Monday, December 31, 2007

TV Host Rick Steves: NORML, Good Citizenship and You!

December 31, 2007

Hello NORML Supporters!

I’ve found a great niche in life. I love to travel and I love to teach travel. Travel carbonates my life. When we travel, we find new wonders and new ways of looking at things. And travel is a great teacher. By traveling, I’ve learned that the costly prohibition against marijuana is a uniquely American crusade. In Europe these days, a joint is about as exciting as a can of beer.

As author of thirty best-selling travel guidebooks and host of the popular TV series, Rick Steves’ Europe, I’m a public person. I pride myself on being honest; open to other viewpoints, and caring. These are all reasons why I speak out publicly against the counter-productive and wrong-minded US prohibition against marijuana.

It’s striking to me that here in America, a nation which has championed freedom since even before the French Revolution, 40,000,000 citizens smoke pot recreationally yet so few will admit it publicly. People call my outspokenness on pot courageous.

If it takes courage to speak the truth, then it is even more important to do so.

For the better part of the past five years, I’ve served proudly on the Advisory Board of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) – America’s leading drug law reform group.

During my NORML tenure, I’ve said loud and clear that I believe responsible adult use of marijuana is a civil liberty; that the current prohibition against pot is as counter- productive and costly to our society today as the prohibition against alcohol was back in the 1920s and 30s. I’ve said that if the goal of our nation’s drug policy is harm reduction (rather than locking people up), problem cannabis use should be treated as a health problem rather than a criminal problem. (That’s the pragmatic European approach.) Further more, I believe that if our government managed to lock up every pot smoker in the USA, our country would instantly become a much less interesting place to call home.

I’ve enjoyed sharing these ideas during my keynote speeches at national NORML Conferences and I shared my thoughts on drug policy reform in a recent Los Angeles Times editorial. In fact, in my lectures all over the USA, I share frankly and openly how America’s “War on Drugs” is failing while Europe’s more pragmatic approach is much more effective.

In America you can be hard on drugs or soft on drugs. Europe offers a third choice—smart on drugs.

Many of my friends and workmates are concerned that my speaking out against America’s failed pot policies is dangerous. But you don’t need to smoke pot to oppose a law that criminalizes it. As an American, I insist on the freedom to oppose a law I think is wrong. As a businessman, I’ve found no real backlash. As a parent, I have credibility with my children on drug abuse issues.

I’ve explained my beliefs on countless radio and TV interviews. Invariably, those interviewing me express admiration for my common-sense stance—but only after the mic is turned off. (Candor would threaten their jobs.) My political representatives understand and respect my viewpoint – even if they are afraid to make it an issue in today’s political environment. And personally, I am embracing one less lie than most of my countrymen. That’s a good thing. It just feels right to speak publicly about the wrongness of making the responsible adult use of marijuana a crime.

When it comes to smoking pot, the only shame I feel is how our nation treats its citizenry.

I feel shame when I read that 80,000 Americans are in jail today on marijuana charges. I feel shame that the US arrests over 800,000 Americans a year for marijuana—90 percent for simple possession. I feel shame when I listen to America's Drug Czar parrot administration lies about the effects of pot so that our government can continue to deny its therapeutic use for seriously ill patients who so vitally need it. I feel shame when I learn about the billions of taxpayers’ dollars our government spends targeting and jailing non-violent marijuana smokers, while at the same time it denies needed funding for necessary social programs such as health care, education, and treatment for victims of hard drug abuse. And I feel frustrated here in “the land of the free and the home of the brave” that I am one of just 3 or 4 paltry (no offense, boys) celebrities with the nerve to admit publicly that they smoke pot.

I believe the mature adult recreational use of marijuana is a civil liberty

Our responsible, adult, pot-smoking friends and workmates should not be criminals. That’s a big reason why I’ve chosen to devote my time, energy, and financial resources to supporting NORML’s tireless efforts. Today I’m asking you do the same.

Together, supporting groups like NORML, we are making substantial progress toward ending the prohibition of our age. Over 4 million Americans are tuning into NORML’s daily podcast and more than 375,000 people have recently signed up to support NORML on the social networking website Facebook. However, these totals still represent only a fraction of the tens of millions of Americans who – like me – understand that marijuana is best treated as a soft drug—taxed and regulated like alcohol and tobacco.

NORML is not a charity…it’s a service, fighting our battle in Washington, DC.

If you agree with me, support NORML financially with an end-of-the-year gift. Thanks for your support. We need to continue giving…again…and again…until pot smokers are no longer criminals in the USA. We must work together and support the dogged and heroic struggle NORML is waging. Together, we can bring an end to a prohibition that is bringing far greater harm to our nation than the problem it is trying to address.

Matching Grant—Double Your Donation!

Please join me in making a tax-deductible donation of $100 or more to NORML. Your end-of-the-year contribution will help to assure that NORML can continue its vital work. Plus, thanks to support of longstanding NORML funders, the amount you donate to NORML today will be matched dollar for dollar (up to $30,000) – making your contribution go twice as far and work twice as hard.

As 2008 approaches, let me propose a New Year’s resolution. Let this be the year you educate your friends about the importance of bringing sanity to our drug laws and to challenge those who believe that the responsible and recreational adult use of marijuana is a civil liberty to join NORML. Here’s a New Year’s challenge: Make a commitment to encourage at least three friends to become paying dues members of NORML.

In this political season, if responsible citizens who enjoy a little marijuana recreationally spoke honestly and publicly about this, perhaps our nation’s leaders would realize it is not political suicide to advocate pragmatic European-style drug policy reform.

Thank you again for your financial support of NORML. Together we can teach America that by taking the crime out of marijuana, our nation will be a better place.

Happy travels (even if you’re just staying home),

Rick Steves

NORML Advisory Board

Edmonds, Washington

PS: On my last read through this letter, it occurred to me that I’m asking everyone to dig deep without much of a dig myself. So here’s my challenge to you. I’ll donate a cool hemp version of my Rick Steves-designed daypack (the one I always travel with) or an autographed copy of the 2008 edition of my Rick Steves’ Amsterdam guidebook (listing all my favorite little hangouts) to each NORML member who gives NORML a $100 or more year-end donation. I won’t charge NORML a penny for these gifts. It’s my personal challenge direct from me to you. Thanks.

Four Easy and Effective Ways You Can Support NORML/NORML Foundation:

Donate (and encourage like-minded friends/family to join you as a NORML supporter)

Join the monthly pledge program (a little each month helps a lot!)

Purchase NORML products

Donate stocks/bonds, property, inheritances and major gifts to the NORML Foundation

December 30:

1922 : USSR established

In post-revolutionary Russia, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
(USSR) is established, comprising a confederation of Russia,
Belorussia, Ukraine, and the Transcaucasian Federation (divided in
1936 into the Georgian, Azerbaijan, and Armenian republics). Also
known as the Soviet Union, the new communist state was the successor
to the Russian Empire and the first country in the world to be based
on Marxist socialism.

During the Russian Revolution of 1917 and subsequent three-year
Russian Civil War, the Bolshevik Party under Vladimir Lenin dominated
the soviet forces, a coalition of workers' and soldiers' committees
that called for the establishment of a socialist state in the former
Russian Empire. In the USSR, all levels of government were controlled
by the Communist Party, and the party's politburo, with its
increasingly powerful general secretary, effectively ruled the
country. Soviet industry was owned and managed by the state, and
agricultural land was divided into state-run collective farms.

In the decades after it was established, the Russian-dominated Soviet
Union grew into one of the world's most powerful and influential
states and eventually encompassed 15 republics--Russia, Ukraine,
Georgia, Belorussia, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan,
Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Latvia, Lithuania, and
Estonia. In 1991, the Soviet Union was dissolved following the
collapse of its communist government.

General Interest
1922 : USSR established

1853 : Southern U.S. border established

1916 : Rasputin murdered

1965 : Marcos inaugurated


Nov '07: Bhutto Names Her Suspected Assasins, Says Bin Laden is Dead [VIDEO]

Posted by Adam Howard, AlterNet at 5:19 AM on December 29, 2007.

Bhutto said in regards to working with Musharraf, "I'm not going to be the icing on the cake if it's a poisoned cake."
David Frost interview with Bhutto

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In early November, Sir David Frost spoke to former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto about her controversial return to Pakistan, who she thought was behind the deadly bombing of her convoy in Karachi that October, and whether she and Musharraf could forge a power-sharing agreement. Watch the video to your right for more.


Tagged as: pakistan, bhutto, musharraf

Adam Howard is the editor of PEEK.

Pakistan Government Skips Autopsy, Shifts Story on How Bhutto Died

By Saeed Shah and Warren P. Strobel
McClatchy Newspapers

Friday 28 December 2007

Larkana, Pakistan - Violence and recriminations grew Friday over the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, as Pakistan's government changed its account of how she died while her supporters charged that the government withheld personal protection she'd requested.

As deadly protests continued to rage on Pakistan's streets, the country's Interior Ministry said that Bhutto - buried Friday without an autopsy - had died after she was thrown against the lever of her car's sunroof, fracturing her skull.

Initially, the government had said that flying shrapnel killed Bhutto, 54, after a shooting and suicide bombing as she left a political rally in the city of Rawalpindi.

The new version of events fueled ever-present conspiracy theories in Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation that's on the front lines of President Bush's war on terrorism and risks sliding further into political chaos.

The Pakistani government also said it had proof that Bhutto's killing was the work of a violent Islamic chieftain with ties to al Qaida and the Taliban.

"We have intelligence intercepts indicating that al Qaida leader Baitullah Mehsud is behind her assassination," Interior Ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema said.

Mehsud, who's based in the lawless Waziristan region on Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, has been behind a series of suicide attacks in the region, according to U.S. officials.

Pakistani authorities released a transcript of what they said was a conversation in which Mehsud exults after being told by an unidentified religious cleric that Bhutto is dead.

"It was a spectacular job. They were very brave boys who killed her," Mehsud said, according to the transcript.

In Washington, a U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the subject's sensitivity, said Mehsud was on "anyone's very short list" of suspects behind the killing. But the U.S. government had no separate confirmation of his role, he said.

Bhutto returned to Pakistan from exile in October partly at the urging of the Bush administration, which saw a renewed role for her as the best hope for returning the country to democracy and stability.

There were fears for her safety even before she arrived, which were heightened after twin suicide bombings upon her return that narrowly missed her and killed more than 130 others.

Shuja Nawaz, a Pakistani political analyst and former journalist who was close to Bhutto, said he'd spoken to her before she returned, asking, "Have you done any thinking about your personal safety?"

Bhutto said it was "all in the hands of Allah," Nawaz said in an interview, but he looked into procuring the high-tech body armor known as Dragonskin.

It turned out the armor couldn't be exported without a license, which Pakistan's defense attache in Washington would have to request. Nawaz said Bhutto told him: "It's too complicated, and I don't want to ask the government for any favors."

Pakistan's ambassador to Washington, Mahmud Ali Durrani, said in a television interview Thursday that the security accorded Bhutto was "almost the same" as President Pervez Musharraf's.

"She was given not exactly what maybe she asked for, but for Pakistan's environment, she was given the best protection possible," Durrani said on PBS's "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer."

Nawaz and Bhutto's allies disputed that.

Washington lawyer Mark A. Siegel, Bhutto's U.S. spokesman, released an e-mail that he said Bhutto had written Oct. 26, eight days after the earlier attempt on her life, complaining that Musharraf had denied her needed security measures.

"I have been made to feel insecure by his minions," read the e-mail, which Siegel sent to CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer for release in event of her death. "There is no way what is happening in terms of stopping me from taking private cars or using tinted windows or giving jammers or four police mobiles to cover all sides could happen without him."

The "jammers" appear to refer to devices that can interfere with the detonation of bombs, which - like the body armor - wouldn't have saved Bhutto's life Thursday. The "four police mobiles" refers to a screen of vehicles to the left, right, back and front of her own.

But others said that Bhutto, who loved political rallies, at times seemed heedless of her own security, or fatalistic.

"In her enthusiasm, she got carried away, and exposed herself in ways" she shouldn't have, said former State Department official Marvin Weinbaum of the Washington-based Middle East Institute.

In Pakistan, the shifting government explanations and Bhutto's burial without autopsy aroused suspicion.

Babar Awan, a senior official of Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party, said of the sunroof theory: "That is a false claim." He said he'd seen her body after the attack and there were at least two bullet marks, one in the neck and one on the top of the head: "It was a targeted, planned killing. The firing was from more than one side."

Pakistan's caretaker prime minister, Mohammadmian Soomro, told the Cabinet that Bhutto's husband had insisted on no autopsy. But according to a leading lawyer, Athar Minallah, an autopsy is mandatory under Pakistan's criminal law in a case of this nature.

"It is absurd, because without autopsy it is not possible to investigate. Is the state not interested in reaching the perpetrators of this heinous crime or there was a cover-up?" Minallah said.

The scene of the attack also was watered down with a high-pressure hose within an hour, washing away evidence.

Shah is a McClatchy special correspondent. Strobel reported from Washington.


Nygaard Notes #395

Nygaard Notes
Independent Periodic News and Analysis
Number 395, December 29, 2007

On the Web at


This Week: Venezuela Part II

1. “Quote” of the Week
2. “A Compelling Rationale for Covert Action,” Post-Cold War
3. From Chile 1973 to Venezuela 2007
4. “Challenges” That Justify Intervention: The Headlines



This week is Part II of the Venezuela series, and I realize that, just like in Part I last week, it is somewhat lacking in information about Venezuela itself. So far I’ve been concentrating on the history and context of U.S. relations with countries that are nations that are perceived as “threats” by our government. My hope is that this series will allow Nygaard Notes readers to better understand the Alice-in-Wonderland news we get about Venezuela. And the key to doing that is the same as it is for understanding any news story: History and Context.

In Part III of the Venezuela series—which will appear after next week’s issue, the 2007 Nygaard Notes Year in Review—I’ll fill in some of the blanks. I’ll be talking about what is actually going on in Venezuela, touching on economics, domestic policy, international initiatives. I think you’ll see why the Venezuelan vision of 21st Century Socialism poses such a threat to elite interests in the United States. After that I’ll publish “Notes for Further Reading” for those who want some good sources for following the ongoing developments in this part of the United States’ “backyard.” Stay tuned.

See you next year!



“Quote” of the Week

Here’s the lead paragraph from a June 2006 story in USA Today, dateline Caracas Venezuela:

“Warned against such actions, U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield flew here recently to do something he knew would infuriate his host government: throw a baseball into the waiting mitt of a local boy.”

He was warned against throwing baseballs? How barbaric!

On a related note, here’s Condoleezza Rice, testifying about U.S. relations with Venezuela before the House Foreign Affairs Committee in January 2007:

“Our Ambassador has had some trouble there because he has gone out and worked with kids, and had baseball games and the like. And it is not very well liked by the government, but it is liked by the Venezuelan people. We are going to continue to try to do those things.

See? The Venezuelan government doesn’t like baseball! How barbaric!

Apparently the Ambassador’s “trouble” has nothing to do with the role of the U.S. embassy in coordinating the program of political intervention in Venezuela that has been underway for years. The story of that intervention hasn’t been in USA Today as of yet.


“A Compelling Rationale for Covert Action,” Post-Cold War

Last week I quoted a 1948 document from the National Security Council (NSC) that created the “Office of Special Projects” within the CIA to carry out secret, or “covert,” activities. The document explained what was being talked about, as follows:

“‘Covert operations’ are understood” to be activities “which are so planned and executed that any U.S. Government responsibility for them is not evident to unauthorized persons and that if uncovered the U.S. Government can plausibly disclaim any responsibility for them.” These secret operations, said the NSC , may include such things as “propaganda, economic warfare; preventive direct action, including sabotage, anti-sabotage, demolition, evacuation measures; subversion against hostile states, including assistance to underground resistance movements, guerrillas and refugee liberation groups, and support of indigenous anti-communist elements in threatened countries of the free world.”

These sorts of activities were justified, during the so-called Cold War, by the existence of the Soviet Union, “an implacable enemy whose avowed objective is world domination.” Facing such an enemy, planners at the time stated, meant that “hitherto acceptable norms of human conduct do not apply,” which is why it was OK for the U.S. to be just as ruthless and merciless as the enemy.

Then, in 1989, the “implacable enemy” ceased to exist. Did that mean that some of the “norms of human conduct” might once again “apply” to U.S. behavior? That very question was answered in another document I quoted last week—the article by the Director of the CIA’s Center for the Study of Intelligence, James A. Barry, called “Guideposts from Just War Theory: Managing Covert Political Action.” The relevant section was entitled “Covert Action and the New World Order,” and in it Barry, writing in 1992, said:

“Since the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, the abortive coup in the Soviet Union, and the dissolution of the Soviet empire, the confluence of ideological, nationalist and realist thought that formed a compelling rationale for covert action in the early Cold War period has lost more validity. In a dangerous world, however, presidents probably will not eschew this particular element of foreign policy, even in a ‘new world order.’ The Persian Gulf War shows that aggression by hostile states remains a threat to U.S. interests, and other challenges such as terrorism, narcotics trafficking and the potential for proliferation of weapons of mass destruction are likely to motivate the U.S. to consider covert responses. What frame of reference, then, should replace the Cold War philosophy that has shaped covert action policy since the founding of the CIA?” [emphasis added by Nygaard]

The frame of reference, says Barry, is the “Just War Theory,” which leads him to cite St. Thomas Aquinas, who wrote that “There is nothing to hinder one act having two effects, of which one only is the intention of the agent, while the other is beside his intention. But moral acts receive their species from what is intended, not from what is beside the intention, as that is accidental.” (For more on “Just War Theory” see the “Notes for Further Reading” that will appear at the end of this series, whenever that is.)

Barry extrapolates from the saint’s words to claim that “Under this principle, then, a belligerent may, if there is good reason, be justified in permitting incidental evil effects.” Such as, presumably, the “fundamentally repugnant” types of things that are associated with CIA covert operations. Or dropping bombs on crowded neighborhoods where “terrorist suspects” may or may not be hiding among the innocents, as in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Which brings us to modern-day Venezuela. First we’ll look at how it is seen by political leaders in the United States, then we’ll look at the way it appears in the U.S. media.


From Chile 1973 to Venezuela 2007

Last week I reported on the case of Chile in the 1960sa and 1970s, and the multi-year campaign to prevent the election of the socialist president, Salvador Allende. At the end I mentioned how, after Allende was elected in 1970, the U.S. intensified their already-existing destabilization campaign, increasing the pressure on Chile through bribery, covert funding and training of anti-democratic forces, propaganda, and support for renegade military forces, all of which culminated in the coup d’etat of 1973.

What was the official thinking that justified such an extensive and anti-democratic campaign? According to James Barry, in the 1992 CIA report I cited above, “The Intelligence Community... held a more nuanced view” about the threat of Chile than the reflexive “anti-Communist” paranoia expressed by some in the Nixon administration. He quotes a 1970 CIA assessment of the threat posed by Chile in 1970, in which the CIA's Directorate of Intelligence said:

‘Regarding threats to U.S. interests, we conclude that: 1. The U.S. has no vital national interests in Chile. There would, however, be tangible economic losses; 2. The world balance of power would not be significantly altered by an Allende government; 3. An Allende victory would ... create considerable political and psychological costs...” Indeed, said the Agency, “An Allende victory would represent a definite psychological setback to the U.S. and a definite psychological advance for the Marxist idea...”

The CIA also explained that, “[Although] We do not see ... any likely threat to the peace of the region ...” it is still true that “Hemispheric cohesion would be threatened by the challenge that an Allende government would pose...”

What was the U.S. response to this assessment that—beyond the threat of a good example to other poor countries—Allende was really no threat to the U.S. or to the “peace of the region”? As we now know, the U.S. responded by intensifying the attack.

The Official Case Against Chavez, 2007

As with Chile in 1970, it is reasonable to assume that there are differences of opinion within the U.S. administration on the nature of the “problem” in Venezuela. But the public statements by the intelligence community leadership and the State Department leadership have been quite similar.

First, let’s look at some comments made by John Negroponte on June 9, 2006. At the time, Negroponte was the Director of National Intelligence in the U.S., and he was being interviewed by the Florida-based Spanish-language network Telemundo. The interviewer asked, “What topics... from Latin America—or countries—call more of your attention, concern you more and for what reasons, in respect to [U.S.] national security?” To which Negroponte replied that one was Colombia, because “that is where there is the most conflict,” but that “the other would be the threat of Venezuela, or populism and of this type of leftist populism for the democratic movement, it is a type of…but it is a political threat more than security more or less.”

That was the intelligence chief. Now let’s listen to the Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice.

Last winter the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs held a “Briefing on Iraq and Hearing on the International Relations Budget for Fiscal Year 2008” that featured testimony by the Secretary. Some revealing statements were made.

Florida Republican representative Connie Mack—who referred, incorrectly, to “Venezuela’s self-proclaimed communist President Hugo Chavez”—said to Ms. Rice, “I am very concerned about the growing challenge, I guess you would say, in Venezuela with Hugo Chavez and what he is doing to intimidate and manipulate his country moving away from democracy, and toward a dictatorship.”

To which Secretary Rice replied, “I believe there is an assault on democracy in Venezuela, and I believe that there are significant human rights issues in Venezuela. The United States has been one of the strongest supporters of non-governmental organizations that are trying to operate there.”

Rice added that “we are going to continue to press the case; we are going to continue to fund organizations that are trying to resist.” [Ed note: We’ll return to this in Part III.]

Mack then commented that “Venezuela with Chavez at the helm is on a glidepath towards a dictatorship disguised as a democracy. Madam Secretary, it’s time to realize Chavez must be taken seriously. We must refocus our efforts in Latin America and defeat this gathering storm.”

Rice agreed: “I do believe that the President of Venezuela is really destroying his own country, economically, politically...”

Recall that a massive covert intervention against Chile was carried out, culminating in “regime change” in that nation, simply because of the “political and psychological costs” of a socialist president in that country. Now we see that the Director of National Intelligence says that a socialist president in Venezuela is “a political threat,” and the Secretary of State says that “there is an assault on democracy in Venezuela.” Ominous words.


“Challenges” That Justify Intervention: The Headlines

Earlier in this issue of the Notes I quoted the CIA from a 1992 planning document, where they listed three “challenges” to the U.S. in the post-Cold War era that “are likely to motivate the U.S. to [continue to] consider covert responses” to world events. The list included: 1. Terrorism; 2. Narcotics trafficking, and; 3. “The potential for proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”

Predictably, Venezuela has been linked in the U.S. media to all three of these “challenges.”

TERRORISM: I mentioned last week that the U.S. media has linked Venezuela (minus any evidence) to terrorism. The headline in my local paper read “Venezuelan Partnership With Iran Questioned: U.S. Officials Worry Iran May Be Exporting Terrorists into the South American Country, Giving it a Base Closer to U.S. Shores.” Just this past month (November 2nd) the right-wing Washington Times had the headline “‘Terrorist’ in the Neighborhood; Venezuela's Chavez Called Danger to U.S.” This article discussed a half-hour “documentary” called “Crisis in the Americas: A Documentary on Dictator Hugo Chavez” that was recently released by the hawkish Washington DC group the American Security Council Foundation.

DRUGS: In the Congressional testimony mentioned elsewhere in this issue, Secretary of State Rice raised the specter of “narcotics trafficking,” saying “For the past two years, the President has determined that Venezuela ‘failed demonstrably’ to take actions in fulfillment of international counter-narcotics agreements and to stem the growing flow of drugs through the country.” (I discussed this issue in NN #385: “Venezuela and the ‘Failure’ to Follow Orders.”)

Sure enough, a few months later we started seeing headlines like the one on this lengthy front-page Washington Post article of October 28th 2007: “Venezuela Increasingly A Conduit For Cocaine.” It turns out that it is a “conduit” for cocaine from U.S. ally Colombia, and the demand originates in the United States, but the propaganda effect in terms of Venezuela is clear, and fits well with the official agenda.

No one says that Venezuela has WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION, but that hasn’t stopped the U.S. media from running provocative headlines sowing seeds of suspicion about this third “challenge” that may need to be invoked to justify U.S. intervention. Back on April 16th the Associated Press ran the headline “With a Laugh, Chavez Raises Idea of Nuclear Plant near Border with Colombia” He was literally joking, and why this was news in the United States is a mystery. On June 29th the UPI news service had the headline, “Chavez Says Venezuela Might Go Nuclear.” And the corporate newspaper Investor’s Business Daily last month (November 16th) ran the stark headline: “A Nuclear Chavez?” They concluded—again, no evidence needed— that “When Chavez brings up nuclear energy, what he's really interested in is nuclear weapons.” Commenting that Chavez is “growing more volatile than Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,” IBD concludes by saying that “The West can soothe itself that he'll be overthrown somehow...”

Terror, drugs, WMD—we can expect more innuendo in the U.S. press about Chavez’s links to all three in the coming months. Whether this type of reporting is the result of the U.S. media’s over-reliance on official sources—which engage in propaganda constantly—or whether the stories are themselves propaganda directly placed in the media by U.S. agents, there’s no way to know. But it’s clear that all of this journalistic demonizing fits quite neatly with the desires of the architects of U.S. foreign policy.

Recall the 1954 Doolittle Report that I quoted last week, in which policy planners spoke of the need to take off the gloves when fighting the “implacable enemy.” The Report said that “It may become necessary that the American people be made acquainted with, understand and support this fundamentally repugnant philosophy” of undermining democracy by any means necessary. And that’s where the media comes in.


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Nygaard Notes

Obituary: Benazir Bhutto, 54, Weathered Political Storm

By John F. Burns
The New York Times

Friday 28 December 2007

Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated at age 54 on Thursday in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi, spent three decades navigating the turbulent and often violent world of Pakistani politics, becoming in 1988 the first woman to be democratically elected to lead a modern Muslim country.

A deeply polarizing figure, the self-styled "daughter of Pakistan" was twice elected prime minister and twice expelled from office amid a swirl of corruption charges that ultimately propelled her into self-imposed exile in London, New York and Dubai for much of the past decade. She returned home only two months ago, defying threats to her life as she embarked on a bid for election to a third term in office, billing herself as a bulwark against Islamic extremism and a tribune of democracy.

The combined bombing and shooting attack that killed her as she left a political rally, standing through the open roof of her car to greet milling crowds of supporters, came as Ms. Bhutto staged a series of mass meetings across Pakistan. She did that despite her aides' appeals for caution in the wake of a double suicide bombing that narrowly failed to kill her on the night of her return from exile in October. That attack, which killed more than 130 people, came as she drove from the airport in Karachi to her home on the city's seafront, and provoked a characteristic response.

"We will continue to meet the public," she said as she visited survivors of the bombings at a Karachi hospital. "We will not be deterred."

When asked to explain the courage - or stubbornness, as some of her critics saw it - that she displayed at critical junctures in her political career, Ms. Bhutto often referred to the example she said had been set by her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. He was a charismatic and often demagogic politician who was president and prime minister from 1971 to 1977, before being hanged in April 1979 on charges of having ordered the murder of a minor political opponent.

Mr. Bhutto was the founder in 1967 of the Pakistan Peoples Party, the political vehicle that he, and later his daughter, rode to power. Like his daughter, Mr. Bhutto battled for years with Pakistan's powerful generals. He was ousted from office, and ultimately executed, on the orders of Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, one of the long succession of military rulers who have dominated Pakistan for nearly 40 of the 60 years since it emerged as an independent state from the partition of British India.

Under house arrest at the time, Ms. Bhutto was allowed to visit her father before his execution at Rawalpindi's central prison, only a short distance from the site of the rally where she was killed nearly three decades later. In a BBC interview in the 1990s, she said seeing her father preparing to die steeled her for her own political career, which some biographers have suggested was driven, in part, by a determination to avenge him by outmaneuvering the generals.

A History of Violence

Violence ran like a thread through her family life, to an extent that caused her admirers to compare the Bhuttos, in the contribution they made to Pakistan's political life, and in the price they paid for it, to the Kennedys - and her enemies, pointing to the Bhuttos' bitter family feuds, to compare them to the Borgias. The younger of Ms. Bhutto's two brothers, Shahnawaz, died mysteriously of poisoning in 1995, in an apartment owned by the Bhuttos in Cannes, France. French investigators said they suspected that a family feud over a multimillion-dollar inheritance from Zulfikar Bhutto was involved, but no charges were filed.

Ms. Bhutto's other brother, Murtaza, who along with Shahnawaz founded a terrorist group that sought to topple General Zia, spent years in exile in Syria beginning in the 1980s. When Murtaza finally returned to Pakistan, in 1994, he quickly fell into a bitter dispute with Ms. Bhutto over the family's political legacy - and, he told a reporter at the time, over the money he said his father had placed in a Swiss bank when he was prime minister. In 1996, Murtaza was gunned down outside his home in Karachi, and his widow, Ghinva, blamed Asif Ali Zardari, Ms. Bhutto's husband. Ms. Bhutto's Iranian-born mother, Nusrat, sided in the dispute with Murtaza, and was dismissed by Ms. Bhutto as the Peoples Party chairman. "I had no idea I had nourished a viper in my breast," she said of her daughter at the time.

Born on June 21, 1953, Ms. Bhutto, the first child in her family, reveled in telling friends that she was her father's favorite. One of her most cherished anecdotes about her childhood involved her father's encouraging her to set aside traditional Muslim views of a woman's role and to have ambitions beyond the home, a message she said he conveyed with stories about Joan of Arc and Indira Gandhi.

After attending a private Christian-run school in Karachi, where the family maintained a luxurious mansion, Ms. Bhutto studied at Radcliffe College, earning a Harvard B.A. in 1973, and later at Oxford, where she gained a second B.A. in 1976. At Oxford, she was the first woman to become president of the Oxford Union, the prestigious debating society that nurtured several British prime ministers.

In her memoir, she described what life as a young woman at Harvard felt like. "I was amongst a sea of women who felt as unimpeded by their gender as I did," she wrote. At Oxford, she adopted a Westernized way of life, spending winters at the Swiss ski resort of Gstaad. She said later that her passions at the time included reading royal biographies and "slushy" romances, and browsing at the London department store Harrods - a habit she maintained throughout the rest of her life.

From Oxford, Ms. Bhutto was thrust abruptly into the heart of Pakistani politics by General Zia's arrest of her father in 1977, and by his execution 18 months later. Ms. Bhutto wrote in her memoir of her last meeting with her father, through a metal grille at the Rawalpindi Prison. "But I did not cry. Daddy told me not to," she recalled.

From that moment on, Ms. Bhutto said in later years, she resolved to oust General Zia from power. But in August 1988, the general and the American ambassador, Arnold L. Raphel, were killed when their military plane exploded and crashed in southern Pakistan. Three months later, when she was 35, Ms. Bhutto won a general election and formed her first government, only to be ousted by Pakistan's president in 1990, having served less than half her term. In 1993, she won a second election, but was again dismissed in 1996.

Her accomplishments in office were few. She claimed in later years that she had clamped down on Islamic militants, established a strong basis for democracy by paring away many of the restrictions on civil liberties imposed by the generals, and provided a boost to the economy, especially in her second term, by attracting a flow of foreign investment. But on both occasions, she was dismissed, under pressure from the military on charges of corruption and incompetent governance. Her ouster, on both occasions, sparked only sporadic protests across Pakistan.

Complexity and Contradictions

A woman of complex and often contradictory instincts, Ms. Bhutto was a politician who presented herself on public platforms as the standard-bearer for Pakistan's impoverished masses, for civil liberties and for an unfettered democracy. But she made enemies with her imperious and impulsive manner as prime minister in dealing with government officials, diplomats and reporters, and by what her critics described as an instinct for political vindictiveness. She recalled how her father taught her the importance of deceit in politics, lessons she said she had rejected in favor of openness. But American officials were troubled by her account of her role in Pakistan's secret nuclear weapons program. She maintained in recent years that the Pakistani military had kept her in the dark about the weapons program, and that the first she knew of it was in a CIA briefing in Washington in 1989.

In an interview two years ago for a documentary produced by The New York Times and the Canadian Broadcasting Company, she said she also did not know, when in office, that A. Q. Khan, the head of the Pakistani nuclear program, was selling nuclear technology to other states, including Libya and North Korea. But according to accounts given by Dr. Khan's associates, Ms. Bhutto, after visits to North Korea in the 1990s, returned to Islamabad with North Korean missile designs intended to be mated to the Pakistani bomb.

In "Daughter of Destiny," her 1989 memoir, she rebuked reporters for calling attention to her dress, almost always the traditional loose-fitting robe favored by Pakistani women, saying she did not care about matters like dress. But among her aides and Pakistani diplomats, who often accompanied her on shopping trips abroad, she gained a reputation for buying expensive jewelry and shoes and at elite stores in Beverly Hills, London and Paris.

Her critics often attributed her flushes of haughtiness and her expensive tastes to a sense of entitlement, as Zulfikar Bhutto's daughter and as the pre-eminent member of a wealthy land-owning family from the cotton-growing southern province of Sindh. The egalitarian credo Ms. Bhutto preached as a politician found little echo in the lives of the impoverished men and women, many of them indentured workers, who worked the family's ancestral lands.

After her second dismissal from office in 1996, a friend said Ms. Bhutto's sense of herself as inseparable from the fate of Pakistan contributed to actions that led Pakistani investigators to accuse her and Mr. Zardari of embezzling as much $1.5 billion from government accounts.

British and American private investigators working for the government of her political rival Nawaz Sharif, produced a thick volume of documents tracing what they said were multimillion-dollar kickbacks paid to the couple in return for the award of government contracts, and a web of bank accounts across the world that were used to hide the money. Ms. Bhutto and Mr. Zardari vehemently rejected the allegations, saying their accusers wanted to drive her from power.

Criminal probes of the couple's financial dealings were opened in Britain, Spain and Switzerland, among other places. But the cases against the couple in Pakistan languished for years in the courts, and the cases against Ms. Bhutto were ultimately quashed by an amnesty granted by Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, as part of an American-brokered deal that cleared the way for Ms. Bhutto to return to Pakistan in the fall to participate in elections that Mr. Musharraf set for January.

The American bid to restore her to power in Islamabad reflected her tireless efforts to maintain a network of the powerful among the political media elite in Washington and in London.

Among her friends, Ms. Bhutto's marriage to Mr. Zardari, who was in Dubai when she was killed, was seen as central to understanding much that went awry in her life in the years after her father was hanged. The marriage in 1987 was an arranged one, in the Muslim tradition; her mother acted as marriage broker. Mr. Zardari came from a modest business family that owned a cinema.

Ms. Bhutto herself spoke soberly of what an arranged marriage entailed, saying that her five years under house arrest - and, briefly, in prison - under General Zia, had left her with little opportunity for courtship. But friends watched with fascination as her relationship with Mr. Zardari developed. Handsome, with a macho style that Ms. Bhutto told friends she thought at first was ridiculous, he became an important figure in her two governments, serving in her cabinet in her second term in a role that gave him a major role in approving foreign investment.

Mr. Zardari's nickname among Pakistanis, Mr. 10 Percent, spoke for the widespread sense that he had led Ms. Bhutto into the financial irregularities that played an important role in her decision to go into exile. Mr. Zardari, arrested before she left, spent eight years in jail but never faced trial and was freed by Mr. Musharraf and eventually allowed to leave Pakistan. Ms. Bhutto never wavered in defense of her husband. "Time will tell he is the Mandela of Pakistan," she said. The couple had two sons, Bilawal and Bakhtwar, and a daughter, Aseefa. Bilawal, 19, began studies in the fall at Oxford. The two younger children remained with their father in Dubai.


Reporting was contributed by David E. Sanger, Jane Perlez, David Rohde and Helene Cooper.

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List of Suspects, but Killers May Never Be Found
By Rory McCarthy
The Guardian UK

Friday 28 December 2007

Investigation made more difficult by sheer number of former PM's many enemies.

There were death threats even before Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan two months ago after years in self-imposed exile. But who was behind her assassination yesterday? The list of those who may be implicated is long and, in the end, the truth may never emerge.

Islamic Militants

The most obvious suspects must be religious militants. The very nature of the attack, death by shooting and a suicide bombing in a public place with many casualties, seems to point the finger. There were death threats before Bhutto touched down in Pakistan in mid-October. One Taliban commander threatened to send a squad of suicide bombers to kill her. Other militants made similar threats, saying she was a target because of her perceived close relationship with the west and with the US in particular.

After the suicide bombing in Karachi on the day of her return, which left 138 of her supporters dead and another 300 injured, Pakistani officials said they had intelligence reports warning that at least three groups connected with al-Qaida or the Taliban were plotting to kill her. But if the killers were militants, it does not mean that they had a direct connection to al-Qaida, or Osama bin Laden, or even the Taliban leadership.

A multi-headed militancy - a web of cells and informal networks - is well-established across Pakistan and some areas of Afghanistan, the ever-more violent blowback of the Afghan war against the Soviets in the 1980s and Pakistan's long conflict with India in Kashmir. Hundreds of Pakistanis have died this year in a long and brutal campaign by a revitalised militant movement desperate to challenge the authority of the government in Islamabad. They would have seen Bhutto, with her western links and her very public determination to crack down on religious extremism, as a threat to their existence.

The Military

After the first assassination attempt in October, Bhutto spoke plainly about who she believed wanted her dead. "I know exactly who wants to kill me. They are dignitaries of General Zia's former regime who are behind extremism and fanaticism," she told the French magazine Paris-Match. Later she blamed "closet supporters" of the militants and spoke of her fear that retired military men wanted her dead. She pointed an accusing finger at the army's powerful intelligence arm, the Inter-Services Intelligence agency.

The military, and General Zia ul-Haq in particular, have long been her family's nemesis. Zia unseated her father in a coup in 1977 and hanged him two years later; for years there has been a bitter rivalry between Bhutto and the Pakistani military. While she was in exile, Pervez Musharraf, the general-turned-president, accused her of corruption and mismanagement. She in turn accused Musharraf of squeezing out democracy and last month described him as "contaminated". Yet she stopped short of accusing him directly of involvement in the assassination attempts against her.

Bhutto said that days before the October bombing she had sent Musharraf a letter warning of several different bomb plots against her, including names and telephone numbers of suspects. "I'm not accusing the government. I'm accusing certain people who abuse their powers," she said after that first attack. There certainly may be some within Pakistan's military or among retired officers who regarded Bhutto as a primary threat to their power and the stability of Pakistan, but without hard evidence of their involvement it will be difficult to make mere suspicions stick.

Political Opponents

Bhutto has fought a long battle with her political rivals, notably Nawaz Sharif, the former prime minister and head of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) who has also recently returned from exile. His support on the ground in Pakistan is strong and relations between the two rival movements are rarely cordial. After the October suicide bombing, one PML official accused Bhutto's husband, Asif Ali Zardari, of staging the bombing to win sympathy for his wife. But, however bitter the competition, they look like the least likely culprits.

Will We Ever Know?

Pakistan's detective work at the scene of a crime is not typically rigorous and even if yesterday's bomber is identified it would probably stretch the world's finest investigators to determine who ordered the killing.

Even if a militant group did dispatch the bomber, were they operating alone or as pawns of more powerful figures? Even today, the one other infamous assassination in Pakistan's history, the killing of Zia in August 1988, remains the unsolved subject of many a conspiracy theory.


Benazir Bhutto

28.12.2007: Obituary
27.12.2007: Profile: Moderniser, moderate, martyr


After Bhutto
Brown pays tribute to Bhutto

In pictures

The life of Benazir Bhutto


27.12.2007: Key events in the life of Benazir Bhutto
19.11.2007: Instability in Pakistan

Who did it?

27.12.2007: Suspects in the Bhutto assassination
Jason Burke analysis


Pakistan's political crisis

More on Pakistan

27.12.2007: What next for Pakistan?
27.12.2007: Pakistan: a troubled history
Pakistan special report

Go to Original

Interview With Former US Intelligence Official on Bhutto Assassination
By Laura Rozen
Mother Jones

Thursday 27 December 2007

I interviewed a former U.S. intelligence official knowledgeable about Pakistan about the assassination today in Rawalpindi of Pakistani opposition leader and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. While his comments make clear Bhutto was an inrreplaceable political figure in the country, and that her political party cannot exist in the same way without her, he also emphasized his belief that Pakistan and its institutions are far more resilient and disciplined than many people in the West may understand. Here is a summary of the interview:

Former U.S. Intelligence Official (FUSIO): Let us never forget that at least in my lifetime we had two presidents shot and one died, and a likely Democratic presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy killed and Martin Luther King Jr., all in rapid succession. Before we jump in and [scream that Pakistan is a failed nuclear state] and draw conclusions about collusion. If some guy has one hand on a lanyard and the other on a gun, and he's willing to blow himself up, whether it's in Washington or Rawalpindi, if he gets through, he can do his dirty job. It's a conspiracy theorists' dream. …

Mother Jones: There's no doubt that it was some form of Al Qaida who was behind this?

Fusio: I hate to use that word [because it's not precise]. "Al Qaida" and the "Taliban" - everybody [in the West] can even spell them both. But it is that crowd - militant Islamists.

The point is, Bhutto had two things against her: who she was, regardless of the claims that she could reach out to people better than anyone else. [Bhutto's father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was Pakistan's first popularly elected prime minister].

The other thing against her is that it is never good for a foreign leader to be perceived as the darling of the American government. I am talking about perception, not necessarily the reality. I've been back to Pakistan a couple times recently. The belief not just among the people on the streets, but among the elites, is that America was delivering Bhutto to Pakistan, to lead a coalition government. Whether it's true or not, every time the plan hit a bump, [deputy secretary of state John] Negroponte was in Pakistan. In terms of perception, there are no coincidences in South Asia.

Mother Jones: What now for Washington's policy?

Fusio: My sense is that the American government can send sympathy and condolences and condemn the assassination, and then should shut up.

The next big test is, do we have the election [Pakistani parliamentary elections were scheduled for January 8].

If I were [President Pervez] Musharraf, I would say, tough it out, have elections. People are saying, will he call martial law. If he picks up phone and calls his old "house," Army house, and asks for martial law, they will tell him, "Thank you for your sentiments on this, I will get back to you." Does Musharraf call martial law? Can he?

Mother Jones: There is no opposition leader of that stature who can replace Bhutto?

Fusio: There are no real political parties in Pakistan. Bhutto was the Pakistan People's Party. If your daddy founds the party, he was made chairman of the party for life, he get killed. The daughter was made the leader of the PPP for life. If you ask anybody to describe party [the PPP], they answer with only one word: Bhutto.

Now, the question, is there a political party after tomorrow? If you jumped and shouted out Aitzaz [Ahsan] - he is the guy, the defender lawyer for the Supreme Court Justice [and a member of the PPP], if you shouted his name, people would say "huh?"

Mother Jones: What now? Does this help Nawaz Sharif?

Fusio: Nawaz's return [from exile in Saudi Arabia] was not the biggest event that everyone thought it was.

Now it is highly unlikely that any of three political parties will be able to form a coalition government. Even absent this, it was unlikely that any … could achieve the majority required majority for governing. Now that this [assassination] is thrown into the mix, it is even more unlikely.

Mother Jones: Does anyone benefit from this?

Fusio: I won't say who benefits because that implies guilt.
What we'll get out of this probably, is there really a Pakistan People's Party that can become a real party? There are no real parties in Pakistan. Except perhaps for the MMA (the coalition of Islamist groups.)

Mother Jones: You don't sound terribly alarmed.

Fusio: I'm not. We can do without the media reports that scream that "Pakistan is a failed nuclear state." I think there is a lot more resilience and discipline within [Pakistani] institutions than we like to believe.