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Reflections of Fidel


News on cholera in Haiti Print E-mail

GRANMA INTERNATIONAL
Havana. December 1, 2010

Reflections of Fidel
News on cholera in Haiti

THERE is much to talk about when the United States is involved in a colossal scandal as a consequence of the documents published by Wikileaks, whose authenticity – independent of any other motivation on the part of that website – has not been questioned by anyone.

However, at this moment, our country is immersed in a battle against cholera in Haiti which, in its way, is becoming a threat for the rest of nations of Latin America and others in the Third World.

In the midst of the consequences of an earthquake that killed or wounded more than half a million people and caused enormous destruction, the epidemic broke out and, almost immediately, was aggravated by the calamity of a hurricane.

The number of persons affected by the disease rose yesterday, November 29, to 75,888, of whom 27,015 have been treated by the Cuban Medical Brigade, with 254 deaths, or 0.94%. The other state hospital facilities, NGOs and private, treated 48,875 people, of whom 1,721 died, indicating 3.03%.

Today, November 30, the Cuban Medical Mission which, incidentally, includes 201 graduates from the Latin American School of Medicine, treated 521 cholera patients, adding up to a total of 27,536.

Last Sunday, November 28, 18 people in a very critical condition arrived at the Cholera Treatment Center attached to the community reference hospital located in the L’Estère commune in Artibonite Department. They had come from a sub-commune called Plateau, and were immediately treated by the 11 doctors and 12 nurses from the Cuban Medical Brigade working there. Fortunately, they were able to save the lives of all of them.

On Monday 29th, 11 more patients arrived from the same sub-commune, among them, a child of five whose parents had died of cholera. Once again, their lives were saved.

Given that situation, Dr. Somarriba, head of the Medical Mission, decided to send an all-terrain vehicle with five doctors, two women nurses, one male nurse and a recovery therapist to the sub-commune, with the necessary resources for urgent attention to cases.

Of the five doctors, four are ELAM graduates: a Uruguayan, a Paraguayan, a Nicaraguan, a Haitian, and the head of the Cuban brigade in Artibonite department.

To reach the commune, they drove six kilometers by road, six more by causeway and, finally another two kilometers over rugged ground with all the equipment and resources on board to reach the commune.

Plateau is situated among five mountains with modest homes grouped at three points; the number of inhabitants is estimated at close to 5,000. There are no streets, nor electricity, nor businesses, as they informed us, and only one Protestant church.

The extremely poor population basically devotes itself to cultivating peanuts, corn, beans and squash.

When they reached Plateau, the church pastor offered to organize a treatment center within the church itself, with six cots and four pews of the faithful, which would allow the emergency admittance of 10 people.

Today eight were admitted, three in critical condition.

The neighbors say that around 20 people have died. That information does not appear in the official count of the dead. During the night they will work using the lamps they brought with them.

The Mission decided to set up a Cholera Treatment Center in that remote community, which will have 24 beds. All the resources will be sent tomorrow, including a generating plant.

They also informed that photo reporters came to the commune to see what was going on.

There were no deaths today, and another center, more to the north, has been opened, making for a total of 38 cholera treatment centers and units.

I am relating the case to explain the circumstances and methods of those waging the battle there against the epidemic which, with dozens of deaths every day, is already approaching 2,000 fatal victims.

With the working methods being implemented and the programmed reinforcement, it is unlikely that the number of dead will continue at the previous rate.

Knowing the passion with which the traditional electoral processes develop, aside from the typical abstentionism that characterizes many of them, we were concerned about what might happen in Haiti in the midst of the destruction and the epidemic. One basic and never violated principle is respect for the laws, parties and religious beliefs of the countries in which our doctors or the Henry Reeve Brigade are providing services.

Nevertheless, we were concerned about versions widely circulated by the international media presenting a scenario of generalized violence in the country, which was far from being the reality. The international observers were surprised at that news being divulged abroad, when in reality, for them, the events that did take place were isolated ones, affecting only a reduced percentage of citizens who exercised their vote.

The very leaders who called the people out onto the streets understood that, in the midst of the tragic situation in the country, it was not right to undertake actions that could provoke violent confrontations that would make it impossible to control and defeat the epidemic. If that objective is not achieved, it could become endemic and give rise to a health disaster in Haiti and a constant threat to the Caribbean, as well as to Latin America, where millions of poor people are accumulating in cities in growing numbers; and also for many other poor nations of Asia and Africa.

Moreover, do not ever forget that Haiti must be reconstructed from its foundations, with the help and cooperation of all. That is what we hope for its noble and selfless people.

Fidel Castro Ruz
November 30, 2010
9:34 p.m.

Translated by Granma International
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The Empire from the Inside Print E-mail

Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five

Part One - October 10, 2010

I am amazed at the widespread ignorance about issues so vital for the existence of mankind, at a time that it has great media, unimaginable a hundred years ago, some as recent as the Internet.
Just three weeks ago the news was announced of the imminent distribution of a spectacular book by Bob Woodward, The Washington Post journalist, whose articles with Carl Bernstein, 38 years ago, led to the Watergate scandal which destroyed the Nixon administration for spying against the Democratic Party in June 1972, for violations of laws that American society could not ignore.

I contacted our "ambassador in Washington," as I call Jorge Bolanos, the head of the Cuban Interests Section in the U.S. capital, and asked him to send me at least two copies of the book as soon as it appeared in the bookstores. Bolaños sent four copies.

The text is in English, of course, and as usual it will be long before the over 500 million people who speak or understand Spanish worldwide, including the Latin American immigrants in the United States, can read it in that language.

I contacted one of our best English translators, and asked for a special effort to summarize the contents. The voluminous copy, entitled "Obama's wars", has 33 chapters and 420 pages.

I should point out that I was given an overview of the 33 chapters, in 99 pages in 18 point type, in just three days.

I will pass on the contents of this book, using the exact words, crystal clear and precise, that the English translation specialist sent me. It will take up the Reflections for several days.

It would be impossible to understand anything about the current U.S. policy if the contents of this book by Woodward are ignored. He is the holder of more than one Pulitzer Prize and, for sure, has absolutely no intention of destroying the empire.

Our country will be the first in the world to know the essential contents of this book in an articulate form. As it is known, Cuban citizens have high levels of education, and it is the country with highest percentage of students enrolled in universities.

Our main strength is not in arms, but in ideas.

CHAPTER 1

"Two days after being elected President, Obama summoned the national intelligence director, Mike McConnell, for a meeting in Chicago to get details about the most secret intelligence operations of the extensive system of espionage in the United States. Other officials participated in the meeting, but McConnell said he had orders from former President Bush not to disclose the information related to spies, the new techniques of infiltrating Al Qaeda, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the protection of the nation, to anyone other than the elected president.

Michael J. Morell, Head of the CIA analysis department, and McConnell sat alone with Obama in a secure room. He was informed, among other matters, that the main threat to the United States came from Pakistan and that this was the No. 1 priority of the NID. If the U.S. withdrew from Afghanistan, India and Pakistan would fill the power vacuum. The best was that Obama should seek peace between the two countries. Bush had ordered the drone attacks on the camps in Pakistan, and he had instructed that this country should be notified "concurrently"; that is, when the attack occurred or, for greater security, few minutes later."


We encourage readers to take note of the names of each of the personalities mentioned, as well as the theories developed to justify the incredible events that take place.

"Al Qaeda had recruited people from 35 countries whose passports did not need a visa to enter the United States, and that was a big concern. Obama was informed of the key words for the attacks by drones (SYLVAN-MAGNOLIA), only known by those with the highest level of access to security issues, among whom was now the new president.

The main successes came from human sources, spies on the ground. The CIA told them where to look, where to hunt and where to kill. The spies were the real secrets that Obama carried with him from now on. The CIA was very careful with their sources.

Each one had a code name, for example, MOONRISE. When too many people knew about him or her, or their successes, they were liquidated. The officer in charge of the case reported that MOONRISE had made the ultimate sacrifice, but the person in question had not really died. Only their codename changed, and now the CIA would have another source called SOOTHING STAR, the same person with a new name.

One important secret that has never been reported in the media, or anywhere else, was the existence of a covert army of 3,000 men in Afghanistan, whose objective was to kill or capture Taliban and sometimes venture into the tribal areas to pacify them and get support.

McConnell and Morell referred to the Iranian nuclear program. It was known that they were trying to obtain nuclear weapons and had hidden installations. McConnell said he was confident that Iran would get a gun-type nuclear weapon, probably primitive, but that could detonate in the desert with great effect and that in his opinion this would occur between 2010 and 2015.

Another major threat was North Korea, which had enough material to make six bombs. The Koreans would talk, they would lie, would threaten to leave and then they would try to renegotiate.

The Chinese had hacked the computers of the Obama campaign in the summer of 2008 and also those of McCain, and had removed files and documents at an astounding rate. McConnell said the United States were vulnerable to cyber attacks."

Straight away, the Woodward book reflects Obama's first reaction to the mess and complexity of the situation created by the war on terror unleashed by Bush.      

"Obama told one of his closest advisers he had inherited a world that could explode at any time in over six different ways, and had powerful but limited means to avoid it. Obama acknowledged that after the elections, all the world's problems were seen as his responsibility and that people were saying, 'You are the most powerful person in the world. Why don't you do something about it?"

CHAPTER 2

"John Podesta, former chief of staff to Bill Clinton, was convinced that the policy should be designed, organized and monitored through a centralized system at the White House. But Obama had someone else in mind for the post: Rahm Emmanuel, who became the No. 3 of the White House. Both were from Chicago but they did not know each other well.

Obama, as presidential candidate, had told David Petraeus in Iraq to ask for everything he would need if eventually he became Commander in Chief. Obama was ready to say 'no' to what Bush had said 'yes'.

Petraeus virtually redefined the concept of war in a new manual he wrote (Counterinsurgency Field Manual) that came into effect in Iraq. His main idea was that the U.S. could not get out of the war. They had to protect and win over the population, live among them, for a stable and competent government to succeed. The new soldier, he said, should be a social worker, a physical planner, an anthropologist and a psychologist.

Petraeus had few hobbies (he didn't fish, hunt, or play golf). He could pass for a man of 35, and run 5 miles in about 30 minutes. He earned his Ph.D. at the University of Princeton. His father died and he decided to stay in Iraq to oversee the war. The Iraqis call him King David. Some of his colleagues call him the Legend of Iraq. But the Obama presidency would change the status of Petraeus."

CHAPTER 3

"The new Director of the CIA, Mike Hayden, traveled to New York to discuss, with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, the attacks by unmanned 'Predator' planes within that country. The great lesson of the Second World War and Viet Nam was that attacks from the air, even massive bombing cannot win a war.

The Pakistani media was concerned about the number of civilian casualties. But the accidental death of Pakistanis was only half the story. 

In a meeting Hayden had with the Pakistani President, the latter told him: Kill the principals. You Americans can worry about collateral damage. I'm not worried.' Zardari gave the CIA the green light and Hayden thanked him for his support.

In one of his long conversations with David Axelrod, his chief political adviser and closest to him, Obama brought up the issue of Hillary Clinton. Axelrod asked Obama how he could trust Hillary. Obama replied that he believed he knew her well and if she were part of the team, she would be faithful to him. She stood beside her husband during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, and Obama was impressed by her resilience. He needed someone with enough stature to become a major player in the international arena.

Mrs. Clinton was not convinced that this post would be for her. There was no body of trust between her team and his.

Then came the problems with her husband and the contributors of large sums of money to his presidential library, his foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative. Obama's lawyers said these entities could not accept money if Hillary was appointed Secretary of State. She acknowledged that this was a big hurdle but she would not send Bill to live in a cave for four or eight years. She was not going to tell him to cancel the operations he had in 26 countries and were saving lives, she said, it was not worth it. Podesta promised they would work on that.

She prepared a speech in which she thanked Obama, by phone, for having taken her into account for the position, but Podesta saw to it that both could not connect.

The 'no' from Hillary was transformed into a 'maybe'. Mark Penn, chief strategist for her campaign, thought that if they remained at the State Department for eight years, she would again be in the best position to be nominated for President. She would only be 69, the same age as Reagan when he took office."

CHAPTER 4

"Retired General James L. Jones considered that the Bush administration was amazingly disorganized and unfortunately not very serious regarding peace in the Middle East. Jones said the Bush Security Council lacked personnel and that it was dysfunctional, and that National Security advisor had to take measures to guarantee reasonable advancement in pursuing the objectives.

An over large sector of US policy was on autopilot, and the National Security advisor had to find the way to achieve results without having detailed control of what different departments and agencies were supposed to do. Obama asked him how he could achieve that. Jones recommended that he should convince his subordinates that their vision was the President´s vision. [ ] Obama decided to appoint Jones National Security advisor. Jones was surprised that Obama had appointed him for a post with such a high responsibility and that he trusted someone that he hardly knew. Jones thought everything was based on personal relations, and he did not have such relations with Obama.

On November 26, Bush called one of the last meetings of the National Security Council to analyze a very secret report on the war in Afghanistan, made by Army Lieutenant General Douglas Lute, known as the Czar of War. The report concluded by stating that the United States could not stay in Afghanistan unless they solved three major problems: improving governability, lowering corruption levels and eliminating Taliban sanctuaries in Afghanistan." 

Another astonishing episode now follows, behind which was the hand of the US administration, revealing the risk hypothetically referred to by the author of the "Nuclear Winter". It would only take–he said–a war between Pakistan and India, the two countries with the least number of atomic weapons in the Group of 8 that belong to the "Nuclear Club." What is revealed by the book "Obama's Wars" is the fact that any irresponsible step in US policy could lead to a catastrophe.

"Condoleezza Rice was not pleased with the report. Bush decided not to publish it. Later, 10 armed people began prowling the Indian city of Bombay and creating a picture of chaos and violence, which was aired live on TV for 60 hours. Six US citizens were killed. The operation was organized by a group known by the acronyms LeT, which means Army of the Righteous and was financed by Pakistan's Intelligence Agency. Bush wanted to prevent any tensions between India and Pakistan. His mandate was based on zero tolerance with terrorists and their allies. The FBI was horrified to see that a low-cost, high-tech operation had paralyzed the city of Bombay. US cities were as vulnerable. An FBI official said that Bombay had changed everything."

CHAPTER 5

"On taking on the post as CIA director, Hayden had inherited and organization that, according to him, was suffering from the battered child syndrome.

Obama had called him to a briefing on covert operations. Hayden considered it to be the opportunity to prove how serious the threats were and how seriously the CIA took them. He referred to 14 highly secret operations, whose objective was to carry out covert and lethal operations against terrorism, prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, discourage North Korea from building more nuclear weapons, carry out operations against proliferation in other countries, operate in an independent manner or in support of the United States in Afghanistan, carry out a series of lethal operations and other programs in Iraq, support undercover efforts to stop genocide in the Sudanese region of Darfur, and offer Turkey intelligence information to prevent the Workers' Party in the Kurdistan from establishing a separatist enclave in Turkey.

On January 4, 2009 Hayden learned, from an article on the Washington Post Website, that he had been replaced as CIA director and that Leon Panetta had been appointed the new director. Hayden considered that being replaced by a politician was a personal humiliation. Panetta is skillful in making personal relations. While meeting with Panetta, Hayden advised him: 1) You are the commander of the nation in the global war against terrorism; 2) You have the best personnel of the Federal Government; 3) I have read some of your articles; do not use the words CIA and torture in the same paragraph again. Torture is a felony. You might not like this but do not ever say torture exists. Legally, the CIA has never tortured anyone. McConnell warned Panetta that he had to understand the battle he had to wage against the CIA, because they saw him as if he were the enemy."

CHAPTER 6

"Obama asked Biden to travel to Afghanistan and Pakistan before his inauguration as President, and he asked him to be accompanied by a Republican. Lindsey Graham, from South Carolina, was the chosen man.

Biden officially told the Pakistani President about Obama's idea: Afghanistan would be his war; he would send more troops soon, but he needed to work jointly with Pakistan.

Zardari, for his part, admitted not having as much experience as his late wife Benazir Bhutto, but he said his mission was not different and that he needed the United States to help him win enough support on the domestic scene, and that there was much anti-American feeling in the country.

Biden warned him that in that direction Zardari had to stop playing in both teams at the same time, since the CIA thought that much intelligence information was being used to alert terrorist camps about the attacks by unmanned planes.

Biden and Graham left for Kabul. Relations between Karzai and the United States had become very volatile after the 2004 elections. He would frequently criticize the Americans for the number of civilian victims. Evidence of corruption within his government and in his family raised tensions with the United States. Biden warned Karzai that he was not interested in making life difficult for him, but the success of the United States to a large extent depended on him.

Karzai called several members of his cabinet to inform Biden and Graham directly about what he was doing. Karzai was told that Obama wanted to help, but the idea of lifting the phone and calling President Obama as he used to do with Bush would not happen anymore. Biden criticized Karzai for his inability to rule the whole country, for his rejection of touring the country to raise a consensus among the different tribes, for the sumptuous homes of Afghan officials near the presidential palace and which undoubtedly were being paid for by the United States. You are nothing but the mayor of Kabul, Biden told Karzai.

Karzai was critical about the large number of civilian victims and Biden committed to minimize them, but he warned that he had to join them in that war; he said that if it was not their war, the United States would not send more troops. Karzai replied that he was not making any criticism, but letting them know about a problem. Biden suggested addressing the issue in private, not at a press conference, and Karzai did not agree. The number of civilian victims was a public problem and Biden had denigrated him in front of his cabinet members. Karzai warned that the Afghan people would not tolerate that, and the Afghan people should be their allies and not their victims. Ambassador William Word said that the conversation had been useful but that it revealed frustrations on both sides.

Biden met with the chief of the American troops in Afghanistan, David McKiernan, who told him that in order to win the war it was necessary to send the 30,000 troops still to come since Bush was in power. Biden inquired about Al Qaeda and David said that he had not seen a single Arab soldier there in two years. This confirmed Biden's suspicion that Al Qaeda, the main objective of the war, was a Pakistani problem.

Biden suggested that Obama distance himself from Karzai. Graham told the President that they were losing the war. Graham was convinced that it was impossible to win the war in Afghanistan if they lost the war in Iraq."

CHAPTER 7

"Obama's swearing-in ceremony on January 20 was about to be cancelled. Reliable intelligence reports indicated that a group of Somali extremists were planning to attack Obama with explosives. However, all the attention was focused on Obama's speech and what he would say.

General Petaeus was again concentrating on Afghanistan.

Obama called a meeting of his National Security group on January 21. The key decision was to appoint Petraeus chief of the Central Command. Obama requested three options on the war on Iraq. He ordered a 60-day study to know how they would get to where they wanted to. One of the options to bear in mind, as requested by the President, was the withdrawal of the troops in a 16-month period.

A team of 80 people began to study the situation in Afghanistan. They analyzed the interrogations of prisoners, the battlefield reports, financial reports, the propaganda and the communiqués issued by the Taliban.

When Petraeus asked what they had found, Derek Harvey, from the Defense Intelligence Agency, said that the situation was similar to that of a blind man helping another blind man to walk, that the United States was very ignorant about the Afghan insurgence, about who and where the enemy was, and the enemy's perception of the war and their motivation. 

They knew too little about the enemy to draw up a strategy that would lead to victory. Harvey tried to speed up the gathering of intelligence information and he dedicated himself completely to it. He held the opinion that the war could be won, but that the US administration had to make a significant commitment for many years; which perhaps would not be well accepted by the voters. Harvey said he believed that the war in Afghanistan could be waged, but could not be sold.

Obama said that the sending of new troops should be announced as part of a new strategy. Petraeus indicated that they would not reach their objectives without a larger number of troops, and that they could not just rely on the attacks by unmanned planes. Petraeus insisted on the sending of the 30,000 troops. Obama asked if sending all those troops at once was necessary, and he warned that it was before having a strategy and that the President needed him to propose the decisions to take. The President seemed to understand that the war would not be won in one or two years. The President left the meeting to fulfill other commitments without having taken any decision on that respect."

To be continued tomorrow.

Fidel Castro Ruz
October 10, 2010
6:00 p.m.

Part Two - October 11, 2010

In yesterday's Reflection there appears a key paragraph taken from Woodward's book: "One important secret that has never been reported in the media, or anywhere else, was the existence of a covert army of 3,000 men in Afghanistan, whose objective was to kill or capture Taliban and sometimes venture into the tribal areas to pacify them and get support." That army, created and handled by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), trained and organized as a "special force" has been made up on tribal, social, anti-religious and anti-patriotic bases; its mission is the follow-up and physical elimination of Taliban fighters and other Afghans, described as extreme Moslems.  A Saudi recruited and funded by the CIA to fight against the Soviets when their troops were occupying Afghanistan has nothing in common with Al Qaeda and Bin Laden.  When Vice President Biden traveled to Kabul at the start of 2009,  David Mckiernan, chief of American troops in Afghanistan told him in answer to a question about Al Qaeda that he hadn't seen one single Arab in two years there. Despite the relatively brief and ephemeral importance that the principal international press gave to "Obama's Wars", without a doubt these did not shirk from recording this revealing piece of news.

The American government was faced with an unsolvable problem. In one of the last meetings of the National Security Council during the Bush presidency, a report was approved that stated that the US could not keep itself in Afghanistan unless three great problems were to be resolved: improve governability, decrease corruption and eliminate the Taliban sanctuaries...

One might add that the problem is more serious if one takes into account the US political and military commitments with Pakistan, a country endowed with nuclear weapons, whose stability in the midst of a tense ethnical balancing act has been affected by Bush's war in Afghanistan. Hundreds of kilometres of mountainous borders, with populations having the same origin, that are being attacked and massacred by unmanned planes, are shared by Pakistan and Afghanistan. NATO troops, whose morale diminishes day by day, cannot win this war.

Without enormous amounts of fuel, food and ammunition no army can move itself. The very struggle of the Afghans and Pakistanis, on one side or the other of the border, has di scovered the weakness of the sophisticated American and European troops. The long supply routes are turning into a graveyard of enormous trucks and tankers destined for that task. Unmanned planes, the most modern of communications, sophisticated conventional, radio-electrical and even nuclear weaponry, abound.

But the problem is much more serious than these lines express.

However, let us continue with the summary of Woodward's spectacular book. 

CHAPTER 8

Jack Keane, the retired General, a man who is very close to Hillary Clinton, advised that the strategy being followed in Afghanistan was incorrect, that the high toll of victims wasn't going to put an end to the insurgency, that these were having the opposite effect, that the only option was a counterinsurgent offensive to protect the Afghans. McKiernan wasn't interacting with the governors of the provinces.  Keane told him that they were resorting too much to the antiterrorist struggle and that the counter insurgency strategy wasn't keeping pace.

Keane proposed replacing  McKiernan with Lieutenant General Lloyd Austin III, the second in command in Iraq; and he also proposed McChrystal, adding that he was, without a doubt, the better candidate.

McChrystal had run good antiterrorist campaigns in Iraq but the tactical successes did not translate into strategic victories. That was why counterinsurgency was necessary.

CHAPTER 9

At his confirmation hearing as CIA director before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Leon Panetta stated that the Agency would no longer be sending alleged terrorists to another country to be tortured because this was forbidden under the new president's executive orders.  He said that he suspected that the CIA was sending people to other countries to be interrogated using techniques that "were violating our norms".

Hayden was watching him on TV and, bothered, he was wondering whether Panetta had overlooked the conversation the two had had the month before.  Hayden contacted Jeff Smith, the former CIA general adviser who had been assisting in the transition from Hayden to Panetta and he threatened him, saying that either tomorrow he retract what he said in the public testimony or they would have a show where the current CIA director tells the future CIA director that he doesn`t know what he's talking about.  Hayden said he would say it publicly and that it wouldn't benefit anyone. The next day it was Sen. Kit Bond of Missouri, the Republican head of the Intelligence Committee, who asked Panetta whether he would retract what he had said the previous day and Panetta said he would.

Hayden subsequently met with Panetta and told him that he had read his work where he was saying that the Bush government had chosen the best intelligence information to allege the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.  Panetta had laid the blame for it upon a special Pentagon unit that had been created by Rumsfeld.  Panetta replied that it wasn`t true, that it had been their error and he agreed that a catastrophic lapse of intelligence had occurred in the agency of which he was about to be the director.

On February 13, the president again met with the National Security Council to discuss four options for the deployment of troops in Afghanistan. 

1. To decide only after defining a strategy.
2. To immediately send17,000 troops.
3. To send the 17,000, but in two installments.
4. To send 27,000, thus filling Gen. McKiernan`s request.

Clinton, Gates, Mullen and Petraeus backed sending 17,000 troops immediately.  This was also Jones` recommendation.  Richard Holbrooke, in a security video, warned that 44 years ago President Johnson was discussing the same thing with his advisors in the case of Vietnam. "We cannot forget history", he added.  Vietnam had taught us that the guerrilla wins in an impasse situation and so he was supporting sending the 17,000.  Obama finally notified the Pentagon that he had decided to send 17,000 troops.  

CHAPTER 10

The objective for the Obama government was clear: dismantle and finally defeat Al Quaeda and its extremist allies, its support structures and its sanctuaries in Pakistan, and prevent its return to Pakistan or Afghanistan.  Jones, Gates  and Mullen were wondering whether they could trust the Pakistanis.  Biden was proposing reinforcing antiterrorist operations and concentrating on  Al Quaeda and Pakistan.  Obama asked if sending 17,000 troops and 4,000 more later on would make any difference and the answer was that it would.  Obama asked how much this operation would cost and the answer was that nobody knew, that this was just a study and that no budget estimate had been made, but that the cost of stationing a soldier in Afghanistan, including a war veteran pension, health insurance, the cost of family care, food and weapons, would amount to approximately $25,000 a year. The cost of an Afghan soldier in the terrain would amount to some $12,000.  Later Obama confirmed that Pakistan would be the centrepiece of any new strategy.

At a meeting with the National Security Council, Obama said that he was hoping on counting with popular support for his strategy for at least two years.  Biden stated that the die had been cast, even though he remarked that he was in disagreement he assured that he would support the president`s strategy.

CHAPTER 11

Petraeus was appearing to be worried.  He was worried about becoming the victim of his earlier successes in Iraq. Probably counterinsurgency was not the correct strategy for Afghanistan, but Petraeus had assigned the task of studying the matter to a group of experts in operations and intelligence activities who held an opposing view.  It seemed that the president had not accepted his arguments in favour of counterinsurgent operations.  The president announced his strategy of dismantling and defeating Al Qaeda in a speech.  A Washington Post editorial praised the plan with the headline: "The Price of Realism." The speech surprised some. The president had made changes to the wording himself.  Obama had not totally committed to sending all the troops requested by the army. Obama said that he would analyze the matter again after the elections in Afghanistan.

Secretary of Defense Gates appeared comfortable with the decision: two days later he declared that he didn't see the need to ask for more troops or to ask the President to approve them until such time as the performance of these could be seen.

The president of Pakistan met with Obama in his office. Obama told him he didn`t want to arm Pakistan against India.  He acknowledged that they had moved forward in Swat but that the ceasefire had resulted in the extremists subverting the legitimacy of the Pakistani government, and that the government would be giving the impression that nobody was in charge.  Obama acknowledged that Pakistan was now acting more decisively, something that had become evident by its performance in Swat and because they had allowed the CIA to launch an average of one attack with unmanned planes every three days during the course of the past month.  The Pakistanis had launched an operation with 15,000 troops, one of the best until that time, against Taliban.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs realized that the solution to Afghanistan was right before his eyes, walking through the hallways of the Pentagon.  McChrystal was already a legend.  He had worked harder than anyone, solving problems and not complaining.  He would follow all orders to the letter.  Gates finally announced that McChrystal would be the new commander of the troops in Afghanistan. "Our mission there," he said, "requires new thinking and new approaches from our military leaders".  Later Obama stated that he had been in agreement with this decision because he trusted the opinions of Gates and Mullen, but that he hadn't had a chance to talk to him in person.

On May 26, 2009, one of the most sensitive reports from the world of deep intelligence appeared in the TOP SECRET/ CODEWORD Presidents' Daily Brief. Its title was: North American al Qaeda trainees may influence targets and tactics in the United States and Canada.  According to the report, around 20 Al Qaeda members with US, Canadian or European passports were undergoing training in the sanctuaries of Pakistan in order to return to their countries of origin and perpetrate high profile terrorist acts. Among them there were half a dozen in the United Kingdom, several Canadians, some Germans and three Americans.  Their names were not known. Dennis Blair thought that the reports were alarming and believable enough so that the President should be informed.  But Rahm Emmanuel didn't agree.  Blair replied, as the president's intelligence advisor, that he felt quite concerned and Emmanuel accused him of trying to make him and the President feel responsible.

Upon leaving the White House, Blair was convinced that they were living on different planets in terms of the matter.  He was seeing, evermore, a flaw in the government.

CHAPTER 12

General Jones was used to travelling to Afghanistan himself to make his own assessments.  It was his opinion that the US could not lose that war, because people would say that the terrorists had won and this type of action would be seen in Africa, South America and in other places.  Organizations such as NATO, the European Union and the United Nations could be dumped into the trash bin of history.

Jones visits the wounded soldiers; he meets with the colonels and talks with McChrystal.  McChrystal  confesses to him that Afghanistan was much worse than he had anticipated.  He noticed that there were reasons aplenty for worry and that if the situation did not soon turn around it would become irreversible.  Jones asked him to list the problems and McChrystal started to quote a veritable litany: the number of Taliban in the country was much higher than they thought (25,000). Jones commented that that was the result of the treaty signed by Pakistan with its tribes because it was there that the new Taliban could train without interference.  The number of Taliban attacks was close to 550 a week and in the last few months they had almost doubled.  Bombs going off by the side of the highway were killing approximately 50 soldiers from the coalition troops each month, as compared to eight reported the previous year.

Jones was insisting that the new strategy had three stages:

1.Security
2. Economic development and reconstruction
3. Governance by the Afghans under the rule of law.

Jones was insisting that the war was not going to be won by the army alone, that during the next year the part of the strategy that would be starting to work was economic development, and if this wasn't done well there wouldn't be enough troops in the world to achieve victory.  Jones pointed out that this was a new phase and that Obama was not going to give all the forces the army commanders were asking for, like Bush used to do during the Iraq war. Jones added that the president knew that he was treading on the razor's edge, meaning that times were not just difficult and dangerous but that the situation could move forward in some other different direction.

In Helmand province, Jones made clear that the Obama strategy was designed to reduce US envolvment and commitment, that he didn't think Afghanistan should be only an American war, but that there had been a tendency to Americanize it.

Upon his return, Jones informs Obama that the situation is disconcerting; that there was no relationship between what he was being told during the last few months and what General McChrystal was facing.  Finally Obama asks him how many troops are needed and Jones informs him there is no definite number yet.  He thought it was necessary to complete the first two phases of the strategy –economic development and governance –otherwise Afghanistan would simply swallow up any additional number of troops.  

The reaction was very different at the Pentagon.  Jones was accused of wanting to set limits on the numbers of troops.  He was claiming that it wasn't fair for the president to make the decision he took in March, and before reaching the number of 21,000 troops stationed there, to decide that since the situation was going so bad, 40,000 to 80,000 additional troops were needed.

The chasm between the White House and the Pentagon was growing deeper and this was happening only four months after the President informed of his new strategy. 

CHAPTER 13

Some US government officials were describing the Obama government using Afghan terminology and they were saying that the presidency was populated by "tribes", representing its divisions.  The Hillary tribe lived in the State Department; the Chicago Tribe occupied Axelrod's and Emmanuel's offices; the presidential campaign tribe was occupying the National Security Council that was headed by the cabinet chief Mark Lippert and the director of strategic communications Denis McDonough.  This group was known as the "insurgency". 

The Taliban defeat required more men, money and time than its dismantling.  Defeat meant unconditional surrender, total capitulation, victory, winning in the broadest sense of the word, completely destroying the Taliban. 

Richard Holbrooke was looking pretty pessimistic closet o the August 20th elections in Afghanistan and stated: "If there are 10 possible outcomes in Afghanistan, 9 of them are bad.  They range from civil war to irregularities". 

As soon as the polling booths shut down on August 20th, there were reports of voting fraud.  Many officials from the UN and the State Department did not leave their residences to visit the voting locations for security reasons.

The day after the elections, Holbrooke and the American ambassador met with  Karzai, and they asked him what he would do if there were a second round.  Karzai said that he had been reelected and that there would be no second round.

After the meeting Karzai called the State Department operations centre  and asked to speak to either Obama or Hillary.  The American ambassador recommended that the president not take the call since Karzai had taken the offensive saying that a second round was impossible.  Obama agreed not to speak with him.  

Intelligence reports would describe Karzai as a person who was increasingly more delusional and paranoid.  Karzai told them:  "You guys are oppossing me. It's a British- American plot.

In August, a group was created to interview the members of General McChrystal`s strategic group who had just returned from Afghanistan in order to know what was happening in the terrain, how the war was going, what was working and what was not.   McChrystal gave the group three questions as a guide for his study: Is the mission achievable?; if so, what needs to be changed to accomplish the mission?; are more resources necessary to complete the mission?

McChrystal told the group to be pragmatic and focus on things that would actually work. 

The group came to the conclusion that the army understood relatively very little about the Afghan population. They couldn't   understand how the intimidation campaigns launched by the Taliban were affecting the population.  The intelligence information gathering was a disaster. The group discovered that 70 percent of the intelligence requirements were enemy-centric.  Some group members thought that within one or two years the war would be completely Americanized.  The Americans preferred that the NATO allies supplied money and advisors for the Afghan security forces, instead of wandering throughout the country asking for air support to attack suspicious-looking Afghans.

The group had only bad news for  McChrystal. They could carry out the best counterinsurgency campaign in the history of the world, and even so it would fail because of the weakness and corruption existing in the Afghan government.  McChrystal looked as if he'd been hit by a train.  In any case, he thanked the group.  

McChrystal told Gates he would need 40,000 more troops.  After lengthy discussions, Gates promised to give him as many troops as he could, while he could. "You've got a battle space over there and I've got a battle space over here", he told him.

CHAPTER 14

"Biden had spent five hours trying to design an alternative for McChrystal, something he called 'counterterrorism plus'.  Instead of an intensive amount of troops, the plan concentrates on what he believed was the real threat: Al Qaeda. This strategy emphasizes the destruction of the terrorist groups by the murder or capture of its leaders. Biden thought that it was possible to dissuade Al Qaeda from returning to Afghanistan, and so to avoid getting involved in the costly mission of protecting the Afghan people.

"Biden thought that Al Qaeda would take the path of least resistance and that they would not return to their former places of origin if: 

"1.  The U.S. mantained at least two bases- Baram y Khandahar- so Special Operations Forces could raid anywhere in the country.

"2.  The U.S. had enough manpower to control Afghan air space. 

"3.  Human intelligence networks inside Afghanistan provided targeting information to Special Operations Forces.

"4.  The CIA's elite, 3,000-Afghan-strong-Counterterrorism Pursuit Teams (CTPT) could move freely.

"Afghanistan had to become a slightly more hostile environment for Al Qaeda than Pakistan so that they would decide to not return.

"Obama needed someone to guide him. He had been in the Senate for only four years and Biden had been there for 35. The President thought that the military couldn't put pressure on him, but they could crush an inexperienced President.  Biden came to Obama's aid and Obama said to him: 'You know these guys. Go after it. Push'.

"Later Obama confessed that he wanted his vice president to be an aggressive detractor, and that he said exactly what he was thinking, that he would ask the most difficult questions, because he was convinced that that was the best way to serve the people and the troops, establishing a strong discussion about these matters of life or death.

"Obama called on a small group of the most experienced members of his national security staff in order to analyze the 66-page classified assesment written by McChrystal which, in summary, said that if more troops were not going to be sent it was probable that the war would likely end in a failure in the next 12 months. The President added that the options in this case were not good and he made it clear that he would not automatically accept  the solution proposed by the general or by anyone else. 'We need to come this with a spirit of challenging our assumptions.'

"Peter Lavoy, the deputy for analysis in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, believed that behind the attacks of the unmanned planes, Bin Laden and his organization had been beaten, beseiged, but not finished off, that Al Qaeda had become the Taliban leech.

"Obama wanted to know if it were possible to defeat Al Qaeda and how; if it were necessary to defeat the Taliban to defeat Al Qaeda; that it could occur in the next few years; what kind of presence was it necessary to have in Afghanistan in order to be able to have an efficacious antiterrorist platform.

"What wasn't said and what everyone knew was that a President could not lose a war nor could he be perceived as losing it.  Obama said that it was going to be necessary to work for five years and he was proposing that other national priorities be considered.

Fidel Castro Ruz
October 11, 2010
6:00 p.m.

Part Three - October 12, 2010

CHAPTER 15

Admiral  Mullen appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee for his confirmation hearing heading towards a second two-year term, two days after the first session dedicated to the strategy. In his statement, the admiral refers to the strategy suggested by McChrystal and he adds that this "probably means more forces".

When Obama heard about Mullen's testimony, he let his staff know how unhappy he was knowing that Mullen was publicly endorsing McChrystal's strategy.  The admiral stated that "The Taliban insurgency grows in both size  and complexity", and that was why he was supporting a properly resourced, classically pursued  counterinsurgency efforts. Had Mullen ignored what Obama said just two days earlier? Had the President not told everyone, including Mullen, that none of the options looked good, that they needed to  challenge their assumptions, and they were going to have four or five long sessions for debate? What was the president's principal military adviser doing, going public with his preventive conclusions?

At the meeting of the principal members of the National Security Council it was clear that they were furious. The generals and admirals are systematically playing him, boxing him.

Emmanuel commented that what was going on between the admiral and Petraeus was not right, that everyone had publicly supported the idea that more troops needed to be sent.  The president didn't even had a chance.

Morrell realized that Mullen could have ducked the controversy at his hearing by merely saying that his job was to be the principal military adviser to the president of the United States and secretary of the defence, and that he was to present his recommendations to them first in private before stating them publicly and that he didn't consider it to be proper to share them before the Committee.

Morrell thought this was all part of Mullen's compulsion to communicate, to enhance the prominene and stature of his position. He had a Facebook page, a Twitter account, videos on YouTube and a Web site called "Travels with Mullen: Conversation with the Country". 

As he left the lobby, Mullen himself discovered that it was he who was the topic of a heated powwow. 

Emmanuel and Donilon asked him: How are we supposed to deal with this?  You did  this, and what should we say?

Emmanuel added that this was going to be the lead storied in all the evening news.  

Mullen was surprised. The White House knew in advance what he was going to say, but in his testimony he hadn't given any specific numbers for troops. He was as fuzzy as he could be. But at his confirmation hearing he had to say the truth and the truth was that he was sharing the idea about the need for counterinsurgency. "That's what I think", he said.  What was his alternative?

Donilon was wondering why Mullen had had to use the word ‘probably', and why he hadn't said ‘I don't know'. That would have been better. 


The headline on the Washington Post's frontpage the next morning read: "Mullen: More Troops ‘Probably' Needed".

Obama summoned the retired General Collin Powell to a private meeting in the Oval Office on September 16.  Powell had given Obama an important endorsement during his campaign.  

Referring to Afghanistan, Powell told him that it wasn't a one-time decision that was going to have consequences for the better part of his administration. He recommended: "Mr. President, don't get pushed by the left to do nothing. Don't get pushed by the right to do everything.  You take your time and you figure it out."

He also recommended not to get pushed by the media, to take his time, get all the information he needed to ensure that afterwards he was going to feel comfortable with his decision. 

"If you decide to send more troops or if that´s what  you feel  is necessary, make sure you have a good understanding what those troops are going to be doing some assurance that  additional troops will be successful.  You can't guarantee  success in a very complex theatre like Afghanistan and increasingly with the Pakistan problem next-door."

"You've got to ensure that you're putting your commitment on a  solid base, because at the base is a little soft right now.", Powell said, referring to Karzai and the generalized corruption existing in his government. 

The president wasn't fully backing a counterinsurgency operation because that meant assuming the responsibility for Afghanistan for a long period of time. 

The president said that when he received McChrystal's assessment it was evident that everyone had to get together in a room to ensure that everyone was on the same page. 

CHAPTER 16

On September 29, Jones assembled the princials of the National Security Council for a two-hour discussion as a rehearsal for the meeting the next day, without the president.

Anyone who would have watched a video of the meeting would probably be alarmed. Eight years after starting the war, they were still struggling to define what the core of the objectives were.

Biden had written a six-page memo exclusively for the president, questioning the intelligence reports on the Taliban.  The reports portrayed the Taliban as the new Al Qaeda.  Because the Taliban who had fought against the Americans, it had become common for the Arabs, Uzbeks, Tayiks and Chechens to cross over towards Afghanistan for their so-called summer of jihad.  

Biden pointed out that these numbers were exaggerated, that the number of foreign combatants did not surpass 50 to 75 each time. 

On Wednesday September 30th, the president held the second meeting to analyze the problem of Afghanistan and Pakistan. This time the attending group was larger.  Petraeus was present.

The president asked: "Is there anybody here who thinks we ought to leave Afghanistan?" Nobody spoke. Nobody said a word.

"Okay", the president said, "now that we've dispensed with, let's get  on."

Obama also wanted to steer away  from the Afghanistan issue for the rest of the session. 

"Let's start where our interests take us, which is  really Pakistan, not Afghanistan", he said.  "In fact, you can tell the Pakistani leaders, if you want to, that we are not leaving Afghanistan." 

Obama set the rules for the rest of the session. "I really want to focus on the issue of the U.S. homeland. I see three key goals. One, protecting U.S. homeland, allies and U.S. interests abroad. Two, the concern about Pakistan´s nuclear weapons and stability.  If I'm just focused  on the U.S. homeland, can we distinguish  between the dangers posed by al Qaeda and the Taliban?

Lavoy and Petraeus spoke. MacChrystal gave a presentation about what he called "The Pathway" towards his initial assessment. 

Obama stated: "Okay. You guys have done your job, but there are three developments since them. The Pakistanis are doing better; the Afghanistan situation is much more serious than anticipated; and the Afghan elections did not provide the pivot point hoped for – a more legitimate government".

Biden was favouring the assumption, contested by the president, that Pakistan would evolve the same way Afghanistan had.

Robert Gates proposed keeping in mind the interests abroad and the allies. 

Towards the end of the meeting, Hillary asked how the additional troops would be used, where they would be sent, if they were going as advisors and how the lessons learned in Iraq would be applied.  

The intelligence analyses at the most senior level were never conclusive about action in Afghanistan at this time. A completely destabilized Afghanistan would, sooner or later, destabilize Pakistan. Thus, the question facing the president and his team was this: Could the United States take on this risk?

Gates met with Haqqani, the Pakistani ambassador in the US.  He had to deliver an explicit message from the president:  We are not pulling out of Afghanistan. Haqqani unfurled a shopping list of gear and vehicles that the Pakistani army needed. Congress had given them a 400 million dollars fund in May to pay for the improvements to Pakistan's counterinsurgency arsenal.  Haqqani brought up the 1,6 billion that America owed the Pakistani military for conducting operations along the Afghan border.  After September 11th, the U.S. set up an expense account for Pakistan and other countries called the Coalition Support Fund; from this fund the allies were reimbursed for the assistance they provided.   

CHAPTER 17

Obama met with a bipartisan group of about 30 congressional leaders to update them on the strategy review.

A number of legislators criticized the counterterrorism approach that Biden had been advocating.  They interpreted it as a way of reducing the U.S. presence.  

Biden made it clear that he wasn't defending a policy that would imply an operation carried out only with the use of Special Troops. 

The president had to make it clear that nobody was talking about abandoning Afghanistan. 

McCain said he was only hoping that the decision was not being made leisurely and that he respected the fact that Obama, as the commander in chief, had to make the decision. 

Obama responded to him: "I can assure you that I'm not making this decision in a leisurely way.  And you're absolutely right.  This is my decision, and I'm the commander in chief." 

Obama continued by saying: "Nobody feels more urgency to make this decision –but to make it right – than I do".

That same day, at 3:30 in the afternoon, Obama again called his group together for a meeting to analyze the Pakistan situation. 

The consensus within the intelligence community was that the situation in Afghanistan was not going to be resolved unless there were stable relations between India and Pakistan. 

Mullen pointed out that the collaboration programs between the US and Pakistani armies had reached the sum of almost 2 billion a year for equipment, training and other factors.

There were suggestions to open up new facilities in Pakistan in order to infiltrate information sources in the tribes and to include US military advisors in the Pakistani units.

Obama approved all the actions in the field.  It was rare to receive an immediate order from the president since up to that time there was a lot of talk at the sessions and not much decision-making. 

CHAPTER 18

At last McChrystal had his chance to present his option for the troop increase alone before the principals (Obama was not present) on October 8th. 

The essence of his presentation, along with 14 slides, was that conditions in Afghanistan were much worse than those people had thought and that only a counterinsurgent offensive counting on full resourcing could fix the situation. 

Jones said that there were still some unanswered questions and he jotted down in his notebook that it was impossible to put any strategy for Afghanistan into practice that didn't tackle the problem of the sanctuaries in Pakistan".

McChrystal listed three options:

1. 10,000 to 11,000 troops, mainly for training the Afghan security forces 
2. 40,000 troops to protect the population.
3. 85,000 troops for the same purpose. 

McChrystal made it clear that the aim in this case was not to defeat the Taliban but to wear it down, in other words, prevent them from taking control again of the key parts of the country.

Hillary asked whether it was possible to carry out a mission to degrade them down with fewer troops, and the general answered that it wasn't, that he was advocating the 40,000 man option. 

The next day,  Obama awoke to the news that he had received the Nobel Peace Prize.  

The same afternoon at 2:30, the National Security Council plenary had a work session with the president. Obama began the meeting asking them all to tell him what should be done with the war. 

Lavoy started talking about Pakistan and his obsession with India, and that the Pakistanis had reservations about American commitment.  

McChrystal  said that unless the mission would change, he was presenting the same options. 

Eikenberry took 10 minutes to summarize his options; they were rather pessimistic ones.  He agreed that the situation was getting worse and that it was necessary to send more resources, but he thought that the counterinsurgent offensive was too ambitious. 

Gates reminded them that everyone had embraced only three options:

1. Counterinsurgency, which has come to mean nation building.
2. Counterterrorism, which people think means missiles coming from a ship in the ocean. 
3. The counterterrorism plus proposed by the vice president.

But evidently there were more options and not just those three. Gates added that it was necessary to redefine the objective and that probably the US was trying to achieve more than it could manage.  

Petraeus concluded: "We are not going to defeat the Taliban, but we do need to deny them access to key population areas and lines of communication to "contain" them.

Biden asked:" What's the best-guess estimate for getting things headed in the right direction? If a year from now is no demostrable progress in governance, what do we do?

No answer.

Biden tried again: "If the government doesn't improve and if you get the troops, in a year, what would be the impact?

Eikenberry answered that if indeed the last five years had not been heartening, there had been small progress, and they had been able to capitalize on it, but that they shouldn't expect significant forward movement in the next six to twelve months. 

CHAPTER 19

It was Hillary's turn at the October 9th meeting.  Hillary said that the dilemma was to decide which came first, more troops or a better government; that in order to avoid collapse more troops were needed, but that that would not ensure progress. 

She asked if it were possible to achieve the objectives in Afghanistan and Pakistan without committing to send more troops. She herself answered that the only way to get the government to change was to send more troops, but even then there would be no guarantees that this would succeed. 

She added that all the options were difficult and unsatisfactory and added: "We do have a national security interest in ensuring the Taliban doesn't defeat us. The same with destroying al Qaeda, which would be difficult without Afghanistan.  It's an extremely difficult decision, but the options are limited unless we commit and gain the psychological advantage".

Mullen echoed the other hawkish comments. Dennis Blair suggested that domestic politics might be a problem due to the number of casualties, since in the past month the figure had gone up to 40, double the rate of the year before. He was wondering whether it would be worth it.  The answer was that the people would support it as long as they believed there had been gains.

He said: "For the first time, the president would have a strategy developed by his full war cabinet, and we'll be able to tell the American people what we are doing".

Panetta's opinion  was: "You can't leave.  You can't defeat the Taliban.  They were not talking about a Jeffersonian democracy in Afghanistan", said Panetta who was believing that this was the basis for reducing the US mission and accepting Karzai in spite of his defects.  According to Panetta, the mission was to fight against Al Qaeda and ensure that no more sanctuaries existed.  It was necessary to work with Karzai.

Susan Rice said she hadn`t made a decision but was thinking it was necessary to reinforce security in Afghanistan in order to defeat Al Qaeda.

Holbrooke said that they needed more troops and the problem was to know how many and how to use them.

John Brennan was asking what it was that they wanted to achieve since the decisions on security matters that would be adopted here would also be applied in other regions.  If it was a matter of a non-corrupt government, that wouldn`t be achieved in his lifetime. "That's why", he was saying, "using terminology like ‘success', ‘victory' and ‘win' complicates our task".

Two and a half hours had gone by. The president said that those meetings had resulted in a useful definition of the problem, that a new definition was emerging. 

"We won't resolve this today", said Obama.  "We've recognized that we're not going to completely defeat the Taliban".

Obama said that if he approved sending 40,000 troops that would not be enough for a counterinsurgency strategy that would cover the entire country.

Obama was asking whether it was possible to get the Afghans to the point where the US could pull out in a period of two, three, four years.

"We can't sustain a commitment indefinitely in the United States", said Obama. "We can't sustain internal support at home and with allies without having some explanation that involves timelines".

Holbrooke returned to his office in the State Department where the personnel was complaining that they were staying up all night long writing analyses that nobody was reading.

Holbrooke answered that the person to whom they were being addressed did read them, that the sleepless nights hadn't been in vain and that they should prepare a new reports package for the president.

Thus concludes the summary of Chapters 15 to 19 of the 33 chapters in "Obama's Wars".

Yesterday, almost at the same time, the publication of another book, Conversations with Myself, with a prologue by Barack Obama, was announced.  But this time, the edition will come out in 20 languages. According to statements, it has the important letters and documents from the life of its author, our well-known and esteemed friend Nelson Mandela.

In the final years of his cruel imprisonment, the United States converted the evil apartheid regime into a nuclear power, providing it with more than half a dozen nuclear bombs, destined to strike at the internationalist Cubans in order to impede their advance into territory occupied by South Africa in Namibia. The crushing defeat of the armies of apartheid in southern Angola wiped out the monstrous system.

Our representatives in Spain promised to obtain and send copies of the book immediately; its launching is announced for today, October 12th.  But at almost six in the afternoon, we had heard nothing about it yet because it was a holiday in Spain and the booksellers are closed. They are celebrating the 518th anniversary of the day when they discovered us and Spain became an empire. 

To be continued tomorrow.

Fidel Castro Ruz
October 12, 2010
7:12 p.m.

Part Four - October 13, 2010

Chapters 20 and 21

Assessments about the options regarding the war in Afghanistan continued. Three priorities in terms of civilian efforts are identified: agriculture, education and reduction of poppies. If these aims were to be met, support for the Taliban could be undermined.

The big question was still: “what can you do in a year?"

Petraeus said he had written a memo called ‘Lessons on Reconciliation' about his experiences in Iraq and Mullen did not know anything about this.

According to public surveys, two out of every three Americans thought that the president lacked a well-defined plan for Afghanistan. There were even divided opinions in the population about how they should go on.

Axelrod took a breath. The public didn't distinguish between the Taliban and Al Qaeda. That might be part of the problem.

Only 45 percent of the population was approving Obama´s handling of the war (down 10 points in a month, 15 points since August and 18 points from his peak) The drop was mostly attributable to the loss of Republican support.

Axelrod wasn`t worried; he was saying that finally it would be him or everyone who would explain the decision in a very clear terms so that the people could understand what was being done and why.

Panetta stated that “No Democratic president can go against the military advice, especially if the president had asked for it. His recommendation was to do whatever they were saying. He explained to the other White House officials that in his opinion the decision had to have been taken in one week, but that Obama never asked him and he had never volunteered his opinion to the president.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney stated in public that the U.S. should not dither when their armed forces were in danger.

Obama wanted to decide before his Asian trip. He said that two options had not yet been presented to him, that it was 40,000 troops or nothing. He said that he wanted a new option that same week. In his hand was a two-page memo sent by his budget director Peter Orszag, projecting costs of war in Afghanistan. According to the strategy recommended by McChrystal, the cost during the next 10 years would be $889 billion, nearly 1 trillion dollars.

“This is not what I'm looking for", said Obama. “I´m not doing 10 years. I´m not doing a long term nation-building effort. I´m not spending a trillion dollars. I've been pressing you guys on this"

“That´s not in the national interests. Yes, this needs to be to situation. That is one of the big flaws in the plan that´s been presented to me".

Gates was backing McChrystal's request for troops, but for the time being it was necessary to retain a fourth brigade.

Obama said: “We don`t need a fourth brigade", or the 400,000 troops for the Afghan security forces that McChrystal proposes to train. We could hope for a more moderate growth for this force. We could increase the troops to counteract the enemy expansion but without getting mixed up in a long-range strategy.

Hillary thought that McChrystal should be given what he asked for, but she agreed that they should wait before sending in the fourth brigade.

Obama asked Gates: Do you really need 40,000 troops to push back the Taliban expansion? How about if we send from 15,000 to 20,000? Why wouldn't it be enough with that number of troops?" He repeated that he didn`t agree with spending a billion dollars or with a counterinsurgency strategy that would go on for ten years.

“I want an exit strategy", the president added.

Everybody realized that by backing McChrystal, Hillary was uniting forces with the military and with the secretary of the defence, thereby limiting the president's manoeuvring capacity. The possibilities of hoping for a significantly lesser number of troops or a more moderate policy had been reduced.

It was a decisive moment in her relations with the White House. Was she one to be trusted? Could she ever really belong to the Obama team? Had she ever been a part of his team? Gates thought she was talking from her own convictions.

Soon after, those having similar ideas formed a group. Biden, Blinken, Donilon, Lute, Brennan and McDonough were a powerful group, closest to Obama in many ways and it was a balance facing the united front put up by Gates, Mullen, Petraeus, McChrystal and now Clinton.

Chapters 22 and 23

Obama summoned the Chiefs of Staff to the White House. During the last two months the uniformed military had been insisting on sending 40,000 troops, but the individual services chiefs still hadn`t been consulted. The army, navy, marines and air force chiefs were the ones recruiting, training, equipping and supplying the troops for commanders like Petraeus and his subordinate chiefs in the field such as McChrystal. These last two did not attend because they were in Afghanistan.

Obama asked them to propose three options to him.

James Conway, commander general of the Marines, referred to the combatants' allergies to extended missions that went on further than the defeat of the enemy. His recommendation was that the president should not get mixed up in a long-range operation for the building of a nation.

Gen. George Casey, Army chief of staff, said that the scheduled withdrawal in Iraq would permit the Army the army to have 40,000 men ready for Afghanistan, but that he felt skeptical about the great commitments of troops in these wars. For him, the key was a rapid transition, but that the plan of 40,000 was a global risk acceptable to the army.

The chief of naval operations and the air force chief had little to say, because whatever the decision on Afghanistan, the impact on their forces would be minimal.

Finally Mullen presented the president three options:

1. 85,000 troops. This was an impossible number. Everyone knew that they didn't have this force. 2. 40,000 troops 3. Between 30,000 to 35 000 troops

The hybrid opinion was 20,000 men or two brigades to disperse the Taliban and train Afghan troops.

Chapters 24 and 25

Obama proposes to the president of Pakistan an escalation against the terrorist groups operating from his country.

The CIA director said he was hoping for full support from Pakistan since Al Qaeda and its followers were a common enemy. He added that it was a matter of Pakistan's very survival.

Obama was realizing that the key to keeping the national security team together was Gates.

After returning from Asia, Obama called his national security team and he promised them that he would make his final decision in two days. He said he agreed with less ambitious but more realistic objectives, and that said objectives should be attained in a shorter period of time than what had been initially recommended by the Pentagon. He added that the troops would start thinning out after July 2011, the time frame Gates had suggested in their last session.

“We do not need perfection; four hundred thousand is not going to be the number we were going to be at before we started thinning out".

Hillary seemed to be almost jumping in her seat, showing every sign she wanted to be called on, but Jones had determined the speaking order and the secretary would have to sit through Biden's comments.

Biden had issued a memorandum that took the president up on his offer to question the strategy's time frame and objectives. Petraeus felt the air go out of the room.

Biden wasn't sure that the number 40,000 was sustainable from the political point of view and he had many questions about the feasibility of the elements of the counterinsurgency strategy.

Clinton had her chance to speak. She was fully backing the strategy. “We spent a year waiting for an election and a new government. The international community and Karzai all know what the outcome will be if we don't increase the commitment. What we're doing now will not work. The plan was not everything we all might have wanted. But we won't know if we don't commit to it. I endorse this effort; it comes with enormous cost, but if we go half hearted we'll achieve nothing". Her words were a very common phrase that she used when she was the First Lady in the White House and one she still regularly used: fake it until you make it.

Gates proposed waiting until December 2010 in order to make a complete assessment of the situation. He believed that July was too soon a date for that.

Via video-conference from Geneva, Mullen was supporting the plan and said that it was necessary to send troops as quickly as possible, that he was sure that the counterinsurgency strategy would bring results.

Seeing that a bloc in favour of sending the 40,000 troops was being aligned, the president spoke. “I don't want to be in a situation here where we're back here in six months talking about another 40,000".

“We won't come back and ask for another 40,000", said Mullen.

Petraeus stated that he was supporting any decision made by the president. And after having stated his unconditional support, he declared that his recommendation, from a military point of view, was that the objectives couldn't be attained with less than 40,000 troops.

Peter Orzag said that probably they would have to ask Congress for additional funding.

Holbrooke agreed with what Hillary had said.

Brennan assured them that the antiterrorist program would continue independently of any decision that was made.

Emmanuel referred to the difficulty in asking Congress for additional funding.

Cartwright said that he supported the hybrid option of 20,000 troops.

The president tried to summarize. “At the end of two, the situation may still have ambiguous elements", he said. He thanked them all and announced that he would be working on this on the weekend in order to make a final decision at the beginning of the coming week.

On Wednesday, November 25, Obama got together in the Oval Office with Jones, Donilon, McDonough and Rhodes. He said he was inclined to approve sending 30,000 troops but that this decision wasn't final.

“This needs to be a plan about how we're going to hand it off and get out of Afghanistan. Everything we are doing has to be focused on how we are going to get to the point where we can reduce our footprint. It's in our national security interest. It has to be clear that this is what we are doing", said Obama. “American people, they are not as interested in things like the numbers of brigades. It's the number of troops. And I've decided on 30,000.

Obama now appeared more certain about the numbers of men.

“We need to make clear to people that the cancer is in Pakistan. The reason we're doing the target ( ) in Afghanistan is so that the cancer doesn't spread there. We also need to excise the cancer in Pakistan".

The figure of 30,000 seemed to be fixed. Obama commented that from a political point of view it was easier for him to say no to 30,000 since that way he could devote himself to the national agenda, something he wanted to be the lynch pin of his term in office. But the military didn't understand that.

“Politically, what these guys don't get is it'd be a lot easier for me to go out and give a speech saying ( ) the American people are sick of this war, and we are going to put in 10,000 trainers because that how we're going to get out of there." But “the military would be upset about it".

It was apparent that a part - perhaps a large part - of Obama wanted to give precisely that speech. He seemed to be road-testing it.

Donilon said that Gates might resign if the decision was only the 10,000 trainers.

“That would be the difficult part", said Obama, “because there's no stronger member of my national security team".

The president decided to announce the 30,000 in order to keep the family together.

Chapters 26 and 27

On November 27, Obama again invited Colin Powell to his office for another private talk. The president said he was struggling with the different points of view. The military was unified supporting McChrystal's request for 40,000 more troops. His political advisors were very skeptical. He was asking for new approaches, but he just kept getting the same old options.

Powell told him: “You don't have to put up with this. You are the commander in chief. These guys work for you. Because they are unanimous in their advice doesn't make it right. There are other generals. There's only one commander in chief".

Obama considered Powell to be a friend.

The day after Thanksgiving, Jones, Donilon, Emmanuel, McDonough, Lute and Colonel John Tien, an Iraq combatant veteran, went to see the president in his office. Obama asked why they were meeting with him again to deal with the same matter. “I thought this was finished Wednesday", he stated.

Donilon and Lute explained to him that there were still some questions from the Pentagon that hadn't been answered and they wanted to know whether the 10 percent increase to the number of troops, including the facilitators, had been accepted.

Exasperated, the president said it hadn't, that only 30,000 had been, and he asked the reason for that meeting after everyone had been in agreement. The president was told that they were still working on the military. Now they wanted the 30,000 troops to be in Afghanistan by summer.

It seemed that the Pentagon was again opening up one of the topics. They were also questioning the date of the troops withdrawal (July 2011). Gates preferred that it should happen six months later (the end of 2011).

“I'm pissed", Obama said, but he didn't raise his voice much. It looked like all the topics were going to be discussed, negotiated or cleared up again. Obama told them that he was willing to take a step back and accept sending 10,000 trainers. And that would be the final numbers.

This was the controversy facing the president and the military system. Donilon was amazed to see the political power being exercised by the military but he realized that the White House had to be the long-distance runner in this contest.

Obama continued to work with Donilon, Lute and the others. He began to precisely dictate what he wanted, drawing up what Donilon called a “terms sheet", similar to the legal document that is used in a business transaction. He agreed that the strategic concept of the operation would be ‘degrade' the Taliban, not dismantling it, or defeating or destroying it. He pasted the six military missions from the memo required to revert the Taliban momentum.

But the civilians at the Pentagon and the General Staff tried to expand the strategy.

“You can't do that to a president", Donilon would tell them. “That wasn't what Obama wanted. He wanted a narrower mission". But the pressure contiunued.

“Put in restrictions", Obama ordered. But when Donilon returned from the Pentagon he would come back with more additions, not less. One of them was to send a message to Al Qaeda. “We're not going to do it", said the president when he found out.

Donilon felt like he was rewriting the same orders ten times over.

Requests for collateral missions kept pouring in from the Pentagon. Obama kept on saying “no".

Some of them continued to support McChrystal's original request for 40,000 troops. It was as if nobody had said “no" to them.

“No", said Obama. The final figure was 30,000, and he held on to the troop pull-out date of July 2011, the same date to begin the transfer of responsibility for security to the Afghan troops.

His orders were typed on six single-spaced pages. His decision was not just to make a speech and refer to the 30,000; this would also be a guideline, and everybody would have to read and sign it. That was the price he was going to insist on, the way in which he wanted to put an end to the controversy –at least for the time being. But as we all know now, the controversy, just like the war, probably wouldn't end, and the struggle would continue.

November 28 was another day dedicated to the National Security Council, a meeting where Donilon and Lute took part. The analysis of the strategy became the centre of the universe. The president and all of them were being overwhelmed by the military. The questions made by the president or anyone else no longer mattered. Now the only feasible solution was the 40,000 troops.

Donilon was wondering how many of those pressing for that option would be around to see the effects of the strategy in July 2011.

The conclusion was that all of them would leave and the president would remain here along with everything these guys had sold him.

The debate was still going on –in his house and in his head. Obama sounded like he was back to tentative on the 30,000 troops. He asked for his team's opinion. Clinton, Gates and John weren't present.

Colonel Tien told the president that he didn't know how he was going to defy the military chain of command. “If you tell McChrystal, I got your assessment, got your resource constructs, but I've chosen to do something else, you're going probably to have to replace him. You can't tell him, just do it my way, thanks for your hard work, do it my way". The colonel meant that McChrystal, Petraeus, Mullen and even Gates were ready to quit, something unprecedented in high ranking military circles.

Obama knew that Brennan was against a large troop increase.

Obama had inherited a war with a beginning, a middle part, but without any clear-cut ending.

Lute was thinking that Gates was too deferential with the uniformed military. The secretary of defence is the president's first civilian line of control. If the secretary wasn't going to guarantee that control, the president was going to have to do it. Lute thought that Gates wasn't serving the president very well.

The president phoned up Biden and told him that he wanted to meet with the whole national security team on Sunday in the Oval Office. Biden asked to meet with him first and Obama told him “no".

To be continued tomorrow.

Fidel Castro Ruz
October 13, 2010
5:14 p.m.


Part Five - October 14, 2010

Chapters 28 and 29

Obama came down from the residence and saw Biden.  Biden advised him:  “What you're about to do is a presidential order; it is no longer an issue of continuing a discussion. This is not what you think. This is an order. Without them, we're locked into in Vietnam".

Obama answered: “I'm not signing on to a failure. If what I propose is not working, I'm not going to be like these other presidents and stick to it based on my ego or my politics, my political security. This is what I'm going to announce", and he distributed copies of his six-page terms sheet.

“There's going to be a 30,000-troop surge. In December of 2010, there would be an assessment to see what's working and was not.  In July 2011 we're going to begin to thin out."

“In 2010 we will not be having a conversation of how to do more. There would be no repeat of what had happened that year… This is neither counterinsurgency nor nation building. The costs are prohibitive", Obama stated.

The military had gotten almost everything they were asking for. 

Petraeus and Mullen ratified their support for the president. Emmanuel was concerned about the cost of the operation–more than 30 billion dollars.

Biden acknowledged that that wasn't a negotiation; it was an order by the commander in chief.  It was a mission change, and if that wasn't how it was perceived, the months of work spent on this job couldn't be justified.  

The president informed Eikenberry and McChrystal of his decision via a video-conference.  Both agreed. 

Biden was convinced that the president had hammered a stake into the heart of the expanded counterinsurgent offensive. 

Petraeus said in private: “You have to recognize also that I don't think you win this war. I think you keep fighting. It's a little bit like Iraq. Iraq is a bit of a metaphor for this situation. Yes, there has been an enormous progress in Iraq.  But there are still horrific attacks in Iraq and you have to stay vigilant. This is the kind of fight we are in for the rest of our lives and probably our kids' lives".

Obama gave his speech at the Eisenhower Auditorium at West Point Military Academy.

The next day, Clinton and Gates appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee to speak about the new plan. 

Many Republicans were troubled by the deadline of July 2011 when supposedly the troops would begin to transfer out of Afghanistan.

Petraeus later said that strategy progress could take many forms, that all he needed was to show that there had been advances and that would be sufficient to add time to the clock and get what they needed.  

Lute advised him that that was a dramatic misreading of the president, that Obama was opposed to the idea of long-term commitment. 

Chapters 30 and 31

On April 3rd, Petraeus met with Derek Harvey, his confidential intelligence adviser. Harvey drew one of the most pessimistic pictures of the war. He advised that the political and diplomatic strategy was not connected to the military strategy. “It's not going to work", he said. “We aren't going to achieve the objectives we've set out for ourselves". Harvey foresaw a complete return to the situation before September 11. Petraeus asked what were the options and Harvey thought that supporting the Karzai government was counterproductive.

He said that election results had strengthened Karzai and that he was now getting everything he wanted. 

McChrystal's troops hadn't succeeded in clearing out the key areas. “The enemy is just beginning to adapt", added Harvey.

On April 16th the president meets with the National Security Council to analyze the up-dated information on Afghanistan and Pakistan.  

The president began by asking about the situation in specific areas; in all of them, the troops were seen to be resisting and in none of them had responsibility been transferred to the local forces.   

The pattern being established was clear. To resist, resist for years without advancing or transfers. 

Nobody at the meeting dared to ask when the transfer would begin. 

Donilon and Lute had prepared some questions so that the president could concentrate on the situation in Khandahar.

The president recommended that McChrystal think about how we were going to know if we were being successful and when we would know that.  

The result of the meeting was the first strike for the general. 

Brigadier General Lawrence Nicholson visited Jones and Lute at the White House.  Nicholson was reminded of the 12-month term he had to show progress attained and to begin the transfer.  When would the Marines be ready to do something more, for example, enter Khandahar, or return home and be part of those who would be returning in 2011?

Nicholson said he needed at least another 12 months, and that was for the districts that were in better shape. Lute reminded him that that hadn't been the commitment, that they still hadn't entered the suburbs of Khandahar, the place where the Taliban were to establish themselves. What was important was Khandahar.

Nicholson said that maybe they could get there in 24 months if they eliminated the problem of the poppy fields since that was what was feeding the insurgency.   

Lute wondered how they were going to achieve that.  Despite the fact that a plague had wiped out 33 percent of the crops, the outlook for a reduced funding for the insurgents was remote.  In spite of the Afghan conspiracy theories, the CIA had not yet developed an insect that would attack the poppy. 

McChrystal was reporting some advances, but when Lute got into the figures, the reality was quite different.

Chapters 32 and 33

Sixteen very rough months had gone by for Dennis Blair.  He had failed in his efforts to name the chief intelligence officer in each of the capitals.  The CIA had won and the feud had become public. In his opinion, the CIA was using the President's Daily Brief so that Obama could learn about their triumphs.

Blair was feeling so frustrated that on one occasion he said: “I think the CIA is fundamentally an organization that's like a really finely train not very smart, dangerous animal that needs to be controlled very closely by adults". 

In May of 2010, Obama had asked Jones and others if it wasn't already time to get rid of Blair. There had been many discussions with the CIA and Blair had put on a lot of pressure for the signing of a no-spying agreement with the French, something that was opposed by Obama and the rest of the cabinet. 

Obama phoned him and let him know of his decision to fire him. That he should present some personal excuse.  

Blair was deeply offended.  He wasn't ill, his family was fine, and he had been telling people that he would stay as DNI for four years, because part of the problem with the office was the constant turnover at the top.    

On June 21, Gates informs Jones about the article printed about McChrystal  in Rolling Stone magazine. McChrystal was saying that Jones was a “clown" who had been stuck in the year 1985; that Obama's strategy wanted to sell an unsellable position.   

McChrystal called Biden and acknowledged that he had jeopardized the mission.   He apologized to Holbrooke and presented his resignation to Gates. 

Gates proposed to Obama that he criticize McChrystal in the first two paragraphs of his statement saying “I think that the general committed a significant mistake and exercised poor judgement".

Obama accepted McChrystal's resignation and proposed Petraeus for that position.

Obama met with Petraeus for 40 minutes.

On Wednesday June 23rd, the president announced the changes.  He acknowledged McChrystal's long service record and said that he was saddened to lose a soldier whom he had gotten to respect and admire.  He added that Petraeus “is setting an extraordinary example of service and patriotism by assuming this difficult post". And he concluded saying: “I welcome debate among my team, but I won't tolerate division"  

At the interview Obama had with the author of the book, the president spoke of his ideas regarding the nature of the war and his efforts to limit and eventually end the American´s combat role in Afghanistan. 

He was asked about which scene he would start a book or a movie on how he had handled the Afghanistan problem and he replied that perhaps he would begin with the year 2002 when the troop increase for Iraq was being discussed.  Maybe that had been the first speech on foreign policy that got lot of attention.   

Obama agreed that the nature of the war was the cost, the time and the undetermined consequences, and he quoted a famous American who had said on one occasion:  “War is hell".  He was referring to the phrase uttered by the Union Civil War General, William Tecumseh Sherman, when he said: “…And once the dogs of war are unleashed, you don't know where it's going to lead". 

“When I entered into office, we had two wars taking place", said Obama. I tried to clear up the chaos.

“It is very easy to imagine a situation in which in the absence of a clear strategy, we ended up staying in Afghanistan for another five years, another eight years,   another ten years, and that we would do it not with clear intentions but rather just out of an inertia".

At the end of the interview, the president realized that almost the entire article was hinging on relations between civilian and military leaders, and he thought he ought to express his own opinions. 

“I am probably the first president who is young enough that the Vietnam War wasn't at the core of my development".   He was 13 in 1975 when the   United States finally withdrew from Vietnam.

“So I grew up with none of the baggage that arouse out of the dispute of the Vietnam War.  I was also had a lot of confidence, I guess, coming in that the way our system of government works civilians have to make political decisions. And the military carries them out…I also don't see it as a   hawk/dove kind of thing...So a lot of the political frames through which these debates are being viewed don't really connect with me generationally.  I'm neither intimidated by our military, nor am I thinking that they're somehow trying to undermine my role as commander in chief".

In this final paragraph of Obama's conversation with Woodward, the president of the United States utters enigmatic words that are revealing.

There are moments when the pressure of the military is strong, persistent and repetitive.  We can perceive the image of a president who is being resisted and challenged, as it happened in ancient Rome when the empire depended practically solely on the power of the legions.

But in ancient Roman times, the planet was totally unknown in its dimensions, physical characteristics and spatial location.  At that time they lacked firearms; there was no trade or global investment, military bases, naval and air forces on a planetary level, hundreds of satellites, instantaneous communications, tens of thousands of nuclear weapons along with radioelectric, electromagnetic and cybernetic weapons; mighty rivalries between powers with nuclear weapons, whose deployment, by those who have less, would be sufficient to put an end to human life; and almost seven billion people who need planet Earth's natural resources.

It is quite a dramatic picture. On the one hand, Barack Obama, a successful lawyer, highly educated and a consummate speaker, and on the other hand, highly professionalized soldiers, trained all their lives in the use of force and the arts of war, endowed with weapons that can put an end to the human beings living on this planet in just a matter of hours.

What hope for humankind can we derive from this picture?

I remember Bush's speech at West Point where, as the instrument of that country's ultra-rightwing, he stated that military officers had to be ready to attack immediately, with no advance warning, the sixty or more dark corners of the world.

In two of those dark corners, Afghanistan and Iraq, the soldiers of the United States are bogged down, after causing millions of deaths.

At the meetings of the National Security Council with Obama, the fear of difficulties that are even more serious, coming from a third country, Pakistan were being expressed.

Relations between the CIA and Bin Laden, the leader of the “Arab group", were going on right up to the very day of the attack on the Twin Towers in New York on September 11, 2001.

What did the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, inform the American CBS radio and TV broadcasting network?  That on September 10, Osama Bin Laden was undergoing kidney dialysis treatment in the Rawalpindi Military Hospital in Pakistan, a place with close ties with the Pentagon...No attempt to detain the most well-known fugitive in the US was made, and so then it could be that Bin Laden would serve another better purpose.

That information was revealed in Dan Rather's superb program on January 28, 2002, four and a half months after the terrorist attack that allowed Bush to justify his antiterrorist warfare.

Knowing this facilitates our comprehension of the reason why, in the dialogues with Obama in the White House, it is stated that the most difficult problem could come from Pakistan.

The person who conversed with Obama most respectfully was General Colin Powell who belongs to the Republican Party that opposed his election as the president of the United States.  It is well-known that Powell might have been the first black US president. He preferred not to run for the office. Later on, Bush appointed him Secretary of State. I know that there were people who allegedly were firmly opposed to his running.  But I don't have enough facts at my disposal to make an opinion about Colin Powell's motives.

I hope that the summary of the book “Obama's Wars" has been useful to the readers of my Reflections. 

Fidel Castro Ruz
October 14, 2010
9:51 pm

 

 
Nuclear Weapons and the Survival of Homo Sapiens Print E-mail

Part One | Part Two

Part One - October 7, 2010

During the ceremony commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution I expressed my opinion that “The Cuban Revolution, on our small and ignored island, was newly born, but coming into this world just 90 miles from the powerful empire, caused it to test the arrogance of the dominant superpower in our hemisphere and in a large part of the world.” I promised to speak about the statements I had made to the United Nations two days previously. I warned that our struggle would be “long and hard.” For the time being, I must postpone this task. Another subject at the moment is more important.

Our people, as many around the world know, are characterized by their high level of knowledge, which they have achieved during the past five decades, after the country emerged from its semi-colonized and mono-crop producing state and its considerable levels of illiterate and semi-illiterate people with low general education levels and scientific knowledge. The Cuban people had to be fully informed about what nuclear energy could mean for the fate of the human species.

“I think —I said verbatim on September 28— that it might be a good idea to make known some of these ideas about what a nuclear weapon is. I have seen images about what critical mass is, and what its use as a weapon represents: that is to employ the energy that drives the universe for war.” At “3,000 degrees Celsius, practically all metals and materials ” melt. “What would happen then at 10,000 degrees? [...] Well, an atomic explosion produced by critical mass could reach millions of degrees.

To give an idea of the destructive power of this type of energy, I would like to add to this Reflection something that Harry S. Truman wrote in his diary on July 25, 1945 about a test made in the state of New Mexico: An experiment in the New Mexico desert was startling, to put it mildly. Thirteen pounds of the explosive caused the complete disintegration of a steel tower 60 feet high, created a crater 6 feet deep and 1,200 feet in diameter, knocked over a steel tower 1/2 a mile away and knocked men down 10,000 yards away. The explosion was visible for more than 200 miles and audible for 40 miles and more.”

In the current stage of the world, when some 200 countries have been recognized as independent states with the right to participate in the United Nations —ridiculous legal fiction—, the only chance to forge a ray of hope is by leading the masses, in a rational and calm way, to the understanding that all the inhabitants of the planet are facing a grave risk.

Within our limited relations, we have had the opportunity, in less than three weeks, to receive two eminent figures. The first one was Alan Robock, an emeritus researcher and professor at Rutgers University, New Jersey. While working with a group of courageous colleagues, the US scientist proved the Nuclear Winter theory and advanced it to its current level. Only 100 of the 25,000 strategic nuclear weapons that exist today would be enough to cause this tragedy, he explained.

The Nuclear Winter theory has shown that “If such weapons did not exist, they could not be used. And at present, there is absolutely no rational argument for their use. If they cannot be used, they must be destroyed. By doing so we would protect ourselves from accidents, mistaken calculations or any bouts of insanity.”

“ Any country that at present may be considering the nuclear option must acknowledge that by adopting such a decision, it would be endangering not only its own population but the entire world.

“ The use of nuclear weapons in the event of a total attack against an enemy would be suicidal due to the anomalous cold and darkness caused by the smoke from the fires generated by the bomb.”

Robock quoted Einstein: “The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.”

My reply to the noble scientist was: “It makes no difference if we know about this, what is needed is for the world to know.”

On October 2, another eminent figure of great authority and prestige arrived in our country, economist Michel Chossudovsky, the director of the Center for Research on Globalization and chief editor of the renowned and increasing influential Website Global Research. He is an emeritus professor at the University of Ottawa and a consultant for several international institutions, including the United Nations Development Program, the African Development Bank, the United Nations Population Fund. He has an extensive list of other connections and merits that would take a long time to mention.

One of the first activities of the Canadian economist and writer was a lecture he gave to students, professors and researchers in economics, at the Manuel Sanguily Theater, University of Havana. He presented his lecture and answered all questions in perfect Spanish; a commendable effort. I noted down the main ideas from his presentation, especially those related to the risk of war employing atomic weapons.

“ in the Universities of North America, the neoliberal economy represents totally fictitious realities. It is very difficult for economists [...] to analyze the economic reality [...] there is no notion of the economic actor.”

“ the financial manipulation of covert operations by power groups, of the fraud entailed by this economic system [...] is something beyond the control of individuals ”

“At present, I would like to focus more on the issue of the military venture underway. It is an alliance between the United States, NATO and Israel: a military project, but at the same time, an economic project, since it is a project aimed at economic conquest.”

“ these military operations meet [...] objectives of an economic nature [...] the major economic objectives are oil and natural gas [...] from the eastern Mediterranean to the Chinese borders and the Caspian Sea, South of Saudi Arabia [...] the Middle East-Central Asia. This region —according to statistics— contains around 60 percent of the world reserves of oil and natural gas.”

“If we compare this to the US reserves; they are 30 times greater. The United States has less than two percent of the world reserves [...] and they are unleashing a war [...] to control these resources in the name of their oil companies [...] the configuration of economic power behind this war is made up of oil companies such as British Petroleum, Chevron, Exxon [...], the big Anglo-American oil companies that are there and have interests in those regions.”

“British Petroleum [...] was formerly the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, but this Anglo Persian Oil Company was a project of conquest both of Iran and Iraq after the Second World War ”

“If you add the Muslim countries to Nigeria, Libya, Algeria, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei, they represent 70 percent of the global crude oil reserves [...] The United States is carrying out a religious war against the inhabitants of those countries where there is oil. [...] It is a holy crusade against the Muslim world, but the religious objective is only a pretext, the justification to unleash such a war. [...] The statements made by Obama, by Hillary Clinton [...] lead us to believe that the United States, with all its military power and military spending of nearly 1 trillion dollars a year, is waging a war against Bin Laden and Al Qaeda.

“ contradictions of this discourse always come from official sources [...] the CIA recently published a document revealing that Al Qaeda has less than 50 members in Afghanistan [...] That war is not against Muslim terrorists; but the pretext for the war is to fight in favor of democracy and to remove the evil.”

“It is interesting to note that military documents read: ‘If you know what you want, let’s go and get them, they are evil.’ There is lots of rhetoric [...] it is a discourse that nobody will question, because the authority, President Obama, comes and says, ‘We must look for Bin Laden, we do not know where he is, but if necessary [...] we will go after him with our nuclear weapons.’”

“After September 11, the doctrine of preventive war and preventive nuclear war was formulated [...] stating that it was fair, based on the objective of fighting terrorism, to use our nuclear weapons against them. And media distortions presented Bin Laden even as a nuclear power [...]the so-called non-state nuclear powers [...] non-state nuclear powers are allied with Iran which, they say, is a nuclear power even though there is no evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapon.”

“ The United States and its allies are threatening Iran with the nuclear weapon using the justification of the non-existing nuclear weapons in Iran, and the pretext is that Iran constitutes a threat to global security.”

“This is the current discourse. Unfortunately this discourse has already been supported by some governments, [...] all the NATO governments and Israel are supporting the option of a preventive nuclear war against Iran [...], and that Iran supports Bin Laden and that it is necessary to impose ‘democracy’ on Iran by employing the nuclear weapon.”

“ We are genuinely facing a situation in which the future of humanity is affected, because a nuclear attack on Iran —as is already being announced, and war preparations have been underway since 2004— would signify, in the first place: that during this war in the Middle East, Central Asia, currently limited to three theaters Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine, we will witness the escalation of this military process with the possibility of a war scenario that would be the third world war.”

"The Second World War was a series of regional wars [...] war in Europe [...] war in the Pacific [...] war in Africa [...] several theaters [...] Today it is the integration of communication systems and the centralization of the military command in one place: the US Strategic Command in Nebraska [...] With the militarization of space using the system of satellites, the so-called intelligent missile systems, there was a regionalization of military operations [...] under US military planning, but coordinated. [...] US Central Command [...] Central Asia and the Middle East. [...] SOUTHCOM based in Miami. [...] Africa Command [...] which is based in Europe, not Africa [...] There is a series of regional commands, but the dynamics of global war is very different from previous wars [...] a coordination in real time, unhurried, a single command, the air defense system of all the countries belonging to NATO, the US and now Israel, is integrated. [...] we are in a vastly different world, with extremely sophisticated weapons; in addition to nuclear weapons we also have electromagnetic weapons, and the coordination of all these operations. [...] NATO now also has an integrated military command, an extremely coherent alliance, which can launch operations anywhere in the world. [...] yes they do have the capacity, in terms of weapons of mass destruction, which is incredibly sophisticated.”

"All of this is a contract for a few companies that produce the weapons, in the United States they call it the Defense Contract, the companies that have agreements with the Defense Department [...]US military spending represents 75 percent of the revenue from household taxes, not the entire income of the Federal State, but the income generated from what individuals and families pay each year [...] more or less $ 1.1 trillion, and military expenditure is about $ 750 billion [...] more or less, 75 percent. [...] these are the official figures, in reality, military spending is much higher than that.”

"... The US now has a military spending that is a little more than 50 percent of the military spending of all the other countries combined. [...] Its economy is also extremely biased in favor of a war economy, with all the consequences of the collapse of social services, health care.”

"The state of poverty that exists in the United States, both due to the crisis and the military economy, is extremely serious. It is not the product of a lack of resources, but rather the result of a transfer of wealth into fewer hands, a stagnation that is caused by the compression of living standards and also by the state’s allocation of almost all of its income to sustain the war economy, on the one hand, and the so-called bank bailout."

"... in the conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union there was a kind of understanding [...] I do not know how to say it in Spanish ... an understanding that it would not be used because it was recognized as a weapon that could wipe out society as a whole.

"First came the doctrine of preventive nuclear war, based on the reclassification of nuclear weapons as conventional weapons [...] During the Cold War there was the red telephone, they had to say who was in Moscow ... At the time there was a recognition that it was dangerous, right? "

"... in 2002 it was as follows: There was a propaganda campaign within the armed forces saying that tactical nuclear weapons were safe for the civilian population [...] safe for the surrounding civilian population, without causing damage to the civilian population around the site of the blast. This classification was used for the nuclear bomb they called the mini-nuke —mini-nuke means small nuclear bomb. [...] According to this ideology, this scientific falsification, the new generation of nuclear bombs was presented as being very different from the strategic bomb [...] I have a pack of cigarettes; I do not know who smokes here, ‘Smoking can damage your health.’ [...] The same thing the Pentagon did, they changed the label; with the backing of bought or co-opted scientists, they have changed the label on the nuclear bomb. [...] ‘This nuclear bomb is safe for civilians, it is a humanitarian bomb.’ I'm not exaggerating; you can consult the documentation about it. [...] this is internal propaganda, it is propaganda in the armed forces themselves; these are the words they use ‘safe for the surrounding civilian population’ [...] as you know, it’s as if you were using a video camera, there is a manual for this bomb. "Another factor: it is not the commander in chief, that is to say the US president, who decides to use the nuclear bomb. The nuclear bomb, reclassified by the Senate in 2002 with that category —a small bomb, which is up to six times the Hiroshima bomb—, is now part of the arsenal of conventional weapons [...] in military terminology it is also in the armory, the tool box. [...] it is in the tool box of the commanding general, three stars [...] the guy says: [...] 'here's the mini-Nuke, he’s reading the manual [...] It says right here that you can use that nuclear bomb. '"

"I'm not exaggerating, once the propaganda is in the military manuals, it becomes a line of conduct, and the problem is as follows: the inquisitorial discourse is so sophisticated, so advanced that it could lead to decisions that are extremely severe for the future of the human race, and therefore we need to come together and unite against that military project, that war project."

"I mentioned the $ 750 billion in military spending, and the $1.5 trillion used to bail out the banks, these are the operations that were implemented in 2008-2009 [...] if military spending is added to the payments made to the banks, we come to a figure that is greater than all state revenues. In one year, state revenues are around $ 2.3 trillion. A large portion of this amount is used to finance the war and fraud, a product of the economic crisis [...] if we look at the program implemented under the Bush [administration] ... it was $ 750 billion, and afterwards another similar scheme was implemented at the beginning of the Obama mandate [...] a trillion or so [...] the total of these rescue operations, by various means, is estimated between 6 and 8 trillion dollars, which would be three or four times the annual income of the US Federal Government. "

"... The State is going to go into debt and those who are monitoring the state are the banks, right [...] the same people who are the recipients of the rescue operation in turn are also the creditors of the state, and that circular process is called financing your debt [...] the banks say: 'Well, they have to give us money, because we have to finance the debt from the fiscal deficit, due to both spending on defense and rescue operations. "

“We are in an extremely serious situation regarding the US fiscal structure, which is leading to a de facto privatization of the state, because there is no money to fund health, education, public works, whatever. Then, gradually, it is a privatization of the state and also the privatization of war. This is already underway; an important part of this war is being carried out by private companies, mercenaries, which are also linked to the military or industrial complex."

To be continued tomorrow.

Fidel Castro Ruz
October 7, 2010
8: 47 p.m.

Part Two - October 8, 2010

On Thursday, Michel Chossudovsky, professor emeritus at the University of Ottawa, was invited to appear on the Mesa Redonda television program. He participated along with Osvaldo Martinez, director of the Research Center on World Economics.

Of course, I listened to their debate with particular interest. Chossudovsky spoke in Spanish and showed a complete command of the issues at hand. He is scrupulous about the meaning of words, including phrases coined in English to precisely express a certain idea when they do not have equivalent terms in Spanish.

Chossudovsky said that in the United States an inescapable systemic crisis has been created, which they are trying to resolve by employing the same measures that caused it. He explained that there has been an impoverishment of all social groups, which affects the workers and middle class much more than the rich. The U.S. government is calling for austerity measures at a global level, and applying "remedies" and "prescriptions" that were the cause of the crisis, faced with the necessity of financing military spending and bailing out banks.

He confirmed that they have been preparing for war against Iran since 2003, and are also threatening Russia, China, North Korea, Syria, Lebanon and other countries in this vast region.

He energetically criticized the justification for the introduction of the so-called mini-nuke among the arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons, and of the doctrine that was widely promoted prior to their introduction, in an attempt to argue that the mini-nuke is safe for civilians (safe for the surrounding civilian population, in English, he explained). He noted the irony of how the mini-nukes included bombs that fluctuated between one-third and six times the power of that which destroyed Hiroshima.

Let us press on immediately with the synthesis of Chossudovsky's academic address to the students and teachers at the Faculty of Economics, University of Havana:

"... I want to mention one thing that is very important [...] this war is not a war that creates jobs [...] It is true that the Second World War did create jobs, in Germany under the Nazi regime [...]. That is simply a factual observation. [...]

The same in the United States at the beginning of the Second World War, which started for them in 1941; there was job creation and that was the way out of the Great Depression under President Roosevelt. But this war (referring to a Third World War) is not the same type; it is a high-tech war, not a war of military equipment assembly. The war in Viet Nam created jobs, as did the Korean War. This war is a war characterized by a very sophisticated weapons system, employing highly advanced scientific manpower, engineers and the like ... "

"... any first year student knows that if you impose austerity measures at a national and global level –as proposed at the G-20 meetings and also under the auspices of the International Settlements Bank, which represents the central banks–, there is a sort of consensus that to solve the crisis we have to implement austerity measures, that austerity measures are not a solution, but a cause of the crisis. Cutting the budget, cutting spending, cutting credit to small and medium enterprises at the same time increases unemployment levels and reduces salaries. This is the case in most European countries."

"Spain and Portugal have unemployment rates above 20 percent, officially; the key issue here is that the proposed solution, not only nationally, but in all countries, pronounced by the neoliberal consensus, is that we have to implement austerity measures ... "

"... but the stagnation of the civilian economy caused, in a first instance, because of the transfer of wealth, not just in recent years but let's say from the beginning of the 1980s, when the so-called era of neoliberal policies began which also led to stagnation in the civilian economy [...] if we talk about the United States, these measures were implemented at the end of the Bill Clinton administration [...] the Financial Services Modernization Act, but they have created a financial system that is not regulated, and that is involved, shall we say, in semi-illegal activities. In some ways it is the criminalization of the financial apparatus, and that is not just a word I'm just using, many analysts, including The Wall Street Journal are talking about the criminalization, because there was financial fraud in recent years, and those who have committed this fraud are not being punished."

"... an economic crisis, in my opinion the worst in history, without precedent, not even the 1930s, which was a very localized crisis, not a global crisis as such, it had a dynamic in certain countries and regions of the world. "

"... the financial war is closely linked to the war in the military sector, there are even links between the World Bank and the Pentagon. [...] former United States Defense ministers became presidents of the World Bank [...] the new world order is run by financial manipulation mechanisms [...] regime changes, destabilization of governments and military operations of various kinds [...] capitalism has institutions, both civilian and military, that work together, this is a very important concept. Behind these institutions are the intellectuals, the think tanks in Washington, there are secret clubs for the elites [... ] the process of war, which now threatens humanity, is important at all levels of society."

"... war is classified as a criminal act, the Nuremberg Convention states this [...] It is the ultimate criminal act. War is a crime against peace. [...] we have indications that this economic crisis led to a concentration of wealth, in a few years, and a centralization of economic power that is unprecedented in history [...] this crisis is not spontaneous, as presented in the neoliberal economy, it is the result of manipulation, of planning, and, at the same time, there is a military component.

With these words, Chossudovsky concluded his address and expressed his willingness to answer questions: " I will leave the issue of resistance and how to reverse this process for you to debate," he said. The students' questions were intelligent and serious. From them I have only repeated the essential ideas.

"Moderator .- I believe I convey the sentiments of all present, in thanking Dr. Michel Chossudovsky for the excellent address he has given us, which has provided us with even more awareness about the causes and consequences of the real dangers that threaten humanity ... "

"... we will proceed with the questions that the audience deems pertinent for our guest."

"A student .- ... we would like to know [...] your view on the optimism that has been presented in the media over the current crisis situation in Latin America, what is your opinion about the possibilities of addressing this crisis in the region ... "

"Thank you"

"Michel Chossudovsky .- The Caribbean region is identified as a region extremely rich in both oil and gas, and not just Venezuela and Colombia, the truth is that there are known reserves because the oil companies have information that is not public; but what is public is that this region is extremely rich.

"The situation in Haiti is also linked to a project of resource appropriation [...] the humanitarian situation [...] allows capital to gain access to mineral resources and potential oil resources in the region. [...] I'm not saying that's the only reason for the militarization of the region. The other is drug trafficking."

"... there are geographic, geopolitical and resource objectives [...] but also drug trafficking, because it is a very important source of profits for capital."

"... there are two axes of the global drug trade, one is Afghanistan and Pakistan, which represents the heroin trade, and the other is Colombia, Peru, Bolivia. The transfer goes through Haiti and other Caribbean countries to the U.S. market. [...] Afghanistan is an enormously rich country, it annually produces about $200 billion in revenues from the export of heroin, at least according to my estimates. Since the U.S. forces entered into Afghanistan, heroin production has increased 30 fold. Well, I digress."

"The militarization of the region and operations in Ecuador, an oil power, Venezuela, an oil power, Mexico is also an oil power. These are all countries that have a strategic role in the geopolitics of the U.S. economy. "

"A student .- I am a student at the Faculty of Economics ..."

"My question is: Is globalization, as it has been sold, as presented by the so-called developed countries, currently viable or are there other alternatives, such as integration models?

"Thanks."

"Michel Chossudovsky .- It is certainly not viable.

"Globalization, as defined by the centers of power is not viable. Perhaps it is viable for one sector, a social minority that becomes richer, but it leads to impoverishment, and that is now very well documented. It is part of a process that has affected developing countries over the past 30 years. You can see the consequences in neighboring countries, the impoverishment that exists in Brazil, Mexico, Peru, a product of that destructive model. [...] There are many countries that have presented different development models, as in the case of Yugoslavia."

"... Yugoslavia had a socialist system, a market economy, a mixed economy with a high standard of living, social services, education, and what did they do? Since the beginning of the 1980s it was completely destroyed and fragmented into many countries, half a dozen countries. Why? Because Yugoslavia represented a model, an alternative that did not suit them."

"... we can also look at the experiences of Latin America: Chile created an alternative, but then was subjected to a military coup and a process of destabilization that was carried out by the United States intelligence services, by sabotage, by embargoes and such, because I experienced that coup. "There are many examples: Tanzania, in Africa, Algeria, there are many countries that have tried. Indonesia for example, in the 1960s there was also a very important process [...] In 1965 a military coup, once again supported by the CIA, killed more than 500,000 people in planned kilings and a military regime was imposed, which ceded to U.S. interests. "

"... We must produce an economic model of society as alternative to global capitalism. We can do it. But all the alternatives, including the Cuban model, are the subject of sabotage, embargoes, measures of destabilization, assassinations. That is the truth. "

"... Iraq is not a socialist country, but a country that has a certain autonomy. It is a state that does not want to be manipulated, and they do not even want to accept capitalism, is not theirs. That's the world today, there are countries that are capitalist but are enemies of the United States, China is capitalist in a way, Russia too, but Russia's style of capitalism does not suit their interests, and they want to militarily destabilize or destroy any attempt against the economic and geopolitical hegemony of the United States and its allies. "

"A Professor.- Your presentation, your lecture was excellent. I used to be scared of war, after listening to you, I'm terrified, but I'd like to ask you something.

"At present, there are still Americans who never heard about the Viet Nam War. So my question is the following: What do you think must be done to raise awareness in the U.S. in order to prevent an event that, if it occurs, will have unpredictable economic, political and social consequences?

"Michel Chossudovsky.- That is our main concern. More than half of those who visit our Website are readers from the United States, and I would say that most authors are also from the U.S. The point is that we have to expose the lies of the media; we have to fight the sources of the lies, because if the American people know the truth, the power and the legitimacy of their leaders will fade overnight. What happens in the United States is that the media, television, print and the Internet are spreading a view which is largely biased."

"... As they listen to these inquisitorial discourses, they accept what is false, they accept the lies; and once the lies become true, you cannot have any real reflection and the debate terminates. This is all part of a war propaganda that reaches all levels of society, that tries to hide the real face of war. The number of civilians killed in Iraq is 2 million, according to estimates by well-known sources, such as the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. There have been 2 million civilian deaths since they arrived in 2003. Add that to the 4 million deaths in the Congo and to one fourth of the Korean population that was killed from bombardments during the Korean War. These facts are known, but not by the public.

[...] there is censorship, but more than censorship is the manipulation of information. [...] we have to fight the media, this is crucial. We have to set up anti-war networks in all municipalities across the United States, in Canada, and the whole world. We need to hold debates, gain knowledge, because we have an intelligent population, but one that is subjected to the constant pressures of conformism and from an authority that tells them the truth, which is in fact a lie."

"... I will make an effort to give brief responses, though your questions are very forceful, so I cannot be that brief sometimes."

"A student.- I'd like to know if it is possible to achieve a technological change in favor of clean technologies to stop the current ecological crisis."

"Michel Chossudovsky.- Yes, that is a fundamental issue for our societies, but there exists a distortion of environmental realities that yield to economic interests, which are the main actors in the destruction of the environment."

"... the British Petroleum disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. There is complicity by the U.S. state, that is to say Washington, in their actions to hide what really occurred. Wildlife, all the marine species along the entire coastal region of the U.S. and beyond, is threatened. This fact has been concealed."

"It is also important to connect this event, this environmental crisis and the war. British Petroleum is involved in the Middle East and in the military project, which is contradictory on the one hand, while also being responsible for the worst environmental crisis in the history of this continent."

"A professor.- You made a brief analysis of the U.S. economy. [...] that economy continues to define the dynamics of the world economy. [...] I'd like to know if you think that this economy will continue to define the dynamics of world economy [...] or if countries like China or the so-called emerging states may take over the role currently played by the United States?"

"Michel Chossudovsky.- Look, about this so-called dynamics of economy, the leadership of the United States, from an economic perspective, is not based on its productive capacity [...] the industrial economy has been shutting down over the past 30 years, there are no more assembly lines, production has fallen, there is a service economy, there is the issue of intellectual property control, there is an investment economy, there is an economy where most of consumer goods come from China."

"... The U.S. economy is bigger than China's, but even though it is bigger than China's economy it does not produce anything, and the GDP –as we all are well aware– is the sum of added value. The fact is that a large part of U.S. GDP is the result of imports from China.

"The technique is simple. If you are going to import a shirt – and I will use more or less real prices – a dozen high quality shirts cost $36. These figures correspond to the 1990s, since these prices are even lower nowadays. [...] a nice shirt costs $3 at the factory; it is taken to the United States and it costs $30, $40 or $50. What is the resulting increase in U.S. GDP? While, $30 minus $3 equals $27 which is added to the GDP without having any kind of production [...] This growth may take place without any existing production; this is how a state with an imperial economy works, production takes place in the colonies or semi-colonies."

"... The fiction of this first world economy is based on military power [...] this is the most important fact. The productive forces in the United States are very weak; we can witness this in the companies going bankrupt, in unemployment levels, etc."

"A student.-  I'd like to acknowledge your stance since it is unusual for us to see someone from your origins strongly criticize the capitalist system as you have done. It deserves acknowledgement."

"According to Marxism, this is a systemic crisis, not a temporary one."

"In your opinion, what is the real capacity of world public opinion and of the possible growing awareness among the U.S. population to avoid a nuclear conflict, if we bear in mind the strong pressure exercised by small circles of power so frequently referred to in recent times?"

"Michel Chossudovsky.-  This is a systemic crisis, although it cannot be measured using the guidelines set out in The Capital. The Marxist methodology is useful for our understanding, since it is based on class conflicts, but today's structure is quite different than that of the mid 19th century [...] as economists, we cannot make it fit one model, we have to consider its institutional nature, the relationship among financial activities on the one hand, covert operations."

"... The CIA is an entity in Wall Street, a major one [...] it has joint ventures with a large number of financial entities. [...] since the CIA can foresee events, it can operate in marklet speculation "

"... Describing this systemic crisis is very important, but we have to establish the way capitalism operates, its institutional structure, its secret agencies, covert operations, both in financial markets and in the geopolitical context, the function of the military, the decisions of think tanks in Washington, the state entities, and we have to identify who the actors are as well."

"I think that your second question shares a common element with the previous ones; the need to change public opinion. But my answer is that we need to shatter the consensus that holds up this system, which is a lie [...] There are different codes of conduct in capitalist countries. There are the politically active people who usually say, 'We are making a petition, please President Obama, stop the war in Afghanistan." They spread that message around the Internet, 'Please, sign our petition, we are writing a letter to Obama, etc.' But all of this is futile because it is based on the acceptance of the consensus, on the acceptance of the president who is one of the factors, and we have to break this inquisition."

"... People talk about the Spanish inquisition, insane from an historic point of view, but this is even more insane, statements like, 'We are fighting against Bin Laden and you have to join us, if not, you are a terrorist."

"A couple of weeks ago, the FBI raided and arrested anti-war activists and accused them of working with Bin Laden. This was reported in US newspapers, and it is part of this dynamic to change public opinion, it is dialectical, we need to revert and dismantle this discourse that supports and legitimizes war and this economic project, along with the lies such as, 'The crisis is over.'"

"You read the Wall Street Journal, you read the newspaper and it says, 'The crisis will come to an end in January 2011,' nobody questions this statement, not even the economists. This ritual of acceptance, is based not on a lack of information but rather because everyone accepts it. We have to break this ritual of accepting the consensus that stems from political power and the financial markets."

"A student.- Sustainable development, which for me is totally incompatible with war because there has never been anything more destructive than the recent wars, not only the future one that could take place, but all the recent wars instigated by the United States."

"... They insist on the importance of human development, of boosting the roles of local regions and territories. I'd like your opinion on this issue, how realistic is this objective for our countries?

"Michel Chossudovsky.- I agree with the real objective of sustainable development, but we have to look at the word play behind this objective. This objective has been formulated by several environmental organizations, such as Greenpeace, WWF, [...] I am not criticizing these organizations, but if you consider the summits held on the environment like the World Social Forum, the G-7 summits for instance, the G-20, they hardly ever talk about the impact of war on the environment. They make their presentations on city pollution, global warming, but western NGOs do not talk about war, they do not talk about the impact of war on the environment, which is significant."

"I took part in the social summits up until 1999. As soon as I mentioned the war in Yugoslavia, they did not invite me to participate anymore. War might be discussed in a workshop or some other type of meeting, but it is not an issue addressed at debates on 'Another world is possible,' not at all. This sort of idea of global governance that has characterized the social movements, and I am not criticizing them because I think there are some very good people in these groups, but they have a certain dynamic and there is something about the leadership of these organizations that doesn't fit. [...] We cannot have an anti-globalization movement that only focuses on certain aspects, without taking into account the geopolitical context [...] The Unites States and its allies at war during a large part of this era, which we call the post-war period, that is to say, the last 50 years, are characterized by military operations, wars, interventions by the United States and its allies and all this, in my experience, has not been the subject of debate or discussions at the different world forums where they present sustainable development as a code of conduct."

With these words, Michel Chossudovsky concluded his presentation at the University of Havana, which was warmly applauded by the students from the Faculty of Economics, their professors and other people who filled the Manuel Sanguily Hall that day.

Before I met with professor Chossudovsky, a coincidence occurred spontaneously. A coincidence related to both the risks of a conflict, which inevitably would lead to global nuclear war, and the need to mobilize world opinion in the face of such a dramatic danger.

Along with nuclear weapons are cyber weapons. Another product of technology which, once transferred to the military sector, threatens to become another serious problem for the world.

The U.S. Armed Forces possesses some 15,000 communication networks and 7 million computers, as reported by journalist Rosa Miriam Elizalde on the Cubadebate Website.

Rosa Miriam Elizalde also wrote: "Four-Star General Keith Alexander, who has compared cyber attacks to weapons of mass destruction, affirmed that the United States has plans to use this new war tactic in an attack without taking into account the opinion of their allies. They could even attack allied networks without any previous warning if they consider that an attack was or could be generated from any of them."

I ask the readers to please excuse the length of the two parts of this reflection. There was no way to make it shorter without sacrificing content.

Allow me also to express – I did not forget – that today marks the 43rd anniversary of the death of Che, and that two days ago we commemorated the 34th anniversary of brutal Yankee killings of our Cuban compatriots and other passengers aboard our civilian plane over Barbados.

Eternal glory to them all!

Fidel Castro Ruz
October 8, 2010
8:35 p.m.

 

 
Piedad Córdoba and Her Battle for Peace Print E-mail

September 30, 2010

Three days ago the news was made public that the Attorney General of Colombia, Alejandro Ordóñez Maldonado, had removed the eminent Colombian Senator Piedad Córdoba from her post and barred her from political office for 18 years, because of her alleged promotion of and collaboration with the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). Faced with such an unusual and drastic measure against the holder of an elected post in the highest institution of the state, she has no alternative other than to have recourse to the very attorney general who engendered the measure.

It was logical that such an arbitrary act would provoke strong condemnation, expressed by the most diverse political figures, among them, ex-prisoners of the FARC and relatives of those liberated on account of the senator's efforts, former presidential candidates, people who held that high office, and others who were, or are, senators or members of the legislative power.

Piedad Córdoba is an intelligent and courageous person, a brilliant speaker, whose thinking is well articulated. A few weeks ago she visited us in the company of other outstanding figures, among them a Jesuit priest of notable honesty. They came inspired by a profound desire to seek peace for their country and asked for the cooperation of Cuba, recalling that, for years, and at the request of the Colombian government itself, we offered our territory and our cooperation for meetings between representatives of the Colombian government and the ELN that took place in the capital of our country.

However, the decision taken by the attorney general, which obeys the official policy of that country virtually occupied by yanki troops, does not surprise me.

I do not like to beat around the bush, and I will say what I think. Just one week ago, the general debates of the 65th Session of the United Nations General Assembly were about to begin. For three days, the painful objectives of the Millennium Development Goals had been discussed, and on Thursday, September 23, the General Assembly session opened, with the participation of heads of state or high-ranking representatives from each member country. The first to speak, as customary, would be the UN Secretary General and, immediately after, the president of the United States, the host country of the organization and apparent master of the world. The session began at 9:00 a.m. Logically, I was interested in what the illustrious Barack Obama, Nobel Peace Prize winner, would have to say, as soon as Ban Ki-moon had concluded. I ingenuously imagined that CNN en español or in English would broadcast Obama's generally brief speech. It was in that way that I heard the debates among aspirants to that office two years ago in Las Vegas.

The hour arrived, the minutes passed and CNN was presenting apparently spectacular news of the death of a Colombian guerrilla chief. This was important, but not of special significance. I remained interested to find out what Obama was saying about the extremely grave problems that the world is confronting.

Is the situation of the planet one that both of them are taking us for fools and making the Assembly wait? I asked for CNN in English to be put on the other television and, not a word about the Assembly. So, what was CNN talking about? A news roundup was on and I waited until what it was broadcasting about Colombia was over. But 10, 20, 30 minutes went by and it continued with the same thing. It reported incidents of a colossal battle being waged, or that had been waged, in Colombia, the future of the continent was going to depend on it, according to what one could deduce from the words and style of the newscaster's story. Full-color footage of the death of Víctor Julio Suárez Rojas, alias Jorge Briceño Suárez o "Mono Jojoy." It is the fiercest blow received by the FARC, the speaker confirmed, exceeding the death of Manuel Marulanda and of Raúl Reyes put together. A devastating action, he affirmed. What could be deduced was that a spectacular battle had taken place involving 30 fighter planes, 27 helicopters, and complete battalions of select troops engaged in fierce fighting.

Really, something more than the battles of Carabobo, Pichincha and Ayacucho rolled together. With my old experience in these kinds of combat, I could not imagine such a battle in a forested and remote region of Colombia. The out-of-the-ordinary action was spiced up with images of all kinds, old and new, of the rebel comandante. For the CNN newscaster, Alfonso Cano, who replaced Marulanda, was a university intellectual who did not enjoy the support of the combatants; the real chief had died. The FARC would have to surrender.

Let's speak clearly. The news referring to the famous battle that resulted in the death of the comandante of the FARC – a Colombian revolutionary movement that emerged more than 50 years ago after the death of Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, assassinated by the oligarchy – and the removal from office of Piedad Córdoba, are very far from bringing peace to Colombia; on the contrary, they could accelerate revolutionary changes in that country.

I imagine that more than a few Colombian soldiers are embarrassed about the grotesque versions of the alleged battle in which Comandante Jorge Briceño Suárez died. In the first place, there was no fighting whatsoever. It was a crude and disgraceful assassination. Admiral Edgar Cely, perhaps embarrassed at the war report with which the official authority announced the news and other obscure versions, stated: "Jorge Briceño, alias 'Mono Jojoy,' died from being crushed when… the building in which he was hidden in the selva fell in on him." "'What we know is that he died from being crushed, his bunker fell in on him,' […] 'it is not true that he was shot in the head.'" That is what he informed the Caracol Radio station, according to the U.S. AP news agency.

The operation was given the biblical name "Sodom," one of the two cities castigated because of its sinners, a deluge of fire and sulfur rained down on it.

The most serious part is what has not been told, and which everyone already knows, because the yankis themselves have made it public.

The government of the United States supplied its ally with more than 30 smart bombs. A GPS was installed in the boots that they gave the guerrilla chief. Guided by that instrument, the programmed bombs exploded in the camp where Jorge Briceño was located.

Why not explain the truth to the world? Why did they suggest a battle that never took place?

I have observed other shameful events via television. The president of the United States gave Uribe an effusive welcome in Washington, and supported him by offering classes on "democracy" in a U.S. university.

Uribe was one of the principal creators of the paramilitary structure, whose members are responsible for the increase in drug trafficking and the death of tens of thousands of people. It was with Barack Obama that Uribe signed the handover of seven military bases and, virtually, in any part of Colombian territory, for the installation of the men and equipment of the yanki armed forces. The country is full of clandestine cemeteries. Through Ban Ki-Moon, Obama granted Uribe immunity by appointing him no less than vice president of the commission investigating the attack on the flotilla transporting aid to the blockaded Palestinians in Gaza.

In the final days of his presidency, the operation utilizing the GPS in the new boots that the Colombian guerrilla needed was already prepared.

When the new president of Colombia traveled to the United States to speak in the General Assembly, he knew that the operation was underway, and when Obama heard of the news of the guerrilla's assassination, he effusively embraced Santos.

I ask myself if, on that occasion, something was said about the implementation of the decision by the Colombian Senate to declare illegal Uribe's authorization for establishing yanki military bases there. The gross assassination was supported by them.

I have criticized the FARC. In a Reflection I publicly stated my disagreement with the holding of prisoners of war and the sacrifice for them implied by the harsh conditions of life in the selva. I explained the reasons and the experience acquired in our struggle.

I was critical of the strategic concepts of the Colombian guerrilla movement. But I never refuted the revolutionary nature of the FARC.

I considered and consider that Marulanda was one of the most outstanding Colombian and Latin American guerrillas. When the names of many mediocre politicians have been forgotten, the name of Marulanda will be acknowledged as one of the most dignified and worthy fighters for the wellbeing of the campesinos, the workers and the poor of Latin America.

The prestige and moral authority of Piedad Córdoba has multiplied.

Fidel Castro Ruz
September 30, 2010
11:36 a.m.

 

 


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