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U.S. Government Spending Much Under Table
To Keep Abbas and PA in Power in Occupied Palestine

MER - MiddleEast.Org - Washington - 22 January:
American credibility has rarely been lower; American duplicity has rarely been higher; and the exposure of American lies and hypocrisy has rarely been more evident than in the lead story in today's Sunday Washington Post. But always remember, what eventually seeps out into public view in such ways is nearly always but the small visible part of the huge iceberg and the establishment corporate media is nearly always very late in the day to pick up on these things and even then does so nearly always pulling its punches to conform with what the owners, the advertisers, and the powers that be are willing to accept and tolerate. In this case, gross clandestine manipulation of Palestinian affairs primarily by the CIA, of course closely coordinating with the Israelis, has been going on for some time now. All kinds of false-flag U.S.-government supported, controlled, and financed operations have been going on in Occupied Palestine as well as the major Middle Eastern countries for many years now. All kinds of spying operations, infiltration operations, and the use of 'invisible' agents of the American government masked as everything from businessmen to journalists to academics to local politicians have been escalating considerably in recent years. Indeed, at this point in history, just about any identifiable American, or anyone publicly identified as working with the Americans, is more and more suspect throughout the Middle East -- which unfortunately helps explain the current plight of the Christian Peace-Maker Team persons and the Christian Science Monitor reporter being held hostage under threat of death in Iraq.

U.S. Funds Enter Fray In Palestinian Elections
Bush Administration Uses USAID as Invisible Conduit

By Scott Wilson and Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, January 22, 2006; A01

RAMALLAH, West Bank -- The Bush administration is spending foreign aid money to increase the popularity of the Palestinian Authority on the eve of crucial elections in which the governing party faces a serious challenge from the radical Islamic group Hamas.

The approximately $2 million program is being led by a division of the U.S. Agency for International Development. But no U.S. government logos appear with the projects or events being undertaken as part of the campaign, which bears no evidence of U.S. involvement and does not fall within the definitions of traditional development work.

U.S. officials say their low profile is meant to ensure that the Palestinian Authority receives public credit for a collection of small, popular projects and events to be unveiled before Palestinians select their first parliament in a decade. Internal documents outlining the program describe the effort as "a temporary paradigm shift" in the way the aid agency operates. The plan was designed with the help of a former U.S. Army Special Forces officer who worked in postwar Afghanistan on democracy-building projects.

U.S. and Palestinian officials say they fear the election, scheduled for Wednesday, will result in a large Hamas presence in the 132-seat legislature. Hamas, formally known as the Islamic Resistance Movement, is at war with Israel and is classified by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization. But its reputation for competence and accountability in providing social services has made it a stiff rival of the secular Fatah movement, which runs the Palestinian Authority and has long been the largest party in the Palestinian territories.

The plan's $2 million budget, although a tiny fraction of USAID's work here, is likely more than what any Palestinian party will have spent by election day. A media consultant for Hamas said the organization would likely spend less than $1 million on its campaign.

Elements of the U.S.-funded program include a street-cleaning campaign, distributing free food and water to Palestinians at border crossings, donating computers to community centers and sponsoring a national youth soccer tournament. U.S. officials are coordinating the program through Rafiq Husseini, chief of staff to Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority and leader of Fatah.

In recent days, Arabic-language papers have been filled with U.S.-funded advertisements announcing the events in the name of the Palestinian Authority, which the public closely identifies with Fatah. Some of the events, such as a U.S.-financed tree-planting ceremony here in Ramallah that Abbas attended last week, have resembled Fatah rallies, with participants wearing the trademark black-and-white kaffiyehs emblazoned with the party logo, walls plastered with Fatah candidates' posters, and banks of TV cameras invited to record the event.

"Public outreach is integrated into the design of each project to highlight the role of the P.A. in meeting citizens needs," said a progress report distributed this month to USAID and State Department officials. "The plan is to have events running every day of the coming week, beginning 13 January, such that there is a constant stream of announcements and public outreach about positive happenings all over Palestinian areas in the critical week before the elections."

'Window of Opportunity'

The program highlights the central challenge facing the Bush administration as it promotes democracy in the Middle East. Free elections in the Arab world, where most countries have been run for years by unelected autocracies or unchallenged parties like Fatah, often result in strong showings by radical Islamic movements opposed to the policies of the United States and to its chief regional ally, Israel. But in attempting to manage the results, the administration risks undermining the democratic goals it is promoting.

U.S. officials and consultants involved in the program acknowledge that it generated debate inside the aid agency and the two firms hired to manage the project. But U.S. officials said the goal of limiting Hamas's influence in the next Palestinian government overshadowed concerns about the decision not to disclose the U.S. government's role in the campaign.

"We are not favoring any particular party," said James A. Bever, the USAID mission director for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. "But we do not support parties that are on the terrorism list. We are here to support the democratic process."

Another U.S. official involved in the program said: "I'm not going to apologize for it. I'm proud of the work we've done."

"We weren't trying to be some black-box SWAT operation," said the official, who declined to be named because he was not authorized to speak for the record. "But we want to be able to say we did everything we could to support peaceful coexistence here. There's no tomorrow if we end up with a worsening conflict" after the elections.

Hamas is reaping the benefits of years of grass-roots social work and political organizing in the West Bank and Gaza as it prepares for its first national election. It opposes Israel's right to exist and has vowed to maintain its armed wing, which has carried out attacks and suicide bombings inside Israel and the territories.

The Palestinian Authority, meanwhile, is suffering from a reputation for corruption, divisions within Fatah and a continuing Israeli occupation of the West Bank that has made Abbas's pursuit of a negotiated peace settlement unappealing to many Palestinians. Public opinion polls have shown the race tightening in recent weeks, with Hamas now running even with Fatah.

According to interviews with U.S. and Palestinian officials here and in Washington as well as project documents obtained by The Washington Post, the plan to help promote the Palestinian Authority, and by extension Fatah, began emerging as Israel ended its 38-year occupation of Gaza in August.

"In light of the Israeli disengagement from Gaza, a critical window of opportunity has emerged," stated an October document outlining the scope of the Gaza Action Plan Support Unit, as the program is known. The document, prepared by ARD, a consulting firm based in Burlington, Vt., that was hired to manage the project, said the goal was to "help lay the foundation for successful, moderate leadership in Gaza as well as the West Bank." It listed the Palestinian Authority as its "direct beneficiary."

Most U.S. development assistance here, which last year totaled roughly $400 million, consists of water pipelines, sewage treatment plants, public libraries and roads, which bear the USAID logo alongside the seal of the Palestinian Authority. But Bever said the agency, which previously wanted to showcase U.S. aid, recently decided to emphasize the Palestinian Authority's role to a greater degree after polls showed a majority of Palestinians are aware of the overall extent of U.S. assistance.

Downplaying U.S. Credit

The project is supervised by USAID's Office of Transition Initiatives, which specializes in promoting U.S. interests during times of political change in foreign countries and has the ability to spend money faster than other departments, according to agency officials.

The office hired ARD, which in turn subcontracted the project to a Washington-based firm, Strategic Assessments Initiative, or SAI, known for its largely academic work on issues such as Palestinian security reform. SAI had no experience in development work and had never worked for USAID.

Amjad Atallah, the company's president, said he was not authorized to talk about the project, though he said it raised concerns within his organization. Atallah said he agreed to work on the contract only after USAID agreed to his requests that Palestinian teams work in the field and that the program be coordinated through the office of President Abbas, who is not a candidate in the election.

USAID also brought in an independent consultant, Larry Sampler, to "help us think about how to do this," the U.S. official involved in the program said. Sampler was described by people who know him as an earnest, intense man who served 15 years in the Army Special Forces and worked as a U.S. contractor in Afghanistan.

According to documents from a planning presentation Sampler gave to U.S. officials in Washington and Tel Aviv in October, he raised several questions about how closely the U.S. government should be identified with the project. The documents also suggest that U.S. officials expected the project to become involved in party politics.

"To whom should credit accrue?" Sampler asked in one slide of the presentation. "Issues of branding and how closely associated candidates and parties want to be or should be associated with the USG [U.S. government]. What should be the nature of that relationship?"

Plans called for roughly 40 small projects or events, ranging in cost from $5,000 to $50,000 each, that would benefit the Palestinian Authority. No USAID logos would be used.

Asked if the decision not to use the USAID brand was a way to hide its involvement, Bever said, "I could see it could look that way." He said some of the projects might bear the agency logo, although it was not apparent on those visited by reporters from The Post or in ads published this week.

"We wanted to give maximum credit to the Palestinian Authority and to the freely elected president, Mahmoud Abbas, for taking the initiative and for inviting us to help get the message out to the Palestinian people," Bever said.

The point man in Abbas's office was his chief of staff, Husseini, a member of a prominent Jerusalem family. In an interview last week, Husseini said U.S. officials told him they had about $2 million to spend on 30 or so projects before the elections. He said his office provided them with "names of people who could do this best."

"It was some small money to help us quickly affect the lives of people. It was to show that the Palestinian Authority cares," Husseini said. "They were very responsive and understood we needed to have a better impact."

"Campaigning may come into this, but only marginally," Husseini said. "It is not political campaigning, but campaigning for the Palestinian national cause, as Mahmoud Abbas sees it."

In recent days, the newspapers Al-Ayam and Al-Quds have featured ads for projects described in the Action Plan Support Unit's most recent progress report. On some days, three such ads -- all bearing the seal of the Palestinian Authority but no USAID logo -- appeared on a single page.

"Why so many ads at the same time?" said Saad Abdul Hadi, whose Ramallah-based public relations company, Al-Nasher, is doing the advertising. "Because we are in a very sensitive time, in the elections. That's why now."

In Jericho last week, 10 teams gathered in the municipal stadium in the hopes of winning the first-ever Olive Cup, the U.S.-funded championship of Palestinian youth soccer. As boys darted across the patchy field in uniforms purchased with money from USAID, banners bearing the emblem of the Palestinian Authority and a new logo created for the U.S.-funded projects celebrated the event, which was attended by several hundred Palestinians.

Ibrahim Sabbah, 40, director of the sports division of the Ministry of Youth and Sports, said he had been asking Palestinian leaders for years to finance such a tournament. This month, Husseini's office told him $10,000 was available immediately.

"I was very surprised," Sabbah said. "And very happy. We were able to do this very quickly because we had been planning it for years. But we'd never had the money until now."

Sabbah said he knew only that the funds came from the Palestinian Authority president's office. It didn't matter who paid for the event, he said happily, as teams from Jenin and Nablus took the field. In a few hours, representatives from Husseini's office would arrive with the Olive Cup trophy and medals for the winners.

Kessler reported from Washington.

January 2006


Talking To The Enemy Indeed
(January 31, 2006)
In Iraq the U.S. is secretly talking with the 'insurgent' enemy... There will have to be actual significant policy changes by the American Empire or else -- especially when it comes to reversing Israeli apartheid and realigning American policies and interests in truly new ways, not just more rhetorical trickery and obfuscation.

Abbas, Shaath, Safieh, Fateh Officials Should Resign or Be Sacked
(January 30, 2006)
The danger of fractricidal conflict and civil war in Palestine -- an under-the-table goal pursued by the Israelis for some time no matter how much they deny it -- is now greater than ever. The major figures representing the exposed and corrupt remnants of Fateh are attempting to manipulate their way one way or another to retain money, guns, and power. Rather than resigning as he should Fateh's top man, Mahmoud Abbas, is using his considerable backing from the U.S., Israel, Europe, and the Arab 'client regimes' to attempt to keep himself and his cronies in power one way or another. It is an unprecedented dangerous political poker game of bluff, counter-bluff, and chicken being played out not just in occupied Palestine but on the regional and world stages as well and with quite unpredictable results at this point. Meanwhile the Iranians are racing ahead to prepare themselves for attack, the comatose 'peace process' is all but finally declared dead, international energy supply concerns and escalating prices could trigger more conflict and economic hard-times, and the Neocon/Evangelical regime in Washington (under unprecedented assault as the second article below suggests) is desperately seeking new ways for possible salvation and resurrection before the November 2006 mid-term election even as the still hesitant impeachment movement might yet gain traction.

LAWLESS WORLD Erupting Thursday in London
(January 30, 2006)
"...likely to cause a fierce new controversy on both sides of the Atlantic" the new edition of this damning book LAWLESS WORLD will not be published until Thursday in London, just hours after President Bush's State of the Union 2006 address to Congress at 9pm tomorrow. Major pressures are now building in both Washington and London to actually attempt to remove from power those who brought about the Iraq war through such chicanery and duplicity. But if the pressures really get too strong expect the tension with Iran to escalate further and maybe explode into military exchanges and/or another major 'terrorist attack' either from the pertrators most expect or from the underground manipulators connected to those in power whom many now suspect with considerable damning circumstantial evidence

Assassination Backlash - Hamas Landslide
(January 26, 2006)
When the Israelis released the founder of Hamas from prison some years ago they did so because they had attempted to assassinate in Amman the man who today heads Hamas from Damascus and they needed to provide King Hussein an excuse to give them back their caught and endangered Mossad henchmen. Then, a few years later, they assassinated Sheik Ahmed Yassin, a blind paraplegic who founded Hamas in the late 1980s, as he emerged from a Gaza Mosque one morning -- this on top of an ongoing anti-Hamas assassination campaign designed to dismember and weaken 'The Islamic Resistance Movement'. The actual result however is what happened yesterday in a sea of Hamas green.

Hamas Wins Big
(January 26, 2006)
There's a long history to why Hamas has been so victorious in occupied Palestine. And whatever the Israeli p.r. spin about what has happened they and the U.S. are really the midwives.

Iran Crisis
(January 25, 2006)
This day was destined to come sooner or later. With the Israelis having a considerable arsenal of nuclear weapons and the ability to delivery them tactically to the battlefield as well as strategically by submarine and airplane a gross imbalance has been there in the region for some time already. Furthermore there should be no doubt that Israel's apartheid and bloodletting policies toward the Palestinians have been a major force enflaming Arab and Muslim sentiments throughout the region; while militant neo-imperialist U.S. policies on top of the American-Israeli alliance and the rise of Christian Fundamentalism have fueled the raging passions and led to today's imbroglio.

Hamastan Indeed
(January 24, 2006)
Hamas is not taking power tomorrow in occupied Palestine; it is instead asserting power in what can be seen as a kind of historic political blowback for so many awful years of miserable corruption, gross ineptitude and dastardly co-optation by those whom the U.S., Israel, and the Arab 'client regimes' pushed so hard to date to lord over the millions of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Call it as well a kind of democratic payback for the Israeli/U.S. assassinations of the senior generation of Palestinian leaders including in recent years the founder of Hamas, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, and the long-time Chairman of the PLO, Yasser Arafat.

Questions About 9/11 That Don't Go Away
(January 23, 2006)
So much of what is happening now in our world can be traced back to the year 2001 when Bush/Cheney and the Neocons came to power in Washington, Ariel Sharon came to power in Israel, and what we all now simply call 9/11 happened. But just what did really happen? Nagging questions not only are not going away, they are surfacing from credible people and need to be very seriously and independently investigated.

U.S. Caught In The Act In Occupied Palestine
(January 22, 2006)
American credibility has rarely been lower; American duplicity has rarely been higher; and the exposure of American lies and hypocrisy has rarely been more evident than in the lead story in today's Washington Post.

Torturing Palestinians
(January 21, 2006)
From MER in January 1997: Torture of Palestinians is not only routine and systematic, in it actually sanctioned by the Israeli legal system that has been twisted to serve Israeli policies. Going back to the Shinbet scandal of the early 1980's, even more sadistic forms of torture have given way to the kinds of 'legalized' torture methods outlined in this important article from one of the few independent and courageous media sources in Israel, The Alternative Information Center (AIC). Among the reasons the Israelis get away with such systematic torture of Palestinians is that hardly anyone is willing to protest. The so-called "Palestinian Authority" practices similar and even worse torture techniques, as do nearly all of the Arab governments in the region -- so they are hardly in a position to protest. And the "liberal" American Jewish community has been morally bankrupt about such issues for so long now that to speak up at this point would be to condemn themselves for permitting, and even encouraging in many cases, such Nazi-like behavior by the Israelis for decades.

"WAR on TERRORISM" - Noam Chomsky Lecture on 18 Jan
(January 20, 2006)
This important lengthy lecture was delivered a few days ago in Dublin. Plus information about how to get a unique and now rare video documentary about the start of the "New World Order" -- available now exclusively from MER. At the start of Gulf War I in 1991 -- the beginnings of the Bush-era "New World Order", Noam Chomsky came to Washington and spoke to a huge overflow audience at George Washington University. This video documentary captures the entirety of his speech as well as the extensive question and answer period that followed. This documentary is essential to a serious understanding of U.S. foreign policy worldwide today. Chomsky uniquely provides the background and understanding needed to appreciate what the War in Iraq is really all about as well as the many misrepresentations and lies Washington propogates so often about the Israeli-Palestinian "Peace Process". From the back of the video by Mark Bruzonsky: "There's no one like Chomsky if you want to truly understand the realities of both U.S. policies and the overall situation in the Middle East...

Any Questions or Comments - CHAT at 12pm today
(January 20, 2006)
If you hvae any Questions or Comments about this program or MER use CHAT at 12pm today (Washington, DC time)

Palestinian 'Election' Approaches...Still Maybe
(January 19, 2006)
In the end it may be that the failing remnants of the disgraced 'Palestinian Authority' -- after so many years of miserable corruption and co-optation -- are now too weak and fractured to even manage to 'postpone' the long-promised Legislative election... Now the past is coming back to haunt the PA -- and their godfathers as well.

(January 18, 2006)
Though they run a far more effective propaganda network the Jewish and Zionist establishments don't always get their way and have in fact lost quite a bit of credibility and following. This article from earlier this week in The Christian Science Monitor. And we certainly hope that those in Iraq who are legitimately and so courageously standing up against the US/UK/Israeli invasion/occupation will decide to release the CSM correspondent they are holding hostage, showing that they are sophisticated enough to distinguish between hostile and friendly Christians and thereby giving hope amidst so much despair and bloodletting.

(January 17, 2006)
The cultural and emotional differences between Islam and Christianity and Judaism are considerable -- never more so than in the areas relating to women and sexuality. This interesting but not really adequate article is from today's Guardian in the UK: SEMINAL QUESTIONS - As scholars question the place of nudity in marriage, Islamic clerics are hotly debating exactly what sexual practices are acceptable, writes Brian Whitaker

The Faster March To International War
(January 16, 2006)
Joining the rising chorus is a growing group of sometimes neo-con, sometimes evangelical, sometimes hustling and/or sponsored academics. They are now contributing to the growing 'New World Order' hysteria that now dominates American political life through the pages of associated magazines and newspapers. While Harvard Professor Niall Ferguson for instance is right indeed to be warning about the great dangers now immediately ahead, his analogies and heroes are so misguided and off the mark one has to wonder just who is really orchestrating and behind this kind of thing. This Ferguson article appeared over the weekend in The Telegraph published in the U.K.

Historic Anti-U.S./Israel Crucible of Hatred and Revenge
(January 15, 2006)
One day Pakistan will no longer be lead by a military General empowered by the U.S and manipulated by the CIA. Remember now that today's feared Zawahiri left his Cairo medical practice to oppose the U.S. when he felt Egypt was deceived and co-opted by the U.S. Bin Laden himself, after working with the Americans to oust the Soviets from Afghanistan and working intimately with the American-sponsored Royal Family of Saudi Arabia, turned against the U.S. when American troops on top of the CIA directly occupied his country. And of course Iraq is today a country erupting as a result of U.S. occupation and destruction while Iran is a country today still rebelling after so many years of tortuous rule by the Shah and so much CIA-plotting to control that country.

INFORMATION For Persons Using This Program MiddleEast.Org
(January 12, 2006)
Useful INFORMATION For Persons Using This Program always available at MiddleEast.Org/MER

What Sharon Has Wrought; and What He Has Left
(January 12, 2006)
Understanding what has happened between Israel and Palestinians over the years requires not only expert analysis but considerable memory, ideological as well as political understanding, and an ability to put the historical pieces all together. Meron Benviniste's article today in Ha'aretz is of considerable help in summarizing the situation past, present, and maybe future.

Ariel Sharon - by Robert Fisk
(January 6, 2006)
There are few journalists who have the knowledge and perspective of Robert Fisk. This from his recent book, footnoted at the end and highly recommended.

Chaos and Geostrategic Changes of Historic Consequences Looming
(January 6, 2006)
The Year 2006 is now more ominous than ever.

Sharon's Huge Legacy
(January 5, 2006)
Sharon's legacy is overwhelming, and not for the positive

MER Mark Bruzonsky on Channel 5 Evening News Tonight in Washington, DC area
(January 4, 2006)
MER Mark Bruzonsky on Channel 5 Evening News Tonight in Washington, DC area

Sharon - 'significant stroke' reported tonight in Israel
(January 4, 2006)
Sharon - 'significant stroke' reported tonight in Israel

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