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The Forces Behind the Revolution in Egypt

Who gets the most credit for toppling Mubarak? And who will be blamed if the revolution turns nasty in the next 12 months? Who inspired the events that could change history like the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 or the Islamic Revolution in 1979?

Facebook? Twitter? Rising food prices? The "liberation" of Iraq? George W. Bush? David Hasselhoff? The Egyptian Army? The youth groups of the opposition parties? The Tahrir square campers? Or the tragic narratives of the two individuals Khaled Said from Alexandria or Mohammed Bouazizi from Ben Arous?

1. The BBC has a great image of "the camp that toppled a president."

2. Interestingly, the Boston Globe, often described as very liberal, gives George W. Bush some credit. A program to fund and train election monitors in Egypt "played a key role in the movement to topple President Hosni Mubarak's regime":

The program, which provided millions in direct funding to prodemocracy groups, helped dispatch 13,000 volunteers to observe Egypt's parliamentary elections in December. Thousands of those monitors, angered by what they said was blatant election rigging, joined the protests. Some became outspoken leaders; others used the networking and communication skills they learned to help coordinate 18 days of rallies. (...)

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In Berlin, Outrage Over Nord Stream Deal Seems to Have Died

David Francis, an American reporter traveling through Europe to report on EU energy security issues, notes that Germans are not concerned about dependence on Russian energy. He wrote the following guest blog post and asks Atlantic Review's readers why Schroeder got away with the Nord Stream deal:

I've been in Berlin for the last week, interviewing German officials about the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline, more commonly know here as the Baltic Sea pipeline. For those who aren't familiar, the pipeline is controversial for a number of reasons. First, it makes Germany heavily dependent on Russia's state-controlled energy monopoly Gazprom, a firm that in the past has been accused of playing "pipeline politics." But the main controversy surrounding the deal, in Germany at least, centered on former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who pushed hard for the deal before leaving office, only to be named chief of Nord Stream's shareholder's committee after leaving office. This position pays quite a large paycheck.

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Dick Cheney in 1994: Invading Baghdad Would Create Quagmire

In this interview from April 15th, 1994, Dick Cheney reveals the reasons why invading Baghdad and toppling Saddam Hussein wouldn't be a great idea: YouTube

Endnote: Shiite alliance against the Saudi-US alliance? Look who is holding hands these days: Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran August 8, 2007 in this Yahoo! News Photo. And this White House photo shows President Bush holding hands with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah in 2005. And recently the Bush administration announced a major arms deal with Saudi Arabia.

Iraq and Vietnam and the "State of Denial" and Krepinevich's "Oil-Spot Strategy"

Bob Woodward, who has been known for his incredible access to classified reports and close contacts to members of the Bush administration, has just published a new book State of Denial (, and writes in the Washington Post article "Secret Reports Dispute White House Optimism":
There was a vast difference between what the White House and Pentagon knew about the situation in Iraq and what they were saying publicly. But the discrepancy was not surprising. In memos, reports and internal debates, high-level officials of the Bush administration have voiced their concern about the United States' ability to bring peace and stability to Iraq since early in the occupation.
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The Times: Britain Handed Control to German and American Ideologues

Anatole Kaletsky writes in the The Times about Tony Blair's troubles and Gordon Brown's options. He describes what German monetary policy in the early 90s and U.S. foreign policy today have in common:
Mr Major's failure as a prime minister was down to a fatal policy mistake: his decision to keep Britain in the ERM [= European Exchange Rate Mechanism] regardless of cost. In doing this, the Tories effectively handed control of monetary policy to the Bundesbank, just as Mr Blair has subordinated foreign policy to the White House. (...)
Like US foreign policy today, German economic policy in the 1990s was run by a pair of arrogant but incompetent ideologues. Theo Waigel and Helmut Schlesinger, the German Finance Minister and Bundesbank President, were to economics what Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney are to the art of war. The German leaders of the early 1990s managed to turn their once-great economy into the sick man of Europe, just as Mr Rumsfeld and Mr Cheney have reduced America from a military superpower to a paper tiger. (...)
To my mind, Mr Blair's truly unforgivable crime was not the invasion of Iraq. (...). No, Mr Blair's crime was to continue backing President Bush after it became obvious that his policies were criminally negligent, politically cynical and doomed to failure. Mr Blair was the one man in the world who could have forced President Bush to back Colin Powell, sack Donald Rumsfeld, close down Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and launch a serious drive for Palestinian statehood.
Considering the lasting impact of the ERM disaster on British attitudes towards Europe (on top of the already existing Eurosceptism/-phobia), what long-term impact will Blair's foreign policy have on British attitudes towards the United States?

Chicago Tribune: "Germany says 9/11 hijackers called Syria, Saudi Arabia"

John Crewdson, senior correspondent of the respectable Chicago Tribune, claims to have obtained a "classified report from the office of German Chancellor Angela Merkel":
According to the report, 206 international telephone calls were known to have been made by the leaders of the hijacking plot after they arrived in the United States -- including 29 to Germany, 32 to Saudi Arabia and 66 to Syria. The calls to Germany are not especially surprising because the plot's organizers, Mohamed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah, who moved to Florida to learn to fly passenger jets, had been university students in the northern German city of Hamburg when they were recruited by Al Qaeda. More than four years later, however, the hijackers' connections to Saudi Arabia and Syria are far from fully explained. (...) The German report submitted last week notes that in the days after Sept. 11, Syria and its intelligence service offered their cooperation to the U.S. and West European nations, "comprehensively and without any reservation."
The Chicago Tribune published this article on March 8th, but the story was not picked up since then in either the German or the US media to the best of my and Marc's knowledge, who first recommend the article on his American Future. John Crewdson emailed me that he does not know why this is the case either.
Although 15 of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, this fact seems to be not that much known in the US public and there have not been significant negative consequences for this non-democratic, oppressive, illiberal country, which ranked fourth (after Canada, Mexico, and Venezuela) as a source of total U.S. oil imports in 2005. The conservative media and some members of the Bush administration have not been very critical of Saudi Arabia, while spreading misinformation and unsubstantiated speculations on Iraq. Consequently the PIPA opinion poll concluded in 2004:
A large majority of Bush supporters believes that Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda and that clear evidence of this support has been found. A large majority believes that most experts also have this view, and a substantial majority believe that this was the conclusion of the 9/11 Commission. Large majorities of Kerry supporters believe the opposite on all these points.
Related: The US-Saudi relationship: Oil supply at the expense of US security and moral values.

The Chicago Tribune puts the phone calls to Syria in the context of Germany's alleged involvement in CIA renditions:
The report's disclosure that senior officials in the government of former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder traveled to Syria to participate in the questioning of Zammar is likely to raise further questions within the parliament over Germany's involvement in the CIA's forced relocation of terrorist suspects to countries like Syria, where many say they have been tortured.

"Vice President for torture", secret CIA prisons

Folkard Wohlgemuth recommends the op-ed "Degrading our soldiers and ourselves" in the International Herald Tribune, which deals with Vice President Cheney's attempt on allowing the CIA to treat (or should one rather say: "abuse"?) captives basically as they please. "It is worth remembering that the rule of law is not just a "value," much less a luxury confined to more peaceful times", comments the author, Anne-Marie Slaughter. "Our founders looked to law as constraint, not as license; as a check on power, not authorization. The difference is a matter of honor, of values, of identity itself."
Washington Post editorial calls Vice President Cheney "an open advocate of torture."

The Wash Post's Dana Priest reports about a "covert prison system set up by the CIA nearly four years ago that at various times has included sites in eight countries":

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Opposition within the Bush administration

Our reader UG recommends TomDispatch's list of 42

beleaguered administrators, managers, and career civil servants who quit their posts in protest or were defamed, threatened, fired, forced out, demoted, or driven to retire by Bush administration strong-arming.

The list includes well-known names like former anti-terror czar Richard Clarke and former Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill, but also less known managers:

In late August 2005, after twenty years of service in the field of military procurement, Bunnatine ("Bunny") Greenhouse, the top official at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in charge of awarding government contracts for the reconstruction of Iraq, was demoted. For years, Greenhouse received stellar evaluations from superiors -- until she raised objections about secret, no-bid contracts awarded to Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR) -- a subsidiary of Halliburton, the mega-corporation Vice President Dick Cheney once presided over. After telling congress that one Halliburton deal was "was the most blatant and improper contract abuse I have witnessed during the course of my professional career," she was reassigned from "the elite Senior Executive Service... to a lesser job in the civil works division of the corps."