Sunday, April 22, 2007

SOCIAL DRAMA / There's nothing funny in black and white

SOCIAL DRAMA / There's nothing funny in black and white

In the past year, more and more famous white men have gone berserk, spewing venom at the rest of American society. First, there was Mel Gibson mouthing off in a drunken anti-Semitic rage. Then there was Michael Richards' meltdown, in which he screamed a racial epithet at his comedy audience. Now Don Imus' comments about the Rutgers women's basketball team have resulted in his being pulled off the air. Before these incidents, we had the Michael Jackson and Kobe Bryant cases, but the most recent ones have been of white men gone wild.
Cultural anthropologist Victor Turner, who died in 1984, coined the term "social drama," which describes what's going on here. Turner defined a social drama as a process that has four stages: breach, crisis, redressive action and reintegration.
Let's walk through the stages.
First, there's the breach: a rupture between society and one of its participants. In each case -- Richards, Gibson and Imus -- the breach was triggered by an ethnic slur or ethnic joke, and decent people in the larger society became aware of the incident.
Next, the crisis. According to Turner's theories, the crisis cannot be ignored, lest society threaten to come undone. As Americans watched the coverage of the Imus incident, they had the feeling that something must be done.
The third stage is redressive action, "the culturally defined process that resolves the crisis," according to Brown University anthropologist William O. Beeman. Although he had already been fired, society didn't begin its collective sigh of relief until after Imus' apology to the Rutgers women was accepted.
Finally, there is reintegration, which, Beeman writes, "eliminates the original breach that precipitated the crisis. This can be done in two ways -- by creating a permanent split in society, or by healing."
The emotional gain for both the joke teller and those to whom he offers forbidden humor is the thrill of "getting away with it," a staple of white male humor, from plantation owners to Quentin Tarantino to Imus.
For generations, it has been known by the name of the location where men gathered: "locker room humor," "club house humor" or "frat house humor." Invariably, the vicious put-down of black men at the mercy of the "superior" white man is called the "n -- joke," whether it's at a golf course, a country club or in movies like "The Jerk'' or "Pulp Fiction.''
Next up, of course, is "the black woman joke," in which the woman is stripped naked and put into sexual situations with licentious white men, as seen in minstrelsy, literature and films.
Imus' calling the basketball team "nappy-headed hos" should be blamed, not on hip-hop, but on blackface white performers and the culture of white male humor.
In the first half of the 19th century, white men put on cork and acted out black behavior onstage. This became blackface minstrelsy.
In 1822, a white English actor visiting America observed an audience asking a black performer to sing "Pussum up a tree." When the black man didn't comply, the actor put on black cork and sang the song himself. The white public grew up around this form, which was intended to show blacks as small, inferior, despicable and comic.
"Minstrelsy was the first example of the way American popular culture would exploit and manipulate African Americans and their culture in order to please and benefit white Americans," observes Robert Toll, author of "Blackening Up: The Minstrel Show in 19th Century America.''
"Minstrel blacks did not have hair, they had 'wool'; their hair [had] to be filed, not cut," according to Toll.
African American hairstyles have been a subject of discussion since white slave owners took away slaves' African combs. Whore was what many black women were under slavery: If a white man desired her, she became a whore who didn't get paid.
Minstrelsy was a way of allowing whites to live with themselves by venting the pressures of being racist. After the emancipation of blacks, minstrels lost their power.
Minstrelsy served as a release, what the late UC Berkeley folklore Professor Alan Dundes called "the safety-valve function of oral humor."
Imus' show shared a similarity to minstrelsy in form and content. In minstrelsy, the interlocutor acted as the master of ceremony. "With a pompous command of the language, an extensive vocabulary, and a resonant voice, the interlocutor personified dignity, which made the raucous comedy of the endmen even funnier," Toll writes.
Imus' end man was Bernard McGuirk, who, Imus told a "60 Minutes" producer, was hired to tell racial jokes.
Just like Imus' format, minstrelsy mixed racist and obscene humor with commentary on the social issues of that day.
The most appalling result of the Imus' affair is how the literary establishment wilted under his redneck charm. New York Times Book Review editor Sam Tanenhaus was a frequent visitor to the show, where Imus helped market his book on Whittaker Chambers.
"Of course, I was hearing the slurs against black athletes ... and Clarence Thomas ... and the almost continual soundtrack of leering sexual comments," Tanenhaus writes retrospectively. "But I also had been summoned into the exotic presence of mass, or mob, culture, with its populism and prejudices."
This concept of popular culture is what minstrelsy depended upon, a culture of white male humor that is not popular because most people like it but because it is about white men versus the rest of us.
Novelist and author Cecil Brown's most recent work, "Dude, Where's My Black Studies Department: The Disappearance of Black Americans From Our Universities'' (North Atlantic Books), will be available in May.
This article appeared on page F - 2 of the San Francisco Chronicle

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Inter Press--Iran: Lessons in Capture, Release of Britons

POLITICS-IRAN:Lessons in Capture, Release of Britons
Inter Press News Service Agency

Analysis by Jim Lobe

WASHINGTON, Apr 5 (IPS) - The drama surrounding the release of 15 British sailors and marines after 12 days in Iranian captivity was designed to convey two key messages that the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush would do well to heed, say experts here.First, the Britons' original capture by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard near the entry to the disputed Shatt-al-Arab waterway was meant to demonstrate that, despite its conventional military weakness and diplomatic isolation, Iran retains the ability to strike at western interests when it feels sufficiently provoked. Second, when western powers engage Iran with respect and as an equal, they are more likely to get what they want than when they take a confrontational path designed to bully or humiliate the regime. While neither message is likely to be well received either at the White House or among the neo-conservative and other right-wing pundits who have tried hard to depict the incident as the latest sign of Islamic or Persian barbarism, properly understood, they could form the basis of a new approach capable of yielding results, according to Juan Cole, a regional expert at the University of Michigan. ''The British have now opened a channel,'' he told IPS. ''Although this incident really did constitute a crisis -- one that might have escalated to very dangerous levels -- the resolution was diplomatic, and that diplomatic resolution could contain the seeds for future diplomacy, if the British and the Americans are so inclined.'' The announcement on Wednesday, that the sailors and marines were being released in honour of the Prophet Mohammed's forthcoming birthday and the Christian Easter holiday, was made by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who then met with the captives personally. ''Our government has pardoned them; it is a gift from our people,'' he said, adding that the gesture had ''nothing to do'' with Tuesday's release in Iraq of a senior Iranian diplomat who was abducted two months ago reportedly by a special Iraqi intelligence agency that works closely with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). ''We approached the subject on a humanitarian basis. It was a unilateral decision on our end,'' he insisted. Nonetheless, the diplomat's release, as well as reports that Tehran also just received assurances that it would be given consular access to five alleged Revolutionary Guard officers seized by U.S. forces at an Iranian liaison office in Arbil nearly three months ago, suggested that Wednesday's events were more than just coincidence, although both London and Washington, like Ahmadinejad, insisted there were no quid pro quos. ''I personally believe that the U.S. action (in Arbil) .accounts for why Iran chose to stage its capture of the British sailors,'' noted Gary Sick, an Iran expert at Columbia University who served in White House under former President Jimmy Carter. ''Iran appears to have gained something from its pressure tactics.'' That assessment was shared by Trita Parsi, president of the U.S. National Iranian American Council (NIAC). ''By taking the (British) soft targets, the Iranians put pressure on the U.S..'' In addition to collecting bargaining chips, the original capture had other purposes, as well, including rallying nationalist sentiment behind the regime just as it faced the imposition by the UN Security Council of a new round of sanctions for rejecting demands to suspend its uranium enrichment programme. As important, however, was the message Tehran wished to convey to the West that it could indeed respond to what it saw as U.S. provocations in ways that could harm or embarrass its allies. ''In seizing the Iranians, who after all, had been invited by the Iraqi authorities, the Americans were seen as behaving aggressively,'' according to Cole. ''Now, the Iranians have demonstrated that the Anglo-American forces are not in a strong enough position to afford to do these things. They can play tit for tat.'' ''It is a reminder that Iran has quite an array of asymmetrical options available to it to counter indirectly the actions of the U.S. forces in Iraq and elsewhere,'' Sick agreed. At the same time, according to Sick, Tehran's behaviour during much of the crisis -- including both the seizure itself, the precise location of which remains a matter of dispute, and its use of ''confessions'' by the British captives and threats to put them on trial -- will probably have cost it much-needed international support. ''I suspect that recognition of this fact accounts for Iran's desire to end this dispute as promptly as possible,'' said Sick. ''For the same reason, I suspect that this ploy will not be repeated any time soon.'' ''I think the Iranians thought it was better to declare victory and put an end to the crisis before there was any further escalation,'' noted Parsi. At the same time, however, Parsi and other analysts said that the point at which victory could be declared was reached because of important changes in the British approach to the crisis. While London officials have said the turning point came Monday, when Iran's national security chief, Ali Larijani, gave a conciliatory interview to Britain's Channel Four television -- an interview that was followed by a critical conversation between Larijani and Blair's top foreign-policy adviser, Sir Nigel Sheinwald, according to 'The Independent' -- Cole points to a shift in the British stance from one of threats and demands to a more diplomatic approach over the weekend, including confirmation by British Defence Secretary Des Browne that London was ''in direct bilateral communication with the Iranians.'' ''These sorts of incidents are always to some extent about face, and apparently the Iranians felt that when Britain agreed to enter into direct bilateral negotiations, Iran had gained enough face to be magnanimous,'' he said. ''On Sunday, they were admitted as equals, not scolded as little children. That created the opening for (Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali) Khamenei and Ahmadinejad to climb down and save face.'' ''Iranians have been signalling repeatedly, and not just during this crisis, that they will engage diplomatically, but without preconditions and on the basis of equality,'' said William Beeman, an Iran expert at the University of Minnesota. ''So now they say, 'You see, when we have the upper hand, you see how magnanimous we are; we are a charitable, civilized people. We are reasonable. You can talk with us'.'' ''The Iranian message is that if you deal with us respectfully, through incentives, then things can get resolved rather quickly,'' said Parsi. ''If you only resort to force or impose sanctions at the UN Security Council, then you'll only get stuck, and Iran will respond in kind. They're hoping that the West gets the impression that that is the incentive structure through which it can make progress with Iran. Whether that will be understood in the West is obviously a complete different question.'' The Bush administration's relative silence during the crisis may also have conveyed, inadvertently perhaps, another message -- that, despite widespread speculation that its recent military build-up in the Gulf was intended to prepare the grounds for an attack on Iran, it had no wish to do so, at least for the moment. ''The Iranian capture of 15 (British) military personnel could certainly have been used as .a pretext (for a military strike), since it could easily have escalated to a full-fledged military crisis,'' according to Sick. ''I regard the absence of unbridled escalation in this case as a significant indicator that the U.S. desire for a strike may be more muted than it has been portrayed.'' (END/2007)

Monday, April 02, 2007

Attack on Iran is the next step in divide and conquer of Middle East--Daan de Wit

Attack on Iran is the next step in divide and conquer of Middle East

Monday, 02 April 2007
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by Daan de Wit

The Dutch in this article was translated into English by Ben Kearney.

The march towards war with Iran continues unabated. As time goes by, the possibility that Iran will be attacked is not lessening, but growing. It will increase the level of chaos in the Middle East, but the question is whether this is an unfortunate consequence or a means to an end.While expansive war games are being conducted off the Iranian coast and new sanctions are being imposed on Iran, the heat is being turned up in other ways as well. Under the headline US funds terror groups to sow chaos in Iran, The Sunday Telegraph writes: 'In the past year there has been a wave of unrest in ethnic minority border areas of Iran, with bombing and assassination campaigns against soldiers and government officials. [...] Fred Burton, a former US state department counter-terrorism agent, [...] said: "The latest attacks inside Iran fall in line with US efforts to supply and train Iran's ethnic minorities to destabilise the Iranian regime." [...] Funding for their separatist causes comes directly from the CIA's classified budget but is now "no great secret", according to one former high-ranking CIA official in Washington who spoke anonymously to The Sunday Telegraph.' The current situation involving Iran and the 15 British Marines is reminiscent of the situation prior to the Vietnam War, when the U.S. was provoking Vietnam by way of Operation 34A. It was then that the American government seized upon an alleged incident in the Gulf of Tonkin in order to demonstrate Vietnamese agression, after which Congress gave President Johnson its approval to attack the country. For more details see this article by DeepJournal. Also see: Fake Maritime Boundaries, written by Craig Murray, former Head of the Maritime Section of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
U.S. troop build-up in Persian GulfOn Tuesday of last week 'a high-ranking security source' told the Russian RIA Novosti that 'U.S. Naval presence in the Persian Gulf has for the first time in the past four years reached the level that existed shortly before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Col.-Gen. Leonid Ivashov, vice president of the Academy of Geopolitical Sciences, said last week that the Pentagon is planning to deliver a massive air strike on Iran's military infrastructure in the near future.' Professor A. Richard Norton, advisor to the Iraq Study Group, made a good point back in mid-February in reference to the American show of power in the Persian Gulf: 'Remember that in 1990-91 and then again in 2003 the very fact that the United States assembled a formidable array of forces in the Gulf region became an argument for using those forces and launching wars. The United States will soon have two carrier task forces on station, and perhaps a third carrier task force will soon be deployed. It will be difficult for the United States to step down from its combative perch without Iran accepting some fairly significant concessions. While many leading Iranian officials fully understand the gravity of the situation, it is nonetheless possible to imagine a series of real or contrived clashes that lead, perhaps unintentionally, to a serious aerial and naval campaign against Iran. Or - to put it simply - to yet another U.S. war of choice.' Tony Blair in a speech to the U.S. Congress: 'September 11th was not an isolated event, but a tragic prologue. Iraq; another Act; and many further struggles will be set upon this stage before it's over.'Religious strife Middle East: unintended fire to the flames or means to an end?From the moment he first gained any significance, right up until his death, the life of Saddam Hussein was intertwined with the West, as I wrote previously. Saddam provided his country with the order that the West desired, and together they saw how the country descended into chaos following the overthrow of the Baath regime. There are different viewpoints circulating as to how the Bush administration might be able to create order in Iraq. Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh sees what he calls 'the redirection' of the Bush Administration: Out of fear for Shiite Iran, the U.S. would actively support the Sunnis in the region. Previously it were the Iraqi Shiites who received their support, to the detriment of the Sunni minority, which in general is seen as the core of the Iraqi resistance. The question though is whether or not there is any discussion of an adjustment to American plans. On the one hand, the fact that American plans have been frustrated by the resistance could indeed be an explanation for a reevaluation, but it could also be an explanation for the fact that, contrary to all predictions, Iran hasn't been attacked yet (the newest predictions are talking about this month). On the other hand, there are indications that the discord that exists between the two Muslim groups is the result of a preconceived plan: divide and conquer, culminating in an evenly divided future Middle East. And while two dogs are fighting for a bone... If there really is a 'Redirection', then the U.S. will end up profiting from the divisions that it itself brought about which resulted from the decision, often described as a blunder, to dismiss the constituent Sunni elements of the police and army en masse. In response to the Sunni insurgency, the Shiites were supported by the U.S. from the beginning. They received military support via Task Force 121, a team of specialists from Special Operations and the CIA. Additional American support came in the form of the coordination and cultivation of a large Iraqi militia. It may be this group that called itself 'Black Flag' in 2004 and took the fight to the insurgents. The resulting internecine conflict between the two Muslim groups not only divided Iraq, but it also put pressure on the situation in the region. Questions surrounding attack on Golden MosqueA relatively important moment in the fighting between the Sunnis and the Shiites was the attack on the Golden Mosque in February of 2006. Directly following the destruction of the Shiite mosque, 27 Sunni mosques were attacked and three Sunni imams were killed. Hundreds, if not thousands of people have died as a result of the attack. The strike seemed to be a clearcut case, but further examination raises questions as to who the actual perpetrators of the attack were. The suggestion is now being made that Western specialists were involved. Jassem Mohammed Jaafar, at that time Construction minister, said on Iraqi television: '"According to initial reports, the bombing was technically well conceived and could only have been carried out by specialists"', to which he added that the placement of the explosives had to have taken at least twelve hours. Jafaar: '[...] "holes were dug into the mausoleum's four main pillars and packed with explosives." "Then the charges were connected together and linked to another charge placed just under the dome. The wires were then linked to a detonator which was triggered at a distance'. These statements were borne out by the account of the caretaker of the mosque, as noted by The New York Times: 'The night before the explosion, he said, just before the 8 p.m. curfew on Feb. 21, 2006, on the Western calendar, men dressed in commando uniforms like those issued by the Interior Ministry entered the shrine. The caretaker said he had been beaten, tied up and locked in a room. Throughout the night, he said, he could hear the sound of drilling as the attackers positioned the explosives, apparently in such a way as to inflict maximum damage on the dome. [...] I can describe what was done as exactly like what happened to the World Trade Center," he said. "Bad people used this incident to divide Iraq on a detestable sectarian basis."' Journalist Mike Whitney writes: 'Eyewitness accounts verify that American troops and Iraqi National Guard were active in the area throughout the night and that their cars could be heard running "the whole night until next morning". People living around the mosque were told "to stay in your shop and don't leave the area". At 6:30 AM the American troops left, just 10 minutes before the bombs went off.' '"There are forces seeking to prevent democracy and obstruct the peaceful political and economic development of Iraq. They seek to achieve their goals in a number of ways. But, as I said before, promoting sectarian violence is one of them. There's nothing new here"', according to American spokesperson Adam Ereli. Pro-Sunni clandestine operations in and around IranAccording to Seymour Hersh, American foreign policy as it relates to Iran - based as it is on the mutual strife between Sunnis and Shiites - has been completely overturned. In his latest article The Redirection, he writes: 'The new strategy "is a major shift in American policy-it's a sea change," a U.S. government consultant with close ties to Israel said.' He makes the argument that the rise of the Shiites in Iraq, combined with a powerful Shiite Iran no longer held in check by the threat of Saddam's Sunni-controlled army, has sent chills through Sunni countries in the region, such as Saudi Arabia: 'The Sunni states "were petrified of a Shiite resurgence, and there was growing resentment with our gambling on the moderate Shiites in Iraq," he said. "We cannot reverse the Shiite gain in Iraq, but we can contain it."' According to Hersh this fear explains the readiness of the Saudis to contribute financially to the clandestine pro-Sunni support operations: 'The clandestine operations have been kept secret, in some cases, by leaving the execution or the funding to the Saudis, or by finding other ways to work around the normal congressional appropriations process, current and former officials close to the Administration said.' The money comes in part from the Saudis, and the execution of the operations takes place under the guidance of Vice-President Dick Cheney: '[...] former and current officials said that the clandestine side has been guided by Cheney. [...] American military and special-operations teams have escalated their activities in Iran to gather intelligence [...]'. Read more about clandestine operations in Iran in part 4 (October 2005) of this DeepJournal series.A new Cold War in the Middle EastThe divisions between Sunni and Shiite groups could be the beginning of a new Cold War in the Middle East. Following the Cold War against communism and during the subsequent War on Terror, a new war could now arise between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. 'Martin Indyk, a senior State Department official in the Clinton Administration who also served as Ambassador to Israel, said that "the Middle East is heading into a serious Sunni-Shiite Cold War." Indyk, who is the director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, added that, in his opinion, it was not clear whether the White House was fully aware of the strategic implications of its new policy', writes Hersh. But just as with the Cold War, the War on Terror and the new religious divisions, the question is whether the U.S. is the victim or the perpetrator. Whichever the case may be, both Muslim groups are battling each other while Iran as a target is getting more and more in the picture, just as a relatively safe Israel, surrounded by a patchwork quilt of small and fragmented statelets in an oil-rich region. Influence of the Democratic majority on Bush AdministrationSome are pinning their hopes on the Democrats - who now hold a majority in Congress - to avert a military conflict with Iran. But their recent history doesn't offer much in the way of hope. In the years following the 9/11 attacks, they remained silent while the new media amassed fact upon fact, chipping away at the official conspiracy theory of what happened on and around September 11th. The Democratic party didn't exactly stand in the way of the radical legislation which came in the wake of 9/11 either, and what's more, they used the first hundred hours of their majority in Congress to adopt into law the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, whose findings were taken apart piece by piece by Professor David Ray Griffin in his book The New Pearl Harbor. And as to the question of what the most relevant Democrats are saying about Iran - the answer is disappointing. Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama have all made clear that they are not opposed to military action against Iran. DNC Chairman Howard Dean was quite clear at the beginning of last year: '[...] under no circumstances will a Democratic Administration ever allow Iran to become a nuclear power.' One year later he called the Iran of now a greater danger than the Iraq of then. Meanwhile Clinton is making similar statements, but feels that if Bush wants to declare war on Iran he should definitely ask Congress for approval. According to Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, this isn't necessary; under pressure from the Israeli lobby she has introduced legislation ensuring that Bush doesn't have to do this. The Democrats are echoing the rhetoric of the Republican administration. Under the motto 'Don't Let the People Who Brought Us Iraq Define the Questions' Paul Pillar, 'a former national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia, [who] teaches security studies at Georgetown University' is advising first and foremost to ask the right questions, such as: 'If Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons, how would that change its behavior and affect U.S. interests? In particular, why would deterrence, which has kept nuclear peace with other adversaries, not work with Iran?'In spite of democracy, small group dictatesWith the appropriate questions not being posed, and with the Democrats having begged off and the build-up to the coming war with Iran only now in this late stage getting the full attention of the Western media, it remains as clear as ever that a small group of extremists - an elite of the elite - are once again prepared to take the world one step further on a path above which most people see only dark clouds gathering. Speaking of this small group of people who have no fear of the gathering storm and who see a shiny pot of gold at the end of it, former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski said to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: 'I am perplexed by the fact that major strategic decisions seem to be made within a very narrow circle of individuals - just a few, probably a handful, perhaps not more than the fingers on my hand. And these are the individuals, all of whom but one, who made the original decision to go to war [with Iraq], and used the original justifications to go to war.' One thing that comes to mind while listening to Brzezinski is a quote taken down by New York Times reporter Ron Suskind that came from the mouth of a White House aide: Suskind writes: 'The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''' Vanity Fair sums up this idea as it translates into the situation with Iran in a long article with a short headline: From the Wonderful Folks Who Brought You Iraq.Fundamentalist leadership in both U.S. and IranIn his testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Brzezinski underscores a view held on the role that the U.S. has played in the rise of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's star: 'Our policy has unintentionally - I hope unintentionally, maybe it was develishly clever, but I think unintentionally - helped Ahmadinejad consolidate himself in power and excercised a degree of influence which actually his position doesn't justify. Most Americans when they say president Ahmadinejad, they think he is the equivalent of president Bush, he is not, he is roughly a third level official, who doesn't even control the military resources of the country.' In comparing Bush and Ahmadinejad, investigative journalist Jim Lobe was compelled to make a side-by-side product comparison which brought him to the conclusion: Bush and Ahmadinejad: separated at birth?One of the similarities between the two leaders lies in their fundamental character. Bush's image, which along with that of the U.S. has taken a beating, is that of the democratic, Christian leader of the free world. That's why he is supported by the Moral Majority in the U.S. The same moral theme can also be seen in Dutch Prime Minister Balkenende. Upon further inspection there are a few things to take note of regarding the exacting image of both gentlemen. Balkenende preaches norms and values, but then does the opposite by refusing to publicly state the reason that The Netherlands sent soldiers to Iraq. Balkenende reconfirms the hypocritical image of fundamentalist Christians. This image is also shaped - alongside the sex abuse scandals in the Church - by George W. Bush, a man who while governor of Texas held the record for death sentences handed out, who now feels that torture is necessary, and who could be held responsible for thousands of American deaths and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi victims. And that's just to name a few. Bush is facilitated by the conservative Christian Erik Prince, director of Blackwater, the most important supplier of mercenaries for Iraq. These leaders of the Moral Majority would nevertheless be nowhere without the Silent Majority, the much more moderate sectors of the population of the U.S. and The Netherlands, for example. While the silence of the Silent Majority and the actions of the Moral Majority keep the wars coming, the conservative Christians, through their active support for Bush and Israel, seem to be eager to bring on exactly that which their guidebook - The Bible - warns against: a great battle in the Middle East which would usher in the End Times. President Ahmadinejad echoes this vision of the so-called 'End Times' held by the millions of Christians who support Bush; just like them, his view of the future is none too gloomy because he also foresees a final battle and above all redemption for mankind: 'French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy has quoted Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad as saying that one should really hope for "chaos" because "there will be God" afterward. [...] Ahmadinejad has also called for the return of al-Mahdi, a messiah-like figure in Shi'ite Islam, whose reappearance is supposed to restore justice before the end of the world', writes AFP. In this way he's on the same wavelength as the millions of readers of the Left Behind series, which foresees a miraculous catching up of all true Christian believers prior to the apocalypse. Influential Christians such as Joel Rosenberg, whose books are recommended on the Left Behind website, interpret what they read in the newspaper the same way they interpret the Bible, and see in the news the fulfillment of age-old prophecies: '[...] what is particularly curious about the emergence of an even stronger Iran-Sudan alliance this week is that it was foretold 2,500 years ago by the Hebrew Prophet Ezekiel in chapters 38 and 39'. To this statement he adds an article from Haaretz, in which it talks about how 'several Orthodox Jewish groups in Israel are currently making preparations to build and outfit the Third Temple', after which he refers to the title of chapter 13 from his book Epicenter: Future Headline: Jews build third temple in Jerusalem. In a recent contribution, Rosenberg writes: 'I've written before that 2007 is the Year of Decision. But is April about to become the "month of decision"?' How dangerous is Iran?The Iranian economy is weak, and as opposed to the U.S. and Israel, Iran has no history of initiating wars (the war with Iraq was the result of an attack by Saddam that was spurred on by the U.S.). Ahmadinejad says that he doesn't want war, and in part 14 of this series it was also shown how he was incorrectly quoted and doesn't want to wipe Israel off the map. While the U.S. is refusing offers of negotiations (1, 2) with Iran, Iran is allowing UN-inspectors to investigate their nuclear program, though they restricted their cooperation recently, and as opposed to the U.S. and Israel, Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. On the other hand Ahmadinejad did organize a conference to promote research into the Holocaust, and he might be lying about his belief that his faith forbids the production of a nuclear weapon. Depending on which cleric you ask, a nuclear weapon would actually be permitted, so long as it is not used offensively (in contrary to the U.S. view). And then there is Iran's support for Hezbollah. When it comes to the facts, there are different ways of looking at it: 'Iran's control over Hezbollah has been steadily declining since approximately 1996, during the reformist presidency of Mohammad Khatami. Money does continue to come "from Iran" to support Hezbollah, but not the Iranian government. Instead, it's private religious foundations that direct the bulk of support, primarily to Hezbollah's charitable activities. [...] the most important reason for not targeting Iran for the continued fighting in Lebanon is that this conflict is antithetical to Iran's interests. [...] If a state is needed to explain the continued existence of groups like Hezbollah, then Iran is an ideal candidate. Ergo, the connection must exist. Such claims serve to bolster the central, but fallacious, political doctrine for the Bush administration that the Global War on Terrorism really exists', writes Professor of Anthropology and Middle East Studies at Brown University, William O. Beeman, author of the book The "Great Satan" vs. the "Mad Mullahs": How the United States and Iran Demonize Each Other.