Sunday, September 30, 2007

Five Common Misconceptions About Linux


1. Linux is Behind the Times

One comment heard often is “Linux was five years behind XP, and it's 10 years behind Vista!” Well, here are some facts:

  • Windows began separating the basic user from the administrator account by default in Vista, over 15 years behind Linux.
  • Windows added a firewall in 2001, over seven years behind Linux's 1994 addition of ipchains.
  • Linux was the first operating system with x86_64 support, beating Windows XP Pro x64 by two years.
  • Windows added an attractive 3D accelerated graphical interface in Vista, a full year behind Linux's XGL.
  • Linux's package management system can install, uninstall, and update software from one interface. Everything installed from Apache to OpenOffice and Quake 4 may be updated with one press. Windows has nothing like this on the road map.

And Linux isn't slowing down. The Xen project has added an incredible level of virtualization to Linux, with more work going into the kernels development to add enterprise ready virtualization built-in [4]. Microsoft promised built-in Xen-like virtualization in Windows Server 2008 next year, but has announced that feature has been delayed and should be available sometime after launch [1], possibly in SP1, meaning Linux will lead with built-in virtualization by at least a couple of years before Windows catches up.

2. Linux is Hard to Use

Many have never realized they were using Linux, and haven't used it on a desktop. More troubling is the fact that lots of technically inclined persons tried Linux during the hype of the dot-com bubble, wrote it off and never revisited it. These along with other factors have left many thinking Linux is hard to use.

Well, enter the modern Linux distribution, such as Ubuntu. Ubuntu has an easy to use graphical interface that'll remind Macintosh fans of OS X. Optionally many other interfaces are available ranging from Windows XP duplicates to interfaces focused on certain areas, such as low system requirements or high-end graphical effects. Beyond this many common tasks and features, ranging from system updating to system wide indexing, are all handled automatically by default.

This all extends to every level of Linux use. Novell's Yast for example provides an easy to use GUI for everything from installing and updating software to managing DNS, email, and web servers, and basically anything else an administrator could think of. No command line or configuration files, unless desired.

To top it all off the installation is world class. The Ubuntu installation is done from within a fully functioning environment allowing web browsing, game playing, or or even the writing of a report all as the installation wizard ensures the install goes off not just without a hitch, but in a manor where the user doesn't need to know anything beyond how to click next, unless they want to.

3. Linux isn't Compatible with Anything

Everything from Maya and Oracle [7] to Firefox run on Linux natively. Games ranging from the Doom, Quake, and Unreal Tournament series to smaller gems like Darwinia all run native on Linux as well [8].

Beyond native applications free (non)emulation software called WINE, as well as commercially supported options like CrossOver and VMWare, allow users to run everything from iTunes to MS Office and Photoshop, and the $5 a month Cedega lets gamers play hundreds of Windows only titles, from Battlefield 2042 to World of Warcraft.

Finally alternatives to Windows only software can replace current systems with little to no extra work. Apache can run ASP code [13], OpenOffice can read and save Microsoft formats, and every major distribution can join a domain, or just browse Windows file and printer shares, with ease.

Hardware support is equally incredible, in fact Linux supports more hardware than any other operating system. From hand-helds to mainframes and everything in between, including equipment considered legacy and no longer supported by Windows, the chances are if connected to a Linux box it'll just work. Despite popular belief this does include a vast majority of consumer equipment as well, from digital cameras to iPods and 3D accelerators to wireless cards.

4. Linux isn't Enterprise Ready / No One Uses Linux
Amazon and Google [15] would disagree as they've built their technology off Linux. PSA Peugeot Citroen, the second largest car manufacturer in Europe, also announced earlier this year they'll be moving not only their 2,500 servers over to Linux, but also their 20,000 desktops [16]. Other companies like IBM and Novell have reinvented themselves using Linux as the base, and government deployments from Brazil [19] and India [20] to China and others promise to add tens of millions of new users to the Linux community.

This isn't even including the countless smaller government deployments like the city of Munich [22], the Indiana school system [23], or the U.S. Army's Land Warrior program. Paired with millions of users via the One Laptop per Child initiative and massive academic deployments, this means that outside of the United States the world is positioning Linux to be the foundation of computing for their children.

Of course Linux works fine outside of the enterprise. Whether it's browsing a website, chatting on a cellphone, checking email, getting cash from an ATM, or even just kicking some anti-lock brakes into action, there's a fair chance Linux is in control.

Then again Linux also accounts for an estimated 70% of the super computing market [25]. That means Linux has huge footholds in the embedded, server, and high-end market, leaving the desktop arena clearly in its sights.

5. Linux isn't Professionally Developed or Supported

It's true Linux started at the hands of a single college student, but that's not true today. Linux is now a multi-billion dollar global technology. The vast majority of code is now contributed by professional programmers [26]. Over the last year major code modifications have been submitted by IBM, Intel, Novell, VMware, and countless other big tech players. Beyond actively developing code others, such as Dell, have begun pushing vendors to develop higher quality Linux software [27]. And this isn't even going into the academic or government development, such as the security patch set developed and deployed by the U.S. National Security Agency for internal use, but available to anyone who wishes to use it, SELinux.

Support has taken on the same level of professionalism. Countless forums, IRC channels, and wikis are of course still available. But beyond that help can be sought from one of many books, certifications, or by contacting any one of the major players from IBM and Oracle [29] to Novell and Red Hat. If 24/7 global support in a dozen different languages is needed, it's just as available as free community support.

That about covers it. There are many other areas of interest, but those listed above are certainly some of the biggest misconceptions heard about Linux on a regular basis. Overall it just comes down to ignorance, be it having never used Linux, or having not used it in the past few years of heavy evolution. Of course Linux isn't without its faults, just like all software, but that's for another article. What it really boils down to is a responsible administrator has to do what's best for the company cutting the checks, and that includes keeping an open mind and evaluating all options, even open source ones.


Shifting Targets

The Administration’s plan for Iran.

by Seymour M. Hersh October 8, 2007

In a series of public statements in recent months, President Bush and members of his Administration have redefined the war in Iraq, to an increasing degree, as a strategic battle between the United States and Iran. “Shia extremists, backed by Iran, are training Iraqis to carry out attacks on our forces and the Iraqi people,” Bush told the national convention of the American Legion in August. “The attacks on our bases and our troops by Iranian-supplied munitions have increased. . . . The Iranian regime must halt these actions. And, until it does, I will take actions necessary to protect our troops.” He then concluded, to applause, “I have authorized our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran’s murderous activities.”

The President’s position, and its corollary—that, if many of America’s problems in Iraq are the responsibility of Tehran, then the solution to them is to confront the Iranians—have taken firm hold in the Administration. This summer, the White House, pushed by the office of Vice-President Dick Cheney, requested that the Joint Chiefs of Staff redraw long-standing plans for a possible attack on Iran, according to former officials and government consultants. The focus of the plans had been a broad bombing attack, with targets including Iran’s known and suspected nuclear facilities and other military and infrastructure sites. Now the emphasis is on “surgical” strikes on Revolutionary Guard Corps facilities in Tehran and elsewhere, which, the Administration claims, have been the source of attacks on Americans in Iraq. What had been presented primarily as a counter-proliferation mission has been reconceived as counterterrorism.

The shift in targeting reflects three developments. First, the President and his senior advisers have concluded that their campaign to convince the American public that Iran poses an imminent nuclear threat has failed (unlike a similar campaign before the Iraq war), and that as a result there is not enough popular support for a major bombing campaign. The second development is that the White House has come to terms, in private, with the general consensus of the American intelligence community that Iran is at least five years away from obtaining a bomb. And, finally, there has been a growing recognition in Washington and throughout the Middle East that Iran is emerging as the geopolitical winner of the war in Iraq.

During a secure videoconference that took place early this summer, the President told Ryan Crocker, the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, that he was thinking of hitting Iranian targets across the border and that the British “were on board.” At that point, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice interjected that there was a need to proceed carefully, because of the ongoing diplomatic track. Bush ended by instructing Crocker to tell Iran to stop interfering in Iraq or it would face American retribution.

At a White House meeting with Cheney this summer, according to a former senior intelligence official, it was agreed that, if limited strikes on Iran were carried out, the Administration could fend off criticism by arguing that they were a defensive action to save soldiers in Iraq. If Democrats objected, the Administration could say, “Bill Clinton did the same thing; he conducted limited strikes in Afghanistan, the Sudan, and in Baghdad to protect American lives.” The former intelligence official added, “There is a desperate effort by Cheney et al. to bring military action to Iran as soon as possible. Meanwhile, the politicians are saying, ‘You can’t do it, because every Republican is going to be defeated, and we’re only one fact from going over the cliff in Iraq.’ But Cheney doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the Republican worries, and neither does the President.”

Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said, “The President has made it clear that the United States government remains committed to a diplomatic solution with respect to Iran. The State Department is working diligently along with the international community to address our broad range of concerns.” (The White House declined to comment.)

I was repeatedly cautioned, in interviews, that the President has yet to issue the “execute order” that would be required for a military operation inside Iran, and such an order may never be issued. But there has been a significant increase in the tempo of attack planning. In mid-August, senior officials told reporters that the Administration intended to declare Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps a foreign terrorist organization. And two former senior officials of the C.I.A. told me that, by late summer, the agency had increased the size and the authority of the Iranian Operations Group. (A spokesman for the agency said, “The C.I.A. does not, as a rule, publicly discuss the relative size of its operational components.”)

“They’re moving everybody to the Iran desk,” one recently retired C.I.A. official said. “They’re dragging in a lot of analysts and ramping up everything. It’s just like the fall of 2002”—the months before the invasion of Iraq, when the Iraqi Operations Group became the most important in the agency. He added, “The guys now running the Iranian program have limited direct experience with Iran. In the event of an attack, how will the Iranians react? They will react, and the Administration has not thought it all the way through.”

That theme was echoed by Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former national-security adviser, who said that he had heard discussions of the White House’s more limited bombing plans for Iran. Brzezinski said that Iran would likely react to an American attack “by intensifying the conflict in Iraq and also in Afghanistan, their neighbors, and that could draw in Pakistan. We will be stuck in a regional war for twenty years.”

In a speech at the United Nations last week, Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was defiant. He referred to America as an “aggressor” state, and said, “How can the incompetents who cannot even manage and control themselves rule humanity and arrange its affairs? Unfortunately, they have put themselves in the position of God.” (The day before, at Columbia, he suggested that the facts of the Holocaust still needed to be determined.)

“A lot depends on how stupid the Iranians will be,” Brzezinski told me. “Will they cool off Ahmadinejad and tone down their language?” The Bush Administration, by charging that Iran was interfering in Iraq, was aiming “to paint it as ‘We’re responding to what is an intolerable situation,’ ” Brzezinski said. “This time, unlike the attack in Iraq, we’re going to play the victim. The name of our game seems to be to get the Iranians to overplay their hand.”

General David Petraeus, the commander of the multinational forces in Iraq, in his report to Congress in September, buttressed the Administration’s case against Iran. “None of us, earlier this year, appreciated the extent of Iranian involvement in Iraq, something about which we and Iraq’s leaders all now have greater concern,” he said. Iran, Petraeus said, was fighting “a proxy war against the Iraqi state and coalition forces in Iraq.”

Iran has had a presence in Iraq for decades; the extent and the purpose of its current activities there are in dispute, however. During Saddam Hussein’s rule, when the Sunni-dominated Baath Party brutally oppressed the majority Shiites, Iran supported them. Many in the present Iraqi Shiite leadership, including prominent members of the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, spent years in exile in Iran; last week, at the Council on Foreign Relations, Maliki said, according to the Washington Post, that Iraq’s relations with the Iranians had “improved to the point that they are not interfering in our internal affairs.” Iran is so entrenched in Iraqi Shiite circles that any “proxy war” could be as much through the Iraqi state as against it. The crux of the Bush Administration’s strategic dilemma is that its decision to back a Shiite-led government after the fall of Saddam has empowered Iran, and made it impossible to exclude Iran from the Iraqi political scene.

Vali Nasr, a professor of international politics at Tufts University, who is an expert on Iran and Shiism, told me, “Between 2003 and 2006, the Iranians thought they were closest to the United States on the issue of Iraq.” The Iraqi Shia religious leadership encouraged Shiites to avoid confrontation with American soldiers and to participate in elections—believing that a one-man, one-vote election process could only result in a Shia-dominated government. Initially, the insurgency was mainly Sunni, especially Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. Nasr told me that Iran’s policy since 2003 has been to provide funding, arms, and aid to several Shiite factions—including some in Maliki’s coalition. The problem, Nasr said, is that “once you put the arms on the ground you cannot control how they’re used later.”

In the Shiite view, the White House “only looks at Iran’s ties to Iraq in terms of security,” Nasr said. “Last year, over one million Iranians travelled to Iraq on pilgrimages, and there is more than a billion dollars a year in trading between the two countries. But the Americans act as if every Iranian inside Iraq were there to import weapons.”

Many of those who support the President’s policy argue that Iran poses an imminent threat. In a recent essay in Commentary, Norman Podhoretz depicted President Ahmadinejad as a revolutionary, “like Hitler . . . whose objective is to overturn the going international system and to replace it . . . with a new order dominated by Iran. . . . [T]he plain and brutal truth is that if Iran is to be prevented from developing a nuclear arsenal, there is no alternative to the actual use of military force.” Podhoretz concluded, “I pray with all my heart” that President Bush “will find it possible to take the only action that can stop Iran from following through on its evil intentions both toward us and toward Israel.” Podhoretz recently told that he had met with the President for about forty-five minutes to urge him to take military action against Iran, and believed that “Bush is going to hit” Iran before leaving office. (Podhoretz, one of the founders of neoconservatism, is a strong backer of Rudolph Giuliani’s Presidential campaign, and his son-in-law, Elliott Abrams, is a senior adviser to President Bush on national security.)

In early August, Army Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno, the second-ranking U.S. commander in Iraq, told the Times about an increase in attacks involving explosively formed penetrators, a type of lethal bomb that discharges a semi-molten copper slug that can rip through the armor of Humvees. The Times reported that U.S. intelligence and technical analyses indicated that Shiite militias had obtained the bombs from Iran. Odierno said that Iranians had been “surging support” over the past three or four months.

Questions remain, however, about the provenance of weapons in Iraq, especially given the rampant black market in arms. David Kay, a former C.I.A. adviser and the chief weapons inspector in Iraq for the United Nations, told me that his inspection team was astonished, in the aftermath of both Iraq wars, by “the huge amounts of arms” it found circulating among civilians and military personnel throughout the country. He recalled seeing stockpiles of explosively formed penetrators, as well as charges that had been recovered from unexploded American cluster bombs. Arms had also been supplied years ago by the Iranians to their Shiite allies in southern Iraq who had been persecuted by the Baath Party.

“I thought Petraeus went way beyond what Iran is doing inside Iraq today,” Kay said. “When the White House started its anti-Iran campaign, six months ago, I thought it was all craziness. Now it does look like there is some selective smuggling by Iran, but much of it has been in response to American pressure and American threats—more a ‘shot across the bow’ sort of thing, to let Washington know that it was not going to get away with its threats so freely. Iran is not giving the Iraqis the good stuff—the anti-aircraft missiles that can shoot down American planes and its advanced anti-tank weapons.”

Another element of the Administration’s case against Iran is the presence of Iranian agents in Iraq. General Petraeus, testifying before Congress, said that a commando faction of the Revolutionary Guards was seeking to turn its allies inside Iraq into a “Hezbollah-like force to serve its interests.” In August, Army Major General Rick Lynch, the commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, told reporters in Baghdad that his troops were tracking some fifty Iranian men sent by the Revolutionary Guards who were training Shiite insurgents south of Baghdad. “We know they’re here and we target them as well,” he said.

Patrick Clawson, an expert on Iran at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told me that “there are a lot of Iranians at any time inside Iraq, including those doing intelligence work and those doing humanitarian missions. It would be prudent for the Administration to produce more evidence of direct military training—or produce fighters captured in Iraq who had been trained in Iran.” He added, “It will be important for the Iraqi government to be able to state that they were unaware of this activity”; otherwise, given the intense relationship between the Iraqi Shiite leadership and Tehran, the Iranians could say that “they had been asked by the Iraqi government to train these people.” (In late August, American troops raided a Baghdad hotel and arrested a group of Iranians. They were a delegation from Iran’s energy ministry, and had been invited to Iraq by the Maliki government; they were later released.)

“If you want to attack, you have to prepare the groundwork, and you have to be prepared to show the evidence,” Clawson said. Adding to the complexity, he said, is a question that seems almost counterintuitive: “What is the attitude of Iraq going to be if we hit Iran? Such an attack could put a strain on the Iraqi government.”

A senior European diplomat, who works closely with American intelligence, told me that there is evidence that Iran has been making extensive preparation for an American bombing attack. “We know that the Iranians are strengthening their air-defense capabilities,” he said, “and we believe they will react asymmetrically—hitting targets in Europe and in Latin America.” There is also specific intelligence suggesting that Iran will be aided in these attacks by Hezbollah. “Hezbollah is capable, and they can do it,” the diplomat said.

In interviews with current and former officials, there were repeated complaints about the paucity of reliable information. A former high-level C.I.A. official said that the intelligence about who is doing what inside Iran “is so thin that nobody even wants his name on it. This is the problem.”

The difficulty of determining who is responsible for the chaos in Iraq can be seen in Basra, in the Shiite south, where British forces had earlier presided over a relatively secure area. Over the course of this year, however, the region became increasingly ungovernable, and by fall the British had retreated to fixed bases. A European official who has access to current intelligence told me that “there is a firm belief inside the American and U.K. intelligence community that Iran is supporting many of the groups in southern Iraq that are responsible for the deaths of British and American soldiers. Weapons and money are getting in from Iran. They have been able to penetrate many groups”—primarily the Mahdi Army and other Shiite militias.

A June, 2007, report by the International Crisis Group found, however, that Basra’s renewed instability was mainly the result of “the systematic abuse of official institutions, political assassinations, tribal vendettas, neighborhood vigilantism and enforcement of social mores, together with the rise of criminal mafias.” The report added that leading Iraqi politicians and officials “routinely invoke the threat of outside interference”—from bordering Iran—“to justify their behavior or evade responsibility for their failures.”

Earlier this year, before the surge in U.S. troops, the American command in Baghdad changed what had been a confrontational policy in western Iraq, the Sunni heartland (and the base of the Baathist regime), and began working with the Sunni tribes, including some tied to the insurgency. Tribal leaders are now getting combat support as well as money, intelligence, and arms, ostensibly to fight Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. Empowering Sunni forces may undermine efforts toward national reconciliation, however. Already, tens of thousands of Shiites have fled Anbar Province, many to Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad, while Sunnis have been forced from their homes in Shiite communities. Vali Nasr, of Tufts, called the internal displacement of communities in Iraq a form of “ethnic cleansing.”

“The American policy of supporting the Sunnis in western Iraq is making the Shia leadership very nervous,” Nasr said. “The White House makes it seem as if the Shia were afraid only of Al Qaeda—but they are afraid of the Sunni tribesmen we are arming. The Shia attitude is ‘So what if you’re getting rid of Al Qaeda?’ The problem of Sunni resistance is still there. The Americans believe they can distinguish between good and bad insurgents, but the Shia don’t share that distinction. For the Shia, they are all one adversary.”

Nasr went on, “The United States is trying to fight on all sides—Sunni and Shia—and be friends with all sides.” In the Shiite view, “It’s clear that the United States cannot bring security to Iraq, because it is not doing everything necessary to bring stability. If they did, they would talk to anybody to achieve it—even Iran and Syria,” Nasr said. (Such engagement was a major recommendation of the Iraq Study Group.) “America cannot bring stability in Iraq by fighting Iran in Iraq.”

The revised bombing plan for a possible attack, with its tightened focus on counterterrorism, is gathering support among generals and admirals in the Pentagon. The strategy calls for the use of sea-launched cruise missiles and more precisely targeted ground attacks and bombing strikes, including plans to destroy the most important Revolutionary Guard training camps, supply depots, and command and control facilities.

“Cheney’s option is now for a fast in and out—for surgical strikes,” the former senior American intelligence official told me. The Joint Chiefs have turned to the Navy, he said, which had been chafing over its role in the Air Force-dominated air war in Iraq. “The Navy’s planes, ships, and cruise missiles are in place in the Gulf and operating daily. They’ve got everything they need—even AWACS are in place and the targets in Iran have been programmed. The Navy is flying FA-18 missions every day in the Gulf.” There are also plans to hit Iran’s anti-aircraft surface-to-air missile sites. “We’ve got to get a path in and a path out,” the former official said.

A Pentagon consultant on counterterrorism told me that, if the bombing campaign took place, it would be accompanied by a series of what he called “short, sharp incursions” by American Special Forces units into suspected Iranian training sites. He said, “Cheney is devoted to this, no question.”

A limited bombing attack of this sort “only makes sense if the intelligence is good,” the consultant said. If the targets are not clearly defined, the bombing “will start as limited, but then there will be an ‘escalation special.’ Planners will say that we have to deal with Hezbollah here and Syria there. The goal will be to hit the cue ball one time and have all the balls go in the pocket. But add-ons are always there in strike planning.”

The surgical-strike plan has been shared with some of America’s allies, who have had mixed reactions to it. Israel’s military and political leaders were alarmed, believing, the consultant said, that it didn’t sufficiently target Iran’s nuclear facilities. The White House has been reassuring the Israeli government, the former senior official told me, that the more limited target list would still serve the goal of counter-proliferation by decapitating the leadership of the Revolutionary Guards, who are believed to have direct control over the nuclear-research program. “Our theory is that if we do the attacks as planned it will accomplish two things,” the former senior official said.

An Israeli official said, “Our main focus has been the Iranian nuclear facilities, not because other things aren’t important. We’ve worked on missile technology and terrorism, but we see the Iranian nuclear issue as one that cuts across everything.” Iran, he added, does not need to develop an actual warhead to be a threat. “Our problems begin when they learn and master the nuclear fuel cycle and when they have the nuclear materials,” he said. There was, for example, the possibility of a “dirty bomb,” or of Iran’s passing materials to terrorist groups. “There is still time for diplomacy to have an impact, but not a lot,” the Israeli official said. “We believe the technological timetable is moving faster than the diplomatic timetable. And if diplomacy doesn’t work, as they say, all options are on the table.”

The bombing plan has had its most positive reception from the newly elected government of Britain’s Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. A senior European official told me, “The British perception is that the Iranians are not making the progress they want to see in their nuclear-enrichment processing. All the intelligence community agree that Iran is providing critical assistance, training, and technology to a surprising number of terrorist groups in Iraq and Afghanistan, and, through Hezbollah, in Lebanon, and Israel/Palestine, too.”

There were four possible responses to this Iranian activity, the European official said: to do nothing (“There would be no retaliation to the Iranians for their attacks; this would be sending the wrong signal”); to publicize the Iranian actions (“There is one great difficulty with this option—the widespread lack of faith in American intelligence assessments”); to attack the Iranians operating inside Iraq (“We’ve been taking action since last December, and it does have an effect”); or, finally, to attack inside Iran.

The European official continued, “A major air strike against Iran could well lead to a rallying around the flag there, but a very careful targeting of terrorist training camps might not.” His view, he said, was that “once the Iranians get a bloody nose they rethink things.” For example, Ali Akbar Rafsanjani and Ali Larijani, two of Iran’s most influential political figures, “might go to the Supreme Leader and say, ‘The hard-line policies have got us into this mess. We must change our approach for the sake of the regime.’ ”

A retired American four-star general with close ties to the British military told me that there was another reason for Britain’s interest—shame over the failure of the Royal Navy to protect the sailors and Royal Marines who were seized by Iran on March 23rd, in the Persian Gulf. “The professional guys are saying that British honor is at stake, and if there’s another event like that in the water off Iran the British will hit back,” he said.

The revised bombing plan “could work—if it’s in response to an Iranian attack,” the retired four-star general said. “The British may want to do it to get even, but the more reasonable people are saying, ‘Let’s do it if the Iranians stage a cross-border attack inside Iraq.’ It’s got to be ten dead American soldiers and four burned trucks.” There is, he added, “a widespread belief in London that Tony Blair’s government was sold a bill of goods by the White House in the buildup to the war against Iraq. So if somebody comes into Gordon Brown’s office and says, ‘We have this intelligence from America,’ Brown will ask, ‘Where did it come from? Have we verified it?’ The burden of proof is high.”

The French government shares the Administration’s sense of urgency about Iran’s nuclear program, and believes that Iran will be able to produce a warhead within two years. France’s newly elected President, Nicolas Sarkozy, created a stir in late August when he warned that Iran could be attacked if it did not halt is nuclear program. Nonetheless, France has indicated to the White House that it has doubts about a limited strike, the former senior intelligence official told me. Many in the French government have concluded that the Bush Administration has exaggerated the extent of Iranian meddling inside Iraq; they believe, according to a European diplomat, that “the American problems in Iraq are due to their own mistakes, and now the Americans are trying to show some teeth. An American bombing will show only that the Bush Administration has its own agenda toward Iran.”

A European intelligence official made a similar point. “If you attack Iran,” he told me, “and do not label it as being against Iran’s nuclear facilities, it will strengthen the regime, and help to make the Islamic air in the Middle East thicker.”

Ahmadinejad, in his speech at the United Nations, said that Iran considered the dispute over its nuclear program “closed.” Iran would deal with it only through the International Atomic Energy Agency, he said, and had decided to “disregard unlawful and political impositions of the arrogant powers.” He added, in a press conference after the speech, “the decisions of the United States and France are not important.”

The director general of the I.A.E.A., Mohamed ElBaradei, has for years been in an often bitter public dispute with the Bush Administration; the agency’s most recent report found that Iran was far less proficient in enriching uranium than expected. A diplomat in Vienna, where the I.A.E.A. is based, said, “The Iranians are years away from making a bomb, as ElBaradei has said all along. Running three thousand centrifuges does not make a bomb.” The diplomat added, referring to hawks in the Bush Administration, “They don’t like ElBaradei, because they are in a state of denial. And now their negotiating policy has failed, and Iran is still enriching uranium and still making progress.”

The diplomat expressed the bitterness that has marked the I.A.E.A.’s dealings with the Bush Administration since the buildup to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. “The White House’s claims were all a pack of lies, and Mohamed is dismissive of those lies,” the diplomat said.

Hans Blix, a former head of the I.A.E.A., questioned the Bush Administration’s commitment to diplomacy. “There are important cards that Washington could play; instead, they have three aircraft carriers sitting in the Persian Gulf,” he said. Speaking of Iran’s role in Iraq, Blix added, “My impression is that the United States has been trying to push up the accusations against Iran as a basis for a possible attack—as an excuse for jumping on them.”

The Iranian leadership is feeling the pressure. In the press conference after his U.N. speech, Ahmadinejad was asked about a possible attack. “They want to hurt us,” he said, “but, with the will of God, they won’t be able to do it.” According to a former State Department adviser on Iran, the Iranians complained, in diplomatic meetings in Baghdad with Ambassador Crocker, about a refusal by the Bush Administration to take advantage of their knowledge of the Iraqi political scene. The former adviser said, “They’ve been trying to convey to the United States that ‘We can help you in Iraq. Nobody knows Iraq better than us.’ ” Instead, the Iranians are preparing for an American attack.

The adviser said that he had heard from a source in Iran that the Revolutionary Guards have been telling religious leaders that they can stand up to an American attack. “The Guards are claiming that they can infiltrate American security,” the adviser said. “They are bragging that they have spray-painted an American warship—to signal the Americans that they can get close to them.” (I was told by the former senior intelligence official that there was an unexplained incident, this spring, in which an American warship was spray-painted with a bull’s-eye while docked in Qatar, which may have been the source of the boasts.)

“Do you think those crazies in Tehran are going to say, ‘Uncle Sam is here! We’d better stand down’? ” the former senior intelligence official said. “The reality is an attack will make things ten times warmer.”

Another recent incident, in Afghanistan, reflects the tension over intelligence. In July, the London Telegraph reported that what appeared to be an SA-7 shoulder-launched missile was fired at an American C-130 Hercules aircraft. The missile missed its mark. Months earlier, British commandos had intercepted a few truckloads of weapons, including one containing a working SA-7 missile, coming across the Iranian border. But there was no way of determining whether the missile fired at the C-130 had come from Iran—especially since SA-7s are available through black-market arms dealers.

Vincent Cannistraro, a retired C.I.A. officer who has worked closely with his counterparts in Britain, added to the story: “The Brits told me that they were afraid at first to tell us about the incident—in fear that Cheney would use it as a reason to attack Iran.” The intelligence subsequently was forwarded, he said.

The retired four-star general confirmed that British intelligence “was worried” about passing the information along. “The Brits don’t trust the Iranians,” the retired general said, “but they also don’t trust Bush and Cheney.”

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Save public health care

Here's a couple of interesting letters-to-the-editor from the Winnipeg Free Press.

In Save public health care (Sept. 24), Maryann Krouse writes an
excellent missive attacking the shortcomings in U.S. health care with
which we are so familiar. She then reveals she is Canadian, her husband
is a physician and they live in Texas. She appears not to have come to
an obvious conclusion: She wants Canadian health care, he's a practising
physician and we need doctors. Why not return and solve their problems
in one fell swoop?

Save public health care
Fellow Canadians, I write you as a now permanent resident of the U.S. to
warn you to protect your precious national/provincial health-care
systems. Do not let them start eroding your health-care system. I lived
in Canada for 50 years, taking for granted what I had. Since I have been
in the U.S., I have been unable to secure health care. I am not
unhealthy, but I've been rejected because I haven't seen a doctor in the
U.S.A. for two years. (Since when is that a bad thing?) Once you have a
rejection on your file no one will sell you health care but you can
qualify for the high-risk pool and pay about $700 a month for a type of
high-deductible health care. Our daughter was rejected by the insurance
companies because she wears a hearing aid, but the real reason (which
they aren't allowed to say) is that 11 years ago she had cancer of which
she is now fully cured. But that doesn't matter. They don't want to
cover her for anything regardless. She is 11 years old and has no
health-care coverage at the moment. I am not poor as my husband is a
self-employed physician. Yes, you read that right. I am married to a
doctor and can't get health care. Tests and lab work are outrageously
expensive. Oh, by the way, my husband got rejected as well because he
was labelled by the insurance companies as a self-treating physician.
This is because he wrote himself a refill for a psoriasis cream one
weekend when he was out of what his dermatologist had prescribed. A
friend in her 60s just lost her husband, but prior to his death, she was
facing a decision in which she might have to divorce him so that he
would be poor enough to get public health care. His insurance expired
after one year of incapacity and they were expecting her to pay full
costs of his extended care, which would have put her in the poor house
for her old age had he required full-time care for a few years. You have
to sign away your assets five years prior to an illness to avoid this
situation. Retirees here are now finding that their retirement medical
plans are being cancelled. It's too expensive to keep them alive, I
guess. Police officers hurt on the job run out of benefits and have to
sell their cars and downgrade their homes to pay their health-care
Do not vote for any kind of two-tiered system. Don't erode what you
have. Don't be foolish. Doctors like the idea because it gives them an
opportunity to make more money. Please don't be gullible. You have no
idea what it's like living without the health care you now take for
granted and depend on.
Mansfield, Texas

Embarrassing Ahmadinejad mostly powerless

From the Winnipeg Free Press.
Thu Sep 27 2007
Gwynne Dyer

IRANIAN President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's two speeches in New York this
week, at Columbia University and then at the United Nations General
Assembly, have stirred up the usual storm of outrage in the Western

He is a strangely naive man, and his almost-but-not-quite denial of the
Holocaust -- he called for "more research," as if rumours had recently
cropped up suggesting that something bad happened in Nazi-occupied
Europe -- was as bizarre as his denial that there are any homosexuals in

But he is not a "cruel dictator," as Columbia University's president,
Lee Bollinger, called him. He is an elected president who will probably
lose the next election because of his poor economic performance in
office. Nor does he have dictatorial powers.

Indeed, in the areas that matter most to foreigners -- foreign policy,
defence, and nuclear questions -- Ahmadinejad has no power at all. Those
subjects are the sole responsibility of Iran's unelected parallel
government, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Guardian

So ignore the capering clown on the stage. Instead, let's analyze the
drumbeat of accusations that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons with which,
as French President Nicolas Sarkozy warned the General Assembly, it
could "threaten the world." Does it have a nuclear weapons program?
Could it threaten the world, even if it did? And why does the rhetoric
about the Iranian nuclear threat sound so much like the rhetoric about
the Iraqi nuclear threat five years ago?

We know that there once was an Iranian nuclear weapons program, but that
was under the Shah, whom Washington was grooming as the policeman of the
Gulf. After the revolution of 1979, the new leader of the Islamic
Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, cancelled that program on
the grounds that weapons of mass destruction were un-Islamic, although
he retained the peaceful nuclear power program.

Then came the Iraq-Iran war of 1980-88, in which the United States
ultimately backed Saddam Hussein although he had clearly started the
war, and despite the fact that he was known to be working on nuclear

Despite their Islamic reservations, the Iranian ayatollahs sanctioned
the restarting of the Shah's nuclear weapons program in 1984 to counter
that threat. That is when they began work on the uranium enrichment
plant at Natanz that figures in so many American accusations.

When peace returned in 1988, work at Natanz slowed to a crawl. After
Saddam Hussein's foolish invasion of Kuwait in 1990 led to his defeat in
the first Gulf War, and United Nations inspectors dismantled all of his
nuclear facilities, Natanz seems to have stopped functioning entirely.
It was only in 1999 or 2000 that work started there again -- and in 2002
an Iranian opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran,
a political front for the outlawed terrorist organization

Mujaheddin-e-Khalq, revealed what was going on at Natanz.
The construction of Natanz began in secret, because in 1984 there were
daily Iraqi airraids across the country. It remained secret because
there was no legal requirement to reveal its existence to the
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) until six months before it
began to process nuclear fuel, and Iran had reason to fear an Israeli
attack on the facility. Iran was embarrassed when the secret was
revealed and immediately suspended work at Natanz for three years, but
it is not illegal and it does not prove that Iran is currently seeking
nuclear weapons.

Many countries have similar enrichment facilities to upgrade uranium as
fuel for nuclear reactors, and that is what Iran now says it is doing,
too. If the Iranian government also knows that, in a crisis, it could
run the fuel through the centrifuges more times and turn it into
weapons-grade uranium, well, so do lots of other governments. It is
called a "threshold" nuclear weapons capability, and it is a very
popular option.

The IAEA found no evidence that Iran is working on nuclear weapons,
which is why, since 2005, the issue has been transferred to the UN
Security Council, where political rather than legal issues determine the

The Security Council has imposed mild sanctions on Iran, and the United
States is pressing hard for much harsher ones. It also threatens to use
force against Iran, but for all the overheated rhetoric there is still
no evidence that Iran is doing anything illegal.

Why did it restart work at Natanz seven or eight years ago? Probably in
response to Pakistan's nuclear weapons tests in 1998 and the subsequent
overthrow of the elected government there. Iran is Shia, Pakistan is
largely Sunni and home to some quite militant extremists. They are not
in power now, but Iranians worry that one day they might be, so they are
taking out an insurance policy.

The enrichment facilities may be solely for peaceful nuclear power now,
but they would give Iran the ability to build its own nuclear deterrent
much more quickly in a panic. And if it had nuclear weapons, would it
really "threaten the world," as presidents Bush and Sarkozy allege? Why
would it do that? How could it hope to escape crushing retaliation if it

President Ahmadinejad is a profound embarrassment to his country, but
the grown-ups are still in charge in Iran.

Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are
published in 45 countries.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Secret US air force team to perfect plan for Iran strike

THE United States Air Force has set up a highly confidential strategic planning group tasked with “fighting the next war” as tensions rise with Iran.

Project Checkmate, a successor to the group that planned the 1991 Gulf War’s air campaign, was quietly reestablished at the Pentagon in June.

It reports directly to General Michael Moseley, the US Air Force chief, and consists of 20-30 top air force officers and defence and cyberspace experts with ready access to the White House, the CIA and other intelligence agencies.

Detailed contingency planning for a possible attack on Iran has been carried out for more than two years by Centcom (US central command), according to defence sources.

Checkmate’s job is to add a dash of brilliance to Air Force thinking by countering the military’s tendency to “fight the last war” and by providing innovative strategies for warfighting and assessing future needs for air, space and cyberwarfare.

It is led by Brigadier-General Lawrence “Stutz” Stutzriem, who is considered one of the brightest air force generals. He is assisted by Dr Lani Kass, a former Israeli military officer and expert on cyberwarfare.

The failure of United Nations sanctions to curtail Iran’s nuclear ambitions, which Tehran claims are peaceful, is giving rise to an intense debate about the likelihood of military strikes.

Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister, said last week that it was “necessary to prepare for the worst . . . and the worst is war”. He later qualified his remarks, saying he wanted to avoid that outcome.

France has joined America in pushing for a tough third sanctions resolution against Iran at the UN security council but is meeting strong resistance from China and Russia. Britain has been doing its best to bridge the gap, but it is increasingly likely that new sanctions will be implemented by a US-led “coalition of the willing”.

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who arrives in New York for the United Nations general assembly today, has been forced to abandon plans to visit ground zero, where the World Trade Center stood until the September 11 attacks of 2001. Politicians from President George W Bush to Senator Hillary Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner in the 2008 race for the White House, were outraged by the prospect of a visit to New York’s most venerated site by a “state sponsor” of terrorism.

Bush still hopes to isolate Iran diplomatically, but believes the regime is moving steadily closer to obtaining nuclear weapons while the security council bickers.

The US president faces strong opposition to military action, however, within his own joint chiefs of staff. “None of them think it is a good idea, but they will do it if they are told to,” said a senior defence source.

General John Abizaid, the former Centcom commander, said last week: “Every effort should be made to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, but failing that, the world could live with a nuclear-armed Iran.”

Critics fear Abizaid has lost sight of Iran’s potential to arm militant groups such as Hezbollah with nuclear weapons. “You can deter Iran, but there is no strategy against nuclear terrorism,” said the retired air force Lieutenant General Thomas McInerney of the Iran policy committee.

“There is no question that we can take out Iran. The problem is the follow-on, the velvet revolution that needs to be created so the Iranian people know it’s not aimed at them, but at the Iranian regime.”

Checkmate’s freethinking mission is “to provide planning inputs to warfighters that are strategically, operationally and tactically sound, logistically supportable and politically feasible”. Its remit is not specific to one country, according to defence sources, but its forward planning is thought relevant to any future air war against Iranian nuclear and military sites. It is also looking at possible threats from China and North Korea.

Checkmate was formed in the 1970s to counter Soviet threats but fell into disuse in the 1980s. It was revived under Colonel John Warden and was responsible for drawing up plans for the crushing air blitz against Saddam Hussein at the opening of the first Gulf war.

Warden told The Sunday Times: “When Saddam invaded Kuwait, we had access to unlimited numbers of people with expertise, including all the intelligence agencies, and were able to be significantly more agile than Centcom.”

He believes that Checkmate’s role is to develop the necessary expertise so that “if somebody says Iran, it says: ‘here is what you need to think about’. Here are the objectives, here are the risks, here is what it will cost, here are the numbers of planes we will lose, here is how the war is going to end and here is what the peace will look like”.

Warden added: “The Centcoms of this world are executional – they don’t have the staff, the expertise or the responsibility to do the thinking that is needed before a country makes the decision to go to war. War planning is not just about bombs, airplanes and sailing boats.”

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Q&A with Investigative Journalist Seymour Hersh

From the blog The Constant American, September 21, 2007.

Journalist Seymour M. Hersh, 70, announced his arrival in Washington nearly four decades ago by uncovering the U.S. military massacre of Vietnamese women and children at My Lai and winning the 1970 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting. As a freelancer for the tiny Dispatch News Service, he did all this without even leaving the country. Newsweek dubbed him the "scoop artist," and from the start he has served as the official executive pain in the neck -- breaking such stories as the CIA's bombing of Cambodia and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's wiretapping of his own staff.

Recently ranked 26th on GQ's list of "50 Most Powerful People in D.C.," Hersh was among the first to expose the Abu Ghraib prison scandal (chronicled in his latest book, "Chain of Command: The Road From 9/11 to Abu Ghraib"), and he continues today to detail the Bush administration's alleged march to bomb Tehran. Persona non grata in this highly secretive White House, The New Yorker writer was recently dubbed "Cheney's Nemesis" by Rolling Stone magazine, and a former Bush insider told CNN's Wolf Blitzer in early 2003, "Look, Sy Hersh is the closest thing American journalism has to a terrorist, frankly."

The Jewish Journal recently spoke with Hersh in advance of his Oct. 4 appearance at UCLA Live, at which he will discuss American foreign policy and the abuse of power under the guise of national security:
Jewish Journal: You wrote in The New Yorker in the spring of 2006 that the United States might not have much more time to focus on Iraq because they had started planning to bomb Iran. That hasn't happened yet. Do you still think it will?

Seymour Hersh At that time it was considered far out. But it's not anymore. I'm still writing about Iran planning. It is very much on the table. And I can tell you right now that there are many Shia right now in the south of Iraq, in the Maliki party, that believe to the core that America is no longer interested in Iraq, but that everything they are doing now is aimed at the Shia and Iran.

JJ: You're not a fan of President George W. Bush. Do you look at things in terms of Jan. 20, 2009?

SH: Absolutely. Absolutely. No matter who will be there.

JJ: Do you have one of those countdown clocks on your desk?

SH: No. Somebody gave me one, but I thought it would be too cute. You know, he's got power. He's still president.

JJ: You mentioned that there are plenty of things you know that you can't write about.

SH: The bottom line is nobody in this government talks to me. I've been around for 40 years -- in Bush I, in the Reagan years, certainly in Democratic regimes, but even in Republican regimes where I am more of a pain -- I've always had tremendous relationships with people. This is the first government in which in order to get my stories checked out to make sure I'm not going to kill some American, I have to go to peoples' mailboxes at night, people I talk to and know, and put it in their mailbox before turning it into The New Yorker, to get them to read it and say, "Oh, Page 4, you better not say that, Hersh."

I can't do that with the government. I used to always go and sit down and talk with the heads of the CIA and heads of other agencies. These guys are just really quantitatively different. You are either with us or against us across the board. And this is why I count days.

JJ: New York magazine has a profile this week of Matt Drudge of the Drudge Report, and they call him "America's Most Influential Journalist." What have bloggers like Drudge done to journalism, and how do you think it compares to the muckrakers that you came of age with?

SH: There is an enormous change taking place in this country in journalism. And it is online. We are eventually -- and I hate to tell this to The New York Times or the Washington Post -- we are going to have online newspapers, and they are going to be spectacular. And they are really going to cut into daily journalism.

I've been working for The New Yorker recently since '93. In the beginning, not that long ago, when I had a big story you made a good effort to get the Associated Press and UPI and The New York Times to write little stories about what you are writing about. Couldn't care less now. It doesn't matter, because I'll write a story, and The New Yorker will get hundreds of thousands, if not many more, of hits in the next day. Once it's online, we just get flooded.

So, we have a vibrant, new way of communicating in America. We haven't come to terms with it. I don't think much of a lot of the stuff that is out there. But there are a lot of people doing very, very good stuff.

JJ: Some people have a problem with muckrakers. Why do you think it is important to shine a light on filth?

SH: I can't imagine what else there is to do in the newspaper business today right now but to write as much as you can about what is going on. Like it, don't like it, what you call filth is the normal vagaries of government and foreign affairs these days.

JJ: Bush recently compared Iraq to Vietnam in a positive way. What do you think he learned from the Vietnam War?

SH: He seems to have learned from lessons that were not very valid. Nobody wants to be a loser. Bush is going to disengage to some degree, and he's going to claim the country is more stable. He's just going to say whatever he wants, and he's going to get away with it because who knows what is going on in Basra. Nobody I know in their right mind would go down there. You'd get whacked.

And the Democrats have fallen into the trap of saying, "We shouldn't get out." As far as I am concerned, there are only two issues: Option A is to get out by midnight tonight, and Option B is to get out by midnight tomorrow.

JJ: Having grown up in a Yiddish home, the son of Polish and Lithuanian immigrants, how would you describe your Jewish identity?

SH: Vague. I like a lot of the historical stuff; I'm agnostic about the religion. But I certainly understand the power of faith, and I wish the American Jews could talk more to some of the Israelis I know and see how open-minded they are about many issues American Jews are not. There is tremendous diversity in Israel. Here the stuff of conversation ends up in a bloody fight; there you can discuss anything.

My [three] children chose: Some went through the bar mitzvah process; some did not. I'm a believer in you do what you want to do. For me, my Jewish heritage comes mainly in literature. I identify very strongly with the Saul Bellows and Philip Roths of this world. But it's so irrelevant that I am Jewish when I write about Jewish issues. It really is for me. It's just like it is irrelevant what my personal opinion is on things.

JJ: I was going to ask if your being Jewish has in any way affected your coverage of Israeli politics, particularly security?

SH: No, no. It gets me in more fights.

JJ: The book "The Israel Lobby" just came out. How would you characterize Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer's assessment of the power of the pro-Israel community?

SH: You can't touch them in terms of being anti-Semitic. They are realists. They are from the realists' school. I haven't read the book, but it's not either/or, either support Israel or don't. It's: try and use the tremendous support and relationship we have to modify their behavior more than we do. But this government and that relationship [with Israel] is really profound, and it is just very secretive between us and Israel. It is not transparent, and that is not healthy for anybody.

JJ: You turned 70 this year. Why keep working so hard?

SH: I don't work that hard. I write four or five pieces a year. Secondly, what do you want me to do? Play professional golf? I can't do that. You do what you can do. And I'm in a funny spot because I have an ability to communicate with people I have known for a number of years. They trust me, and I trust them, so I keep on doing these little marginal stories.

JJ: That's all they are? Marginal?

SH: With these stories, if they slow down or make people take a deep breath before they bomb Iran, that is a plus. But they are not going to stop anybody. This is a government that is unreachable by us, and that is very depressing. In terms of adding to the public debate, the stories are important. But not in terms of changing policy. I have no delusions about that.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Road to Iran

Here's an interesting article from the TruthatLarge blog by Dietrick.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Road to Iran

The Bush administration paved the road to Iraq with lies and distortions to justify the US invasion. And the American people can expect more detours from the truth before the bombs drop over Tehran. Last year in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars vice-president Cheney advanced the threat of nuclear attack. "Vice President's Remarks at the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention: "Against this kind of determined, organized, ruthless enemy, America required a new strategy -- not merely to prosecute a series of crimes, but to fight and win a global campaign against the terror network. If I may quote Franklin Roosevelt, the President under who many of you served and fought, in words he used to describe fighting the Nazis: 'Modern warfare against treacherous enemies,' he said, 'is a dirty business. We don't like it -- we didn't want to get in it -- but we are in it and we're going to fight it with everything we've got.' Roosevelt's modern warfare resulted in the nuclear bombing of Japan.

(Taken from published article in the Revolution September 3, 2006)

The Threat of War on Iran in 2007

In the August 21 issue of The New Yorker magazine, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh revealed information leaked anonymously by people close to, or formerly close to, the Bush administration. Hersh's piece exposed the role of the Bush administration in planning Israel's invasion of Lebanon, and that the war in Lebanon was viewed by the Bush administration as preparation, and a trial run, for a U.S. attack on Iran. Speaking of the Israeli attack on Lebanon, a U.S. government consultant with close ties to Israel told Hersh. “Why oppose it? We'll be able to hunt down and bomb missiles, tunnels, and bunkers from the air. It would be a demo for Iran.” (our emphasis)

Hersh reports that “according to a former senior intelligence official, the Israeli plan for Lebanon was ‘the mirror image of what the United States has been planning for Iran.’” He reports that this includes, in part, “U.S. Air Force proposals for an air attack to destroy Iran’s nuclear capacity, which included the option of intense bombing of civilian infrastructure targets inside Iran.” Hersh writes that the Bush administration sees its mission as carrying out this war before it leaves office. A former senior intelligence officer told Hersh that Vice President Cheney’s office pushed Israel to move quickly against Lebanon in the framework of a timetable for U.S. moves against Iran. Hersh says this source told him that Cheney's office “told Israel, ‘Look, if you guys have to go, we’re behind you all the way. But we think it should be sooner rather than later—the longer you wait, the less time we have to evaluate and plan for Iran before Bush gets out of office.’”

While Bush called Hersh's article “wild speculation” (note that he did not say it wasn't true!), political operatives close to Bush are sending signals themselves, and interpreting Bush's position in a way that confirms a war on Iran is a real possibility in early 2007.
William Kristol's newspaper, the Weekly Standard, is a neo-conservative insider's journal for the Bush Regime. In July, he laid out the case for smashing the Islamic Republic of Iran as the key link in the larger Bush/neocon agenda of establishing the U.S. as the sole, unchallenged, and unchallengeable superpower:

“Regimes matter. Ideological movements become more dangerous when they become governing regimes of major nations. Communism became really dangerous when it seized control of Russia. National socialism became really dangerous when it seized control of Germany. Islamism became really dangerous when it seized control of Iran—which then became, as it has been for the last 27 years, the Islamic Republic of Iran.

“No Islamic Republic of Iran, no Hezbollah. No Islamic Republic of Iran, no one to prop up the Assad regime in Syria. No Iranian support for Syria (a secular government that has its own reasons for needing Iranian help and for supporting Hezbollah and Hamas), little state sponsorship of Hamas and Hezbollah. And no Shiite Iranian revolution, far less of an impetus for the Saudis to finance the export of the Wahhabi version of Sunni Islam as a competitor to Khomeini's claim for leadership of militant Islam—and thus no Taliban rule in Afghanistan, and perhaps no Hamas either.”

On Fox News (August 22), after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon produced mixed results at best, for the U.S., as a warm-up for a war on Iran, Kristol said, “I think we could be in a military confrontation with Iran much sooner than people expect. I don’t think this is an issue that’s going to wait two and a half years until President Bush leaves the presidency. I think he will decide at some point next year—in 2007—he’ll have to make some very tough decisions about what the U.S. and the world can tolerate in terms of this regime…”

MSNBC's Chris Matthews summed up the situation : “I keep hearing from people on the right—Robert Kagen and Bill Kristol, the guys who are the most hawkish and the most articulate in making their case and they may be right—that at the end of this administration, this hawkish administration—that was willing to go into Iraq and Afghanistan—if this president is not willing to knock out those facilities no future president is likely to do it. We’ll be stuck with a nuclear armed Iran which can rant and rave around that region, threatening Israel, Saudi and everybody else. And we’ll be stuck with it. So their argument is try the diplomatic route, try everything but in the end we have to hit ‘em.” (August 23)

The Nuclear Terror Nightmare—a U.S. Nuclear Attack on Iran
Basic facts: Iran doesn't have nuclear weapons, and is not threatening to use nuclear weapons against the United States. The United States does have nuclear weapons, and is not only threatening their use, but a nuclear attack appears to be a significant element of current U.S. war planning against Iran.

Seymour Hersh’s August 21 piece in the New Yorker reveals that the tactic of mass bombing of civilian infrastructure was a model and test for a U.S. attack on Iran. The strategy was to create enough terror and death that Christian and Sunni Muslim forces in Lebanon would be driven to align with the United States. U.S. military strategists are focused on death from the skies as their strategic approach to a war on Iran. Iran, of course, presents a much more formidable target than Lebanon, and even the massive air assault on Lebanon was not enough to achieve the goals of that attack.

Hersh reported that, “One of the [U.S.] military’s initial option plans, as presented to the White House by the Pentagon this winter, calls for the use of a bunker-buster tactical nuclear weapon, such as the B61-11, against underground nuclear sites. One target is Iran’s main centrifuge plant, at Natanz, nearly two hundred miles south of Tehran.” And Hersh writes that, “The elimination of Natanz would be a major setback for Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but the conventional weapons in the American arsenal could not insure the destruction of facilities under seventy-five feet of earth and rock, especially if they are reinforced with concrete.”
Hersh's August 21 piece also says that less extreme tactics (other than nuclear weapons) might be effective if the U.S. knew more about the location and construction of Iranian nuclear energy facilities. But according to Hersh's sources, the U.S. does not have good enough military intelligence for those options to work. He writes that, “The lack of reliable intelligence leaves military planners, given the goal of totally destroying the sites, little choice but to consider the use of tactical nuclear weapons.” It appears from Hersh's article that some of his sources are connected with forces in or around the top ranks of elements of the U.S. military who are skeptical that any amount of bombing, even nuclear bombs, will destroy the capacity of the Iranian regime to retaliate and resist a U.S. attack, and are very concerned that the over-stretched U.S. ground forces will get even more deeply bogged down in conflict in the region. But, Hersh reports, in spite of this resistance, “[T]he idea of using tactical nuclear weapons in such situations has gained support from the Defense Science Board, an advisory panel whose members are selected by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.”
Such weapons of mass destruction would create death, destruction, and horrors far beyond what was seen in Israel's U.S.-sponsored war on Lebanon. A former intelligence official told Hersh, “We’re talking about mushroom clouds, radiation, mass casualties, and contamination over years.”

Who's NOT Gonna Stop This War…
There is a logic to an attack on Iran not only from the standpoint of the neocons and Bush, but for the “opposition” Democratic Party as well. For the neocons, a U.S. dominated Iran is key to radically reshaping the Middle East, come what may. It is a critical part of their articulated vision of the U.S. as the world's new Roman Empire—a sole, unchallengeable superpower. For the Democrats, who may have had reservations about embarking on this adventure in Iraq, or may have regrets about how it worked out, they are—in the words of Al Gore—“lashed to the mast of our ship of state.” Like it or not, they are along for the ride because to bail now would—judged by the interests of U.S. imperialism —represent a major and destabilizing setback for U.S. imperialism.

A revolutionary understanding of the forces driving all this is explored in a very in-depth and strategic way in recent talks by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA—in particular in the talk “Why We’re in the Situation We're In Today…And What To Do About It: A Thoroughly Rotten System and the Need for Revolution.” That talk, and six other critical recent talks by Bob Avakian, are available for download at, or
Nobody with any serious impact in the Democratic Party is even raising serious concerns or reservations about the potential horrors and dangers involved in a war against Iran. Look, for example, at the Democrats’ response to the House Subcommittee on Intelligence Policy's report of U.S. intelligence on Iran. (The report was mainly written by a former CIA officer who had been a special assistant to UN Ambassador John R. Bolton, who opposes any negotiations with Tehran. The New York Times wrote that “the report seems intended to signal the intelligence community that the Republican leadership wants scarier assessments that would justify a more confrontational approach to Tehran.” Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern characterized the report as a “challenge set before the Intelligence Community ... to get religion, climb aboard, and 'recognize' Iran as a strategic threat.” [See “WMD Lies All Over Again”])

Did the Democrats in Congress immediately denounce this report as a call for concocted “evidence” justifying a war with Iran? Did they at least express worry and concern that this was the WMD hoax all over again? No. Most said nothing, but they let the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence subcommittee, Rush D. Holt, represent for the Democrats. He said, “What you have that is new here is an attempt to bring the body of information that is available into one place to present to the American people.” (Time magazine, 8/24). And the New York Times quoted Holt saying that “some in the intelligence community are a bit gun-shy about appearing to be warmongering.” (8/24).

Holt's endorsement of the report, and concerns that the “intelligence community” is “gun-shy” about “appearing to be warmongers” might sound simply mealy-mouthed if the whole context is not taken into account. But it represents an endorsement of this whole approach by the Democratic Party. Here you have the hawks in Congress demanding that the intelligence services “get religion,” as Ray McGovern insightfully put it, and cook the books to justify war on Iran a la the role they played in the whole “Weapons of Mass Destruction” lie that was used to justify the war against Iraq. In this context, Holt's endorsement of the report—the only substantial response by congressional Democrats—aligns the Democrats with the whole “let's create a new hoax to start a war” process. The Wall Street Journal wrote in an August 24 editorial, “Anyone who still thinks a nuclear-armed Iran won't pose a serious, and perhaps mortal, threat ought to consult this week's bipartisan staff report from the House Intelligence Committee.” (our emphasis).

The endorsement, or endorsement in the form of silence, from leading Democrats, is in line with the Democrats’ strategy of positioning themselves as tougher on “national security.” In mid-August, the Democratic Party ran a TV ad claiming that Iran is "developing nuclear weapons.” (The ad was withdrawn after protests by Latino organizations who objected to the ad's association of Latino immigrants with terrorism.)

In spring 2004, Senator John Kerry told the Washington Post that the Bush Administration has not “been tough on the [Iran] issue…” (May 29, 2004), and Nancy Pelosi’s position earlier this year was that “For too long, leaders of both political parties in the United States have not done nearly enough to confront the Russians and the Chinese, who have supplied Iran as it has plowed ahead with its nuclear and missile technology.” (Speaking to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, May 24, 2005.) And Democratic Senator Barack Obama, who many progressive people have deluded themselves into seeing as an opponent of the Bush agenda, told the Chicago Tribune in 2004 that "[T]he big question is going to be, if Iran is resistant to these pressures [to stop its nuclear program], including economic sanctions, which I hope will be imposed if they do not cooperate, at what point…if any, are we going to take military action?”

Who CAN put a HALT to all this…and HOW
In his powerful protest song “Ohio,” written in response to the National Guard murder of protesters at Kent State University in Ohio in 1970, Neil Young sang, “How can you run when you know?”

If you've read this far, you know. A terrible danger confronts the world—as we said in the beginning of this article, a terrible cost in human life, and a terrible political setback in terms of locking the world into a confrontation between McCrusade and Jihad.
There is no opposition to this from the Democratic Party. Kerry, Dean, Pelosi, and Obama are on record demanding that Bush get tough with Iran!

The initial call from World Can't Wait—Drive Out the Bush Regime included the following:
“That which you will not resist and mobilize to stop, you will learn—or be forced—to accept. There is no escaping it: the whole disastrous course of this Bush regime must be STOPPED. And we must take the responsibility to do it.”

And the statement “October 5: There is a Way! There is a Day!” from World Can't Wait says:
“Imagine if, from out of this huge reservoir of people, a great wave were unleashed, moving together on the same occasion, making, through their firm stand and their massive numbers, a powerful political statement that could not be ignored: refusing that day to work, or walking out from work, taking off from school or walking out of school—joining together, rallying and marching, drawing forward many more with them, and in many and varied forms of creative and meaningful political protest throughout the day, letting it be known that they are determined to bring this whole disastrous course to a halt by driving out the Bush Regime through the mobilization of massive political opposition.

“If that were done, then the possibility of turning things around and onto a much more favorable direction would take on a whole new dimension of reality.

“It would go from something only vaguely hoped for, by millions of isolated individuals, and acted on by thousands so far, to something that had undeniable moral force and unprecedented political impact.”

Right now, a bad dynamic is in effect—and far too many people feel paralyzed. They don't see any “cracks” in the ruling structure. The “options” for people are still framed as choosing between McWorld and Jihad. People don't see a force of people like themselves out there creating the “undeniable moral force” that World Can't Wait is calling for.

But if everyone who said “I wish there was such a force” throws themselves heart and soul into the movement to Drive Out the Bush Regime, takes up building for the October 5th mobilizations—which will put the movement to drive out the Bush Regime on a whole new level—then there would be such a force. And the emergence of a massive movement determined to drive out the Bush Regime would in turn impact the situation among the rulers of this society, opening up more potential for the movement of the people to develop that would actually bring the whole Bush agenda to a HALT.

There are a thousand and one reasons calling out to people to build a powerful movement to bring the crimes of the Bush Regime to a halt, and to launch that movement onto a whole new level on October 5th. But the real, imminent danger and potential horrors of a U.S. attack on Iran, very possibly involving nuclear weapons, is reason enough for everyone with a critical mind and conscience to throw themselves whole-heartily into that movement. Now.

Considering that the war in Iraq has become a quagmire and for the foreseeable future the situation may deteriorate even worst this may be the best scenario for Bush to have and excuse to move on Iran. The administration can advance the idea that Iraq's failure is due to continue involvement of Iran in smuggling weapons and insurgents into the country. Bush is a extremely dangerous man with power and his desire to exercise that power may take this nation down a road to destruction both politically and economically for the country.

Monday, September 03, 2007

The Growth of Open Source Software in Organizations

A report by Stephen Walli, Dave Gynn, Bruno von Rotz
19 Dec, 2005, from Optaros Inc. Download the white paper.

Executive Summary

This research report is based on survey data collected from an online poll distributed to more than 40,000 information technology and business professionals. The results show that open source software adoption and usage is on the climb in small to large organizations, and that there is clear proof of its cost savings and overall value to IT:

  • A clear majority of U.S. companies and government institutions are turning to open source software instead of using commercial software packages. Some 87% of the 512 companies we surveyed are using open source software. Bigger companies are more likely to be open source users: all of the 156 companies with at least $50 million in annual revenue were using open source.
  • Companies and government institutions use open source for three primary reasons: to reduce IT costs, deliver systems faster, and make systems more secure.
  • Organizations are saving millions of dollars on IT by using open source software. In 2004, open source software saved large companies (with annual revenue of over $1 billion) an average of $3.3 million. Medium-sized companies (between $50 million and $1 billion in annual revenue) saved an average $1.1 million. Firms with revenues under $50 million saved an average $520,000. Asked to categorize all the benefits (cost savings and other) from open source, most companies said they were moderate or major. Some 70% of large firms are seeing moderate or major benefits from open source. Of the companies under $1 billion in revenue, 59% are seeing major benefits.
  • Increasingly, after years of using open source software at the lower levels of the “software stack” — i.e., operating systems (e.g., Linux) and Web server software – more and more companies are using open source software for business applications to reduce the substantial costs of commercial versions of such software.
  • Despite proving the value of open source software, many companies face tall barriers in cutting costs through open source. Four barriers loom larger than any others: executives lacking knowledge about the benefits of open source and harboring fears about quality and support; legal and licensing issues; corporate cost allocation policies that don´t provide incentives to business functions to reduce the cost of commercial software and thus diminish their interest in open source alternatives; and the difficulty of procuring open source systems that will be supported after installation.
  • Once organizations start using open source software, their usage increases. Companies expect their usage of open source software over the next several years to increase dramatically. Organizations also expect to decrease the amount of commercial software they use and increase both open source and custom software initiatives.

Desktop Linux rolls into Indiana

September 1, 2005—Taking a huge step toward its goal of a computer for every high school student, Indiana will introduce 1,600 new desktop computers running Linux-based operating systems and software in its classrooms this fall. The program could be the largest such undertaking involving open-source software ever carried out in U.S. schools.

Novell Inc., the industry's largest provider of Linux services and applications, and Linspire Inc., a Linux provider based in San Diego, will provide the OS and the applications. Discount hardware provider Wintergreen Systems Inc., a local Indiana company, and Dell Inc. will supply the computers.

Indiana officials say using Linux-based systems will enable them to save what could amount to millions of dollars on operating systems and software. If successful, the state's open-source initiative could serve as a model for other states or districts around the nation to follow.

Schools in South America, Australia, and other parts of the world already have implemented large-scale open-source software projects, but K-12 schools in the United States so far have been slower to adopt open-source solutions--particularly at the desktop level. Concerns about the expertise needed to support Linux and the range of educational applications that are available to run on it are some of the factors that have hindered its adoption in U.S. schools.

In response to these concerns, Linspire CEO Kevin Carmony said his company's offerings can perform at least 80 percent of the functions of most proprietary software. Linspire offers an office suite, media software, and a number of other applications. Carmony said these applications are "completely interoperable" with proprietary solutions, answering concerns about compatibility in an environment where documents are exchanged between one kind of OS and another.

"More and more, you're finding that these companies are offering a Linux version of their software," Carmony said.

For applications that function only on Windows or Macintosh operating systems, there are solutions that permit these applications to run natively on the Linux OS, such as the WINE Operation, an open-source project that provides a complete implementation of Windows for Linux and Unix systems.

Regarding the complexity of Linux, companies such as Linspire and Novell offer full support services, both through their own operations and through local partners. Linspire also provides a deployment solution called "Click and Run" (C&R), which permits IT directors to install and update the software remotely.

"About 2,500-ish applications can be remotely installed," said Carmony. "Schools can pick and choose what they like from our [online] warehouse. It's all installed digitally; you're not worrying about authorization codes, CDs--all that [stuff]. The technological infrastructure is already all there [in Indiana], and we're working with the state to make the administrative function even more robust."

Indiana has been piloting its one-to-one desktop program over the past three years, with the ultimate goal of bringing a desktop computer to each of the state's 300,000 high school students. The use of Linux operating systems and applications has been essential to the initiative, officials say, because these open-source products are available at a fraction of the cost of similar proprietary models. Open-source solutions already have saved Indiana several thousands of dollars in licensing fees, they report.

"Although initial funding for the ... initiative comes from the state, many of the schools themselves think this is such a great idea that they are kicking in their local dollars to accelerate the deployment of the computer systems," said Mike Huffman, special assistant for technology at the Indiana Department of Education.

"Indiana is committed to progress and improvement in education, and this initiative will allow for online testing, increased access to information, and many other means to enhance learning for students. ... Open systems offer many advantages, the foremost being cost savings for schools," Huffman said.

Though the cost is a primary concern for Indiana state officials, Laura Taylor, director of Indiana's Office of Learning Resources, said it is not the only issue to be considered. "This model is really about scalability, sustainability, and repeatability," said Taylor. "It's not just about cost, but cost needs to be considered if this is something that's going to be replicated in multiple classrooms. But cost means little if it doesn't work."

She continued: "What we don't want is for this to be less expensive at the classroom level and more expensive at the district level in terms of personnel. One of the things we don't want to do is shift the cost from hardware to personnel. So program management is something we're focusing on this year."

Taylor said the state's open-source alternatives have become so similar to the proprietary models on which they are based--and with which teachers and students have become so comfortable--that teachers and students pick them up intuitively.

According to Susan Heystee, president of Novell North America, in the past six months more than 130 educational institutions around the world have signed on to use Novell Linux Desktop. "Both in education and business, we're seeing growing adoption of Linux on the desktop to increase security, simplify management, and control costs, without sacrificing functionality or productivity," she said.

Linspire's Carmony said Indiana's example likely will prompt more school systems to try open-source desktop solutions. "The phones here have been ringing off the hook," he said.

Not everyone is happy with the arrangement. A technology director at one urban Indiana school district told eSchool News he has concerns about hidden infrastructural costs that he feels the state is not doing enough to address as it proceeds with its program.

The official, who wished to remain anonymous, said it will be up to local districts to pay for the additional needs that will accompany desktop computers for every student, such as upgrades to electrical systems and more support staff.

"What is the cost beyond the cost of the computers?" he said. "This is really a question of [total cost of ownership]. If I have to install 30 new outlets to each classroom, I'm not just running cable; I'm going to have to install a new transformer."

He added, "If you're proposing 5,000 new computers in my building, I am also going to have to quadruple my staff. Many of the admitted successes of the pilot have been in small towns; [the situation] is different for an urban area."

The anonymous official further pointed out that his IT staff lacked the proper training to successfully implement a Linux program. He said the services provided by the state were more like "orientation" than training.

"It's like they called us all up and said, Hey, we're going to levitate!'" he said. "It's the part about staying off the ground that we're having trouble with. A lot of people are concerned about it."

Huffman's response to these concerns? "I think probably we have 95-percent support from local tech directors," he said.

Huffman added, "We know electricity is an issue; that's why we're deploying it like we are, doing this in English classrooms first, then science. We also know there are infrastructure issues regarding the network; that's why we're using wireless [technology] on the desktops."

As for the lack of Linux training, Huffman said, "We have done a lot of research on this. I would agree 100 percent with that comment if it were made about the server side. [But] Linux on the desktop, at least the iterations that we're using, comes preconfigured. You get a copy, you load it on your computer. It takes ten minutes, asks you three questions, and it works."

DVD - Loreena McKennitt - Nights from the Alhambra.


Filmed in Granada, Spain, in September, 2006, this package includes not only a DVD but a 2-CD set, as well.

Everything is flawless in this production. Even on my modest stereo televison, the sound is excellent. Throughout the show, the DVD breaks for some non-concert footage. It would have been nice to see Greensleaves included. Also, since I bought the DVD-case set, I expected there to bea booklet with essays or something else substantial, just like with the Zeppelin How The West Was Won DVD from a few years ago.

Without a doubt, this is a must-have for any Loreena McKennitt fan.

film - Fritz Lang's M

Filmed in 1930, this classic film is still relevant today. In fact, the story seems ripped from today's headlines. Can you imagine the waves this film caused with its story about a child murderer?

At first, the film started off a little slow. It grew in intensity when the police search was elevated. Soon, the local organized crime groups became fed up with the police searches and decided to quietly find the murderer on their own.

There is an impromptu courtroom trial with the organized crime members in an abandoned building with aruguments in favour of both killing the man a nd sending him to the police for the protection of the state. Your hear this sort of thing all the time. Who knew they had the same arguments way back then? There are also at least three scenes of disturbing symbolism.

Well worth watching. German with English subtitles.

website page counter