Archive | March 30th, 2013

THE REDIRECTION

NOVANEWS

Is the Administration’s new policy benefitting our enemies in the war on terrorism?

BY 

MARCH 5, 2007
Efforts to curb Iran

Efforts to curb Iran’s influence have involved the United States in worsening Sunni-Shiite tensions.

In the past few months, as the situation in Iraq has deteriorated, the Bush Administration, in both its public diplomacy and its covert operations, has significantly shifted its Middle East strategy. The “redirection,” as some inside the White House have called the new strategy, has brought the United States closer to an open confrontation with Iran and, in parts of the region, propelled it into a widening sectarian conflict between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.

To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.

One contradictory aspect of the new strategy is that, in Iraq, most of the insurgent violence directed at the American military has come from Sunni forces, and not from Shiites. But, from the Administration’s perspective, the most profound—and unintended—strategic consequence of the Iraq war is the empowerment of Iran. Its President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has made defiant pronouncements about the destruction of Israel and his country’s right to pursue its nuclear program, and last week its supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said on state television that “realities in the region show that the arrogant front, headed by the U.S. and its allies, will be the principal loser in the region.”

After the revolution of 1979 brought a religious government to power, the United States broke with Iran and cultivated closer relations with the leaders of Sunni Arab states such as Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. That calculation became more complex after the September 11th attacks, especially with regard to the Saudis. Al Qaeda is Sunni, and many of its operatives came from extremist religious circles inside Saudi Arabia. Before the invasion of Iraq, in 2003, Administration officials, influenced by neoconservative ideologues, assumed that a Shiite government there could provide a pro-American balance to Sunni extremists, since Iraq’s Shiite majority had been oppressed under Saddam Hussein. They ignored warnings from the intelligence community about the ties between Iraqi Shiite leaders and Iran, where some had lived in exile for years. Now, to the distress of the White House, Iran has forged a close relationship with the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

The new American policy, in its broad outlines, has been discussed publicly. In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that there is “a new strategic alignment in the Middle East,” separating “reformers” and “extremists”; she pointed to the Sunni states as centers of moderation, and said that Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah were “on the other side of that divide.” (Syria’s Sunni majority is dominated by the Alawi sect.) Iran and Syria, she said, “have made their choice and their choice is to destabilize.”

 

Some of the core tactics of the redirection are not public, however. The clandestine operations have been kept secret, in some cases, by leaving the execution or the funding to the Saudis, or by finding other ways to work around the normal congressional appropriations process, current and former officials close to the Administration said.

A senior member of the House Appropriations Committee told me that he had heard about the new strategy, but felt that he and his colleagues had not been adequately briefed. “We haven’t got any of this,” he said. “We ask for anything going on, and they say there’s nothing. And when we ask specific questions they say, ‘We’re going to get back to you.’ It’s so frustrating.”

The key players behind the redirection are Vice-President Dick Cheney, the deputy national-security adviser Elliott Abrams, the departing Ambassador to Iraq (and nominee for United Nations Ambassador), Zalmay Khalilzad, and Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi national-security adviser. While Rice has been deeply involved in shaping the public policy, former and current officials said that the clandestine side has been guided by Cheney. (Cheney’s office and the White House declined to comment for this story; the Pentagon did not respond to specific queries but said, “The United States is not planning to go to war with Iran.”)

The policy shift has brought Saudi Arabia and Israel into a new strategic embrace, largely because both countries see Iran as an existential threat. They have been involved in direct talks, and the Saudis, who believe that greater stability in Israel and Palestine will give Iran less leverage in the region, have become more involved in Arab-Israeli negotiations.

The new strategy “is a major shift in American policy—it’s a sea change,” a U.S. government consultant with close ties to Israel said. The Sunni states “were petrified of a Shiite resurgence, and there was growing resentment with our gambling on the moderate Shiites in Iraq,” he said. “We cannot reverse the Shiite gain in Iraq, but we can contain it.”

“It seems there has been a debate inside the government over what’s the biggest danger—Iran or Sunni radicals,” Vali Nasr, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, who has written widely on Shiites, Iran, and Iraq, told me. “The Saudis and some in the Administration have been arguing that the biggest threat is Iran and the Sunni radicals are the lesser enemies. This is a victory for the Saudi line.”

Martin Indyk, a senior State Department official in the Clinton Administration who also served as Ambassador to Israel, said that “the Middle East is heading into a serious Sunni-Shiite Cold War.” Indyk, who is the director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, added that, in his opinion, it was not clear whether the White House was fully aware of the strategic implications of its new policy. “The White House is not just doubling the bet in Iraq,” he said. “It’s doubling the bet across the region. This could get very complicated. Everything is upside down.”

The Administration’s new policy for containing Iran seems to complicate its strategy for winning the war in Iraq. Patrick Clawson, an expert on Iran and the deputy director for research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, argued, however, that closer ties between the United States and moderate or even radical Sunnis could put “fear” into the government of Prime Minister Maliki and “make him worry that the Sunnis could actually win” the civil war there. Clawson said that this might give Maliki an incentive to coöperate with the United States in suppressing radical Shiite militias, such as Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army.

Even so, for the moment, the U.S. remains dependent on the coöperation of Iraqi Shiite leaders. The Mahdi Army may be openly hostile to American interests, but other Shiite militias are counted as U.S. allies. Both Moqtada al-Sadr and the White House back Maliki. A memorandum written late last year by Stephen Hadley, the national-security adviser, suggested that the Administration try to separate Maliki from his more radical Shiite allies by building his base among moderate Sunnis and Kurds, but so far the trends have been in the opposite direction. As the Iraqi Army continues to founder in its confrontations with insurgents, the power of the Shiite militias has steadily increased.

Flynt Leverett, a former Bush Administration National Security Council official, told me that “there is nothing coincidental or ironic” about the new strategy with regard to Iraq. “The Administration is trying to make a case that Iran is more dangerous and more provocative than the Sunni insurgents to American interests in Iraq, when—if you look at the actual casualty numbers—the punishment inflicted on America by the Sunnis is greater by an order of magnitude,” Leverett said. “This is all part of the campaign of provocative steps to increase the pressure on Iran. The idea is that at some point the Iranians will respond and then the Administration will have an open door to strike at them.”

President George W. Bush, in a speech on January 10th, partially spelled out this approach. “These two regimes”—Iran and Syria—“are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq,” Bush said. “Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We’ll interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.”

In the following weeks, there was a wave of allegations from the Administration about Iranian involvement in the Iraq war. On February 11th, reporters were shown sophisticated explosive devices, captured in Iraq, that the Administration claimed had come from Iran. The Administration’s message was, in essence, that the bleak situation in Iraq was the result not of its own failures of planning and execution but of Iran’s interference.

The U.S. military also has arrested and interrogated hundreds of Iranians in Iraq. “The word went out last August for the military to snatch as many Iranians in Iraq as they can,” a former senior intelligence official said. “They had five hundred locked up at one time. We’re working these guys and getting information from them. The White House goal is to build a case that the Iranians have been fomenting the insurgency and they’ve been doing it all along—that Iran is, in fact, supporting the killing of Americans.” The Pentagon consultant confirmed that hundreds of Iranians have been captured by American forces in recent months. But he told me that that total includes many Iranian humanitarian and aid workers who “get scooped up and released in a short time,” after they have been interrogated.

“We are not planning for a war with Iran,” Robert Gates, the new Defense Secretary, announced on February 2nd, and yet the atmosphere of confrontation has deepened. According to current and former American intelligence and military officials, secret operations in Lebanon have been accompanied by clandestine operations targeting Iran. American military and special-operations teams have escalated their activities in Iran to gather intelligence and, according to a Pentagon consultant on terrorism and the former senior intelligence official, have also crossed the border in pursuit of Iranian operatives from Iraq.

At Rice’s Senate appearance in January, Democratic Senator Joseph Biden, of Delaware, pointedly asked her whether the U.S. planned to cross the Iranian or the Syrian border in the course of a pursuit. “Obviously, the President isn’t going to rule anything out to protect our troops, but the plan is to take down these networks in Iraq,” Rice said, adding, “I do think that everyone will understand that—the American people and I assume the Congress expect the President to do what is necessary to protect our forces.”

The ambiguity of Rice’s reply prompted a response from Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, a Republican, who has been critical of the Administration:
Some of us remember 1970, Madam Secretary. And that was Cambodia. And when our government lied to the American people and said, “We didn’t cross the border going into Cambodia,” in fact we did.
I happen to know something about that, as do some on this committee. So, Madam Secretary, when you set in motion the kind of policy that the President is talking about here, it’s very, very dangerous.

The Administration’s concern about Iran’s role in Iraq is coupled with its long-standing alarm over Iran’s nuclear program. On Fox News on January 14th, Cheney warned of the possibility, in a few years, “of a nuclear-armed Iran, astride the world’s supply of oil, able to affect adversely the global economy, prepared to use terrorist organizations and/or their nuclear weapons to threaten their neighbors and others around the world.” He also said, “If you go and talk with the Gulf states or if you talk with the Saudis or if you talk with the Israelis or the Jordanians, the entire region is worried. . . . The threat Iran represents is growing.”

The Administration is now examining a wave of new intelligence on Iran’s weapons programs. Current and former American officials told me that the intelligence, which came from Israeli agents operating in Iran, includes a claim that Iran has developed a three-stage solid-fuelled intercontinental missile capable of delivering several small warheads—each with limited accuracy—inside Europe. The validity of this human intelligence is still being debated.

A similar argument about an imminent threat posed by weapons of mass destruction—and questions about the intelligence used to make that case—formed the prelude to the invasion of Iraq. Many in Congress have greeted the claims about Iran with wariness; in the Senate on February 14th, Hillary Clinton said, “We have all learned lessons from the conflict in Iraq, and we have to apply those lessons to any allegations that are being raised about Iran. Because, Mr. President, what we are hearing has too familiar a ring and we must be on guard that we never again make decisions on the basis of intelligence that turns out to be faulty.”

Still, the Pentagon is continuing intensive planning for a possible bombing attack on Iran, a process that began last year, at the direction of the President. In recent months, the former intelligence official told me, a special planning group has been established in the offices of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, charged with creating a contingency bombing plan for Iran that can be implemented, upon orders from the President, within twenty-four hours.

In the past month, I was told by an Air Force adviser on targeting and the Pentagon consultant on terrorism, the Iran planning group has been handed a new assignment: to identify targets in Iran that may be involved in supplying or aiding militants in Iraq. Previously, the focus had been on the destruction of Iran’s nuclear facilities and possible regime change.

Two carrier strike groups—the Eisenhower and the Stennis—are now in the Arabian Sea. One plan is for them to be relieved early in the spring, but there is worry within the military that they may be ordered to stay in the area after the new carriers arrive, according to several sources. (Among other concerns, war games have shown that the carriers could be vulnerable to swarming tactics involving large numbers of small boats, a technique that the Iranians have practiced in the past; carriers have limited maneuverability in the narrow Strait of Hormuz, off Iran’s southern coast.) The former senior intelligence official said that the current contingency plans allow for an attack order this spring. He added, however, that senior officers on the Joint Chiefs were counting on the White House’s not being “foolish enough to do this in the face of Iraq, and the problems it would give the Republicans in 2008.”

PRINCE BANDAR’S GAME

The Administration’s effort to diminish Iranian authority in the Middle East has relied heavily on Saudi Arabia and on Prince Bandar, the Saudi national-security adviser. Bandar served as the Ambassador to the United States for twenty-two years, until 2005, and has maintained a friendship with President Bush and Vice-President Cheney. In his new post, he continues to meet privately with them. Senior White House officials have made several visits to Saudi Arabia recently, some of them not disclosed.

Last November, Cheney flew to Saudi Arabia for a surprise meeting with King Abdullah and Bandar. The Times reported that the King warned Cheney that Saudi Arabia would back its fellow-Sunnis in Iraq if the United States were to withdraw. A European intelligence official told me that the meeting also focussed on more general Saudi fears about “the rise of the Shiites.” In response, “The Saudis are starting to use their leverage—money.”

In a royal family rife with competition, Bandar has, over the years, built a power base that relies largely on his close relationship with the U.S., which is crucial to the Saudis. Bandar was succeeded as Ambassador by Prince Turki al-Faisal; Turki resigned after eighteen months and was replaced by Adel A. al-Jubeir, a bureaucrat who has worked with Bandar. A former Saudi diplomat told me that during Turki’s tenure he became aware of private meetings involving Bandar and senior White House officials, including Cheney and Abrams. “I assume Turki was not happy with that,” the Saudi said. But, he added, “I don’t think that Bandar is going off on his own.” Although Turki dislikes Bandar, the Saudi said, he shared his goal of challenging the spread of Shiite power in the Middle East.

The split between Shiites and Sunnis goes back to a bitter divide, in the seventh century, over who should succeed the Prophet Muhammad. Sunnis dominated the medieval caliphate and the Ottoman Empire, and Shiites, traditionally, have been regarded more as outsiders. Worldwide, ninety per cent of Muslims are Sunni, but Shiites are a majority in Iran, Iraq, and Bahrain, and are the largest Muslim group in Lebanon. Their concentration in a volatile, oil-rich region has led to concern in the West and among Sunnis about the emergence of a “Shiite crescent”—especially given Iran’s increased geopolitical weight.

“The Saudis still see the world through the days of the Ottoman Empire, when Sunni Muslims ruled the roost and the Shiites were the lowest class,” Frederic Hof, a retired military officer who is an expert on the Middle East, told me. If Bandar was seen as bringing about a shift in U.S. policy in favor of the Sunnis, he added, it would greatly enhance his standing within the royal family.

The Saudis are driven by their fear that Iran could tilt the balance of power not only in the region but within their own country. Saudi Arabia has a significant Shiite minority in its Eastern Province, a region of major oil fields; sectarian tensions are high in the province. The royal family believes that Iranian operatives, working with local Shiites, have been behind many terrorist attacks inside the kingdom, according to Vali Nasr. “Today, the only army capable of containing Iran”—the Iraqi Army—“has been destroyed by the United States. You’re now dealing with an Iran that could be nuclear-capable and has a standing army of four hundred and fifty thousand soldiers.” (Saudi Arabia has seventy-five thousand troops in its standing army.)

Nasr went on, “The Saudis have considerable financial means, and have deep relations with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis”—Sunni extremists who view Shiites as apostates. “The last time Iran was a threat, the Saudis were able to mobilize the worst kinds of Islamic radicals. Once you get them out of the box, you can’t put them back.”

The Saudi royal family has been, by turns, both a sponsor and a target of Sunni extremists, who object to the corruption and decadence among the family’s myriad princes. The princes are gambling that they will not be overthrown as long as they continue to support religious schools and charities linked to the extremists. The Administration’s new strategy is heavily dependent on this bargain.

Nasr compared the current situation to the period in which Al Qaeda first emerged. In the nineteen-eighties and the early nineties, the Saudi government offered to subsidize the covert American C.I.A. proxy war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Hundreds of young Saudis were sent into the border areas of Pakistan, where they set up religious schools, training bases, and recruiting facilities. Then, as now, many of the operatives who were paid with Saudi money were Salafis. Among them, of course, were Osama bin Laden and his associates, who founded Al Qaeda, in 1988.

This time, the U.S. government consultant told me, Bandar and other Saudis have assured the White House that “they will keep a very close eye on the religious fundamentalists. Their message to us was ‘We’ve created this movement, and we can control it.’ It’s not that we don’t want the Salafis to throw bombs; it’s who they throw them at—Hezbollah, Moqtada al-Sadr, Iran, and at the Syrians, if they continue to work with Hezbollah and Iran.”

The Saudi said that, in his country’s view, it was taking a political risk by joining the U.S. in challenging Iran: Bandar is already seen in the Arab world as being too close to the Bush Administration. “We have two nightmares,” the former diplomat told me. “For Iran to acquire the bomb and for the United States to attack Iran. I’d rather the Israelis bomb the Iranians, so we can blame them. If America does it, we will be blamed.”

In the past year, the Saudis, the Israelis, and the Bush Administration have developed a series of informal understandings about their new strategic direction. At least four main elements were involved, the U.S. government consultant told me. First, Israel would be assured that its security was paramount and that Washington and Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states shared its concern about Iran.

Second, the Saudis would urge Hamas, the Islamist Palestinian party that has received support from Iran, to curtail its anti-Israeli aggression and to begin serious talks about sharing leadership with Fatah, the more secular Palestinian group. (In February, the Saudis brokered a deal at Mecca between the two factions. However, Israel and the U.S. have expressed dissatisfaction with the terms.)

The third component was that the Bush Administration would work directly with Sunni nations to counteract Shiite ascendance in the region.

Fourth, the Saudi government, with Washington’s approval, would provide funds and logistical aid to weaken the government of President Bashir Assad, of Syria. The Israelis believe that putting such pressure on the Assad government will make it more conciliatory and open to negotiations. Syria is a major conduit of arms to Hezbollah. The Saudi government is also at odds with the Syrians over the assassination of Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese Prime Minister, in Beirut in 2005, for which it believes the Assad government was responsible. Hariri, a billionaire Sunni, was closely associated with the Saudi regime and with Prince Bandar. (A U.N. inquiry strongly suggested that the Syrians were involved, but offered no direct evidence; there are plans for another investigation, by an international tribunal.)

Patrick Clawson, of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, depicted the Saudis’ coöperation with the White House as a significant breakthrough. “The Saudis understand that if they want the Administration to make a more generous political offer to the Palestinians they have to persuade the Arab states to make a more generous offer to the Israelis,” Clawson told me. The new diplomatic approach, he added, “shows a real degree of effort and sophistication as well as a deftness of touch not always associated with this Administration. Who’s running the greater risk—we or the Saudis? At a time when America’s standing in the Middle East is extremely low, the Saudis are actually embracing us. We should count our blessings.”

The Pentagon consultant had a different view. He said that the Administration had turned to Bandar as a “fallback,” because it had realized that the failing war in Iraq could leave the Middle East “up for grabs.”

JIHADIS IN LEBANON

The focus of the U.S.-Saudi relationship, after Iran, is Lebanon, where the Saudis have been deeply involved in efforts by the Administration to support the Lebanese government. Prime Minister Fouad Siniora is struggling to stay in power against a persistent opposition led by Hezbollah, the Shiite organization, and its leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah. Hezbollah has an extensive infrastructure, an estimated two to three thousand active fighters, and thousands of additional members.

Hezbollah has been on the State Department’s terrorist list since 1997. The organization has been implicated in the 1983 bombing of a Marine barracks in Beirut that killed two hundred and forty-one military men. It has also been accused of complicity in the kidnapping of Americans, including the C.I.A. station chief in Lebanon, who died in captivity, and a Marine colonel serving on a U.N. peacekeeping mission, who was killed. (Nasrallah has denied that the group was involved in these incidents.) Nasrallah is seen by many as a staunch terrorist, who has said that he regards Israel as a state that has no right to exist. Many in the Arab world, however, especially Shiites, view him as a resistance leader who withstood Israel in last summer’s thirty-three-day war, and Siniora as a weak politician who relies on America’s support but was unable to persuade President Bush to call for an end to the Israeli bombing of Lebanon. (Photographs of Siniora kissing Condoleezza Rice on the cheek when she visited during the war were prominently displayed during street protests in Beirut.)

The Bush Administration has publicly pledged the Siniora government a billion dollars in aid since last summer. A donors’ conference in Paris, in January, which the U.S. helped organize, yielded pledges of almost eight billion more, including a promise of more than a billion from the Saudis. The American pledge includes more than two hundred million dollars in military aid, and forty million dollars for internal security.

The United States has also given clandestine support to the Siniora government, according to the former senior intelligence official and the U.S. government consultant. “We are in a program to enhance the Sunni capability to resist Shiite influence, and we’re spreading the money around as much as we can,” the former senior intelligence official said. The problem was that such money “always gets in more pockets than you think it will,” he said. “In this process, we’re financing a lot of bad guys with some serious potential unintended consequences. We don’t have the ability to determine and get pay vouchers signed by the people we like and avoid the people we don’t like. It’s a very high-risk venture.”

American, European, and Arab officials I spoke to told me that the Siniora government and its allies had allowed some aid to end up in the hands of emerging Sunni radical groups in northern Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley, and around Palestinian refugee camps in the south. These groups, though small, are seen as a buffer to Hezbollah; at the same time, their ideological ties are with Al Qaeda.

During a conversation with me, the former Saudi diplomat accused Nasrallah of attempting “to hijack the state,” but he also objected to the Lebanese and Saudi sponsorship of Sunni jihadists in Lebanon. “Salafis are sick and hateful, and I’m very much against the idea of flirting with them,” he said. “They hate the Shiites, but they hate Americans more. If you try to outsmart them, they will outsmart us. It will be ugly.”

Alastair Crooke, who spent nearly thirty years in MI6, the British intelligence service, and now works for Conflicts Forum, a think tank in Beirut, told me, “The Lebanese government is opening space for these people to come in. It could be very dangerous.” Crooke said that one Sunni extremist group, Fatah al-Islam, had splintered from its pro-Syrian parent group, Fatah al-Intifada, in the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp, in northern Lebanon. Its membership at the time was less than two hundred. “I was told that within twenty-four hours they were being offered weapons and money by people presenting themselves as representatives of the Lebanese government’s interests—presumably to take on Hezbollah,” Crooke said.

The largest of the groups, Asbat al-Ansar, is situated in the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp. Asbat al-Ansar has received arms and supplies from Lebanese internal-security forces and militias associated with the Siniora government.

In 2005, according to a report by the U.S.-based International Crisis Group, Saad Hariri, the Sunni majority leader of the Lebanese parliament and the son of the slain former Prime Minister—Saad inherited more than four billion dollars after his father’s assassination—paid forty-eight thousand dollars in bail for four members of an Islamic militant group from Dinniyeh. The men had been arrested while trying to establish an Islamic mini-state in northern Lebanon. The Crisis Group noted that many of the militants “had trained in al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan.”

According to the Crisis Group report, Saad Hariri later used his parliamentary majority to obtain amnesty for twenty-two of the Dinniyeh Islamists, as well as for seven militants suspected of plotting to bomb the Italian and Ukrainian embassies in Beirut, the previous year. (He also arranged a pardon for Samir Geagea, a Maronite Christian militia leader, who had been convicted of four political murders, including the assassination, in 1987, of Prime Minister Rashid Karami.) Hariri described his actions to reporters as humanitarian.

In an interview in Beirut, a senior official in the Siniora government acknowledged that there were Sunni jihadists operating inside Lebanon. “We have a liberal attitude that allows Al Qaeda types to have a presence here,” he said. He related this to concerns that Iran or Syria might decide to turn Lebanon into a “theatre of conflict.”

The official said that his government was in a no-win situation. Without a political settlement with Hezbollah, he said, Lebanon could “slide into a conflict,” in which Hezbollah fought openly with Sunni forces, with potentially horrific consequences. But if Hezbollah agreed to a settlement yet still maintained a separate army, allied with Iran and Syria, “Lebanon could become a target. In both cases, we become a target.”

The Bush Administration has portrayed its support of the Siniora government as an example of the President’s belief in democracy, and his desire to prevent other powers from interfering in Lebanon. When Hezbollah led street demonstrations in Beirut in December, John Bolton, who was then the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., called them “part of the Iran-Syria-inspired coup.”

Leslie H. Gelb, a past president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said that the Administration’s policy was less pro democracy than “pro American national security. The fact is that it would be terribly dangerous if Hezbollah ran Lebanon.” The fall of the Siniora government would be seen, Gelb said, “as a signal in the Middle East of the decline of the United States and the ascendancy of the terrorism threat. And so any change in the distribution of political power in Lebanon has to be opposed by the United States—and we’re justified in helping any non-Shiite parties resist that change. We should say this publicly, instead of talking about democracy.”

Martin Indyk, of the Saban Center, said, however, that the United States “does not have enough pull to stop the moderates in Lebanon from dealing with the extremists.” He added, “The President sees the region as divided between moderates and extremists, but our regional friends see it as divided between Sunnis and Shia. The Sunnis that we view as extremists are regarded by our Sunni allies simply as Sunnis.”

In January, after an outburst of street violence in Beirut involving supporters of both the Siniora government and Hezbollah, Prince Bandar flew to Tehran to discuss the political impasse in Lebanon and to meet with Ali Larijani, the Iranians’ negotiator on nuclear issues. According to a Middle Eastern ambassador, Bandar’s mission—which the ambassador said was endorsed by the White House—also aimed “to create problems between the Iranians and Syria.” There had been tensions between the two countries about Syrian talks with Israel, and the Saudis’ goal was to encourage a breach. However, the ambassador said, “It did not work. Syria and Iran are not going to betray each other. Bandar’s approach is very unlikely to succeed.”

Walid Jumblatt, who is the leader of the Druze minority in Lebanon and a strong Siniora supporter, has attacked Nasrallah as an agent of Syria, and has repeatedly told foreign journalists that Hezbollah is under the direct control of the religious leadership in Iran. In a conversation with me last December, he depicted Bashir Assad, the Syrian President, as a “serial killer.” Nasrallah, he said, was “morally guilty” of the assassination of Rafik Hariri and the murder, last November, of Pierre Gemayel, a member of the Siniora Cabinet, because of his support for the Syrians.

Jumblatt then told me that he had met with Vice-President Cheney in Washington last fall to discuss, among other issues, the possibility of undermining Assad. He and his colleagues advised Cheney that, if the United States does try to move against Syria, members of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood would be “the ones to talk to,” Jumblatt said.

The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, a branch of a radical Sunni movement founded in Egypt in 1928, engaged in more than a decade of violent opposition to the regime of Hafez Assad, Bashir’s father. In 1982, the Brotherhood took control of the city of Hama; Assad bombarded the city for a week, killing between six thousand and twenty thousand people. Membership in the Brotherhood is punishable by death in Syria. The Brotherhood is also an avowed enemy of the U.S. and of Israel. Nevertheless, Jumblatt said, “We told Cheney that the basic link between Iran and Lebanon is Syria—and to weaken Iran you need to open the door to effective Syrian opposition.”

There is evidence that the Administration’s redirection strategy has already benefitted the Brotherhood. The Syrian National Salvation Front is a coalition of opposition groups whose principal members are a faction led by Abdul Halim Khaddam, a former Syrian Vice-President who defected in 2005, and the Brotherhood. A former high-ranking C.I.A. officer told me, “The Americans have provided both political and financial support. The Saudis are taking the lead with financial support, but there is American involvement.” He said that Khaddam, who now lives in Paris, was getting money from Saudi Arabia, with the knowledge of the White House. (In 2005, a delegation of the Front’s members met with officials from the National Security Council, according to press reports.) A former White House official told me that the Saudis had provided members of the Front with travel documents.

Jumblatt said he understood that the issue was a sensitive one for the White House. “I told Cheney that some people in the Arab world, mainly the Egyptians”—whose moderate Sunni leadership has been fighting the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood for decades—“won’t like it if the United States helps the Brotherhood. But if you don’t take on Syria we will be face to face in Lebanon with Hezbollah in a long fight, and one we might not win.”

THE SHEIKH

On a warm, clear night early last December, in a bombed-out suburb a few miles south of downtown Beirut, I got a preview of how the Administration’s new strategy might play out in Lebanon. Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader, who has been in hiding, had agreed to an interview. Security arrangements for the meeting were secretive and elaborate. I was driven, in the back seat of a darkened car, to a damaged underground garage somewhere in Beirut, searched with a handheld scanner, placed in a second car to be driven to yet another bomb-scarred underground garage, and transferred again.

Last summer, it was reported that Israel was trying to kill Nasrallah, but the extraordinary precautions were not due only to that threat. Nasrallah’s aides told me that they believe he is a prime target of fellow-Arabs, primarily Jordanian intelligence operatives, as well as Sunni jihadists who they believe are affiliated with Al Qaeda. (The government consultant and a retired four-star general said that Jordanian intelligence, with support from the U.S. and Israel, had been trying to infiltrate Shiite groups, to work against Hezbollah. Jordan’s King Abdullah II has warned that a Shiite government in Iraq that was close to Iran would lead to the emergence of a Shiite crescent.) This is something of an ironic turn: Nasrallah’s battle with Israel last summer turned him—a Shiite—into the most popular and influential figure among Sunnis and Shiites throughout the region. In recent months, however, he has increasingly been seen by many Sunnis not as a symbol of Arab unity but as a participant in a sectarian war.

Nasrallah, dressed, as usual, in religious garb, was waiting for me in an unremarkable apartment. One of his advisers said that he was not likely to remain there overnight; he has been on the move since his decision, last July, to order the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid set off the thirty-three-day war. Nasrallah has since said publicly—and repeated to me—that he misjudged the Israeli response. “We just wanted to capture prisoners for exchange purposes,” he told me. “We never wanted to drag the region into war.”

Nasrallah accused the Bush Administration of working with Israel to deliberately instigate fitna, an Arabic word that is used to mean “insurrection and fragmentation within Islam.” “In my opinion, there is a huge campaign through the media throughout the world to put each side up against the other,” he said. “I believe that all this is being run by American and Israeli intelligence.” (He did not provide any specific evidence for this.) He said that the U.S. war in Iraq had increased sectarian tensions, but argued that Hezbollah had tried to prevent them from spreading into Lebanon. (Sunni-Shiite confrontations increased, along with violence, in the weeks after we talked.)

Nasrallah said he believed that President Bush’s goal was “the drawing of a new map for the region. They want the partition of Iraq. Iraq is not on the edge of a civil war—there is a civil war. There is ethnic and sectarian cleansing. The daily killing and displacement which is taking place in Iraq aims at achieving three Iraqi parts, which will be sectarian and ethnically pure as a prelude to the partition of Iraq. Within one or two years at the most, there will be total Sunni areas, total Shiite areas, and total Kurdish areas. Even in Baghdad, there is a fear that it might be divided into two areas, one Sunni and one Shiite.”

He went on, “I can say that President Bush is lying when he says he does not want Iraq to be partitioned. All the facts occurring now on the ground make you swear he is dragging Iraq to partition. And a day will come when he will say, ‘I cannot do anything, since the Iraqis want the partition of their country and I honor the wishes of the people of Iraq.’ ”

Nasrallah said he believed that America also wanted to bring about the partition of Lebanon and of Syria. In Syria, he said, the result would be to push the country “into chaos and internal battles like in Iraq.” In Lebanon, “There will be a Sunni state, an Alawi state, a Christian state, and a Druze state.” But, he said, “I do not know if there will be a Shiite state.” Nasrallah told me that he suspected that one aim of the Israeli bombing of Lebanon last summer was “the destruction of Shiite areas and the displacement of Shiites from Lebanon. The idea was to have the Shiites of Lebanon and Syria flee to southern Iraq,” which is dominated by Shiites. “I am not sure, but I smell this,” he told me.

Partition would leave Israel surrounded by “small tranquil states,” he said. “I can assure you that the Saudi kingdom will also be divided, and the issue will reach to North African states. There will be small ethnic and confessional states,” he said. “In other words, Israel will be the most important and the strongest state in a region that has been partitioned into ethnic and confessional states that are in agreement with each other. This is the new Middle East.”

In fact, the Bush Administration has adamantly resisted talk of partitioning Iraq, and its public stances suggest that the White House sees a future Lebanon that is intact, with a weak, disarmed Hezbollah playing, at most, a minor political role. There is also no evidence to support Nasrallah’s belief that the Israelis were seeking to drive the Shiites into southern Iraq. Nevertheless, Nasrallah’s vision of a larger sectarian conflict in which the United States is implicated suggests a possible consequence of the White House’s new strategy.

In the interview, Nasrallah made mollifying gestures and promises that would likely be met with skepticism by his opponents. “If the United States says that discussions with the likes of us can be useful and influential in determining American policy in the region, we have no objection to talks or meetings,” he said. “But, if their aim through this meeting is to impose their policy on us, it will be a waste of time.” He said that the Hezbollah militia, unless attacked, would operate only within the borders of Lebanon, and pledged to disarm it when the Lebanese Army was able to stand up. Nasrallah said that he had no interest in initiating another war with Israel. However, he added that he was anticipating, and preparing for, another Israeli attack, later this year.

Nasrallah further insisted that the street demonstrations in Beirut would continue until the Siniora government fell or met his coalition’s political demands. “Practically speaking, this government cannot rule,” he told me. “It might issue orders, but the majority of the Lebanese people will not abide and will not recognize the legitimacy of this government. Siniora remains in office because of international support, but this does not mean that Siniora can rule Lebanon.”

President Bush’s repeated praise of the Siniora government, Nasrallah said, “is the best service to the Lebanese opposition he can give, because it weakens their position vis-à-vis the Lebanese people and the Arab and Islamic populations. They are betting on us getting tired. We did not get tired during the war, so how could we get tired in a demonstration?”

There is sharp division inside and outside the Bush Administration about how best to deal with Nasrallah, and whether he could, in fact, be a partner in a political settlement. The outgoing director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte, in a farewell briefing to the Senate Intelligence Committee, in January, said that Hezbollah “lies at the center of Iran’s terrorist strategy. . . . It could decide to conduct attacks against U.S. interests in the event it feels its survival or that of Iran is threatened. . . . Lebanese Hezbollah sees itself as Tehran’s partner.”

In 2002, Richard Armitage, then the Deputy Secretary of State, called Hezbollah “the A-team” of terrorists. In a recent interview, however, Armitage acknowledged that the issue has become somewhat more complicated. Nasrallah, Armitage told me, has emerged as “a political force of some note, with a political role to play inside Lebanon if he chooses to do so.” In terms of public relations and political gamesmanship, Armitage said, Nasrallah “is the smartest man in the Middle East.” But, he added, Nasrallah “has got to make it clear that he wants to play an appropriate role as the loyal opposition. For me, there’s still a blood debt to pay”—a reference to the murdered colonel and the Marine barracks bombing.

Robert Baer, a former longtime C.I.A. agent in Lebanon, has been a severe critic of Hezbollah and has warned of its links to Iranian-sponsored terrorism. But now, he told me, “we’ve got Sunni Arabs preparing for cataclysmic conflict, and we will need somebody to protect the Christians in Lebanon. It used to be the French and the United States who would do it, and now it’s going to be Nasrallah and the Shiites.

“The most important story in the Middle East is the growth of Nasrallah from a street guy to a leader—from a terrorist to a statesman,” Baer added. “The dog that didn’t bark this summer”—during the war with Israel—“is Shiite terrorism.” Baer was referring to fears that Nasrallah, in addition to firing rockets into Israel and kidnapping its soldiers, might set in motion a wave of terror attacks on Israeli and American targets around the world. “He could have pulled the trigger, but he did not,” Baer said.

Most members of the intelligence and diplomatic communities acknowledge Hezbollah’s ongoing ties to Iran. But there is disagreement about the extent to which Nasrallah would put aside Hezbollah’s interests in favor of Iran’s. A former C.I.A. officer who also served in Lebanon called Nasrallah “a Lebanese phenomenon,” adding, “Yes, he’s aided by Iran and Syria, but Hezbollah’s gone beyond that.” He told me that there was a period in the late eighties and early nineties when the C.I.A. station in Beirut was able to clandestinely monitor Nasrallah’s conversations. He described Nasrallah as “a gang leader who was able to make deals with the other gangs. He had contacts with everybody.”

TELLING CONGRESS

The Bush Administration’s reliance on clandestine operations that have not been reported to Congress and its dealings with intermediaries with questionable agendas have recalled, for some in Washington, an earlier chapter in history. Two decades ago, the Reagan Administration attempted to fund the Nicaraguan contras illegally, with the help of secret arms sales to Iran. Saudi money was involved in what became known as the Iran-Contra scandal, and a few of the players back then—notably Prince Bandar and Elliott Abrams—are involved in today’s dealings.

Iran-Contra was the subject of an informal “lessons learned” discussion two years ago among veterans of the scandal. Abrams led the discussion. One conclusion was that even though the program was eventually exposed, it had been possible to execute it without telling Congress. As to what the experience taught them, in terms of future covert operations, the participants found: “One, you can’t trust our friends. Two, the C.I.A. has got to be totally out of it. Three, you can’t trust the uniformed military, and four, it’s got to be run out of the Vice-President’s office”—a reference to Cheney’s role, the former senior intelligence official said.

I was subsequently told by the two government consultants and the former senior intelligence official that the echoes of Iran-Contra were a factor in Negroponte’s decision to resign from the National Intelligence directorship and accept a sub-Cabinet position of Deputy Secretary of State. (Negroponte declined to comment.)

The former senior intelligence official also told me that Negroponte did not want a repeat of his experience in the Reagan Administration, when he served as Ambassador to Honduras. “Negroponte said, ‘No way. I’m not going down that road again, with the N.S.C. running operations off the books, with no finding.’ ” (In the case of covert C.I.A. operations, the President must issue a written finding and inform Congress.) Negroponte stayed on as Deputy Secretary of State, he added, because “he believes he can influence the government in a positive way.”

The government consultant said that Negroponte shared the White House’s policy goals but “wanted to do it by the book.” The Pentagon consultant also told me that “there was a sense at the senior-ranks level that he wasn’t fully on board with the more adventurous clandestine initiatives.” It was also true, he said, that Negroponte “had problems with this Rube Goldberg policy contraption for fixing the Middle East.”

The Pentagon consultant added that one difficulty, in terms of oversight, was accounting for covert funds. “There are many, many pots of black money, scattered in many places and used all over the world on a variety of missions,” he said. The budgetary chaos in Iraq, where billions of dollars are unaccounted for, has made it a vehicle for such transactions, according to the former senior intelligence official and the retired four-star general.

“This goes back to Iran-Contra,” a former National Security Council aide told me. “And much of what they’re doing is to keep the agency out of it.” He said that Congress was not being briefed on the full extent of the U.S.-Saudi operations. And, he said, “The C.I.A. is asking, ‘What’s going on?’ They’re concerned, because they think it’s amateur hour.”

The issue of oversight is beginning to get more attention from Congress. Last November, the Congressional Research Service issued a report for Congress on what it depicted as the Administration’s blurring of the line between C.I.A. activities and strictly military ones, which do not have the same reporting requirements. And the Senate Intelligence Committee, headed by Senator Jay Rockefeller, has scheduled a hearing for March 8th on Defense Department intelligence activities.

Senator Ron Wyden, of Oregon, a Democrat who is a member of the Intelligence Committee, told me, “The Bush Administration has frequently failed to meet its legal obligation to keep the Intelligence Committee fully and currently informed. Time and again, the answer has been ‘Trust us.’ ” Wyden said, “It is hard for me to trust the Administration.” ♦

Posted in Middle East, USAComments Off on THE REDIRECTION

Russia to block Zio-NATO Rats at UN

NOVANEWS

Russia said Thursday it will strongly oppose any bid to give Syria’s UN seat to Zio-NATO Rats fighting President Bashar al-Assad.

Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin said recognizing the Syrian National Council would “undercut the standing of the UN.”

Churkin reaffirmed Russia’s condemnation of the Zionist Arab League for naming the coalition as the legitimate government and said the League was now playing a “negative” role in the two-year-old Syrian conflict.

Zionist Puppets Arab League on Tuesday recognized Zionist Rats and diplomats say Arab nations are now planning a campaign to give Syria’s place at the 193-member United Nations to the opposition.

No formal move is expected however before the new UN General Assembly year starts in September. Russia, is a current member of the General Assembly’s credentials committee, which would make a recommendation to the full assembly on Syria’s membership.

“We will oppose it very strongly, but you know I don’t think it is going to happen,” Churkin told reporters.

He said most UN states are “responsible” members, noting: “They value this institution, they understand that if something of the sort were to happen, that would really undercut the standing of the United Nations.”

“You do not simply seat opposition groups who have gone through no proper process of legitimization and say well now they are the representatives of Syria,” Churkin added.

“I think that this kind of a motion would not find very much support in the United Nations. And I think most of the countries are smart enough to understand that if they were to go down that road they themselves might be the target of such manipulation in the future,” he added.

The Russian ambassador said the Arab League move had “undercut the efforts” of UN-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and “damages” the League’s standing.

“In fact they are beginning to act more and more as a negative rather than a positive force,” he said.

Russia has repeatedly blocked UN Security Council efforts to increase pressure on the Syrian government over the conflict, which the UN says has left more than 70,000 dead.

Posted in Russia, SyriaComments Off on Russia to block Zio-NATO Rats at UN

DOROTHY ONLINE NEWSLETTER

NOVANEWS

Dear Friends,

8 items below

Items 1 and 2 are about the Palestinian Land Day—item 1 precedes it, whereas item 2 reports on how it went.  I preferred the Al Jazeera version, as more neutral, than the Ynet one (which speaks of Land Day riots rather than protests or demonstrations) and even also the Haaretz one, but in case they interest you, I include the links to both at the end of the report on events during the protest-demonstrations.

Item 3 reports that “The World Social Forum marks a renewed commitment to the Palestinian cause.”  Bravo to the Forum.

Item 4 describes Good Friday in Jerusalem this year from the standpoint of a vendor of crosses and of some of the pilgrims taking part in the event.

Item 5 depicts “Ongoing Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank along with the Apartheid Wall and settler terrorism” as “mines” that endanger the entire region.

Item 6 is a 25 minute video in which Ramzy Baroud depicts Gaza, particularly Rafa, and Rachel Corrie’s “legacy” to it.

Item 7 is a book review.  While the critique is not overly enthusiastic about the book, mainly because of its need for editing, the subject particularly interested me.  It’s about 3 young women soldiers and the rites of passage

Item 8 is Today in Palestine for Friday, March 29, 2013.

That’s it for today, and perhaps also for tomorrow.

All the best,

Dorothy

——————————

1 Al Jazeera

Friday, March 29, 2013

Palestinians gear up for Land Day

On Saturday, thousands of Palestinians plan to protest on anniversary of Israeli land confiscation in Galilee region.

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2013/03/201332983712559816.html

Patrick Strickland

29 Mar 2013 13:04

More than 100 people were injured during Land Day protests last year at the Qalandia checkpoint [AFP]

Ramallah, West Bank – Palestinians in Israel, the occupied Palestinian territories, and abroad are gearing up to commemorate Land Day on Saturday.

Land Day is held on the anniversary of March 30, 1976, when Palestinian villages and cities across the country witnessed mass demonstrations against the state’s plans to expropriate 2,000 hectares of land in Israel’s Galilee region. In coordination with the military, some 4,000 police officers were dispatched to quell the unrest. At the end of the day, six Palestinian citizens of Israel were killed by state security forces.

On Saturday, buses will shuttle activists from around the country to two central rallies, one in southern Israel’s Negev region and the other in Sakhnin in the northern Galilee.

Raja Zaatry of the Hirak Center for Higher Education in Arab Society said local activities are scheduled to take place in Arab villages and towns across Israel, in coordination with similar protests in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Protests are also expected in the Gaza Strip.

Groups across the country have been engaged in Land Day preparations for weeks. “Last week in Arab schools, we staged lessons about Land Day and Palestinian history because they’re not part of the official curriculum from the Israeli Ministry of Education,” Zaatry said.

Israeli army clashes with Palestinians on Land Day

“In Haifa, for instance, there are cultural activities scheduled in the Wadi al-Nisnas neighborhood. There will be a movie screening about Land Day. Last week in schools, we held events for the children to learn about Land Day and the history because it is not part of the official curriculum from the Israeli ministry.”

On Land Day 2012, Al Jazeera reported that at least 121 people were injured at the Qalandia checkpoint near Jerusalem when Israeli forces used water cannons, tear gas, and rubber-coated bullets to push protesters back to nearby Ramallah, in the West Bank.

All eyes on Jerusalem

This year, civil society groups and political factions have coordinated to orchestrate a two-pronged march to Qalandia checkpoint, one beginning in Ramallah and the other in Jerusalem. Other protests will take place across the city, notably in frequently raided neighborhoods like Silwan and at the Red Cross offices. In Jerusalem alone, the number of Palestinian and international participants is expected to be in the hundreds, estimated Rima Awad of the Jerusalem Coalition.

In 2012, activists staged a “Global March” on Jerusalem, which grabbed the attention of the international community. Although there is no such march planned for this year, activists and organisers expect to draw attention about the increasingly difficult situation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

“Land Day 2012 was successful in generating international awareness about Palestinian land confiscation and Israel’s human rights violations,” Awad said. “[T]he march to Jerusalem was a global effort revolving around Land Day and drew global attention. We hope and expect that this pattern of growth will continue.”

Although Israel maintains that Jerusalem in its entirety will remain part of the Jewish state in any potential peace deal, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution last November that recognised East Jerusalem as the capital of a sovereign Palestinian state.

A uniting event

The annual commemorations of Land Day have become part of a Palestinian collective consciousness, touching those in Israel and the diaspora as well as in the occupied territories.

“Historically, Land Day was a very important turning point in the lives of Palestinians after the Nakba, especially those who remained in the Israeli state,” said Abir Kopty of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee.

Marking Land Day has brought Palestinians “from a phase [in which] they had lost their country, two-thirds of the population, about 500 villages, and all their political and cultural leaders [who] were driven out to a phase where they raised up their heads and clashed with the state that committed their catastrophe”, Kopty said.

As a tragedy that originally affected only Palestinian citizens of Israel, Land Day is a form of assertion, Kopty added, “by all Palestinians in [the 1967 Territories], refugee camps, and the diaspora… so it’s a national uniting event to all Palestinians”.

Kopty’s comments were echoed by Zaatry, who said that Palestinians, despite geographical divides, “face the same struggle in the end – it’s the same conflict over land”.

Land Day holds a particular significance for Israel’s Palestinian minority, where activists charge the government with trying to pressure them to abandon their Palestinian identity. “We see our citizenship in Israel as one of our rights as the native people. We don’t accept Israel’s forcing us to choose between being Israeli or Palestinian,” Zaatry said.

A global day of action

“Israel’s response to non-violent demonstrations has grown increasingly aggressive.”

– Rima Awad, Jerusalem Coalition

In 2012, Land Day protests were staged in 23 countries across the world, said Zaid Shuaibi, spokesperson for the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee, the broad coalition of Palestinian organisations that leads and supports the BDS movement.

“Each year, BDS campaigners mark Land Day with a global day of action,” Shuaibi said. “This year there will be a series of actions and events to protest international support for Israel’s theft of Palestinian land, particularly the role of the Jewish National Fund and international trade with Israeli agricultural export companies, both of which directly participate in the appropriation of Palestinian land and resources. Land Day will also be marked with a demonstration and a day of solidarity activities at the World Social Forum, currently taking place in Tunis.”

In recent months, the increasing frequency of protests in the occupied West Bank have led many to speculate about the prospect of a third “intifada”, or uprising. Many activists said they expect Israel to respond with force.

“Israel’s response to non-violent demonstrations has grown increasingly aggressive,” said Awad. “February 2013 was one of the most violent in recent history in terms of injuries…we expect Israel to respond with the same disproportionate use of force as it has been.”

The Israeli military spokeswoman said the armed forces refused to comment, though noted that the police will deploy several hundred officers in Israel’s northern region to patrol protests.

Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld said security measures are the same for Land Day each year.

++

2 Al Jazeera

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Palestinians mark Land Day with protests

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2013/03/2013330133848152178.html

Israeli troops fire tear gas in West Bank to disperse participants in event commemorating deaths of protesters in 1976.

About 500 Palestinians took part in a rally during which some threw stones at Israeli soldiers, who fired at them [AFP]

Palestinian protesters have clashed with Israeli soldiers as they demonstrated in the occupied West Bank before the 37th anniversary of Land Day.

Palestinian Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza held rallies on Friday commemorating the 37th anniversary of Land Day.

The annual protests mark the deaths of six Arab Israeli protesters at the hands of Israeli police and troops during mass protests in 1976 against plans to confiscate Arab land in the northern Galilee region.

Palestinian and international activists organised the march between five villages located in the south Hebron hills.

The villages are at risk of being cut off from the rest of the West Bank if planned Israeli settlement and  wall building goes ahead.

The central events were scheduled for the northern Palestinian-Israeli town of Sakhnin and the Negev on Saturday.

Dozens of people joined a rally In the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya. At Khan Younis in the south, olive trees were planted in commemoration.

Hamas pledge

Sami Abu Zuhri of Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, told participants at the Khan Younis event his group was continuing its resistance to liberate all of Palestine and they would continue to strike inside Israel.

In Rafah, near Gaza’s southern border with Israel, about 500 Palestinians took part in a rally during which some threw stones at Israeli soldiers. The soldiers responded with live fire.

An Israeli army spokeswoman told AFP news agency that dozens of Palestinians rioted near the security fence in the southern Gaza Strip, hurling rocks at Israeli soldiers in the area.

She said an initial inquiry suggested that one participant was lightly injured.

A delegation of 20 Palestinians, including Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, planted trees to mark Land Day in the contested West Bank zone east of Jerusalem referred to as E1, Israeli police spokeswoman Luba Samri said.

She said that police dispersed the event and confiscated the saplings.

On the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem, about 200 Palestinians planted trees on land belonging to a Palestinian family.

Samri said that three people were arrested for trespassing on state-owned land.

At the West Bank Qalandia checkpoint nearly 200 Palestinians clashed with Israeli forces, who responded with tear gas.

A military spokeswoman said that 150 Palestinians were threw stones at Israeli forces, “who were using riot dispersal means”.

‘Violent demonstrations’

The security presence in Jerusalem and the West Bank was boosted on Friday “following information that groups of Palestinians were ready to engage in violent demonstrations”, Samri said.

Friday prayers in Jerusalem passed off without incident. Access for men to the al-Aqsa mosque compound had been limited to Palestinians over the age of 50 and holders of Jerusalem residency cards issued by Israel.

The annexation of land in the West Bank is seen by the Arab community as a way of altering the population demographic of Galilee to create a Jewish majority in the area.

“We came here on the last day of our freedom bus tour, which has lasted for 13 days,” Aliya Orsan, activist, said.

“The reason for our tour was to move our theatre to the places where people are having daily confrontations with the occupation forces and daily confrontations with the discriminatory Zionist regime.”

The activists’ 13-day bus journey toured West Bank land known as Area C, which accounts for about 60 percent of the West Bank, and is under full Israeli control.

This is where most Jewish settlements are located.

Ynet on Land Day http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4362261,00.html

Haaretz on Land Day http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/israeli-arabs-mark-land-day-in-protest-organizers-disappointed-over-low-turnout-1.512680

+++

3 Al Jazeera

Friday, March 29, 2013

From Brazil to Tunisia, Palestinians call for their revolution

The World Social Forum marks a renewed commitment to the Palestinian cause.

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/03/2013329162729941698.html

Salena Tramel

Salena Tramel is an independent journalist and activist, currently serving as the Executive Director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions-US (ICAHD-US).

Over 3,500 participants from at least 36 countries gathered in Porto Alegre last December [Salena Tramel/Al Jazeera]

As more than 50,000 activists from around the world bear down on Tunis for the twelfth annual World Social Forum, one group of delegates – the Palestinians – already has a head start in framing their agenda and message to civil society.

Just weeks after the most recent spate of attacks on Gaza, more than 3,500 participants from at least 36 countries gathered in the south-of-the-Capricorn Brazilian city of Porto Alegre last December to voice their opposition to Israeli occupation and pool knowledge and experience gleaned from their own grassroots movements.

The gathering highlighted the different approaches to the Palestinian cause taken by the Global North and the Global South. Northern countries and organisations, despite what may (or may not) be good intentions, often offer sympathy and charity – perpetuating a cycle of dependence that fails to address root causes. Collective organising at the Global South level, however, pinpoints systemic violence such as land grabs and militarisation. This starkly different method was front and centre in Porto Alegre, as Palestinians set forth on the road to Tunis.

Social movements and grassroots organisations chose Porto Alegre for a number of strategic reasons. It is an epicentre of progressive politics, and the host city for the first global World Social Forum in 2001. Paving the way for that initial meeting, Brazilian social movements like the MST (Landless Workers Movement) had won many of their hard-fought battles in the area, and were eager to share those victories with the 70+ member Palestinian delegation they were a part of hosting. The necessity of holding the forum outside the Middle East was also imposed by Israeli restrictions on movement in the occupied Palestinian territories. Combined with the politics of surrounding Arab countries, it is impossible for Palestinians from Israel, East Jerusalem, West Bank, Gaza, and the diaspora to meet in their own homeland.

Inside Story

Palestine: What is in a name (change)?

The idea for a thematic Palestine-based World Social Forum originated in meetings in Dakar during the 2011 World Social Forum. Social movements – in particular, large Latin American movements such as the MST – offered to host the Palestinian-led international delegation. Three committees were instrumental in organising this forum for nearly two years: the Palestinian Committee, the Brazilian Committee, and the International Committee. The Palestinian delegation included a diverse group of women, youth, and other key grassroots leaders from across occupied Palestinian territory, Israel, and the diaspora.

Moving towards the current global World Social Forum in Tunis, there was strong agreement to support Palestinian popular resistance and cross-connect issues, such as Israeli arms exports and military aid that reaches far beyond the unilaterally-changing borders of occupied Palestinian territory. Brazil itself purchases increasing amounts of Israeli weaponry as Israel, the world’s third largest arms exporter, aims to reach $10 billion in profits within the coming years.

As a movement opposed to war and capitalistic profiteering, MST is rooted in land struggles, and is therefore no stranger to the campaigns that Palestinians are engaged in right now. In 1983, after years of underground organising, indigenous and displaced Brazilians founded what is today one of the most successful social movements in the world. To date, MST has reclaimed 17 million hectares of land – an area the size of neighbouring Uruguay. Its 1.5 million members across 23 Brazilian states realise that land confiscation is not just a national, but also a global problem.

The first Palestinian intifada, or uprising, of the 1980s brought with it a focus on Left politics – especially as they related to land grabs. MST partnered with Palestinians who sought to keep the territory that was promised to them under international law. One of their delegations to Palestine camped out in Yasser Arafat’s compound in Bethlehem while it was under siege. Ever since, MST has educated its base about facts on the ground in Palestine.

Together with social movements from each corner of the globe, MST was instrumental in forming Via Campesina (International Peasants Movement) that has grown to more that 200 million farmer, pastoralist, fisher, and indigenous members worldwide. What Via has lacked historically has been membership in the Middle East and North Africa. Palestinian movements, with the help of Brazilian and global counterparts, are eager to change that. Now it’s happening – movements from Palestine will be the first in the region to join the ranks of Via Campesina this year.

The Palestine-themed events in Brazil set a dazzling stage for this worldwide dance of civil society in Tunisia. Organisers are sending a powerful message through their country of choice. Tunisians proved to the world that a determined mass of people could non-violently overthrow a dictator in less than a month. When it comes to Global North patronage versus Global South solidarity, and when negotiations backslide, the leadership of social movements may represent a new force in the international politics that have failed us thus far. The World Social Forum process emphasises that another world is indeed possible.

And many Palestinians are eager to use Tunis as an opportunity to remind us all that their own revolution is far past time.

Salena Tramel has worked with social movements around the world. An independent journalist and activist, her writing and photos have appeared in publications such as Huffington Post, the Guardian, and the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. She currently serves as the Executive Director of ICAHD-USA (Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions-US), an organisation that supports the work of ICAHD in Jerusalem and advocates just US/UN policy in the Middle East.

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4  The Guardian

Friday, March 29, 2013

Jerusalem’s long Good Friday: tears, prayers and rented crossesEaster means brisk business on the Via Dolorosa for a Palestinian Muslim with unusual goods for hire

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/mar/29/jerusalem-good-friday-rented-crosses

Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem

Spanish pilgrims carry a large wooden cross along the Via Dolorosa during Holy Week. Photograph: Gali Tibbon for the Guardian

The hushed prayers of Christian pilgrims at dusk are swiftly drowned out by the muezzin’s call from nearby mosques, but nothing can disturb the piety of the small group on the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the heart of Jerusalem’s Old City.

In the fading light, they gather around a large wooden cross they have carried along the Via Dolorosa, retracing the steps taken by Jesus nearly 2,000 years ago from the point of his condemnation to the site of his crucifixion. Along the way, they stop at the Stations of the Cross for prayer and recitation of the liturgy.

It is a path followed by thousands of Christian pilgrims to the Holy City every Easter. For Maria Immaculada, among a group of 25 Spanish devotees, it is the pinnacle of her 48 years. “It is very emotional. I have been waiting for this my whole life,” she says. “Carrying the cross was very special. It made me want to cry.”

For Yosef Kanan, a 25-year-old Palestinian Muslim, it is simply another day for his three-generation family business renting plain wooden crosses to pilgrim groups. On Good Friday, the peak of his year, Kanan greets the first devotees at dawn and will only lock away his 30-plus crosses in a small store off the Via Dolorosa around sunset. “There will be a sea of people,” he predicts.

But this year he has seen fewer pilgrim groups in the Old City. “There are not so many from Europe, because of the economic crisis. They don’t have the money. And people see what’s happening in Syria on the television, and they think the whole region has trouble.”

Kanan’s oldest cross, made more than 50 years ago, two metres high and worn to a rich dark brown, is brought out of the store only on Good Friday, to be carried by an elderly priest who makes the journey from Portugal to the Holy Land every Easter.

The olive wood crosses are made by craftsmen in the Palestinian Christian town of Beit Jala, now cut off from Jerusalem by Israel’s separation barrier. Kanan’s family pays around $220 (£145) for each cross, recouped by charging $20 a hire.

But the business’s main income comes from the sale of photographs taken by Kanan and his uncle to pilgrims after their journey across the Old City. “Even though everyone has their iPhones, they still want my pictures because they are very beautiful,” he says.

His grandfather started the business “in Jordanian times” – before East Jerusalem was occupied by Israel in 1967 and later annexed – taking black and white photographs, hand-developing them in a darkroom in the Old City and delivering them to clients the same evening. “Today, no one has time, everything is done on a computer, everything comes out chik-chak,” laments Kanan, using Hebrew slang for “quick” or “on the double”.

After 10 years in the business, Kanan knows every inch of the Via Dolorosa – the Way of Grief – and almost every word of the liturgy in several languages. “Sometimes the priest forgets something,” he says, “and I can remind him.” Along the route, he gently ushers pilgrims to the next station and suggests when it is time for someone else to take a turn at carrying the cross.

The ancient rose-coloured stones and smooth cobbles of the route can be treacherous for elderly or cross-burdened pilgrims. The narrow artery is lined with shops selling a typical Old City mix of spices, sweets, underwear, Chinese-made incense, pottery, jewellery, saucepans and religious memorabilia. T-shirts bearing the insignia of the Israel defence forces are displayed next to those calling for a “Free Palestine”. The pilgrim groups jostle with tourists, residents, armed Israeli border police, priests, nuns, ultra-Orthodox Jews and devout Muslims.

The pilgrims come from all over the world. “The Indonesians are the biggest spenders,” says Kanan. “The Koreans are the craziest – very emotional, crying, kissing stones and the ground – but they don’t give money.”

He has no qualms, as a Muslim, servicing a Christian festival. “Just like we do Hajj in Mecca,” he says, “the Christians come here. It’s the same thing. Everything comes from God.”

• This article was amended on 29 March 2013. The original referred to pilgrims “retracing the steps taken by Jesus more than 2,000 years ago”.

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5 WAFA Palestinian News and Information Agency

Friday, March 30, 2013

Presidency Resembles Settlements to Mines

http://english.wafa.ps/index.php?action=detail&id=21997

RAMALLAH, March 30, 2013 (WAFA) – Ongoing Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank along with the Apartheid Wall and settler terrorism are mines that threaten the entire region, according to a statement issued Saturday on the occasion of Land Day.

It said “the halt in the peace process and absence of a horizon due to Israel’s persistence with its settlement activity will undermine chances for the two-state solution and will sooner or later lead to an explosion.”

The presidency called on the international organizations, especially the United Nations, to immediately intervene to enforce resolutions that deemed settlements as illegal and a violation of all conventions.

It said, “Settlement activity, which is tearing apart our land and uses 37% of the West Bank land for settlement expansion, is threatening not only our legal right to establish our state on the land occupied in 1967, but also our future, our national existence and our right to live on the land of our ancestors.”

It stressed that it will not hesitate to resort to international organizations to practice its lawful right to stop settlement expansion.

M.H./M.S.

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6 Video: Ramzy Baroud on the Legacy of Rachel Corrie

Mar 29 2013 / 7:33 pm

Ramzy Baroud, originally from Gaza, is a Palestinian-American journalist and author, former producer for al-Jazeera, and Editor in Chief of The Palestine Chronicle, shared at the Rachel Corrie – 10 Years: The Person and the Continuing Struggle Saturday, March 16th A dynamic day of social action, speakers, music, dance, food, remembrance, and community!

http://palestinechronicle.com/video-ramzy-baroud-on-rachel-corrie/

The video is about 25 minutes  and is mainly about Gaza, and particularly about Rafa, and its relation to the west as well as to the change that Rachel wrought in the views that Gazans had of westerners—from people who came as tourists to people who came to care and help.

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7 The Guardian

Friday, March 29, 2013

A rites-of-passage story about three female Israeli soldiers has some fine and funny writing, but too little emotional drive

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2013/mar/29/peopole-of-forever-not-afraid-shani-boianjiu-review

Rachel Shabi

A female Israeli soldier in the Negev desert … Boianjiu depicts compulsory military service as brutalising yet elevating Photograph: Darren Whiteside/Reuters

A slim majority of Israeli teenagers don’t know what the Oslo Accords were, according to a recent poll. They don’t think a negotiated settlement with Palestinians is possible. They are the failure of the generations before them. And they all do compulsory military service, just like this book’s main characters, three young female friends who grow up in a dull, peripheral town in today’s Israel, then join the army, where they are really bored. To mitigate boredom – one of the many features of army life for which they are hopelessly unprepared – they imagine a lot of outlandish scenarios. Also, being late teenagers, they flirt with boys and fret about the future – and sometimes they harass and humiliate Palestinians at checkpoints, just to pass the time. Effusively praised, this first novel was picked up for translation into 22 languages when it was a just-commissioned promise based on a string of short stories. Some of those stories ran in the New Yorker and Vice magazine, and made 25-year-old Shani Boianjiu the youngest recipient of the US National Book Foundation’s 5 under 35 award. The novel has also been longlisted for the Women’s fiction prize.

The People of Forever Are Not Afraid

by Shani Boianjiu

The book has that contradictory impulse of much army fiction, in which compulsory military service is depicted as brutalising a nation’s young adults (what it does to those living under military occupation is not in the frame), as well as an elevating rites-of-passage. The girls come from a flimsy insult of a village on Israel’s border with Lebanon, one of those into which non-European Jews were dumped and left to deal with it. Lea ends up serving at West Bank checkpoints, letting Palestinians into Israel – the ones with permits “that assured they weren’t the type likely to stay in Israel for ever or try to kill us”.Bored, she invents life stories for one of these crumpled Palestinian men – until the real version slices open the neck of one of her checkpoint colleagues. Avishag is stationed on the Egyptian Sinai border, where her job is to watch illegal people, porn and pirated films that try to enter Israel. Yael, meanwhile, is a weapons instructor, teaching boys barely younger than her to shoot better.

This is all told in a clipped, off-key style. Boianjiu wrote the novel in English but translated the Hebrew phraseology literally: initially the prose seems charmingly stilted, but soon it starts to grate like a bad translation. That’s when you wish that the author had had a less indulgent editor, because there is so much good writing here: memorable detail and sharp storytelling that often gets lost amid the bad metaphors and narrative drag.

The parts that stand out are surreal comic set pieces in the vein of Catch-22, for which Boianjiu has obvious flair. One involves a group of Palestinian protesters inviting Israeli checkpoint soldiers to crack open their box of “means of suppressing demonstrations” – different, escalating weaponry used for crowd dispersal. The Palestinians ask for this so that their mini-demo gets newspaper column inches. Other scenes, with expert comic timing, relay Yael’s amusement at the audacity of Palestinian kids who remove bits of an Israeli army base in the West Bank – kit, signs, the periphery fencing – while the base is guarded round the clock.

The story’s political framework is located within the mindset of the Israeli army. Some readers have found irony in Boianjiu’s narrative; others will just find it uncomfortable. It captures well the dissonance of a transition into womanhood that must take place within the fear-soaked tedium of compulsory military service. But for me, the narrative feels more like a succession of vignettes – it isn’t strong enough to make me care about the characters, or carry the book through to its end.

• Rachel Shabi’s Not the Enemy: Israel’s Jews from Arab Lands is published by Yale.

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8 Today in Palestine

Friday, March 29, 2013

http://blog.theheadlines.org/theHead/

Posted in Nova NewsletterComments Off on DOROTHY ONLINE NEWSLETTER

An Unlikely Jihadist, Denouncing Assad in Mandarin

NOVANEWS

nytimes.com

The man in camouflage fatigues raised his Kalashnikov rifle and fired three shots into the air while trudging through a field of purple and yellow flowers.

He told the person filming him that after reading the works of Sayyid Qutb, the modern Islamist theorist, he had gone to study in Libya and witnessed the revolution there. Then he traveled to Syria to help overthrow the government of Bashar al-Assad, which he said “is butchering every Muslim here in cold blood, including children and women.”

He spoke in Mandarin. He called himself Yusef, but a subtitle in English said his Chinese name was Bo Wang. On the surface, he appeared to be an extremely rare — perhaps the only — example of an ethnic Han citizen of China joining a jihadist group in the Arab world.

The bizarre video first got the attention of some Chinese last week, when it was posted on YouTube and then on Youku, a popular video-sharing site in China. It was quickly deleted from there, possibly by censors aware that the material was too delicate for the sensibilities of Chinese officials. In the video, the man told the Chinese government to drop its support of Mr. Assad or “all Islamic countries of the world will unite to impose economic sanctions against the Chinese government.”

China and Russia have blocked Western members of the United Nations Security Council from authorizing the use of force to intervene in the increasingly bloody Syrian civil conflict, and China has repeatedly said that foreign nations should engage in dialogue with Mr. Assad to resolve the crisis rather than exercise military power.

It was not possible to verify the authenticity of the video, which was posted on YouTube on March 17 by a user named ayahm84, and then on Youku by someone using the handle of “Bashar al-Assad.” But two people with contacts in Syria said they had heard of the Chinese rebel fighter, and the green landscape in the video closely resembles that of northern Syria.

There have been few, if any, cases of ethnic Han taking part in a jihadist movement in recent times. The Han are the dominant ethnic group in China and generally do not follow Islam. The two most prominent Muslim ethnic groups in China are the Hui and the Uighurs, who complain of discrimination by ethnic Han and by the Han-dominated Communist Party. Under the administration of President George W. Bush, 22 ethnic Uighurs from China captured by American forces in Afghanistan were sent to Guantánamo Bay, but they were later deemed by officials not to be enemy combatants.

“We’ve of course heard of American and other Western converts fighting alongside jihadis,” said Bruce Hoffman, a professor at Georgetown University and a former RAND Corporation analyst who studies insurgencies and terrorism. “I know of no Han Chinese, though. I would imagine that Chinese officials, given their perennial concern about the spread of radical Islam into western China, will not be pleased with this development.”

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said it did not have immediate comment.

The video, which runs for three minutes, 26 seconds, opens with the chanting of an Islamic anthem and title cards showing white text on black background. The title screen says in Arabic: “The Mujahedeen Brigade in the Land of Sham,” which is another name for Syria. More text says the video is a “message to the Chinese people” from the “media division of the mujahedeen in the land of Sham.”

Images show the armed Chinese fighter walking through a forest with evergreen trees and stepping over flowers and stones. He carries a Kalashnikov in his right hand, then fires it.

The rest of the video shows him perched against a stone in the field with a bayonet fixed to his rifle, which is pointed outward, as if at an unseen enemy. He speaks to the camera, without a distinctive regional accent. To his right is a black flag with white writing.

The fighter briefly introduces himself and then lashes out at Mr. Assad. “People have no freedom, no democracy, no security and no respect here, not at all,” he said.

He goes on to speak of 1,400-year-old ties between the Chinese and the Arabs, stretching to the time of the Prophet Muhammad and the Tang dynasty, when the Silk Road thrived. “However,” he says, “now the Chinese government has destroyed that traditional friendship between the Chinese and Arab people” because Chinese leaders, along with their Iranian and Russian counterparts, “sell weapons and provide financial assistance to the Assad government.”

There has been some discussion of the video on Chinese-language forums, though several of the original posts have been deleted. A post on one forum that remained online this week called the man “a brain-poisoned youth blind to right and wrong.”

Posted in SyriaComments Off on An Unlikely Jihadist, Denouncing Assad in Mandarin

1974 Satanic Ritual Murder Still Unresolved

NOVANEWS

Screen Shot 2012-09-05 at 7.46.39 PM.png

In 1974, a beautiful 19-year old woman was murdered while praying in a church at midnight.

“IT HAS NO CULT-LIKE OVERTONES — IT JUST HAPPENED TO OCCUR IN A CHURCH’ SAID SANTA CLARA COUNTY

UNDER SHERIFF TOM ROSA.  WHY WERE THE OCCULT ASPECTS OF THIS BRUTAL RITUAL KILLING COVERED UP?

WHY HAS IT NOT BEEN SOLVED TO THIS DAY? WHY IS THIS PART OF A LARGER PATTERN?

by William Ramsey

On October 13th, 1974, Arliss Perry, a nineteen-year-old from Bismarck, North Dakota, was found murdered in the Memorial Church on the Stanford university campus. She had been in California for only six weeks.

Recently married to her high school boyfriend, Perry (formerly Dykema) moved with her husband to the campus while he studied at Stanford. Perry’s dead body was said to be found to the left of the altar, partially disrobed, and in the words of a church official—-lying in a “ritualistic and satanic” position.

220px-Solid_unicursal_hexagram.png

However, I heard a rumor that her murderer(s) actually laid her body on the central altar of the church, but that the authorities had her body moved to another location in order to maintain the sanctity of the church. Found on her back, naked from the waist down with her legs spread wide apart, her pants were carefully placed over her legs to form oppositional, triangular shapes.

Perry’s blouse was ripped open and her hands held a votive candle folded across her chest. Horrifically, another votive candle protruded from her vagina. Evidence indicated she was beaten, then choked. The savage blow of an ice pick behind her left ear caused her death. Its handle was seen protruding from her skull when a security guard found her body. The presence of the ice pick at the scene indicates premeditation—the murderer brought the unusual weapon to the church with the intent to kill.

Horrified and shocked by the crime, the local authorities kept the occult signatures of the murder from the public. Initially, local police believed a local sexual psychopath committed the killing. Santa Clara detectives knew that personal possessions of Arlis Perry were removed from the murder scene as either souvenirs or proof that the murder occurred.

chapel.jpg

(Chapel murder scene)

On October 15th, a memorial service was held for the young victim. The presiding minister noted that Christ, too, was “cruelly murdered by cruel and perverse men. He was a victim. Arlis, in her death, was like her Lord…Violence has swept the very altar of God.”1

The occult murder of Arlis Perry remains unsolved.

THE ULTIMATE EVIL

The opening chapter in Maury Terry’s book The Ultimate Evil retells the awful story of Arlis Perry’s demise. Terry stumbled upon on the murder of Arlis Perry while researching a series of murders that took place in New York City from the summer of 1976 to August of 1977.

Known as the “Son of Sam” murders, six people were killed and seven more injured, allegedly by David Berkowitz. At the time of his arrest, Berkowitz admitted the killings, but in the mid-90’s he claimed that the murders were ritual murders committed by a cult.

sam.jpg

PROCESS CHURCH OF THE FINAL JUDGMENT


Maury Terry came into possession of a book on witchcraft formerly owned by Berkowitz. . Berkowitz underlined a sentence in a section about the Process Church: “Thou shalt kill. They say they are dedicated to bringing about the end of the world by murder, violence and chaos–but they, the chosen, will survive to build a new world of Satanic glory.” (p.372)

Additional writings were added to the margins of the book. “The shade of Aleister Crowley looms large in the area [L.A.], but his excesses pale into insignificance compared to today’s devil worshipers.”

In his own hand, David Berkowitz wrote information about the occult murder of Arlis Perry at Stanford : “ARLISS PERRY, HUNTED, STALKED AND SLAIN. FOLLOWED TO CALIFORNIA. STANFORD UNIV.

Both Vincent Bugliosi, prosecutor of Charles Manson, and Ed Sanders, author of The Family, believed Manson was a member of the Process Church.

One of the murders committed by the Manson Family had occult signatures similar to those left at the Arlis Perry murder.

Berkowitz believed he knew who murdered Arliss Perry, but never provided an exact name. The Son of Sam called the murderer Manson II, who belonged to a cult in California that killed often.

Perry’s husband Bruce Perry behaved suspiciously. He had blood on his shirt when he was interrogated but claimed it was from a nose bleed. He later became a psychiatrist and campaigned against  “Satanic panic.”

crowley.jpg

CROWLEYMAS

Arlis Perry was murdered on October 12th, a day which was also the birthday of black magician Aleister Crowley. Berkowitz had already tagged Crowley as an inspiration for his cult. Followers of Crowley, also known as Thelemites, revere October 12th as a holy day and refer to it as Crowleymas.

Was Arlis Perry deliberately stalked by cult members affiliated with the Process Church and killed in a Satanic sacrifice specifically in honor of Satan’s Prophet, Aleister Crowley?

People should stay away from Satanists lest they are chosen for such sacrifices.
————————————————————–
Research credit: www.zodiacmansonevidencerevealed.com

1. Terry, Maury. The Ultimate Evil: An Investigation into a Dangerous Satanic Cult. New York: Bantam, 1989. 14. 

WILLIAM RAMSEY is the author of Abomination: Devil Worship and Deception in the West Memphis Three Murders and Prophet of Evil: Aleister Crowley, 9/11 and the New World Order
He can be reached –  occult911@gmail.com
– See more at: http://henrymakow.com/us-liberals-free-satanist-killers.html#sthash.rpKt2fiP.dpuf
WILLIAM RAMSEY is the author of Abomination: Devil Worship and Deception in the West Memphis Three Murders and Prophet of Evil: Aleister Crowley, 9/11 and the New World Order
He can be reached –  occult911@gmail.com

– See more at: http://henrymakow.com/us-liberals-free-satanist-killers.html#sthash.rpKt2fiP.dpuf

WILLIAM RAMSEY is the author of Abomination: Devil Worship and Deception in the West Memphis Three Murders and Prophet of Evil: Aleister Crowley, 9/11 and the New World Order.  He can be reached –  occult911@gmail.com     

WILLIAM RAMSEY is the author of Abomination: Devil Worship and Deception in the West Memphis Three Murders and Prophet of Evil: Aleister Crowley, 9/11 and the New World Order
He can be reached –  occult911@gmail.com
– See more at: http://henrymakow.com/us-liberals-free-satanist-killers.html#sthash.rpKt2fiP.dpuf
WILLIAM RAMSEY is the author of Abomination: Devil Worship and Deception in the West Memphis Three Murders and Prophet of Evil: Aleister Crowley, 9/11 and the New World Order
He can be reached –  occult911@gmail.com

– See more at: http://henrymakow.com/us-liberals-free-satanist-killers.html#sthash.rpKt2fiP.dpuf


First Comment from Dan:

There are so many unsolved ritual murders like this that I’m afraid this article actually gives the impression that it’s rare.  Ritual murders continue, but since the FBI officially denied the existence of occult ritual murder and ritual pedophilia around 1995, police routinely withhold those details and media reports them as ordinary crime.

The problem is much more pervasive and insidious.  Our culture has been undergoing a deliberate metamophasis that UN “planetary initiative” director  David Spangler  called “Luciferic Initiation”.  Another famous Satanist, National Security Agency general Michael Aquino actually claimed to have invoked the Satan in the guise of the Egyptian god Set in 1975, who dictated to him ‘The Book of Coming Forth by Night’.

But I don’t want to over-mystify this.  Let me say it more clearly. It’s a systemic problem.  It started three centuries ago when Freemasonry took over the way men do business and how to ‘get ahead’.   ‘Secular society’ is Masonic. It’s designed to advance sociopaths and psychopaths according to their cunning in the Sadomasochistic hierarchy of the culture of death that.s taken over the positions of power. – See more at: http://henrymakow.com/2013/03/1974-Satanist-Ritual-Murder-Still-Unpunished%20.html#sthash.8Jl76xeQ.dpuf

Posted in EducationComments Off on 1974 Satanic Ritual Murder Still Unresolved

Good News: Assad supporters assault Zionist Al-Jazeera reporter in Sakhnin

NOVANEWS

homer1

Dozens of protesters backing Syrian president assault Al-Jazeera reporter, his crew during Land Day procession in Sakhnin; Channel 1 journalist, two others lightly injured

ynet 

A scuffle broke out Saturday during a Land Day procession in Sakhnin. Several dozen protesters who support Syrian President Bashar Assad assaulted an Al-Jazeera reporter and his crew.

The rioters hurled water bottles at the journalists claiming they were fabricating reports about the situation in Syria. The scuffle quickly spread to include other protesters. Three people were lightly injured including a Channel 1 journalist who sustained a minor head injury and was treated at a local clinic.

Thousands of people participated in the Sakhnin procession, waving Palestinian flags and calling for the protection of Arab lands in Israel. The event, which was organized by the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, also attracted Arab Knesset members and leaders of the Islamic Movement.

“This is a struggle between the Palestinian children and the State,” said MK Hanin Zoabi (Balad). “The State has explicitly expressed that its aim is the judaization of the land and this will see some of the citizens who were here before the state was established into enemies.”

She further added, “The State is being hostile and aggressive; it’s a war for our existence. When one confiscates the land and prevents us from making a living off of it and building over it, it turns me into an enemy.”

MK Mohammad Barakeh (Hadash) added, “Our struggle is to expand the jurisdiction and construction area of the Arab towns that are in danger.” Meanwhile, Meretz MK Issawi Farij stressed that “Land Day symbolizes the ongoing suffering of the Arab sector. The Arab–Jewish partnership must prevail.”

Dozens of Palestinians marking Land Day gathered at the Qalandiya checkpoint near Jerusalem Saturday morning and hurled rocks at security forces. IDF and Border Guard forces responded with crowd-dispersing means.

A four-year-old Israeli boy sustained mild injuries when stones were thrown in his direction on Route 60, near the Efrat Intersection in the West Bank. Magen David Adom paramedics evacuated the boy to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital.

Two IDF soldiers sustained light injuries when stones were thrown at them during clashes with Palestinians near Qalqilya. The two were treated at the scene.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, CampaignsComments Off on Good News: Assad supporters assault Zionist Al-Jazeera reporter in Sakhnin

‘Phoenix jihadist’s’ dad claims son worked in Syria for CIA

NOVANEWS

Photo from facebook.com/eric.harroun

rt.com

As US Army veteran Eric Harroun awaits trial in Virginia for allegedly fighting alongside al-Qaeda supporters, the man’s father claims he was working for the CIA and was reporting back to the agency from Syria.

Harroun, a 30-year-old American from Phoenix, Arizona, has been charged by the US government for conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction (namely a rocket propelled grenade launcher) to conduct an attack against the Syrian government. The US Army veteran dubbed by media ‘Phoenix jihadist’ appeared in numerous videos alongside members of the al-Nusra Front, designated by the State Department as a terrorist organization in December, but which has also been fighting alongside the Syrian opposition to take down the Assad regime. To date, 29 US-backed Syrian opposition groups have linked with al-Nusra, and have signed a petition calling for the support of the Islamist group that the White House believes is a branch of al-Qaeda.

Photo from facebook.com/eric.harroun

Photo from facebook.com/eric.harroun

According to FBI documents, Harroun traveled to Turkey last November and joined the fight led by the Free Syrian Army shortly thereafter. His father, Darryl Harroun, on Thursday told reporters that he doesn’t understand why the US government arrested his son, who he says was working for the Central Intelligence Agency.

He referred to his son as a ‘patriotic’ American who would never get involved with al-Qaeda, and claims he was  gathering information for the US government.

“I know he was doing some work for the CIA over there,”  the man’s father said. “I know for a fact that he was passing information onto the CIA.”

After seeing the documents regarding his son’s charges, Harroun told a CBS News reporter that it is all inaccurate and misleading and that the truth will eventually come out, since his son was simply gathering intelligence.

“About 99 percent of that stuff that you read on there is a bunch of bull,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any truth in any of this – he’s very patriotic”

The CIA is known to have contributed to the opposition fighters’ initiatives in Syria. Last week, the New York Times published an article describing how the agency has allegedly been helping foreign governments contribute to the Free Syrian Army. Unnamed US officials told the paper that the CIA has been secretly airlifting arms and other military equipment to Arab governments and Turkey, who provided them to the country’s opposition fighters.

With the agency’s alleged involvement in the conflict, some believe it is very possible for the CIA to also have sent their own agents into Syria. Paul Joseph Watson suggests on InfoWars that Harroun’s arrest may have something to do with the lack of communication and rivalry between the FBI and the CIA.

The FBI affidavit makes no mention of Harroun having any sort of connection to the CIA, but includes transcripts of interviews in which the man describes being treated like a prisoner in the al-Nusra camp and eventually being accepted by the members. Soon thereafter, he was helping them conduct several attacks on the Syrian regime. He also recalled being questioned about why the US government designated the group as a terrorist organization.

 

Photo from facebook.com/eric.harroun

Photo from facebook.com/eric.harroun

But the FBI is worried that while he may have gone into Syria with good intentions, he may also have become radicalized. A main component of the affidavit focuses on a Facebook status Harroun allegedly posted, in which he states that “the only good Zionist is a dead Zionist.”

But the man did not seem to try to hide any of his acitivities in Syria. He frequently uploaded pictures of himself in the conflict zone and made opinionated statements regarding the Assad regime. He allowed journalists to interview him over Skype and labeled himself as a “freedom fighter”, working on behalf of the opposition movement that the US supports.

His alleged CIA involvement has so far only been mentioned by the man’s father, but could play a major part in the case as Harroun awaits trial. He faces a maximum of life imprisonment.

Posted in SyriaComments Off on ‘Phoenix jihadist’s’ dad claims son worked in Syria for CIA

TUT Broadcast: Good Friday

TUT Broadcast March 29, 2013

by crescentandcross

In honor/memorium of the events taking place on Good Friday, 33 A.D. we offer the reading of St. Matthew’s The Passion.

tut-special-broadcast-for-good-friday.mp3

Download Here

THANK YOU FOR ASSISTING WITH THE COSTS ASSOCIATED WITH PRODUCING THIS PROGRAM

Posted in InterviewComments Off on TUT Broadcast: Good Friday

Wealth, Income, and Power

NOVANEWS

 

by G. William Domhoff

This document presents details on the wealth and income distributions in the United States, and explains how we use these two distributions as power indicators.

Some of the information may come as a surprise to many people. In fact, I know it will be a surprise and then some, because of a recent study (Norton & Ariely, 2010) showing that most Americans (high income or low income, female or male, young or old, Republican or Democrat) have no idea just how concentrated the wealth distribution actually is. More on that a bit later.

As far as the income distribution, the most striking numbers on income inequality will come last, showing the dramatic change in the ratio of the average CEO’s paycheck to that of the average factory worker over the past 40 years.

First, though, some definitions. Generally speaking, wealthis the value of everything a person or family owns, minus any debts. However, for purposes of studying the wealth distribution, economists define wealth in terms ofmarketable assets, such as real estate, stocks, and bonds, leaving aside consumer durables like cars and household items because they are not as readily converted into cash and are more valuable to their owners for use purposes than they are for resale (see Wolff, 2004, p. 4, for a full discussion of these issues). Once the value of all marketable assets is determined, then all debts, such as home mortgages and credit card debts, are subtracted, which yields a person’s net worth. In addition, economists use the concept of financial wealth — also referred to in this document as “non-home wealth” — which is defined as net worth minus net equity in owner-occupied housing. As Wolff (2004, p. 5) explains, “Financial wealth is a more ‘liquid’ concept than marketable wealth, since one’s home is difficult to convert into cash in the short term. It thus reflects the resources that may be immediately available for consumption or various forms of investments.”

We also need to distinguish wealth from income. Income is what people earn from work, but also from dividends, interest, and any rents or royalties that are paid to them on properties they own. In theory, those who own a great deal of wealth may or may not have high incomes, depending on the returns they receive from their wealth, but in reality those at the very top of the wealth distribution usually have the most income. (But it’s important to note that for the rich, most of that income does not come from “working”: in 2008, only 19% of the income reported by the 13,480 individuals or families making over $10 million came from wages and salaries. See Norris, 2010, for more details.)

This document focuses on the “Top 1%” as a whole because that’s been the traditional cut-off point for “the top” in academic studies, and because it’s easy for us to keep in mind that we are talking about one in a hundred. But it is also important to realize that the lower half of that top 1% has far less than those in the top half; in fact, both wealth and income are super-concentrated in the top 0.1%, which is just one in a thousand. (To get an idea of the differences, take a look at an insider account by a long-time investment manager who works for the well-to-do and very rich. It nicely explains what the different levels have — and how they got it. Also, David Cay Johnston (2011) has written a column about the differences among the top 1%, based on 2009 IRS information.)

As you read through the facts and figures that follow, please keep in mind that they are usually two or three years out of date because it takes time for one set of experts to collect the basic information and make sure it is accurate, and then still more time for another set of experts to analyze it and write their reports. It’s also the case that the infamous housing bubble of the first eight years of the 21st century inflated some of the wealth numbers.

There’s also some general information available on median income and percentage of people below the poverty line in 2010. As might be expected, most of the new information shows declines; in fact, a report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (2011) concludes that the decade from 2000 to 2010 was a lost decade” for most Americans.

One final general point before turning to the specifics. People who have looked at this document in the past often asked whether progressive taxation reduces some of the income inequality that exists before taxes are paid. The answer: not by much, if we countall of the taxes that people pay, from sales taxes to property taxes to payroll taxes (in other words, not just income taxes). And the top 1% of income earners actually pay asmaller percentage of their incomes to taxes than the 9% just below them. These findings are discussed in detail near the end of this document.

Exactly how rich are the Top 1%?

People often wonder exactly how much income and/or wealth someone needs to have to be included in the Top 1% or the Top 20%; Table 1 below lists some absolute dollar amounts associated with various income and wealth classes, but the important point to keep in mind is that for the most part, it’s the relative positions of wealth holders and income earners that we are trying to comprehend in this document.

 

Table 1: Income, net worth, and financial worth in the U.S. by percentile,in 2010 dollars
Wealth or income class Mean household income Mean household net worth Mean household financial (non-home) wealth
Top 1 percent $1,318,200 $16,439,400 $15,171,600
Top 20 percent $226,200 $2,061,600 $1,719,800
60th-80th percentile $72,000 $216,900 $100,700
40th-60th percentile $41,700 $61,000 $12,200
Bottom 40 percent $17,300 -$10,600 -$14,800
From Wolff (2012); only mean figures are available, not medians.  Note that income and wealth are separate measures; so, for example, the top 1% of income-earners is not exactly the same group of people as the top 1% of wealth-holders, although there is considerable overlap.

 

The Wealth Distribution

In the United States, wealth is highly concentrated in a relatively few hands. As of 2010, the top 1% of households (the upper class) owned 35.4% of all privately held wealth, and the next 19% (the managerial, professional, and small business stratum) had 53.5%, which means that just 20% of the people owned a remarkable 89%, leaving only 11% of the wealth for the bottom 80% (wage and salary workers). In terms of financial wealth (total net worth minus the value of one’s home), the top 1% of households had an even greater share: 42.1%. Table 2 and Figure 1 present further details, drawn from the careful work of economist Edward N. Wolff at New York University (2012).

 

Table 2: Distribution of net worth and financial wealth in theUnited States, 1983-2010
Total Net Worth
Top 1 percent Next 19 percent Bottom 80 percent
1983 33.8% 47.5% 18.7%
1989 37.4% 46.2% 16.5%
1992 37.2% 46.6% 16.2%
1995 38.5% 45.4% 16.1%
1998 38.1% 45.3% 16.6%
2001 33.4% 51.0% 15.6%
2004 34.3% 50.3% 15.3%
2007 34.6% 50.5% 15.0%
2010 35.4% 53.5% 11.1%
Financial (Non-Home) Wealth
Top 1 percent Next 19 percent Bottom 80 percent
1983 42.9% 48.4% 8.7%
1989 46.9% 46.5% 6.6%
1992 45.6% 46.7% 7.7%
1995 47.2% 45.9% 7.0%
1998 47.3% 43.6% 9.1%
2001 39.7% 51.5% 8.7%
2004 42.2% 50.3% 7.5%
2007 42.7% 50.3% 7.0%
2010 42.1% 53.5% 4.7%
Total assets are defined as the sum of: (1) the gross value of owner-occupied housing; (2) other real estate owned by the household; (3) cash and demand deposits; (4) time and savings deposits, certificates of deposit, and money market accounts; (5) government bonds, corporate bonds, foreign bonds, and other financial securities; (6) the cash surrender value of life insurance plans; (7) the cash surrender value of pension plans, including IRAs, Keogh, and 401(k) plans; (8) corporate stock and mutual funds; (9) net equity in unincorporated businesses; and (10) equity in trust funds.

Total liabilities are the sum of: (1) mortgage debt; (2) consumer debt, including auto loans; and (3) other debt. From Wolff (2004, 2007, 2010, & 2012).

Figure 1: Net worth and financial wealth distribution in the U.S. in 2010

 

In terms of types of financial wealth, the top one percent of households have 35% of all privately held stock, 64.4% of financial securities, and 62.4% of business equity. The top ten percent have 81% to 94% of stocks, bonds, trust funds, and business equity, and almost 80% of non-home real estate. Since financial wealth is what counts as far as the control of income-producing assets, we can say that just 10% of the people own the United States of America; see Table 3 and Figure 2 for the details.

 

Table 3: Wealth distribution by type of asset, 2010
Investment Assets
Top 1 percent Next 9 percent Bottom 90 percent
Stocks and mutual funds 35.0% 45.8% 19.2%
Financial securities 64.4% 29.5% 6.1%
Trusts 38.0% 43.0% 19.0%
Business equity 61.4% 30.5% 8.1%
Non-home real estate 35.5% 43.6% 20.9%
TOTAL investment assets 50.4% 37.5% 12.0%
Housing, Liquid Assets, Pension Assets, and Debt
Top 1 percent Next 9 percent Bottom 90 percent
Principal residence 9.2% 31.0% 59.8%
Deposits 28.1% 42.5% 29.5%
Life insurance 20.6% 34.1% 45.3%
Pension accounts 15.4% 50.2% 34.5%
TOTAL other assets 13.0% 37.8% 49.2%
Debt 5.9% 21.6% 72.5%
From Wolff (2012).
Figure 2a: Wealth distribution by type of asset, 2010: investment assets
Figure 2b: Wealth distribution by type of asset, 2010: other assets
From Wolff (2012).

 

Inheritance and estate taxes

Figures on inheritance tell much the same story. According to a study published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, only 1.6% of Americans receive $100,000 or more in inheritance. Another 1.1% receive $50,000 to $100,000. On the other hand, 91.9% receive nothing (Kotlikoff & Gokhale, 2000). Thus, the attempt by ultra-conservatives to eliminate inheritance taxes — which they always call “death taxes” for P.R. reasons — would take a huge bite out of government revenues (an estimated $253 billion between 2012 and 2022) for the benefit of the heirs of the mere 0.6% of Americans whose death would lead to the payment of any estate taxes whatsoever (Citizens for Tax Justice, 2010b).

It is noteworthy that some of the richest people in the country oppose this ultra-conservative initiative, suggesting that this effort is driven by anti-government ideology. In other words, few of the ultra-conservative and libertarian activists behind the effort will benefit from it in any material way. However, a study (Kenny et al., 2006) of thefinancial support for eliminating inheritance taxes discovered that 18 super-rich families (mostly Republican financial donors, but a few who support Democrats) provide the anti-government activists with most of the money for this effort. (For more infomation, including the names of the major donors, download the article from United For a Fair Economy’s Web site.)

Actually, ultra-conservatives and their wealthy financial backers may not have to bother to eliminate what remains of inheritance taxes at the federal level. The rich already have a new way to avoid inheritance taxes forever — for generations and generations — thanks to bankers. After Congress passed a reform in 1986 making it impossible for a “trust” to skip a generation before paying inheritance taxes, bankers convinced legislatures in many states to eliminate their “rules against perpetuities,” which means that trust funds set up in those states can exist in perpetuity, thereby allowing the trust funds to own new businesses, houses, and much else for descendants of rich people, and even to allow the beneficiaries to avoid payments to creditors when in personal debt or sued for causing accidents and injuries. About $100 billion in trust funds has flowed into those states so far. You can read the details on these “dynasty trusts” (which could be the basis for an even more solidified “American aristocracy”) in a New York Times opinion piece published in July 2010 by Boston College law professor Ray Madoff, who also has a book on this and other new tricks: Immortality and the Law: The Rising Power of the American Dead(Yale University Press, 2010).

Home ownership & wealth

For the vast majority of Americans, their homes are by far the most significant wealth they possess. Figure 3 comes from the Federal Reserve Board’s Survey of Consumer Finances (via Wolff, 2012) and compares the median income, total wealth (net worth, which is marketable assets minus debt), and non-home wealth (which earlier we called financial wealth) of White, Black, and Hispanic households in the U.S.

 

Figure 3: Income and wealth by race in the U.S.
From Wolff (2012). All figures adjusted to 2010 US dollars.

 

Besides illustrating the significance of home ownership as a source of wealth, the graph also shows that Black and Latino households are faring significantly worse overall, whether we are talking about income or net worth. In 2010, the average white household had almost 20 times as much total wealth as the average African-American household, and more than 70 times as much wealth as the average Latino household. If we exclude home equity from the calculations and consider only financial wealth, the ratios are more than 100:1. Extrapolating from these figures, we see that 71% of white families’ wealth is in the form of their principal residence; for Blacks and Hispanics, the figures are close to 100%.

And for all Americans, things have gotten worse: comparing the 2006/2007 numbers to the 2009/2010 numbers, we can see that the last few years (“The Great Recession”) have seen a huge loss in wealth — both housing and financial — for most families, making the gap between the rich and the rest of America even greater, and increasing the number of households with no marketable assets from 18.6% to 22.5% (Wolff, 2012).

Do Americans know their country’s wealth distribution?

A remarkable study (Norton & Ariely, 2010) reveals that Americans have no idea that the wealth distribution (defined for them in terms of “net worth”) is as concentrated as it is. When shown three pie charts representing possible wealth distributions, 90% or more of the 5,522 respondents — whatever their gender, age, income level, or party affiliation — thought that the American wealth distribution most resembled one in which the top 20% has about 60% of the wealth. In fact, of course, the top 20% control about 85% of the wealth (refer back to Table 2 and Figure 1 in this document for a more detailed breakdown of the numbers).

Even more striking, they did not come close on the amount of wealth held by the bottom 40% of the population. It’s a number I haven’t even mentioned so far, and it’s shocking: the lowest two quintiles hold just 0.3% of the wealth in the United States. Most people in the survey guessed the figure to be between 8% and 10%, and two dozen academic economists got it wrong too, by guessing about 2% — seven times too high. Those surveyed did have it about right for what the 20% in the middle have; it’s at the top and the bottom that they don’t have any idea of what’s going on.

Americans from all walks of life were also united in their vision of what the “ideal” wealth distribution would be, which may come as an even bigger surprise than their shared misinformation on the actual wealth distribution. They said that the ideal wealth distribution would be one in which the top 20% owned between 30 and 40 percent of the privately held wealth, which is a far cry from the 85 percent that the top 20% actually own. They also said that the bottom 40% — that’s 120 million Americans — should have between 25% and 30%, not the mere 8% to 10% they thought this group had, and far above the 0.3% they actually had. In fact, there’s no country in the world that has a wealth distribution close to what Americans think is ideal when it comes to fairness. So maybe Americans are much more egalitarian than most of them realize about each other, at least in principle and before the rat race begins.

Figure 4, reproduced with permission from Norton & Ariely’s article in Perspectives on Psychological Science, shows the actual wealth distribution, along with the survey respondents’ estimated and ideal distributions, in graphic form.

 

Figure 4: The actual United States wealth distribution plotted against theestimated and ideal distributions.
Note: In the “Actual” line, the bottom two quintiles are not visible because the lowest quintile owns just 0.1% of all wealth, and the second-lowest quintile owns 0.2%.
Source: Norton & Ariely (2010).

 

David Cay Johnston, a retired tax reporter for the New York Times, published an excellent summary of Norton & Ariely’s findings (Johnston, 2010b; you can download the article from Johnston’s Web site).

Historical context

Numerous studies show that the wealth distribution has been concentrated throughout American history, with the top 1% already owning 40-50% in large port cities like Boston, New York, and Charleston in the 1800s. (But it wasn’t as bad in the 18th and 19th centuries as it is now, as summarized in a 2012 article in The Atlantic.) The wealth distribution was fairly stable over the course of the 20th century, although there were small declines in the aftermath of the New Deal and World II, when most people were working and could save a little money. There were progressive income tax rates, too, which took some money from the rich to help with government services.

Then there was a further decline, or flattening, in the 1970s, but this time in good part due to a fall in stock prices, meaning that the rich lost some of the value in their stocks. By the late 1980s, however, the wealth distribution was almost as concentrated as it had been in 1929, when the top 1% had 44.2% of all wealth. It has continued to edge up since that time, with a slight decline from 1998 to 2001, before the economy crashed in the late 2000s and little people got pushed down again. Table 4 and Figure 5 present the details from 1922 through 2010.

 

Table 4: Share of wealth held by the Bottom 99% and Top 1% in theUnited States, 1922-2010.
Bottom 99 percent Top 1 percent
1922 63.3% 36.7%
1929 55.8% 44.2%
1933 66.7% 33.3%
1939 63.6% 36.4%
1945 70.2% 29.8%
1949 72.9% 27.1%
1953 68.8% 31.2%
1962 68.2% 31.8%
1965 65.6% 34.4%
1969 68.9% 31.1%
1972 70.9% 29.1%
1976 80.1% 19.9%
1979 79.5% 20.5%
1981 75.2% 24.8%
1983 69.1% 30.9%
1986 68.1% 31.9%
1989 64.3% 35.7%
1992 62.8% 37.2%
1995 61.5% 38.5%
1998 61.9% 38.1%
2001 66.6% 33.4%
2004 65.7% 34.3%
2007 65.4% 34.6%
2010 64.6% 35.4%
Sources: 1922-1989 data from Wolff (1996). 1992-2010 data from Wolff (2012).
Figure 5: Share of wealth held by the Bottom 99% and Top 1% in theUnited States, 1922-2010.

 

Here are some dramatic facts that sum up how the wealth distribution became even more concentrated between 1983 and 2004, in good part due to the tax cuts for the wealthy and the defeat of labor unions: Of all the new financial wealth created by the American economy in that 21-year-period, fully 42% of it went to the top 1%. A whopping 94% went to the top 20%, which of course means that the bottom 80% received only 6% of all the new financial wealth generated in the United States during the ’80s, ’90s, and early 2000s (Wolff, 2007).

The rest of the world

Thanks to a 2006 study by the World Institute for Development Economics Research — using statistics for the year 2000 — we now have information on the wealth distribution for the world as a whole, which can be compared to the United States and other well-off countries. The authors of the report admit that the quality of the information available on many countries is very spotty and probably off by several percentage points, but they compensate for this problem with very sophisticated statistical methods and the use of different sets of data. With those caveats in mind, we can still safely say that the top 10% of the world’s adults control about 85% of global household wealth — defined very broadly as all assets (not just financial assets), minus debts. That compares with a figure of 69.8% for the top 10% for the United States. The only industrialized democracy with a higher concentration of wealth in the top 10% than the United States is Switzerland at 71.3%. For the figures for several other Northern European countries and Canada, all of which are based on high-quality data, see Table 5.

Table 5: Percentage of wealth held in 2000 by the Top 10% of the adult population in various Western countries
wealth owned
by top 10%
Switzerland 71.3%
United States 69.8%
Denmark 65.0%
France 61.0%
Sweden 58.6%
UK 56.0%
Canada 53.0%
Norway 50.5%
Germany 44.4%
Finland 42.3%

 

The Relationship Between Wealth and Power

What’s the relationship between wealth and power? To avoid confusion, let’s be sure we understand they are two different issues. Wealth, as I’ve said, refers to the value of everything people own, minus what they owe, but the focus is on “marketable assets” for purposes of economic and power studies. Power, as explained elsewhere on this site, has to do with the ability (or call it capacity) to realize wishes, or reach goals, which amounts to the same thing, even in the face of opposition (Russell, 1938; Wrong, 1995). Some definitions refine this point to say that power involves Person A or Group A affecting Person B or Group B “in a manner contrary to B’s interests,” which then necessitates a discussion of “interests,” and quickly leads into the realm of philosophy (Lukes, 2005, p. 30). Leaving those discussions for the philosophers, at least for now, how do the concepts of wealth and power relate?

First, wealth can be seen as a “resource” that is very useful in exercising power. That’s obvious when we think of donations to political parties, payments to lobbyists, and grants to experts who are employed to think up new policies beneficial to the wealthy. Wealth also can be useful in shaping the general social environment to the benefit of the wealthy, whether through hiring public relations firms or donating money for universities, museums, music halls, and art galleries.

Second, certain kinds of wealth, such as stock ownership, can be used to control corporations, which of course have a major impact on how the society functions. Tables 6a and 6b show what the distribution of stock ownership looks like. Note how the top one percent’s share of stock equity increased (and the bottom 80 percent’s share decreased) between 2001 and 2010.

 

Table 6a: Concentration of stock ownership in the United States, 2001-2010
Percent of all stock owned:
Wealth class 2001 2004 2007 2010
Top 1% 33.5% 36.7% 38.3% 35.0%
Next 19% 55.8% 53.9% 52.8% 56.6%
Bottom 80% 10.7% 9.4% 8.9% 8.4%
Table 6b: Amount of stock owned by various wealth classes in the U.S., 2010
Percent of households owning stocks worth:
Wealth class $0 (no stocks) $1-$9,999 $10,000 or more
Top 1% 5.1% 0.6% 94.3%
95-99% 6.9% 4.0% 89.1%
90-95% 11.8% 4.8% 83.4%
80-90% 21.0% 8.5% 70.5%
60-80% 41.3% 15.6% 44.1%
40-60% 55.4% 19.9% 24.7%
20-40% 76.1% 17.4% 6.5%
Bottom 20% 79.2% 17.3% 4.5%
TOTAL 53.1% 17.5% 31.6%
Both tables’ data derived from Wolff (2007, 2010, & 2012).  Includes direct ownership of stock shares and indirect ownership through mutual funds, trusts, and IRAs, Keogh plans, 401(k) plans, and other retirement accounts. All figures are in 2010 dollars.

 

Third, just as wealth can lead to power, so too can power lead to wealth. Those who control a government can use their position to feather their own nests, whether that means a favorable land deal for relatives at the local level or a huge federal government contract for a new corporation run by friends who will hire you when you leave government. If we take a larger historical sweep and look cross-nationally, we are well aware that the leaders of conquering armies often grab enormous wealth, and that some religious leaders use their positions to acquire wealth.

There’s a fourth way that wealth and power relate. For research purposes, the wealth distribution can be seen as the main “value distribution” within the general power indicator I call “who benefits.” What follows in the next three paragraphs is a little long-winded, I realize, but it needs to be said because some social scientists — primarily pluralists — argue that who wins and who loses in a variety of policy conflicts is the only valid power indicator (Dahl, 1957, 1958; Polsby, 1980). And philosophical discussions don’t even mention wealth or other power indicators (Lukes, 2005). (If you have heard it all before, or can do without it, feel free to skip ahead to the last paragraph of this section)

Here’s the argument: if we assume that most people would like to have as great a share as possible of the things that are valued in the society, then we can infer that those who have the most goodies are the most powerful. Although some value distributions may be unintended outcomes that do not really reflect power, as pluralists are quick to tell us, the general distribution of valued experiences and objects within a society still can be viewed as the most publicly visible and stable outcome of the operation of power.

In American society, for example, wealth and well-being are highly valued. People seek to own property, to have high incomes, to have interesting and safe jobs, to enjoy the finest in travel and leisure, and to live long and healthy lives. All of these “values” are unequally distributed, and all may be utilized as power indicators. However, the primary focus with this type of power indicator is on the wealth distribution sketched out in the previous section.

The argument for using the wealth distribution as a power indicator is strengthened by studies showing that such distributions vary historically and from country to country, depending upon the relative strength of rival political parties and trade unions, with the United States having the most highly concentrated wealth distribution of any Western democracy except Switzerland. For example, in a study based on 18 Western democracies, strong trade unions and successful social democratic parties correlated with greater equality in the income distribution and a higher level of welfare spending (Stephens, 1979).

And now we have arrived at the point I want to make. If the top 1% of households have 30-35% of the wealth, that’s 30 to 35 times what they would have if wealth were equally distributed, and so we infer that they must be powerful. And then we set out to see if the same set of households scores high on other power indicators (it does). Next we study how that power operates, which is what most articles on this site are about. Furthermore, if the top 20% have 84% of the wealth (and recall that 10% have 85% to 90% of the stocks, bonds, trust funds, and business equity), that means that the United States is a power pyramid. It’s tough for the bottom 80% — maybe even the bottom 90% — to get organized and exercise much power.

Income and Power

The income distribution also can be used as a power indicator. As Table 7 shows, it is not as concentrated as the wealth distribution, but the top 1% of income earners did receive 17.2% of all income in 2009. That’s up from 12.8% for the top 1% in 1982, which is quite a jump, and it parallels what is happening with the wealth distribution. This is further support for the inference that the power of the corporate community and the upper class have been increasing in recent decades.

 

Table 7: Distribution of income in the United States, 1982-2006
Income
Top 1 percent Next 19 percent Bottom 80 percent
1982 12.8% 39.1% 48.1%
1988 16.6% 38.9% 44.5%
1991 15.7% 40.7% 43.7%
1994 14.4% 40.8% 44.9%
1997 16.6% 39.6% 43.8%
2000 20.0% 38.7% 41.4%
2003 17.0% 40.8% 42.2%
2006 21.3% 40.1% 38.6%
2009 17.2% 41.9% 40.9%
From Wolff (2012).

 

The rising concentration of income can be seen in a special New York Times analysis by David Cay Johnston of an Internal Revenue Service report on income in 2004. Although overall income had grown by 27% since 1979, 33% of the gains went to the top 1%. Meanwhile, the bottom 60% were making less: about 95 cents for each dollar they made in 1979. The next 20% – those between the 60th and 80th rungs of the income ladder — made $1.02 for each dollar they earned in 1979. Furthermore, Johnston concludes that only the top 5% made significant gains ($1.53 for each 1979 dollar). Most amazing of all, the top 0.1% — that’s one-tenth of one percent — had more combined pre-tax income than the poorest 120 million people (Johnston, 2006).

But the increase in what is going to the few at the top did not level off, even with all that. As of 2007, income inequality in the United States was at an all-time high for the past 95 years, with the top 0.01% — that’s one-hundredth of one percent — receiving 6% of all U.S. wages, which is double what it was for that tiny slice in 2000; the top 10% received 49.7%, the highest since 1917 (Saez, 2009). However, in an analysis of 2008 tax returns for the top 0.2% — that is, those whose income tax returns reported $1,000,000 or more in income (mostly from individuals, but nearly a third from couples) — it was found that they received 13% of all income, down slightly from 16.1% in 2007 due to the decline in payoffs from financial assets (Norris, 2010).

And the rate of increase is even higher for the very richest of the rich: the top 400 income earners in the United States. According to another analysis by Johnston (2010a), the average income of the top 400 tripled during the Clinton Administration and doubled during the first seven years of the Bush Administration. So by 2007, the top 400 averaged $344.8 million per person, up 31% from an average of $263.3 million just one year earlier. (For another recent revealing study by Johnston, read “Is Our Tax System Helping Us Create Wealth?).

How are these huge gains possible for the top 400? It’s due to cuts in the tax rates on capital gains and dividends, which were down to a mere 15% in 2007 thanks to the tax cuts proposed by the Bush Administration and passed by Congress in 2003. Since almost 75% of the income for the top 400 comes from capital gains and dividends, it’s not hard to see why tax cuts on income sources available to only a tiny percent of Americans mattered greatly for the high-earning few. Overall, the effective tax rate on high incomes fell by 7% during the Clinton presidency and 6% in the Bush era, so the top 400 had a tax rate of 20% or less in 2007, far lower than the marginal tax rate of 35% that the highest income earners (over $372,650) supposedly pay. It’s also worth noting that only the first $106,800 of a person’s income is taxed for Social Security purposes (as of 2010), so it would clearly be a boon to the Social Security Fund if everyone — not just those making less than $106,800 — paid the Social Security tax on their full incomes.

Do Taxes Redistribute Income?

It is widely believed that taxes are highly progressive and, furthermore, that the top several percent of income earners pay most of the taxes received by the federal government. Both ideas are wrong because they focus on official, rather than “effective” tax rates and ignore payroll taxes, which are mostly paid by those with incomes below $100,000 per year.

But what matters in terms of a power analysis is what percentage of their income people at different income levels pay to all levels of government (federal, state, and local) in taxes. If the less-well-off majority is somehow able to wield power, we would expect that the high earners would pay a bigger percentage of their income in taxes, because the majority figures the well-to-do would still have plenty left after taxes to make new investments and lead the good life. If the high earners have the most power, we’d expect them to pay about the same as everybody else, or less.

Citizens for Tax Justice, a research group that’s been studying tax issues from its offices in Washington since 1979, provides the information we need. When all taxes (not just income taxes) are taken into account, the lowest 20% of earners (who average about $12,400 per year), paid 16.0% of their income to taxes in 2009; and the next 20% (about $25,000/year), paid 20.5% in taxes. So if we only examine these first two steps, the tax system looks like it is going to be progressive.

And it keeps looking progressive as we move further up the ladder: the middle 20% (about $33,400/year) give 25.3% of their income to various forms of taxation, and the next 20% (about $66,000/year) pay 28.5%. So taxes are progressive for the bottom 80%. But if we break the top 20% down into smaller chunks, we find that progressivity starts to slow down, then it stops, and then it slips backwards for the top 1%.

Specifically, the next 10% (about $100,000/year) pay 30.2% of their income as taxes; the next 5% ($141,000/year) dole out 31.2% of their earnings for taxes; and the next 4% ($245,000/year) pay 31.6% to taxes. You’ll note that the progressivity is slowing down. As for the top 1% — those who take in $1.3 million per year on average — they pay 30.8% of their income to taxes, which is a little less than what the 9% just below them pay, and only a tiny bit more than what the segment between the 80th and 90th percentile pays.

What I’ve just explained with words can be seen more clearly in Figure 6.

 

Figure 6: Share of income paid as tax, including local and state tax
Source: Citizens for Tax Justice (2010a).

 

We also can look at this information on income and taxes in another way by asking what percentage of all taxes various income levels pay. (This is not the same as the previous question, which asked what percentage of their incomes went to taxes for people at various income levels.) And the answer to this new question can be found in Figure 7. For example, the top 20% receives 59.1% of all income and pays 64.3% of all the taxes, so they aren’t carrying a huge extra burden. At the other end, the bottom 20%, which receives 3.5% of all income, pays 1.9% of all taxes.

 

Figure 7: Share of all income earned and all taxes paid, by quintile
Source: Citizens for Tax Justice (2010a).

 

So the best estimates that can be put together from official government numbers show a little bit of progressivity. But the details on those who earn millions of dollars each year are very hard to come by, because they can stash a large part of their wealth in off-shore tax havens in the Caribbean and little countries in Europe, starting with Switzerland. And there are many loopholes and gimmicks they can use, as summarized with striking examples inFree Lunch and Perfectly Legal, the books by Johnston that were mentioned earlier. For example, Johnston explains the ways in which high earners can hide their money and delay on paying taxes, and then invest for a profit what normally would be paid in taxes.

Income inequality in other countries

The degree of income inequality in the United States can be compared to that in other countries on the basis of the Gini coefficient, a mathematical ratio that allows economists to put all countries on a scale with values that range (hypothetically) from zero (everyone in the country has the same income) to 100 (one person in the country has all the income). On this widely used measure, the United States ends up 95th out of the 134 countries that have been studied — that is, only 39 of the 134 countries have worse income inequality. The U.S. has a Gini index of 45.0; Sweden is the lowest with 23.0, and South Africa is near the top with 65.0.

The table that follows displays the scores for 22 major countries, along with their ranking in the longer list of 134 countries that were studied (most of the other countries are very small and/or very poor). In examining this table, remember that it does not measure the same thing as Table 5 earlier in this document, which was about the wealth distribution. Here we are looking at the income distribution, so the two tables won’t match up as far as rankings. That’s because a country can have a highly concentrated wealth distribution and still have a more equal distribution of income due to high taxes on top income earners and/or high minimum wages — both Switzerland and Sweden follow this pattern. So one thing that’s distinctive about the U.S. compared to other industrialized democracies is thatboth its wealth and income distributions are highly concentrated.

 

Table 8: Income equality in selected countries
Country/Overall Rank Gini Coefficient
1.  Sweden 23.0
2.  Norway 25.0
8.  Austria 26.0
10.  Germany 27.0
17.  Denmark 29.0
25.  Australia 30.5
34.  Italy 32.0
35.  Canada 32.1
37.  France 32.7
42.  Switzerland 33.7
43.  United Kingdom 34.0
45.  Egypt 34.4
56.  India 36.8
61.  Japan 38.1
68.  Israel 39.2
81.  China 41.5
82.  Russia 42.3
90.  Iran 44.5
93.  United States 45.0
107.  Mexico 48.2
125.  Brazil 56.7
133.  South Africa 65.0
Note: These figures reflect family/household income, not individual income.
Source: Central Intelligence Agency (2010).

 

The differences in income inequality between countries also can be illustrated by looking at the share of income earned by the now-familiar Top 1% versus the Bottom 99%. One of the most striking contrasts is between Sweden and the United States from 1950 to 2009, as seen in Figure 8; and note that the differences between the two countries narrowed in the 1950s and 1960s, but after that went their separate ways, in rather dramatic fashion.

 

Figure 8: Top income shares in the U.S. and Sweden, 1950-2009
Source: Alvaredo et al. (2012), World Top Incomes Database.

 

The impact of “transfer payments”

As we’ve seen, taxes don’t have much impact on the income distribution, especially when we look at the top 1% or top 0.1%. Nor do various kinds of tax breaks and loopholes have much impact on the income distribution overall. That’s because the tax deductions that help those with lower incomes — such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), tax forgiveness for low-income earners on Social Security, and tax deductions for dependent children — are offset by the breaks for high-income earners (for example: dividends and capital gains are only taxed at a rate of 15%; there’s no tax on the interest earned from state and municipal bonds; and 20% of the tax deductions taken for dependent children actually go to people earning over $100,000 a year).

But it is sometimes said that income inequality is reduced significantly by government programs that matter very much in the lives of low-income Americans. These programs provide “transfer payments,” which are a form of income for those in need. They include unemployment compensation, cash payments to the elderly who don’t have enough to live on from Social Security, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (welfare), food stamps, and Medicaid.

Thomas Hungerford (2009), a tax expert who works for the federal government’s Congressional Research Service, carried out a study for Congress that tells us about the real-world impact of transfer payments on reducing income inequality. Hungerford’s study is based on 2004 income data from an ongoing study of a representative sample of families at the University of Michigan, and it includes the effects of both taxes and four types of transfer payments (Social Security, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, food stamps, and Medicaid). The table that follows shows the income inequality index (that is, the Gini coefficient) at three points along the way: (1.) before taxes or transfers; (2) after taxes are taken into account; and (3) after both taxes and transfer payments are included in the equation. (The Citizens for Tax Justice study of income and taxes for 2009, discussed earlier, included transfer payments as income, so that study and Hungerford’s have similar starting points. But they can’t be directly compared, because they use different years.)

 

Table 9: Redistributive effect of taxes and transfer payments
Income definition Gini index
Before taxes and transfers 0.5116
After taxes, before transfers 0.4774
After taxes and transfers 0.4284
Source: Congressional Research Service, adapted from Hungerford (2009).

 

As can be seen, Hungerford’s findings first support what we had learned earlier from the Citizens for Tax Justice study: taxes don’t do much to reduce inequality. They secondly reveal that transfer payments have a slightly larger impact on inequality than taxes, but not much. Third, his findings tell us that taxes and transfer payments together reduce the inequality index from .52 to .43, which is very close to the CIA’s estimate of .45 for 2008.

In short, for those who ask if progressive taxes and transfer payments even things out to a significant degree, the answer is that while they have some effect, they don’t do nearly as much as in Canada, major European countries, or Japan.

Income Ratios and Power: Executives vs. Average Workers

Another way that income can be used as a power indicator is by comparing average CEO annual pay to average factory worker pay, something that has been done for many years by Business Week and, later, the Associated Press. The ratio of CEO pay to factory worker pay rose from 42:1 in 1960 to as high as 531:1 in 2000, at the height of the stock market bubble, when CEOs were cashing in big stock options. It was at 411:1 in 2005 and 344:1 in 2007, according to research by United for a Fair Economy. By way of comparison, the same ratio is about 25:1 in Europe. The changes in the American ratio from 1960 to 2007 are displayed in Figure 9, which is based on data from several hundred of the largest corporations.

 

Figure 9: CEOs’ pay as a multiple of the average worker’s pay, 1960-2007
Source: Executive Excess 2008, the 15th Annual CEO Compensation Survey from the Institute for Policy Studies and United for a Fair Economy.

It’s even more revealing to compare the actual rates of increase of the salaries of CEOs and ordinary workers; from 1990 to 2005, CEOs’ pay increased almost 300% (adjusted for inflation), while production workers gained a scant 4.3%. The purchasing power of the federal minimum wage actually declined by 9.3%, when inflation is taken into account. These startling results are illustrated in Figure 10.

 

Figure 10: CEOs’ average pay, production workers’ average pay, theS&P 500 Index, corporate profits, and the federal minimum wage, 1990-2005(all figures adjusted for inflation)
Source: Executive Excess 2006, the 13th Annual CEO Compensation Survey from the Institute for Policy Studies and United for a Fair Economy.

 

Although some of the information I’ve relied upon to create this section on executives’ vs. workers’ pay is a few years old now, the AFL/CIO provides up-to-date information on CEO salaries at their Web site. There, you can learn that the median compensation for CEO’s in all industries as of early 2010 is $3.9 million; it’s $10.6 million for the companies listed in Standard and Poor’s 500, and $19.8 million for the companies listed in the Dow-Jones Industrial Average. Since the median worker’s pay is about $36,000, then you can quickly calculate that CEOs in general make 100 times as much as the workers, that CEO’s of S&P 500 firms make almost 300 times as much, and that CEOs at the Dow-Jones companies make 550 times as much. (For a more recent update on CEOs’ pay, seeThe Drought Is Over (At Least for CEOs)” at NYTimes.com; the article reports that the median compensation for CEOs at 200 major companies was $9.6 million in 2010 — up by about 12% over 2009 and generally equal to or surpassing pre-recession levels. For specific information about some of the top CEOs, see http://projects.nytimes.com/executive_compensation.

If you wonder how such a large gap could develop, the proximate, or most immediate, factor involves the way in which CEOs now are able to rig things so that the board of directors, which they help select — and which includes some fellow CEOs on whose boards they sit — gives them the pay they want. The trick is in hiring outside experts, called “compensation consultants,” who give the process a thin veneer of economic respectability.

The process has been explained in detail by a retired CEO of DuPont, Edgar S. Woolard, Jr., who is now chair of the New York Stock Exchange’s executive compensation committee. His experience suggests that he knows whereof he speaks, and he speaks because he’s concerned that corporate leaders are losing respect in the public mind. He says that the business page chatter about CEO salaries being set by the competition for their services in the executive labor market is “bull.” As to the claim that CEOs deserve ever higher salaries because they “create wealth,” he describes that rationale as a “joke,” says the New York Times (Morgenson, 2005).

Here’s how it works, according to Woolard:

The compensation committee [of the board of directors] talks to an outside consultant who has surveys you could drive a truck through and pay anything you want to pay, to be perfectly honest. The outside consultant talks to the human resources vice president, who talks to the CEO. The CEO says what he’d like to receive. It gets to the human resources person who tells the outside consultant. And it pretty well works out that the CEO gets what he’s implied he thinks he deserves, so he will be respected by his peers. (Morgenson, 2005.)

The board of directors buys into what the CEO asks for because the outside consultant is an “expert” on such matters. Furthermore, handing out only modest salary increases might give the wrong impression about how highly the board values the CEO. And if someone on the board should object, there are the three or four CEOs from other companies who will make sure it happens. It is a process with a built-in escalator.

As for why the consultants go along with this scam, they know which side their bread is buttered on. They realize the CEO has a big say-so on whether or not they are hired again. So they suggest a package of salaries, stock options and other goodies that they think will please the CEO, and they, too, get rich in the process. And certainly the top executives just below the CEO don’t mind hearing about the boss’s raise. They know it will mean pay increases for them, too. (For an excellent detailed article on the main consulting firm that helps CEOs and other corporate executives raise their pay, check out the New York Times article entitled “America’s Corporate Pay Pal”, which supports everything Woolard of DuPont claims and adds new information.)

If hiring a consulting firm doesn’t do the trick as far as raising CEO pay, then it may be possible for the CEO to have the board change the way in which the success of the company is determined. For example, Walmart Stores, Inc. used to link the CEO’s salary to sales figures at established stores. But when declining sales no longer led to big pay raises, the board simply changed the magic formula to use total companywide sales instead. By that measure, the CEO could still receive a pay hike (Morgenson, 2011).

There’s a much deeper power story that underlies the self-dealing and mutual back-scratching by CEOs now carried out through interlocking directorates and seemingly independent outside consultants. It probably involves several factors. At the least, on the workers’ side, it reflects their loss of power following the all-out attack on unions in the 1960s and 1970s, which is explained in detail in an excellent book by James Gross (1995), a labor and industrial relations professor at Cornell. That decline in union power made possible and was increased by both outsourcing at home and the movement of production to developing countries, which were facilitated by the break-up of the New Deal coalition and the rise of the New Right (Domhoff, 1990, Chapter 10). It signals the shift of the United States from a high-wage to a low-wage economy, with professionals protected by the fact that foreign-trained doctors and lawyers aren’t allowed to compete with their American counterparts in the direct way that low-wage foreign-born workers are.

(You also can read a quick version of my explanation for the “right turn” that led to changes in the wealth and income distributions in an article on this site, where it is presented in the context of criticizing the explanations put forward by other theorists.)

On the other side of the class divide, the rise in CEO pay may reflect the increasing power of chief executives as compared to major owners and stockholders in general, not just their increasing power over workers. CEOs may now be the center of gravity in the corporate community and the power elite, displacing the leaders in wealthy owning families (e.g., the second and third generations of the Walton family, the owners of Wal-Mart). True enough, the CEOs are sometimes ousted by their generally go-along boards of directors, but they are able to make hay and throw their weight around during the time they are king of the mountain.

The claims made in the previous paragraph need much further investigation. But they demonstrate the ideas and research directions that are suggested by looking at the wealth and income distributions as indicators of power.

 

Further Information

References

AFL-CIO (2010). Executive PayWatch: CEO Pay Database: Compensation by Industry. Retrieved February 8, 2010 from http://www.aflcio.org/corporatewatch/paywatch/ceou/industry.cfm.

Alvaredo, F., Atkinson, T., Piketty, T., & Saez, E. (2012). World Top Incomes Database.Retrieved March 14, 2012 from http://g-mond.parisschoolofeconomics.eu/topincomes/.

Anderson, S., Cavanagh, J., Collins, C., Lapham, M., & Pizzigati, S. (2008). Executive Excess 2008: How Average Taxpayers Subsidize Runaway Pay. Washington, DC: Institute for Policy Studies / United for a Fair Economy.

Anderson, S., Cavanagh, J., Collins, C., Lapham, M., & Pizzigati, S. (2007). Executive Excess 2007: The Staggering Social Cost of U.S. Business Leadership. Washington, DC: Institute for Policy Studies / United for a Fair Economy.

Anderson, S., Benjamin, E., Cavanagh, J., & Collins, C. (2006). Executive Excess 2006: Defense and Oil Executives Cash in on Conflict. Washington, DC: Institute for Policy Studies / United for a Fair Economy.

Anderson, S., Cavanagh, J., Klinger, S., & Stanton, L. (2005). Executive Excess 2005: Defense Contractors Get More Bucks for the Bang. Washington, DC: Institute for Policy Studies / United for a Fair Economy.

Center for Economic and Policy Research (2011). New Census Numbers Make it Official: 2000-2010 Was a Lost Economic Decade. Retrieved October 25, 2011 from http://www.cepr.net/data-bytes/poverty-bytes/new-census-numbers-make-it-official-2000-2010-was-lost-economic-decade.

Central Intelligence Agency (2010). World Factbook: Country Comparison: Distribution of family income – Gini index. Retrieved October 26, 2010 from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2172rank.html.

Citizens for Tax Justice (2010b). State-by-State Estate Tax Figures: Number of Deaths Resulting in Estate Tax Liability Continues to Drop. Retrieved December 13, 2010 from http://www.ctj.org/pdf/estatetax2010.pdf.

Citizens for Tax Justice (2010a). All Americans Pay Taxes. Retrieved April 15, 2010 from http://www.ctj.org/pdf/taxday2010.pdf.

Dahl, R. A. (1957). The concept of power. Behavioral Science2, 202-210.

Dahl, R. A. (1958). A critique of the ruling elite model. American Political Science Review, 52, 463-469.

Davies, J. B., Sandstrom, S., Shorrocks, A., & Wolff, E. N. (2006). The World Distribution of Household Wealth. Helsinki: World Institute for Development Economics Research.

Domhoff, G. W. (1990). The Power Elite and the State: How Policy Is Made in America. Hawthorne, NY: Aldine de Gruyter.

Gross, J. A. (1995). Broken Promise: The Subversion of U.S. Labor Relations Policy. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Hungerford, T. (2009). Redistribution effects of federal taxes and selected tax provisions. Washington: Congressional Research Service.

Johnston, D. C. (2011). Beyond the 1 percent. Retrieved November 7, 2011 from http://blogs.reuters.com/david-cay-johnston/2011/10/25/beyond-the-1-percent/.

Johnston, D. C. (2010b). United in Our Delusion. Retrieved October 12, 2010 from http://www.tax.com/taxcom/taxblog.nsf/Permalink/UBEN-8A6TUW?OpenDocument.

Johnston, D. C. (2010a). Tax Rates for Top 400 Earners Fall as Income Soars, IRS Data. Retrieved February 23, 2010 from http://www.tax.com/taxcom/features.nsf/Articles/0DEC0EAA7E4D7A2B852576CD00714692?OpenDocument.

Johnston, D. C. (2009, December 21). Is Our Tax System Helping Us Create Wealth?Tax Notes, pp. 1375-1377.

Johnston, D. C. (2006, November 28). ’04 Income in U.S. Was Below 2000 Level.New York Times, p. C-1.

Keister, L. (2005). Getting Rich: A Study of Wealth Mobility in America. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Kenny, C., Lincoln, T., Collins, C., & Farris, L. (2006). Spending Millions to Save Billions: The Campaign of the Super Wealthy to Kill the Estate Tax. Washington, DC: Public Citizen / United for a Fair Economy.

Kotlikoff, L., & Gokhale, J. (2000). The Baby Boomers’ Mega-Inheritance: Myth or Reality? Cleveland: Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.

Lukes, S. (2005). Power: A Radical View (Second ed.). New York: Palgrave.

Madoff, R. D. (2010, July 12). America Builds an Aristocracy. New York Times, p. A-19.

Morgenson, G. (2011, May 8). Moving the goal posts on pay. New York Times, Section BU, p. 1.

Morgenson, G. (2005, October 23). How to slow runaway executive pay. New York Times, Section 3, p. 1.

Norris, F. (2010, July 24). Off the Charts: In ’08 Downturn, Some Managed to Eke Out Millions. New York Times, p. B-3.

Norton, M. I., & Ariely, D. (2010, forthcoming). Building a better America – one wealth quintile at a time. Perspectives on Psychological Science.

Polsby, N. (1980). Community Power and Political Theory (Second ed.). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Russell, B. (1938). Power: A New Social Analysis. London: Allen and Unwin.

Saez, E. (2009). Striking It Richer: The Evolution of Top Incomes in the United States (Update with 2007 Estimates). Retrieved August 28, 2009 from http://elsa.berkeley.edu/~saez/saez-UStopincomes-2007.pdf.

Saez, E., & Piketty, T. (2003). Income Inequality in the United States, 1913-1998.Quarterly Journal of Economics118, 1-39.

Shapiro, I., & Friedman, J. (2006). New, Unnoticed CBO Data Show Capital Income Has Become Much More Concentrated at the Top. Washington, DC: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Stephens, J. (1979). The Transition from Capitalism to Socialism. London: Macmillan.

Wolff, E. N. (1996). Top Heavy. New York: The New Press.

Wolff, E. N. (2004). Changes in household wealth in the 1980s and 1990s in the U.S.Working Paper No. 407. Annandale-on-Hudson, NY: The Levy Economics Institute of Bard College.

Wolff, E. N. (2007). Recent trends in household wealth in the United States: Rising debt and the middle-class squeezeWorking Paper No. 502. Annandale-on-Hudson, NY: The Levy Economics Institute of Bard College.

Wolff, E. N. (2010). Recent trends in household wealth in the United States: Rising debt and the middle-class squeeze – an update to 2007Working Paper No. 589.Annandale-on-Hudson, NY: The Levy Economics Institute of Bard College.

Wolff, E. N. (2012). The Asset Price Meltdown and the Wealth of the Middle Class.New York: New York University.

Wrong, D. (1995). Power: Its Forms, Bases, and Uses (Second ed.). New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.

Posted in USAComments Off on Wealth, Income, and Power

The UN is the Biggest Rogue Organization that ever Existed

NOVANEWS
The UN is the biggest rogue organization that ever existed with Ban Ki Moon at its head , it is giving license to kill and use all sort of deadly weapons against innocent people . It will create havoc for a wounded NGO teenager who was set by the CIA but will embrace the killing of Syrian children for the sake of democracy , then Ban ki Moon will gave you the yellow blank smile of a confident person who had achieved his mission of killing more people as much as the hegemony of the world order requires , let it be all Syrians or all Palestinians it will not matter . What matters is that the UN gives license and legitimacy to these crimes so that they can become generalized and legalized.
THE SILENT CONSENTING DEVIL

Big crimes are being openly organized in big capitals in Arab countries , big rallies for organized crimes where criminals that happen to be head of states and ministers and officials were all gathered to give license for an organized massacre and crime to happen in Syria .A Massacre and genocide in the 21st century in an independent country of the Arab world , in the era of human rights and global awakening . In this Era , more than a hundred countries have the guts to gather to try to depose an Arab president .they call themselves the coalition of the opposition and decided to resume their crimes which have become too well known .Crimes committed against civilians and minorities and the Syrian army and against officials and soldiers and journalists and artists , innumerable crimes, crimes targeting minorities and ethnic groups , crimes of all kinds that do not have any justification . Only yesterday in ‘Aqraba near Homs , people talk about more than 200 civilians killed among Alawites and also Sunnis who were trying to protect their long time neighbors from the so called Free Army and were punished because of that . 143 million dollars granted to the coalition and much more than that . Kill and get paid and Saudia paying the biggest share for Muslims to kill other Muslims and chase and displace Christians and destroy Syria . Criminals and stooges working for other criminals , serving big criminals , oil money and corrupt money and no one who could object or resort to justice or complain . There is no one to complain to but God . The United Nations has become a big partner in the crimes committed because everything committed is being blessed by the UN. The UN is the biggest rogue organization that ever existed with Ban Ki Moon at its head , it is giving license to kill and use all sort of deadly weapons against innocent people . It will create havoc for a wounded NGO teenager who was set by the CIA but will embrace the killing of Syrian children for the sake of democracy , then Ban ki Moon will gave you the yellow blank smile of a confident person who had achieved his mission of killing more people as much as the hegemony of the world order requires , let it be all Syrians or all Palestinians it will not matter . What matters is that the UN gives license and legitimacy to these crimes so that they can become generalized and legalized.
THE SILENT CONSENTING DEVIL

Big crimes are being openly organized in big capitals in Arab countries , big rallies for organized crimes where criminals that happen to be head of states and ministers and officials were all gathered to give license for an organized massacre and crime to happen in Syria .A Massacre and genocide in the 21st century in an independent country of the Arab world , in the era of human rights and global awakening . In this Era , more than a hundred countries have the guts to gather to try to depose an Arab president .they call themselves the coalition of the opposition and decided to resume their crimes which have become too well known .

Crimes committed against civilians and minorities and the Syrian army and against officials and soldiers and journalists and artists , innumerable crimes, crimes targeting minorities and ethnic groups , crimes of all kinds that do not have any justification . Only yesterday in ‘Aqraba near Homs , people talk about more than 200 civilians killed among Alawites and also Sunnis who were trying to protect their long time neighbors from the so called Free Army and were punished because of that . 143 million dollars granted to the coalition and much more than that . Kill and get paid and Saudia paying the biggest share for Muslims to kill other Muslims and chase and displace Christians and destroy Syria . Criminals and stooges working for other criminals , serving big criminals , oil money and corrupt money and no one who could object or resort to justice or complain .
There is no one to complain to but God . The United Nations has become a big partner in the crimes committed because everything committed is being blessed by the UN. The UN is the biggest rogue organization that ever existed with Ban Ki Moon at its head , it is giving license to kill and use all sort of deadly weapons against innocent people . It will create havoc for a wounded NGO teenager who was set by the CIA but will embrace the killing of Syrian children for the sake of democracy , then Ban ki Moon will gave you the yellow blank smile of a confident person who had achieved his mission of killing more people as much as the hegemony of the world order requires , let it be all Syrians or all Palestinians it will not matter . What matters is that the UN gives license and legitimacy to these crimes so that they can become generalized and legalized.

Posted in Politics, WorldComments Off on The UN is the Biggest Rogue Organization that ever Existed

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