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Brendan Cooney: Europes Hypocrisy

Why Bush Must be Put in the Dock

Europe’s Hypocrisy

By BRENDAN COONEY

It seems strange for European leaders to be celebrating the capture of a war criminal, Radovan Karadzic, so soon after they were shaking hands with another, who so far has not had to go through the trouble of growing out his hair and selling new-age medicine.

“This is a historic moment,” German Chancellor Andrea Merkel said of the arrest of the Serbian, whose body count is thought to be upwards of 10,000. “The victims must know: massive human rights violations will not go unpunished.”

Two weeks earlier she had “a very interesting exchange of view” with George Bush, whose body count is thought to be upwards of half a million and counting. There was no mention of reassurances for his victims.

The Karadzic seizure “underscored Serbia’s European calling,” Merkel said, just a fortnight after she had a greater criminal by the right hand and let him get away.

But wait a minute, you say. Karadzic killed systematically. He targeted innocent people. He killed people because of their ethnicity. Shouldn’t this be factored into our judgment of him? Maybe. Or maybe killing civilians is killing civilians. Maybe the fact that you don’t do body counts, that you slaughtered so many people so indiscriminately that there is no way to precisely tabulate the number, should be weighed as well.

Whether having people lined up before shooting them should carry a different moral valence from dropping bombs on them is a consideration that might be brought up at the International Criminal Court of the United Nations.

There is no reason the International Criminal Court should not adjudicate prima facie cases of aggressive wars. It was wars of aggression, after all, that Nuremberg’s International Military Tribunal found “evil.” A war of aggression, it said, is “not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” It was Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, chief U.S. prosecutor at Nuremberg, who coined the phrase supreme international crime.

The first four of the seven Nuremberg Principles, adopted in 1950, are a seminal attempt to hold individuals accountable for their actions within the larger system of the nation-state: Principle 1 holds that the individual is responsible for his war crimes; Principle 2 says you’re not off the hook just because what you did was okay by the laws of your country; Principle 3 posits that acting as head of state is no defense, and Principle 4 says that following orders is not a defense either.

So what’s an international crime? The Principles lay out three kinds: crimes against peace (such as “planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression”), war crimes (“murder,” “ill-treatment of prisoners of war,” “plunder of public or private property,” “wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages”), and crimes against humanity (“murder…and other inhumane acts done against any civilian population.”)

If we are to mean anything at all as a nation, we must hold the Iraq War up to the light of these principles. We must let an international court decide which of these crimes were committed by whom, and we must hold accountable the individuals responsible for this war.

The Nuremberg trials were open to two main critiques from contemporary observers: they smacked of victor’s justice, because the Allies were not tried for their war crimes, and they were based on ex post facto laws (devised after the crimes were committed). Both points have their validity. And yet putting Bush and company on trial is immune from both charges, because the Principles have been in place for 60 years now, and it is not a question of hauling the vanquished before the victorious. This is the perfect opportunity to establish that no nation is above international law.

Here at home, people are finally starting to talk about impeachment, now that the Administration is in its gloaming. But impeaching Bush is like discharging Timothy McVeigh from the military or kicking Jeffrey Dahmer out of the Boy Scouts. It’s something we should probably do while we’re waiting for the guy to be arrested.

Writing in The New York Times Book Review of March 28, 1971, Times reporter Neil Sheehan argued that the U.S. presidents, generals and advisers who had launched the war of aggression in Southeast Asia should be put on trial. “The cleansing of the nation’s conscience and the future conduct of the most powerful country in the world towards the weaker peoples of the globe demand a national inquiry into the war crimes question,” he wrote. “History shows that men who decide for war, as the Japanese militarists did, cannot demand mercy for themselves. The resort to force is the ultimate act.”

What defense would we hear from lawyers for the Bush Administration and his henchmen (or puppeteers, let the evidence determine)? That the Iraq War was self-defense? One argument for putting Bush and Cheney in the dock of an international court is that judges there might not swallow that line as easily as did the U.S. press and public.

Brendan Cooney is an anthropologist living in New York City. He can be reached at: itmighthavehappened@yahoo.com

(I will update and change this later, since it is taking too much time to gather all the data/Farhad July 29, 2008)

I am a strong supporter of Mr. Ritter,

He has been a great voice for those who know what the realities of the world event are and he knows what war means. He has always been a person who gets my attention when I read one of his articles, but this time, I have to admit I am very dissapointed at his lack of knowledge about the Iranian Mujahedin Organization (Mojahedin Khalgh Organization MKO) . I will try to give my oppion about the sections of this article that I find incorrect here in this article and at the end give a few links about the organization.

MKO Cult of Rajavi
MKO Cult of Rajavi

Truthdig – Reports – Acts of War

Acts of War

by Scott Ritter

The war between the United States and Iran is on. American taxpayer dollars are being used, with the permission of Congress, to fund activities which result in Iranians being killed and wounded, and Iranian property destroyed. This wanton violation of a nation’s sovereignty would not be tolerated if the tables were turned and Americans were being subjected to Iranian-funded covert actions which took the lives of Americans, on American soil, and destroyed American property and livelihood. Many Americans remain unaware of what is transpiring abroad in their name. Many of those who are cognizant of these activities are supportive of them, an outgrowth of misguided sentiment which holds Iran accountable for a list of grievances used by the U.S. government to justify the ongoing global war on terror. Iran, we are told, is not just a nation pursuing nuclear weapons, but is the largest state sponsor of terror in the world today.

Much of the information behind this is being promulgated by Israel, which has a vested interest in seeing Iran neutralized as a potential threat. But Israel is joined by another source, even more puzzling in terms of its broad-based acceptance in the world of American journalism: the Mujahadeen-e Khalk, or MEK, an Iranian opposition group sworn to overthrow the theocracy in Tehran. The CIA today provides material support to the actions of the MEK inside Iran. The recent spate of explosions in Iran, including a particularly devastating “accident” involving a military convoy transporting ammunition in downtown Tehran, appears to be linked to an MEK operation; its agents working inside munitions manufacturing plants deliberately are committing acts of sabotage which lead to such explosions. If CIA money and planning support are behind these actions, the agency’s backing constitutes nothing less than an act of war on the part of the United States against Iran.

Here is the part I have problem with:

The MEK traces its roots back to the CIA-orchestrated overthrow of the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeg.

Mr. Ritter is right about the history of the MKO’s creation. MKO was created by members of Nehzate Azadi-e Iran (affiliates of the Iranian National Front) in 1965.

After the second INF action in the 60s, that in reality was nothing but an orchestrated act of the secret police of Shah of Iran to destroy the remaining resistance of the nationalists in Iran and after the brutal crackdown on the resistance of the fundamentalists like Khomeini in 1963 who opposed the Shah’s so called White Revolution and saw it as un-Islamic and a danger to their rules; some young religious students got together to start an armed movement with inspiration of the resistance movements in Algeria and Palestine as well as south America they started the group that later became Mijahedin-e Khalgh-e Iran (Iranian Mujahedin Organization).

Formed among students and intellectuals, the MEK emerged in the 1960s as a serious threat to the reign of Reza Shah Pahlevi.

This is absolutely not true.

Mujahedin’ Khalq, were never a popular organization among the people in Iran, despite the outcry of the Shah to make them dangerous, the organization never had more than 200 members (at it’s peak).

They managed to perform some military actions including the assassination of some American military advisers to Shah’s regime but they never became a ‘danger’ to the regime. They started their ‘military’ action in 1971, as it is partially described in WiKiPedia (I believe they intentioally removed the part about the assasination of 6 Americans in the 1970s, for some strange reason any time this is added to the WiKi, it is being removed).

The People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran was founded in 1965 by six former members of the Liberation or Freedom Movement of Iran, middle-class students at Tehran University, including Mohammad Hanifnejad, Saied Mohsen and Ali-Asghar Badizadegan. The PMOI opposed the rule of ShahMohammad Reza Pahlavi, considering him corrupt and oppressive and considered the Liberation Movement too moderate.[18] In its first five years, the group primarily engaged in ideological work, combining their interpretation of Islam and the experiences of Marxist philosophy.

Its first military activities, a bombing of the Tehran electrical works and unsuccessful airplane hijacking, were in August 1971 in protest against the Pahlavi’s extravagant 2,500 year celebration of Iran’s monarchy. Nine mujahedin were arrested and under torture one member gave out information leading to the arrests of another 66 members. With in a few months SAVAK, had eliminated “the whole of its original leadership through executions or street battles.” Other members remained incarcerated for many years, with the last group, including Massoud Rajavi, being released just before Khomeini[19] arrived in Tehran in January 1979. However, in the mean time, the group survived and continued to carry out violent attacks on the regime.

I really find it strange that they remove one of the highlights of the organization’s activities in the so called encyclopedia!

Facing brutal repression from the Shah’s secret police, the SAVAK, the MEK became expert at blending into Iranian society, forming a cellular organizational structure which made it virtually impossible to eradicate.

Again, this is not true, MKO (or MEK as Mr. Ritter refers to them) was literally destroyed in 1352-53 (1973-74) when all leading members of the organization were captured or killed by the Savak. A small group of members kept their Islamic-Shiit ideology after the 1975 split of the group into Marxist (group called Peikar in later years), the split caused a bloody internal fight between the members of the group. They performed some armed rubbery and some attacks against american interest in Iran as well as attacking a Jewish Emigration office in Theran in 1976. but other than that, they were in hiding.

The MEK membership also became adept at gaining access to positions of sensitivity and authority.

I believe Mr. Ritter is getting his information from MKO friendly groups or individuals here. MKO was almost non-existence in Iran’s pre-revolution politics. With all it’s members killed or in prison, the small groups of sympathizers of the groups did not and could not do anything other than survive the brutal regime of Shah.

When the Shah was overthrown in 1978, the MEK played a major role and for a while worked hand in glove with the Islamic Revolution in crafting a post-Shah Iran.

Iran revolution happened in 1979, February 12 to be exact.

MKO did play a in supporting Khomeini and to topple the regime, but I would not call that a major role, neither would any person who live in Iran would. With less than 50 surviving members, most of them in prison, the group only became really active after the release of their leaders from the prison a few weeks before the revolution. They did participate in the attacks against the Savak and Special forces during the 2 days of the fight and they tried hard to get close to Khomeini which was extremely against the group because of their believes in Marxism and their interpretation of Shia-Islam that Khomeini despised.

Rajavi, Khomeini, Khiabani, 1979

Rajavi, Khomeini, Khiabani, 1979

They (MKO) still believes that they were a major role during the revolution and make stories about their majestic role in the revolution, but it is not very true.

On the other hand, they were one of the very few organizations supporting the famous referandom of 1979 when people had to choose between the Monarchy of Shah or the “Islamic Republic” as the form of government.

Here is an image of the leaders of the group voting for the creation of the IRI:

Rajavi And Khabani Voting for Islamic Republic in 1979

Rajavi And Khabani Voting for Islamic Republic in 1979

In 1979 the MEK had a central role in orchestrating the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, and holding 55 Americans hostage for 444 days.

This is absolutely not true.

MKO did support the US embassy capture, but before that insident they were almost outlawed and had a very small and minor possibility to act.

They tried hard to use the Embassy capture to their own benefit to highlight their support for the Khomeini’s anti-imperialist action and used that moment to become a legal and active part of the society by riding the anti-American wave that was going through the country, they even asked for the execution of the American spies in the embassy and were critical of the release of the black and female hostages by the students who captured the embassy.

However, relations between the MEK and the Islamic regime in Tehran soured, and after the MEK staged a bloody coup attempt in 1981, all ties were severed and the two sides engaged in a violent civil war.

I am really sorry to read this. This is a lie, as much as I hate MKO and their cult, I can not even believe I am reading this.

MKO and their self proclaimed “can’t do anything wrong” leader Massoud Rajavi miscalculated the amount of support and power Khomeini had.

Rajavi who kept a supportive and quiet act during the bloody crack down on the Kurdish and Turkmen uprising of the summer of 1979, did not understand that the thugs of IRI would act as brutally as they did and Rajavi honestly believed in the lies he was telling himself about the massive support he had among the Iranians and the amount of Hate the people had for Khomeini.

The big miss-calculation of politics he did was to believe in the popularity of the first president of the Islamic Repulic, Mr. Bani Sadr and his ability to mobilize the public to stop the fundamentalist gangs supporting Khomeini.

They put their support behind the president and took a gamble, a bloody gamble that cost the lives of over 100 000 Iranians in one of the most brutal and the darkest time in our history. But calling that a coup is just outrageous

Revolutionary Guard members who were active at that time have acknowledged how difficult it was to fight the MEK. In the end, massive acts of arbitrary arrest, torture and executions were required to break the back of mainstream MEK activity in Iran, although even the Revolutionary Guard today admits the MEK remains active and is virtually impossible to completely eradicate.

This is true, many members of MKO because of their religious background were already inside the revolutionary guards, something that the organizations supported strongly in the begining of the revolution despite their brutal acts against people of Iran in the early days of the revolution.

The fight of MKO, was bloody, but not all those killed during the civil war of 1981-83, were kileld by MKO. I have first hand information from revolutionary guards that many of the members were killed by their own in an internal cleansing of the group to rid the ‘questionable’ members and then blamed the assassination to MKO.

It is this stubborn ability to survive and operate inside Iran, at a time when no other intelligence service can establish and maintain a meaningful agent network there, which makes the MEK such an asset to nations such as the United States and Israel. The MEK is able to provide some useful intelligence; however, its overall value as an intelligence resource is negatively impacted by the fact that it is the sole source of human intelligence in Iran. As such, the group has taken to exaggerating and fabricating reports to serve its own political agenda. In this way, there is little to differentiate the MEK from another Middle Eastern expatriate opposition group, the Iraqi National Congress, or INC, which infamously supplied inaccurate intelligence to the United States and other governments and helped influence the U.S. decision to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein. Today, the MEK sees itself in a similar role, providing sole-sourced intelligence to the United States and Israel in an effort to facilitate American military operations against Iran and, eventually, to overthrow the Islamic regime in Tehran.

The current situation concerning the MEK would be laughable if it were not for the violent reality of that organization’s activities. Upon its arrival in Iraq in 1986, the group was placed under the control of Saddam Hussein’s Mukhabarat, or intelligence service. The MEK was a heavily militarized organization and in 1988 participated in division-size military operations against Iran. The organization represents no state and can be found on the U.S. State Department’s list of terrorist organizations, yet since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 the MEK has been under the protection of the U.S. military. Its fighters are even given “protected status” under the Geneva conventions. The MEK says that its members in Iraq are refugees, not terrorists. And yet one would be hard-pressed to find why the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees should confer refugee status on an active paramilitary organization that uses “refugee camps” inside Iraq as its bases.

The MEK is behind much of the intelligence being used by the International Atomic Energy Agency in building its case that Iran may be pursuing (or did in fact pursue in the past) a nuclear weapons program. The complexity of the MEK-CIA relationship was recently underscored by the agency’s acquisition of a laptop computer allegedly containing numerous secret documents pertaining to an Iranian nuclear weapons program. Much has been made about this computer and its contents. The United States has led the charge against Iran within international diplomatic circles, citing the laptop information as the primary source proving Iran’s ongoing involvement in clandestine nuclear weapons activity. Of course, the information on the computer, being derived from questionable sources (i.e., the MEK and the CIA, both sworn enemies of Iran) is controversial and its veracity is questioned by many, including me.

Now, I have a simple solution to the issue of the laptop computer: Give it the UNSCOM treatment. Assemble a team of CIA, FBI and Defense Department forensic computer analysts and probe the computer, byte by byte. Construct a chronological record of how and when the data on the computer were assembled. Check the “logic” of the data, making sure everything fits together in a manner consistent with the computer’s stated function and use. Tell us when the computer was turned on and logged into and how it was used. Then, with this complex usage template constructed, overlay the various themes which have been derived from the computer’s contents, pertaining to projects, studies and other activities of interest. One should be able to rapidly ascertain whether or not the computer is truly a key piece of intelligence pertaining to Iran’s nuclear programs.

The fact that this computer is acknowledged as coming from the MEK and the fact that a proper forensic investigation would probably demonstrate the fabricated nature of the data contained are why the U.S. government will never agree to such an investigation being done. A prosecutor, when making a case of criminal action, must lay out evidence in a simple, direct manner, allowing not only the judge and jury to see it but also the accused. If the evidence is as strong as the prosecutor maintains, it is usually bad news for the defendant. However, if the defendant is able to demonstrate inconsistencies and inaccuracies in the data being presented, then the prosecution is the one in trouble. And if the defense is able to demonstrate that the entire case is built upon fabricated evidence, the case is generally thrown out. This, in short, is what should be done with the IAEA’s ongoing probe into allegations that Iran has pursued nuclear weapons. The evidence used by the IAEA is unable to withstand even the most rudimentary cross-examination. It is speculative at best, and most probably fabricated. Iran has done the right thing in refusing to legitimize this illegitimate source of information.

A key question that must be asked is why, then, does the IAEA continue to permit Olli Heinonen, the agency’s Finnish deputy director for safeguards and the IAEA official responsible for the ongoing technical inspections in Iran, to wage his one-man campaign on behalf of the United States, Britain and (indirectly) Israel regarding allegations derived from sources of such questionable veracity (the MEK-supplied laptop computer)? Moreover, why is such an official given free rein to discuss such sensitive data with the press, or with politically motivated outside agencies, in a manner which results in questionable allegations appearing in the public arena as unquestioned fact? Under normal circumstances, leaks of the sort which have occurred regarding the ongoing investigation into Iran’s alleged past studies on nuclear weapons would be subjected to a thorough investigation to determine the source and to ensure that appropriate measures are taken to end them. And yet, in Vienna, Heinonen’s repeated transgressions are treated as a giant “non-event,” the 800-pound gorilla in the room that everyone pretends isn’t really there.

Heinonen has become the pro-war yin to the anti-confrontation yang of his boss, IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei. Every time ElBaradei releases the results of the IAEA probe of Iran, pointing out that the IAEA can find no evidence of any past or present nuclear weapons program, and that there is a full understanding of Iran’s controversial centrifuge-based enrichment program, Heinonen throws a monkey wrench into the works. Well-publicized briefings are given to IAEA-based diplomats. Mysteriously, leaks from undisclosed sources occur. Heinonen’s Finnish nationality serves as a flimsy cover for neutrality which long ago disappeared. He is no longer serving in the role as unbiased inspector, but rather a front for the active pursuit of an American- and Israeli-inspired disinformation campaign designed to keep alive the flimsy allegations of a nonexistent Iranian nuclear weapons program in order to justify the continued warlike stance taken by the U.S. and Israel against Iran.

The fact that the IAEA is being used as a front to pursue this blatantly anti-Iranian propaganda is a disservice to an organization with a mission of vital world importance. The interjection of not only the unverified (and unverifiable) MEK laptop computer data, side by side with a newly placed emphasis on a document relating to the forming of uranium metal into hemispheres of the kind useful in a nuclear weapon, is an amateurish manipulation of data to achieve a preordained outcome. Calling the Iranian possession of the aforementioned document “alarming,” Heinonen (and the media) skipped past the history of the document, which of course has been well explained by Iran previously as something the Pakistani nuclear proliferator A.Q. Khan inserted on his own volition to a delivery of documentation pertaining to centrifuges. Far from being a “top-secret” document protected by Iran’s security services, it was discarded in a file of old material that Iran provided to the IAEA inspectors. When the IAEA found the document, Iran allowed it to be fully examined by the inspectors, and answered every question posed by the IAEA about how the document came to be in Iran. For Heinonen to call the document “alarming,” at this late stage in the game, is not only irresponsible but factually inaccurate, given the definition of the word. The Iranian document in question is neither a cause for alarm, seeing as it is not a source for any “sudden fear brought on by the sense of danger,” nor does it provide any “warning of existing or approaching danger,” unless one is speaking of the danger of military action on the part of the United States derived from Heinonen’s unfortunate actions and choice of words.

Olli Heinonen might as well become a salaried member of the Bush administration, since he is operating in lock step with the U.S. government’s objective of painting Iran as a threat worthy of military action. Shortly after Heinonen’s alarmist briefing in March 2008, the U.S. ambassador to the IAEA, Gregory Schulte, emerged to announce, “As today’s briefing showed us, there are strong reasons to suspect that Iran was working covertly and deceitfully, at least until recently, to build a bomb.” Heinonen’s briefing provided nothing of the sort, being derived from an irrelevant document and a laptop computer of questionable provenance. But that did not matter to Schulte, who noted that “Iran has refused to explain or even acknowledge past work on weaponization.” Schulte did not bother to note that it would be difficult for Iran to explain or acknowledge that which it has not done. “This is particularly troubling,” Schulte went on, “when combined with Iran’s determined effort to master the technology to enrich uranium.” Why is this so troubling? Because, as Schulte noted, “Uranium enrichment is not necessary for Iran’s civil program but it is necessary to produce the fissile material that could be weaponized into a bomb.”

This, of course, is the crux of the issue: Iran’s ongoing enrichment program. Not because it is illegal; Iran is permitted to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes under Article IV of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Not again because Iran’s centrifuge program is operating in an undeclared, unmonitored fashion; the IAEA had stated it has a full understanding of the scope and work of the Iranian centrifuge enrichment program and that all associated nuclear material is accounted for and safeguarded. The problem has never been, and will never be, Iran’s enrichment program. The problem is American policy objectives of regime change in Iran, pushed by a combination of American desires for global hegemony and an activist Israeli agenda which seeks regional security, in perpetuity, through military and economic supremacy. The specter of nuclear enrichment is simply a vehicle for facilitating the larger policy objectives. Olli Heinonen, and those who support and sustain his work, must be aware of the larger geopolitical context of his actions, which makes them all the more puzzling and contemptible.

A major culprit in this entire sordid affair is the mainstream media. Displaying an almost uncanny inability to connect the dots, the editors who run America’s largest newspapers, and the producers who put together America’s biggest television news programs, have collectively facilitated the most simplistic, inane and factually unfounded story lines coming out of the Bush White House. The most recent fairy tale was one of “diplomacy,” on the part of one William Burns, the No. 3 diplomat in the State Department.

I have studied the minutes of meetings involving John McCloy, an American official who served numerous administrations, Democratic and Republican alike, in the decades following the end of the Second World War. His diplomacy with the Soviets, conducted with senior Soviet negotiator Valerein Zorin and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev himself, was real, genuine, direct and designed to resolve differences. The transcripts of the diplomacy conducted between Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho to bring an end to the Vietnam conflict is likewise a study in the give and take required to achieve the status of real diplomacy.

Sending a relatively obscure official like Burns to “observe” a meeting between the European Union and Iran, with instructions not to interact, not to initiate, not to discuss, cannot under any circumstances be construed as diplomacy. Any student of diplomatic history could tell you this. And yet the esteemed editors and news producers used the term diplomacy, without challenge or clarification, to describe Burns’ mission to Geneva on July 19. The decision to send him there was hailed as a “significant concession” on the part of the Bush administration, a step away from war and an indication of a new desire within the White House to resolve the Iranian impasse through diplomacy. How this was going to happen with a diplomat hobbled and muzzled to the degree Burns was apparently skipped the attention of these writers and their bosses. Diplomacy, America was told, was the new policy option of choice for the Bush administration.

Of course, the Geneva talks produced nothing. The United States had made sure Europe, through its foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, had no maneuvering room when it came to the core issue of uranium enrichment: Iran must suspend all enrichment before any movement could be made on any other issue. Furthermore, the American-backed program of investigation concerning the MEK-supplied laptop computer further poisoned the diplomatic waters. Iran, predictably, refused to suspend its enrichment program, and rejected the Heinonen-led investigation into nuclear weaponization, refusing to cooperate further with the IAEA on that matter, noting that it fell outside the scope of the IAEA’s mandate in Iran.

Condoleezza Rice was quick to respond. After a debriefing from Burns, who flew to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, where Rice was holding closed-door meetings with the foreign ministers of six Arab nations on the issue of Iran, Rice told the media that Iran “was not serious” about resolving the standoff. Having played the diplomacy card, Rice moved on with the real agenda: If Iran did not fully cooperate with the international community (i.e., suspend its enrichment program), then it would face a new round of economic sanctions and undisclosed punitive measures, both unilaterally on the part of the United States and Europe, as well as in the form of even broader sanctions from the United Nations Security Council (although it is doubtful that Russia and China would go along with such a plan).

The issue of unilateral U.S. sanctions is most worrisome. Both the House of Representatives, through HR 362, and the Senate, through SR 580, are preparing legislation which would call for an air, ground and sea blockade of Iran. Back in October 1962, President Kennedy, when considering the imposition of a naval blockade against Cuba in response to the presence of Soviet missiles in that nation, opined that “a blockade is a major military operation, too. It’s an act of war.” Which, of course, it is. The false diplomacy waged by the White House in Geneva simply pre-empted any congressional call for a diplomatic outreach. Now the president can move on with the mission of facilitating a larger war with Iran by legitimizing yet another act of aggression. One day, in the not-so-distant future, Americans will awake to the reality that American military forces are engaged in a shooting war with Iran. Many will scratch their heads and wonder, “How did that happen?” The answer is simple: We all let it happen. We are at war with Iran right now. We just don’t have the moral courage to admit it.

Scott Ritter is a former U.N. weapons inspector and marine intelligence officer who has written extensively about Iran.

This is just hearth braking. While millions of people in the west are fighting to get rid of fat in their buddies, people in poor countries are forced to eat dirt to fight their hunger!

Haiti: Mud cakes become staple diet as cost of food soars beyond a family’s reach | World news | The Guardian

Haiti: Mud cakes become staple diet as cost of food soars beyond a family’s reach

With little cash and import prices rocketing half the population faces starvation

Mud cakes in Haiti

In Cité Soleil, one of Port-au-Prince’s worst slums, making the clay-based food is a major income earner. Mud cakes are the only inflation-proof food available to Haiti’s poor. Photograph: David Levene

At first sight the business resembles a thriving pottery. In a dusty courtyard women mould clay and water into hundreds of little platters and lay them out to harden under the Caribbean sun.

The craftsmanship is rough and the finished products are uneven. But customers do not object. This is Cité Soleil, Haiti’s most notorious slum, and these platters are not to hold food. They are food.

Brittle and gritty – and as revolting as they sound – these are “mud cakes”. For years they have been consumed by impoverished pregnant women seeking calcium, a risky and medically unproven supplement, but now the cakes have become a staple for entire families.

It is not for the taste and nutrition – smidgins of salt and margarine do not disguise what is essentially dirt, and the Guardian can testify that the aftertaste lingers – but because they are the cheapest and increasingly only way to fill bellies.

“It stops the hunger,” said Marie-Carmelle Baptiste, 35, a producer, eyeing up her stock laid out in rows. She did not embroider their appeal. “You eat them when you have to.”

These days many people have to. The global food and fuel crisis has hit Haiti harder than perhaps any other country, pushing a population mired in extreme poverty towards starvation and revolt. Hunger burns are called “swallowing Clorox”, a brand of bleach.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation predicts Haiti’s food import bill will leap 80% this year, the fastest in the world. Food riots toppled the prime minister and left five dead in April. Emergency subsidies curbed prices and bought calm but the cash-strapped government is gradually lifting them. Fresh unrest is expected.

According to the UN, two-thirds of Haitians live on less than 50p a day and half are undernourished. “Food is available but people cannot afford to buy it. If the situation gets worse we could have starvation in the next six to 12 months,” said Prospery Raymond, country director of the UK-based aid agency Christian Aid.

Until recently this Caribbean nation, which vies with Afghanistan for appalling human development statistics, had been showing signs of recovery: political stability, new roads and infrastructure, less gang warfare. “We had been going in the right direction and this crisis threatens that,” said Eloune Doreus, the vice-president of parliament.

As desperation rises so does production of mud cakes, an unofficial misery index. Now even bakers are struggling. Trucked in from a clay-rich area outside the capital, Port-au-Prince, the mud is costlier but cakes still sell for 1.3p each, about the only item immune from inflation. “We need to raise our prices but it’s their last resort and people won’t tolerate it,” lamented Baptiste, the Cité Soleil baker.

Vendors of other foods who have increased prices have been left with unsold stock. In the Policard slum, a jumble of broken concrete clinging to a mountainside, the Ducasse family tripled the price of its fritters because of surging flour prices. “Our sales have fallen by half,” said Jean Ducasse, 49, poking at his tray of shrivelled wares.

The signs of crisis are everywhere. Aid agency feeding centres reported that the numbers seeking help have tripled. At a centre in the Fort Mercredi slum rail-thin women cradled infants with yellowing hair, a symptom of malnutrition. “Now we’re having to feed the mothers as well as the babies,” said Antonine Saint-Quitte, a nurse.

In rural areas the situation seems even worse, prompting a continued drift to the slums and their mirage of opportunities. Lillian Guerrick, 56, a subsistence farmer near Cap Haitien, yanked her seven grandchildren from school because there was barely money for food let alone fees. “I’ve no choice,” she said, a touch defensive, amid wizened corn stalks.

Anecdotal evidence suggests school attendance nationwide has dropped and that those who do make it to class are sometimes too hungry to concentrate. “I use jokes to try to stimulate my students, to wake them up,” said Smirnoff Eugene, 25, a Port-au-Prince teacher.

Border crossings to the Dominican Republic are jammed with throngs of merchants hunting lower prices in their relatively prosperous neighbour.

“Beep beep, out of the way!” yelled one teenage boy, sweating, veins throbbing, as he heaved a wheelbarrow impossibly overloaded with onions through a crowd at Ouanaminthe’s border bridge.

Haiti’s woes stem from global economic trends of higher oil and food prices, plus reduced remittances from migrant relatives affected by the US downturn. What makes the country especially vulnerable, however, is its almost total reliance on food imports.

Domestic agriculture is a disaster. The slashing and burning of forests for farming and charcoal has degraded the soil and chronic under-investment has rendered rural infrastructure at best rickety, at worst non-existent.

The woes were compounded by a decision in the 1980s to lift tariffs, when international prices were lower, and flood the country with cheap imported rice and vegetables. Consumers gained and the IMF applauded but domestic farmers went bankrupt and the Artibonite valley, the country’s breadbasket, atrophied.

Now that imports are rocketing in price the government has vowed to rebuild the withered agriculture but that is a herculean task given scant resources, degraded soil and land ownership disputes.

There is a hopeful precedent. A growing franchise of localised dairies known as Let Agogo (Creole for Unlimited Milk) has organised small farmers to transport and market milk, generating jobs and income and cutting Haiti’s £20m annual milk import bill.

President René Préval has hailed the scheme as a model but Michel Chancy, a driving force of Veterimed, a non-governmental organisation which backs the dairies, was wary. “For 20 years politicians have been talking about reviving agriculture but didn’t actually do anything. If this food crisis forces them to act then it is a big opportunity.” That was a big if, he said.

Walk along a beach in the morning and you find Haitians gazing at the azure ocean horizon, dreaming of escape. They are fiercely proud of their history in overthrowing slavery and colonialism but these days the US, the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic – anywhere but home – seems the best option.

The only thing stopping an exodus are US coastguard patrols, said Herman Janvier, 30, a fishermen on Cap Haitian, a smuggling point. “People want out of here. It’s like we’re almost dead people.”

The last time Janvier tried to flee he was intercepted and interned at Guantánamo Bay. “I offered to join the American army. I offered to clean their base. They said no. So I am back here, on a boat with no motor, doing what I can to survive.”