding 22. The attack had taken place “inside the wire,” in the fortress-like Green Zone that held the American embassy, the Iraqi government and all of the major news bureaus.

Before the end of his first month on the job, Casey’s boss, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, delivered more bad news. America’s shell-shocked troops in Iraq and Afghanistan would have their 12-month tours stretched out to 16 months. It was not long before Casey began calling the relentless rotation of troops in and out of combat zones the “new normal.”

While Casey has never been an alarmist or played on the nation’s fears, he foresees a persistent campaign against violent extremist groups like al-Qaeda. As he sees it, the Army must be prepared to deal with a full “spectrum” of potential conflicts. For the future not only holds the danger of terrorism and the rise of failed states, but also struggles to gain control of diminishing resources — energy, food, water — made more acute by a new status quo.

The nuclear dangers of Iran, Pakistan and North Korea loom large, but natural resources and mineral wealth have long been a spigot of state power. In the months leading up to World War II, the U.S. and several other nations used an oil embargo to pressure Japan into diplomatic concessions. They received no concessions and Japan ultimately responded with an attack on Pearl Harbor.

In 2006 and 2009, Russia cut off gas supplies in a trade dispute with Ukraine. That threatened one-quarter of the natural gas consumed by fuel hungry Europe, large parts of which fall under the protective arm of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Still, there are “people in the Pentagon who say that ‘persistent conflict’ does not necessarily mean ‘persistent combat,’” says Nathan Freier, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “It is unlikely that the U.S. will be participating in large-scale serial wars.”

Freier had been part of the Pentagon team that developed the concept of persistent conflict. “There are people who are going to push back against U.S. influence around the world for a variety of motivations,” he says. “Conflict is not necessarily violent. We were thinking along the lines of ‘persistent conflict and resistance,’ a kind of push-back — economic, political and advisory responses other than combat.”

Whatever “persistent conflict” comes to mean, the Army is building what it calls a more modular force, one that allows specialized units to mix and match capabilities. The Army that will emerge from Iraq or Afghanistan — whether it finally leaves or stays behind in the name of stability — will have to be flexible enough to face an unpredictable future.

Professor Richard H. Kohn studies the connections between the military and American society at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “The term [persistent conflict] serves to explain why General Casey is moving toward an expeditionary army,” meaning a force that can be readily inserted into a conflict, Kohn says. A recent release from the U.S. Army War College’s electronic newsletter described the move to a modular Army as momentous: “[The Army's] largest transformation since World War II.” That means the great land army will no longer rely on massive divisions to enter combat, but rely on smaller Lego-styled brigades that can be shaped to the circumstances. Speaking at the annual war college strategy conference in 2010, (see video here) retired Army Lt. Col. Nathan Frier said, “Once, the gold standard of risk assessment for DOD was the ability to conduct two major war simultaneously, it is now the ability to simultaneously conduct dissimilar missions of widely varying scope and intensity.”

In early April 2011, U.S. forces were conducting dissimilar missions: The Navy was launching missiles and aircraft against Libya, while special forces units ran covert operations on the ground; the Army was shipping out and closing down bases in Iraq, while preparing to leave behind 150 uniformed personnel to work with security contractors to train Iraqi police and military; troops in Afghanistan were gearing up for a spring offensive against the Taliban (in a combat operation that had initially been aimed at al-Qaeda); elsewhere the Navy was off the coast of Japan performing humanitarian services while, at the same time, watching over its bases there.

The War College’s strategic conference also broached the problem of “indecisive wars,” which might be described as the residual effect of persistent conflict. Such wars would not be aimed at winning, but at containing or controlling a threat. While the Army has fought indecisive wars in the past, it was seldom by plan. If Kohn is correct, the new Army must be prepared to face up to this new reality: engaging in warfare that may not have a final outcome; war in which there will be no walk-off victory.
Another clear message emerging after 15 years of persistent conflict, beginning in Bosnia, is that troops wear out. Humans cannot simply be refitted and sent back into battle. The Army Times reports that the Department of Veterans Affairs has found that 44 percent of Iraq-Afghanistan war vets seeking treatment suffer war-related mental problems.

These numbers are only a slice of the real problem. Though the VA says it has treated a total of 178,483 individual veterans from 2002 to 2008 with war-related mental problems, or 24 percent of the 1.7 million men and women who have been in combat zones, a separate study by the RAND Corporation found that many soldiers don’t seek help for fear of repercussions. So the actual percentage of mental problems could be far higher.

Dr. Andrew Bacevich, a Vietnam veteran and the author of Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War, is alarmed. “There is emerging evidence that shows that we’ve got a new generation of veterans that is going to have all kinds of problems. And that’s going to cost a lot of money. I believe it’s true that 40 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who have left the service have already filed for some kind of disability with the Veterans Administration, and that’s a huge number. And it’s a much large percentage than it was in previous wars.”

And if the soldiers are wearing out, so is their weaponry. None of the military’s gear was designed for 10 years of constant use. Workhorse systems, like the venerable C-130 aircraft used in transport and modified to go into battle as gunships, are falling apart. Air Force Lt. Col. Brenda Cartier commanded a squadron of these aircraft and says “the wing-boxes [have worn out] and need to be replaced.” Wing-boxes keep the wings attached to the fuselage.

In the end, the meaning of “persistent conflict” may ultimately be defined by the federal budget. The January/February issue of the journal Foreign Affairs had this: “The United States faces a watershed moment: It must decide whether to increase its already massive debt in order to continue being the world’s sheriff, or restrain its military missions and focus on economic recovery. …”

The authors of the article, Matthew Leatherman, a research associate for Washington’s Stimson Center, and Gordon Adams, a professor at American University and the former associate director for national security and international affairs at the Office of Management and Budget, see Pentagon spending in retreat.

“Secretary Gates is engaged in budgetary trench warfare,” Adams says. “He’s basically retreating one trench at a time, conceding that we’re at a turning point.”

Adams, who spent five years analyzing defense dollars in the Clinton administration, dismisses the concept of persistent conflict as a “fantasy.” He argues that the Defense Department has drawn the wrong lesson from Iraq and Afghanistan. The reality is that persistent conflict cannot mean persistent combat. It is both physically and fiscally impossible.

“We’re not going to fight insurgencies forever,” Adams says. “Casey has built a myth around Iraq and Afghanistan, saying that there will be an endless series of such wars that require a very large army.” Adams believes that the real lesson is more ironic: that when you invade a country, even a failed state, “you create your own insurgency.” His comments suggest that “persistent conflict” may become a self-fulfilling prophesy.