Israel’s front-line thugs

Israel’s front-line thugs

Seth Freedman

News that leftwing activists are facing increased pressure to stay out of the West Bank is a worrying development in local politics, especially at a time when settler attacks on Palestinians are on the increase. Rather than clamp down on the settlers perpetrating the violence, the authorities are pursuing a path of locking the doors to the outside world and pretending that nothing at all is amiss.

Not all settlers are inherently violent; to portray their entire subgroup as such is as disingenuous as claiming that all Palestinians are fanatics just because there are radical elements in their midst. However, just because all settlers shouldn’t be tarred with the same brush doesn’t excuse the inaction and indifference on the part of the Israeli authorities when faced with the crimes of the extremists among the settler population.

Of late, there has been a steady stream of brutal assaults carried out by settlers against their Palestinian neighbours in the West Bank, right under the noses of the lackadaisical army. The phenomenon is, sadly, nothing new; what has brought the story back into the spotlight are the efforts of human rights groups, such as B’Tselem to film the violence and document the shocking reality on the ground – which is why, it seems, the authorities are so keen to clamp down on their activity in the region.

However, the settlers don’t confine their vindictive and vicious attacks to Palestinians; they are not averse to attacking their Jewish peers either. Two recent incidents amply demonstrated the extent to which the Wild West Bank has become bandit country, with no sheriff’s posse daring to stand up to the rogue elements holding the region at ransom.

First up was a Breaking the Silence tour to Hebron, whose bus was surrounded by jeering settlers who blocked their path and showered those aboard with abuse. Instead of intervening on behalf of the victims of the threatening mob, the police “did not manage to disperse the mob”, “no arrests were made”, and in the end they simply ordered the tour group to return from whence they came.

Then another Breaking the Silence group came under attack from settler vigilantes, who doused the participants with boiling water after confronting them in the streets of Hebron and heckling them with cries of “traitor”, and other such hostile invective.

For anyone who’s been to Hebron, Kiryat Arba, or any of the settlements which play home to the extremist hardcore of the settler movement, incidents such as those in Hebron, or the assaults in Susiya, are by no means surprising. Being subjected to settler abuse and attack is part and parcel of the experience for Israeli left-wingers and Palestinian locals alike. Sordid as it may be, the depths to which many settlers have sunk is merely a symptom of the malaise infecting Israeli society, rather than the cause.

Radical elements exist in every religion, in every ethnic group, and in every country. Human nature dictates that there will always be those for whom conforming to societal norms is antithetic to their bigoted, boorish ways – but that is when those charged with keeping order in society are meant to be put into play. In Israel, the state apparatus should, in theory, be mobilised to full effect to quell any illegal activity, whether carried out by right- or left-winger, Jew or gentile.

The security forces are, of course, by no means scared to act when it suits them. Palestinian demonstrations are routinely put down with excessive force: rocks flung by pre-teens are countered with rubber bullets, tear gas, and – often – live and indiscriminate fire. But when it comes to clamping down on violence emanating from the settler community, a different set of rules apply, and the authorities’ reeking hypocrisy is exposed as endemic to the way in which they view the different strands of Israeli society.

I’ve witnessed the double standards for myself countless times, from the kid-glove treatment my platoon used when evicting the settlers of Homesh to the heavy-handed brutality meted out by the border police in the Palestinian villages of Bil’in and Nilin. What is explained away as “necessary in the interests of security” in one situation is turned on its head in another; softly-softly replacing an all-out show of force, simply because the assailants in question are religious Jews rather than Muslims.

The longer the duplicity is allowed to thrive in the military and political spheres in Israel, the worse the violence will get on the part of the settlers’ lunatic fringe. Giving them carte blanche to engage in low-level crime only encourages them to see how much more they can get away with, in their attempts to intimidate and bully anyone they see as against them in their holy war.

There’s unlikely to be a sea-change any time soon in the upper echelons of Israeli politics, given their tacit support of the settlement enterprise in turning a blind eye to illegal construction, and the army’s providing of military support to settlers the length and breadth of the West Bank. However, there has to be a concerted effort on the parts of all with an interest in human rights to follow B’Tselem’s lead and apply sufficient pressure on Israeli judges to see court cases through to a satisfactory conclusion.

Only by taking consistent and courageous stands against the depravity of the lawless settlers will there be an end to their crimes. The police force and army seem uninterested in calling them to heel, or allowing activists to bear witness to their crimes; it can only be hoped that the legal system is made of sterner, and more moral, stuff than them.

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The Plan To Topple Pakistan Military

The Plan To Topple Pakistan Military

By Ahmed Quraishi

This is not about Musharraf anymore. This is about clipping the wings of a strong Pakistani military, denying space for China in Pakistan, squashing the ISI, stirring ethnic unrest, and neutralizing Pakistan’s nuclear program. The first shot in this plan was fired in Pakistan’s Balochistan province in 2004. The last bullet will be toppling Musharraf, sidelining the military and installing a pliant government in Islamabad. Musharraf shares the blame for letting things come this far. But he is also punching holes in Washington’s game plan. He needs to be supported.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—On the evening of Tuesday, 26 September, 2006, Pakistani strongman Pervez Musharraf walked into the studio of Comedy Central’s ‘Daily Show’ with Jon Stewart, the first sitting president anywhere to dare do this political satire show.

Stewart offered his guest some tea and cookies and played the perfect host by asking, “Is it good?” before springing a surprise: “Where’s Osama bin Laden?”

“I don’t know,” Musharraf replied, as the audience enjoyed the rare sight of a strong leader apparently cornered. “You know where he is?” Musharraf snapped back, “You lead on, we’ll follow you.”

What Gen. Musharraf didn’t know then is that he really was being cornered. Some of the smiles that greeted him in Washington and back home gave no hint of the betrayal that awaited him.

As he completed the remaining part of his U.S. visit, his allies in Washington and elsewhere, as all evidence suggests now, were plotting his downfall. They had decided to take a page from the book of successful ‘color revolutions’ where western governments covertly used money, private media, student unions, NGOs and international pressure to stage coups, basically overthrowing individuals not fitting well with Washington’s agenda.

This recipe proved its success in former Yugoslavia, and more recently in Georgia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.

In Pakistan, the target is a Pakistani president who refuses to play ball with the United States on Afghanistan, China, and Dr. A.Q. Khan. To get rid of him, an impressive operation is underway:

* A carefully crafted media blitzkrieg launched early this year assailing the Pakistani president from all sides, questioning his power, his role in Washington’s war on terror and predicting his downfall.

* Money pumped into the country to pay for organized dissent.

* Willing activists assigned to mobilize and organize accessible social groups.

* A campaign waged on Internet where tens of mailing lists and ‘news agencies’ have sprung up from nowhere, all demonizing Musharraf and the Pakistani military.

* European- and American-funded Pakistani NGOs taking a temporary leave from their real jobs to work as a makeshift anti-government mobilization machine.

* U.S. government agencies directly funding some private Pakistani television networks; the channels go into an open anti-government mode, cashing in on some manufactured and other real public grievances regarding inflation and corruption.

* Some of Musharraf’s shady and corrupt political allies feed this campaign, hoping to stay in power under a weakened president.

* All this groundwork completed and chips in place when the judicial crisis breaks out in March 2007. Even Pakistani politicians surprised at a well-greased and well-organized lawyers campaign, complete with flyers, rented cars and buses, excellent event-management and media outreach.

* Currently, students are being recruited and organized into a street movement. The work is ongoing and urban Pakistani students are being cultivated, especially using popular Internet Web sites and ‘online hangouts’. The people behind this effort are mostly unknown and faceless, limiting themselves to organizing sporadic, small student gatherings in Lahore and Islamabad, complete with banners, placards and little babies with arm bands for maximum media effect. No major student association has announced yet that it is behind these student protests, which is a very interesting fact glossed over by most journalists covering this story. Only a few students from affluent schools have responded so far and it’s not because the Pakistani government’s countermeasures are effective. They’re not. The reason is that social activism attracts people from affluent backgrounds, closely reflecting a uniquely Pakistani phenomenon where local NGOs are mostly founded and run by rich, westernized Pakistanis.

All of this may appear to be spur-of-the-moment and Musharraf-specific. But it all really began almost three years ago, when, out of the blue and recycling old political arguments, Mr. Akbar Bugti launched an armed rebellion against the Pakistani state, surprising security analysts by using rockets and other military equipment that shouldn’t normally be available to a smalltime village thug. Since then, Islamabad sits on a pile of evidence that links Mr. Bugti’s campaign to money and ammunition and logistical support from Afghanistan, directly aided by the Indians and the Karzai administration, with the Americans turning a blind eye.

For reasons not clear to our analysts yet, Islamabad has kept quiet on Washington’s involvement with anti-Pakistan elements in Afghanistan. But Pakistan did send an indirect public message to the Americans recently.

“We have indications of Indian involvement with anti-state elements in Pakistan,” declared the spokesman of the Pakistan Foreign Office in a regular briefing in October. The statement was terse and direct and the spokesman, Ms. Tasnim Aslam, quickly moved on to other issues.

This is how a Pakistani official explained Ms. Aslam’s statement: “What she was really saying is this: We know what the Indians are doing. They’ve sold the Americans on the idea that [the Indians] are an authority on Pakistan and can be helpful in Afghanistan. The Americans have bought the idea and are in on the plan, giving the Indians a free hand in Afghanistan. What the Americans don’t know is that we, too, know the Indians very well. Better still, we know Afghanistan very well. You can’t beat us at our own game.”

Mr. Bugti’s armed rebellion coincided with the Gwadar project entering its final stages. No coincidence here. Mr. Bugti’s real job was to scare the Chinese away and scuttle Chinese President Hu Jintao’s planned visit to Gwadar a few months later to formally launch the port city.

Gwadar is the pinnacle of Sino-Pakistani strategic cooperation. It’s a modern port city that is supposed to link Central Asia, western China, and Pakistan with markets in Mideast and Africa. It’s supposed to have roads stretching all the way to China. It’s no coincidence either that China has also earmarked millions of dollars to renovate the Karakoram Highway linking northern Pakistan to western China.

Some reports in the American media, however, have accused Pakistan and China of building a naval base in the guise of a commercial seaport directly overlooking international oil shipping lanes. The Indians and some other regional actors are also not comfortable with this project because they see it as commercial competition.

What Mr. Bugti’s regional and international supporters never expected is Pakistan moving firmly and strongly to nip his rebellion in the bud. Even Mr. Bugti himself probably never expected the Pakistani state to react in the way it did to his betrayal of the homeland. He was killed in a military operation where scores of his mercenaries surrendered to Pakistan army soldiers.

U.S. intelligence and their Indian advisors could not cultivate an immediate replacement for Mr. Bugti. So they moved to Plan B. They supported Abdullah Mehsud, a Pakistani Taliban fighter held for five years in Guantanamo Bay, and then handed over back to the Afghan government, only to return to his homeland, Pakistan, to kidnap two Chinese engineers working in Balochistan, one of whom was eventually killed during a rescue operation by the Pakistani government.

Islamabad could not tolerate this shadowy figure, who was creating a following among ordinary Pakistanis masquerading as a Taliban while in reality towing a vague agenda. He was rightly eliminated earlier this year by Pakistani security forces while secretly returning from Afghanistan after meeting his handlers there. Again, no surprises here.

SMELLING A RAT

This is where Pakistani political and military officials finally started smelling a rat. All of this was an indication of a bigger problem. There were growing indications that, ever since Islamabad joined Washington’s regional plans, Pakistan was gradually turning into a ‘besieged-nation’, heavily targeted by the American media while being subjected to strategic sabotage and espionage from Afghanistan.

Afghanistan, under America’s watch, has turned into a vast staging ground for sophisticated psychological and military operations to destabilize neighboring Pakistan.

During the past three years, the heat has gradually been turned up against Pakistan and its military along Pakistan’s western regions:

* A shadowy group called the BLA, a Cold War relic, rose from the dead to restart a separatist war in southwestern Pakistan.

* Bugti’s death was a blow to neo-BLA, but the shadowy group’s backers didn’t repent. His grandson, Brahmdagh Bugti, is currently enjoying a safe shelter in the Afghan capital, Kabul, where he continues to operate and remote-control his assets in Pakistan.

* Saboteurs trained in Afghanistan have been inserted into Pakistan to aggravate extremist passions here, especially after the Red Mosque operation.

* Chinese citizens continue to be targeted by individuals pretending to be Islamists, when no known Islamic group has claimed responsibility.

* A succession of ‘religious rebels’ with suspicious foreign links have suddenly emerged in Pakistan over the past months claiming to be ‘Pakistani Taliban’. Some of the names include Abdul Rashid Ghazi, Baitullah Mehsud, and now the Maulana of Swat. Some of them have used and are using encrypted communication equipment far superior to what Pakistani military owns.

* Money and weapons have been fed into the religious movements and al Qaeda remnants in the tribal areas.

Exploiting the situation, assets within the Pakistani media started promoting the idea that the Pakistani military was killing its own people. The rest of the unsuspecting media quickly picked up this message. Some botched American and Pakistani military operations against Al Qaeda that caused civilian deaths accidentally fed this media campaign.

This was the perfect timing for the launch of Military, Inc.: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy, a book authored by Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa Agha, a columnist for a Pakistani English-language paper and a correspondent for ‘Jane’s Defense Weekly’, a private intelligence service founded by experts close to the British intelligence.

TARGET: PAK MILITARY

The book was launched in Pakistan in early 2007 by Oxford Press. And, contrary to most reports, it is openly available in Islamabad’s biggest bookshops. The book portrays the Pakistani military as an institution that is eating up whatever little resources Pakistan has.

Pakistani military’s successful financial management, creating alternate financial sources to spend on a vast military machine and build a conventional and nuclear near-match with a neighboring adversary five times larger – an impressive record for any nation by any standard – was distorted in the book and reduced to a mere attempt by the military to control the nation’s economy in the same way it was controlling its politics.

The timing was interesting. After all, it was hard to defend a military in the eyes of its own proud people when the chief of the military is ruling the country, the army is fighting insurgents and extremists who claim to be defending Islam, grumpy politicians are out of business, and the military’s side businesses, meant to feed the nation’s military machine, are doing well compared to the shabby state of the nation’s civilian departments.

A closer look at Ms. Siddiqa, the author, revealed disturbing information to Pakistani officials. In the months before launching her book, she was a frequent visitor to India where, as a defense expert, she cultivated important contacts. On her return, she developed friendship with an Indian lady diplomat posted in Islamabad. Both of these activities – travel to India and ties to Indian diplomats – are not a crime in Pakistan and don’t raise interest anymore. Pakistanis are hospitable and friendly people and these qualities have been amply displayed to the Indians during the four-year-old peace process.

What is interesting is that Ms. Siddiqa left her car in the house of the said Indian diplomat during one of her recent trips to London. And, according to a report, she stayed in London at a place owned by an individual linked to the Indian lady diplomat friend in Islamabad.

The point here is this: Who assigned her to investigate the Pakistani Armed Forces and present a distorted image of a proud an efficient Pakistani institution?

From 1988 to 2001, Dr. Siddiqa worked in the Pakistan civil service, the Pakistani civil bureaucracy. Her responsibilities included dealing with Military Accounts, which come under the Pakistan Ministry of Defense. She had thirteen years of rich experience in dealing with the budgetary matters of the Pakistani military and people working in this area.

Dr. Siddiqa received a year-long fellowship to research and write a book in the United States. There are strong indications that some of her Indian contacts played a role in arranging financing for her book project through a paid fellowship. The final manuscript of her book was vetted at a publishing office in New Delhi.

All of these details are insignificant if detached from the real issue at hand. And the issue is the demonization of the Pakistani military as an integral part of the media siege around Pakistan, with the American media leading the way in this campaign.

Some of the juicy details of this campaign include:

* The attempt by Dr. Siddiqa to pitch junior officers against senior officers in Pakistan Armed Forces by alleging discrimination in the distribution of benefits. Apart from being malicious and unfounded, her argument was carefully designed to generate frustration and demoralize Pakistani soldiers.

* The American media insisting on handing over Dr. A. Q. Khan to the United States so that a final conviction against the Pakistani military can be secured.

* Mrs. Benazir Bhutto demanding after returning to Pakistan that the ISI be restructured; and in a press conference during her house arrest in Lahore in November she went as far as asking Pakistan army officers to revolt against the army chief, a damning attempt at destroying a professional army from within.

Some of this appears to be eerily similar to the campaign waged against the Pakistani military in 1999, when, in July that year, an unsigned full page advertisement appeared in major American newspapers with the following headline: “A Modern Rogue Army With Its Finger On The Nuclear Button.”

Till this day, it is not clear who exactly paid for such an expensive newspaper full-page advertisement. But one thing is clear: the agenda behind that advertisement is back in action.

Strangely, just a few days before Mrs. Bhutto’s statements about restructuring the ISI and her open call to army officers to stage a mutiny against their leadership, the American conservative magazine The Weekly Standard interviewed an American security expert who offered similar ideas:

“A large number of ISI agents who are responsible for helping the Taliban and al Qaeda should be thrown in jail or killed. What I think we should do in Pakistan is a parallel version of what Iran has run against us in Iraq: giving money [and] empowering actors. Some of this will involve working with some shady characters, but the alternative—sending U.S. forces into Pakistan for a sustained bombing campaign—is worse.” Steve Schippert, Weekly Standard, Nov. 2007.

In addition to these media attacks, which security experts call ‘psychological operations’, the American media and politicians have intensified over the past year their campaign to prepare the international public opinion to accept a western intervention in Pakistan along the lines of Iraq and Afghanistan:

* Newsweek came up with an entire cover story with a single storyline: Pakistan is a more dangerous place than Iraq.

* Senior American politicians, Republican and Democrat, have argued that Pakistan is more dangerous than Iran and merits similar treatment. On 20 October, senator Joe Biden told ABC News that Washington needs to put soldiers on the ground in Pakistan and invite the international community to join in. “We should be in there,” he said. “We should be supplying tens of millions of dollars to build new schools to compete with the madrassas. We should be in there building democratic institutions. We should be in there, and get the rest of the world in there, giving some structure to the emergence of, hopefully, the reemergence of a democratic process.”

* The International Crisis Group (ICG) has recommended gradual sanctions on Pakistan similar to those imposed on Iran, e.g. slapping travel bans on Pakistani military officers and seizing Pakistani military assets abroad.

* The process of painting Pakistan’s nuclear assets as pure evil lying around waiting for some do-gooder to come in and ’secure’ them has reached unprecedented levels, with the U.S. media again depicting Pakistan as a nation incapable of protecting its nuclear installations. On 22 October, Jane Harman from the U.S. House Intelligence panel gave the following statement: “I think the U.S. would be wise – and I trust we are doing this – to have contingency plans [to seize Pakistan’s nuclear assets], especially because should [Musharraf] fall, there are nuclear weapons there.”

* The American media has now begun discussing the possibility of Pakistan breaking up and the possibility of new states of ‘Balochistan’ and ‘Pashtunistan’ being carved out of it. Interestingly, one of the first acts of the shady Maulana of Swat after capturing a few towns was to take down the Pakistani flag from the top of state buildings and replacing them with his own party flag.

* The ‘chatter’ about President Musharraf’s eminent fall has also increased dramatically in the mainly American media, which has been very generous in marketing theories about how Musharraf might “disappear” or be “removed” from the scene. According to some Pakistani analysts, this could be an attempt to prepare the public opinion for a possible assassination of the Pakistani president.

* Another worrying thing is how American officials are publicly signaling to the Pakistanis that Mrs. Benazir Bhutto has their backing as the next leader of the country. Such signals from Washington are not only a kiss of death for any public leader in Pakistan, but the Americans also know that their actions are inviting potential assassins to target Mrs. Bhutto. If she is killed in this way, there won’t be enough time to find the real culprit, but what’s certain is that unprecedented international pressure will be placed on Islamabad while everyone will use their local assets to create maximum internal chaos in the country. A dress rehearsal of this scenario has already taken place in October when no less than the U.N. Security Council itself intervened to ask the international community to “assist” in the investigations into the assassination attempt on Mrs. Bhutto on 18 October. This generous move was sponsored by the U.S. and, interestingly, had no input from Pakistan which did not ask for help in investigations in the first place.

Some Pakistani security analysts privately say that American ‘chatter’ about Musharraf or Bhutto getting killed is a serious matter that can’t be easily dismissed. Getting Bhutto killed can generate the kind of pressure that could result in permanently putting the Pakistani military on a back foot, giving Washington enough room to push for installing a new pliant leadership in Islamabad.

Having Musharraf killed isn’t a bad option either. The unknown Islamists can always be blamed and the military will not be able to put another soldier at the top, and circumstances will be created to ensure that either Mrs. Bhutto or someone like her is eased into power.

The Americans are very serious this time. They cannot let Pakistan get out of their hands. They have been kicked out of Uzbekistan last year, where they were maintaining bases. They are in trouble in Afghanistan and Iraq. Iran continues to be a mess for them and Russia and China are not making it any easier. Pakistan must be ’secured’ at all costs.

This is why most Pakistanis have never seen American diplomats in Pakistan active like this before. And it’s not just the current U.S. ambassador, who has added one more address to her other most-frequently-visited address in Karachi, Mrs. Bhutto’s house. The new address is the office of GEO, one of two news channels shut down by Islamabad for not signing the mandatory code-of-conduct. Thirty-eight other channels are operating and no one has censored the newspapers. But never mind this. The Americans have developed a ‘thing’ for GEO. No solace of course for ARY, the other banned channel.

Now there’s also one Bryan Hunt, the U.S. consul general in Lahore, who wears the national Pakistani dress, the long shirt and baggy trousers, and is moving around these days issuing tough warnings to Islamabad and to the Pakistani government and to President Musharraf to end emergency rule, resign as army chief and give Mrs. Bhutto access to power.

PAKISTAN’S OPTIONS

So what should Pakistan do in the face of such a structured campaign to bring Pakistan down on its knees and forcibly install a pro-Washington administration in Islamabad?

There is increasing talk in Islamabad these days about Pakistan’s new tough stand in the face of this malicious campaign.

As a starter, Islamabad blew the wind out of the visit of Mr. John Negroponte, the no. 2 man in the U.S. State Department, who came to Pakistan last week “to deliver a tough message” to the Pakistani president. Musharraf, to his credit, told him he won’t end emergency rule until all objectives are achieved.

These objectives include:

* Cleaning up our northern and western parts of the country of all foreign operatives and their domestic pawns.

* Ensuring that Washington’s plan for regime-change doesn’t succeed.

* Purging the Pakistani media of all those elements that were willing or unwilling accomplices in the plan to destabilize the country.

Musharraf has also told Washington publicly that “Pakistan is more important than democracy or the constitution.” This is a bold position. This kind of boldness would have served Musharraf a lot had it come a little earlier. But even now, his media management team is unable to make the most out of it.

Washington will not stand by watching as its plan for regime change in Islamabad goes down the drain. In case the Americans insist on interfering in Pakistani affairs, Islamabad, according to my sources, is looking at some tough measures:

* Cutting off oil supplies to U.S. military in Afghanistan. Pakistani officials are already enraged at how Afghanistan has turned into a staging ground for sabotage in Pakistan. If Islamabad continues to see Washington acting as a bully, Pakistani officials are seriously considering an announcement where Pakistan, for the first time since October 2001, will deny the United States use of Pakistani soil and air space to transport fuel to Afghanistan.

* Reviewing Pakistan’s role in the war on terror. Islamabad needs to fight terrorists on its border with Afghanistan. But our methods need to be different to Washington’s when it comes to our domestic extremists. This is where Islamabad parts ways with Washington. Pakistani officials are considering the option of withdrawing from the war on terror while maintaining Pakistan’s own war against the terrorists along Afghanistan’s border.

* Talks with the Taliban. Pakistan has no quarrel with Afghanistan’s Taliban. They are Kabul’s internal problem. But if reaching out to Afghan Taliban’s Mullah Omar can have a positive impact on rebellious Pakistani extremists, then this step should be taken. The South Koreans can talk to the Taliban. Karzai has also called for talks with them. It is time that Islamabad does the same.

The Americans have been telling everyone in the world that they have paid Pakistan $10 billion dollars over the past five years. They might think this gives them the right to decide Pakistan’s destiny. What they don’t tell the world is how Pakistan’s help secured for them their biggest footprint ever in energy-rich Central Asia.

If they forget, Islamabad can always remind them by giving them the same treatment that Uzbekistan did last year.

The Four Stages of the Breakdown

The Four Stages of the Breakdown

Thoughts of retreating to a piece of farmland in the wilderness may seem attractive but should be treated with caution. An independent community needs a certain minimum size to be self-sufficient so it will be difficult to remain isolated and away from envious eyes. The only certainty about the the Transition will be that it is unpredictable. Wars and plagues may spread your way. The government may requisition your land for agricultural use. Those fleeing the towns and cities may stumble across you. You may need to be prepared to flee your hard-worked homestead. An ability to be flexible and access to usable transport may be the survivor’s most important qualities. In the final term, the Self-sufficiency period, we may well end up in isolated villages, living a medieval-type lifestyle. It does not necessarily mean the end of civilisation since the Egyptians and Aztecs managed perfectly well without oil and coal. It may not necessarily be a bad outcome: a return to social lifestyles and a reduction in materialism and greed. But that is a difficult situation to forecast, so much depending on what wars are fought in the upcoming decades and how they effect you. It may be beyond the years of anyone reading this.


August 5, 2008

When considering what to do about the upcoming collapse of modern society, we have to be aware of what will happen. When speculating on the future, we can envisage four stages which can be defined by the three factors of energy source, interdependence and security.

Stage 1: Awareness

This is the stage we are at now. We are using hydrocarbons as our principle energy source and we are at a high sense of interdependence – that is, everybody has a specific job and we all rely on others to do their own jobs. As an example, the farmer grows corn, the driver takes it to the factories, the factory workers convert it to bread, other drivers take it to shops, shopkeepers sell the bread. If any one group of people fail to do their job, the process fails. The farmer, for instance, cannot turn his corn into bread and the shopkeeper is unable to grow his own corn to sell.

We also have a high security level meaning that the government, authorities, police and military generally maintain organisation and the rule of law so that individuals do not need to worry too much about these things themselves.

Awareness is low at the moment although the rise in oil prices in 2005 and now 2008 have made more people inquire into oil and the term ‘peak oil’ is beginning to filter into the media. But the Stage will not end until just about all of the world’s educated population knows of this problem (there will always be some who do not learn of peak oil in the same way as there are many now, especially in the developing world, who are unaware of climate change.) But as awareness will tend to rely on signs of peak oil, this stage overlaps with the next.

Stage 2: Transition

This is the actual long period when we switch from our modern, hydrocarbon-based society to whatever comes afterwards. It begins with price rises, recessions and blackouts, and ends with riots, wars and famines. Transition can be subdivided into two further phases: Ordered and Anarchic.

2a: Ordered Transition

Initially, the three factors still remain similar to our present situation, especially security. The deprivations of oil shortages can be mollified somewhat by welfare, and the health and emergency services. Governments still retain control so blackouts do not generally collapse into looting and food shortages do not lead to riots. Unemployment and higher costs will encourage some people to grow more of their own food and manage their own house/vehicle maintenance so we will see a small move across the interdependence scale.

2b: Anarchic Transition

As the Transition continues and oil becomes more scarce, order breaks down. The threatened lootings and riots of the Ordered Transition become fact. Our interdependence becomes a danger as certain stages of processes become weakened or unavailable (what happens with our corn-to-bread line when the lorries cannot obtain the diesel to transport the goods?) The authorities find it harder and harder to keep control so that we are increasingly forced to look after ourselves, growing our own food and protecting our homes against the poor and starving.

Stage 3: Scavengery

Transition ends when just about all hydrocarbons are unavailable. National security has disappeared, interdependence is unsustainable. We are forced to live in small groups of village or tribal size, growing our own food, maintaining our own buildings and providing our own security. Those who are not in village groups will be forced to steal from others.

This period is called Scavengery because we will be forced to rely on the remains of our present industrial society. There will be little wood for fuel or building until the trees have had a chance to grow, and it will take many years to learn the skills of self-sufficiency and prepare the farmland. Our societies will have to change dramatically with, for example, practices such as monogamy possibly giving way to polygamy, and interdependence becoming multi-skilling.

Stage 4: Self-Sufficiency

The final, permanent stage will be Self-Sufficiency. By now, everybody who is unable to convert to a sustainable, self-sufficient lifestyle would have died off, leaving only those in organised, independent groups to remain. With no oil or gas, and little accessible coal, industrial society will never return although we might eventually ‘progress’ to something like a Medieval level of civilisation. It is important to realise that when we talk of ‘renewables’ as the energy source here, we are not talking of modern day renewables – wind turbines, solar cells and hydroelectricity. It is extremely unlikely that these complicated constructions of electronics, plastics and finely-tooled machinery can survive long without oil, factories and ample amounts of energy. Electricity itself may become a rarity, seen in only a few locations. For most of us, it will be a return to animal energy and mechanical windmills.

Public Actions

The politicians already know of peak oil – at least, they have been told. Whether they believe it or not is another matter. Colin Campbell made a presentation to a House of Commons All-Party Committee as far back as 7th July, 1999. Unfortunately so did the oil companies and government actions since then suggest that the danger was not recognised.

That does not mean though that we should stop telling them. At some point, everyone will be forced to recognise peak oil. If you have never been told of the problem, you probably won’t see it until the television news comes on after a four-hour-long power cut and informs you that the world is facing a crisis. If you have already heard about it but don’t believe it, a bell might go off in your head when you hear that world oil production has fallen for the fifth year in a row. It is important therefore to keep badgering politicians, religious leaders, media heads, etc, even if they initially ridicule your pleas.

Be cautious with your initial statements. Terms such as “the end of civilisation” can mean instant rejection as a fanatical doomsayer. Convince them of the problem first, then introduce the consequences. Technical terms such as “proved reserves” and “The Hubbert Curve” can be useful with some to show that you have done your research and are not just responding to a casual suggestion. Above all, give them something to follow up – a link to a website with more information, such as this one or those on the Further Information page.

Education

Generally, younger people are more open to ideas than older people (and I speak as someone in my early 50s). The older person is less likely to want to change, less likely to accept the need for change, and has distant memories of the 1970s and how “everybody was predicting disaster then”. There is also the feeling that, even if this does happen, they’ll be long gone by then.

Discussing peak oil with a class of schoolchildren or students can be worthwhile. They are often interested in environmental subjects anyway and oil depletion is more immediate than climate change. In the same way that one of the most effective ways to get an adult to stop smoking is to get their kids to nag them, getting young people conscious of and interested in peak oil is a vital step to world awareness.

Personal Actions

Personal actions will clearly depend on your own circumstances. If you are a single person with ample funds and no ties, your choices are different from somebody with a spouse, 2.2 children, a mortgage and a bank account in permanent overdraft. The most important thing to bear in mind is that our present society will not continue for much longer. Ideas of finding a job at 18, marrying, acquiring a house and a family, then retiring at 60 or 70, belong to history.

The stock market, for instance, will be a volatile place once the world is aware, although some shares such as renewable energy might do well. If you have shares, you can always sell them once you see the signs of collapse, but things such as pensions which rely on the stock market are less helpful. If I was under 30, I would not bother with a pension – you could not claim it for another 30 years or so and who knows what the financial institutions would be like then, if they still exist. A better option would be to put money away regularly in a savings account. If you are planning a family, be cautious about the number of children you have. At the moment, you might have regular income and child welfare to supplement it or fall back on. State support will not always be there.

During the Awareness and Transition periods, adaptability will be the most useful trait. Recession and the rise of unemployment may mean changing jobs – multiple skills and ample savings will help you through. Having at least some method of generating power and heat – solar panels and water heaters – will ease the effects of blackouts. Growing your own vegetables in the garden will reduce food costs. As the oil shortages grow worse, so does society. Unemployment and the cost of living will rise, governments will find it more difficult to pay welfare. People may well turn to crime to obtain what they need. Ordered Transition becomes Anarchic Transition. Riots may break out. Life in the towns and cities will become harsh and uncomfortable.

Thoughts of retreating to a piece of farmland in the wilderness may seem attractive but should be treated with caution. An independent community needs a certain minimum size to be self-sufficient so it will be difficult to remain isolated and away from envious eyes. The only certainty about the the Transition will be that it is unpredictable. Wars and plagues may spread your way. The government may requisition your land for agricultural use. Those fleeing the towns and cities may stumble across you. You may need to be prepared to flee your hard-worked homestead. An ability to be flexible and access to usable transport may be the survivor’s most important qualities.

In the final term, the Self-sufficiency period, we may well end up in isolated villages, living a medieval-type lifestyle. It does not necessarily mean the end of civilisation since the Egyptians and Aztecs managed perfectly well without oil and coal. It may not necessarily be a bad outcome: a return to social lifestyles and a reduction in materialism and greed. But that is a difficult situation to forecast, so much depending on what wars are fought in the upcoming decades and how they effect you. It may be beyond the years of anyone reading this.

Massive US Naval Armada Heads For Iran

Massive US Naval Armada Heads For Iran

Operation Brimstone ended only one week ago. This was the joint US/UK/French naval war games in the Atlantic Ocean preparing for a naval blockade of Iran and the likely resulting war in the Persian Gulf area. The massive war games included a US Navy supercarrier battle group, an US Navy expeditionary carrier battle group, a Royal Navy carrier battle group, a French nuclear hunter-killer submarine plus a large number of US Navy cruisers, destroyers and frigates playing the “enemy force”.

The lead American ship in these war games, the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN71) and its Carrier Strike Group Two (CCSG-2) are now headed towards Iran along with the USS Ronald Reagon (CVN76) and its Carrier Strike Group Seven (CCSG-7) coming from Japan.

They are joining two existing USN battle groups in the Gulf area: the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN72) with its Carrier Strike Group Nine (CCSG-9); and the USS Peleliu (LHA-5) with its expeditionary strike group.

Likely also under way towards the Persian Gulf is the USS Iwo Jima (LHD-7) and its expeditionary strike group, the UK Royal Navy HMS Ark Royal (R07) carrier battle group, assorted French naval assets including the nuclear hunter-killer submarine Amethyste and French Naval Rafale fighter jets on-board the USS Theodore Roosevelt. These ships took part in the just completed Operation Brimstone.

The build up of naval forces in the Gulf will be one of the largest multi-national naval armadas since the First and Second Gulf Wars. The intent is to create a US/EU naval blockade (which is an Act of War under international law) around Iran (with supporting air and land elements) to prevent the shipment of benzene and certain other refined oil products headed to Iranian ports. Iran has limited domestic oil refining capacity and imports 40% of its benzene. Cutting off benzene and other key products would cripple the Iranian economy. The neo-cons are counting on such a blockade launching a war with Iran.

The US Naval forces being assembled include the following:

Carrier Strike Group Nine
USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN72) nuclear powered supercarrier
with its Carrier Air Wing Two
Destroyer Squadron Nine:
USS Mobile Bay (CG53) guided missile cruiser
USS Russell (DDG59) guided missile destroyer
USS Momsen (DDG92) guided missile destroyer
USS Shoup (DDG86) guided missile destroyer
USS Ford (FFG54) guided missile frigate
USS Ingraham (FFG61) guided missile frigate
USS Rodney M. Davis (FFG60) guided missile frigate
USS Curts (FFG38) guided missile frigate
Plus one or more nuclear hunter-killer submarines

Peleliu Expeditionary Strike Group
USS Peleliu (LHA-5) a Tarawa-class amphibious assault carrier
USS Pearl Harbor (LSD52) assult ship
USS Dubuque (LPD8) assult ship/landing dock
USS Cape St. George (CG71) guided missile cruiser
USS Halsey (DDG97) guided missile destroyer
USS Benfold (DDG65) guided missile destroyer

Carrier Strike Group Two
USS Theodore Roosevelt (DVN71) nuclear powered supercarrier
with its Carrier Air Wing Eight
Destroyer Squadron 22
USS Monterey (CG61) guided missile cruiser
USS Mason (DDG87) guided missile destroyer
USS Nitze (DDG94) guided missile destroyer
USS Sullivans (DDG68) guided missile destroyer

USS Springfield (SSN761) nuclear powered hunter-killer submarine

IWO ESG ~ Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group
USS Iwo Jima (LHD7) amphibious assault carrier
with its Amphibious Squadron Four
and with its 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit
USS San Antonio (LPD17) assault ship
USS Velia Gulf (CG72) guided missile cruiser
USS Ramage (DDG61) guided missile destroyer
USS Carter Hall (LSD50) assault ship
USS Roosevelt (DDG80) guided missile destroyer

USS Hartfore (SSN768) nuclear powered hunter-killer submarine

Carrier Strike Group Seven
USS Ronald Reagan (CVN76) nuclear powered supercarrier
with its Carrier Air Wing 14
Destroyer Squadron 7
USS Chancellorsville (CG62) guided missile cruiser
USS Howard (DDG83) guided missile destroyer
USS Gridley (DDG101) guided missile destroyer
USS Decatur (DDG73) guided missile destroyer
USS Thach (FFG43) guided missile frigate
USNS Rainier (T-AOE-7) fast combat support ship

Also likely to join the battle armada:

UK Royal Navy HMS Ark Royal Carrier Strike Group with assorted guided missile destroyers and frigates, nuclear hunter-killer submarines and support ships

French Navy nuclear powered hunter-killer submarines (likely the Amethyste and perhaps others), plus French Naval Rafale fighter jets operating off of the USS Theodore Roosevelt as the French Carrier Charles de Gaulle is in dry dock, and assorted surface warships

Various other US Navy warships and submarines and support ships. The following USN ships took part (as the “enemy” forces) in Operation Brimstone and several may join in:

USS San Jacinto (CG56) guided missile cruiser
USS Anzio (CG68) guided missile cruiser
USS Normandy (CG60) guided missile cruiser
USS Carney (DDG64) guided missile destroyer
USS Oscar Austin (DDG79) guided missile destroyer
USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG81) guided missile destroyer
USS Carr (FFG52) guided missile frigate

The USS Iwo Jima and USS Peleliu Expeditionary Strike Groups have USMC Harrier jump jets and an assortment of assault and attack helicopters. The Expeditionary Strike Groups have powerful USMC Expeditionary Units with amphibious armor and ground forces trained for operating in shallow waters and in seizures of land assets, such as Qeshm Island (a 50 mile long island off of Bandar Abbas in the Gulf of Hormuz and headquarters of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps).

The large and very advanced nature of the US Naval warships is not only directed at Iran. There is a great fear that Russia and China may oppose the naval and air/land blockade of Iran. If Russian and perhaps Chinese naval warships escort commercial tankers to Iran in violation of the blockade it could be the most dangerous at-sea confrontation since the Cuban Missile Crisis. The US and allied Navies, by front loading a Naval blockade force with very powerful guided missile warships and strike carriers is attempting to have a force so powerful that Russia and China will not be tempted to mess with. This is a most serious game of military brinkmanship with major nuclear armed powers that have profound objections to the neo-con grand strategy and to western control of all of the Middle East’s oil supply.

The Russian Navy this spring sent a major battle fleet into the Mediterranean headed by the modern aircraft carrier the Admiral Kuznetsov and the flagship of its Black Sea Fleet, the Guided Missile Heavy Cruiser Moskva. This powerful fleet has at least 11 surface ships and unknown numbers of subs and can use the Russian naval facility at Syria’s Tartous port for resupply. The Admiral Kuznetsov carries approximately 47 warplanes and 10 helicopters. The warplanes are mostly the powerful Su-33, a naval version (with mid-air refueling capability) of the Su-27 family. While the Su-33 is a very powerful warplane it lacks the power of the stealth USAF F-22. However, the Russians insist that they have developed a plasma based system that allows them to stealth any aircraft and a recent incident where Russian fighters were able to appear unannounced over a US Navy carrier battle group tends to confirm their claims. The Su-33 can be armed with the 3M82 Moskit sea-skimming missile (NATO code name SS-N-22 Sunburn) and the even more powerful P-800 Oniks (also named Yakhonts; NATO code name SS-N-26 Onyx). Both missiles are designed to kill US Navy supercarriers by getting past the cruiser/destroyer screen and the USN point-defense Phalanx system by using high supersonic speeds and violent end maneuvers. Russian subs currently use the underwater rocket VA-111 Shkval (Squall), which is fired from standard 533mm torpedo tubes and reaches a speed of 360kph (230mph) underwater. There is no effective countermeasures to this system and no western counterpart.

A strategic diversion has been created for Russia. The Republic of Georgia, with US backing, is actively preparing for war on South Ossetia. The South Ossetia capital has been shelled and a large Georgian tank force has been heading towards the border. Russia has stated that it will not sit by and allow the Georgians to attack South Ossetia. The Russians are great chess players and this game may not turn out so well for the neo-cons.

Kuwait has activated its “Emergency War Plan” as it and other Gulf nations prepare for the likelihood of a major regional war in the Middle East involving weapons of mass destruction.

The two-ton elephant in the living room of the neo-con strategy is the advanced biowar (ABW) that Iran, and to a lessor extent Syria, has. This places the motherlands of the major neo-con nations (America, France, the United Kingdom), as well as Israel, in grave danger. When the Soviet Union fell the Iranians hired as many out-of-work former Soviet advanced biowar experts as possible. In the last 15 or so years they have helped to develop a truly world class ABW program utilizing recombination DNA genetic engineering technology to create a large number of man made killer viruses. This form of weapon system does not require high tech military delivery systems. The viruses are sub-microscopic and once seeded in a population use the population itself as vectors. Seeding can be done without notice in shopping malls, churches, and other public places. The only real defense to an advanced global strategic biowar attack is to lock down the population as rapidly as possible and let those infected die off.

Unless the public gets it act together and forces the neo-cons to stop the march to yet another war in the Middle East we are apt to see a truly horrific nightmare unfold in OUR COUNTRIES.

US slips down development index

US slips down development index

Manhattan street scene - file image

A district in Manhattan has the highest human development index in the US

Americans live shorter lives than citizens of almost every other developed nation, according to a report from several US charities.

The report found that the US ranked 42nd in the world for life expectancy despite spending more on health care per person than any other country.

Overall, the American Human Development Report ranked the world’s richest country 12th for human development.

The study looked at US government data on health, education and income.

The report was funded by Oxfam America, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Conrad Hilton Foundation.

The report combines measurements of health, education and income into one measurement – the human development index – based on that used by the United Nations.

Health insurance

The report, Measure of America, identifies significant progress in the US in the last 50 years.

Life expectancy – which averages 78 – has risen eight years since 1960.

Japan has the world’s highest life expectancy – 82.1 years – according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Some Americans are living anywhere from 30 to 50 years behind others when it comes to issues we all care about: health, education and standard of living
Sarah Burd-Sharps
Author, Measure of America

The US report identifies obesity and the lack of health insurance for some 47 million Americans as the most significant factors in premature death.

It also provides a snapshot of the inequalities between the richest and the poorest Americans and between different ethnic groups.

“The Measure of America reveals huge gaps among some groups in our country to access opportunity and reach their potential,” said the report’s author, Sarah Burd-Sharps.

“Some Americans are living anywhere from 30 to 50 years behind others when it comes to issues we all care about: health, education and standard of living.

“For example, the state human development index shows that people in last-ranked Mississippi are living 30 years behind those in first-ranked Connecticut.”

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/pop_ups/08/americas_enl_1216719460/html/1.stm
See a state-by-state breakdown of the development index

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/pop_ups/08/americas_enl_1216719460/html/1.stmEnlarge Map

Asian males in the US were found to have the highest human development index score and were expected to live 14 years longer than African-American males, who had the lowest human development index rating.

African-Americans had a shorter lifespan than the average American did in the late 1970s.

The report further breaks down its findings into the US’s 436 Congressional districts.

The 20th district, around Fresno, California, was ranked last – with people earning one-third as much as residents of the top-ranked US district,- in Manhattan, New York.

US baby - file photo

More US babies die in their first year than in most other rich countries

The US north-east has the highest overall ranking because people there earn more, are more highly-educated and have the second highest life expectancy.

West Virginia, Louisiana, Arkansas and Alabama are four of the five bottom states on the index. Mississippi is ranked lowest.

Among other findings:

  • Of the world’s richest nations, the US has the most children (15%) living in poverty
  • Of the OECD nations, the US has the most people in prison – as a percentage and in absolute numbers
  • 25% of 15-year-old students performed at or below the lowest level in an international maths test – worse than Canada, France, Germany and Japan
  • If the US infant mortality rate were equal to first-ranked Sweden, more than 20,000 babies would survive beyond their first year of life