Saturday, December 31, 2005

Terrorists in High Places

By Charles Sullivan

12/31/05 "
ICH" -- -- Wars are not waged by those who have to fight them. Those who fight wars know too well their terrible costs. Wars are waged by those who profit from them with minimal or no risk to themselves. War is big business and it is immensely profitable for a select few who are insulated from the effects of war’s environmental impacts and social costs. War never serves the interest of working class people. They are the result of menacing forces of greed and power masquerading as benevolent government, insulating us from contrived acts of terror. They are in fact anything but munificent.

Never is the trait of deceit more treacherous than when it leads to the loss of precious innocent life. It was obvious from the outset that George Bush lied about the pretext for war with Iraq. His man servant, Colin Powell, sold the idea to the world in his infamous speech before the United Nations. It was widely known that Saddam Hussein had little war making capabilities; and he certainly did not pose a credible threat to the United States, Israel, or any Middle Eastern Country. U.N. weapons inspectors such as Scott Ritter made this fact known long before the invasion began. Saddam Hussein was the creation of the Central Intelligence Agency and the Boogey Man necessary to sell the American people on Bush’s illegitimate invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Likewise, Osama Bin Laden was on the C.I.A. payroll. And like Saddam Hussein, he was another Boogey Man created to sell the American people on the invasion of Afghanistan. Based upon the evidence, it is unlikely that Bin Laden or any other Muslim had anything to do with the events of September 11. That, too, was in all probability another cruel hoax perpetrated on the American people by those who stood to make billions of dollars by plundering Afghanistan and Iraq. It also explains why so little effort has been spent finding Bin Laden, the supposed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.

The events of 9/11 were, I contend, an inside job. The findings of the 9/11 truth commission defy the laws of physics and ignore the most relevant physical evidence. They are a work of phantasmagoric fiction that requires us to believe the fantastic—that tall buildings can fall at free fall speed within their own footprint, for example. Or that small fires can melt steel pillars and cause massive sky scrapers to collapse. But that is another story.

What is beyond dispute, however, is that the events of 9/11 set off a chain reaction of cause and effect in the Middle East. Soon after the U.S. bombing and invasion of Afghanistan, Unocal (recently merged with Chevron) had established a major oil pipeline through Afghanistan—a territory ruled by war lords hostile to U.S. imperialism. Soon the money from the plunder of Afghanistan was filling the corporate coffers with black gold. What is the loss of a few thousand innocent civilians when there is money to be made? Let them live in the Stone Age we have created for them.

I fully understand what a profound and potentially shocking statement that is to those who have been deceived by the ‘official’ history of the United States. It would require that members of the Bush regime were knowingly complicit in the murder of thousands of innocent U.S. citizens. It might even require that they actually orchestrated those events as a pretext to war with Afghanistan and Iraq, even though neither country had anything to do with 9/11. As testimony to the commercial media’s proficiency at deception, forty-two percent of Americans still believe that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11. Never mind that there isn’t a shred of evidence to substantiate that claim. It is a matter of faith. When Bush and his minions repeat those stale lies over and over and the media repeatedly broadcasts them, the ill informed can be made to believe anything. The bigger the lie, the more readily it is believed. The official version of the events of 9/11 could not take root in the public conscience without the complicity of the corporate media. Make no mistake: the commercial media is a vital and potent component of the Pentagon’s superb propaganda machine.

In reality, the neocon agenda of global domination is the blueprint for the events of 9/11, as revealed in the ‘Project for the New American Century’ and ‘Rebuilding America’s Defenses’. Both of these revealing documents are online for public perusal. Reading them is imperative to understanding not only America’s veiled history, but also current events. They offer considerable insight into future military interventions. It is no irony that these documents, which call for regime change in Iraq and a host of other countries was authored by the very same people who are serving in the current Bush regime. They are the same people who stand to benefit financially and politically from the plunder and occupation of Iraq, as well as the rest of the world.

Subsequent to the events of 9/11, the neocon brain trust declared that a catalyzing event was needed to galvanize the American people to back a plan of U.S. global domination—a New Pearl Harbor. On the morning of September 12, 2001, Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, called for an immediate attack on Iraq, and Condoleezza Rice and Dick Cheney repeatedly referred to the events of 9/11 as “an opportunity.” George Bush declared that he “hit the trifecta.” The Bush people could hardly contain their glee. These statements of fact reveal much about the kind of people who are running the country. It should also make clear that in America there is no separation of commercial media and state—the two are as inseparable as newlyweds on a honeymoon.

As unthinkable as it be to some, the wanton murder of American citizens by the government is not without precedent. America’s dark history is brimming with examples. Two well documented cases illustrate my point. In 2000 Robert Stinnett published a book entitled ‘Day of Deceit: the Truth about FDR and Pearl Harbor.’ In his book Stinnett paints an ugly picture that lead up to the American entrance into World War Two. Citing extensively from thousands of previously classified documents, Stinnett demonstrates that Franklin Delano Roosevelt knew about the invasion of Pearl Harbor a year before it happened. The newly declassified Pentagon documents reveal that U.S. naval ships and air craft were ordered to stand by and allow the attack to happen. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was provoked by a popular American president who allowed American military personnel to be slaughtered by foreign invaders. Roosevelt’s tactic was wildly successful. The day before the attack only sixteen percent of Americans polled favored entry into the war. The following day, more than a million men signed up for the military. In effect, as commander-in chief, Roosevelt presided over a treasonous act of murder against his own military. But, like so many other events in American history, none of this is revealed in the ‘official’ version of written history. These events bear an uncanny similarity to the events of 9/11.

More recently, in the prelude to the U.S. entrance into the Viet Nam war, a phantom attack on two U.S. destroyers cruising the Gulf of Tonkin was staged by the Pentagon and the C.I.A. The bogus attack occurred early in August, 1964. That evening President Lyndon Johnson went on television giving the grim details of the non-attack. Later, however, it was revealed that navy commander James Stockdale flew cover over the Gulf of Tonkin that night. Stockdale disclosed that U.S. ships were firing at phantom targets—targets that didn’t exist. The Gulf of Tonkin Incident that drew the U.S. into the quagmire of Viet Nam simply didn’t happen. Johnson, as presidents so often do, lied to the American people. The result was the rapid passage of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which was the sole legal basis for the Viet Nam War. As a result of Johnson’s lie, three million Vietnamese people and fifty eight thousand U.S. soldiers died.

The neocons, with their corporate handlers and their equally complicit counterparts, the neoliberals, are in fact a shadow government that runs America. They have names like Bush, Cheney, Perle, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Rice, Kristol, Dulles, Kennedy and Rockefeller; Lockheed Martin, Halliburton, General Electric, Unocal, Shell Oil and Boeing. Democracy, freedom, liberty, organized labor, peace, and social justice are their avowed enemies. Their crooked, talonous fingers dig deep into the profits of war, while simultaneously clutching the broken spines of the moldering corpses they produce. They are the grim reapers of unrepentant capitalism run amok.

George Bush got his anxiously awaited war on Iraq. Halliburton, Bechtel, and other corporations are raking in billions. It is easy money for the war profiteers who risk nothing and gain everything. It is our tax money that is subsidizing their obscene profits. Layers of our civil liberties were quietly repealed. It is our sons and daughters who die for the likes of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Halliburton and Bechtel. They are America’s shadow government—the unseen hands pulling the strings of atrocity. Someone has to tell our children what they are dying for. This is George Bush’s noble cause.

Unless we stop them, their grim work is not done. It will never be done until there is nothing left to defile. There will be countless millions more corpses, broken lives and torn families to follow. Even more ghastly attacks on unwitting American citizens will be fabricated; and fools will play along with them. The flags will come out and Nationalism will spread like a lethal virus across the land. Dissenters will be denounced and imprisoned. These acts of contrived terrorism will be the pretext for the invasion and occupation of other sovereign nations. They will be the pretext for feeding the war machine the blood and the bones of our babies. You see, there are terrorists lurking in high places. They are in the Whitehouse. They are the enablers in Congress who serve the corporate interest, rather than justice. They are hidden behind the beckoning smiles of news anchor men and anchor women. They operate in the dark smoky recesses of corporate board rooms, out of public view. Their tentacles reach into every aspect of our lives. They lie concealed in the stinking breath of the Rush Limbaughs of this world in their awful ability to persuade. They are not on our side.

We must resist them at all cost. We must inform ourselves. Speak truth to power. Let them know that we see through their masks. Do not accept this. Organize. Organize. Organize.

Authors Bio: Charles Sullivan is a furniture maker, photographer, and free lance writer residing in the eastern panhandle of West Virgina. He welcomes your comments at

Leahy wants to know about Pentagon spying on protests

COLCHESTER, Vt. --Sen. Patrick Leahy wants the Defense Department to give him the details about two Vermont anti-war protests that were monitored by government officials.

Leahy, a Democrat, said Vermont had a long tradition of peaceful political protest.

"I want to know the extent of it. I want to know under what conceivable, conceivable legal justification they are doing it," Leahy told Vermont Public Radio.

"And even if they could legally justify it, what dunderhead policy reason (is there) for doing it," he said. "And again, I'd like to know how much it cost. The Department of Defense says we don't have enough money to get the kind of armor and protection our troops need in Iraq, but we've got money to go around and spy on Quaker meetings?"

Pentagon policy allows it to take the legal steps necessary to protect military installations and personnel from violence.

Earlier this month, NBC News reported that the Pentagon has monitored anti-war protests as part of a stepped up intelligence collection effort. The efforts included monitoring two Vermont protests.

Joseph Gainza of the American Friends Service Committee, who helped organize those protests, said he was not surprised that the Pentagon keeps tabs on the peace movement.

"What disturbed me was that it's part of a larger pattern that this government seems to be doing what it pleases and hiding from the American people so much of its violations of law," Gainza said.

Leahy wrote Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld asking for more information.

"Besides, I told the Department of Defense, if they really want to hear Vermonters speak out against the war, they don't have to send a camera crew to snoop around Vermont, just turn on C-SPAN," Leahy said. "I do it on the Senate floor all the time."

Gainza said the Pentagon's monitoring of protests could have a chilling effect on the public's right to challenge the government.

"People don't want to have their names on files somewhere as doing something which the government doesn't approve of. People are very concerned about that," Gainza said. 

LINK   Pat, when will you guys figure it out?
Those who oppose Bush Administration policies, including "all war, all the time" are Bush's worst enemies; not Al Qaeda. We are more of a threat and they hate us more than they do bin Laden and company.

2006: The Year of Revelation?- by Justin Raimondo

2005 was a year of indictments – now, let the trials begin!
by Justin Raimondo

In last year's New Year's column, I wrote:

"If 2003 was the year of the liar, and 2004 the year of the war criminal, then let 2005 be the year of justice. That is not a prediction, but only a hope."

It is a hope that, if not yet fulfilled, is at least now well within sight: the indictment [.pdf] of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, signals a sea change in the political atmosphere in this country, one that has put the War Party on the defensive, albeit not yet thrown them into total retreat.

The gang that lied us into war is getting its comeuppance, and all I can say to that is: how sweet it is! Day after day, in the prelude to war with Iraq, they invented lies of exponentially increasing brazenness. They told us Saddam was an agent of al-Qaeda They were certain that "weapons of mass destruction" were buried beneath Saddam's many palaces, or hidden in an underground labyrinth beneath ancient Babylon. Saddam, they averred, had been behind the first attack on the World Trade Center, in 1993 – and ranted that he was behind the Oklahoma City federal building bombing, too. They told us he had nukes, or was within a few months of acquiring them, and was readying a first strike against America. Deploying the key argument of the War Party, Condoleezza Rice infamously warned:

"The problem here is that there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."

Today, the smoking gun we're looking for is one connecting this administration to any number of crimes committed by public officials as they dragged us down the road to war. And the problem of uncertainty, which the Bush administration sought to solve by asking us to place our collective fate in their hands, is now hanging over the heads of Washington officialdom. It isn't only Scooter Libby: his case is merely the dorsal fin of the whale, most of which is still lurking just beneath the surface.

How the tables have turned – and all in a single year! A fleeting instant in the mind of History, the mere blink of an eye, can turn the fate of nations – as long as it takes to file an indictment against one of the most powerful men in Washington.

"Bulldog" Fitzgerald has his jaws firmly clamped on a large and very tasty bone, and shows no signs of letting go. With Scooter already nailed, he is looking for more morsels torn from the flesh of Team Bush, starting with Karl Rove, the Republican Rasputin, whose counsels have – until very recently – kept the opposition in a state of panicky, cowardly retreat. Yet he has met, in Mr. Fitzgerald, an opponent who, far from running, has been the aggressor, relentlessly pursuing his target like a veritable Nemesis.

Such are the wages of hubris, a cardinal sin to the ancient Greeks, but the favored vice of the New Rome. What the last year has shown is that Washington, D.C., the epicenter of the new Imperial decadence, is bursting at the seams with corruption, like a corpse wriggling with maggots. In 2006, the whole unsightly spectacle will be exposed to the full light of day.

There are so many investigations currently roiling the political waters that keeping track of them is becoming an increasingly difficult task. Let's see, there's the Abramoff scandal, the Lincoln Group brouhaha, the Randy Cunningham affair, the FISA flap, Chalabi-gate, the Niger uranium investigation, "Phase II" of the Senate Intelligence Committee's probe of prewar intelligence, and, last but not least, the AIPAC espionage case, in which two high-ranking AIPAC lobbyists and a key Pentagon analyst are charged [.pdf] with passing vital U.S. secrets to top Israeli embassy officials.

Okay, so I've left some real stinkers out, but before you write reminding me that I haven't mentioned the torture scandal, the renditions, the secret U.S.-run gulags in Eastern Europe, and any number of other outrages now coming to light – relax. Sure, I remember all that stuff, but more important than merely listing these matters is looking at what they portend.

Once again, I make no predictions, because we must live with uncertainty: it is part – perhaps the essence – of the human condition. Unlike the U.S. government, I'm not asking my readers to take my word for anything in the spirit of blind faith or "patriotic" loyalty to some cause. Certainly I have no illusions about the ability of mortal beings to delude themselves into believing anything: in the end, we have only our hopes and our fears. Last year, I feared for the worst and hoped for the best. In both cases, I was not disappointed.

I have to say that, even in my most pessimistic moments, when my opinion of this administration was at its lowest, and my suspicion of their motives and methods was at its highest, not even then did I ever imagine the sheer scale of the corruption that had eaten away at the very vitals of our republic. Not even Imperial Rome, at its most decadent and depraved, exhibited the kind of voracious greed – for money, for power, for glory – that has infected our ruling elite like some airborne spore. The resulting plague of scandal descending on official Washington has the whole place on a permanent death-watch: who has fallen, and who is likely to fall next? The world capital of a burgeoning Empire is abuzz with rumors of a new wave of indictments.

We spent the greater part of 2005 anticipating the consequences of the Fitzgerald investigation, hoping that justice would finally be done. In the final months, it began to look very much like the War Party is in for more than a little payback – and it couldn't have happened to a more deserving bunch. If 2003 was the year of the liar, 2004 the year of the war criminal, and 2005 the year of justice no longer deferred, then 2006 holds out the promise of being the year of revelation, when the dark truth about how and why we were lied into war finally comes out in full view of the American public.

The thing about indictments is their succinctness: they are, ideally, models of briskly laconic and fact-oriented description, just-the-facts-please and no frills, only pure reportage. After the indictments, however, come the trials – and that's when we get to see the bare-bones indictments fleshed out, as the crimes of our rulers are painfully and publicly reconstructed in front of a jury – and judged in the court of public opinion.

The War Party is furiously trying to spin all this as a gigantic conspiracy on the part of the "liberal" media to undermine a war effort that is really going splendidly – and they are stepping on the accelerator in their efforts to gin up yet another war in the Middle East, escalating the rhetoric aimed at Iran and openly threatening Syria with "regime change."

There are indications, too, that the neocons are simply becoming unhinged. Those "weapons of mass destruction" that somehow went missing in Iraq, are, you see, carefully hidden away in Damascus and/or Tehran. Or at least that's the latest War Party line in the Bizarro World fantasy-land of the neoconservatives. Melanie Morgan, a San Francisco radio host and one of the chief movers behind Move America Forward, which is running TV ads in favor of the war, is "baffled that the White House no longer makes the case that Mr. Hussein had WMDs," reports the Wall Street Journal.

Ms. Morgan has drunk so much of the neocon Kool-Aid that she can no longer distinguish ideological hallucinations from reality. Indeed, the partisans of this administration eschew vulgar empiricism and openly disdain the concept of objective reality. Reality? Who gives a sh*t? As one administration official put it:

"That's not the way the world really works anymore. We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality – judiciously, as you will – we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors – and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

This year, "history's actors" are going to be put on trial – while prosecutors and juries study what they have done. As the curtain rises on a new year, the whole history of their crimes stands to be revealed. There is a hush in the theater in the moment before the first act of this long-anticipated drama. If, by the end of it, the principals still believe they can create their own reality, they will likely get the chance to prove their point in prison – where the experimental conditions for a flight into complete fantasy are optimal.

"We're an empire now" – but is the transition complete? Methinks that anonymous neocon spoke too soon, mistaking a wish for a fact – a typical failing of the species, by the way. There is yet time to prevent the slide into imperial decadence. We have not yet slid all the way down the slippery slope that separates a "liberator" from a conqueror. The Libby indictment and all the other investigations, probes, and official inquiries into government misconduct stemming from the Iraq war are part of a general counter-attack by the forces of republicanism (small-r) against the partisans of empire. The American body politic, in its fundamentals, is still quite healthy: prosecutor Fitzgerald might be likened to a T-cell, defending against the onslaught of a microbial invasion. His tenacious example is mobilizing the other T-cells – in the Justice Department, in the media, in and around government and official Washington – in a last-ditch attempt to save our old Republic from the incursions of alien intruders, a small but well-placed cabal of warmongers and foreign agents. The AIDS-like infection of the neoconservative "persuasion," which had rendered the body politic's defenses inoperative, is being challenged by a promising but still experimental medicine, which exhibits the potential to not only wipe out these viral invaders, but also holds out the promise of a vaccine. After a year of revelation, in which the dirty secrets of the War Party are flushed out into the open, the disgust of the American people is likely to inoculate them against the fever of war hysteria for a long time to come.


The International Peac eMovement Should Be in Crisis Mode, NOW

Former CIA analysts

12/29/05 "Counterpunch" -- -- The peace movements of the entire world should be in crisis mode right now, working non-stop to prevent the U.S. and Israel from starting a war against Iran. (See the James Petras article in CounterPunch on December 24, 2005 titled Iran in the Crosshairs for the best summary of the present situation.) The reckless and unnecessary dangers arising from such a war are so obvious that one wonders why normal political forces in the two aggressor countries -- both of whom love to glorify themselves as democracies -- would not prevent such a war from happening.

But the "normal political forces" in both the U.S. and Israel have become badly distorted. Democracy has been seriously undermined in both. The cowboy-like personalities and aggressive tendencies of both countries' leaders tend to feed on each other. Domestic political difficulties and coming elections in both countries probably add to the macho inclination of the ruling elites to use force to remove any problems facing them. The glue binding these tendencies together is the ever-strengthening institutional link between defense establishments and military-industrial complexes in both countries, as well as, in the U.S, the growing power and influence of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) over both major political parties. The entire mix increases the probability, against all common sense, that this absurd war will actually happen.

Nothing else more dangerous to the world, to the Middle East, to the oppressed Palestinians, or to the true interests of the United States is happening today -- anywhere. Americans who do not want an eruption of a new world war, started by our own government, ought to be strongly lobbying the Bush administration and all members of Congress against supporting any military action by the U.S. and Israel against Iran. Globally, people who oppose such a war should be lobbying their own governments in similar fashion.


It is worthwhile to discuss briefly the broader context of why a war with Iran today seems a real possibility. During his all-out public relations effort in late 2005 to regain support for his policies in the Middle East, Bush has made it clear that he plans to continue his drive for complete victory in the "War on Terrorism," without making significant changes in his own, very aggressive, foreign policies. Those policies will make this planet a less safe, more unjust place to live for most people around the world, as well as for most of us living in the U.S. The special relationship between the U.S. and Israel has long played an important role in these aggressive policies.

Outside the United States, it is widely understood that one of the true motives -- not the exclusive motive but a real and significant one -- behind the Bush administration's 2003 invasion of Iraq was the desire of the neocons in Washington to conquer Iraq in order to benefit Israel. Although a few of the big-name neocons (Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Lewis "Scooter" Libby) have left high-visibility positions for various reasons, many remain, and it is clear that Bush himself, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rice have taken as their own the main tenets of neocon beliefs.

Inside the U.S., on the other hand, the pressure of the neocons for war on Israel's behalf, or any hint that Bush himself participates in that pressure, is hardly ever mentioned. This taboo on discussing the Israeli link to the war in Iraq, enforced by the threat of being labeled anti-Semitic, introduces major distortions into practically every effort to examine and change policies that are causing massive hatred of the U.S. around the world.

But right now, three of the long-existing "problems" in the Middle East (i.e., situations that have been made problems largely by our own actions) have reached critical stages that may, if Washington's policies do not change quite quickly, result in our losing even the remnants of stability and peace that remain in that region today. The world could face instead nuclear warfare or, at a minimum, a practically unending "clash of civilizations" and conventional warfare at a much higher level than exists now. The first, and the most important right now, of the three problems is the main subject of this article: the problem that arises from the determined U.S. and Israeli policy of preventing Iran from ever acquiring nuclear weapons. The second and third problems, also situations brought on by the U.S. itself, have to do with Syria and the Palestinians. In the long run, they are also very important, but they are less urgent for now. These other problems will be considered briefly at the end of this article.

As was the case with the U.S. invasion of Iraq, one of the underlying causes of all these "problems" in the Middle East has been the success of the neocons in persuading the Bush administration to support aggressively the goals of the Israeli government throughout the area. And here again, the fear of being charged with anti-Semitism causes many Americans quietly to accept the taboo on discussing the Israeli link to the Bush administration's foreign policies. This is an absurd situation. Criticizing Israeli (or U.S.) policies and urging specific changes in those policies is not anti-Semitic (or anti-American). The arrogance of anyone who suggests the contrary is appalling. The following paragraphs contain suggestions on how we should work to remedy those aspects of this absurdity that bear on Iran and nuclear weapons.

What should be done to change U.S. policy on Iran's nuclear program?

First of all, don't fall into the trap of accepting Iran's public claims that it is not attempting to acquire nuclear weapons. Many of the nations that now have such weapons made similar claims while they were developing the weapons. Israel did so throughout the first half of the 1960s, engaging in elaborate subterfuges even when dealing with U.S. inspectors who occasionally came looking for weapons work. The Israeli claims were so much garbage (see Israeli author Avner Cohen's book, Israel and the Bomb). Then, after it acquired its first nuclear explosive device almost 40 years ago now, Israel simply adopted a well publicized policy of ambiguity and stopped talking publicly about whether it had any weapons. India and Pakistan also both claimed not to be working on weapons when in fact they were. Their claims were garbage too, which they quickly threw away once they joined the nuclear club and possessed their own deterrent. Iran almost certainly intends to do the same, and its public claims to the contrary are also almost certainly worthless.

The principal point to start with is that, unless the U.S. and Israel (and other nations as well) all agree to work seriously toward eliminating their own nuclear weapons, any Iranian government will consider that it has as much right as the rest of us to such weapons. Essentially, even if Iran, under pressure, were to sign new agreements, now or in the future, to forgo nuclear weapons, the new agreements would be meaningless unless the U.S., Israel, and other nuclear nations ended their own monumental hypocrisy of insisting that they can keep and expand their nuclear arsenals, while non-nuclear nations may not acquire such arsenals. In the eyes of most Muslims around the world and many other people too, Iran, with a population of close to 70 million, has at least as much right as Israel, with a population less than one-tenth as large, to have nuclear weapons

Most supporters of the global peace movements by definition oppose the solving of international problems through warfare, and they also oppose the further proliferation of nuclear weapons. Most are also aware that the critical bargain reached in the 1970 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) -- the bargain that made the treaty possible -- was a trade-off: the acceptance of continued non-nuclear-weapons status by states without those weapons, in return for the simultaneous agreement by states possessing nuclear weapons to pursue good-faith negotiations on nuclear, and complete and general, disarmament. This latter provision had no teeth, and certainly many "realists" in the U.S. foreign policy establishment expected that it would not and could not be enforced. Nevertheless, the existence of this provision was necessary to the NPT's ratification by numerous countries, and it gives any state dissatisfied with progress toward nuclear disarmament an excuse to abrogate or ignore the treaty.

Most people will not bother to make the niceties of international law an issue in this matter, but the question of which is more important, stopping the further proliferation of nuclear weapons to Iran or stopping our own side from instigating a war against Iran, is vital. The answer should be clear: The single most urgent objective we should have right now is to prevent a war, possibly nuclear, from being started by the U.S. and/or Israel against Iran. To repeat, such a war would be disastrous, and we should be doing whatever we can, with the highest possible priority, to prevent it from ever happening.

Every peace activist on the globe ought to be in the streets and elsewhere lobbying in support of something very simple: do not attack Iran, even if this means allowing Iran to develop its own nuclear weapons. We should put out the message that it is simply not worth a war, with consequences impossible to foresee, to prevent Iran from obtaining such weapons. From 1945 until we invaded Iraq in 2003, we never once took military action to prevent other nations from developing nuclear weapons. We relied instead on deterrence and containment (to prevent other nations from using such weapons after they had been developed). These may not be perfect policies, but they have a successful track record and can probably be applied more successfully than other policies to subnational groups as well as nation-states. The point is that these are still better policies than the recklessness of preemption, and we should use these policies in lobbying against U.S involvement of any kind in military actions or coup attempts against Iran. We should also very definitely support an effort to tie future U.S. aid to Israel to Israel's not engaging in military action against Iran.

We are talking here about supporting (by our silence), or opposing (by vociferous lobbying), what could become major, serious warfare -- warfare that could easily become global, and also could easily cause greater difficulties for the peoples of the Middle East than any they have yet faced from U.S. policies. With an election campaign intensifying the political volatilities of Israeli politics, with possibly fast-moving new uncertainties and vulnerabilities arising among both Republicans and Democrats jousting for advantage in a U.S. election year, and with a new, inexperienced president in Iran who, so far at least, believes aggressive speech strengthens his political position, the dangers in the situation are evident. As each week passes and no movement occurs anywhere -- particularly in Washington -- to reduce tensions by changing policies, the risk grows of a mistake that will lead to new hostilities, and possibly nuclear warfare. How many Iranians might we and the Israelis kill? How many Israelis might die? How many Americans?

How should the U.S. change its policies with respect to Syria?

The issues of Syria and Palestine are related to U.S. policy toward Iran. Policy on Syria today is to put constant pressure on that country's ruler, Bashar al-Assad, with the ultimate objective of ousting and replacing him with someone (not yet named by the Americans) who would be even more subservient to U.S. and Israeli desires. Assad himself has moved a considerable way toward subservience, giving the U.S. considerable help on intelligence matters and accepting certain U.S. prisoners "rendered" to his regime for purposes of torture, but the U.S., unsatisfied, keeps intensifying the pressure. The U.S. and Israel have succeeded in making it more difficult for Syria to provide support for the Palestinian resistance against Israel's occupation, but Damascus still provides some refuge for Hezbollah personnel.

The recent assassinations of anti-Syrian leaders in Lebanon have provided new opportunities for the Bush administration to ratchet up its criticism of Syria still further, although the evidence of Syrian involvement in the assassinations is weak. It is at least possible that other groups, such as the Israel's Mossad or the CIA, are responsible.

Whatever the truth behind events in Lebanon, the events themselves could offer a U.S. president who is in some trouble at home the possibility of a low-cost, low-risk foreign policy victory if he could pull off, perhaps with the help of Mossad, a quick covert action that ousted Assad. Act II of a grand show might then proceed -- another U.S. occupation installed, another nation in the Middle East "democratized," elections held a year or two later and a puppet government set up, step-by-step takeovers of the economy implemented by U.S. and Israeli interests, further isolation of the Palestinians from other Arabs -- all in all, another great victory for the U.S-Israeli partnership.

Or so Bush, at least, might believe. In reality, the situation might turn into another morass like Iraq. But months might pass and the U.S. congressional election of November 2006 might be history before we knew that for sure. Might not a man like Bush who revels in chance-taking consider this a pretty good gamble? Meanwhile, how many Syrians would we kill? How many badly wounded Americans would come home to a questionable quality of life because bulletproof vests saved their lives? If Israeli military units moved into Syria (to help us, of course), how many Israelis would die?

We should all be lobbying members of Congress not to cast any votes in favor of aggressive U.S. policies toward Syria. Such votes cannot help, and will only take resources from, a majority of the world's peoples and a majority of Americans. Syria (and Lebanon) are not places where the United States benefits in any way from being a global policeman. While the neocons and probably some present top Israeli officials do see benefits to be gained from U.S. intervention in Syria, other senior and many ordinary Israelis do not. We also should urge members of Congress to tie further aid to Israel to Israel's not becoming involved in any military actions against Syria.

How should the U.S. change its policies with respect to the Palestinians?

We should make it as clear as we possibly can to members of Congress that the Palestine-Israel problem is the most central long-term issue to the peoples of the Middle East. Most Arab leaders have been so co-opted by the U.S. that they no longer object to our support for Israel's oppression of the Palestinians, but the peoples of the area are a different story. They do care about and object strenuously to that oppression.

Regardless of what happens anywhere in the Middle East, we will never end the "War on Terrorism" without, first, a solution to the Palestine-Israel issue that provides as much justice to the Palestinians as to the Israelis. Although many supporters of Israel try to compare the several-centuries-long U.S. conquest of American Indians to the Israeli attempt to conquer the Palestinians, there is no valid comparison. Quite apart from the immorality of any attempt to emulate the U.S. atrocity against its indigenous population, there are practical reasons why the comparison cannot be made. The population balances, for instance, are entirely different; there are proportionately far more Palestinians than there were American Indians.

Nevertheless, Israeli and U.S. policy in the West Bank, semi-hidden by a bogus withdrawal from Gaza, continues to seek permanent conquest of more and more territory. The daily injustices and cruelties imposed by Israel and the U.S. on Palestinians in the occupied West Bank are today worse than they have been in the previous 38 years of occupation. This is not only a major human rights issue facing the United States. It is also a very large cause of the hatred against the U.S. throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds.

What is new in the last few months is Israeli intensification of settlement activity in the West Bank, particularly in East Jerusalem; intensification of land-confiscation (with no recompense to Palestinians); a speed-up in construction of the separation wall and of new "Israeli-citizens-only" roads, both of which also require more land-confiscation; more demolitions of Palestinian houses; and new, harsh Israeli measures of other types aimed specifically at forcing Palestinians out of areas, in which they have lived for generations, in and near Jerusalem.

All of this takes place with little Western media attention; the media devoted considerably more attention to the carefully televised "suffering" of the relatively few Israeli settlers forced to move from their luxurious homes in Gaza. The Israelis, with heavy U.S. financing, are busily establishing more "facts on the ground" that will make any peaceful solution providing equal justice to both sides less possible. That does not mean that Israel will "win." Given the determination and inexhaustibility (and large numbers) of Palestinians, it just means more terrorism, killing, and cruelty on both sides. It is a shocking waste of lives, and the U.S. is prolonging it by its one-sided support of Israel. Let's put it baldly. U.S. policy on Israel and Palestine is simply immoral in its one-sidedness. It should take no one who investigates what is actually happening to Palestinians in the West Bank more than 30 seconds to decide that the oppression and cruelties that can be seen there daily should be stopped. Here too, further U.S. aid to Israel should be directly tied to Israel's stopping the oppression and cruelties to Palestinians.

The position we should take in lobbying members of Congress is simple and obvious: Stop the one-sidedness. It is a blot that will stain all our other activities and policies in the Middle East, and probably elsewhere, for years to come. The longer we avoid changing this situation, the larger the blot will become.


All of these issues -- Iran, Syria, and Palestine-Israel -- are interrelated, and each issue enhances the perception around the world that the U.S. is hypocritical, oppressive, and interested only in advancing Israel's interests. All grow out of the one-sided U.S. support for Israel, and none will be resolved without a change in the U.S.-Israeli relationship. To put it baldly again, the widespread perception of the U.S. as immoral and unjust interferes in a quite serious way with the conduct of U.S. foreign policy. Neither we nor Israel "wins" if U.S. policy continues on the same path.

Bill Christison was a senior official of the CIA. He served as a National Intelligence Officer and as Director of the CIA's Office of Regional and Political Analysis.

Kathleen Christison is a former CIA political analyst and has worked on Middle East issues for 30 years. She is the author of Perceptions of Palestine and The Wound of Dispossession.

They both can be reached at

War without end

Only justice, not bombs, can make our dangerous world a safer place

By Robert Fisk

12/30/05 "The Independent" -- -- This was the year the "war on terror" - an obnoxious expression which we all parroted after 11 September 2001 - appeared to be almost as endless as George Bush once claimed it would be. And unsuccessful. For, after all the bombing of Afghanistan, the overthrow of the Taliban, the invasion of Iraq and its appallingly tragic aftermath, can anyone claim today that they feel safer than they did a year ago?

We have gone on smashing away at the human rights we trumpeted at the Russians - and the Arabs - during the Cold War. We have perhaps fatally weakened all those provisions that were written into our treaties and conventions in the aftermath of the Second World War to make the world a safer place. And we claim we are winning.

Where, for example, is the terror? In the streets of Baghdad, to be sure. And perhaps again in our glorious West if we go on with this folly. But terror is also in the prisons and torture chambers of the Middle East. It is in the very jails to which we have been merrily sending out trussed-up prisoners these past three years. For Jack Straw to claim that men are not being sent on their way to torture is surely one of the most extraordinary - perhaps absurd is closer to the mark - statements to have been made in the "war on terror". If they are not going to be tortured - like the luckless Canadian shipped off to Damascus from New York - then what is the purpose of sending them anywhere?

And how are we supposed to "win" this war by ignoring all the injustices we are inflicting on that part of the world from which the hijackers of September 11 originally came? How many times have Messrs Bush and Blair talked about "democracy"? How few times have they talked about "justice", the righting of historic wrongs, the ending of torture? Our principal victims of the "war on terror", of course, have been in Iraq (where we have done quite a bit of torturing ourselves).

But, strange to say, we are silent about the horrors the people of Iraq are now enduring. We do not even know - are not allowed to know - how many of them have died. We know that 1,100 Iraqis died by violence in Baghdad in July alone. That's terror.

But how many died in the other cities of Iraq, in Mosul and Kirkuk and Irbil, and in Amara and Fallujah and Ramadi and Najaf and Kerbala and Basra? Three thousand in July? Or four thousand? And if those projections are accurate, we are talking about 36,000 or 48,000 over the year - which makes that projected post-April 2003 figure of 100,000 dead, which Blair ridiculed, rather conservative, doesn't it?

It's not so long ago, I recall, that Bush explained to us that all the Arabs would one day wish to have the freedoms of Iraq. I cannot think of an Arab today who would wish to contemplate such ill fortune, not least because of the increasingly sectarian nature of the authorities, elected though they are.

The year did allow Ariel Sharon to achieve his aim of turning his colonial war into part of the "war on terror". It also allowed al-Qa'ida's violence to embrace more Arab countries. Jordan was added to Egypt. Woe betide those of us who are now locked into the huge military machine that embraces the Middle East. Why, Iraqis sometimes ask me, are American forces - aerial or land - in Uzbekistan? And Kazakhstan and Afghanistan, in Turkey and Jordan (and Iraq) and in Kuwait and Qatar and Bahrain and Oman and Yemen and Egypt and Algeria (there is a US special forces unit based near Tamanrasset, co-operating with the same Algerian army that was involved in the massacre of civilians the 1990s)?

In fact, just look at the map and you can see the Americans in Greenland and Iceland and Britain and Germany and ex-Yugoslavia and Greece - where we join up with Turkey. How did this iron curtain from the ice cap to the borders of Sudan emerge? What is its purpose? These are the key questions that should engage anyone trying to understand the "war on terror".

And what of the bombers? Where are they coming from, these armies of suiciders? Still we are obsessed with Osama bin Laden. Is he alive? Yes. But does he matter? Quite possibly not. For he has created al-Qa'ida. The monster has been born. To squander our millions searching for people like Bin Laden is about as useless as arresting nuclear scientists after the invention of the atom bomb. It is with us.

Alas, as long as we are not attending to the real problems of the Middle East, of its record of suffering and injustice, it - al-Qa'ida - will still be with us. My year began with a massive explosion in Beirut, just 400 metres from me, as a bomb killed the ex-prime minister Rafiq Hariri. It continued on 7 July when a bomb blew up two trains back from me on the Piccadilly line. Oh, the dangerous world we live in now. I suppose we all have to make our personal choices these days. Mine is that I am not going to allow 11 September 2001 to change my world. Bush may believe that 19 Arab murderers changed his world. But I'm not going to let them change mine. I hope I'm right.

© 2005 Independent News and Media Limited

20,000 Mercenaries for the Pentagon

Have Gun Will Travel

U.S.M.C. 1992‒95. Go anywhere do anything. Very fit, kick-ass. Guaranteed no one can beat me in a fight. Do any drug, take any pill, eliminate anyone (legally). No problem!

Very charismatic and a generally nice guy who will do most anything for a nominal fee. Owe my life to a lot of Americans and willing to do most anything to pay back.

M., Philadelphia

Short- or extremely long-range, hand-to-hand, or I’ll bring my own. After these last few years with these people in the Mideast, I want to dispose of some of them.

S.H., Salt Springs, Fla.

Forty-two-year-old former Marine. Am an outstanding specimen of a Patriot. My physical/material accomplishments are commendable. There is no device that I cannot fix or create. Seeking Iraq deployment. Give me a call PLEASE.

R.F., Muscatine, Iowa

I’m a bodyguard in NYC. I’m an excellent driver, not a hero but not a coward either. I know when to run and when to fight, prefer to run, and fight another day.

D.M., Bronx, N.Y.

Former Marine seeks position where he could provide protection against attack by any fruitcake dumb enough to try to bring my charge harm. Don’t like fish but will eat the neck of any invader. Semper Fi.

P.K., Warrington, Pa.

Seventh-generation American. Vietnam vet. World traveler. I “own” SE Asia. Many years there on and off after the war—numerous contacts and old friends in very high places. Will go anywhere, anytime, and complete any task. Tenacious, reliable, sober.

R.R.H., Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Disposition is quiet, calculating. Not a drinker/drug user. I blend in well. I have the wisdom of many years of experience, but still young enough and in shape (very fit, NO fat) to keep up with these young bucks of today.

Ready to go NOW!

J.L., Omaha

I ride a bicycle every day. I know how to fix flats quickly and do other bicycle maintenance. Can participate in specialized recon by bicycle. I am not a gun nut but can handle a weapon. I am trainable, follow orders, and always watch the backs of my partners. I am in very good physical shape. I have a B.A. in English from Ohio State University.

W.B., Clearwater, Fla.

Twenty years’ construction management, 130 I.Q., and can handle hostile working conditions. Willing to work hard and prove Americans will not be intimidated by terrorists.

I am a firm believer that it is not for us to judge our enemies or those who would try to injure or kill us. I believe we should quickly and precisely terminate them if need be so

Jesus Christ can judge them.

D.D., Hyrum, Utah

This is Have Gun Will Travel, a reading, originally from June 2004, published Wednesday, December 28, 2005. It is part of War, which is part of Readings, which is part of

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Death By Dilution

When fakes of a GlaxoSmithKline anti-malarial drug turned up in Africa, authorities assumed the drug giant would want to know. Instead, they learned about a huge, evil trade in fake drugs -- and about an industry that doesn’t want the truth to get out.

By Robert Cockburn
Issue Date: 12.20.05

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In Graham Greene’s 1949 thriller classic, The Third Man, Harry Lime -- “the dirtiest racketeer who ever made a dirty living” -- peddles diluted penicillin through the sewers of occupied Vienna. During the film’s famous scene atop the city’s Great Wheel, Harry’s friend Holly Martins, played by Joseph Cotten, asks, “Have you ever visited the children’s hospital? Have you ever seen any of your victims?”

“Victims?” replies Orson Welles as Harry, pointing to the tiny figures moving far below them. “Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving -- forever? If I said you can have £20,000 for every dot that stops, would you really, old man, tell me to keep my money -- without hesitation?”

* * *

In Vienna, Virginia, not far from Washington, a database of all the fake drugs discovered by the world’s 18 largest drug companies is kept at the Pharmaceutical Security Institute (PSI). The data maintained by the PSI may well hold the key to saving millions of innocent consumers from ingesting lethal counterfeits of the industry’s best-selling medicines -- but it remains inaccessible to outside inquiries for what the industry calls “security” reasons. Fake drugs are indeed the pharmaceutical industry’s most closely guarded secret.

But in September 2002, at a conference in Geneva, a man named Emmanuel Kyeremateng Agyarko made a startling admission. The conference brought together top government officials, scientists, private investigators, and the world’s biggest drug companies for the first global forum to discuss the explosion of fake pharmaceutical drugs in a racket spreading to the West. The media were expressly not invited into the meeting at the luxury hotel overlooking Lake Geneva.

Speaking up from the audience, Agyarko explained how one month earlier he had discovered a deadly counterfeit of the children’s malaria syrup Halfan, which had been diluted to 40-percent strength. Halfan is made by the British drug giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). The syrup is a lifesaver for serious cases in Africa, where a resurgence of malaria is killing more than a million people a year, 90 percent of them children under 5 years old.

The fake was discovered on sale in a pharmacy in Kumasi, Ghana’s second-largest city, with a population of approximately 862,000. “It was atrocious,” he recalls of the diluted medicine. “At 40 percent, if anybody takes it they won’t get the desired effect, particularly children. Any malarial infection that is not properly treated could easily end up losing the child.” As chief executive of the Ghana Food and Drug Board, Agyarko says he prepared a warning and then called GSK.

What followed is disputed to this day.

According to Agyarko, corporate staff from GSK’s London headquarters came to his office, took away five bottles of the fake syrup for testing -- and asked him to withhold any warning. “We were going to issue a public statement,” Agyarko explained, until, he said, GSK told him, “‘Please, don’t put that in the press. If you do this you will damage our product.’” He recalls that GSK offered to send in a sales team to remove fake Halfan from Kumasi if his agency kept the story out of the media.

“ [GSK] raised the issue of a problem with the brand if you go out and say that there is a batch that is counterfeited … . They sort of talked us into accepting the fact that if we did [report the fakes], it would badly affect the product. I wouldn’t want to use the word ‘pressure.’ We were encouraged to the view that this was not something that was a large amount.”

After his meeting with GSK, Agyarko’s agency issued no warning. He later came to fear that children could have died as a result of that decision. The company never reported back to him, and he suspected that fakes were still available. “If it does come up again I would not hesitate at all to go public on the matter,” he says now. “I wouldn’t give [GSK] the benefit of doing it themselves.”

Did GSK indeed ask him to withhold the warning? Did children in Kumasi suffer or die from using fake Halfan? At the time, GSK advertising featured a photograph of a healthy, smiling African girl to project the image of a caring company. The corporate Web site opened with the girl’s picture and the GSK mission statement: “Our global quest is to improve the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer.” Moreover, GSK depicts itself as an industry leader in fighting pharmaceutical fakes. “Fake drugs can kill people,” according to the company’s official policy. “Counterfeits deceive patients.”

When I brought Agyarko’s story to the attention of GSK’s director of international public policy, Jessica Hughes, the corporate response was adamant denial. Louise Sibley, then GSK’s vice president for communications, denied that the Kumasi incident ever occurred, and went further to deny that the company had ever received Agyarko’s alert or his fake Halfan samples. In a corporate statement, she said, “[W]e were not provided with any samples of fakes by the authorities in Ghana, nor were any reports of fakes lodged with us.”

Informed that Agyarko was sticking to his claim, Sibley promised, “If there’s a misunderstanding I’ll run this into the ground.” I suggested that the company’s security director, Graham Satchwell, would know whether GSK had received Agyarko’s alert and samples. “I put in a call to Graham Satchwell, but I think he must be traveling,” she later told me, adding, “I don’t think we are going to have anything more to say on it.”

It was simply Agyarko’s word against GSK’s, and because he insisted that the company had the only evidence, the controversy might have ended there. But a pair of Oxford University scientists had reason to suspect that Agyarko’s story might be true. Based in Bangkok, professor Nicholas J. White and Dr. Paul Newton of Oxford’s Centre for Clinical Vaccinology and Tropical Medicine had been rebuffed by GSK when they asked about fakes of Halfan syrup for research to assess the spread of counterfeit malaria drugs in Southeast Asia.

“It’s despicable,” says the lean, shrewd White, at 54 one of the world’s top malaria experts. “One packet or bottle is the difference between life and death. Poor people normally invest everything in that one medicine. You’ve got one shot and that’s it. They often don’t know why they are suffering and their children have died.” At the scientists’ request, Agyarko teamed up with them to try to prove that the company indeed had received his fake samples, and to find out what GSK really knew about the fake Halfan. White had also asked me to assist the team’s research because I had reported on the racket for the London Guardian and Times newspapers over a period of almost 20 years. (One night before flying back to Beirut in 1982, I met a marketing executive from Beecham (now GSK) who asked me to look for counterfeits of his company’s Amoxil antibiotic, which he believed “the PLO was faking.” After an investigation that included a frightening car chase, I learned that everyone on all sides of the Middle East conflict was making over 50 fakes of well-known medicines because the trade was so lucrative.)

* * *

Why would a caring company want to stop a warning that could save a sick child? In fact, had Agyarko uncovered one of the main causes of the extraordinary spread of fake-drug racketeering? Had the years of inadequate regard for Third World customers by the pharmaceutical industry and governments allowed the racket to move out of the backstreet labs to become a vast criminal enterprise that now accounts for 10 percent of all available medicines? Agyarko’s story offered the first insight into why the racket flourishes largely unchallenged -- and sparked a demand to break the industry’s secrecy.

What began as a hunt for those missing bottles eventually revealed a murderous global trade in fake drugs targeting the sick, vulnerable, and poor. It grew into a survey to discover what major drug companies do -- and don’t do -- to warn patients about fakes. Agyarko’s missing bottles were only a symptom of a far deeper state of denial -- and a clue to the resurgence of malaria in Africa.

* * *

In essence, the global trade in fake drugs operates as a mirror of legitimate commerce. The producers of fakes sell them to dealers who infiltrate them into the retail market. Profits flow from the capacity to counterfeit valuable commodities at very low cost. As the fakes pass from producers to wholesalers to retail outlets, everyone can take a profit and yet still deny complicity.

The pharmaceutical industry and the agencies responsible for protecting the public differ widely on the magnitude of the counterfeiting problem. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that around 10 percent of all available medicines are now faked in a racket earning $35 billion a year. The figure exceeds 50 percent in parts of Africa and Asia. The PSI estimate is between 1 percent and 2 percent. Within the industry, however, that figure has little credibility. In a scathing editorial in April 2005, the online U.S. magazine asked: “Why does the industry continue to shy away from developing the infrastructure needed to assess the size of the global problem? The answer is simple: fears of bad publicity and impacts on stock prices.”

Millions of people are left to suffer and die from fake drugs while the industry denies access to information that doctors say could save them. The industry insists that its data on fake drugs must be restricted for security and to avoid public panic. But White believes that the underlying reason is simply profit. In a chilling assessment of pharmaceutical-industry ethics, he says, “Their marketing people must have made the calculations that they are likely to make more profits by not publicizing than by publicizing.”

The Oxford team concluded that most fake-drug data is kept secret because drug companies fear that publicity will harm sales of brand-name drugs in a fiercely competitive business. That has been the industry practice for over 25 years, but the human toll is gradually emerging. In 2001, China reported that 192,000 of its citizens had died from fake drugs. White guesses that between 500,000 and 1 million people die from fakes every year. “I believe that people must have died in their millions,” agrees Dr. Dora Akunyili, the drug regulator of Nigeria and an associate of the Oxford team. “It is mass murder -- terrorism against public health.” To her, companies that conceal fake drugs are not much better than criminals. “They are [maintaining secrecy] because of their selfish gain, because they don’t want to lose money,” she says.

This month Akunyili, 47, will receive the 2005 Grassroots Human Rights Campaigner Award in London’s Houses of Parliament. The streetwise scientist cuts a dashing figure with her traditionally colorful Nigerian costume and hats -- one of which she keeps in her office shot through by the bullet that creased her scalp when she was attacked in a hail of gangster gunfire.

Only as fake drugs spread into lucrative western markets are drug companies and governments finally contemplating determined action against a scheme that the makers of Rolex watches and Gucci handbags have fought in public for decades. There are two victims of fake drugs: companies that lose sales and patients who lose their health. Why don’t they work together? GSK’s Louise Sibley told me, “It’s not our job to give public-health warnings. We don’t make the fakes.” Drug companies pursue fake-drug manufacturers by using their own security and hiring private investigators to trace and facilitate the closing of fake-drug factories. By using covert means, the industry avoids any assessment of its efforts and is accountable to no one.

* * *

The Oxford team’s first break in the Ghana case came when Dr. Newton found a GSK laboratory analysis of counterfeit Halfan syrup in an obscure Internet technical journal on mass spectrometry. He wondered whether that syrup came from Agyarko’s bottles. The GSK research center in Britain had made a breakthrough in identifying fake-drug ingredients -- the chemical “fingerprint” -- in the samples. Their tests showed that the fake syrup contained no halofrantrine active ingredient and had two sulfa additives that Newton knew to be dangerous and should have been made public. But GSK’s scientists, who had quoted Newton’s own research on fake malaria drugs in their report, rejected his request for the source of their fake syrup. “Analyzing counterfeit products of ours can be a very sensitive issue, and if I was to give you further information I would need to clear it with our corporate security and investigations department,” a GSK researcher told him in an e-mail. “The product presented in the paper was found in Central Africa, but for legal reasons, I can’t be more specific at the moment.”

The courteous, donnish White then wrote to Satchwell, the GSK security chief, asking for the source of the fake Halfan syrup and to know whom, if anyone, GSK had warned. A reply arrived from the company’s international public-policy director, Jessica Hughes, who refused to provide answers about the fake syrup but acknowledged “counterfeit Halfan is present in Nigeria and Sierra Leone.”

The Oxford team’s hunt moved to Nigeria, the hub of West Africa’s fake-drug trade and a country notorious for corruption and violence. In June 2002, Nigeria’s drug regulatory body, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), had also alerted GSK to a discovery of fake Halfan syrup -- two months before Agyarko’s warning. As NAFDAC’s chief, Akunyili had issued an immediate public warning through a system set up to identify fake drugs to patients and health workers. Every month, in fact, NAFDAC destroys tons of fake drugs. A typical list includes faked versions of products from the Pfizer, Hoffman La Roche, Novartis, Unilever, Janssen, Astra Zeneca, Boots, Hoechst, Pharmacia & Upjohn, and GSK companies.

Akunyili was furious to hear that her Ghanaian colleague Agyarko had withheld his public warning at GSK’s request. “No company would have the courage to tell me not to publish anything,” she says. “We will still issue a warning even if we find it in just one shop. If you find any fake-drug product in only one shop you can be sure it is in many villages … . People die all the time.” She is driven by the death of her sister Vivienne, a diabetic who received fake insulin. She says that she herself has been a victim of fake Halfan and Amoxil antibiotics. There had been no public warning in either case. “I didn’t know that Halfan had been faked,” says Akunyili. “Everybody can be a victim.” She joined NAFDAC in 2001 when Nigeria suffered from a wave of fake drugs comprising up to 80 percent of the market. Now she is a national hero, known as “Dr. Dora,” who publicizes the counterfeits in schools and villages, roots out corruption, and travels to India and China to stop the fakes at their source.

Eventually the Oxford team learned that GSK had known about a global trade in fake Halfan since at least December 2000, when Belgian customs officials seized a vast haul of GSK counterfeits in transit from China to Nigeria. The Belgian haul included 57,600 packs of fake adult Halfan capsules, along with more than 15,000 packs of Amoxil and Ampiclox antibiotics. GSK says it informed the Nigerian health authorities of the haul. The counterfeiter’s trial revealed that fake GSK drugs were being produced on an industrial scale in factories in China and Thailand. In all, Chinese investigators seized 43 tons of fakes of 17 brands made by seven major drug companies, which only represented a fraction of known output. Chinese authorities say that in 2001 they closed 1,300 fake-drug factories while investigating 480,000 cases worth $57 million.

White’s attempts to publish the Oxford team’s findings were rejected by the leading medical journals -- including The Lancet, the British Medical Journal, and The New England Journal of Medicine -- and several U.K. newspapers. But in October 2004, one year after GSK had denied any knowledge of his fake Halfan discovery, bbc Radio reported Agyarko’s claims. Faced with the broadcast, the company’s London head office reversed position to acknowledge that it had received Agyarko’s alert -- and that it had the fake Halfan syrup bottles all the time. In a new statement that admitted GSK staff had “bumped into” Agyarko, the drug giant still insisted that “[a]t no point was any pressure put on the Ghanaian authorities not to issue a public warning on fake Halfan.”

By then Louise Sibley had left GSK. Louise Dunn, the company’s new vice president for communications, had a new explanation. “There was some confusion over the interactions with Mr. Agyarko,” she said. “The key point here is that there was no wrongdoing.” Neither Sibley nor Dunn had ever called Agyarko, although Dunn says that he “never complained to us.” She added, “There was no intention to hide anything. In our view there were minor discrepancies.”

Among those discrepancies was the complete disappearance of the fake Halfan bottles that the company finally admitted receiving from Agyarko. GSK claims that no trace of the Kumasi fake Halfan sample survives. “Mr. Agyarko did provide us with a sample of the Halfan,” says Dunn. “But we don’t have any records of the tests. What our procedure would be now is that absolutely everything gets tested at the time.” She says it is no longer possible to compare the Kumasi fake to other fake Halfan syrups in Africa, which would be the key to mapping their source and spread. The disappearance of the critical evidence also eliminated any chance of using the syrup’s chemical fingerprint to identify possible victims.

As for the fake Halfan syrup whose test results were found online by Newton, Dunn says that sample came from Sierra Leone. She says that the company informed the Sierra Leone minister of health about those counterfeits. But the Pharmaceutical Board of Sierra Leone, which investigates all fake drugs and issues public warnings, never received any such information from GSK or the minister of health, according to the board’s director, Michael J. Lansana, who called the omission “unfortunate.” The head of Sierra Leone’s Malaria Control Program, Dr. Sirian Kamara, who works with Lansana to uncover fake drugs, also says that no warning ever arrived.

Most curiously, the news of Agyarko’s fake Halfan alert never reached Graham Satchwell, then GSK’s security director. Asked about the Agyarko case at a conference in Paris in March, he was stunned. “I know nothing of that!” he shouted from the conference platform. “If you are trying to suggest that I would [in] any way conceal anything that would cause the death of anyone, let alone children, then you are very mistaken indeed.”

Later, Satchwell told me that he had led GSK’s anti-counterfeiting operations, and that he should have received all reports of fake drugs, including Agyarko’s Halfan find. He said no one at GSK told him about the Kumasi case or about the attempts to contact him concerning Agyarko’s claims. A former U.K. policeman, Satchwell took personal risks as an undercover buyer to obtain fake drug samples. He has testified at congressional hearings on fake drugs. Sir David Hare, the British dramatist, has lionized Satchwell’s integrity in a play exposing government and corporate negligence. Why was he not told about the Agyarko case?

“There is a large anti-counterfeit team at GSK,” says Dunn, “so the involvement or noninvolvement of one individual is not unusual or significant.” But Satchwell questions the official GSK version.

“If GSK knows that the [fake] sample was received,” he says, “then they should know who received it and what happened next. If a test was undertaken, then the results would have been recorded. The department concerned with doing that were an efficient and organized bunch.” Satchwell was pushing to build up a record of all fake GSK drug cases to be used for intelligence analysis to trace sources and pathways. “There are umpteen things you can profile within the packaging and the product in order to identify counterfeit ‘strains.’ This was -- and is -- done.”

GSK declined to allow any interviews with Louise Sibley or the GSK staffers who met with Agyarko. As for Satchwell’s comments, Dunn says, “We have no comment.” The company’s fake-drug policy states, “GSK rigorously investigates any case of suspected counterfeiting.” But GSK still refused to answer questions about the actions it took following the fake Halfan syrup find in Kumasi. And Dunn says she cannot understand how withholding fake-drug data can harm patients. “I would like some evidence,” she says.

There is no way of finding such evidence -- yet. For “security” reasons, the industry’s fake-drug data is kept confidential at the PSI, which collates fake-drug discoveries made by the world’s 18 biggest drug companies, including Pfizer and GSK, some dating back more than a decade. The institute’s stated goals are “protecting the public health” and “sharing information on the counterfeiting of pharmaceuticals.” Whether it fulfills either is questionable. Dr. Lembit Rago, director of medicine safety for the World Health Organization, has been frustrated by the PSI’s secrecy. “We’ve been discussing it with [the PSI] for a long time,” he says, “but they are not willing to open up the databases. They really don’t like [the idea].”

A PSI spokesman insists that the secrecy is necessary to prevent criminals from being tipped off before police arrests. But Chris Jenkins, a founding member of the PSI now serving as an analyst and associate director at Pinkerton Consulting and Investigations, says there is an additional explanation. “At the outset, we [PSI] were against having data online that anyone could interrogate,” says Jenkins, who set up the original psi fake-drug computer data system in the 1990s, with its access restrictions. “There were also commercial reasons. If a patient came to harm as a result of a counterfeit product, the company’s good reputation is in danger of disappearing, together with a loss of confidence in the products. From the company’s perspective, there is then the inherent danger of rival products being preferred in the marketplace.”

Jenkins says that the industry’s security regime was designed to prevent the major drug companies from using fake-drug information to take commercial advantage of one another.

“The one thing we were trying very hard to do was to keep [data] out of the hands of the commercial people in any of the companies,” he says. “We always had this possibility, which is why things were sanitized. One had to produce reports for the CEO, but beyond that it was kept very close. The only people [in a member company] nominated to PSI were senior people with anti-counterfeit responsibilities, such as security directors and IP lawyers. You can imagine trying to get 20 top companies trying to share information, a lot of which was extremely commercial-in-confidence. The importance of meeting sales targets is such that you can even find cutthroat competition between different operating divisions of the same company, let alone between two companies competing in the same market with similar drugs.”

Could that explain why Graham Satchwell never learned of the fake Halfan in Ghana?

Dr. Sebastian J. Mollo of the PSI confirms that data is routinely withheld from members. “Since [PSI’s] inception, it was recognized that a great deal of this information would remain confidential and would not be disseminated. There is proprietary information that cannot be disclosed, either to peer member companies or to the general audience.”

The industry has turned fake-drug data into a potential weapon against itself, inadvertantly offering the racketeers a layer of immunity they never could have imagined. Some companies have, on rare occasions, issued public warnings, including GSK (and Johnson & Johnson, Serono, Hoechst, Wellcome Foundation [now GSK], Merck Sharp & Dhome, and Genentech), but the list is tiny compared with the racket’s size. “Fake drugs should be reported like infectious diseases,” says White. “By not making the public aware you create a market (for fakes). Drug companies are making it easier for the criminals.”

High profits, low costs, minimal legal risks, and little publicity are drawing crime gangs away from arms and narcotics. High-tech photocopiers turn out perfect drug packaging for every type of treatment for heart disease, birth control, meningitis, kidney disease, cancer, or depression. Out-of-date and damaged drugs get relabeled for sale, transforming a $22 drug into a $450 drug by creating a higher dosage label.

Most fakes are made in China, Southeast Asia, India, Russia, and the Middle East and then infiltrated into the legitimate global drug-distribution system. What is surprising is how many ordinary people are needed to make the racket work. Officials and health workers meant to protect patients are bribed and intimidated to put fake drugs into a distribution system that is like a sieve. “An awful lot more [fake drugs] get through than are seized,” says Jenkins. Inside the system, fake drugs are very hard to find and then are often ignored, even in the United States.

Once taken, a fake antibiotic pill made of rice starch or a vaccine made of water is virtually untraceable in the body. Victims succumb to their illnesses, leaving no sign of a crime. In the absence of investigations, very few victims have ever been unidentified. Its anonymity has allowed the racket to be ignored and to thrive.

The most vulnerable are malaria victims. The resurgence of malaria now affects more than 500 million people in Africa. Mosquitoes carry the disease in a “meal of blood” passed from one human victim to another. The most dangerous parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, kills more than 800,000 African children under 5 years old annually, according to the World Health Organization. It is Africa’s biggest child killer, destroying families, health services, and economies. But the role of fake drugs in promoting malaria is barely ever mentioned.

In November 2005, for example, Bill and Melinda Gates gave $250 million to fight malaria. “It’s a disgrace that the world has allowed malaria deaths to double in the last 20 years, when so much could have been done to stop the disease,” declared the Microsoft billionaire. “Millions of children have died.” Is Gates aware that his generosity and the efforts of pharmaceutical research-and-development staff are being diluted by fake drugs? Experts are linking the resurgence of the disease to the growth of fake drugs, in a terrible cycle of neglect over the past two decades.

The explosive growth of malaria has created a sales boom for both drug companies and counterfeiters. “Anti-malarial drugs have now really become the focus” of the fake racket, says Dr. Allan Schapira of the World Health Organization’s Roll Back Malaria project. “It is murder. It is incredibly cruel.”

* * *

The marketing of fake drugs and the resurgence of malaria are inseparable. “It kills the voiceless children, who cannot protest,” explained Dr. Martin Meremikwu of Nigeria’s Calabar University at the launch in October of Gsunate Kit, a new artesunate anti-malarial drug. “Malaria hardly kills adults, which explains why we don’t seem to give the fight against malaria enough attention. The tragedy is that while 90 percent promptly take drugs when they have malaria, only 15 percent get ‘good’ drugs. The fraudulent practice of fake-drug manufacturers, inappropriate use of the available drugs, and the mutation of the malaria parasite are responsible for the resistance of malaria parasite to drugs.”

No one has assessed the extent of fake malaria drugs in Africa along the lines of Newton's study in Southeast Asia. Anti-malarials are known to be among the most faked drug types. But the danger does not stop there. The use of fake drugs is helping the malaria parasites to quickly mutate to become resistant to new drugs. Akunyili says diluted fake drugs are “feeding the malaria parasite with little doses” that build more resistant strains. You don’t have to take a fake drug to suffer its effects. Resistance is accelerated and then spread by mosquitoes to the next victim. As more patients fall prey so the need for more drugs grows, encouraging the trade in fakes that fuels the cycle. Dr Jan Rozendaal, who ran the European Community malaria project in Southeast Asia’s Mekong region in 1998, believes that fake drugs were causing most malaria deaths. But such warnings have gone largely unheeded. This leaves questions about the effectiveness of any new drugs while the use of fakes is rife.

There is a lot of money to be made now in combating malaria. GSK’s tests of an experimental malaria vaccine on children in Africa were greeted last year with a ringing headline in the London Times: “Malaria vaccine to save millions of children.” Within a month, the British government had made an unprecedented $5 billion presale for the still-unproven vaccine (and was criticized by malaria experts for investing so much in one Western company).

But while a company can be paid billions for a new drug, its patients have no guarantee of getting the real thing. There is little incentive to publicize the danger. Vaccines have been faked with tragic results. The 1995 Niger meningitis epidemic led to the worst known fake-drug incident, when 60,000 people were given vaccines made by SmithKline Beecham (now GSK) and Pasteur Merieux before they were found to be nothing but water. Some 3,000 people died. SmithKline Beecham was criticized in the French press for failing to take legal action amid speculation that it feared damaging trade with Nigeria, which had donated the fake vaccines.

* * *

Has the pharmaceutical industry made a huge miscalculation by using a strategy that now harms its own interests as well as its customers? Without effective laws or close cooperation among companies, governments, and international organizations, the racket has metastasized, according to the Public Library of Science Medicine, which finally published the Oxford team's industry survey in April. White and Akunyili now want international legislation to end the secrecy by enforcing mandatory reporting by drug companies of all fake-drug finds, and for government authorities to investigate and issue public warnings. “This is not a role for the pharmaceutical industry which has a serious conflict of interest,” says White, who also wants PSI data opened to health authorities. “The information kept on PSI databanks could absolutely help limit the number of casualties from fake drugs. It is entirely preventable.”

Akunyili says the next and most difficult step in the campaign against counterfeit drugs is to identify the victims. In the case of Halfan, it could be possible to detect the link between the criminal and the victim by checking the chemical fingerprint developed by GSK against that of the fake syrup. But is there any will to find the victims?

The pharmaceutical industry, backed by the FDA, is pursuing a new methods to stop counterfeiting, such as high-tech covert markers in drug packaging. But when GSK put holograms on its Halfan, according to Akunyili, “these criminals faked their hologram.” She believes that consumers represent an untapped pool of highly motivated “detectives” who could expose fake drugs to protect both themselves and the industry. White agrees that the public should be told which drugs are being faked without companies revealing sources. Such public warnings directly attack the racket itself. “When people stop buying fakes the market dries up,” says Akunyili. “Companies benefit in the long term.”

When the racket began to take off in 1982, Hoechst pharmaceuticals discovered the power of publicity against counterfeits in Beirut, where wartime conditions had encouraged a plague of fakes. Hoechst fought back with an advertising campaign warning patients about a fake of its diabetes drug Daonil. There was no panic and there were no lost sales. Indeed, Hoechst says it gained credibility, and when its customers stopped buying fakes the supply dried up. Why don’t drug companies use this vast resource of human intelligence and let consumers check their own drugs?

Clearly the companies worry that the victims will come back to haunt the industry -- creating the legal and public-relations disaster the secrecy was meant to prevent. Chris Jenkins believes that the PSI could face a legal challenge to open its databases. “Only the PSI has an overview of the known racket,” he says. “In theory, every fake-drug case reported by the companies should be on there.” Pieced together, the PSI fake-drug data could reveal the scale of the racket and its human toll through specific companies, drug names, discovery dates, and locations. Jenkins and other private investigators fear that they, too, could be held liable for keeping confidential the fake-drug data they have obtained for pharmaceutical clients.

Such fears have been stimulated by a series of breakthrough court cases in the United States, which argued that a drug company may be liable for the safety of its customers if it possesses information that could save them. It is a question with implications for millions of patients around the world.

It will probably never be known if any children suffered from diluted Halfan in Ghana. But in 2002, around the same time that the fake syrup turned up in Kumasi, prosecutors in a courthouse in Kansas City were exposing the horrors of fake drugs in America -- and the identity of their victims.

On December 5, 2002, Kansas City District Judge Ortie Smith changed the perception of the racket from that of copyright infringement to mass murder. Pharmacist Robert R. Courtney pleaded guilty to diluting the cancer drugs Gemzar, made by Eli Lilly, and Taxol, made by Bristol Myers-Squibb. Courtney made extra money, and at least 17 patients died. Judge Smith told him, “Your crimes are a shock to the conscience of a nation, the conscience of a community, and the conscience of this court. You alone have changed the way a nation thinks.” He sentenced the pharmacist to 30 years in prison.

Investigations by the FDA and the FBI -- of a case that had been the FBI’s top priority until September 11 -- found that since 1992, Courtney had diluted 72 different medicines, affecting some 400 doctors and more than 4,000 patients. During the hearing Assistant U.S. Attorney Gene Porter apologized for identifying the victims by code numbers instead of their names. Noting that they were indeed persons, Porter read out the names of the 17 women who died without any warning from Courtney’s diluted drugs. They were, wrote Kansas City Star reporter Mark Morris, “brave women, fighting desperately against cancers that never seemed to get better, no matter how many treatments they endured.”

What happened next riveted the attention of the pharmaceutical industry -- and its lawyers.

Victims and surviving families filed hundreds of lawsuits against Courtney and against Eli Lilly and Bristol-Myers, alleging that the two companies knew or should have known that Courtney was diluting their drugs because sales data showed that he sold greater quantities than he bought. The companies denied any liability and argued that they had no duty to protect their customers from Courtney’s criminal acts. But faced with the prospect of a legal precedent that could hold drug companies responsible for fake-drug victims where they had knowledge of the racket, Eli Lilly and Bristol-Myers Squibb settled more than 300 lawsuits out of court -- without any admission of wrongdoing. In February 2003, Courtney’s victims received around $71 million in settlement payments from the companies.

What would such an investigation reveal in Kumasi, or a thousand other African or Asian communities? Whether it is brought about in courts or through government action, the mandatory reporting of fake drugs would save potential victims everywhere.

* * *

In the 2004 GSK corporate responsibility report, Chairman Sir Christopher Gent and CEO Dr. JP Garnier assured stockholders, “Our ten corporate responsibility principles set the standard for everyone, since responsible business is only a reality if it is practised by all employees at all times. … We invite you to read this report for more information on all our corporate responsibility principles, and we welcome your comments and suggestions.”

As Holly Martins might say, “Have you ever visited the children’s hospital?”

Robert Cockburn is a writer and a former foreign correspondent who has reported for the Times of London and the BBC.

© 2005 by The American Prospect, Inc.