August 25, 2007

One year after Akbar Bugti's death: Any Lessons Learnt?

One year after Akbar Bugti's death By Gulmina Bilal
The News, August 25, 2007

They said he challenged the writ of the state. They said that the poor law and order situation is because of the three nawabs, of which he was one. They told us that in Balochistan there is "No problem" except the nawab who was inciting people. Therefore, he needed to be taken out. And a year ago he was permanently gotten rid off. Whether the cave caved in or he was tricked, is irrelevant. What is relevant is that a year later, peace has eluded Balochistan. Why is that so? If the instigator had been "neutralized" then why is Balochistan still restless?

Like yesterdays newspaper, Dera Bugti and Balochistan have receded from our minds. The place that grabbed headlines a year back doesn't even make it to the most obscure of the inside pages. Rhetorical statements have been made, limelight stolen, resignations given and taken back --in short other places and people grab the headlines and Dera Bugti is the last thing newspaper readers have on their minds. This suits the interests of certain sections quite well.

I have no illusions about Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti. He was not a saint. Neither was he a devil. At the time of his death, the media had portrayed him as either a glamorous hero or a devil--both images being incorrect.

Nawab Bugti was merely another product of the Pakistani political system which has always bestowed leadership titles on feudal and tribal chiefs. The system works quite systematically, it first shoots these chiefs to national prominence, the establishment ensures that the lucky individual becomes a household name and acquires a countrywide profile and then if things go wrong, he is just as suddenly and intensely dropped down and called a traitor.

Here the same thing happened. The Pakistani political establishment picked up Nawab Bugti and made him a house-hold name in Pakistan It was Nawab Bugti with whom the establishment negotiated for gas royalty. It was with his consent that district administrative officers were posted to Dera Bugti. It was to him that money, as part of "his share" was delivered by the government. It was Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti in whose personal charge a number of state-owned and maintained vehicles were given.. Why was his "miscreant "and "terrorist" profile not highlighted then? Why wasn't the "writ of the state" established then?

Nawab Bugti served as the Governor of Balochistan. He served as the province's chief minister as well. He was a part of the Pakistani political system but died while at serious odds with it. Thus the question arises: how does our system work? How does our political system make a leader and then portray the same person as a traitor challenging the 'writ of the state'? What kind of a political system do we have that makes one to be a hero and then within the span of a few years the same person becomes a rebel, a separatist, a terrorist or a criminal?

This is the question that has to be asked when one looks at the rise of Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, his hanging and the eventual emergence of the shaheed Bhutto status. This is the question that needs to be asked when one looks at G M Syed's introduction of the Pakistan resolution in the Sindh Assembly and his death under the clouds of labels of traitor, guilty of treason and being a separatist. This is the question that needs to be answered while studying the emergence of Altaf Hussain, his being labelled as an Indian agent with alleged Jinnahpur maps unfolded as evidence, to violent extra judicial crack down on his supporters to the present position of being the head of the ruling coalition party.

The core issue then is about the true nature of Pakistani political processes and its dynamics. Nawab Bugti died holding the banner of provincial autonomy within a functioning federalism. Whether the banner was a fig leaf for personal interests is beside the point. The point is that there remains a genuine resentment amongst the federating units regarding provincial autonomy and access to their own resources. That is why the late Nawab and others could command public support on this issue. It is a fact that Balochistan remains cold while it warms the rest of us with its gas. It is a fact that while coal is mined in Balochistan, the local inhabitants are only left with black dust. It is a fact that while Sindh provides for forty five percent of the revenue, its interior remains underdeveloped. It is a fact that while NWFP provides us with land to construct dams, the displaced locals remain damned to an uncertain future. It is a fact that the concurrent list remains, a jarring reminder that provincial autonomy is a joke-- and a sad one too.

It is tragic that in our history whosoever has called out for provincial autonomy has been labelled anti-Pakistan. They have been labelled communists, RAW agents and so on since that has become the most convenient label to discredit someone. The Balochistan issue was, is, and will be not about just one or two individuals. Balochistan's call for rights within the federation of Pakistan is a larger issue and one plagues the mind of every inhabitant of that province. To dismiss it by saying that such sentiment does not exist or incorrectly interpreting it as being an instigation by a foreign power is to avoid the truth. A recent report on Balochistan released by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group correctly says that it was with the return of military rule that ethnic competition and bargaining in the province "transformed into conflict".

A hundred and one flaws can be highlighted of the Benazir and Nawaz era. However, all said and done, one has to admit that the political leaders of Balochistan opted to use political means to articulate their demands. However, when the latest military operation started, they were left with no choice. As one young activist quoted in the ICG report said: "When nobody wants to hear our voice, we're forced to make them hear it through violence." The young man added: "The young have taken up arms. They are fighting for their rights. They think they can't get them through a political struggle. These are not things that a good citizen says. But we are now tired. This is our last struggle".

The writer is associated with the consulting group, Individualland. E-mail: contact@individualland.com

India: Twin Bomb Blasts Rock Hyderabad

Source: Stratfor
Stratfor's Free Intelligence Reports

India: Twin Bomb Blasts Rock Hyderabad
August 25, 2007 16 30 GMT


Twin bomb explosions occurred late Aug. 25 in Hyderabad in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, killing nine people and injuring 60. The first bomb exploded in Lumbini Park, near the state secretariat, around 9 p.m. local time during a laser show where many people were gathered. The second explosion took place at popular outdoor eatery Gokul Chat Bhandar about 15 minutes later.

Stratfor expected Kashmiri Islamist militants to stage an attack this quarter. The cities of Hyderabad and Bangalore, where India's high-tech hubs are located and where Kashmiri militant cells are spreading, were high on the target list. Though these bombings do not appear to be a direct hit against the IT sector (the park and restaurant are far from Hitech City in the suburbs where all the companies are located), they reveal the militant groups' interest in increasing operations in these key cities. Lumbini Park, which is a theme park near Hussein Sagar Lake, is mostly thronged by the city's more affluent business crowd (people who can actually afford the ticket fees). The Gokul Chat eatery, which is famous for its food, is located in a crowded, posh market area.

The last major attack in Hyderabad occurred May 18 when Kashmiri militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, working with the Student Islamic Movement of India, bombed the Mecca Mosque. That attack -- reminiscent of jihadist tactics in Iraq -- revealed a strategy by these groups to strike at Muslim targets in order to incite communal riots between Hindus and Muslims. However, Hyderabad's Muslim community failed to take the bait and instead turned increasingly hostile toward these militant groups, further threatening their support base.

Stratfor forecast the failure of these groups to reignite Hindu-Muslim tensions by targeting sensitive Muslim religious targets. The return to soft targets in the Aug. 24 attack in the park and local eatery might be a reflection of the groups' acknowledgement that a shift in targeting selection is needed. With this in mind, the IT sector faces a serious threat, since the militant groups will likely focus more on a strategic target set that could have a real impact on India's economic lifeline. As an Aug. 21 threat against IT companies in the northern Indian city of Chandigarh, Punjab, revealed, IT companies "off the beaten path" in India are also vulnerable, since the perceived threat is lower in these areas and security forces are not as well-equipped or vigilant as they are in the IT hubs of Bangalore and Hyderabad.

About Stratfor

Stratfor is the world’s leading private intelligence company delivering in-depth analysis, assessments and forecasts on global geopolitical, economic, security and public policy issues. A variety of subscription-based access, free intelligence reports and confidential consulting are available for individuals and corporations.

U.S.: Managing the Rise of the UAV

Source: Stratfor
Stratfor's Free Intelligence Reports

U.S.: Managing the Rise of the UAV
August 25, 2007 14 12 GMT


Editor's Note: This is the second of a two-part look at U.S. Air Force efforts to assume control over unmanned aerial vehicles.

Summary

As the U.S. Air Force grapples for control over higher-flying unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), other services developing their own UAV programs are deeply concerned. The platform is growing increasingly popular throughout the U.S. military, which sees great value in unmanned flight. One branch seizing too much control over the innovative systems could prove counterproductive.

Analysis

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England is expected to announce a decision by the end of August whether to grant the U.S. Air Force "Executive Agent Authority" over all U.S. military unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, also called unmanned aerial systems) that fly above 3,500 feet. The Air Force is seeking to control acquisition and development of all such systems.

With each branch of service pursuing its own UAV development programs (sometimes in cooperation with one another), the Army, Navy and Marine Corps are deeply concerned. The Air Force may be a logical choice for coordinating important aspects of the various UAV programs -- ensuring system compatibility across the services, the use of open-architecture software, the de-confliction of airspace. But unmanned systems are just beginning to come of age, and the true extent of their utility is still being explored. Giving one service control over higher-flying UAVs would limit the kind of branch-specific experimentation and out-of-the-box thinking that the technology needs in order to reach its full potential.

By the time the first U.S. UAVs droned through the skies over Afghanistan and Iraq, many years of concerted research and development had already been done (Pioneer UAVs were used in operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1990 and 1991). But the more useful the systems became, the more interest spread at the Pentagon, which now views the concept as having almost limitless applications.

While much program development takes place below 3,500 feet (the Air Force wants to keep well away from the more tactical UAV missions), some of the most fascinating experimentation is occurring at higher altitudes. The Navy has acquired two Global Hawks and is currently exploring their applicability to "broad area maritime surveillance," a program that promises to provide it a revolutionary and unprecedented level of global situational awareness. A joint Army-Navy program that is now flying RQ-8B Fire Scout test beds could change the way the Army and the Navy do business (despite a rough development history and a troubled start). The Navy hopes to use them in conjunction with the littoral combat ship now being developed and could integrate them into everything from anti-submarine warfare to mine-hunting.




The Air Force is attempting to consolidate control over UAVs for a number of reasons -- some of them having nothing at all to do with UAVs per se and everything to do with the long-term future of the Air Force. And while some coordination and standardization is necessary across the services in the development and deployment of UAVs, each step in that direction will diminish innovation.

No branch of the U.S. armed forces fully understands the true promise of UAV technology, which has only just gotten off the ground. But if the Air Force is allowed to consolidate control over UAV systems -- especially based on altitude -- then bureaucratic and organizational barriers will impede a broad generational leap in the technology for all the branches.
About Stratfor

Stratfor is the world’s leading private intelligence company delivering in-depth analysis, assessments and forecasts on global geopolitical, economic, security and public policy issues. A variety of subscription-based access, free intelligence reports and confidential consulting are available for individuals and corporations.

U.S.: An Existential Move for the Air Force

Source: Stratfor
Stratfor's Free Intelligence Reports

August 24, 2007 17 45 GMT


Editor's Note: This is the first of a two-part look at U.S. Air Force efforts to assume control over unmanned aerial vehicles.

Summary

A battle over unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is being joined in the hallways of the Pentagon. While the U.S. Air Force grapples for control over the acquisition and development of higher-flying UAVs, it also is trying to define its long-term future, which will not involve any seat-of-the-pants flying.

Analysis

The U.S. Air Force is asking for broad "executive agent authority" over all U.S. military unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, also called unmanned aerial systems) that fly above 3,500 feet. The Air Force wants control over the acquisition and development of all such systems. With each branch of service pursuing its own UAV development programs (sometimes in cooperation with one other), the Army, Navy and Marine Corps are understandably upset.

More than a mere Pentagon turf war, this bid goes to the heart of the Air Force itself.

Though human aviators will remain essential to the Air Force -- and the U.S. military as a whole -- for decades to come, UAVs promise to progressively overtake human pilots in more and more mission areas. The problem is simple. Humans are becoming the limiting factor in modern flight. The human body will be increasingly unable to endure the g-forces necessary to "jink" and evade the newest anti-aircraft missiles. The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is working on autonomous aerial refueling that will allow the endurance of UAVs to be measured in days and weeks rather than hours -- far too long for a human pilot to stay aloft in a cramped cockpit.



Indeed, as autonomous systems improve, UAVs will be capable of more missions once considered the sole purview of human-piloted aircraft. And the removal of the cockpit, ejection seat, instrument panel, flight controls and life-support system substantially improves aerodynamics and reduces weight, which can then be allocated to fuel capacity or mission payload. This is simply an inevitable evolution.

Recognizing one's own looming obsolescence is not an easy intellectual exercise, even if the future is still a decade away. Though the Air Force has many missions that do not involve pilots -- most notably satellite and ballistic missile operations -- its raison d'etre has always been manned flight. Boil the Air Force down to one issue, one mission, and you can only end up in one place: the cockpit.

So the Air Force is faced with the question: In a service that defines itself through its pilots, what is airpower without them? The Air Force will grapple with this fundamental and difficult question for the next decade. Institutional shifts -- toward space, for example -- will one day make the Air Force a different kind of service. But making a power play for control over UAVs -- and the funding that comes with it -- is hardly a sign of real institutional understanding of looming change. The true intellectual exercise for the Air Force is understanding that the latest F-22 Raptor stealth fighter is not the future of military aviation but the last gasp of its past. Along with the F-35 Lightning II, the F-22 will serve for decades, perhaps with great distinction, but it will be the last manned U.S. combat fighter aircraft. Its obsolescence was built-in, along with its instrument panel and flight controls.

Hyderabad blasts kill 41, CM calls meet




HYDERABAD: At least 42 people, including five women and seven students, have been killed and 50 injured in two explosions at a crowded park and a popular eatery in Hyderabad on Saturday evening, three months after the Mecca Masjid blasts.

The week-end outing at the popular Gokul Chat shop at Kothi locality turned into a tragedy when a deafening explosion ripped through it killing 32 people and wounding 21, police said on Sunday.

Five minutes earlier, 10 people, most of them from outside the state, were killed and 29 injured in another blast in an open air auditorium in Lumbini Park near the state secretariat in the heart of the city when a laser show was underway, they said.

The blast at the auditorium, where 500 people were present, was so powerful that some bodies were flung in the air. Among the dead at the Lumbini Park were two students from Ahmedabad.

Four Railways employee are among those killed in the blasts.

The condition of some of the injured was stated to be serious, police said.

Hours after the twin blasts, the city police recovered a live bomb from Dilsukhnagar area and defused it in time, averting another tragedy.

The bomb was planted underneath a foot-over-bridge with a timer set for 9.30 pm, police sources said.

The near-simultaneous blasts at Lumbini Park and Gokul Chat Bhandar were triggered by cell-phone timers, city Police Commissioner Balwinder Singh said


India has suffered a series of recent attacks that authorities have blamed on Islamic militants seeking to upset a peace process between India and Pakistan and stir Hindu-Muslim violence.

"We're seeing a pattern of attacks every two to three months somewhere or other in the country on soft targets," said Ajai Sahni, head of the New Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management.

In the deadliest, seven blasts hit financial hub Mumbai's rail network, killing 186 people in July 2006.

About 40 per cent of Hyderabad's 6.5 million people are Muslim



Uma Sudhir
Sunday, August 26, 2007 (Hyderabad)
Andhra Pradesh and several places across the country, including Mumbai, are on high alert after two bomb blasts in Hyderabad killed 41 people and injured 60 others.

For the people in the city, it was meant to be an evening of weekend fun that terror turned into a tragedy.

Two simultaneous blasts took place at around 7:40 pm on Saturday, one at the Laser Show open air theatre adjacent to Lumbini Park and another at an eatery in the Sultan Bazaar-Koti area of Hyderabad.

The Lumbini Park is a government-run public park that is right oppposite the state secretariat from where the government operates.

''Maintain calm, don't believe or spread rumours, it is an emergency, I request every citizen to cooperate,'' said Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, Chief Minister, Andhra Pradesh.

Investigating officers told NDTV that the explosive material used was possibly ammonium nitrate and neogel that is manufactured in a Nagpur factory and metallic balls and shrapnel made the explosion more deadly.

''We will try to ensure that the guilty are brought to book. We have sounded a red alert and tried to ensure there is no untoward incident,'' said Jana Reddy, Home Minister, Andhra Pradesh.

Even as a red alert was sounded all over Andhra Pradesh, the police defused a bomb in Malakpet, that appeared to be similar to the bomb that went off at Koti.

There were also reports of explosive material being found in Dilsukhnagar area and Moosarambagh as well.

The serial blasts come hardly three months after the terror attack at the Mecca Masjid.

Why is Hyderabad becoming a soft target for terror attacks?

While that's a question that investigating agencies will have to probe and answer, the immediate task is to ensure all security measures are taken to restore public confidence and ensure matters don't get out of hand.

Blast probe

No outfit has so far claimed responsibility for the blasts, but reports suggest the banned militant outfit Harkat-ul-Jehadi Islami militant could be involved.

Teams from the Centre and various states have begun reaching Hyderabad to investigate the twin blasts in the heart of the city.

A Central Home Ministry team from Delhi will be in Hyderabad on Sunday to review the situation. A CBI team is already probing the attacks and an Anti Terror Squad team from Maharashtra is also expected in Hyderabad.

Investigative agencies are examining the possible role of Mohammed Abdul Sahed alias Bilal also believed to be behind the Mecca Masjid blast in Hyderabad in May.

Bilal, who took over the command of HUJI on October 12, 2005, has been on the list of most wanted terrorists

Bilal, who is believed to be in Karachi, is also wanted for the blasts on the Samjhauta Express in February that left 68 people dead.

According to reports, mobile phones may have been used to trigger the twin blasts in Hyderabad. Cell phones were used in the Mecca Masjid blasts in May.

Time devices may have been used in Saturday's twin blasts. Such devices were used in the Mecca Masjid blast in May.

According to investigators, Neogel 90, an emulsifier manufactured in Nagpur and Ammonium Nitrate both class 2 explosives, were used in the explosive devices in Koti blast.

Help line numbers for victims: 040-23202833, 09440815858, 09440815456

National Intelligence Estimate: An Update to "Prospects for Iraq's Stability"

Key Judgments

There have been measurable but uneven improvements in Iraq’s security situation
since our last National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq in January 2007. The steep
escalation of rates of violence has been checked for now, and overall attack levels across Iraq have fallen during seven of the last nine weeks. Coalition forces, working with Iraqi forces, tribal elements, and some Sunni insurgents, have reduced al-Qa’ida in Iraq’s (AQI) capabilities, restricted its freedom of movement, and denied it grassroots support in some areas. However, the level of overall violence, including attacks on and casualties among civilians, remains high; Iraq’s sectarian groups remain unreconciled; AQI retains the ability to conduct high-profile attacks; and to date, Iraqi political leaders remain unable to govern effectively. There have been modest improvements in economic output, budget execution, and government finances but fundamental structural problems continue to prevent sustained progress in economic growth and living conditions.

We assess, to the extent that Coalition forces continue to conduct robust
counterinsurgency operations and mentor and support the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF),
that Iraq’s security will continue to improve modestly during the next six to 12 months but that levels of insurgent and sectarian violence will remain high and the Iraqi Government will continue to struggle to achieve national-level political reconciliation and improved governance. Broadly accepted political compromises required for sustained security, long-term political progress, and economic development are unlikely to emerge unless there is a fundamental shift in the factors driving Iraqi political and security developments.

Political and security trajectories in Iraq continue to be driven primarily by Shia
insecurity about retaining political dominance, widespread Sunni unwillingness to
accept a diminished political status, factional rivalries within the sectarian communities resulting in armed conflict, and the actions of extremists such as AQI and elements of the Sadrist Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM) militia that try to fuel sectarian violence. Two new drivers have emerged since the January Estimate: expanded Sunni opposition to AQI and Iraqi expectation of a Coalition drawdown. Perceptions that the Coalition is withdrawing probably will encourage factions anticipating a power vacuum to seek local security solutions that could intensify sectarian violence and intra-sectarian competition. At the same time, fearing a Coalition withdrawal, some tribal elements and Sunni groups probably will continue to seek accommodation with the Coalition to strengthen themselves for a post- Coalition security environment.

• Sunni Arab resistance to AQI has expanded in the last six to nine months but has not yet translated into broad Sunni Arab support for the Iraqi Government or widespread willingness to work with the Shia. The Iraqi Government’s Shia leaders fear these groups will ultimately side with armed opponents of the government, but the Iraqi Government has supported some initiatives to incorporate those rejecting AQI into Interior Ministry and Defense Ministry elements.

• Intra-Shia conflict involving factions competing for power and resources probably will intensify as Iraqis assume control of provincial security. In Basrah, violence has escalated with the drawdown of Coalition forces there. Local militias show few signs of reducing their competition for control of valuable oil resources and territory.

• The Sunni Arab community remains politically fragmented, and we see no prospective
leaders that might engage in meaningful dialogue and deliver on national agreements.

• Kurdish leaders remain focused on protecting the autonomy of the Kurdish region and
reluctant to compromise on key issues.The IC assesses that the emergence of “bottom-up” security initiatives, principally among Sunni Arabs and focused on combating AQI, represent the best prospect for improved security over the next six to 12 months, but we judge these initiatives will only translate into widespread political accommodation and enduring stability if the Iraqi Government accepts and supports them. A multi-stage process involving the Iraqi Government providing support and legitimacy for such initiatives could foster over the longer term political reconciliation between the participating Sunni Arabs and the national government. We also assess that under some conditions “bottom-up initiatives” could pose risks to the Iraqi Government.

• We judge such initiatives are most likely to succeed in predominantly Sunni Arab areas, where the presence of AQI elements has been significant, tribal networks and identities are strong, the local government is weak, sectarian conflict is low, and the ISF tolerate Sunni initiatives, as illustrated by Al Anbar Province.

• Sunni Arab resistance to AQI has expanded, and neighborhood security groups,
occasionally consisting of mixed Shia-Sunni units, have proliferated in the past several months. These trends, combined with increased Coalition operations, have eroded AQI’s operational presence and capabilities in some areas.

• Such initiatives, if not fully exploited by the Iraqi Government, could over time also shift greater power to the regions, undermine efforts to impose central authority, and reinvigorate armed opposition to the Baghdad government.

• Coalition military operations focused on improving population security, both in and
outside of Baghdad, will remain critical to the success of local and regional efforts until sectarian fears are diminished enough to enable the Shia-led Iraqi Government to fully support the efforts of local Sunni groups.

Iraqi Security Forces involved in combined operations with Coalition forces have
performed adequately, and some units have demonstrated increasing professional competence. However, we judge that the ISF have not improved enough to conduct
major operations independent of the Coalition on a sustained basis in multiple locations and that the ISF remain reliant on the Coalition for important aspects of logistics and combat support.

• The deployment of ISF units from throughout Iraq to Baghdad in support of security
operations known as Operation Fardh al-Qanun marks significant progress since last
year when large groups of soldiers deserted rather than depart their home areas, but
Coalition and Iraqi Government support remains critical.

• Recently, the Iraqi military planned and conducted two joint Army and police large-scale security operations in Baghdad, demonstrating an improving capacity for operational command and control.

• Militia and insurgent influences continue to undermine the reliability of some ISF units, and political interference in security operations continues to undermine Coalition and ISF efforts.

• The Maliki government is implementing plans to expand the Iraqi Army and to increase its overall personnel strength to address critical gaps, but we judge that significant security gains from those programs will take at least six to 12 months, and probably longer, to materialize. The IC assesses that the Iraqi Government will become more precarious over the next six to 12 months because of criticism by other members of the major Shia coalition (the Unified Iraqi Alliance, UIA), Grand Ayatollah Sistani, and other Sunni and Kurdish parties. Divisions between Maliki and the Sadrists have increased, and Shia factions have explored alternative coalitions aimed at constraining Maliki.

• The strains of the security situation and absence of key leaders have stalled internal political debates, slowed national decisionmaking, and increased Maliki’s vulnerability to alternative coalitions.

• We judge that Maliki will continue to benefit from recognition among Shia leaders that searching for a replacement could paralyze the government. Population displacement resulting from sectarian violence continues, imposing burdens
on provincial governments and some neighboring states and increasing the danger of
destabilizing influences spreading across Iraq’s borders over the next six to 12 months. The polarization of communities is most evident in Baghdad, where the Shia are a clear majority in more than half of all neighborhoods and Sunni areas have become surrounded by predominately Shia districts. Where population displacements have led to significant sectarian separation, conflict levels have diminished to some extent because warring communities find it more difficult to penetrate communal enclaves.

The IC assesses that Iraq’s neighbors will continue to focus on improving their leverage in Iraq in anticipation of a Coalition drawdown. Assistance to armed groups, especially from Iran, exacerbates the violence inside Iraq, and the reluctance of the Sunni states that are generally supportive of US regional goals to offer support to the Iraqi Government probably bolsters Iraqi Sunni Arabs’ rejection of the government’s legitimacy.

• Over the next year Tehran, concerned about a Sunni reemergence in Iraq and US efforts to limit Iranian influence, will continue to provide funding, weaponry, and training to Iraqi Shia militants. Iran has been intensifying aspects of its lethal support for select groups of Iraqi Shia militants, particularly the JAM, since at least the beginning of 2006. Explosively formed penetrator (EFP) attacks have risen dramatically.

• Syria has cracked down on some Sunni extremist groups attempting to infiltrate fighters into Iraq through Syria because of threats they pose to Syrian stability, but the IC now assesses that Damascus is providing support to non-AQI groups inside Iraq in a bid to increase Syrian influence.

• Turkey probably would use a range of measures to protect what it perceives as its
interests in Iraq. The risk of cross-border operations against the People’s Congress of Kurdistan (KG) terrorist group based in northern Iraq remains.We assess that changing the mission of Coalition forces from a primarily counterinsurgency and stabilization role to a primary combat support role for Iraqi
forces and counterterrorist operations to prevent AQI from establishing a safehaven
would erode security gains achieved thus far. The impact of a change in mission on Iraq’s political and security environment and throughout the region probably would vary in intensity and suddenness of onset in relation to the rate and scale of a Coalition redeployment. Developments within the Iraqi communities themselves will be decisive in determining political and security trajectories.

• Recent security improvements in Iraq, including success against AQI, have depended
significantly on the close synchronization of conventional counterinsurgency and
counterterrorism operations. A change of mission that interrupts that synchronization
would place security improvements at risk.

'Last Supper' Syndrome Plagues Nepal's Royal Family

Saturday 25th of August 2007 Are Fridays and feasts unlucky for the royal family of Nepal?

Such a strong streak of superstition runs through the kingdom, nourished by history that shows that many of the momentous events concerning the royals either occurred on a Friday or after a feast, with the greatest catastrophe befalling after a Friday banquet.

The beginning of the end of Nepal's 238-year-old Shah dynasty of kings can be traced to June 2001, on a Friday when the then king Birendra went to attend a family dinner in his fortified palace.

The feast turned into a midnight massacre with the monarch and nine members of the royal family dying in a mysterious shootout blamed on the then crown prince Dipendra, who too perished in the national tragedy.

After inheriting his brother's throne, when King Gyanendra decided to take the reins of the country in his own hands, he sacked prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba after a lavish dinner with the unsuspecting premier and his wife.

During the 15 months that the king ruled Nepal with absolute power, many of his major decisions were taken during dinners with his advisors and generals, all of whom proved disasters and stoked public discontent that brought his downfall.

The palace's dinner diplomacy failed spectacularly this year when the royal family held three days' feasting to celebrate the king's 61st birthday.

All foreign diplomats, ministers and senior government officials invited to the black tie dinner last month turned down the invitation, deeming it politically incorrect to attend.

Besides the diplomatic snub, the palace also had to endure protests by the Maoists, who began a fresh campaign for the abolition of monarchy and curtailing of state budget for the royal family.

A tabloid even dubbed the birthday feasts 'the last supper', conjecturing that it would be the last birthday celebrated by Gyanendra as king.

A fresh turn of the screw followed this month after a dinner party thrown to celebrate the 80th birthday of Queen Mother, Ratna.

Soon after the celebration, the royal family was hit by a jolt from the blue. Under pressure from the Maoists, the government formed a ministerial team to nationalise the king's inherited property.

Though given 15 days to do its work, the team moved like lightning, beginning the takeover of seven palaces within 72 hours of its inception.

On Friday, King Gyanendra and Queen Komal left their official residence, the Narayanhity royal palace in the capital, to take up residence in the Nagarjuna mansion on the outskirts of Kathmandu valley.

One of the king's ancestors had received the land as dowry and the king's father, Mahendra, had begun building a mansion on the extensive property.

Soon after his ascension, King Gyanendra renovated the sprawling mansion, adding a swimming pool, tennis court and helipad.

Though the Nagarjuna residence is not among the seven palaces taken over by the government, it remains to be seen how long it would remain in the possession of the royal family.

There's one silver lining, however.

The crucial election on Nov 22, which will decide if the king keeps his crown or becomes a commoner, falls on a Thursday

August 24, 2007

The Small World of FOIA Brokers



http://www.intelligenceonline.com/
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) which provides access to confidential government papers in the U.S. and Britain is being used by private firms to business intelligence ends.

In a study on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in the United States, the Coalition of Journalists for Open Government revealed that 60% of requests officially submitted under the law emanate from the private sector. Companies which work for the government use the FOIA to examine the internal processes leading to the signing of contracts and to glean details of the bids submitted by their competitors. In both the United States and Britain (where a FOIA was introduced in 2000), private groups funnel most of their requests for information from FOIA through highly specialized law firms and business intelligence concerns (see graph below).

The companies in question, which know the FOIA in and out and can submit a large number of requests, offer highly specific research services and, above all, anonymity to their customers. Some consultants even propose helping companies to draft the tender documents they will submit to government agencies in such a way that their competitors won’t gain access to sensitive information by using the FOIA themselves.

American firms specializing in FOIA research are well established and often focus on a specific sector (for instance, finance, government contracts, the environment). Their British counterparts are smaller and mostly headed by former journalists, who were the first to use FOIA in the U.K. before the private sector caught on to the law’s advantages

Russia: The Unveiling of the Skat


Source: Stratfor
Stratfor's Free Intelligence Reports
August 24, 2007 16 06 GMT


Summary

A new Russian unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) called the Skat was on display Aug. 24 at Russia's MAKS 2007 air show. Though the UCAV is still under development and details about its capabilities remain unknown, the Skat should not be underestimated.

Analysis

A mock-up of a Russian unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) being developed by the MiG Aircraft Corp. was displayed Aug. 24 at the MAKS 2007 air show near Moscow. This UCAV, dubbed the Skat, is not to be underestimated, though much about its development and capabilities remains to be seen.

Vaguely similar in appearance to the U.S. Navy’s Northrop Grumman X-47B, the Skat is hardly a new product on the world arms market. UCAVs, which are designed to deploy weapons, are under development in a number of locations around the globe, particularly in Europe. Hence, it is no surprise that Russia, one of the world's chief arms suppliers, also is pursuing them.

Though the unveiling of a wooden UCAV mock-up should not be taken too seriously, it also should not be dismissed offhand. MiG reportedly has been working on the Skat for more than two years, and Russia claims to have committed substantial funds to the country's ongoing unmanned aerial vehicle development.

However, many details about the Skat's development and capabilities are still unknown. The tailless flying wing configuration is a delicate design and requires fly-by-wire technology. Further software development is necessary to allow such a plane to operate autonomously -- an important step up from a more rudimentary remote-control configuration. And indigenous software development capacity is limited in Russia. The Soviets have historically regarded computers solely as a military technology; consequently, software development remains a very underdeveloped sector of the country's economy, and workers with these kinds of skills are aggressively courted by foreign firms.

Reports that the first of two functional Skat test beds will actually have a built-in cockpit for a human pilot -- a substantial design change at a substantial additional cost -- suggest that Russia still has much to do to perfect its unmanned technology.

Furthermore, the development of stealth technology requires a lot of work. The Russians have never believed in such technology, and they have refused to invest in it since the 1970s because of their belief that radar technology would improve faster. (Moscow does not share Washington's faith in small numbers of complex, advanced systems.)

The Skat will not be the best UCAV on the market, and it certainly will not be the stealthiest. But the Russians will build it from the ground up with production efficiency in mind. If they succeed, they will deploy the Skat in numbers and formations larger than those envisioned by the Pentagon for comparable missions. They might suffer a higher rate of attrition, but one should not assume the Skat will not get the job done.

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Ways to Reduce Terrorist Threat from Regions with Weak Governmental Control


RAND Study Analyzes Ways to Reduce Terrorist Threat from Regions with Weak Governmental Control

Governments around the world should take a new approach to fighting terrorism by treating regions where governmental control is weak as a distinct category of security problems, according to a RAND Corporation study issued today.

It is not enough to simply focus on individual regions like the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and how they become havens for terrorists, according to the study titled “Ungoverned Territories: Understanding and Reducing Terrorism Risks.”
“Ungoverned territories are areas where the central government's authority is weak or non-existent, and they can generate a myriad of security problems,” said Angel Rabasa, a RAND senior policy analyst and lead author of the report. “All these areas have certain elements in common. In order to design appropriate responses, the factors that produce ungoverned territories and their effects on U.S. security interests need to be analyzed and understood.”

The report by RAND, a nonprofit research organization, notes that ungoverned territories are pervasive throughout the world. Based on the dominant features of each of these territories, Rabasa and his colleagues identify three basic types of ungoverned territories, each with a different kind of prescribed policy response:

Contested governance. Local forces are actively challenging the government's authority. In these cases, military assistance to a friendly government would be appropriate.
Incomplete governance. The ruling government lacks the resources and the competencies to project effective rule into the region. Here, international assistance should focus on institution-building efforts.

Abdicated governance. The government has effectively abdicated its responsibility to produce public goods. One policy option in these cases would be to use development assistance as a tool to encourage these governments to assume their responsibilities in the neglected areas.
“Although ungoverned territories may have different sources that require different policy mixes, U.S. policy must always address the two sets of attributes that make some of these territories actual or potential terrorist sanctuaries – the lack of an effective state presence and the conduciveness of these territories to the presence of terrorist groups,” the report says.

Researchers examined eight specific regions on four continents, including both Muslim and non-Muslim regions: the Pakistani-Afghan border region; the Arabian Peninsula; the Sulawesi-Mindanao arc in Southeast Asia; the East African corridor from Sudan and the Horn of Africa to Mozambique and Zimbabwe; West Africa from Nigeria westward; the North Caucasus in Russia; the Colombian-Venezuelan border; and the Guatemala-Chiapas (Mexico) border.

Ungoverned territories can be failed or failing states, poorly controlled land, or maritime borders where the central government's authority doesn't extend. They also can include airspace, such as the air routes through South and Central America and the Caribbean, which drug smugglers use to transport illegal drugs.

These ungoverned areas are not lacking all governance. However, the national government may be challenged by local or rebel forces; may be unable to maintain a presence stronger than competing groups; or may have just ceded its responsibilities in marginal areas to other entities, much as some states on the Arabian Peninsula rely on local tribes for border security.

In addition to the lack of an effective state presence, the ungoverned territories also have additional factors that can make them actual or potential terrorist sanctuaries, including remote geography, opportunities for illegal activities to fund terrorism, and even support from the native population through cultural ties.

Many of the international crises that have prompted U.S. intervention since the end of the Cold War have come from ungoverned territories. Until recently, these territories were of little interest to the U.S. national security community unless – like the coca-growing areas of South America during the 1990s “war on drugs” – they generated problems for the United States that required action.

The recognition that the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 evolved out of al-Qaeda's formation in Afghanistan has led many national security experts to believe that the front lines of the war on terrorism are in these ungoverned territories.

The study says the U.S. government's main current focus is addressing specific problems that arise from ungoverned territories, such as terrorism, narcotics trafficking, illegal arms trafficking, and proliferation of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear materials and weapons.

But the report recommends specific steps that include: re-evaluating development assistance as a tool; promoting competent government practices; helping friendly governments improve roads, medical systems, law enforcement and other infrastructure; addressing profound official corruption directly; denying terrorists local sources of income; and making terrorists' “invisibility” more difficult to achieve.

Richard H. Solomon, president of the U.S. Institute of Peace, praised the report. “At a time when notions of “nation building” are held in low repute, this book provides a well-structured assessment of the dynamics of ungovernability and realistic guidelines for economic and security assistance programs,” Solomon said.

The study was conducted in the Strategy and Doctrine Program of RAND Project AIR FORCE, a federally funded research and development center for studies and analysis aimed at providing independent policy alternatives for the U.S. Air Force.

In addition to Rabasa, other authors of the study were: Peter Chalk, Kim Cragin, Theodore W. Karasik, Jennifer D.P. Moroney, and John E. Peters, all of RAND; Lt. Commander Steven Boraz, a U.S. Naval Fellow at RAND; and Kevin A. O'Brien, formerly of RAND.

The report is available at www.rand.org.

Israel and Syria:The Military Balance and Prospects of War

Israel and Syria:

The Military Balance and

Prospects of War

Anthony H. Cordesman


Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy
acordesman@aol.com
With the Assistance of Ionut C. Popescu
Working Draft, Revised: August 15, 2007

Click

Please note that this document is a working draft and will be revised regularly. To comment, or to provide suggestions and corrections, please e-mail the author at acordesman@aol.com.

LATIN AMERICA’S NEW SECURITY REALITY:IRREGULAR ASYMMETRIC CONFLICT


In 2005, Dr. Manwaring wrote a monograph entitled Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, Bolivarian Socialism, and Asymmetric Warfare. It came at a time when the United States and Venezuela were accelerating a verbal sparing match regarding which country was destabilizing Latin America more. President Chavez shows no sign of standing down; he slowly and deliberately centralizes his power in Venezuela, and carefully and adroitly articulates his Bolivarian dream (the idea of a Latin American Liberation Movement against U.S. economic and political imperialism). Yet, most North Americans dismiss Chavez as a “nut case,” or—even if he is a threat to the security and stability of the Hemisphere—the possibilities of that threat coming to fruition are too far into the future to worry about. Dr. Manwaring’s intent is to explain in greater depth what President Chavez is doing and how he is doing it. First, he explains that Hugo Chavez’s threat is straightforward, and that it is being translated into a consistent, subtle, ambiguous, and ambitious struggle for power that is beginning to insinuate itself into political life in much of the Western Hemisphere. Second, he shows how President Chavez is encouraging his Venezuelan and other followers to pursue a confrontational, populist, and nationalistic agenda that will be achieved only by (1) radically changing the traditional politics of the Venezuelan state—and other Latin American states—to that of “direct” (totalitarian) democracy; (2) destroying North American hegemony throughout all of Latin America by conducting an irregular Fourth-Generation War “Super Insurgency”; and, (3) country-by-country, building a great new Bolivarian state out of a phased Program for the Liberation of Latin America.

DOWNLOAD THE MONOGRAM

Max G. Manwaring
August 2007

EXCERPTS
President of Venezuela with the unified politicaleconomic-social-informational-military instruments of power of the nation-state. In turn, that can allow him the singular pursuit of his political-strategic objectives. At a minimum, then, Venezuela may be becoming capable of helping to destabilize large parts of Latin America. The political purpose of any given destabilization effort would be to prepare the way to force a radical restructuring of a target country’s government and
economy—and bring it under Venezuelan politicaleconomic influence.Hugo Chavez understands that war is no longer limited to using military violence to bring about desired political-economic-social change. Rather, all means that can be brought to bear on a given situation must be used to compel a targeted government to do one’s will. He will tailor his campaign to his adversaries’ politicaleconomic- cultural-military vulnerabilities, and to their psychological precepts. This is the basis of Chavez’s instruction to the Venezuelan armed forces, and their invited foreign guests, at the “1st Military Forum on
Fourth Generation War and Asymmetric War” in 2004. The charge to the forum was to develop a doctrinal paradigm change from conventional military to people’s war. He said: “I call upon everybody to start an . . . effort to apprehend . . . the ideas, concepts, and doctrine of asymmetric war.”51



...to deal with the challenges of irregular conflict, there are at least four doctrinal, educational, and cultural imperatives that the U.S. Army should consider and act upon:

• The study of the fundamental nature of conflict has always been the philosophical cornerstone for understanding conventional conflict. It is no less relevant to asymmetric irregular conflict. Thus, the Army should take the lead in
promulgating 21st century concepts, definitions, and doctrine for key terms such as “enemy,” “war,” “victory,” and “power.”

• Moreover, nontraditional interests centering on national and international stability need to be reexamined and redefined. At the same time, the application of all the instruments of national and international power—including the full
integration of legitimate civil and military coalition partners—to achieve political ends has to be rethought and redefined.

• As a corollary, the Army should also take the lead in revitalizing and expanding efforts that enhance interagency as well as international cultural awareness—such as civilian and military exchange programs, language training programs, culture orientation programs, and combined (multinational/multilateral) civilian and military exercises.

• Strategic leaders at all levels must understand the strategic and political-psychological implications of operational and tactical actions in contemporary conflict. In these terms, leaders must understand how force can be employed to achieve political ends, and the ways that... political considerations affect the use of force. Additionally, strategic leaders must understand the challenges of “ambiguity” so that they may be better prepared to deal with them.113

Additionally—but first—expanding U.S. Army roles, missions, force structure, doctrine, and developing new forms of indirect confrontation against irregular asymmetric 4GW forces will require: (1) new initiatives from the Executive Office of the Headquarters, U.S. Army, and G-3/5/7; (2) increased interagency engagement, in general; and, (3) in particular, robust Army involvement with the Department of State Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stability Operations (S/CRS).114 These recommendations are nothing radical. They are only the logical extensions of basic security strategy and national and international asset management. By accepting these realities and making the necessary cognitive and organizational adjustments, the United States can help to replace confrontation with cooperation and harvest the hope and fulfill the promise that a new multidimensional paradigm for dealing with asymmetric irregular conflict offers.

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India out of world's 'truly corrupt' group


24 Aug, 2007, 0952 hrs IST, IANS




WASHINGTON: Corruption in nearly half the world's nations is not getting much better but "a few, most notably India, managed to bootstrap themselves (just barely) out of the truly corrupt group," according to Forbes.

While a year ago, some 72 out of 158 nations surveyed by the international watchdog group Transparency International (TI) were classified as "corrupt," now 74 of 163 countries fall into the same category, the US business magazine reported.

"A few, most notably India, managed to bootstrap themselves (just barely) out of the truly corrupt group, while others, particularly Iran, dug themselves more firmly into that camp," it said.

Forbes' list of the most corrupt countries in the world is based on an index from 0 to 10 comprised of surveys of specialists, opinion leaders, business officials and human rights monitors who live, work or travel extensively in each of the countries ranked.

The higher the score, the less corrupt the country. Tied for No 1 this year, with a "score" of 9.6, are Finland, Iceland and New Zealand.

At the bottom, with a score of 1.8 is Haiti followed by Myanmar (2), Iraq (3), Guinea (Conakry) (4), Sudan (5), Democratic Republic Congo/Kinshasa (6), Chad (7), Bangladesh (8), Uzbekistan (9) and Equatorial Guinea (10).

Below 5, there are 119 countries out of 163, including such nations as Italy, Greece, South Africa, Brazil and China. Below 3 on the TI scale, some 47 nations drop off, though many are very close to the line.

Among the least corrupt nations, the United States has slipped to No 20 this year from No 17 last year, while France, Belgium, Ireland and Japan leap-frogged over the US in the rankings.

The top 10 - the world's least corrupt countries - has remained virtually unchanged with Finland, Iceland and New Zealand tied for the lead, followed closely by Denmark, Singapore and Sweden.



Further more

Results of the TI Bribe Payers Index 2006. The 30 countries ranked are among the leading international or regional exporters, whose combined global exports
represented 82 per cent of the world total in 2005.3 Higher scores reveal a lower propensity of companies from a country to offer bribes or undocumented extra payments when doing business abroad

The results show that there is a smaller range of scores than might be expected, with
Switzerland ranking first at 7.81 and India at the bottom with a score of 4.62. Therefore, with all countries falling well short of a perfect score of 10, the results show a considerable propensity for companies of all nationalities to bribe when operating abroad.

The Coming Balkan Caliphate: The Threat of Radical Islam to Europe and the West


Editorial Reviews

Link to Amazon

Review
"Anyone imagining that Moslem extremists must be seen as a threat only east of Suez should read Chris Deliso's alarming accounts of their activities in parts of the Balkans made vulnerable by wars and poverty." - David Binder, New York Times Central and Eastern European correspondent, 1961-2004.

"Chris Deliso is a veteran field reporter and one of the foremost experts on the Balkans. Unlike many of the mainstream 'parachute' journalists who drop in every time a new violent crisis erupts, Deliso lives in the region and therefore better understands the dynamics and political intrigues. This book presents a compelling glimpse into the much overlooked spread of radical Islam throughout the former Yugoslavia. A must-read for those who have prematurely declared the international intervention in the Balkans a "success story"." - Scott Taylor, award-winning Canadian war reporter and publisher, Esprit de Corps Magazine

"Christopher Deliso provides critical insight into the hypocrisy of Western policy towards the Balkans, now an epicenter for European heroin distribution and processing and a conduit for illegal arms sales, both of which provide financing that sustains global terrorism. This book should be required reading for all members of the U.S. foreign policy establishment." - Sibel Edmonds, Former FBI translator and founder, National Security Whistleblowers Coalition

"Incisive, well-researched and thought-provoking, Christopher Deliso presents a must-read account of how Islamic fundamentalism arrived in the Balkans, and the threat it portends for the future." - Nebojsa Malic, Balkan Affairs columnist, Antiwar.com

Book Description

With all eyes currently focused on the widening conflict in the Middle East and the terrorist threat coming from the region, the West is in danger of overlooking a potent new battleground in the greater "war on terror"--the Balkans. This historically volatile region saw some of the worst violence of the late 20th century in the Yugoslav Wars of Secession. During these conflicts, stunningly shortsighted and politically motivated policies of the United States and its allies directly allowed Islamic mujahedin and terrorist-related entities to establish a foothold in the region--just as with the progenitors of the Taliban a decade earlier in Afghanistan. Although the 9/11 attacks caused a partial reassessment of Western policy, it may already be too late for a region still largely ignored. The proliferation of foreign fundamentalist groups has had a cancerous effect on traditional Balkan Islamic communities, challenging their legitimacy in unprecedented and often violent ways. Well-funded groups like the Saudi-backed Wahabbis continue to exploit internal schisms within local communities, while the international administrations in Bosnia and Kosovo have actually strengthened the grip of local mafia groups--business partners of terrorists. Worst of all, the Western peacekeepers' chronic "don't rock the boat" mentality has allowed extremist groups to operate unchallenged. Nevertheless, regional demographic and cultural trends, coinciding with an increasingly hostile attitude in the larger Muslim world over Western military actions and perceived symbolic provocations, indicate that the lawless Balkans will become increasingly valuable as a strategic base for Islamic radicals over the next two decades. Utilizing the post-al-Qaeda tactics of a decentralized jihad carried out through small, independent cells ("leaderless resistance") while seeking to fundamentally and violently remold Muslim societies, such Balkan-based extremists pose a unique and tangible threat to Western security.

About the Author
CHRISTOPHER DELISO, an American journalist and travel writer based in the Balkans, has been investigating radical Islamic trends in the region for the past six years, in the process discovering emerging threats and groups that had been obscurely or completely unknown to the outside world. Deliso, who holds a master's degree in Byzantine Studies from Oxford University, is director of Balkanalysis.com, a leading independent Balkan news web site. He also serves as field analyst for the Economics Intelligence Unit, London, on Macedonian politics. His freelance articles on Balkan politics, economics, and security issues have been published widely in the mainstream and alternative media in America and abroad.

The U.S. and Venezuela: Constitutional Worlds Apart

Friday, Aug 24, 2007
By: Stephen Lendman

Although imperfect, no country anywhere is closer to a model democracy than Venezuela under President Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias. In contrast, none is a more shameless failure than the U.S.A., but it was true long before the age of George W. Bush. The difference under his regime is that the mask is off revealing a repressive state masquerading as a democratic republic. This article compares the constitutional laws of each country and how they're implemented. The result shows worlds-apart differences between these two nominally democratic states - one that's real, impressive and improving and the other that's mostly pretense and under George Bush lawless, corrupted, in tatters, and morally depraved.

US Constitutional Law from the Beginning

Before they're old enough to understand its meaning, young US children are taught to "pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands," and, by inference, its bedrock supreme constitutional law of the land. At that early age, they likely haven't yet heard of it, but soon will with plenty of misinformation about a document far less glorious than it's made out to be.

This article draws on Ferdinand Lundberg's powerfully important 1980 book, "Cracks in the Constitution," that's every bit as relevant today as then. In it, he deconstructs the nation's foundational legal document, separating myth from reality about what he called "the great totempole of American society." He analyzed it, piece by piece, revealing its intentionally crafted flaws. It's not at all the "Rock of Ages" it's cracked up to be, but students at all levels don't learn that in classrooms from teachers going along with the deception or who simply don't know the truth about their subject matter.

The Constitution falls far short of a "masterpiece of political architecture," but it's even worse than that. It was the product of very ordinary scheming politicians (not the Mt. Rushmore types they're portrayed as in history books) and their friends crafting the law of the land to serve themselves while leaving out the greater public that was nowhere in sight in 1787 Philadelphia. Unlike the Venezuelan Constitution, discussed below, "The People" were never consulted or even considered, and nothing in the end was put to a vote beyond the state legislative bodies that had to ratify it. In contrast to popular myth, the framers crafted a Constitution that didn't constrain or fetter the federal government nor did they create a government of limited powers.

They devised a government of men, not laws, that was composed of self-serving devious officials who lied, connived, used or abused the law at their whim, and pretty much operated ad libitum to discharge their duties as they wished. In that respect, things weren't much different then from now except the times were simpler, the nation smaller, and the ambitions of those in charge much less far-reaching than today.

The Constitution can easily be read in 30 minutes or less and just as easily be misunderstood. The opening Preamble contains its sole myth referring to "We the people of the United States of America." The only people who mattered were white male property owners. All others nowhere entered the picture, then or mostly since, proving democracy operatively is little more than a fantasy. But try explaining that to people today thinking otherwise because that's all they were taught from the beginning to believe.

They were never told the American Revolution was nothing more than a minority of the colonists seceding from the British Empire planning essentially the same type government repackaged under new management. Using high-minded language in Article I, Section 8 of the supreme law of the land, the founders and their successors ignored the minimum objective all governments are, or should be, entrusted to do - "provide for....(the) general welfare" of their people under a system of constitutional law serving everyone. But that's not its only flaw build in by design.

Our revered document is called "The Living Constitution," and Article VI, Section 2 defines it as the supreme law of the land. In fact, it's loosely structured for governments to do as they wish or not wish with the notion of a "government of the people, by the people, for the people" a nonstarter. "The People" don't govern either directly or through representatives, in spite of commonly held myths. "The People" are governed, like it or not, the way sitting governments choose to do it. As a consequence, "The Living Constitution" was a "huge flop" and still is.

Setting the Record Straight on the Framers

Popular myth aside, the 55 delegates who met in Philadelphia from May to September, 1787 were very ordinary self-serving, privileged, property-owning white men. They weren't extraordinarily learned, profound in their thinking or in any way special. Only 25 attended college (that was pretty rudimentary at the time), and Washington never got beyond the fifth grade.

Lundberg described them as a devious bunch of wheeler-dealers likely meeting in smoke-filled rooms (literally or figuratively) cutting deals the way things work today. He called them no "all-star political team" (except for George Washington) compared to more distinguished figures who weren't there like Jefferson, Adams (the most noted constitutional theorist of his day), John Jay (the first Supreme Court Chief Justice), Thomas Paine, Patrick Henry and others. Madison and Alexander Hamilton, who did attend, were virtual unknowns at the time, yet ever since Madison has been mischaracterized as the Constitution's father. In fact, he only played a modest role.

The delegates came to Philadelphia in May, 1887, assembled, did their work, sent it to the states, and left in a despondent mood. They disliked the final product, some could barely tolerate it, yet 39 of the 55 attendees knowingly signed a document they believed flawed while we today extoll it like it came down from Mt. Sinai. The whole process we call a first-class historical event was, in fact, an entirely routine uninspiring political caucus producing no "prodigies of statecraft, no wonders of political (judgment), no vaulting philosophies, no Promethean vistas." Contradicting everything we've been "indoctrinated from ears to toes" to believe, the notion that the Constitution is "a document of salvation....a magic talisman," or a gift to the common man is pure fantasy.

The central achievement of the convention, and a big one (until the Civil War changed things), was the cobbling together of disparate and squabbling states into a union. It held together, tenuously at best, for over seven decades but not actually until Appomattox "at bayonet point." The convention succeeded in gaining formal approval for what the leading power figures wanted and then got it rammed through the state ratification process to become the law of the land.

After much wheeling and dealing, they achieved mightily but not without considerable effort. Enough states balked to thwart the whole process and had to be won over with concessions like legitimizing slavery for southern interests and more. Then consider the Bill of Rights, why they were added, for whom, and why adopting them made the difference. It came down to no Bill of Rights, no Constitution, but they weren't for "The People" who were out of sight and mind.

These "glorified" first 10 Amendments were first rejected twice, then only added to assure enough state delegates voted to ratify the final document with them included. Many in smaller states were displeased enough to want a second convention that might have derailed the whole process had it happened. To prevent it, concessions were made including adding the Bill of Rights because they addressed key state delegate concerns like the following:

-- prohibitions against quartering troops in their property,

-- unreasonable searches and seizures there as well,

-- the right to have state militias,

-- the right of people to bear arms, but not as the 2nd Amendment today is interpreted,

-- the rights of free speech, the press, religion, assembly and petition, all to serve monied and propertied interests alone - not "The People,"

-- due process of law with speedy public trials for the privileged, and

-- various other provisions worked out through compromise to become our acclaimed Bill of Rights. Two additional amendments were proposed but rejected by the majority. They would have banned monopolies and standing armies, matters of great future import that might have made a huge difference thereafter. We'll never know for sure.

In the end and in spite of its defects, the framers felt it was the best they could do at the time and kept their fingers crossed it would work to their advantage. None of them suggested or wanted "a sheltered haven....for the innumerable heavily laden, bedraggled, scrofulous and oppressed of the earth." On the contrary, they intended to keep them that way meaning things weren't much different then than now, and the founders weren't the noble characters they're made out to be.

There were no populists or civil libertarians among them with men like Washington and Jefferson (who was abroad and didn't attend) being slave-owners. In fact, they were little more than crass opportunists who willfully acted against the will of "The People" they ignored and disdained. In spite of it, they're practically deified and ranked with the Apostles, and one of them (Washington) sits in the most prominent spot atop Mt. Rushmore.

The constitutional convention ended September 17, 1787 "in an atmosphere verging on glumness." Of the 55 attending delegates, 39 signed as a pro forma exercise before sending it to the states with power to accept or reject it. Again, "The People" were nowhere in sight in Philadelphia or at the state level where the real tussle began before the founders could declare victory.

What Was Achieved and What Wasn't

Contrary to popular myth, the new government wasn't constrained by constitutional checks and balances of the three branches created within it. In fact, then and since, sitting governments have acted expediently, with or without popular approval, and within or outside the law. In this respect, our system functions no differently than most others operating as we do. It's accomplished through "the narrowest possible interpretations of the Constitution," but it's free to go "further afield under broader or fanciful official interpretations." History records many examples under noted Presidents like Lincoln, T. and F. Roosevelt and Wilson along with less distinguished ones like Reagan, Clinton, Nixon, GHW Bush and his bad seed son, the worst ever of a bad lot.

Key to understanding the American system is that "government is completely autonomous, detached, (and) in a realm of its own" with its "main interest (being) economic (for the privileged) at all times." Constitutional shackles and constraining barriers are pure fantasy. Regardless of law, custom or anything else, sitting US governments have always been freelancing and able to operate as they please. They've also consistently been unresponsive to the public interest, uncaring and disinterested in the will and needs of the majority, and generally able to get around or remake the law to suit their purpose. George W. Bush is only the latest and most extreme example of a tradition begun under Washington, who when elected unanimously (by virtual coronation) was one of the two richest men in the country.

The Legislative Branch

The Constitution then and since confers unlimited powers on the government constituted under its three branches of the Congress, Executive and Judiciary. Article I (with seven in all plus 27 Amendments) deals with the legislative branch. Section 8, Sub-section 18 states Congress has power "to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution....or in any department or officer thereof." It's for government then to decide what's "necessary" and "proper," meaning the sky's the limit under the concept of sovereignty.

The Executive and Judiciary branches are dealt with below with the three branches comprising a labyrinthine system the framers devised under the Roman notion of "divide and rule" as follows:

-- a powerful (and at times omnipotent) chief executive at the top,

-- a bicameral legislature with a single member in the upper chamber able to subvert all others in it through the power of the filibuster (meaning pirate in Spanish),

-- a committee system controlled mostly by seniority or a political powerbroker,

-- delay and circumlocution deliberately built into the system,

-- a separate judiciary able to overrule the Congress and Executive, but too often is a partner, not an adversary,

-- staggered elections to assure continuity by preventing too many officials being voted out together,

-- a two-party system with multiple constituencies, especially vulnerable to corruption and the influence of big (corporate) money that runs everything today making the whole system farcical, dishonest and a democracy only in the minds of the deceived and delusional.

The Judiciary

Article III of the Constitution establishes the Supreme Court, saying only: "The judicial power shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish." Congress is explicitly empowered to regulate the Court, but, in fact, the opposite often happens or, at times, it cuts both ways. The function of Congress is to make laws with the Court in place to interpret them and decide their constitutionality if challenged and it decides to adjudicate.

As for the common notion of "judicial review," it's nowhere mentioned in the Constitution nor did the framers authorize it. Nonetheless, courts use it to judge the constitutionality of laws in place and public sector body actions. They derive their power to do it by deduction from two separate parts of the Constitution: Article VI, Section 2 saying the Constitution, laws and treaties are the supreme law of the land and judges are bound by them; then in Article III, Section 1 saying judicial power applies to all cases, implying judicial review is allowed. Under this interpretation of the law, appointed judges, in theory, "have a power unprecedented in history - to annul acts of the Congress and President."

With or without this power, Lundberg makes a powerful case overall that the constitutional story comes down to a question of money and money arrangement - who gets it, how, why, when, where, what for, and under what conditions. Also addressed is who the law leaves out. The story has nothing whatever to do with guaranteeing life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (Jefferson's Orwellian language meaning property); establishing justice; upholding the rule of law equitably for everyone; promoting the general welfare; or securing the blessings of freedom for "The People" unconsidered, unimportant and ignored by the three branches of government serving monied and property interests only, of which they are a part.

The Executive Branch

Lundberg's theme is clear and unequivocal. Under US constitutional law, the President is the most powerful political official on earth, bar none under any other system of government. "The office he holds is inherently imperial," regardless of the occupant or how he governs, and the Constitution confers this on him. Unlike the British model, with the executive as a collectivity, the US system "is absolutely unique, and dangerously vulnerable" with one man in charge fully able to exploit his position. "The American President (stands) midway between a collective executive and an absolute dictator (and in times of war like now) becomes, in fact, quite constitutionally, a full-fledged dictator." Disturbingly, the public hasn't a clue about what's going on.

A single sentence, easily passed over or misunderstood, constitutes the essence of presidential power. It effectively grants the Executive a near-limitless source, only constrained to the degree he chooses. It's from Article II, Section 1 reading: "The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. Article II, Section 3 then almost nonchalantly adds: "The President shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed" without saying Presidents are virtually empowered to make laws as well as execute them even though nothing in the Constitution specifically permits this practice. More on that below.

To understand how the US government works, it's essential to know what executive power is, in fact, knowing it's concentrated in the hands of one man for good or ill. Also crucial is how Presidents are elected - "literally (by) electoral (unelected by the public) dummies" in an Electoral College. The scheme is a long-acknowledged constitutional anomaly as these state bodies are able to subvert the popular vote, never meet or consult like the College of Cardinals electing a Pope, and, in effect, reduce and corrupt the process into a shameless farce.

Once elected, it only gets worse because the power of the presidency is awesome and frightening. The nation's chief executive:

-- is commander-in-chief of the military functioning as a virtual dictator in times of war; although Article I, Section 8 grants only Congress that right, the President, in fact, can do it any time he wishes "without consulting anyone" and, of course, has done it many times;

-- can grant commutations or pardons except in cases of impeachment;

-- can make treaties that become the law of the land, with the advice and consent of two-thirds of the Senate (not ratification as commonly believed); can also terminate treaties with a mere announcement as George Bush did renouncing the important ABM Treaty with the former Soviet Union; in addition, and with no constitutional sanction, he can rule by decree through executive agreements with foreign governments that in some cases are momentous ones like those made at Yalta and Potsdam near the end of WW II. While short of treaties, they then become the law of the land.

-- can appoint administration officials, diplomats, federal judges with Senate approval, that's usually routine, or can fill any vacancy through (Senate) recess appointments; can also discharge any appointed executive official other than judges and statutory administrative officials;

-- can veto congressional legislation, and history shows through the book's publication they're sustained 96% of the time;

-- while Congress alone has appropriating authority, only the President has the power to release funds for spending by the executive branch or not release them;

-- Presidents also have a huge bureaucracy at their disposal, including powerful officials like the Secretaries of Defense, State, Treasury, and Homeland Security and the Attorney General in charge of the Justice Department;

-- Presidents also command center stage any time they wish. They can request and get national prime time television for any purpose with guaranteed extensive post-appearance coverage promoting his message with nary a disagreement with it on any issue;

-- throughout history, going back to George Washington, Presidents have issued Executive Orders (EOs) although the Constitution "nowhere implicitly or explicitly gives a President (the) power (to make) new law" by issuing "one-man, often far-reaching" EOs. However, Presidents have so much power they can do as they wish, only constrained by their own discretion.

-- George Bush also usurped "Unitary Executive" power to brazenly and openly declare what this section highlights - that the law is what he says it is. He proved it in six and a half years of subverting congressional legislation through a record-breaking number of unconstitutional "signing statements." - They rewrote over 1132 law provisions through 147 separate "statements," more than all previous Presidents combined. Through this practice, George Bush expanded presidential power well beyond the usual practices recounted above.

-- Presidents are, in fact, empowered to do almost anything not expressively forbidden in the Constitution, and very little is; more importantly, with a little ingenuity and lots of creative chutzpah, the President "can make almost any (constitutional) text mean whatever (he) wants it to mean" so, in fact, his authority is practically absolute or plenary. And the Supreme Court supports this notion as an "inherent power of sovereignty." If the US has sovereignty, it has all powers therein, and the President, as the sole executive, can exercise them freely without constitutional authorization or restraint.

In effect, "the President....is virtually a sovereign in his own person." Compared to the power of the President, Congress is mostly "a paper tiger, easily soothed or repulsed." The courts, as well, can be gotten around with a little creative exercise of presidential power, and in the case of George Bush, at times just ignoring their decisions when they disagree with his. As Lundberg put it: "One should never under-estimate the power of the President....nor over-estimate that of the Supreme Court. The supposed system of equitable checks and balances does not exist, in fact, (because Congress and the courts don't effectively use their constitutional authority)....the separation in the Constitution between legislative and the executive is wholly artificial."

Further, it's pure myth that the government is constrained by limited powers. Quite the opposite is true "which at the point of execution (resides in) one man," the President. In addition, "Until the American electorate creates effective political parties (which it never has done), Congress....will always be pretty much under (Presidents') thumb(s)." Under the "American constitutional system (the President) is very much a de facto king," and under George Bush a corrupted, devious, criminal and dangerous one.

As for impeaching and convicting a President for malfeasance, Article II, Section 4 states it can only be for "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors." Based on the historical record, it's near-impossible to do with no President ever having been removed from office this way, and only two were impeached, both unjustly. John Adams, the most distinguished constitutional theorist of his day, said it would take a national convulsion to remove a President by impeachment, which is not to say it won't ever happen and very likely one day will with no time better than the present to prove it.

In sum from the above, the US system of constitutional law is full of flaws and faults. "The People" were deliberately and willfully left out of the process proving the Constitution doesn't recognize democracy in America in spite of the commonly held view it does. In addition, the President, at his own discretion, can usurp dictatorial powers and end republican government by a stroke of his pen. That should awaken everyone to the clear and present danger that any time, for any reason, the President of the United States can declare a state of emergency, suspend the law of the land and rule by decree.

Constitutional Government in Venezuela

How does America's system of government contrast with rule under the 1999 Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela? Hugo Chavez was first elected president in December, 1998 and took office in February, 1999. He then held a national referendum so his people could decide whether to convene a National Constituent Assembly to draft a new constitution to embody his visionary agenda. It passed overwhelmingly followed three months later by elections to the National Assembly to which members of Chavez's MVR party and those allied with it won 95% of the seats. They then drafted the revolutionary ConstituciĆ³n de la Republica Bolivariana de Venezuela. It was put to a nationwide vote in December, 1999 and overwhelmingly approved, changing everything for the Venezuelan people.

It established a model humanistic participatory social democracy, unimaginable in the US, providing real (not imagined) checks and balances in the nation's five branches of government. They comprise the executive, legislative and judicial ones plus two others. One is the independent national electoral council that regulates and handles state and civil society organization electoral procedures to assure they conform to the law requiring free, fair and open elections. The other is a citizen or public power branch functioning as a unique institution. It lets ordinary people serve as ombudsmen to assure the other government branches comply with constitutionally-mandated requirements. This branch includes the attorney general, the defender of the people, and the comptroller general.

The Legislative Branch

Venezuela is governed under a unicameral legislative system called the National Assembly. It's composed of 167 members (compared to 535 in the two US Houses) elected to serve for five years and allowed to run two more times. It differs from the bicameral system in the US, but is broadly similar to governments like in the UK. Although it's bicameral, it's governed solely by publicly elected members of the House of Commons that includes the Prime Minister and his cabinet as members of Parliament. The upper House of Lords is merely token and advisory, there by tradition like the Queen, with no power to overrule the lower House that runs everything.

The Office of the President

The President is elected with a plurality of universally guaranteed suffrage. Article 56 of the Bolivarian Constitution states: "All persons have the right to be registered free of charge with the Civil Registry Office after birth, and to obtain public documents constituting evidence of the biological identity, in accordance with law." In addition, all Venezuelans are enfranchised to vote under one national standard and are encouraged to do it under a model democratic system with the vast majority in it actively participating.

In contrast, the US system is quite different. Precise voting rights qualifications are for the states to decide with no constitutionally mandated suffrage standard applying across the board for everyone. The result is many US citizens are denied their franchise right. They're unable to participate in the electoral process for a variety of reasons no democratic state should tolerate, but America built it into the system by design.

The Judicial System

Under Article 2 in The Bolivarian Constitution, the judicial system shares equal importance to the law of the land. But it wasn't always that way earlier when the Venezuelan judiciary had an odious reputation before Chavez was elected. It had a long history of corruption, a disturbing record of being beholden to political benefactors, and a tradition of failing to provide an adequate system of justice for most Venezuelans. Chavez vowed to change things and undertook a major restructuring effort after taking office. He put this government branch under the Supreme Tribunal of Justice and made it independent of the others. The law now requires those serving be elected by a two-thirds legislative majority (not the previous simple one),[1] and tighter requirements are in place regarding eligible candidates along with public hearings to vet them.

In addition, to root out long-standing corrupt practices, Chavez created a Judicial Restructuring Commission to review existing judgeships and replace those not fit to serve. All sitting judges with eight or more corruption charges pending are disqualified. It effectively eliminated 80% of those on the bench in short order and showed the extent of malfeasance in the national judicial culture. It also suggested the huge amount throughout the government from generations of institutionalized privilege. Those in power were licensed to steal the country blind and enrich themselves and foreign investors at the expense of the vast majority.

Reform in all areas of government is still a work in progress, including in the judiciary needing much of it. The process hasn't been perfect because of the enormity of the task. By the end of 2000, about 70% of sitting judges in the so-called capital region of Caracas, Miranda and Vargas states were replaced by provisional ones with charges of old judges removed for equally beholden new ones. It may be true and points to how hard the going is to change the long-standing culture of privilege and institute real democratic reforms throughout the government.

Nonetheless, the Constitution established Chavez's vision for a foundation and legal framework for revolutionary structural change. He's been working since to transform the nation incrementally into a model participatory social democracy serving all Venezuelans instead of for the privileged few alone the way it traditionally was in the past and how US framers designed American constitutional law. The differences between the two nations couldn't be more stark.

The spirit of the Venezuelan Bolivarian Constitution is stated straightaway in its Preamble:...."to establish a democratic, participatory and self-reliant, multiethnic and multicultural society in a just, federal and decentralized State that embodies the values of freedom, independence, peace, solidarity, the common good, the nation's territorial integrity, comity and the rule of law for this and future generations;"

It further "guarantees the right to life, work, learning, education, social justice and equality, without discrimination or subordination of any kind; promotes peaceful cooperation among nations and further strengthens Latin American integration in accordance with the principle of nonintervention and national self-determination of the people, the universal and indivisible guarantee of human rights, the democratization of imitational society, nuclear disarmament, ecological balance and environmental resources as the common and inalienable heritage of humanity;......"

This language would be unimaginable in the US Constitution, and, unlike our federal law, they're more than words. This is Hugo Chavez's commitment to all Venezuelans ordained under nine Title headings, 350 Articles, and 18 Temporary Provisions. It's a first class democratic document, little known in the West, that greatly outclasses and shames what US framers' enacted for themselves and privileged friends alone. Democracy was nowhere in sight then nor has it shown up since. In Venezuela under Hugo Chavez, it's resplendent, glorious, still imperfect and a work in progress, but heading in the right direction with newly proposed changes discussed below.

The contrast with America today couldn't be greater. The nation under George Bush is ruled by Patriot and Military Commissions Act justice under an institutionalized imperial system of militarized savage capitalism empowering the rich to exploit all others. A state of permanent war exists; civil liberties are disappearing and human rights are a nonstarter; dissent is a crime; social decay is growing; a culture of secrecy and growing fear prevail; torture is practically sanctified; injustice is tolerated; the dominant media function as virtual national thought-control police gatekeepers; and the law is what a boy-emperor president says it is. Aside from the privileged it serves, democracy in America is only in the minds of the bewildered and last of the true-believers who sooner or later will discover the truth.

Consider Venezuela's Bolivarian spirit in contrast. The people freely and openly choose their leaders in honest, independently monitored elections. They're unemcumbered by a farcical electoral college voting scheme (for Presidents) and a system of rigged electronic voting machine and other electoral engineered fraud corrupting the entire process sub rosa. They also have unimaginable benefits like free quality health and dental care (mandated in Articles 83 - 85) as a "fundamental social right and....responsibility of the state....to guarantee....to improve the quality of life and common welfare." It's administered through a national public health system proscribed from being privatized. That's how health delivery in America gets corrupted for profit. The result is 47 million and counting are uninsured, many millions more have too little coverage, and the cost of care is unaffordable for all but the well-off or those on Medicare, Medicaid (if qualify) or under disappearing company-paid plans.

The Constitution also enacted the principle of participatory democracy from the grassroots for everyone. It's mandated in Articles 166 and 192 establishing citizen assemblies as a constitutional right for ordinary people to be empowered to participate in governing along with their elected officials. Constitutionally guaranteed rights also ban discrimination; promote gender equity; and insure free speech; a free press; free, fair, and open elections; equal rights for indigenous people (assured a minimum three National Assembly legislative seats); and mandates government make quality free education available for all to the highest levels, as well as housing and an improved social security pension system for seniors, and much more.

Hugo Chavez brought permanent change, and most Venezuelans won't tolerate returning to the ugly past. Why should they? They never got these essential social services before. Under a leader who cares, they do now, and their lives improved enormously.

Other Venezuelan Constitutionally Guaranteed Rights

The Bolivarian Constitution is a glorious document, fundamentally different in spirit and letter from its US counterpart it shames by comparison. Before Chavez took office in February, 1999, Venezuela only paid lip service to civil liberties, human rights and needs. They're now mandated by law. It encompasses an impressive array of basic rights and essential services like government-paid health care, education, housing, employment and human dignity enforced and funded by a caring government as the law requires.

Article 58 in the Constitution also guarantees the right to "timely, true, and impartial" information "without censorship, in accordance with the principles of this constitution." The opposite is true in America where major media are state propaganda instruments for the privileged.

Articles 71 - 74 establish four types of popular national referenda never imagined or held in America outside the local or state level where they're often non-binding. The US is one of only five major democracies never to have permitted this type citizen participation. In Venezuela under Hugo Chavez, the practice is mandated by law and institutionalized to give people at the grass roots a say in running their government. Four types of referenda are allowed:

--consultative - for a popular, non-binding vote on "national transcendent" issues like trade agreements;

-- recall - applied to all elected officials up to the President;

-- approving - a binding vote to approve laws, constitutional amendments, and treaties relating to national sovereignty; and

-- rescinding - to rescind or change existing laws.

Referenda can be initiated by the National Assembly, the President, or by petition from 10 - 20% of registered voters, with different procedural requirements applying for each.

Social, family, cultural, educational and economic rights are guaranteed under Chapters V - VII with the government backing them financially.

Indigenous Native Peoples' rights are covered in Chapter VIII. Even environmental rights are addressed with Article 127 stating "It is the right and duty of each generation to protect and maintain the environment for its own benefit and that of the world of the future....The State shall protect the environment, biological and genetic diversity, ecological processes....and other areas of ecological importance." Try imagining any US federal law with teeth containing this type language let alone the Constitution that includes nothing in its Articles or Amendments.

Citizen Power gets considerable attention under Articles 273 - 291. It's exercised by "the Republican Ethics Council, consisting of the People Defender, the General Prosecutor and the General Comptroller of the Republic....Citizen Power is independent and its organs enjoy operating, financial and administrative autonomy." Citizen Power organs are legally charged with "preventing, investigating and punishing actions that undermine public ethics and administrative morals, to assure lawful sound management of public property....(to help) create citizenship, together with solidarity, freedom, democracy, social responsibility, work" and more.

Venezuela's Constitution covers much more as well under each of its nine Titles from:

-- stating its fundamental Bolivarian principles in Title I, to

-- National Security in Title VII,

-- Protection of the Constitution in Title VIII to assure its continuity in the event of "acts of force" or unlawful repeal with each citizen having a duty to reinstate it if that need arises; and finally

-- Constitutional Reforms in Title IX in the form of amendments, other reforms to revise or replace any of its provisions, and the National Constituent Assembly with power "resting with the people of Venezuela." They're empowered to call an Assembly to transform the State, create a new "juridical order" and draft a new Constitution to be submitted to a national referendum for the people to accept or reject. That's how democracy is supposed to work. In Venezuela it does. In the US, it doesn't, never did, and was never conceived or intended to from the nation's founding to the present.

This happens because Americans know painfully little about their law of the land hidden from them in plain view. They're taught misinformation about it and the framers who drafted it. Few ever read it beyond a quoted line or two and even fewer ever think about it. In contrast, in Venezuela, the Bolivarian Constitution is sold in pocket-sized form almost everywhere. People buy, read and study it. Why? Because it's a vital unifying part of their lives codifying core democratic values and principles Venezuelan people cherish and wish to keep.

Prospective Venezuelan Constitutional Reforms

In July, President Chavez announced he'd be sending the National Assembly a proposal of suggested constitutional reforms to debate and consider. He stressed Venezuelans would then get to vote on them in a national referendum so that "the majority will decide if they approve....constitutional reform."

Chavez submitted his proposal in an August 15 address to the National Assembly that will debate and rule on them in three extraordinary sessions over the next 60 to 90 days. Included are amendments to 33 of the Constitution's 350 articles to "complete the death of the old, hegemonic oligarchy and the old, exploitative capitalist system, and complete the birth of the new state." Chavez stressed the need to update the 1999 Constitution because it's "ambiguous (and) a product of that moment. The world (today) is very different from (then). (Reforms now are) essential for continuing the process of revolutionary transition." They include:

-- extending presidential terms from six to seven years;

-- unlimited reelections (that countries like England, France, Germany and others now allow); Chavez wants the reelection option to be "the sovereign decision of the constituent people of Venezuela;"

-- guaranteeing the right to work and establishing policies to develop and generate productive employment;

-- creation of a Social Stability Fund for "non-dependent" or self-employed workers so they have the same rights as other workers including pensions, paid vacations and prenatal and postnatal leave entitlements;

-- reducing the workday to six hours so businesses would have to employ more workers and hold unemployment down;

-- ending the autonomy of Venezuela's Central Bank;

-- recognition of different kinds of property defined as social, collective, mixed and private;

-- redefining the role of the military so henceforth "The Bolivarian Armed Forces (will) constitute an essential patriotic, popular and anti-imperialist body organized by the state to guarantee the independence and sovereignty of the nation...;" and

-- guaranteeing state control over the nation's oil industry to prevent any future privatization of this vital resource;

Chavez also wants other changes to strengthen the nation's participatory democracy at the grassroots. He stresses "one of the central ideas is my proposal to open, at the constitutional level, the roads to accelerate the transfer of power to the people" in an "Explosion of Communal (or popular) Power." It's already there in more than 26,000 democratically functioning grassroots communal councils. They're government-sanctioned, funded, operating throughout the country, and may double in number and be strengthened further under proposed constitutional changes.

Chavez wants "Popular (people) Power" to be a "State Power" along with the Legislature, Executive, Judicial, Citizen and Electoral ones and considers this constitutional change the most important one of all. If it happens, various sovereign powers and duties now handled at the federal, state and municipal levels will be transfered to local communal, worker, campesino, student and other councils. This will strengthen Venezuela's bedrock participatory democracy making it even more unique and impressive than it already is.

In America, it's unimaginable a President or other government officials would recommend "People Power" become our fourth government branch, co-equal with the others, with citizens empowered to vote in national referenda on crucial proposed changes in law.

Chavez also proposed a "new geometry of power" by amending article 16 that now states "the territory of the nation is divided into those of the States, the Capital District, federal dependencies and federal territories. The territory is organized into Municipalities." Chavez wants this amended so popular referenda can create "federal districts" in specific areas to serve as states. He called this idea "profoundly revolutionary (and needed) to remove the old oligarchic, exploiter hegemony, the old society, and (quoting Gramsci weaken the former) historic block. If we don't change the (old) superstructure (it) will defeat us."

Chavez also stressed this new structure is needed to be in place when "Venezuela (grows to) 40 - 50 million people." His plan includes "restructur(ing) Caracas" into a Federal District with more local autonomy, as it was at an earlier time.

These proposals and other initiatives are part of his overall socialism for the 21st century plan that's also very business-friendly. Chavez opposes savage capitalism, not private enterprise, and under his stewardship domestic and foreign businesses have thrived. They're a dominant force powering the economy to accelerated growth since 2003 with latest Central Bank 2nd quarter, 2007 figures coming in at 8.9%. With oil prices high and world economies prospering, this trend is likely to continue. That's good news for business and households sharing in the benefits through greater purchasing power.

Chavez wants his new United Socialist Party (PSUV) to drive the revolutionary process and continue his agenda of reform for all Venezuelans. He wants everyone to enjoy the benefits, not just a privileged few like in the past and in the US today. Under his leadership, their future is bright while in America poverty is growing, the middle class is dying, and the darkness of tyranny threatens everyone under George Bush with his agenda likely continuing under a new president in 2009.

Governance differences exist between these two nations because their constitutional laws are mirror opposite, and America has no one like Hugo Chavez. He's a rare leader who cares and backs his rhetoric with progressive people-friendly policies. In the US, there's George Bush, and that pretty much explains the problem. Knowing that, which leader would you choose and under which system of government would you prefer to live?

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.



Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Steve Lendman News and Information Hour on TheMicroEffect.com Saturdays at noon US central time.




[1] Editor’s note: The Supreme Court law makes an exception to this rule if in three consecutive votes no 2/3 majority is reached, in which case upon the fourth vote a simple absolute majority is sufficient.