Armed Madhouse (Plume, 2007)

Friday, June 27, 2008



Getting his start as an investigator of corporate economic malfeasance, Greg Palast has brought to investigative reporting what he calls his "Sam Spade" style - following the evidence, the money, and always asking "Who benefits?". His approach leads to conclusions about the real motivations behind the Iraq War (it's about the oil, but spiking the price rather than seizing the last of it), and the overall program of class warfare that American-based wealthy elites are waging both at home and abroad. Packed with factual evidence and documents leaked to Palast and the BBC from insiders in the government and the world's moss powerful companies, Armed Madhouse is a must-read and a must-think-about.

Posted by St. Drogo at 11:41 AM  

40 comments:

P. 9 - "I'm a bit nervous. It's an 'ORANGE ALERT' day. That's a "low threat" notice. According to the press release from the Department of Homeland Security, low-threat Orange means that there will be no special inspections of passengers or cargo today. Isn't it nice of Mr. Bush to alert Osama when half of our security forces are given the day off?"

St. Drogo said...
July 1, 2008 at 2:17 PM  

P. 10 - "What drove Osama's declaration of war? The poverty in Islamic nations? Not a mention. Lack of freedom? Forget it. Bin Laden's causus bellum for war on America : 'The presence of the U.S.A. Crusader military forces on land, sea and air in the states of the Islamic Gulf is the greatest danger threatening *the largest oil reserve in the world*.' ... In other words, if you follow Osama's movements and read what the man says, you realize he has been less coy than Bush about his true program: Get the oil. The steps are : First, remove the Soviets from the Caspian oil fields and pipeline routes; second, remove the man he called an evil socialist, Saddam Hussein, from the second largest OPEC reserve; third, keep the Shia 'dogs' who control the third largest reserve from expanding their influence outside Persia; fourth, remove U.S. troops from the Land of the Holy Places ... Saudi Arabia; then fifth and last, overthrow the House of Saud and re-create a new Caliphate stretching from Sudan to Kazakhstan, every province an oil state, a Petroleum Kingdom of God"

St. Drogo said...
July 1, 2008 at 2:17 PM  

P. 19 - "BBC got the call about Dr. Kahn's bomb in November 2001 and reported it that night ... in 2001, regarding the Khan bomb, the administration dismissed our story as imaginary. With his 2004 press conference, the President shifted from obfuscation to prevarication, denial to mendacity."

St. Drogo said...
July 1, 2008 at 2:17 PM  

P. 21 - "What we have here is the Great Con: to get us all to pull each other's hair over the sanctity of library card privacy. While Mr. Kahn is out peddling nukes, we are dragged into a nitwit debate over "the balance between security and civil liberties" ... What I want to know is, who at the FBI is poring over my choice of novels, how much do we pay this guy, and why isn't he reviewing Swiss, Pakistani and Saudi bank transfer records instead?"

St. Drogo said...
July 1, 2008 at 2:17 PM  

P. 24 - "World Assembly of Muslim Youth isn't some kid's club. It operates in 55 countries; its budgets run into the high millions, cash that comes directly from the Saudi Arabian royals who control the network from Riyadh ... WAMY's U.S. founder? ... Abdullah bin Laden, nephew of Osama ... I am not surprised that WAMY's offices were raided, but I am surprised that it took over two years ... The FBI raid occurred just days after religious extremists blew up an oil workers' compound in Riyadh ... Messing with the oil sheiks gets the Bush Administration's attention. Falling towers in New York, however, are only good for Republican photo ops."

St. Drogo said...
July 1, 2008 at 2:18 PM  

P. 31 - "Had Iran controlled the Afghan corridor to the Caspian, this combine of Shia states could have created an oil colossus rivaling the Saudis', thereby making Iran "swing" producer and controller of OPEC ... Here was something the USA, Saudi Arabia and Al-Qaeda could all agree on : No "Shia dogs" were going to control a new oil caliphate"

St. Drogo said...
July 1, 2008 at 2:18 PM  

P. 34 - "Our 'War President', as he arrogantly calls himself, is having a little problem with his War On Terror. The enemy's gone AWOL. Except when *we* go looking for trouble, as in invading Mesopotamia ... America is *not* under attack ... This isn't Lebanon or Israel or Chechnya. We don't go to a pizza parlor wondering if we'll get our keisters blown off before the last slice. This is not Iraq, with the daily bombing in the Kasbah as Shias, Sunnis, Turkmen and Kurds settle matters of religion and petroleum with Semtex. Even September 11, forgive me for pointing this out, was ... the deed of a bunch of wingnuts with box cutters hankering for a hot time with virgins in the next life who got 'lucky' ... Where is Osama? He's last year's model. Even if he survives, he's no longer a player ... George Bush gave him what he wanted, U.S. troops out of Saudi Arabia ... With oil up, Osama's war platform crumbles beneath him."

St. Drogo said...
July 1, 2008 at 2:18 PM  

P. 36 - "Neither America nor Britain are at war. This is not the Blitz ... Bush's declaring a War on Terror, mirroring Osama's own Declaration of War, draws us into the 'totalen Krieg' (total war) mentality in which all perfidy is excused ... A whole list of corporate gimmes sought by lobbyists before Septemeber 11 are now marketed to Congress as protection from Al Qaeda .. Are there still killer fanatics in Pakistan? ... Yes, always have been, always will be. But they don't constitute an armed force ready to call up thousands from sleeper cells in Cincinnati. Despite this, I'm telling you now: We will be hit again. Bush has made that horribly certain by poking hornets' nests worldwide and offering punishment to the planet instead of prosperity ... America is prepared neither to prevent nor to respond to attacks by small groups of committed fanatics. Homeland Security's loot is spent on cyber toys, color schemes, kicking in the doors of the local library, or ... manipulating elections in Latin America ... the entire USA Patriot Act was written, let's not forget, *before* the September 11 attack. It was aimed at slicing a hole in civil liberties and filling the pockets of connected hucksters and database magnates while budgets for simple police work, the guts of real protection, bleed away."

St. Drogo said...
July 1, 2008 at 2:18 PM  

P. 39 - "ChoicePoint, the largest personal profile database company in America, is the leader in the Fear Industry ... ChoicePoint is operating a private FBI, or more accurately, a private KGB, because they keep files on you that the law doesn't allow the FBI to hold ... Creating a master file on you - from your DNA to your party registration (what do you think the new voter IDs are really about?) - makes us safer, right? As ChoicePoint CEO Smith tells us, the Sep. 11 hijackers checked in under their real names ... There is, however, a minor flaw in his system: Osama and friends no longer book flights under their own names, even though this has cost them thousands of frequent flier miles."

St. Drogo said...
July 1, 2008 at 2:18 PM  

P. 48 - "The Crusader is a 'self-propelled howitzer', a kind of tank. But it has a problem. First, of course, is that a weapon called 'Crusader' to be used against another Muslim nation has a serious PR problem. The second problem ... is that it can't propel itself. It's so beastly heavy and corpulent that it needs a bulldozer in front of it to clear a path and dig a resting place for it ... So Congress cancelled the $450 million contract for assembling them. Instead, they are paying the contractor $450 million *not* to assemble them. In budget speak, this is called 'winding down' ... And that's how Lockheed, General Dynamics and James Baker III are winning the War on Terror ... Real security for life's dangers - from a national health insurance program to ending oil shieks' funding of bomb-loving 'charities' - would take a slice of the profits from the owning classes, the Lockheeds, the ChoicePoints ... The War on Terror has become class war by other means."

St. Drogo said...
July 1, 2008 at 2:18 PM  

P. 52-54 - "In February 2001 ... Plan A was launched at a confidential gathering in Walnut Creek ... The official justification for invading Iraq, the September 11 attack, was still seven months in the future ... Once the tanks crashed through the palace gate in Baghdad, they would parachute in a Ba'athist general cashiered by Saddam ... then there would be snap elections, say within 90 days, to put a democratic halo on our chosen generalissimo ... Why would Aljibury agree to speak with me? ... he wanted to defend it ... the oilmen's plan would not have left us with what we have today: a tribal, shattered, blown-to-hell Iraq."

St. Drogo said...
July 1, 2008 at 2:19 PM  

P. 54-56 - "Bush Security Advisor Michael Ledeen, one of the desktop Napoleons, encouraged his fellow neo-cons with this rallying cry - 'Wage a total war ... and our children will sing great songs about us years from now.' It was not wholly original ... 'Do you want total war?' Joseph Goebbels asked his Nazi party faithful in February 1943 ... The neo-cons' 101-page confidential document goes boldly where no invasion plan had gone before: the complete rewrite of the conquered state's 'policies, laws and regulations' ... It was more like a corporate takeover, except with Abrams tanks instead of junk bonds ... the plan's authors required Iraq to 'privatize all state-owned companies' ... complete and total sell-off of Iraq's oil assets from the pipes to the pumps to the crude in the ground."

St. Drogo said...
July 1, 2008 at 2:19 PM  

P. 56-58 - "I smelled Grover Norquist ... the capo de tutti capi of lobbyists of the rich and the Right ... Karl Rove calls him, with admiration, 'The Impresario' ... Grover saw the 101-page Iraq plan in my hand and beamed. His baby! ... he nearly autographed it ... In Iraq, the neo-con plan would create a private enterprise utopia in Mesopotamia. The model, said Norquist, was Chile under General Augusto Pinochet."

St. Drogo said...
July 1, 2008 at 2:19 PM  

P. 64 - "If Wolfowitz had knowingly concealed the Caruso team's findings while testifying under oath, the question of perjury arises ... But no need to worry yourself with these weighty questions. Wolfowitz can't be guilty of perjury ... Wolfowitz and other Bush boys *do not testify to Congress under oath*."

St. Drogo said...
July 1, 2008 at 2:19 PM  

P. 64 - "On March 17, 2003, George Bush gave Saddam and his sons 48 hours to get out of Baghdad ... Then our President turned to the camera and said, "I'd like to speak to the Iraqi people." They speak Arabic, but never mind, I was intrigued ... the President warned the people of Iraq ... 'Do not destroy oil wells.'"

St. Drogo said...
July 1, 2008 at 2:19 PM  

P. 66-67 - "Garner, fresh off the plane from the USA, promised Iraqis they would have free and fair elections as soon as Saddam was toppled, preferably within 90 days. That was a problem. Garner's 90-days-to-democracy pledge ran into that hard object, the neo-con's Economy Plan's 'Annex D' ... There was no way to shorten the Norquist/neo-con schedule to transform Iraq into a Chile on the Tigris ... Garner ... had other things on his mind as he crossed the Kuwaiti border ... 'You prevent epidemics, you start the food distribution program to prevent famine, you try to get the electricity going again' ... On April 21, the very night Garner arrived in Baghdad from Kuwait, the general received a call from Donald Rumsfeld. In so many words, Rummy told Garner, don't unpack, you're fired."

St. Drogo said...
July 1, 2008 at 2:20 PM  

P 71-72 - "Bremer, having transformed his post from occupation administrator to Pasha Omnipotent, signed orders 12, 37, 39, 40 and a blizzard of others that imposed the terms and conditions laid out in the neo-con Economy Plan ... Most important was that Bremer's Order 37 would apply "for 2004 and all subsequent years" ... future puppet governments would remain entangled in Bremer's strings ... Order 40 sold off Iraqi banks to three foreign financiers ... Notably, Bremer chose to announce his fiat not in Iraq, but in Dubai, at a meeting of multinational bankers ... Unfortunately there are not many Iraqis with money to put into their new modern banks, especially after Bremer signed Order 12, 'Trade Liberalization Policy.' Here the free-market fanatics' dream came true, turning Iraq into the world's first large economy with no tariff protection whatsoever ... No nation on the planet, except occupied Iraq, operates without tariffs (taxes on imports) or quotas (limits on imports) ... A nation without protection is subject to "dumping" of surplus subsidized products, which would completely demolish local producers."

St. Drogo said...
July 1, 2008 at 2:20 PM  

P. 73 - "Not all of Iraq's laws were "de-Saddamized". The dictator's prohibition on public-sector labor union activity remains with a vengeance. In December 2003, Bremer's troops arrested the entire board of the Iraqi Workers Federation of Trade Unions, then released them, though not until U.S. soldiers painted the union's building marquee black."

St. Drogo said...
July 1, 2008 at 2:20 PM  

P. 75 - "Who pocketed the loot? Don't ask Mr. Bremer. Before he slipped out of Baghdad, he had a little trouble with CPA bookkeeping himself. We all lose an expense receipt or two on occasion, but the CPA's petty cash drawer was fatter than most. They kept $200 million in bricks of U.S. currency in a room in Saddam's palace and another $400 million tucked away here and there. Agents could check out these cash bricks, like library books. Unlike a library, they didn't have to return them if they brought back receipts. One agent took $23 million in a tub of cash and returned with $6 million in receipts. Another took $25 million and returned, it appears, with nothing at all. In all, 363 *tons* of U.S. currency were shipped to Iraq. Where did all the cash go? ... The Bremer-Bush regime's policy is 'Don't ask, don't tell.' The interim government stonewalled international auditors. However, contract employees, nauseated by the hogs at the trough, brought claims under U.S. law, which bars war profiteering. But the CPA had a perfect defense: This isn't U.S. taxpayer money ... it was taken from Iraq's own accounts at the Federal Reserve. "

St. Drogo said...
July 1, 2008 at 2:20 PM  

P. 80 - "In 1920, the Kurds were gassed. But you can't blame Saddam for this one. It was Churchill, who'd suggested a scientific study. 'I am strongly in favor of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes to spread a lively terror ... against recalcitrant Arabs as an experiment.' The RAF thought Churchill squeamish - he wanted to paralyze Iraqis, not kill them. The RAF ran their own experiment, initiating what may be history's first-ever mass aerial assault, killing 9,000 Iraqis with 97 tons of bombs."

St. Drogo said...
July 1, 2008 at 2:20 PM  

P. 83 - "What about the oil? Here's what I found. It's not the oil itself - the U.S. could have doubled our take from Iraq simply by lifting sanctions. It's all about George Bush's seat on OPEC. That is the real, if never discussed, booty of this war. But what George Bush should do with his OPEC perch is what requires the occupation to drag on, not the provincial tussle between Shias and Sunnis, but the gladiatorial fight to the death between neo-cons and the Big Oil establishment. This was The Prize: Through the new captive state of Iraq, the power to control or destroy OPEC, the elite club that sets oil's price."

St. Drogo said...
July 1, 2008 at 2:21 PM  

P. 88 - "You'd think our President, as consumer-in-chief of the infidel world, would say something to Abdullah about the worldwide economic devastation caused by high oil prices when the Saudi monarch visited Mr. Bush at the Crawford ranch in April 2005. The newspapers show they held hands, then scooted around in our President's golf cart ... and the Prince left with a smile, then kicked up the price of crude another two dollars ... The only other time in this past decade that the Saudis have produced flat out to bring down the price of oil was just before the 2004 U.S. presidential election."

St. Drogo said...
July 1, 2008 at 2:21 PM  

P. 100 - "Instead of the Saudi model, the Options crew touts the happy outcome in the 'Stans', the old Soviet Central Asian republics, as a good model for Iraq ... Azerbaijan's looney tunes dictator demands exorbitant kickbacks for the crap oil he sells from a bad location; however, he has brought in the big money from big oil by serving up his nation's resources in sweetheart deals."

St. Drogo said...
July 1, 2008 at 2:21 PM  

P. 120-121 "Saddam had to go, but why? ... The answer was that Saddam was jerking the oil market up and down. One week, without notice, the man in the moustache suddenly announces he's going to 'support the Palestinian infantada' and cuts off all oil shipments. The result : Worldwide oil prices jump up. The next week, Saddam forgets about the Palestinians and pumps to the maximum allowed under the Oil-for-Food program. The result: Oil prices suddenly dive-bomb ... The tinpot despot was, almost alone, setting the weekly price of world oil and Big Oil did not care for that ... the price of controlling the price was getting just too high. Saddam drove the oil boys bonkers."

St. Drogo said...
July 1, 2008 at 2:21 PM  

P. 137 - regarding James Baker III - "Why is our President so concerned with the wishes of Mr. Baker's clientele? What does Bush owe Baker? ... 'I fixed the election in Florida for George Bush', (he) told an audience of Russian oil industry oligarchs, bragging about his post-election legal work in 2000 ... He came up with the strategy of maneuvering the 2000 Florida vote count into a Supreme Court packed with black-robed politicos he helped appoint."

St. Drogo said...
July 1, 2008 at 2:21 PM  

P. 146 - "Why would Abdullah give us our money back? Why wouldn't the Saudi royals and the emirs of the Persian Gulf use their trillion-dollar windfall to invest in the Islamic world, from Morocco to Palestine to Pakistan? Why do the Gulf States just hand the capital back to the banks of New York and London? The answer: protection. The Saudis may love their Islamic brothers, but they fear them more. The shiekdoms know they can count on the Bush family when a Saddam marches into Kuwait or Osama's cadres try to seize Abdullah's throne. They know they can count on the USA because they pay for it ... Every dictator knows that there's another advantage to parking their loot in the West. If 'regime change' occurs in Saudi Arabia ... the bulk of their funds will be safely stashed in New York, London and Zurich."

St. Drogo said...
July 1, 2008 at 2:22 PM  

P. 152-153 - "Friedman imagines that, through some high-tech Internet abracadabra, all the greens will one day connect across the planet into one giant economic fairway ... But first, there will have to be some radical changes in the way business is done. Obsolete trade barriers between nations will have to come down, stodgy public industries must be sold into private enterprenurial hands, the entangling weeds of business regulation must be slashed ... the obstructions of selfish labor unions cleared away"

St. Drogo said...
July 1, 2008 at 2:22 PM  

P. 155 - "Friedman praises the New India, deregulated, privatized and freed from the shackles of Old India's socialist welfare state. I've seen the New India: Nearly a billion people in shacks supporting a teeny minority's right to shop in air-conditioned malls. It is a Fritz Lang film in Hindi ... 79.9% of the population still makes under $2 a day ... India's free-market-mad central government figured out how to make the unequal distribution of wealth even less equal. The government now taxes those wages of $2 a day through a regressive sales tax, the Value Added Tax."

St. Drogo said...
July 1, 2008 at 2:22 PM  

P. 160 - "But the euro wasn't invented in Europe - it was created in the good old USA, in New York, by Robert Mundell ... Mundell won a Nobel Prize for it. Who is this Mundell? ... the inventor of "supply-side" economics ... Mundell was the guy whose brain stayed awake flattening the world while Reagan napped ... He concluded, 'Europe is over-regulated', and he was going to do something about it ... the euro is designed to be the battering ram to break down the entire edifice of worker protection rules and taxes on businesses that support the welfare state. The euro and free-market economics are as inseparable as flies and feces."

St. Drogo said...
July 1, 2008 at 2:22 PM  

P. 163-166 "Can this planet imitate Chinese success without Chinese autocracy? Yes, there is another way. I found it in an India not visible from Bangalore's golf courses ... a fishing village in Kerala ... What made all this possible was not capitalist competitive "drive" (there was no entrepreneur in sight) but the state's investment in universal education and the villages commitment to developing opportunities, not for the lucky few, but for the entire community. The village was 100% literate, 100% unionized and 100% committed to sharing resources through a sophisticated credit union finance system ... The economist Amartya Sen won the Nobel Prize in 1998 for predicting that Southern India, with its strong social welfare state, would lead the economic advance of South Asia - and do so without the Thatcherite sleight of hand of pretending that riches for the few equates to progress for the many."

St. Drogo said...
July 1, 2008 at 2:22 PM  

P. 176-177 "On August 26, 2005, the Lord spoke to His servant on cable television and His servant told the faithful watching in TV land: 'Hugo Chavez thinks we're trying to assassinate him. I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it.' Reverend Pat Robertson has a tough time with the separation of church and hate. But Pat Robertson is not crazy ... Those who dismiss him as some cornpone, Bible-thumping Elmer Gantry fruitcake have dangerously underestimated him and his reach into political and financial power centers in Washington ... Dr. Robertson uses his television platform to preach the evangel of the elite to which he was born. His father, U.S. Senator Absalom Willis Robertson, was the mentor of Senator Prescott Bush."

St. Drogo said...
July 1, 2008 at 2:22 PM  

P. 178 - "Bush's spokesman conceded Chavez was democratically elected, but, he added, 'legitimacy is something that is conferred not just by a majority of the voters.' I see."

St. Drogo said...
July 1, 2008 at 2:23 PM  

P. 181 - "Petro-dollars are supposed to move from Venezuela to New York and only *then* return to Latin America as loans carrying interest rates up to 16%. Chavez, bypassing the side trip to New York, showed that the costly financial cycle is *not*, Mr. Beale, 'tidal gravity ... an immutable law'."

St. Drogo said...
July 1, 2008 at 2:23 PM  

P. 183-184 - "Canada holds 80% of the world's bitumen sands. The charts show an even bigger pool of untapped oil, the super-heavy tar oils of Venezuela. And there's a lot of it: 1.36 trillion barrels in Venezuela, more oil than Hubbert suggested lay under the entire planet. Venezuela ... holds 90% of the world's heavy oil reserves ... a Venezuela with a President who does not believe that his country's petrodollars, Mr. Beale, should ebb and flow but insists that this oil money remain south of New York."

St. Drogo said...
July 1, 2008 at 2:23 PM  

P. 190 - "In the lead-up to the 2004 race, millions of Americans were, not unreasonably, panicked about computer voting machines, 'black boxes', that could flip your vote from John Kerry to George Bush ... But that's not how it went down. The computer scare was the McGuffin, the fake detail used by magicians to keep your eyes off their hands. The new black boxes played their role, albeit minor, but the principal means of the election heist - voiding ballots, overwhelmingly of the poor and black - went unexposed, unreported and most importantly, uncorrected and ready to roll out on a grander scale in 2008."

St. Drogo said...
July 1, 2008 at 2:23 PM  

P. 229 - "I'm not going to tell you that the computers were hacked on November 2. I don't know. But for the Media-Bush Axis to pronounce that all went well, that no one toyed with our tallies, without taking twenty minutes to check the weird data out, is journalism that would have made Pravda proud."

St. Drogo said...
July 1, 2008 at 2:24 PM  

P. 244 - "Caging lists, fake felon purges, forged registration forms, evidence tampering, Black arts surveillance ops, disappeared absentee ballots, cracked computers. Whatever happened to simply persuading voters you've got the best candidate?"

St. Drogo said...
July 1, 2008 at 2:24 PM  

P. 253 - "Exactly how does a Mexican get the name Bill Richardson? ... Richardson's dad ... was a Citibank executive assigned to Mexico City. There he met Governor Bill's mom, and - milagro! - a Mexican-American was born. Richardson gets big mileage out of his mother's heritage ... But it's just as legitimate to say that Richardson is a Citibank-American ... Richardson became a partner in Kissinger and Associates ... That would make Richardson a Kissinger-American as well."

St. Drogo said...
July 1, 2008 at 2:24 PM  

P. 278 - "The year was 1927. Back then, when the levees broke, America awoke. Public anger rose in a floodtide, and in that year, the USA entered its most revolutionary period since 1776 ... It's 1927 again. But this time, the Haves and Have-Mores have something better for you than a New Deal. They are offering "opportunity" - a lottery ticket instead of a guarantee. Like double-or-nothing in the stock market instead of Social Security - will the suckers go for it? There's one born every minute. I can't believe they are the majority, but at last count they numbered over 59 million. And they vote."

St. Drogo said...
July 1, 2008 at 2:24 PM  

P. 321 - "The corpses floating through the Ninth Ward attracted vultures. There was ChoicePoint ... They picked up a contract to identify the bodies using their War On Terror DNA database. In the face of tragedy, America's business community pulled together, lobbying hard to remove the "Davis-Bacon" regulation that guarantees emergency workers will receive a minimum prevailing wage. The Rev. Pat Robertson got a piece of the action. The FEMA web site encouraged those wanting to help victims to donate to the charities that he controls. Within the week, the Navy penned a half-billion-dollar contract for reconstruction work with Halliburton. More would come."

St. Drogo said...
July 1, 2008 at 2:24 PM  

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