“A petrodollar is a dollar earned by selling petroleum. Petrodollars flow into members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) at a steady rate, and flow out at an almost equally steady rate as these countries invest petrodollars overseas. In fact, often money makes a round trip, flowing from a country like the United States to an OPEC member which in turn reinvests the funds in the United States. Prices for oil sales are generally given in United States Dollars (USD). In 1973, economist Ibrahim Oweiss wanted to come up with a term to describe the large volumes of currency changing hands as a result of oil sales. He coined the portmanteau “petrodollar,” referring to “petroleum” and the United States Dollar. People also use the term “oil money” or “petrocurrency” to describe petrodollars, although “petrocurrency” is also sometimes confusingly used to refer to the currency used by an oil producing country.

At various points in history, OPEC members have literally made more petrodollars than they knew what to do with. Rising oil prices resulted in such a flood of currency that these countries were unable to invest it on internal development projects. As a result, many nations started engaging in a practice known as petrodollar recycling, in which they promptly reinvest the currency in banks in regions like Europe and North America. Changes in oil prices can lead to ebbs and flows in the movement of the petrodollar and in the investment funds available to OPEC members. Some of these nations rely heavily on income from oil sales and are placed at a disadvantage when prices are depressed. In regions such as Dubai, the profound impact of petroleum sales on regional economies can be seen firsthand in the form of extravagant and rapid development reflecting the increasing wealth of some members of the population.

While the bulk of oil sales are conducted in USD and prices are quoted in USD, some countries have opted to sell in other currencies. The dominance of the USD in global commerce is credited in part to the petrodollar, and some theorists have suggested that changing economic trends may result in petrodollar warfare, in which there will be a push to denominate oil sales in other currencies. If, for example, the world switched to the petroeuro, based on the currency of the European Union, the United States Dollar might weaken as a result.”

Investment Management industry, 2003 — Present (7 years )
“I created and ran a privately-held blackbox hedge fund based off of a proprietary, in-house FIX protocol implementation. We cribbed custom algorithms from bioinformatics, were the first to apply autocorrelation attacks to the market, and first to apply wavelets to price stochastics. As part of the management of this fund, we created our own international shipping arm to ease exploitation of petrodollar/petroeuro arbitrage. The chief chunks of our fund are global macro, managed futures and short bias, but you name it– options, swaps, rate agreements, bonds– we trade it in the course of a given week.”

Petrodollar warfare: Dollars, Euros and the upcoming Iranian oil bourse
by William R. Clark / August 05 2005

“This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous…Having said that, all options are on the table.” — President George W. Bush, February 2005

Contemporary warfare has traditionally involved underlying conflicts regarding economics and resources. Today these intertwined conflicts also involve international currencies, and thus increased complexity. Current geopolitical tensions between the United States and Iran extend beyond the publicly stated concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear intentions, and likely include a proposed Iranian “petroeuro” system for oil trade. Similar to the Iraq war, military operations against Iran relate to the macroeconomics of ‘petrodollar recycling’ and the unpublicized but real challenge to U.S. dollar supremacy from the euro as an alternative oil transaction currency.

It is now obvious the invasion of Iraq had less to do with any threat from Saddam’s long-gone WMD program and certainly less to do to do with fighting International terrorism than it has to do with gaining strategic control over Iraq’s hydrocarbon reserves and in doing so maintain the U.S. dollar as the monopoly currency for the critical international oil market. Throughout 2004 information provided by former administration insiders revealed the Bush/Cheney administration entered into office with the intention of toppling Saddam.[1][2] Candidly stated, ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’ was a war designed to install a pro-U.S. government in Iraq, establish multiple U.S military bases before the onset of global Peak Oil, and to reconvert Iraq back to petrodollars while hoping to thwart further OPEC momentum towards the euro as an alternative oil transaction currency ( i.e. “petroeuro”).[3] However, subsequent geopolitical events have exposed neoconservative strategy as fundamentally flawed, with Iran moving towards a petroeuro system for international oil trades, while Russia evaluates this option with the European Union.

In 2003 the global community witnessed a combination of petrodollar warfare and oil depletion warfare. The majority of the world’s governments – especially the E.U., Russia and China – were not amused – and neither are the U.S. soldiers who are currently stationed inside a hostile Iraq. In 2002 I wrote an award-winning online essay that asserted Saddam Hussein sealed his fate when he announced on September 2000 that Iraq was no longer going to accept dollars for oil being sold under the UN’s Oil-for-Food program, and decided to switch to the euro as Iraq’s oil export currency.[4] Indeed, my original pre-war hypothesis was validated in a Financial Times article dated June 5, 2003, which confirmed Iraqi oil sales returning to the international markets were once again denominated in U.S. dollars – not euros.

The tender, for which bids are due by June 10, switches the transaction back to dollars — the international currency of oil sales – despite the greenback’s recent fall in value. Saddam Hussein in 2000 insisted Iraq’s oil be sold for euros, a political move, but one that improved Iraq’s recent earnings thanks to the rise in the value of the euro against the dollar. [5]

The Bush administration implemented this currency transition despite the adverse impact on profits from Iraqi’s export oil sales.[6] (In mid-2003 the euro was valued approx. 13% higher than the dollar, and thus significantly impacted the ability of future oil proceeds to rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure). Not surprisingly, this detail has never been mentioned in the five U.S. major media conglomerates who control 90% of information flow in the U.S., but confirmation of this vital fact provides insight into one of the crucial – yet overlooked – rationales for 2003 the Iraq war.

Concerning Iran, recent articles have revealed active Pentagon planning for operations against its suspected nuclear facilities. While the publicly stated reasons for any such overt action will be premised as a consequence of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, there are again unspoken macroeconomic drivers underlying the second stage of petrodollar warfare – Iran’s upcoming oil bourse. (The word bourse refers to a stock exchange for securities trading, and is derived from the French stock exchange in Paris, the Federation Internationale des Bourses de Valeurs.)

In essence, Iran is about to commit a far greater “offense” than Saddam Hussein’s conversion to the euro for Iraq’s oil exports in the fall of 2000. Beginning in March 2006, the Tehran government has plans to begin competing with New York’s NYMEX and London’s IPE with respect to international oil trades – using a euro-based international oil-trading mechanism.[7] The proposed Iranian oil bourse signifies that without some sort of US intervention, the euro is going to establish a firm foothold in the international oil trade. Given U.S. debt levels and the stated neoconservative project of U.S. global domination, Tehran’s objective constitutes an obvious encroachment on dollar supremacy in the crucial international oil market.

From the autumn of 2004 through August 2005, numerous leaks by concerned Pentagon employees have revealed that the neoconservatives in Washington are quietly – but actively – planning for a possible attack against Iran. In September 2004 Newsweek reported:

Deep in the Pentagon, admirals and generals are updating plans for possible U.S. military action in Syria and Iran. The Defense Department unit responsible for military planning for the two troublesome countries is “busier than ever,” an administration official says. Some Bush advisers characterize the work as merely an effort to revise routine plans the Pentagon maintains for all contingencies in light of the Iraq war. More skittish bureaucrats say the updates are accompanied by a revived campaign by administration conservatives and neocons for more hard-line U.S. policies toward the countries…’

…administration hawks are pinning their hopes on regime change in Tehran – by covert means, preferably, but by force of arms if necessary. Papers on the idea have circulated inside the administration, mostly labeled “draft” or “working draft” to evade congressional subpoena powers and the Freedom of Information Act. Informed sources say the memos echo the administration’s abortive Iraq strategy: oust the existing regime, swiftly install a pro-U.S. government in its place (extracting the new regime’s promise to renounce any nuclear ambitions) and get out. This daredevil scheme horrifies U.S. military leaders, and there’s no evidence that it has won any backers at the cabinet level. [8]

Indeed, there are good reasons for U.S. military commanders to be ‘horrified’ at the prospects of attacking Iran. In the December 2004 issue of the Atlantic Monthly, James Fallows reported that numerous high-level war-gaming sessions had recently been completed by Sam Gardiner, a retired Air Force colonel who has run war games at the National War College for the past two decades.[9] Col. Gardiner summarized the outcome of these war games with this statement, “After all this effort, I am left with two simple sentences for policymakers: You have no military solution for the issues of Iran. And you have to make diplomacy work.” Despite Col. Gardiner’s warnings, yet another story appeared in early 2005 that reiterated this administration’s intentions towards Iran. Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh’s article in The New Yorker included interviews with various high-level U.S. intelligence sources. Hersh wrote:

In my interviews [with former high-level intelligence officials], I was repeatedly told that the next strategic target was Iran. Everyone is saying, ‘You can’t be serious about targeting Iran. Look at Iraq,’ the former [CIA] intelligence official told me. But the [Bush administration officials] say, ‘We’ve got some lessons learned – not militarily, but how we did it politically. We’re not going to rely on agency pissants.’ No loose ends, and that’s why the C.I.A. is out of there. [10]

The most recent, and by far the most troubling, was an article in The American Conservative by intelligence analyst Philip Giraldi. His article, “In Case of Emergency, Nuke Iran,” suggested the resurrection of active U.S. military planning against Iran – but with the shocking disclosure that in the event of another 9/11-type terrorist attack on U.S. soil, Vice President Dick Cheney’s office wants the Pentagon to be prepared to launch a potential tactical nuclear attack on Iran – even if the Iranian government was not involved with any such terrorist attack against the U.S.:

The Pentagon, acting under instructions from Vice President Dick Cheney’s office, has tasked the United States Strategic Command (STRATCOM) with drawing up a contingency plan to be employed in response to another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States. The plan includes a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons. Within Iran there are more than 450 major strategic targets, including numerous suspected nuclear-weapons-program development sites. Many of the targets are hardened or are deep underground and could not be taken out by conventional weapons, hence the nuclear option. As in the case of Iraq, the response is not conditional on Iran actually being involved in the act of terrorism directed against the United States. Several senior Air Force officers involved in the planning are reportedly appalled at the implications of what they are doing – that Iran is being set up for an unprovoked nuclear attack – but no one is prepared to damage his career by posing any objections. [11]

Why would the Vice President instruct the U.S. military to prepare plans for what could likely be an unprovoked nuclear attack against Iran? Setting aside the grave moral implications for a moment, it is remarkable to note that during the same week this “nuke Iran” article appeared, the Washington Post reported that the most recent National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) of Iran’s nuclear program revealed that, “Iran is about a decade away from manufacturing the key ingredient for a nuclear weapon, roughly doubling the previous estimate of five years.”[12] This article carefully noted this assessment was a “consensus among U.S. intelligence agencies, [and in] contrast with forceful public statements by the White House.” The question remains, Why would the Vice President advocate a possible tactical nuclear attack against Iran in the event of another major terrorist attack against the U.S. – even if Tehran was innocent of involvement?

Perhaps one of the answers relates to the same obfuscated reasons why the U.S. launched an unprovoked invasion to topple the Iraq government – macroeconomics and the desperate desire to maintain U.S. economic supremacy. In essence, petrodollar hegemony is eroding, which will ultimately force the U.S. to significantly change its current tax, debt, trade, and energy policies, all of which are severely unbalanced. World oil production is reportedly “flat out,” and yet the neoconservatives are apparently willing to undertake huge strategic and tactical risks in the Persian Gulf. Why? Quite simply – their stated goal is U.S. global domination – at any cost.

To date, one of the more difficult technical obstacles concerning a euro-based oil transaction trading system is the lack of a euro-denominated oil pricing standard, or oil ‘marker’ as it is referred to in the industry. The three current oil markers are U.S. dollar denominated, which include the West Texas Intermediate crude (WTI), Norway Brent crude, and the UAE Dubai crude. However, since the summer of 2003 Iran has required payments in the euro currency for its European and Asian/ACU exports – although the oil pricing these trades was still denominated in the dollar.[13]

Therefore a potentially significant news story was reported in June 2004 announcing Iran’s intentions to create of an Iranian oil bourse. This announcement portended competition would arise between the Iranian oil bourse and London’s International Petroleum Exchange (IPE), as well as the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX). [Both the IPE and NYMEX are owned by U.S. consortium, and operated by an Atlanta-based corporation, IntercontinentalExchange, Inc.]

The macroeconomic implications of a successful Iranian bourse are noteworthy. Considering that in mid-2003 Iran switched its oil payments from E.U. and ACU customers to the euro, and thus it is logical to assume the proposed Iranian bourse will usher in a fourth crude oil marker – denominated in the euro currency. This event would remove the main technical obstacle for a broad-based petroeuro system for international oil trades. From a purely economic and monetary perspective, a petroeuro system is a logical development given that the European Union imports more oil from OPEC producers than does the U.S., and the E.U. accounted for 45% of exports sold to the Middle East. (Following the May 2004 enlargement, this percentage likely increased).

Despite the complete absence of coverage from the five U.S. corporate media conglomerates, these foreign news stories suggest one of the Federal Reserve’s nightmares may begin to unfold in the spring of 2006, when it appears that international buyers will have a choice of buying a barrel of oil for $60 dollars on the NYMEX and IPE – or purchase a barrel of oil for €45 – €50 euros via the Iranian Bourse. This assumes the euro maintains its current 20-25% appreciated value relative to the dollar – and assumes that some sort of US “intervention” is not launched against Iran. The upcoming bourse will introduce petrodollar versus petroeuro currency hedging, and fundamentally new dynamics to the biggest market in the world – global oil and gas trades. In essence, the U.S. will no longer be able to effortlessly expand credit via U.S. Treasury bills, and the dollar’s demand/liquidity value will fall.

It is unclear at the time of writing if this project will be successful, or could it prompt overt or covert U.S. interventions – thereby signaling the second phase of petrodollar warfare in the Middle East. Regardless of the potential U.S. response to an Iranian petroeuro system, the emergence of an oil exchange market in the Middle East is not entirely surprising given the domestic peaking and decline of oil exports in the U.S. and U.K, in comparison to the remaining oil reserves in Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. What we are witnessing is a battle for oil currency supremacy. If Iran’s oil bourse becomes a successful alternative for international oil trades, it would challenge the hegemony currently enjoyed by the financial centers in both London (IPE) and New York (NYMEX), a factor not overlooked in the following (UK) Guardian article:

Iran is to launch an oil trading market for Middle East and Opec producers that could threaten the supremacy of London’s International Petroleum Exchange.

…Some industry experts have warned the Iranians and other OPEC producers that western exchanges are controlled by big financial and oil corporations, which have a vested interest in market volatility. [emphasis added]

The IPE, bought in 2001 by a consortium that includes BP, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, was unwilling to discuss the Iranian move yesterday. “We would not have any comment to make on it at this stage,” said an IPE spokeswoman. [14]

During an important speech in April 2002, Mr. Javad Yarjani, an OPEC executive, described three pivotal events that would facilitate an OPEC transition to euros.[15] He stated this would be based on (1) if and when Norway’s Brent crude is re-dominated in euros, (2) if and when the U.K. adopts the euro, and (3) whether or not the euro gains parity valuation relative to the dollar, and the EU’s proposed expansion plans were successful. Notably, both of the later two criteria have transpired: the euro’s valuation has been above the dollar since late 2002, and the euro-based E.U. enlarged in May 2004 from 12 to 22 countries. Despite recent “no” votes by French and Dutch voters regarding a common E.U. Constitution, from a macroeconomic perspective, these domestic disagreements do no reduce the euro currency’s trajectory in the global financial markets – and from Russia and OPEC’s perspective – do not adversely impact momentum towards a petroeuro. In the meantime, the U.K. remains uncomfortably juxtaposed between the financial interests of the U.S. banking nexus (New York/Washington) and the E.U. financial centers (Paris/Frankfurt).

The most recent news reports indicate the oil bourse will start trading on March 20, 2006, coinciding with the Iranian New Year.[16] The implementation of the proposed Iranian oil Bourse – if successful in utilizing the euro as its oil transaction currency standard – essentially negates the previous two criteria as described by Mr. Yarjani regarding the solidification of a petroeuro system for international oil trades. It should also be noted that throughout 2003-2004 both Russia and China significantly increased their central bank holdings of the euro, which appears to be a coordinated move to facilitate the anticipated ascendance of the euro as a second World Reserve Currency. [17] [18] China’s announcement in July 2005 that is was re-valuing the yuan/RNB was not nearly as important as its decision to divorce itself form a U.S. dollar peg by moving towards a “basket of currencies” – likely to include the yen, euro, and dollar.[19] Additionally, the Chinese re-valuation immediately lowered their monthly imported “oil bill” by 2%, given that oil trades are still priced in dollars, but it is unclear how much longer this monopoly arrangement will last.

Furthermore, the geopolitical stakes for the Bush administration were raised dramatically on October 28, 2004, when Iran and China signed a huge oil and gas trade agreement (valued between $70 – $100 billion dollars.) [20] It should also be noted that China currently receives 13% of its oil imports from Iran. In the aftermath of the Iraq invasion, the U.S.-administered Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) nullified previous oil lease contracts from 1997-2002 that France, Russia, China and other nations had established under the Saddam regime. The nullification of these contracts worth a reported $1.1 trillion created political tensions between the U.S and the European Union, Russia and China. The Chinese government may fear the same fate awaits their oil investments in Iran if the U.S. were able to attack and topple the Tehran government. Despite U.S. desires to enforce petrodollar hegemony, the geopolitical risks of an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would surely create a serious crisis between Washington and Beijing.

It is increasingly clear that a confrontation and possible war with Iran may transpire during the second Bush term. Clearly, there are numerous tactical risks regarding neoconservative strategy towards Iran. First, unlike Iraq, Iran has a robust military capability. Secondly, a repeat of any “Shock and Awe” tactics is not advisable given that Iran has installed sophisticated anti-ship missiles on the Island of Abu Musa, and therefore controls the critical Strait of Hormuz – where all of the Persian Gulf bound oil tankers must pass.[22] The immediate question for Americans? Will the neoconservatives attempt to intervene covertly and/or overtly in Iran during 2005 or 2006 in a desperate effort to prevent the initiation of euro-denominated international crude oil sales? Commentators in India are quite correct in their assessment that a U.S. intervention in Iran is likely to prove disastrous for the United States, making matters much worse regarding international terrorism, not to the mention potential effects on the U.S. economy.

…If it [ U.S.] intervenes again, it is absolutely certain it will not be able to improve the situation…There is a better way, as the constructive engagement of Libya’s Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has shown…Iran is obviously a more complex case than Libya, because power resides in the clergy, and Iran has not been entirely transparent about its nuclear programme, but the sensible way is to take it gently, and nudge it to moderation. Regime change will only worsen global Islamist terror, and in any case, Saudi Arabia is a fitter case for democratic intervention, if at all. [21]

A successful Iranian bourse will solidify the petroeuro as an alternative oil transaction currency, and thereby end the petrodollar’s hegemonic status as the monopoly oil currency. Therefore, a graduated approach is needed to avoid precipitous U.S. economic dislocations. Multilateral compromise with the EU and OPEC regarding oil currency is certainly preferable to an ‘Operation Iranian Freedom,’ or perhaps another CIA-backed coup such as operation “Ajax” from 1953. Despite the impressive power of the U.S. military, and the ability of our intelligence agencies to facilitate ‘interventions,’ it would be perilous and possibly ruinous for the U.S. to intervene in Iran given the dire situation in Iraq. The Monterey Institute of International Studies warned of the possible consequences of a preemptive attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities:

An attack on Iranian nuclear facilities…could have various adverse effects on U.S. interests in the Middle East and the world. Most important, in the absence of evidence of an Iranian illegal nuclear program, an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities by the U.S. or Israel would be likely to strengthen Iran’s international stature and reduce the threat of international sanctions against Iran. [23]

It is not yet clear if a U.S. military expedition will occur in a desperate attempt to maintain petrodollar supremacy. Regardless of the recent National Intelligence Estimate that down-played Iran’s potential nuclear weapons program, it appears increasingly likely the Bush administration may use the specter of nuclear weapon proliferation as a pretext for an intervention, similar to the fears invoked in the previous WMD campaign regarding Iraq. If recent stories are correct regarding Cheney’s plan to possibly use a another 9/11 terrorist attack as the pretext or casus belli for a U.S. aerial attack against Iran, this would confirm the Bush administration is prepared to undertake a desperate military strategy to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions, while simultaneously attempting to prevent the Iranian oil Bourse from initiating a euro-based system for oil trades.

However, as members of the U.N. Security Council; China, Russia and E.U. nations such as France and Germany would likely veto any U.S.-sponsored U.N. Security Resolution calling the use of force without solid proof of Iranian culpability in a major terrorist attack. A unilateral U.S. military strike on Iran would isolate the U.S. government in the eyes of the world community, and it is conceivable that such an overt action could provoke other industrialized nations to strategically abandon the dollar en masse. Indeed, such an event would create pressure for OPEC or Russia to move towards a petroeuro system in an effort to cripple the U.S. economy and its global military presence. I refer to this in my book as the “rogue nation hypothesis.”

While central bankers throughout the world community would be extremely reluctant to ‘dump the dollar,’ the reasons for any such drastic reaction are likely straightforward from their perspective – the global community is dependent on the oil and gas energy supplies found in the Persian Gulf. Hence, industrialized nations would likely move in tandem on the currency exchange markets in an effort to thwart the neoconservatives from pursuing their desperate strategy of dominating the world’s largest hydrocarbon energy supply. Any such efforts that resulted in a dollar currency crisis would be undertaken – not to cripple the U.S. dollar and economy as punishment towards the American people per se – but rather to thwart further unilateral warfare and its potentially destructive effects on the critical oil production and shipping infrastructure in the Persian Gulf. Barring a U.S. attack, it appears imminent that Iran’s euro-denominated oil bourse will open in March 2006. Logically, the most appropriate U.S. strategy is compromise with the E.U. and OPEC towards a dual-currency system for international oil trades.

Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes…known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few…No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare. — James Madison, Political Observations, 1795

[1]. Ron Suskind, The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O’ Neill, Simon & Schuster publishers (2004)
[2]. Richard A. Clarke, Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror, Free Press (2004)
[3]. William Clark, “Revisited – The Real Reasons for the Upcoming War with Iraq: A Macroeconomic and Geostrategic Analysis of the Unspoken Truth,” January 2003 (updated January 2004)
[4]. Peter Philips, Censored 2004, The Top 25 Censored News Stories, Seven Stories Press, (2003) General website for Project Censored: Story #19: U.S. Dollar vs. the Euro: Another Reason for the Invasion of Iraq
[5]. Carol Hoyos and Kevin Morrison, “Iraq returns to the international oil market,” Financial Times, June 5, 2003
[6]. Faisal Islam, “Iraq nets handsome profit by dumping dollar for euro,” [UK] Guardian, February 16, 2003,12239,896344,00.html
[7]. “Oil bourse closer to reality,”, December 28, 2004. Also see: “Iran oil bourse wins authorization,” Tehran Times, July 26, 2005
[8]. “War-Gaming the Mullahs: The U.S. weighs the price of a pre-emptive strike,” Newsweek, September 27 issue, 2004.
[9]. James Fallows, ‘Will Iran be Next?,’ Atlantic Monthly, December 2004, pgs. 97 – 110
[10]. Seymour Hersh, “The Coming Wars,” The New Yorker, January 24th – 31st issue, 2005, pgs. 40-47 Posted online January 17, 2005. Online:
[11]. Philip Giraldi, “In Case of Emergency, Nuke Iran,” American Conservative, August 1, 2005
[12]. Dafina Linzer, “Iran Is Judged 10 Years From Nuclear Bomb U.S. Intelligence Review Contrasts With Administration Statements,” Washington Post, August 2, 2005; Page A01
[13]. C. Shivkumar, “Iran offers oil to Asian union on easier terms,” The Hindu Business Line (June 16, ` 2003). 2003061702380500.htm
[14]. Terry Macalister, “Iran takes on west’s control of oil trading,” The [UK] Guardian, June 16, 2004,3604,1239644,00.html
[15]. “The Choice of Currency for the Denomination of the Oil Bill,” Speech given by Javad Yarjani, Head of OPEC’s Petroleum Market Analysis Dept, on The International Role of the Euro (Invited by the Spanish Minister of Economic Affairs during Spain’s Presidency of the EU) (April 14, 2002, Oviedo, Spain)
[16]. “Iran’s oil bourse expects to start by early 2006,” Reuters, October 5, 2004
[17]. “Russia shifts to euro as foreign currency reserves soar,” AFP, June 9, 2003
[18]. “China to diversify foreign exchange reserves,” China Business Weekly, May 8, 2004
[19]. Richard S. Appel, “The Repercussions from the Yuan’s Revaluation,”, July 27, 2005
[20]. China, Iran sign biggest oil & gas deal,’ China Daily, October 31, 2004. Online:
[21]. “Terror & regime change: Any US invasion of Iran will have terrible consequences,” News Insight: Public Affairs Magazine, June 11, 2004
[22]. Analysis of Abu Musa Island,
[23]. Sammy Salama and Karen Ruster, “A Preemptive Attack on Iran’s Nuclear Facilities: Possible Consequences,” Monterry Institute of International Studies, August 12, 2004 (updated September 9, 2004)

Interview with Author Frank Touby / September 9, 2010

Worldpress: In your book “Burning Sands” you write about your experience fighting the oilfield fires in Kuwait that Saddam Hussein lit 19 years ago. You got a position as a trainee oilfield firefighter with Safety Boss Ltd., of Calgary, Alberta, to essentially better entrench yourself as a journalist. Some of the scenes you describe are quite intense. Can you tell us a bit about that experience?
Frank Touby: It was the most fascinating and virtuous adventure of my life. We worked 14-hour days with no days off, and yet we were eager to get out there again at the start of each day. When we quenched a fire on a wild well that had been burning for five or more months we pinched off a toxic smoke trail that had stretched for thousands of miles around the earth. As the tail end of that noxious smoke stream trailed into the sky there was such a sense of exhilaration that came with participating in a truly worthy effort. I especially gained an appreciation for the skills and intelligence of farm boys, who provide most of the labor in the oil patch. They can operate almost any piece of heavy equipment for the first time just by looking at it. They are smart, dependable and energetic. I’m a guy whose career resulted from formal education and had an inclination to disregard such people whose work gets them dirty and who speak in less-than-correct English. Never again. On the other hand, these guys were so strong, so competent in their rightwing universes, that many of them couldn’t imagine others being truly needy of aid that government properly must provide. Not entirely their fault.

WP: Can you elaborate on that last point? What do you mean by “so competent in their rightwing universes…”?
FT: Sure. They were brought up in that rugged frontier milieu of independence, strength, self-made personhood and self-reliance. You look after yourself, your buds and your family in that model and everyone else does the same. So there is no need for crooked politicians or carpet-bagging bureaucrats to come in and tell you what to do with your land, your property and yourself. The men I worked with at Safety Boss, the blowout company, were Canadians mainly from Alberta and Saskatchewan. But it was very much the same with many of them. Mike Miller, the owner of Safety Boss, was not like that at all. He is a more urbane, philosophical man and a great, considerate leader. His company set a world record that likely will never be duplicated: 126 wild wells “killed” in five months. It probably won’t ever happen again because nobody will again set so many wells ablaze. There’s no point to it since it’s now proven that the wild wells can be quenched in a relatively short period of time. But nobody knew that at the time Saddam had his troops and sappers spend over a year preparing 700-plus wells to be torched.

WP: What did it teach you about the effects of war over resources?
FT: I must admit to having a jaded view that didn’t come from my experiences in Kuwait, but from events that transpired ever since. In short, I think war is almost a requirement to keep certain resources scarce and their prices high. Monopoly also serves that purpose—as it does with diamonds and with oil refineries that produce gasoline. War also accommodates the needs of the cabal Dwight Eisenhower warned us against as he left the presidency in 1961: “We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.” So far we have failed.

WP: How do you think the BP oil spill compares to the oil fires in Kuwait?
FT: Aside from being wild wells, they couldn’t be more dissimilar. While the desert in Kuwait was aflame with over 700 oil fires, BP managed to contaminate an area larger than that from a single well. Kuwait was heartless and malicious; BP, to the best of our knowledge, was heartless and incompetent. I fear the harm from BP will both overshadow the severity and outlast the harm from six months of wild wells in Kuwait.

WP: What do you think government’s role should be in getting developed countries off oil?
FT: There’s no excuse for our dependency on oil from any source. It’s solely caused by the control transnational corporations hold over governments. Alcohol (ethanol) is a better fuel than petroleum: higher octane, clean burning, endlessly renewable. It’s what the Model T Ford originally used before J. D. Rockefeller gave huge funds to the Women’s Christian Temperance League to get it outlawed, allegedly so his oil wells would be worth a fortune. (It’s detailed in David Blume’s book “Alcohol Can Be a Gas: Fueling an Ethanol Revolution for the 21st Century.”) Ethanol poses a threat to corporate monopolists because it can be produced by little guys, in contrast to the millions of dollars worth of refinery that it takes to produce gasoline. Ethanol doesn’t have to be made from corn grain, which is an atrocity since that’s a food crop. Almost any vegetable matter will work, including corn stalks that normally go to waste. Bulrushes, or cattails, are especially productive. Government’s role should be to encourage such oil replacements, but that won’t happen so long as corporatists control politicians and corporations are considered equal to real human beings in our laws.

WP: Do you have any ideas as to how people can break that corporate stronghold? Because you’re right; in the United States, for example, we’ve seen Congress’ attempt at an energy bill fail miserably. Certainly corporate influence had something to do with that.
FT: Yes. The situation in Canada is nearly the same as in the U.S. Corporations buy politicians and universities. The latter are the principal mechanisms of corruption since universities produce the civil service and also issue the various scientific dictates that are used to justify regulations favored by their corporate patrons. The effects of purchased politicians need no explanation. In Canada both the Liberal and Conservative parties are on the same corporatist pages, just as Republicans and Democrats are identically compromised in the States. Government ministries or departments, such as the regulators of pharmaceuticals and broadcasters, function as advocates for the corporations they’re nominally regulating. The solution is simple to state and perhaps impossible to remedy, short of a revolution either by law or by arms. It requires an end to corporate personhood: the ridiculous notion that a business corporation has human rights identical to those of real human beings. That was recently confirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court (Citizens United vs. FEC), which ruled that corporations mustn’t be denied the human right of freedom of speech by limiting the money they can spend on election campaigns. The result will naturally be that corporations can own any elections they choose. Enabled by government “regulators,” junk-food giants wreck the health of billions of people with unhealthful restaurant fare; farm and chemical oligopolies harm our food supplies; drug giants waste our health resources by ignoring or concealing unprofitable health alternatives while inventing new “diseases” and investing their research dollars on marketing schemes to sell prescription cures for such contrivances as “acid reflux disease” (aka, “heartburn,” effectively countered with baking soda); oil companies write their own environmental rules. Practically everything government regulates is now compromised by multinational corporations for their profit purposes. An intermediate step to remediate the harm might be to change tax codes in the U.S. and Canada, since both nations have well-established different tax categories for corporations than for individuals. Prohibit businesses from deducting any expenses and require them to report all worldwide revenues. It would have marked impact on each economy to start with, since many businesses and charities exist because of corporations’ abilities to write off related expenses. It would eliminate “charitable” deeds that are done in corporate names, but really those are promotional expenses. Corporations and all businesses can’t be expected to operate in any way except in their own interests. Regulation by government is needed to avoid oligopolies and other cancerous growths that strangle free enterprise or harm consumers and workers.
Universities should be prohibited from accepting funds from individuals or corporations to ensure their independence from corruption. They should be entirely funded by government, which has a responsibility to provide education just as it has to provide the military, healthcare, currency, police, fire departments, roads, regulation of enterprise and so forth. In other words, using the phrase of Seattle-based radio commentator Thom Hartmann, it’s incumbent on government to ensure and maintain “The Commons” that comprise civilization.

Petrodollars, Petroeuros and the Iranian Oil Bourse
by Luigi Frascati / 2007

“This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous […]. Having said that, all the options are on the table” (President George W. Bush, February 2005)

Who would have ever imagined it?
Forget about the Prophet Mohammed, Islam, the Koran, President Ahmadinejad and his nuclear program, Islamofascism and all the umpah-pah. The Mullahs do not like American Dollars anymore. As reported by Reuters UK ([]) Iran announced that it has ordered its Central Bank to start using Euros for foreign transactions, and to transform the nation’s Dollar-denominated assets held abroad into the single European currency. “The government has ordered the Central Bank to replace the Dollar with the Euro to limit the problems of the executive organs in commercial transactions,” government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham told reporters.

Coming from OPEC’s fourth oil producer, this is a move that will undoubtedly have both deep economic reverberations and grave political consequences worldwide. It would certainly appear that rather than ‘wiping out Israel’ from the face of the planet, Iran is setting the tempo to wipe out American capitalism and influence everywhere. To understand the implications of such a move in financial affairs, one has to first revert to the importance of money in our economic systems and the effects that the ravages of inflation have over it.

Money is one of man’s most amazing inventions. Imagine the difficulty of our daily lives without those metal coins and coloured pieces of paper. To make any kind of transaction – from shopping for groceries to purchasing a real estate asset – you would have to find someone who had what you want and who wanted what you have, and then the two of you could barter. In a world with thousands of products, one would spend most of the time looking for trading partners and devoting very little time to actually earn an income. The alternative to avoid having to find trading partners would be for each and everyone of us to do a little bit of everything by ourselves.

But with money on the scene everything becomes more straightforward, simple and less time-consuming, and all of us can increase our productivity by and through specialization – that is doing what we do best, and then trade with our partners. As a direct and proximate consequence of our increased productivity, each of us can therefore become richer. It is easy to lose sight of the very basic economic point that we all owe a large part of our high living standards to the existence of money, its possession and the spending power that stems out of it. But there is a catch: money works best when its value is stable over time. And this is nowhere more true than in international trade.

Economically speaking, the power of the American Dollar and its influence in economic and financial affairs worldwide was born during the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference held at Bretton Wood, New Hampshire in July 1944. The Conference was attended by the delegates of all 45 allied nations directly and indirectly involved in the fight against the powers of the Axis – Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan and Fascist Italy, and their socio-economic doctrines. As a result of the Bretton Woods Conference, a system of exchange rate among different currencies was set up anchored on the American Dollar, which was made convertible to gold – the common denominator and measure of wealth worldwide. Thus, the American Dollar became de facto the reserve currency of the world, accepted and traded everywhere. This system remained in place until the early 1970’s and it allowed countries to accumulate reserves in American Dollars, as opposed to gold.

When in 1970-1971 an economically resurgent Western Europe began demanding payment for their US Dollars, as it became clear that the American Government did not have enough gold reserves to buy back all those Dollars, the US Treasury under the Nixon Administration rather than defaulting on its payment ‘de-anchored’ the Greenback – that is it severed the link between the Dollar and gold. To avoid an international collapse of the American currency in world markets, however, the US treasury had to substitute gold with another valuable commodity so as to entice foreign countries to keep their foreign reserves in Dollars and to continue accepting the American currency.

Thus in 1972-73 an iron-clad arrangement was made with Saudi Arabia to support the power of the House of Saud in exchange for accepting only U.S. Dollars for its oil. The rest of OPEC was to follow suit and also accept only American Dollars. Because the world had to buy oil from the Arab oil-producing countries, it now had the reason to hold Dollars as payment for oil. Because the world needed ever increasing quantities of oil at ever increasing oil prices, the world’s demand for Dollars could only increase. Even though Dollars could no longer be exchanged for gold, they were now exchangeable for oil. The Petrodollar was born.

In 2000, the first man who actually began demanding Euros for his oil was none other than Saddam Hussein of Iraq – and we all know what has happened to him. To be more specific, in fact, Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti (1937-2006), former President of Iraq, made two strategic mistakes, the second one of which would ultimately cost him his neck – literally. Firstly, on August 2, 1990 he invaded Kuwait, a country very friendly with both the United Kingdom and the United States, and holding approximately ten percent of the world’s oil reserves. Saddam, furthermore, became a real threat to Saudi Arabia as well. By invading Kuwait and threatening Saudi Arabia, Saddam breached the Carter Doctrine postulated by President Jimmy Carter in 1980, which states that “[…] an attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.” The Carter Doctrine was later on upheld by President George H.W. Bush in 1989 with National Security Directive 26, which declares that “Access to Persian Gulf oil and the security of key friendly states in the area are vital to U.S. national security […].” The Gulf War ensued in January 1991.

The second mistake of Saddam was to start demanding payment for his oil in Euros. At first, his demand was met with ridicule, later with neglect, but as it became clearer that he meant business the need arose to make an example of anyone who demanded payment in currencies other than U.S. Dollars. The punishment came with the worsening of the geo-political situation after the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers and an increased perception and worry about Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction – which he had used extensively against the Kurds and his own citizens. President Bush’s Shock-and-Awe intervention in Iraq followed, which ultimately brought about the demise of the Iraqi dictator.

Contemporary warfare has traditionally involved underlying conflicts regarding economics and resources. Today these intertwined conflicts also involve international currencies, and thus increased complexity. Current geopolitical tensions between the United States and Iran extend beyond the publicly stated concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear intentions, and likely include a proposed Iranian “petroeuro” system for oil trade – the Iranian Oil Bourse (‘Bourse’ is the French word for Stock Exchange). The proposed Iranian Oil Bourse signifies that without some sort of US intervention, the Euro is going to establish a firm foothold in the international oil trade.

This is so, because the Europeans would no longer have to buy and hold Dollars in order to secure their payment for oil, but would instead pay with their own currency. The adoption of the Euro for oil transactions would provide the European currency with a reserve status that would benefit the European at the expenses of the Americans. Given U.S. foreign debt levels and trade deficit, Tehran’s objective constitutes an obvious encroachment on the Dollar supremacy in the crucial international oil markets, and America can hardly afford that to happen. It is really a case of lethal economic terrorism and financial warfare, a matter of life and death.

And speaking of economic terrorism and financial warfare, it is very interesting and worth mentioning the link between oil and Euros on one side and Iran’s nuclear programme on the other side that Gholam Hossein Elham has made during the foresaid announcement. He has stated: “They (the Westerners) should put an end to their hostilities towards our nation and should also be aware that we are capable of achieving nuclear technology through very transparent and legal methods – something that they must respect. They must not waste their time with venting hostility against this nation, otherwise they will be harmed, more so than us.”

If Iran follows up with the intention to charge Euros for its oil, the upcoming Iranian Bourse will introduce Petroeuros currency hedging in direct competition with traditional Petrodollars. More than that, in political terms, it will pit America, Israel and Sunni Islam against Iran, Syria and Shiite Islam and will fundamentally create new dynamics and competition into the biggest markets in the world – those of global oil and gas trade. One of the Federal Reserve’s nightmares may well begin to unfold if it appears that international buyers will have a choice of buying a barrel of oil for USD 60 on the NYMEX and IPE – or purchase a barrel of oil for €45 – €50 through the Iranian Bourse. In essence, America would no longer be able to expand effortlessly its debt-financing with the issuance of US Treasury bills, and the international demand and liquidity of the American Dollar would fall. This is a very good reason to go to war.

Undersea Cable Cuts and the Iranian Oil Bourse

“Through the research that I have exhaustingly done over the past few days, this is the one that has struck me as the most likely reason for the damages that have occurred to submarine internet cables. The Iranian oil bourse is going to be a stock market for petroluem, petrochemicals and gas. What’s the big catch here? The exchange planned on being ran with currencies excluding the U.S. dollar. If you remember from earlier in the post, Iran stopped allowing purchases of their oil with the U.S. dollar in December of 2007. So, obviously, the U.S. is not going to be happy about this. The biggest piece of information linking this to the recent damages is the proposed location of the bourse: the island of Kish. This is the island that is right next to at least two of the cuts that have recently occurred…”

Iranian Oil Bourse Opens
by Steve Austin / 2008.02.06

The Iranian Oil Bourse establishing Euro-based pricing of oil is set to open on February 17th 2008 and could have devastating effects on the US dollar. Currently all three major oil markets (WTI, NYMEX, IPE) trade barrels of oil in US dollars. Consequently any country buying oil needs dollars to pay for it. This enables the US Federal Reserve to issue huge volumes of dollars to meet increasing demand for oil. In return oil producing nations invest dollar proceeds in US treasury bills, allowing for the current US budget deficit. But this balance may become unsettled after a fourth major oil market opens this month, trading in Euros: the Iranian Oil Bourse (IOB).

Unlike other bourses, the IOB relies on a peer-to-peer trading model, using the Internet. IOB has been in the works for several years and encountered many hurdles on the way, the last of which are severed underwater internet cables creating an Internet outage throughout the Middle East days before the IOB’s opening and prompting conspiracy theories. In recent years the US has outfitted some of its submarines with the capability to splice optical fiber underwater so these theories may not be far-fetched. Having the world’s second largest oil reserves of 136 gigabarrels, Iran will likely extend its influence on financial markets when the IOB opens. Although under-reported by the media, this historical shift and its consequences should be watched closely.

Iran’s bourse booms despite sanctions
by Robin Pomeroy / Sep 30, 2010

In the busy foyer of the Tehran Stock Exchange an old woman in a black chador clutches her shopping bag and gazes up hopefully at the electronic display showing the latest share prices. Like the other Iranians bustling past her, she is betting on a market that has soared to record highs despite ever-tightening international sanctions, lackluster oil prices and political uncertainty after last year’s disputed presidential election. While U.S. diplomats were busy upping Iran’s economic punishment over nuclear activities Washington fears are aimed at making a bomb, Iranian shares, which might have been expected to fall, have, instead, gone through the roof. Tehran’s Tepix index has risen 65 percent to all-time highs this year. Its latest record was set on Sept. 18, when it hit 18,658, up from 11,295 at the start of the year. By comparison, New York’s S&P 500 Index has made no major gains this year as the U.S. economy struggles to recover from the financial crisis.

Officials say privatisation, cheap valuations and moves to cut red tape and encourage private investors have lured Iranians away from the once-booming property market, the traditional home of the Iranian nest egg, which stagnated in late 2008. The world’s fifth-largest oil exporter hopes to raise $12.5 billion by privatising over 500 state firms during the 2010-11 year, and plans to sell all of its refineries and petrochemicals units, promising potential investors a solid pipeline of IPOs. Iranians are also increasingly reluctant to park their spare cash in the bank, where interest on instant access savings has fallen from about 12.5 percent three years ago to 6 percent now. Those rates seem healthy compared to Western economies, where central bank rates are near zero, but are no match for the rewards promised by a bourse which already boasts more than 330 listed firms and a market capitalisation above $70 billion.

Speaking in his office on the upper floors of the stock exchange, bourse chief Hassan Ghalibaf Asl summed up the logic: “The opportunities and good factors affecting the growth of the capital market and attracting investors are more important, and the weight of them is more, than bad factors.” Few dispute however, that the bad factors are there. From a lack of transparency to tightening sanctions, myriad challenges belie the Tehran Stock Exchange’s stellar performance. Firms related to the elite Revolutionary Guards and other state bodies have bought large stakes in privatised companies, further muddying the waters between public and private in a country where powerful quasi-official foundations pervade.

Last year, a consortium linked to the Revolutionary Guards took a controlling stake in the Telecommunications Company of Iran for $7.8 billion, raising concern that some firms being put up for sale are just being transferred within the public sector. Investments by these vast semi-official or politically connected organisations have caused the surges in stock prices that small investors have been happy to ride, Meir Javedanfar, an Iran expert at Middle East analysis firm Meepas, said. “Very few stock exchanges have record gains in a country where sanctions, economic isolation, unemployment and inflation are increasing,” he said. “All indicators point to this boom being a government-made bubble. It’s difficult to predict when it will burst.” Even in parliament, questions are being asked about the disconnect between soaring share prices and an economy facing not just sanctions but looming cuts to multi-billion-dollar state subsidies that currently guarantee cheap fuel to domestic industries and reduce the cost of goods for Iranian consumers. Many small investors are ordinary Iranians, who could end up suffering the most if boom turns to bust.

Sheltering from the blazing sun under the porticos of the bourse building, a man sits on a fold-out stool and sells economics text books laid at his feet on sheets of newspaper. Traders, the majority apparently amateurs, pass him on their way inside to swap rumours as they crowd around touchscreens, looking up data provided by the bourse on their chosen stocks. Iranians can place orders with professional brokers, without having to go in person to the bourse, but the building, with its atmosphere of anticipation, attracts scores of people, placing their cash alongside institutions like Iran’s pension funds. Apart from one turbaned cleric and a handful of women, most are middle aged men, and the mood is optimistic though smaller trades are driven largely by rumour, since rules requiring listed firms to disclose their performance and plans are lax.

With his boy-band haircut, jeans and T-shirt, 26-year-old Navid Sadri is not the typical day-trader on Tehran’s bourse, but he has been making his living on the market for eight years, long enough to know that a boom usually ends in a bust. “Eight months ago there was a very small crowd,” he says, pointing to the amateur traders hovering in the corridors above the bourse’s modest trading floor. “If every day there’s a bigger crowd it’s a sign that there will be a drop.” While domestic investment in the bourse booms, international sanctions and political uncertainty are hampering the flow of foreign funds and expertise that Iran needs to modernize. Foreign investment on the Tehran bourse accounts for just 0.5 percent of the shares, according to the bourse chief. “We don’t even look at the Iranian market. There is just too much political risk involved,” Robert McKinnon of ASAS Capital, an asset management company in Dubai, said in June, when bourse officials travelled to the city to drum up foreign interest.

In an effort to attract cash from abroad, Iran revoked a rule this year that had forced foreign investors to hold their initial capital in the Islamic Republic for three years. While foreign investors can now repatriate their capital whenever they want, U.S. rules ban any bank that does business with the United States from making transactions with Iran. That rule is enough to keep most major international banks at bay. So far, Tehran’s bourse has lured only a handful of smaller institutions willing to gamble on the world’s riskier markets. Fund management company Castlestone calls Iran stocks “a jaw-dropping opportunity” and plans to include them in a new high-growth emerging markets fund. Turquoise Partners, an investment firm with offices in Tehran and London, manages a $100 million fund on behalf of foreign investors wanting a piece of the Iranian action. “We’ve had a flood of money coming into the market in the last one and a half years,” Ali Mashayekhi, head of investment research at Turquoise, said.

Petrodollar or Petroeuro? A new source of global conflict
by Cóilín Nunan

No observer of the lead-up to the war in Iraq and its aftermath could have failed to notice that the level of cooperation between Europe and America was extremely low. France and Germany were very strong opponents of the US/UK invasion and even after the war was declared over, disagreements persisted over the lifting of sanctions and how Iraq should be run. So was this just a one-off tiff or was it a symptom of deeper flaws in the relationship? I believe that the war on Iraq illustrated for the first time that continental Europe, led by France and Germany, no longer wishes to follow the Americans politically, although what has been termed a ‘clash of civilisations’ [1] is probably better viewed as a ‘clash of economies’.

While disagreements over the US trade barriers on steel imports or the European restrictions on imports of American genetically modified crops have attracted widespread comment, the most intense economic rivalry of all has received far less media attention than it perhaps should: this is the rivalry between the dollar and the euro for the position of world reserve currency, a privileged status that has been held by the dollar ever since the Bretton Woods agreement nearly 60 years ago.

At present, approximately two thirds of world trade is conducted in dollars and two thirds of central banks’ currency reserves are held in the American currency which remains the sole currency used by international institutions such as the IMF. This confers on the US a major economic advantage: the ability to run a trade deficit year after year. It can do this because foreign countries need dollars to repay their debts to the IMF, to conduct international trade and to build up their currency reserves. The US provides the world with these dollars by buying goods and services produced by foreign countries, but since it does not have a corresponding need for foreign currency, it sells far fewer goods and services in return, i.e. the US always spends more than it earns, whereas the rest of the world always earns more than it spends. This US trade deficit has now reached extraordinary levels, with the US importing 50% more goods and services than it exports. So long as the dollar remains the dominant international currency the US can continue consuming more than it produces and, for example, build up its military strength while simultaneously affording tax cuts.

Getting a share of this economic free lunch has been one of the motivations, and perhaps the main motivation, behind setting up the euro [2]. Were the euro to become a reserve currency equal to, or perhaps even instead of, the dollar, countries would reduce their dollar holdings while building up their euro savings. Another way of putting this would be to say that Eurozone countries would be able to reduce their subsidy to American consumption and would find that other countries were now subsidising Eurozone consumption instead.

A move away from the dollar towards the euro could, on the other hand, have a disastrous effect on the US economy as the US would no longer be able to spend beyond its means. Worse still, the US would have to become a net currency importer as foreigners would probably seek to spend back in the US a large proportion of the estimated three trillion dollars which they currently own. In other words, the US would have to run a trade surplus, providing the rest of the world with more goods and services than it was receiving in return. A rapid and wholesale move to the euro might even lead to a dollar crash as everyone sought to get rid of some, or all, of their dollars at the same time. But that is an outcome that no-one, not even France or Germany, is seeking because of the huge effect it would have on the world economy. Europe would much prefer to see a gradual move to a euro-dollar world, or even a euro-dominated one.

It turns out that there is a small group of countries which is playing the arbiter in this global contest. These are the world’s oil exporters, in particular OPEC and Russia. Ever since the days when the US dominated world oil production, sales of oil and natural gas on international markets have been exclusively denominated in dollars. This was partly a natural state of affairs since, up until the early 1950s, the US accounted for half or more of the world’s annual oil production. The tendency to price in dollars was additionally reinforced by the Bretton Woods agreement which established the IMF and World Bank and adopted the dollar as the currency for international loans.

The vast majority of the world’s countries are oil importers and, since oil is such a crucial commodity, the need to pay for it in dollars encourages these countries keep the majority of their foreign currency reserves in dollars not only to be able to buy oil directly but also to protect the value of their own currencies from falling against the dollar. Because a sudden devaluation of a country’s currency against the dollar would lead to a jump in oil prices and a possible economic crisis, every country’s central bank needs dollar reserves so as to be able to buy its own currency on the foreign exchange markets when its value needs to be supported.

The fact that oil sales and loans from the IMF are dollar-denominated also encourages poorer countries to denominate their exports in dollars as this minimises the risk of losses through any fluctuations in the value of the dollar. The knock-on effect of this is that, since many of these exports are essential raw materials which richer countries need to import, their denomination in dollars reinforces the need for rich countries to keep their own currency reserves in dollars.

While the denomination of oil sales is not a subject which is frequently discussed in the media, its importance is certainly well understood by governments. For example, when in 1971 President Nixon took the US off the gold standard, OPEC did consider moving away from dollar oil pricing, as dollars no longer had the guaranteed value they once did. The US response was to do various secret deals with Saudi Arabia in the 1970s to ensure that the world’s most important oil exporter stuck with the dollar [3]. What the Saudis did, OPEC followed. More recently, in June 2003, the Prime Minister of Malaysia publicly encouraged his country’s oil and gas exporters to move from the dollar to the euro. The European and American reactions were polar opposites: the EU’s Energy Commissioner, Loyola de Palacio, welcomed the suggestion, saying that ‘in the future the euro is [going to be] taking a place in the international markets in general as the money of exchange’ and that this was ‘a matter of realism’ [4]. Her counterpart in the US, the director of the Energy Information Administration, Guy Caruso, said that he couldn’t see ‘any particular merit’ in the move and that over the long run ‘the dollar’s always won out’ [5]. Either way, Malaysia is only a relatively minor oil exporter, so what it does can only have a very limited effect. A switch by a major oil exporter would be of far greater significance.

The first country to actually make the switch was a very important oil exporter indeed: Iraq, in November 2000 [6,7]. Before the war in Iraq began, some observers, myself included, argued that this might well be a major reason for the US desire to invade and the strong Franco-German opposition to the invasion [8,9]. Corroborating evidence included the apparent influence which loyalty (or lack thereof) to the dollar seemed to have on the US attitude towards other OPEC members. Iran had been talking of selling its own oil for euros [6,10] and was subsequently included in George Bush’s ‘axis of evil’. Venezuela, another important oil exporter, had started bartering some of its oil, thus avoiding the use of the dollar, and was encouraging OPEC to do likewise [11] – and the US was widely suspected in having played a part in the attempted coup against the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez.

Semi-official confirmation that petro-currency rivalry was at the heart of the split between France and Germany, on the one hand, and the US, on the other, was provided by Howard Fineman, the chief political correspondent for Newsweek, in an article he wrote in April 2003, in the aftermath of the war. The Europeans and Americans were then arguing over whether the UN’s oil-for-food programme in Iraq should remain in place or not. Using the term ‘clash of civilisations’ to describe the divide which was developing, Fineman explained that the disagreement had little to do with the French calls for the search for weapons of mass destruction to resume and for sanctions to remain in place until the search was complete. Instead, Fineman said, it was mainly about the dollar vs the euro. Citing White House officials and a presidential aide, he explained that the dispute between the two continents was really about ‘who gets to sell – and buy – Iraqi oil, and what form of currency will be used to denominate the value of the sales. That decision, in turn, will help decide who controls Iraq, which, in turn, will represent yet another skirmish in a growing global economic conflict. We want a secular, American-influenced pan-ethnic entity of some kind to control the massive oil fields (Iraq’s vast but only real source of wealth). We want that entity to be permitted to sell the oil to whomever it wants, denominated in dollars.’ Fineman concluded his article by confidently predicting that future Iraqi oil sales would be switched back to dollars [1].

Fineman’s White House sources would appear to have been reliable as that is precisely what has happened: when Iraqi oil exports resumed in June of last year, it was announced that payment would be in dollars only [12,13]. It was also decided that the billions of Iraqi euros which were being held in a euro account, controlled by the UN under the oil-for-food programme, were to be transferred into the Development Fund for Iraq, a dollar account controlled by the US [13,14,15].

Furthermore, Youssef Ibrahim, a former senior Middle East correspondent for the New York Times and energy editor on the Wall Street Journal, who is a member of the influential Council on Foreign Relations, has called Iraq’s switch to the euro ‘another reason’ for the war, saying that a general move by oil producers to the euro would be a ‘catastrophe’ for the US [16].

America’s willingness to use violence to defend its economic interests does not seem to have reduced the number of oil exporters considering switching to the euro as they recognise that their use of the dollar enables the US to build up its military strength. In addition to Malaysia, Indonesia has the switch under consideration [17] while Iran has been shifting its currency reserves into euros. Moreover, according to the Vice-President of the Iranian central bank, it has actually sold some of its oil to Europe for euros and is encouraging members of an Asian trade organisation, the Asian Clearing Union, to pay for Iranian oil in the European currency [18]. Along with Malaysia, it is also at the forefront of efforts to establish a new gold-backed currency, the Islamic Gold Dinar, to be used in international trade amongst Muslim countries instead of both the dollar and the euro [19]. In a further development, in June 2004, Iran announced that it had plans to establish an oil-trading market for Middle Eastern and OPEC producers which could threaten the dominance of London’s International Petroleum Exchange and New York’s Nymex [20]. Such a move could help remove some of the technical difficulties that exist with a switch away from dollar-denomination of oil sales.

It is therefore not surprising to find that, just as with Iraq, the European Union and the US are dealing with Iran in very different ways. While the EU has been holding trade negotiations with Iran [21] and involved in dialogue about its nuclear programme, the US has refused to get involved in direct talks with the Iranian government which it views as ‘evil’. The American Enterprise Institute, a highly influential American ‘think tank’, has in fact been actively calling for ‘regime change’ [22] and, although this policy has yet to be officially endorsed by the Bush administration, in July 2004 it was claimed in the British press that a senior official of the Bush administration had indicated that, if re-elected, Bush would intervene in the internal affairs of Iran in an attempt to overturn the Iranian government [23,24].

European enthusiasm for the ‘petroeuro’ also appears undampened by the US takeover of Iraq. Since the war, the European Union has been actively encouraging Russia, another opponent of the US invasion, to move to euro oil and gas sales. In October 2003, during a joint press conference with Germany’s Prime Minister Gerhard Schroeder, the Russian President Vladimir Putin declared that Russia was thinking about selling its oil for euros. A few days later, the European Commission President, Romano Prodi, said, after a summit between Russia and the European Union, that Russia was now drawn to having its imports and exports denominated in euros [25,26].

In December 2003, speculation about the future roles of the dollar and the euro increased when OPEC Secretary General Alvaro Silva, a former Venezuelan oil minister, said that the organisation was now considering trading in euros or in a basket of currencies other than the dollar, as the US currency was declining in value [27] . Although a few days later the Saudi oil minister Ali al-Naimi said that OPEC would not be discussing a switch to the euro at its next meeting (comments reinforced by the Qatari President of OPEC and the Algerian oil minister [28]), articles discussing a possible move continued to appear in the media [29,30] and the euro’s value against the dollar soared. Despite the speculation, no decision to move to the euro was taken at OPEC’s meeting in early February 2004 and thereafter the euro’s value fell back again.

In fact, close inspection of the dollar-euro exchange rate shows that since the euro’s introduction in January 1999, petro-currency rivalry appears to have played an important part in swinging the rate one way or the other. The markets, it seems, have noticed the importance of what is happening. On the other hand, the lack of an open discussion of the issues suggests that politicians and bankers are keen to move ahead with their plans with little or no explanation to the general public.

Should we not, however, be debating more openly what kind (or kinds) of international financial structure(s) we want to adopt, since the question has potentially huge implications for the stability of the world economy and for peace and stability in oil-exporting countries? A good starting point for such a debate would be the recognition that no country or countries should be allowed to dominate the system by controlling the issuance of the currency or currencies used. Similarly fundamental would be to prevent any country from running a persistent trade surplus or deficit so as to avoid the build up of unjust subsidies, unpayable debts and economic instability. At Bretton Woods, John Maynard Keynes, who understood how important these two conditions were, proposed a system which would have met them, but his proposal was rejected in favour of the dollar.[31] The dollar, though, is no longer a stable, reliable currency: the IMF has warned that the US trade deficit is so bad that its currency could collapse at any time.[32] Will we really have to wait for a full-blown dollar crisis before a public debate about creating a just and sustainable trading system can begin?

1. Howard Fineman, ‘In Round 2, it’s the dollar vs. euro’, April 23 2003, Newsweek,
2. Anon., ‘Will the euro rule the roost?’, January 1 1999, BBC News, u/225434.stm
3. David E. Spiro, The Hidden Hand of American Hegemony: Petrodollar Recycling and International Markets, Cornell University Press, 1999
4. Anon., ‘EU says oil could one day be priced in euros’, 16 June 2003, Reuters
5. Irene Kwek, ‘EIA Says Oil Price Switch To Euro From Dollar Unlikely’, 16 June 2003, Dow Jones Newswires
6. Recknagel, Charles, ‘Iraq: Baghdad Moves to Euro’, November 1 2000,Radio Free Europe,
7. Faisal Islam, ‘When will we buy oil in euros?’, February 23 2003, The Observer,,6903,900867,00.html
8. William Clark, ‘The Real Reasons for the Upcoming War With Iraq: A Macroeconomic and Geostrategic Analysis of the Unspoken Truth’, January 2003,
9. Cóilín Nunan, ‘Oil, currency and the war on Iraq’, January 2003,
10. Anon., ‘Iran may switch to euro for crude sale payments’, Alexander Oil and Gas, September 5 2002,
11. Hazel Henderson, ‘Globocop v. Venezuela’s Chavez: Oil, Globalization and Competing Visions of Development’, April 2002, InterPress Service,
12. Carola Hoyos and Kevin Morrison, ‘Iraq returns to international oil market’, June 5 2003, Financial Times
13. Coalition Provisional Authority Regulation Number 2,
14. UN Security Council Resolution 1483,
15. Judy Aita, ‘U.N. Transfers Oil-for-Food Program to CPA, Iraqi Officials Nov 22’, November 2003, Washington File,
16. Catherine Belton, ‘Why not price oil in euros?’, October 10 2003, Moscow Times
17. Kazi Mahmood, ‘Economic Shift Could Hurt U.S.-British Interests In Asia’, March 30 2003,
18. C. Shivkumar, ‘Iran offers oil to Asian union on easier terms’, June 16 2003,
19. Anon, ‘Malaysia, Iran discuss the use of gold dinar’, July 3 2003, Asia Times,
20. Terry Macalister, ‘Iran takes on west’s control of oil trading’, June 16 2004, The Guardian,,3604,1239644,00.html
21. Hooman Peimani, ‘EU and Iran talk trade, not war’, June 7 2003, Asia Times,
22. Guy Dinmore, ‘US lobbyists tune in for regime change in Iran’, December 5 2003, Financial Times
23. Michael Binyon and Bronwen Maddox, ‘US sets sights on toppling Iran regime’, July 17 2004, The Times
24. Jennifer Johnston, ‘Regime change in Iran now in Bush’s sights’, July 18 2004, The Sunday Herald,
25. Lisa Jucca and Melissa Akin, ‘Europe Presses Russia on Euro’, October 20 2003, Moscow Times
26. Simon Nixon, ‘What’s that in euros?’, October 18 2003, The Spectator,§ion=current&issue=2003-10-18&id=3619
27. Anon., ‘OPEC may trade oil in euros to compensate for dollar decline’, December 9 2003, Associated Press,,00020008.htm
28. Anon., ‘Saudi Arabia: Dollars only please’, December 13 2003, Reuters, .saudi.reut/
29. Patrick Brethour, ‘OPEC mulls move to euro for pricing crude oil’, January 12 2004, Globe and Mail,
30. Anon., ‘To euro or not: should oil pricing ditch the dollar?’, February 9 2004, AFP
31. Michael Rowbottom, Goodbye America! Globalisation, Debt and the Dollar Empire, Jon Carpenter Publishing, 2000
32. Charlotte Denny and Larry Elliott, ‘IMF warns trade gap could bring down dollar’, September 19 2003, The Guardian,,3604,1045193,00.html



Earthship n. 1. passive solar home made of natural and recycled materials 2. thermal mass construction for temperature stabilization. 3. renewable energy & integrated water systems make the Earthship an off-grid home with little to no utility bills.

Biotecture n. 1. the profession of designing buildings and environments with consideration for their sustainability. 2. A combination of biology and architecture.

Solving Haiti’s Housing Problems with Old Tires, Bottles / July 20, 2010

Made from used tires, discarded bottles, cardboard, Styrofoam and other waste materials, Mr. Reynolds designs and builds these homes to be essentially energy self-sufficient. Earthships use solar energy and wind to generate their own power and heat; homes are designed to collect usable water from rain and snow and are built with greenhouses where resident can grown their own food. Mr. Reynolds has built more than 1,000 of the environmentally-friendly structures, including a community of them outside Taos, N.M., through his company, Earthship Biotecture. Now he’s bringing earthships to Haiti.

Earlier this month, Mr. Reynolds and two builders, along with a cameraman, went to Haiti intending to survey the area to see how they could help. “There was nothing but tents, nothing but cleanup,” Mr. Reynolds says of what he saw in Port-au-Prince. Instead of just surveying the city, Mr. Reynolds and his team ended up building. A non-governmental organization called Grassroots United, which had contacted Mr. Reynolds before he arrived, met his group at the airport and told him that they had some land upon which he could build. Anticipating his arrival, the organization had gotten Haitian children to collect tires and plastic bottles from the tent camps.

Mr. Reynolds himself had one arm in a cast because of rotator cuff surgery, and the two builders with him both got sick from the water and heat. “The three of us were worthless, pretty much,” he says. But 40 locals, ranging in age from four to 50, built an earthship in just four days under his guidance. “They had nothing to do. They were all eager to learn, and it turns out all the skills we could do, they could do.”

The earthship, just 120 square feet, is made of 120 tires packed with dirt–such tires are the main building blocks of any earthship. Designed to be earthquake- and hurricane-resistant, the Haiti earthship is not completely finished. Mr. Reynolds plans to return in October to add plaster to the exterior and a screened-in veranda with flush toilets, as well as outfit it for solar energy and water collection. He hopes the home will be used as a prototype for more in Haiti, an example of what’s possible. Earthships could be a boon for a place like Haiti, says Mr. Reynolds, where even the capital city has little infrastructure like sewage or electricity. “The most substantial thing I saw down there was a plywood shack,” he says.

The Haiti home isn’t the first that Mr. Reynolds has built in an area hit by disaster. Following the 2004 tsunami, he says, an architect from the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean found his website and asked him if he could help rebuild. There, Mr. Reynolds and his team erected a building made from automobile tires and bottles during a two-week visit. “On our last day there, the monsoons came, and we saw it catching water,” Mr. Reynolds says. Though he hasn’t been back to visit, he hears that the locals now use the structure like a well. The Andaman Islands Earthship was too complex for the locals to replicate themselves, Mr. Reynolds says, but he has since perfected his model for disaster relief to help locals in devastated areas rebuild themselves.

When he returns to Haiti in October, he plans to find a site where he can build a small village of earthships. “It doesn’t have to be in the city because there is nothing in the city anyway,” he says of the lack of infrastructure. “These buildings would provide their own power, their own water, their own sewage (systems).” Most important, Mr. Reynolds says, is a sense of empowerment instilled in those who helped. “They built the building!” he says. “The real thing that shows it’s possible for them to do it is that they did it.”

Castles Made of Trash
by Dennis Nishi / June 16, 2009

Architect Michael Reynolds has built more than 1,000 homes from materials including used car tires and glass-bottle bottoms. He calls his self-sufficient designs “earthships” because they require little heating or cooling and generate their own electricity and water. His company, Earthship Biotecture of Taos, N.M., designs and builds sustainable homes world-wide.

Q: I hear you were a maverick even in architecture school.
A: I discovered early on that architecture needs to embody the needs of people. Most architects have impractical ideas that are wasteful. That’s why I’ve drifted away from what you know as architecture. The University of Cincinnati had a co-op program where you could work for three months and go to school for three months. It took me six years of working in a lot of architectural offices around the country to discover that I didn’t want to do architecture the way it was being done.

Q: Where did you get the idea to use trash?
A: Walter Cronkite did a piece on clear-cutting timber in the Northwest. Even in 1969, he predicted massive deforestation would result in wood scarcity and would affect our oxygen levels, things that have become big issues today. Charles Kuralt did another piece on beer cans being thrown all over the streets and highways. So I started playing with beer cans and trying to make them into building blocks. It was a way to kill two birds with one stone.

Q: How did you go from cans to car tires?
A: I later decided to try a different material and thought of the mountains of discarded tires that can be found everywhere. Pack them with dirt and they will store energy. Plus they’re strong and resilient, so I built an entire house out of them. I went on to add photovoltaic panels, windmills, water collection and onsite sewage treatment.

Q: It didn’t sound like you got many takers in the beginning.
A: We did sell houses here and there. I wasn’t trying to build a big corporation and, of course, our overhead was low. I just needed to get the idea out there. I was also a licensed contractor so I could work on other projects.

Q: Who were your early adopters?
A: When I started, it was young hipsters who were not afraid of trying something new. As recycling and conservation became more mainstream, it became a wider variety of people … from all walks of life.

Q: You relinquished your state architecture license in 2000. What led to this?
A: Some of the houses were too hot, went over budget and some roofs leaked. The customers complained and the investigators who were sent saw that I wasn’t following any of the rules. In the end, I was told if I relinquished my license, I could do more as a private citizen than under the cloak of an architect. Otherwise, they could fine me forever for violating codes. [He got back his national architecture license.]

Q: That’s when you took your fight to the state legislature?
A: I wrote a bill [that] makes it easier to build experimental homes [without the need for an architecture license]. It took three and a half years to get it through. Governor Bill Richardson signed it into law in 2007.

Q: And you went overseas with your ideas?
A: For awhile, … I went wherever there was a desire to use my ideas. After the earthquake and tsunami in 2004, an architect [from the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean] that lived right in the middle of the disaster saw our Web site and asked us to come.

Q: What did you see in the Andaman Islands?
A: Their whole community was just wiped out. We paid the local kids to bring us bottles, and we built a house out of them that collects its own water. We gave the plans to the engineers.

Q: What’s next?
A: We’re launching a village project called Eve: Earthship Village Ecology in Taos. The focus is complete independence. We’re specifically working on food production in the home, and we’ve dedicated 50% of the floor space to gardens.

Q: How efficient are your earthships?
A: We’re building homes today that don’t draw from the grid and have a $100 per year total utility bill. And they have flat screen TVs, broadband Internet and all the other comforts. The reason why more people are not doing it is because it takes forever for somebody doing a radical green project to get a permit.

Michael Reynolds
email : biotecture [at] earthship [dot] com

Green Building Construction Materials

House as Assemblage of by-products:
A sustainable home must make use of indigenous materials, those occurring naturally in the local area. For thousands and thousands of years, housing was built from found materials such as rock, earth, reeds and logs. Today, there are mountains of by-products of our civilization that are already made and delivered to all areas. These are the natural resources of the modern humanity.

An Earthship must make use of these materials via techniques available to the common person. These materials and the techniques for using them must be accessible to the common person in terms of price and skill required to use them. The less energy required to turn a found object into a usable building material the better. This concept is also called embodied-energy.

The Primary Building Block: Rammed-Earth encased in Steel Belted Rubber:
The major structural building component of the Earthship is recycled automobile tires filled with compacted earth to form a rammed earth brick encased in steel belted rubber. This brick and the resulting bearing walls it forms is virtually indestructible.

Aluminum Cans and Glass/Plastic Bottles:
These ‘little bricks’ are a great, simple way to build interior, non-structural walls. Aluminum can walls actually make very strong walls. The ‘little bricks’ create a cement-matrix that is very strong and very easy to build. Bottle can create beautiful colored walls that light shines through.

The Nature of the Materials
In keeping with the design and performance requirements of a Earthship Biotecture, the nature of the building matierials for an Earthship must have certain characteristics established. These characteristics must align with, rather than deteriorate, the environment of the planet. The requirements and characteristics below describe the nature of the ideal ‘building block’ for constructing the ideal building for residential and commercial applications. Many conventional materials satisfy one or two of these characteristics but no conventional materials satisfies all of them. Therefore, we must ‘invent’ or ‘create’ a new material or building block for the primary structure of the Earthship.

Materials are found all over the planet. Shipping materials for long distances is not sustainable and uses excessive amounts of energy. In order for the Earthship to be easily accessible to the common person and to maintain a low impact on the planetary energy situation, a “building block” found all over the globe would be required.

Able to be fashioned with little or no energy: If a building material was found that was indigenous to many parts of the planet but it required massive amounts of energy to fashion into a usable form, then it would not be sustainable and not considered. The major building materials for an earthships must require little or no manufactured energy to fashion into use. This keeps them easily available to common people and at the same time would allow the large scale production of Earthships to maintain a relatively low impact on the planet.

Since there are so many of us, if we are to survive without literally consuming the planet, everything we use must be chosen with consideration to the impact of large scale application. We must explore building materials and methods that are not dependent on manufactured energy and that have the potential to contribute to the general well-being of the planet rather than exploit it.

Thermal Mass:
The materials that surround the spaces of an Earthship must be dense and massive in order to store the temperatures required to provide a habitable environment for humans and plants. The Earthship itself must be a ‘battery’ for storing temperature. Making buildings out of heavy dense mass is as important as making airplanes light. Obviously a heavy airplane takes more fuel to fly. Obviously a light house takes more fuel to heat and cool.

We have built out of wood for centuries. Wood is organic and biodegradable. It goes away. So we have developed various poisonous chemical products to paint on it and make it last. This, plus the fact that wood is light and porous, makes it a very unsatisfactory building material. This is not to mention the fact that trees are our source of oxygen. For building housing that will last without chemicals, we should look around for materials that have durability as an inherent quality rather than trying to paint on durability. Wood is definitely a good material for cabinet doors and ceilings where mass is not a factor and where it protected so it will not rot, but the basic massive structure of buildings should be a natural resource that is inherently massive and durable by its own nature.

Earthquakes are an issue in many parts of the world. Any method of building must relate to this potential threat. Since earthquakes involve a horizontal movement or shaking of the structure, this suggests a material with resilience or capacity to move with this shaking. Brittle materials like concrete, break, crack and fracture. The ideal structural material for dealing with this kind of situation would have a ‘rubbery’ or resilient quality to it. This kind of material would allow movement without failure.

Low specific skill requirements:
If the materials for easily obtainable housing are to be truly accessibly to the common person they must, by their very nature, be easy to learn how to assemble. The nature of the materials for building an earthship must allow for assembling skills to be learned and mastered in a matter of hours, not year. These skills must be basic enough that specific talent is not required to learn them.

Low tech use/application: some systems of building today are simple if one has the appropriate high-tech expensive energy dependeant device or equipment. This, of course, limits the application of these methods to the professionals who have invested in the technology to enable them to use such methods. Becuase of the expense and energy required to get set up for these systems the common person is left totally dependent on those professionals for accessibility to these particular housing systems. Therefore the common person must go through the medium of money (bank loans, interest approvals, etc.) to gain access to a housing system that usually dictates performance and appearance.

If high-tech systems and skills are between the common person and their ability to obtain a home, we are setting ourselves up to place the very nature of our housing in the hans of economics rather than in the hands of the people. This situation has resulted in in human, energy-hog housing blocks and developments that make investors some quick money and leave the planet and the people with something that requires constant input of money and energy to operate. Earthship technology is the technology of natural phenomenon like the physics of the sun, the earth and people themselves.

by Michael Haederle / August 14, 2008

The speed limit posted on the rutted dirt road that winds through the Greater World subdivision is 20 mph, but Michael Reynolds is easily doing twice that as he rides his knobby-tired Yamaha TT500 bike to the job site, his white mane flowing in the slipstream. He pulls up next to a strange-looking structure with curving walls and a row of big, south-facing windows and leads me in the door. The rooms are set side by side, with glass-covered front walls opening onto a corridor running the length of the building. The result is a double greenhouse that captures sunlight pouring in through the windows. Although the June sun is already glaring over the vast mesa outside Taos, N.M., the smooth, mud-plastered walls inside the half-finished building are cool to the touch. “It makes the space that you hang out in 65 to 75 degrees year-round, with no fuel,” Reynolds says. That’s how it’s supposed to be in an Earthship, the self-sustaining dwelling Reynolds has been refining over the past 35 years. “This is our latest model,” Reynolds says. “It’ll probably work better than anything we’ve done.” Earthships have earned the 63-year-old renegade architect some attention over the years, much of it from cable television shows marveling at their novel construction. Reynolds builds exterior and interior walls from discarded tires, “steel-belted, rubber-encased bricks” packed tightly with soil. This creates mass that absorbs heat from the sun in the winter but keeps a cool, steady temperature in the summer. Multi-hued glass bottles used as building blocks in bathroom walls admit a jewellike pattern of light, while a honeycomb of aluminum cans and plastic bottles bulks up exterior walls that are later covered with stucco.

Earthships use photovoltaic cells that produce enough electricity to run lights, computers and flat-screen TVs; their roofs funnel rainwater into underground cisterns. “Gray water” from sinks and showers first irrigates vegetables, flowers and small trees in the greenhouse and then flushes toilets. Northern New Mexico’s high desert receives about 12 inches of precipitation a year, with temperatures that can top 100 degrees in the summer and plunge to 35 degrees below zero in the winter, yet Earthships are surprisingly comfortable, year-round. Reynolds has long preached that we need to go “off the grid,” eliminating our reliance on the fragile web of utility and sewage systems that knits together modern civilization. Now, as global climate change and energy scarcity loom, people are starting to pay attention.

Garbage Warrior, a documentary from British filmmaker Oliver Hodge that follows Reynolds on his quest to transform the way we live, is being shown at film festivals and in theaters around the world. Thanks to the publicity and Reynolds’ self-published books, people have been calling Earthship Biotecture, Reynolds’ design-build firm, to book $200-an-hour phone consults about building their own Earthships. “We’re swamped,” he says. He has built demonstration models in rural Bolivia and the tsunami-ravaged Andaman Islands, as well as in Holland, France and the United Kingdom. Reynolds will spend the summer launching an Earthship resort on the Caribbean island of Bonaire; in the fall, he’ll teach at an architecture school in Bergen, Norway.
“We’ve been doing this for 35 years,” Reynolds says. “All of a sudden, the world has realized they need it. The good thing is we’ve had 35 years to rehearse. To be honest, we’re pretty fucking good at it.”

If he sounds cocky, Reynolds has needed self-confidence to hew to his singular vision. In the past 10 years, he has been sued by disgruntled homeowners, accused by local government of building illegal subdivisions and forced by the state of New Mexico to relinquish his architect’s license. (He remains licensed in Colorado and Arizona.) He even donned a jacket and tie to wage a three-year fight to get the New Mexico Legislature to pass a law allowing people to test off-the-grid housing. But in a sign of changing times, he’s won county approval for Greater World, the most populated of the three Earthship subdivisions he’s built around Taos and has even been appointed to the Taos County Planning Commission. Those subdivisions include roughly 100 homes that cater to an eclectic mix of hippies, teachers, artists, architects, hospital workers and retirees. Greater World, which sits on a 650-acre tract a mile west of the scenic Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, has become a popular attraction for tourists, who stop by to see the nearly 60 Earthships dotting the landscape. That may explain why the state recently earmarked $300,000 to build a new visitor center there.

Reynolds grew up in Louisville, Ky., and after graduating from the University of Cincinnati’s architecture school in 1969, he moved to Taos, then an end-of-the-road haven for artists and hippies. Troubled by the accumulating debris of consumer culture — tires, bottles and cans, plastics — Reynolds decided to incorporate it into his construction. He bought 20 acres of cheap land in the early 1970s and started building experimental structures, including a meditation pyramid made of beer cans and a geodesic dome; he lived in them himself to see how well they worked. Like other builders in the Southwest who weathered the energy crisis of the Ford-Carter years, he copied the ancient Anasazi Indians and started orienting his houses south-by-southeast to capture solar energy. The idea of using earth-filled tires to store energy and maintain a steady temperature came later. Reynolds built his first Earthship in 1987 (at a dirt-cheap $17 per square foot). He still lives in it with his astrologer wife, Chris. A growing number of ecologically minded followers were inspired by his vision, and Reynolds soon wrote Earthship Vol. 1, the first in a series of how-to books to enable people to build their own homes.

The Earthship concept gained an early ally in the late actor Dennis Weaver (of Gunsmoke fame), who had Reynolds build a 10,000-square-foot home outside Ridgeway, Colo., and talked up Earthships on The Tonight Show. Reynolds meanwhile started several Earthship subdivisions around Taos. STAR (Social Transformation Alternative Republic) was set on 1,100 acres just west of Tres Orejas, an extinct volcano. He carved out building sites on a steep mountain slope near the mouth of Taos Canyon that he christened REACH (Rural Earthship Alternative Community Habitat), and Weaver commissioned him to build a second Earthship there. Pat Habicht remembers the heady days in the early 1990s when it seemed Reynolds could do no wrong. She lived for 10 years in one of the first Earthships, perched on Blueberry Hill west of the Taos Plaza; she later sold it to move into a retirement community. “The great thing about Mike is that he was the first person here to make people seriously think about what the options are,” she says. “He’s concerned with the whole world and not just a few houses that one person can build.” Habicht adds that Earthship living was a memorable experience. “I miss that feeling of being looked after by the Earth. They really do work.”

But even as his concept was catching on, Reynolds was heading for a fall. In building his Earthship subdivisions, he says he relied on informal agreements with county zoning officials and the state Construction Industries Division, neither of which objected to what he was doing because they understood that Earthships were still experimental. But then a new Taos County planner took office and in 1997 declared Reynolds’ subdivisions illegal — after all, they had no utility infrastructure. Several people for whom Reynolds had built homes sued or filed complaints with the state, alleging that their Earthships leaked or were too cold. There were also allegations of cost overruns. It was the prelude to years of conflict. Where Reynolds had once been hailed as a visionary, now “I was a crook,” he says. Responding to various complaints, the New Mexico Board of Examiners for Architects filed formal charges against him in 2000, and later that year he agreed to relinquish his architect’s license.

Meanwhile, in 1998, Reynolds was sued by Earthship owner Suzanne Martin, who alleged he had violated the state’s Unfair Trade Practices Act and breached their contract. Martin’s attorney, Lorenzo Atencio, says the construction on Martin’s two homes was shoddy. “The roof leaked,” he says. “The water storage system was not working properly. The wiring was exposed and unsightly.” And, Atencio says, the solar composting toilets Reynolds was using in those days didn’t work properly. A judge ruled in Martin’s favor in 2003. Reynolds appealed the decision, but the case was settled when Reynolds agreed to buy the Earthships back from Martin, Atencio says. Court records show all claims were dismissed in 2004. Reynolds, who represented himself in court, is bitter about the whole thing. “They took my license,” he says. “I got sued and lost a half-million dollars.” The way he sees it, his legal problems resulted from the trial-and-error nature of his ongoing experimentation. Reynolds is always tinkering, trying new ideas and discarding the ones that don’t work. At the same time, he has an obvious disdain for rules and regulations, which, in his view, hinder him from refining his designs in time to avert global catastrophe. Might some see that approach as reckless? “Hell yes, I’m reckless,” he declares. “How are you going to get through a jungle without swinging a machete?”

Sobered by the experience but unbowed, Reynolds says the ordeal taught him how little he needed to get by. “That stretch of hard times lightened my pack,” he says, “and I’ll never fill it up again.”
Although Reynolds is well known among alternative housing enthusiasts, he is far from a household name within the U.S. architectural establishment. “I think he’s making a big impact on a global level,” says his friend Marilyn Crenshaw, a Santa Cruz, Calif.-based residential and commercial architect. “I don’t think he’s making a big impact in the U.S. I wish he would because what he has to share is great.” His genius resides in his ability to integrate thermal mass, solar power, rainwater catchment, photovoltaic and other technologies into a working whole. “Michael is an amazing systems designer,” she says. But Reynolds doesn’t dress or act the part of the serious architect and so isn’t always taken seriously, Crenshaw says. “He’s an innovator — people resist change,” she says. Crenshaw predicts that in an era of global warming and skyrocketing energy prices, “They’re all going to call him a rebel until the day they’re begging for it.”

Reynolds has lectured at various U.S. architecture schools through the years, and architecture students from Reynolds’ alma mater, the University of Cincinnati, have come to Taos to study with him. His work has also been written about in a number of textbooks and earlier this year was included in a Canadian Centre for Architecture exhibit on designs responding to the energy shortages of the 1970s. He has been invited to participate in a design project at the Bergen School of Architecture in Norway this fall.

From a distance, the Earthships at Greater World look like they’re afloat in a sea of sagebrush. Their windows glint in the sun, their roofs sloping back to humps that blend into the terrain. Reynolds shows the energy of a man 20 years younger as he walks briskly from room to room at the newest Earthship, nicknamed the Corner Cottage, inspecting the progress that has been made. Bearded, with wary green eyes, he delivers a rapid-fire monologue peppered with apocalyptic analogies. (In a scene from Garbage Warrior, he likens modern society to a herd of buffalo about to plunge off a 1,000-foot cliff.) He sometimes stays up at night worrying about how easily the systems that support our civilization could be disrupted by natural disasters or man-made catastrophes. Events like Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami underscore his concerns. “I don’t trust that the power and water and sewage is going to be available in the future,” he says.

At the Corner Cottage, half a dozen workmen with ponytails and dreadlocks pause at their work as Reynolds discusses with them what they would tackle next. The loss of his New Mexico architect’s license hasn’t hindered him much: There is no requirement that an architect be used to design residential housing as long as the plans are reviewed and stamped by an engineer or architect. He retains his general contractor’s license, and several members of his crew have architecture degrees.
Not that they need much direction. They have built most of the homes at Greater World (a total of 130 are planned), and many live here. They have mastered the art of pounding soil into tires with hand sledges and building walls from bottles and gobs of cement. They know how to craft ceilings with 12-inch vigas — peeled pine trunks harvested from nearby mountains — and how to trowel a smooth mud plaster flecked with bits of straw. Most of them are young enough to be his sons, but Reynolds regards them as his friends.

Just down the road, the sprawling 6,000-square-foot showpiece home he’s dubbed The Phoenix features a two-story greenhouse big enough to house a small fishpond, a gazebo and some citrus trees. Reynolds rents this place to overnight guests, who come from as far away as Japan to experience Earthship living for themselves. The Phoenix has been advertised for sale on the Internet for $1.5 million, which Reynolds admits is pricey, but he says this project is intentionally over the top, calculated to get wealthy and influential people interested. Meanwhile, he and his crew are building the prototype for an affordable three-bedroom, two-bath house that would suit the finances of ordinary homebuyers.

The Phoenix needs landscaping at the moment. There’s an unfinished bottle-and-cement wall meant to serve as an enclosure for goats and sheep, and piles of construction debris dot the periphery of the building site, parched in the desert sun. Inside, though, it’s a semitropical arboretum. The air is fragrant with the scent of growing things — bananas, grapes, corn, lemons, tangerines, oranges, tomatoes, amaranth, coconut palm and eggplant. All told, about 2,200 square feet of the structure are devoted to food production. “A family of four could live here, period, with nothing from the outside world,” Reynolds says as we stand in the greenhouse. In the kitchen, a super-insulated refrigerator runs on current from the photovoltaic system. The compressor is located on the top of the unit instead of the bottom so rising heat won’t work against the cooling system. The stove runs on bottled propane —Reynolds’ one concession to outside energy sources. He estimates that a standard 500-gallon propane tank will last for about three years, totaling $50 a year in energy costs.

Behind the living space is a long, narrow corridor, one wall of which is the towering stack of tires that give the building its thermal mass (there’s another three feet of compacted earth behind the tires, a barrier of rigid insulation and then several feet of mounded soil moved in with a backhoe). Transom openings in the rear of the rooms vent into this hallway, which has two vertical shafts leading up to large, movable skylights. With the tug of a rope, the counterweight-loaded covers can be raised, allowing warm air to escape. Outside, I follow Reynolds as he climbs onto the slope leading up to the building’s roof. Reynolds shows a V-shaped membrane that collects rainwater running off green sheet metal and directs it into twin drains leading to buried 3,000-gallon cisterns. He opens a cabinet housing the deep-cycle batteries that store power from the photovoltaic cells and another containing storage for biodiesel containers. “What we’re doing now is putting a small biodiesel plant, about the size of a washer, in each home,” he says. With five-gallon cans of cooking grease obtained from local restaurants, occupants can produce 25 gallons of bio-diesel a week and use it to supplement the rooftop solar collector that heats hot water for the kitchen and bath.

Reynolds calls my attention to a multicolored decoration along the roofline made from enameled sheet metal. The panels were harvested from washers, dryers and dishwashers at the local dump, he says. His workers have even salvaged heavy-duty trampoline springs to operate the skylights. “The dump is a gold mine; it really is,” he says. “We’re using products that our neighborhood produces, and they don’t require any fuel.” A large Earthship like this one might use 1,000 tires, Reynolds says, each of which takes seven gallons of oil to produce. A growing number of the roughly 290 million scrap tires generated in the U.S. each year are burned for fuel or ground up for road base and other uses, but about 27 million still wind up in dumps. “I’ve got a mountain of tires,” Reynolds says. “There are more tires than there are trees.” He acknowledges that an Earthship still requires new building materials, including lumber, glass, insulation, wire, cement and steel. But by comparison with conventional construction, he estimates, “I’d say we’ve reduced the materials to the tune of 50 percent.”

The Earthships at Greater World run the gamut from lovingly tended to rough and half finished. That partly reflects the limited finances of some of the DIY owners but also something of the founder’s outlook. Pat Habicht, who did the finish work on her Earthship, says that for Reynolds, who favors function over form, aesthetics are strictly of secondary interest. “He doesn’t care what the hell it looks like,” she says, laughing. Reynolds believes it’s unconscionable for an architect to focus on how a building looks with little or no regard to what effect it will have on the environment. “They’re still allowing architects to make these little monuments to themselves that cost $60 million,” he snorts. “That’s a big part of the reason I’ve called this Biotecture. I don’t think architecture is capable of coming around fast enough. I don’t want to be labeled that.”

Kirsten Jacobsen, Earthship Biotecture’s educational director, was a college student in San Francisco when she came out to Taos 14 years ago to do a research project on Reynolds. “I thought it was great that people living in houses like these were making an impact just by getting up and reading a book,” she says. She wound up becoming part of his tribe, spending the next four years on a construction crew. She moved on to help run the Greater World visitor center, and now she serves as Reynolds’ right hand and air-traffic controller, keeping track of his commitments from the Earthship Biotecture office, a ramshackle structure with a dome on top. Jacobsen tells me it took her eight years to build her own 1,300-square-foot home in Greater World. While people simply live in a conventional house, she says, Earthship owners have to live with their houses. Jacobsen says maintaining the heating, cooling and water systems in her two-bedroom home doesn’t require much time; it’s mostly a matter of raising and lowering the shades and opening and closing the skylights. She estimates that she spends an hour every few months cleaning out water filters. “In the U.S., these ideas exist on the fringe of ‘green buildings,’” she says. “We’re not saying this is for everyone. We’re just saying this is a direction you ought to investigate.”

Tony Marvin, a longtime Taos resident who has renovated old adobe houses in town, bought a two-bedroom, 1,700-square-foot Earthship in Greater World two and a half years ago with his girlfriend. “It’s absolutely a stunning home,” he says. “There was actually nothing this beautiful at this price in Taos — not even close.” There was “a learning curve” in mastering the building’s water and electrical systems, Marvin says, but they work well. “One of the happiest days of my life was when I went to the gas utility and the electrical utility and said, ‘I want my accounts disconnected,’” he says. Serenity and self-sufficiency may be his goal, but Reynolds these days seems to be in perpetual motion, juggling international phone calls and supervising construction projects while finding time to draft floor plans and add to his collection of writings. His cluttered office at Greater World is strewn with blueprints and site renderings, the walls covered with large calendars mapping out his travel for the next six months.

He acknowledges the house-afire urgency, recounting a recent phone consult with a couple so worried about climate change that they told him, “We just need to get in a house that’s going to take care of us — now.” Reynolds warns there isn’t much time. “I knew that things were going down the tubes, and it was going to take a long time for people to get desperate enough to make these changes,” he says. “We extended ourselves out there for a long time, and nobody cared. Now that they see the icebergs melting, everybody cares.”




GREAT LAKES INFECTED?,1607,7-164–228372–,00.html

Mich. files suit in US high court over Asian carp
BY John Flesher (AP) – Dec 21, 2009

Michigan asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to close shipping locks near Chicago to prevent Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes and endangering their $7 billion fishery. State Attorney General Mike Cox filed a lawsuit Monday with the nation’s highest court against Illinois, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. They operate canals and other waterways that open into Lake Michigan.

Bighead and silver carp from Asia have been detected in those waterways after migrating north in the Mississippi and Illinois rivers for decades. Officials poisoned a section of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal this month to prevent the carp from getting closer to Lake Michigan while an electrical barrier was taken down for maintenance. But scientists say DNA found north of the barrier suggest at least some of the carp have gotten through and may be within 6 miles of Lake Michigan. If so, the only other obstacle between them and the lake are shipping locks, which open frequently to grant passage for cargo vessels.

Fifty members of Congress last week joined environmental groups in urging closure of the locks — the same demand made in Michigan’s lawsuit. “The Great Lakes are an irreplaceable resource,” Cox, who is seeking the Republican gubernatorial nomination in Michigan, said at a news conference in Detroit. “Thousands of jobs are at stake and we will not get a second chance once the carp enter Lake Michigan.” He likened the fish to “nuclear bombs.” Cox went directly to the Supreme Court because it handles disputes between states. Michigan is seeking to reopen a case dating back more than a century, when Missouri filed suit after Chicago reversed the flow of the Chicago River and began sending sewage-fouled Lake Michigan water south toward the Mississippi River.

After that issue was resolved, several Great Lakes states — including Michigan — renewed the suit with a new complaint: Chicago’s diversion of water away from the basin was harming the lakes by lowering water levels. The high court has ruled on the matter numerous times, setting ceilings on the amount of Lake Michigan water Chicago could divert. The present limit is 2.1 billion gallons per day. Michigan’s suit argues that continued operation of the locks represents another potential injury to the lakes. It asks the court to immediately order them closed, and to create new barriers to prevent the carp from entering the ship canal from nearby waterways during floods.

Obama administration officials last week pledged $13 million to prevent carp from bypassing the electronic barrier by migrating between the Des Plaines River and the canal. The lawsuit also asks the Supreme Court to require a study of the Chicago waterway system to define where and how many carp are in those waters and to eradicate them. Noah Hall, an assistant professor at Wayne State University’s law school, said Michigan has a good chance of prevailing if it can show the potential harm posed by Asian carp would outweigh the benefits of keeping the locks open. “The carp invasion is a good textbook example of irreparable harm,” Hall said.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office was reviewing the suit and had no immediate comment, spokeswoman Natalie Bauer said. Metropolitan Water Reclamation District spokeswoman Jill Horist called the lawsuit “unfortunate.” “It’s unfortunate that there would be an assumption that this would make some positive resolution come sooner than is truly feasible,” Horist said. “Even if the locks were closed there’s still a variety of ways for DNA or Asian carp to enter Lake Michigan.” Messages left with the Army Corps of Engineers seeking comment were not returned.

Rep. Candice Miller, a Michigan Republican, praised the lawsuit.”There is nothing more pressing than stopping this aggressive invasive species from entering Lake Michigan and threatening our lake’s environment and all the states’ economies in the Great Lakes Basin,” Miller said. Environmentalists said closing the locks would be a temporary fix, but the only long-term solution would be restoring the natural separation between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River system. “The Chicago diversion was a 19th century solution to an environmental problem. Now it’s causing a 21st century emergency,” said Andy Buchsbaum, director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes center.

Feds to spend $13M to fight Asian carp invasion
BY John Flesher / Dec 14, 2009

Federal officials said Monday they would use $13 million in Great Lakes restoration funds to step up the fight against invasive Asian carp. Lisa Jackson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said the money will be used for engineering projects to prevent the carp from slipping into Lake Michigan near Chicago. They include closing conduits and shoring up low-lying lands between the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal — which leads to the lake — and other waterways. The ravenous carp have been migrating northward in the Mississippi and Illinois rivers for decades. Scientists say if they get into the Great Lakes, they could gobble up plankton, interrupt the food chain and devastate the $7 billion fishery.

Federal and state officials poisoned a six-mile section of the canal this month to prevent the carp from getting closer to Lake Michigan while an electrical barrier was taken down for maintenance. They have promised to consider other measures. Michigan officials are preparing a lawsuit demanding at least temporary closure of shipping locks on the canal, part of a roughly 300-mile waterway linking the lake with the Mississippi. That’s opposed by tug and barge companies that haul millions of tons of iron ore, coal and other cargo on the waterway. While debate on a long-term plan continues, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will use some of the newly designated funds to block potential bypasses between the sanitary and ship canal and two nearby waterways believed already to have Asian carp: the Des Plaines River and the I&M Canal. Scientists fear the carp might be washed from those waterways into the sanitary and ship canal above the electrical barrier during flooding caused by heavy rains.

The rest of the money will provide DNA testing in hopes of determining how far the carp have advanced, Army Corps spokeswoman Lynne Whelan said. Congress this fall appropriated $475 million to kick off a comprehensive restoration of the Great Lakes, including cleanup of contaminated harbors, wildlife habitat improvements and crackdowns on runoff pollution and species invasions. The $13 million to battle the Asian carp will be drawn from that fund, which President Barack Obama requested. The fund has “given us what we need to significantly and immediately reduce the risk of Asian carp reaching the Great Lakes and destroying such a valuable ecosystem,” Jackson said.

Officials with federal agencies involved in the carp battle met last week with members of Congress who pushed for spending up to $30 million over the next year. “I want to be clear that our work on this is not done and we’ll continue to aggressively work to protect the Great Lakes from this dangerous creature,” said Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich. “Allowing the Asian carp into the Great Lakes is simply unacceptable.” Henry Henderson, Midwest director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the planned spending was worthwhile but a stopgap measure. Environmental groups want to sever the link between the Great Lakes and Mississippi systems created by engineers more than a century ago. “We need a permanent solution, not a series of ad hoc barriers,” Henderson said.

Minnesota, Ohio join lawsuit against Illinois over Asian carp
BY Mark Guarino / December 29, 2009

Minnesota and Ohio have joined Michigan in a lawsuit against Illinois in the battle keep Asian carp from the Mississippi Basin from invading the Great Lakes through a historic Chicago canal. Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson announced her state’s involvement in the lawsuit on Monday after judging that the presence of the Asian Carp along the state’s 149-mile shoreline on Lake Superior would directly threaten the state’s commercial and recreational fishing industries, which together generate $2.7 billion. “We pride ourselves on outdoor recreation; we call ourselves ‘The Land of 10,000 Lakes’,” she said in a phone interview. “We do think it is a public emergency.” The total revenue from fishing and tourism on the Great Lakes amounts to $7 billion.

Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox’s lawsuit last week asked the US Supreme Court to order Illinois state agencies and the US Army Corps of Engineers to close the O’Brien Lock and Dam and Chicago Controlling Works, two critical junctions of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. The historic waterway was built in the 1920s to divert sewage away from Chicago and to provide a commerce route between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. Linking river traffic to Lake Michigan resulted in booming commerce for the Midwest, resulting in $30 million in annual revenue, according to the American Waterways Operators (AWO), a trade association representing the tugboat, towboat, and barge industry. But it also introduced a potential environmental disaster: the Asian carp, a bottom feeder, one of which was discovered in the canal close to Lake Michigan in early December, the northernmost finding of the fish in North America. The carp is thought to have traveled up the canal from Mississippi and Arkansas, where the fish was first introduced to help control algae growth on catfish farms in the 1970s.

The local shipping industry has argued that closing the canal locks will damage the shipping industry. But Minnesota’s Ms. Swanson says that argument is shortsighted and inadequate when set against the possible destruction of the Great Lakes. “There’s no monetary comparison to an ecosystem,” she says. “They’re an American treasure. Once you contaminate them with Asian carp, that treasure is jeopardized and can’t be changed. You can’t pay Michigan or Ohio or Minnesota enough money to ruin the Great Lakes. Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray also joined the lawsuit. His office says Asian carp in Lake Erie could cripple the $680 million earned in recreation fishing each year.

The lawsuit grounds its case on three 1929 complaints pitting Wisconsin, Michigan and New York against Illinois. Those complaints charged that the canal’s reversal of the water flow away from Lake Michigan was illegal. The Supreme Court declared the canal unlawful one year later in 1930, but never ordered it shut over the following years but only sought to regulate it. Mr. Cox says if the court will not reopen the old case, he will file a new case charging the US Army Corps of Engineers, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources with allowing pollutants to contaminate the Great Lakes system. The lawsuit is on the high court’s agenda Jan. 8.

“Crews dump rotenone in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal on Thursday in Lockport, Ill. The fish-toxic chemical was dumped on a nearly 6-mile stretch of the canal as part of efforts to keep the voracious and invasive Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes.”

Chicago river poisoned to block feared Asian carp
BY Andrew Stern / December 3, 2009

Authorities scooped up poisoned fish floating to the surface of a Chicago-area waterway on Thursday in an operation designed to keep invasive Asian carp out of the Great Lakes and prevent an ecological disaster. Illinois officials said a single Bighead carp, one of two prolific species of Asian carp viewed as a threat, had turned up in the huge fish kill that began overnight along 6 miles of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal southwest of the city. Poison was dumped into the waterway so maintenance could be performed on an electrical barrier that is designed to keep the carp out of the Great Lakes. The Asian carp was found some 40 miles from Lake Michigan, which was the closest to the Great Lakes the species has been found, authorities said.

Some 200,000 pounds (90 tons) of dead fish are expected to be collected, weighed, inventoried, and dumped in a landfill over the next few days. Most of the dead fish scooped up so far have been native carp and shad. Silver carp and the Asian Bighead, which can grow to 5 feet and weigh more than 100 pounds (45 kg), have come to dominate sections of the Mississippi River and its tributaries. Authorities fear that if the carp swim up to the Great Lakes, the largest fresh-water resource in the world, they could create an “ecological disaster” by consuming the bottom of the food chain and ruining the lakes’ $7 billion fishery.

Since 1990s floods allowed the carp to escape into rivers from research facilities and commercial fish ponds in the South, where they were introduced to clean away weeds and other detritus, the carp have multiplied and become a “nuisance species,” according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Along some stretches of the Illinois River, the carp make up 95 percent of the biomass and they are considered poor for eating or as a game fish. Silver carp, which leap into the air when disturbed by passing motorboats, have injured boaters.

Two electrical barriers in the canal were erected in 2002 and 2006 to shock any fish, particularly carp, that try to swim up the canal to Lake Michigan. The newer barrier is being switched off to perform maintenance on it. To give themselves a window to complete the task and keep any carp at bay below the barrier, authorities dumped into the canal more than 2,000 pounds (900 kg) of the natural poison rotenone that prevents fish gills from absorbing oxygen. The toxin, which is used as a broad-spectrum insecticide and pesticide, kills fish and freshwater snails but does not harm other animals. It dissipates within two days, though authorities planned to introduce a neutralizing agent to speed up the process.

Notre Dame University scientists recently detected carp DNA on the lake side of the barriers, which could indicate the carp have already passed them and the effort is either too little or too late. Fishermen have been asked to look out for the invasive carp on the lake side of the barriers. The DNA discovery led some environmentalists to call for river locks to be shut and ask for permanent separation of the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River watershed. Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm has indicated her state might demand locks be closed permanently. But the shipping industry argued that would be a costly mistake. The American Waterways Operators, which represents barge operators and other water shippers, said 15 million tons a year of commodities including oil, cement, iron, coal and road salt would be disrupted or halted.

Cleanup near Chicago yields just 1 bighead
BY Tina Lam / Dec 4, 2009

As cleanup and Asian carp-searching efforts continued after a massive poisoning in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal on Thursday, officials said they had found a lone Asian carp among the 200,000 pounds of dead fish. The bighead carp, nearly 22 inches long, was found just above the lock and dam at Lockport. That’s one of many spots where DNA testing since July has shown the presence of carp. The find is important because it established that the DNA testing is correct. That same testing has shown that there are carp just below an even more critical lock, the O’Brien lock, 7 miles from Lake Michigan.

A biologist who tested the poison on carp said Thursday that the fact that more carp weren’t showing up dead in the canal wasn’t surprising, since his tests showed they would sink to the bottom. “There is a chance someone will find one or two,” wrote Duane Chapman, a biologist at the U.S. Geological Survey in Missouri. Finding the single carp Thursday will only increase the drumbeat to close the canal off from Lake Michigan. “We’re concerned,” said Dan Thomas, president of the Great Lakes Sport Fishing Council. The Great Lakes Fishery Commission has pushed for several years to try to get studies done about how the engineering work might be done, said Marc Gaden, spokesman for the Great Lakes Fishery Commission.

The canal was built more than 100 years ago to let ships move between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River basin, and to allow Chicago to flush its waste down the river. Now, it’s become a pathway for invasive species to pass back and forth between the bodies of water. “It benefits Chicago, but the states around it have to ask, ‘What are we getting from it?’ ” said Gaden. The dead bighead carp was found during fish cleanup work Thursday along a 5 1/2-mile stretch of the canal from Lockport to a point just above an electric barrier built to keep carp out of the Great Lakes.

The discovery of one dead carp may not sound significant. But in an e-mail, a biologist who has studied Asian carp for more than two decades — and did the research to find out how much poison would kill them — said he never expected any Asian carp to be found floating among the dead fish in the canal. Instead, in tests he did, they plummeted to the bottom. “I have a strong doubt that we will see any bighead or silver carp for a few days or more, if ever, after the poisoning is done,” wrote Duane Chapman, a biologist at the U.S. Geological Survey in Missouri. That doesn’t mean they weren’t there, he said.

Along the canal where 350 people from various agencies poisoned 200,000 pounds of fish, security was tight Thursday, apparently partly out of fear that animal rights activists might try to enter the area. Gaden said it was unfortunate that news media weren’t allowed to see or photograph piles of dead fish being hauled from the shore by crane. “I want people to see dead fish,” he said. “It shows what drastic measures we have to take when we don’t prevent invasive species from getting in in the first place.” With the canal shut to barge and pleasure boat traffic, government boats crisscrossed the canal all day, carrying nets to scoop up flopping fish. Fish specialists examined the fish, looking for Asian carp, and found the lone bighead near the dam.

Bighead and silver carp are both considered dangerous to fish in the Great Lakes. But only the silver carp is on a national list of species labeled injurious, meaning it’s illegal to transport, sell or import them. In 2005, experts said bighead were a high and unacceptable risk to native wildlife and requested that bighead be put on the list. States can create their own bans, but a federal prohibition is more far-reaching and secure. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., introduced a bill in July that would require bighead to be listed. At a Senate hearing Thursday, held before the bighead was found in Illinois, Levin urged his colleagues to pass the bill swiftly. Asian carp were brought into the United States decades ago to clean up sewage ponds, but escaped in the 1970s into the Mississippi River and began their journey north to the canal.

Ellie Koon of the National Fish and Wildlife Service helped pick up dead and dying fish hours after the poison, rotenone, was dumped in the canal. Koon’s usual job in Ludington, Mich., is to use a fish toxin to kill sea lamprey, an invasive fish that wrecked the Great Lakes fishery in the 1950s. Koon said her own opinion, based on her 25 years of work on sea lamprey, is that everything possible should be done to stop even a small number of Asian carp from getting into the lakes. “We now spend millions of dollars a year just to control one invasive species, sea lamprey,” she said. “We can’t let Asian carp get by.”



Invasive Asian Carp Inspire Lawsuits, Extreme Archery
BY Katie Drummond / Dec. 29, 2009

They’re the “nuclear bombs” of American waterways. That’s the analogy Michigan attorney general Mike Cox has drawn for the Asian carp, which is rapidly taking over stretches of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers — so rapidly, in fact, that his state is now seeking a legal injunction to help prevent the carp from invading the Great Lakes. Cox’s hope is that the courts accomplish what science could not: A recent experiment with poison in the Chicago river killed 90 tons-worth of fish, but only one carp was among the deceased.

Still, if you haven’t been following the coverage, it can be a puzzler: All this fuss, over a fish? Just who are these marauding, cockroach-tough swimmers that have state lawmakers, the commercial fishing industry and justifiably skittish boaters in a tizzy? A primer on this fear-inducing “missile with fins”:

1) They Haven’t Always Been the Enemy: “Asian carp” designates eight different major species of fish, of which only four — grass, black, silver and bighead — are considered invasive species in American waters. (Nor are all carp mutant-sized monsters that can grow to reach 100 pounds. The common goldfish, also known as Carassius auratus, is among the carp family too.) The fish were imported to the U.S in the 1970s to remove algae from commercial catfish ponds. Then, in the early 1990s, they rode flood waters into Mississippi waterways, and the trouble was under way.

2. They’re hearty eaters: The four common species currently in U.S. rivers will eat pretty much anything, and a lot of it — they consume nearly half their body weight in food every day — which can overwhelm native fish populations. Bighead and silver carps are “filter-feeders” that nosh on plankton; black carp eat mussels and snails. Silver carp don’t even have stomachs, allowing them to chow pretty much all the time.

3. They’re a big hit on YouTube: Carp have adapted to quiet lake bottoms and backwaters and are apt to jump at the sound of approaching watercraft. Jet skis and motor boats send them flying — up to 6 feet into the air. Footage of wildly flopping, airborne carp has become fodder for viral online videos, but the fish are a genuine danger to recreational boaters: The U.S. Geological Survey has likened an encounter with a leaping carp to “being hit with a thrown bowling ball.”

4. They’re remarkably resilient: How to kill a carp? Not with the aforementioned poison. Nor will suffocation or starvation get the job done: Grass carp, for instance, can live under the ice of frozen-over rivers and lakes and survive on very little food; other species go into a state of “suspended animation” to make it through periods of scarce sustenance and can survive for periods of time out of the water. Although recent reports suggest that carp might be dying off in some waterways, a comparison of carp levels from 1990 to 2000 shows how prolifically the fish, especially the bigheads, can expand their population in just a year.

5. They’ve inspired at least one new outdoor hobby: Not everyone’s upset over the Asian carp invasion, which for some innovative outdoor lovers has given rise to a new pursuit: fishing (or hunting?) for carp with a bow and arrow. Wisconsin resident Sam Woods is among them, and he likes to drive to the Illinois River to shoot the fish as they jump. “They’re awesome,” Woods told CBS. “If I don’t put 200 fish a night in the boat, I’m pretty disgusted with myself.”

6. They pair well with a nice white wine: The futility of other Asian carp abatement efforts is prompting some, such as Illinois State Sen. Mike Jacobs, to suggest an alternate approach: If you can’t beat ’em, eat ’em. Jacobs has advocated for adding carp to state prison menus, but you don’t need to be locked up to dine on the fish, which is consumed widely in Asia. Illinois State University helpfully points to a few recipes — for fried carp, and for smoked carp two ways — and notes that some testers even preferred the taste of the fish to canned tuna.


BY Rona Kobell / Officials swap stories of battle against invasive species
Social pressure, regulations discussed as tools to prevent spread of unwanted plants, animals

Spiny water fleas, furry mitten crabs, northern snakeheads, dead man’s fingers-they all sound like something out of a horror movie. But unfortunately, the story of the invaders that took over the nation’s seas is all too real. These marauders enter our waterways, either introduced accidentally or on purpose, and within a few short years, many establish breeding populations. They gobble up native fish and native habitats. With no natural predators, there’s no stopping their growth. They breed like rabbits-or, as the case may be, nutria. With nature unable to control them, wildlife managers try their best-but often, they’re simply too late and the results are devastating.

Invaders take several paths into the waterways. Some are brought in for a specific reason, and then things go terribly wrong. MSX, one of two diseases that have devastated native oyster populations, was accidentally brought to the East Coast with foreign oysters imported for research. In December, the Mid-Atlantic Panel of Aquatic Nuisance Species met in Baltimore to discuss the various vectors for bringing in the invaders and how to better manage them. The panel, which was organized by Maryland Sea Grant, was established in 2003. It took the place of the Bay Program’s Invasive Species Workgroup and, based on lessons learned here and elsewhere, is aimed at preventing new invasions when possible, and containing them when prevention doesn’t work. “Some of them hang out in a bay and stay for 50 years, and don’t spread-until they do,” said James Carlton, director of the Mystic Seaport Maritime Studies Program at Williams College in Massachusetts.

The case of the Asian carp and the Great Lakes is an example of the threat an invasive species can pose, and the millions of dollars in effort it takes to combat it. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service brought the Asian carp to the United States, seeking a natural weed killer. In the 1970s, catfish farmers in the Southeast began importing them as a natural pond cleaner. But floods in the Mississippi caused the ponds to overflow, and the carp swam into the great river. In some parts of the Mississippi, the voracious carp is the dominant species. They can weigh up to 100 pounds and can consume 40 percent of their body weight daily. They have no natural predators, and are so bony that U.S. consumers don’t want to eat them.

The carp was recently discovered in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, a man-made body of water connecting the Mississippi River to the Great Lakes. The Army Corps of Engineers has an electronic barrier at the canal to stop the fish from entering the Great Lakes. But Michigan authorities are complaining that the electronic barrier-which costs $40,000 a month to power-is not enough to keep the carp from the Great Lakes. They want the Corps to close the canal and protect Michigan’s $7 billion tourism/recreational fishing industry. But, closing the canal would disrupt a huge amount of interstate commerce between the Mississippi and the Great Lakes, and the Corps is planning to use federal stimulus money to erect another barrier to further insulate the Great Lakes. So, in 40 years, the Asian carp has gone from a helpful pond cleaner to a multimillion-dollar nuisance.

The northern snakehead hasn’t proven to be the nuisance that Asian Carp is, but it’s still worrisome that scientists have discovered hundreds of them in the Potomac River and several of its Northern Virginia tributaries. Scientists believe the snakeheads got to the Potomac sometime around 2002, when a male and female were dumped into Dogue Creek. So far, the bass in the river are tolerating the voracious Chinese fish, but scientists worry the peaceful co-existence won’t last long, given snakeheads’ copious breeding practices. Live bait is also an excellent vector for invasive species. Fishermen should never release unused bait into the water or leave it on shore. They should save it, give it to another angler or put it in their freezer.

In Montana, where recreational boaters have unwittingly spread invasive mussels that hitched a ride on their boat bottoms, managers are turning to social marketing to get the word out. Robert Wiltshire, founder and director of the Center for Aquatic Nuisance Species, said that it’s not enough to tell people to clean their boats. It has to be socially important for them to do so. Managers can appeal to the environmental sensibilities of a fly fisherman in a canoe, but Wiltshire said, that same message wouldn’t go over well with a jet skier. “We can’t do this through regulation. The real action is through peer-to-peer sharing,” Wiltshire said. “You need your fishing buddy to tell you to clean your boat, not the Game Board.” One way to do that, he said, is to reach out to professional athletes in competitions such as the X-Games.

The biggest conduit for aquatic invasive species, though, is ballast water used to balance ships that travel the world. Carlton, of the Mystic maritime program, said the nation’s scientists and port managers must work together to reduce the surprises. For decades, environmentalists have pushed for stricter federal standards. And when they didn’t materialize, many states took matters into their own hands. In 2000, Washington state required ships to exchange their ballast water 50 miles from shore. Oregon and California soon followed suit. In 2004-eight years after Congress passed a voluntary program to regulate ballast water, the Coast Guard required ships to flush ballast water from their tanks and replace it with ocean water when they were at least 200 miles from shore. But most of the ships couldn’t comply with that standard.

Gregory Ruiz, who studies invasives and ballast water at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, MD, said the exchanges, while “better than nothing” are an imperfect answer. The exchange does not get rid of all organisms. And it can be dangerous for a ship to destabilize itself in the middle of the ocean. Over the last several years, the shipping industry and marine scientists have agreed that onboard treatment systems using chemicals to kill all of the invasive species are a far better option. The Coast Guard is now proposing that all ships have a treatment system on board by 2016.

The Chesapeake Bay is now home to 170 invasive species, from the invasive reed, phragmites, to nutria, a foreign muskrat, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore to the shellfish-eating rapa whelk in Virginia and zebra mussels in the Susquehanna. Bay policy makers didn’t really start to study the problem of invasive species until the mid-1990s, when they were already clearly a problem in San Francisco Bay and the Great Lakes. But now, the Chesapeake is one of two places in the country where new ballast water treatment systems are being tested. The Maritime Environmental Resource Center, which does its research aboard the Cape Washington near Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, is testing ballast water treatment options. Part of a partnership between the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Chesapeake Biological Laboratory and the Maryland Port Administration, the center is also looking at ways to limit hull fouling from invasive species and to rein in air emissions from ships.

Asian carp cause problems in the region’s waterways
BY Steve Vantreese / The Paducah Sun / August 20, 2008

A quiet invasion makes for troubled waters on the area’s big rivers and some related backwater slough lakes. The lower Ohio, Tennessee, Cumberland and Mississippi rivers nowadays teem with a pair of carp species that aren’t native to American waterways. Indeed, bighead carp and silver carp are Asian in origin. Arkansas fish farmers imported the fish as pond cleaners in the 1970s. But the Asians escaped their commercial surroundings when floodwaters came calling to lowland ponds in 1993.

In the 16 years since their accidental release, bighead and silver carp proliferated in the Mississippi River, then blew up in numbers in all the major tributaries, including the lower Ohio and the far downstream ends of the Tennessee and Cumberland. Rather than being a mere addition to rivers, streams and lakes, Asian carp force themselves among those swimming local waters. But that’s especially true for huge numbers of large fish — silver carp easily reach 30 pounds and bighead carp potentially double that size and more.

Paul Rister is the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources fisheries biologist for the state’s westernmost waters. He said vast numbers of Asian carp could undermine the food base for other fish. As filter feeders, the bighead and silver carp strain small organisms, algae and plankton, from the water. The vast population of them might dramatically reduce this material, which is a basic food source for juvenile fish of many species and a primary food source for shad and paddlefish. “Shad are filter feeders, too, and they’re a chief food for most sport fish species,” Rister said. “If shad go down because of the competition from Asian carp, then we don’t have as much for sport fish to live on. “One of our chief concerns is for paddlefish, which compete directly with Asians because they’re all filter feeders,” Rister said. “Paddlefish are clearly in poorer condition than what we’ve seen in the past. “We’ve seen bighead and silver carp use the oxbow lakes that are occasionally flooded by the rivers as nursery areas,” he said. Oxbow lakes are bow-shaped lakes formed in a former channel of a river. “The paddlefish use them, too, and they compete for the same food there,” Rister said. “The paddlefish we’ve seen in the oxbows are emaciated.” Fishing pressure to hook paddlefish for their eggs compounds the species’ problems. Paddlefish eggs satisfy an inflated caviar market as a substitute for sturgeon roe.

Adult Asian carp found in Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley are thought to have passed through navigational locks to reach the reservoirs. They are not thought to be reproducing in the lakes, however. Thus the numbers of bighead and silver carp reportedly are modest in comparison to the masses seen in the rivers and river-flooded oxbow lakes. “They do especially well in the bottomland lakes,” said Doug Henley, a Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources Ohio River biologist. “To reproduce, they need running water like they have in the rivers, but the larval fish that they produce by spawning need the backwater areas as nurseries. There, they really compete with small native fish for plankton. “The 2- and 3-inch crappie that are in the oxbows might end up without enough food when there’s a mass of Asian carp in there, and that’s where you get a bottleneck of all these mouths to feed and too little food,” Henley said. “That’s one way you get stunted fish.”

A wild abundance of fish might seem to be a bounty instead of a blight to a commercial fisherman, but it all has to do with public demand. “They’re tasty fish, but there’s no local market for Asian carp,” said Ronnie Hopkins of Ledbetter, a commercial fishermen and one of a few who nets silver and bighead carp intentionally. “I’ve got my own market, but I just ship them out as I get orders for them,” he said. “I can usually catch all I need to keep the orders filled.” Hopkins said existing demand primarily is ethnic in origin, people who are culturally inclined to eating silver and bighead carp. But with the huge resource of Asian carp in area rivers and lakes, consequently, processing facilities are needed to turn the invaders into ground fish patties or other forms that can be used in the mass market.

In the interest of improving the fish populations on some of Ballard County’s state-owned small lakes, Hopkins has done some contracted netting to remove Asian carp from them. He also nets on the Ohio as demand rises for Asian carp as a food fish. “We’re eat up with them, but you have to go to the kind of places they go to catch them,” he said. “On the river, they like to go where there’s swift water next to dead water and net along the edge there.”

Hopkins said silver carp are notorious for jumping when disturbed, and this behavior has proved painful for fishermen and boaters in this region. “They’re shaped like torpedoes, and they hit just as hard when you’re running along in the boat and you run into one,” he said. “I was just out running a net and had about 15 of them jump into the boat while I was working,” Hopkins said. “One of them hit me in the back, and it was like somebody hit me with a ball bat.”

The U.S. Geological Survey has issued information cautioning boaters about the jumping behavior of silver carp. The warning equates a leaping silver carp striking a power boat passenger with getting hit with a thrown bowling ball. Asian carp also damage commercial fishing equipment, Hopkins said. A large school of these bullet-shaped exotics can destroy fishing nets designed for other species, he said.

Ohio River biologist Henley said the stronghold of the Asian carp seems to be in the lowest portion of the Ohio, with both silvers and bigheads growing markedly less plentiful in the Louisville, Ky., area and upstream. Hopkins said despite their downstream plenty, Asian carp seem to be still on the upswing in the lower reaches in the Ohio River and in the lowest portions of the Tennessee and Cumberland. “Their population is getting stronger every year,” he said. “They’re taking over.”

Protect the environment, eat jumping fish
BY Nikki Buskey / 12/28/2009

Houma, La. – They’re big, ugly and have been known to leap from the water and smack boating fishermen. Asian carp have begun infiltrating area bayous and freshwater lakes, but how can Cajuns defend themselves against these aquatic invaders? The best way we know how: By cooking and eating them. “Invasive fish are very difficult to control, especially when you’re in an open system like this,” said Michael Massimi, invasive-species coordinator for the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program. “Developing a demand is going to help.” In an attempt to battle infiltrating silver carp, Glenn Thomas, marine-extension leader with Louisiana Sea Grant, and Duane Chapman, a fisheries biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Columbia, Mo., teamed up to make video that is part cooking show and part fish-and-game report. The film provides step-by-step coaching on the proper way to clean and cook Asian carp.

Invasive silver carp, a species of Asian carp, are large filter-feeding fish that eat algae and plankton. The fish were intentionally introduced to the United States in the 1970s to help manage aquaculture ponds and wastewater lagoons. They quickly escaped into the wild where their populations have grown exponentially in the Mississippi River basin. Native to large rivers and associated floodplains in eastern Asia, the carp were first found in Louisiana waters in the 1980s. They reproduce quickly and, with their large size and hunger for plankton, they could pose a threat to native filter-feeding fish, like the big-mouth buffalo and the paddlefish, with also eat plankton. Silver carp have been found locally, likely because of spreading caused by freshwater floods and spillway openings in spring 2008, Massimi said. Their movements into Terrebonne and Lafourche are limited by their low saltwater tolerance. Locally, silver carp have a confirmed population in Lake Field. They are also rumored to be found in Lake Verret.

The fish are easy to identify. They have small, downward-facing eyes, a stout body and protruding lower jaw. Silver carp commonly exceed 20 pounds. Record catches have approached 100 pounds, Thomas said. But the silver carp is best known for an unusual and dangerous survival behavior. When startled by the sound of a boat motor, it attempts to flee danger by jumping skyward, frequently hitting boats and people. The action has earned them the nickname, “flying carp,” Massimi said. “As you can imagine, getting hit by a 50 or 60 pound carp can cause serious problems,” Massimi said. The fish have been known to cause boating accidents, black eyes, bruises and more severe injuries.

Trying to promote annoying invasive species as a tasty treat is a worthwhile tactic, but it might be difficult to pull off, Massimi said. Since the fish eat algae, they don’t tend to bite on hooks. Chapman, however, said that might make the fish a more exciting target for anglers. “You can go bowfishing or wait for them to jump in the boat,” Chapman said. “Commercial fishermen catch them in hoop-and-gill nets in Illinois.” Massimi, who tried Chapman and Thomas’ carp recipes at a recent state coastal meeting said the fish are delicious and taste like “fresh catfish.” Silver and bighead carp have moist, white mild flesh, he said. The larger carp yield meaty fillets. But their unusual bone structure does make them difficult to clean, a drawback that can make fishermen wary.

In the video, Chapman demonstrates his unique cleaning methods. He also demonstrates three cooking methods: blackened fillets, grilled fillets and a fried, bone-in preparation he calls ‘flying carp wings’. “You eat the fish off the bone, just like a chicken wing,” Massimi said. The fish, regardless of how they are captured or cook, do need to be put on ice quickly, he said, because they spoil easily. The instructional video was filmed and produced by the LSU AgCenter. The 27-minute video will be available on DVD from Louisiana Sea Grant in the spring.



Duane Chapman
email : dchapman [at] usgs [dot] gov

From the Kitchen of Duane Chapman, USGS Fish Biologist
Recipes for Fry-Cut Asian Carp Strips

Fried Asian Carp
1) Fry-cut silver carp strips (cut in the manner described in Carp Lemonade – most pieces will contain 2-4 large bones, while some pieces will be boneless).
2) Dry cornmeal-based seasoning (pre-mixed, or make your own from yellow cornmeal, salt, black pepper, and whatever other seasonings you desire)
3) Vegetable or peanut oil

Roll strips in dry coating and deep-fry until golden brown. Serve while still steaming hot. To minimize problems with the bones, eat in the following manner: break the strip in two pieces, a bit off-center. The bones will now protrude from the break. Usually all of the bones will remain in the longer piece. Pull the bones out and place them on a plate or napkin reserved for that purpose, and eat the fish – which is now boneless. Easier, by far, than eating chicken wings!

Flying Carp Wings
Prepare and eat as above, except instead of a seasoned cornmeal mix, use unadulterated corn starch, and fry until cornstarch coating is crispy. After frying, while the fish are still hot, shake strips in your favorite hot-wing sauce. Messy, but it will knock your socks off! Not for dieters!

From the Kitchen of Duane Chapman, USGS Fish Biologist
Recipes for Deboned Asian Carp

Fajitas Carpitas
1) 2 pounds deboned Asian carp meat pieces (see Carp Lemonade for instructions on deboning)
2) ½ bottle liquid fajita marinade (dry mixes can also be used)
3) 10 soft tortillas, fajita size
4) Fajita toppings as desired, such as salsa, pico de gallo, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, shredded lettuce, etc.

Marinade deboned carp pieces in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Grill over a hot fire. Use of a fish basket, or a piece of expanded aluminum mesh will help keep the fish pieces from breaking up and falling through the grill (however, if you are careful, this is not entirely necessary because the carp meat is quite firm). Place in a covered dish when removing from the grill, to keep the fish hot until delivered to the table. Diners can construct their own tortillas with their desired toppings.

Asian Carp Curry, Indian Style
2 pounds boneless Asian carp filets, in bite size pieces
½ t turmeric
3 T cooking oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 t garlic powder
1½ t salt
2 t ginger powder
½ t cayenne pepper
2 t curry powder
2 cups water
1 small can tomato sauce (tomato paste works too)
juice of lemon

Mix 1 t salt with half of turmeric and half garlic powder and rub on fish pieces. Sprinkle with lemon juice, and set aside to marinate while sauce is being made.

In large, deep frying pan or wok, saute onion in oil until golden brown. Add rest of spices and stir for a few seconds, then stir in tomato sauce. Simmer for 5-10 minutes. Add water and rest of salt. Bring to a boil and add fish pieces. Cover and simmer on low heat, without stirring, until fish flakes. This will not take more than a few minutes, depending on size and density of fish pieces. Do not overcook fish. Then spoon onto a bed of cooked white rice and garnish with something green, preferably fresh broccoli.

1. Add some vegetables (broccoli florets, yellow squash slices) into the sauce when cooking fish.
2. Add a carton of plain yogurt. This sounds strange but it is very traditional in Indian curries, and is delicious. The yogurt must be stirred in while broth is hot, just before adding fish.
3. The sauce (not with yogurt) may be made up in large batches and stored refrigerated or frozen. This makes a very quick meal if you have some fish thawed when you come home from work. Or take a frozen container of sauce with you when you go camping, and cook your fresh-caught fish in it. This is especially good when it is cold out!

From the Kitchen of Duane Chapman, USGS Fish Biologist
Recipes for Bone-In Asian Carp Filets

One option for dealing with Asian carp bones is simply to take the filets (an upper and a lower filet half from each side of the fish, with red meat removed but intramuscular bones still in), season appropriately, and grill, broil, steam, or smoke the fish. Then the bones can be quickly removed by simply breaking the filet lengthwise and picking out the bones. This can be done at the table or by the chef. The following recipe is just one of many ways to cook the filets. Make sure you make extra, because the leftovers are fantastic. Take the leftover fish, remove any bones, flake the meat, mix in mayonnaise, a bit more of the pepper mix, and some of the fruit salsa and make incredible fish salad sandwiches.

Jamaican Jerk Carp
1) 4 pounds of white meat filets from silver, bighead, or grass carp. Filets should be cut lengthwise down the center line, and skin and red meat removed.
2) Juice of two limes (or substitute apple cider vinegar)
3) Spice mix (1T paprika, 2t salt, 1t fresh ground black pepper, 1t white pepper, 1t cayenne, 1t garlic powder, 1t onion powder, ½t oregano, ½t thyme)

Rub filets generously with spice mix, and put the filets in a plastic bag. Add juice or vinegar, and shake the bag to mix well. Marinade for 20 minutes to an hour. (DO NOT EXCEED one-hour marinade time, or the acid will begin to “cook” the fish, causing it to fall apart on the grill.) Grill over a hot fire. Serve with Jamaican-style red beans and rice (called “Peas and Rice” in Jamaica) and/or a fruit salsa (see recipes which follow).

Jamaican “Peas” and Rice
1 ½ cups dried red kidney beans*
1 garlic clove, crushed
4 cups water
salt, to taste
2 cups canned coconut milk
fresh ground pepper, to taste
1 small onion, minced (optional)
1 scallion, chopped
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 fresh hot pepper
2 cups uncooked rice

Combine the kidney beans, garlic, water and salt to taste in a saucepan. Cook covered over medium heat until tender, about 2 hours. Add the coconut milk, pepper to taste, scallion, onion, thyme and whole fresh pepper. Bring to a boil, remove the hot pepper. Then add the rice and stir. Return to a boil, cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 25 minutes, or until all the liquids have been absorbed. Serve hot.

*Can substitute 16-oz. can of cooked beans instead. Drain and combine with water and other ingredients except rice. Boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add rice, boil, reduce heat and cook about 20 minutes or until liquids are absorbed.

Fruit Salsa
2 T chopped red onion
1 T minced fresh cilantro leaves
2 cups of chopped, mixed tropical fruit using at least two of orange, mango, and pineapple. Orange and mango should be fresh, pineapple may be canned. (If desired, may also include some firm tomatoes)
Mix all and let sit for an hour in the refrigerator. Serve cold.

RECIPES (cont.)
Bones of Contention / BY P.J. Perea
Commercial anglers are having a tough time marketing this abundant nuisance species which ranks better than tuna in taste tests.

“The biggest problem right now with bighead and silver carp are the bones,” said Rob Maher, head of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources commercial fishing program. “The commercial anglers don’t have any machinery that can handle the larger-sized fish and the numerous bones that are interlaced throughout their meat.” The bighead and silver carp are filter feeders, and the bones are part of a fine sensory network that allows the fish to detect minute food particles in the water column. With the help of Mike Hooe of the Division of Fisheries, Maher spent a morning collecting fish for recipe testing. It did not take long to find a school of bigheads, as several breached around the wake of their boat. “After a five-minute net set, we had more than 150 pounds of bighead and silver carp in the net,” Maher said. “There are literally tons of these fish out there.”

A recent marketing test performed at the University of Arkansas on canned bighead carp revealed that taste testers preferred the flavor of canned bighead carp to that of canned tuna. The flesh of a fresh bighead and silver carp is firm, clean and slightly translucent with a metallic sheen. There is an oily feel to the firm meat, much like that of a whitefish or a freshwater trout. The meat is very mild when cooked and will readily absorb spices and marinades. Every fish used in the recipe testing was very healthy and had a sizeable fat layer on the belly and inside its back. The fat is slightly bitter and should be removed prior to cooking.

Here are three recipes that allow cooks to deal with the bones, whether from a smaller fish of 1 to 5 pounds or from a larger 5- to 30-pound fish.

Fried Asian Carp
2 pounds of scored fillets
Fresh ground pepper
Deep fryer with oil heated to 375° F to 400° F
Commercial frying coating (dry)

Smaller 1- to 5-pound fish have fine bones that readily dissolve when exposed to hot oil. Do not use large fish as they have much thicker bones that do not break down as easily. Most fish markets will sell the fish prescored for your convenience. Use light coatings, and avoid heavy batters that smother the scoring and which may leave the bones intact.

Salt and pepper the fillets, and let them rest in the refrigerator for an hour. Dredge the fillets in the commercial frying coating, and place in hot oil. Remove when golden brown, and serve with lemon wedges as a finger food or as a fish sandwich.

Smoked Asian Carp (Savory)
5 pounds bighead or silver carp steaks or fillets (skin on)
1cup coarse kosher salt
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp. fresh ground pepper
1 bunch fresh baby dill

Smoked Asian Carp (Sweet)
5 pounds bighead or silver carp steaks or fillets (skin on)
1cup coarse kosher salt 1 tbsp. fresh ground pepper
1 cup brown sugar
4 cups apple juice
2 sticks cinnamon

Smoker: charcoal and smoking chips (hickory, cherry or apple wood chips)

Smoking is a good way to prepare larger 5- to 30-pound fish. The light, oily texture of the meat readily absorbs the smoke flavor. The smoking process also loosens the bones and allows for easy extraction after cooking. Taste testers found both versions of the carp to be comparable to smoked whitefish or salmon.

Savory: Line up fillets/steaks on non-reactive pan or tray. Coat both sides with salt, pepper and dill. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Sweet: Place fillets/steaks in non-reactive bowl. Add remaining ingredients: salt, pepper, brown sugar, apple juice and cinnamon. Mix lightly until sugar and salt dissolve. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Soak wood chips in water one hour before smoking. Fire up charcoal until covered with a light ash. Fill water pan to create steam in smoker and keep fish from drying out.

Remove fish from marinade. Place on wire racks in the refrigerator for one hour. Be sure to put a pan under the rack to catch drippings. The fish will develop a slight glaze. Lightly oil grill and position marinated fish on the rack. Add a handful of smoking chips to charcoal and close cooker. Replenish chips every 20-30 minutes. Most fish will be cooked in two to four hours, but this will vary with weather conditions and desired depth of smokiness. Finished fillets will have golden honey to mahogany color, depending on preference and type of wood chips used. Cooked fish will flake easily and will become opaque.

Allow fish to cool, and serve “as is” or use in recipes that traditionally call for smoked salmon.

Poached Silver Salad Sandwich
2 pounds bighead or silver carp fillets (skin off)
1 lemon
Fresh ground pepper
Fresh baby dill

Sandwich Stuff
Fresh ground pepper
Celery, chopped
Red and yellow pepper slices
Cucumber slices
Tomato slices
Dill pickle
Cheese slices (optional)
Fresh bagel or favorite sandwich bread

Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon on the fillets. Salt and pepper fillets to taste. Coarsely chop a small bunch of dill, and sprinkle it on the fillets. Steam in an open foil packet until fillets become opaque and flake easily with a fork. Allow fish to cool and remove meat with a fork, separating from the bones.

Mix flaked fish with mayonnaise, ground pepper, celery and red and yellow pepper slices to taste. Chill salad in refrigerator. Serve salad on bread with side ingredients: cucumber slices, lettuce, tomato, pickle and cheese.




What Is The First Earth Battalion And How Did It Originate?
BY Jim Channon  /  06 October 2009

Post Vietnam 1978 was a time when military morale and enrollment were at an all time low. During this period the U.S. Army needed to drastically shift approaches and prepare to defeat a vastly larger Soviet force in Europe. Army leaders called upon officers to develop needed creative approaches to dealing with this challenge. They were encouraged to fully explore the Army’s Be All That You Can Be philosophy. In response, U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Jim Channon created the First Earth Battalion, that collected new technologies to support a conceptual prototype of the soldier of the future. Channon was inspired by the human potential and advanced human performance movements and drew many of his ideas from these fields and from the time he spent at Esalen Institute. Many senior generals in the Army backed Channon because he was a bold example of what a young officer could do creatively. The word spread and other elements within the Army became more boldly involved in testing ideas that were on the edge. They came to call him the “lightening rod”. Like any endeavor that involves studying new ideas, some of the ideas panned out and others did not. The larger story is that the U.S. Army is one of the most creative organizations in the world and that it must continue to be so in order to deal with the radically different missions it must prepare for. Few people understand that reality because of the rigid prototype the media has created around military culture.

What Is Evolutionary Tactics?
Jim Channon delivered his ideas about the First Earth Battalion through his illustrated field manual, Evolutionary Tactics which offered a 21st Century vision of the soldier of the future. Evolutionary Tactics was published by the Army in 1978. The manual was modeled after the popular Whole Earth Catalog with illustrations of advanced human performance skills. It is credited with kick-starting a very creative surge of activity in the U.S. Army. Army commanders adopted the elements that served them. There was no one cookie-cutter solution. Original copies have become something of collector’s item. Since that time, tens of thousands of copies have been downloaded from the Internet by fans across the globe. The archetype used in the manual is the warrior monk … who is invincible in war but very persuasive in peace. We see this model in action in the middle east today.

Who Are “The Men Who Stare At Goats”?
The movie evolved from a book of the same title written by British satirical writer Jon Ronson. It stars four of the most creative minds in Hollywood today: George Clooney, Kevin Spacey, Jeff Bridges and Ewan McGregor. The title of the book and film is based on an experimental lab that once existed at Fort Bragg, NC where the military reportedly attempted to kill goats simply by staring at them. There were no corresponding approaches in Jim’s field manual. The highly anticipated film is due out in December 2009. The movie is a comedy, much of which is inspired by Jim Channon’s First Earth Battalion because it kick-started a very creative surge in the army. Channon is portrayed in the film by Jeff Bridge’s who plays the character Bill Django. The First Earth Battalion is known in the film as The New Earth Army a name Jim offered the producers who wanted the creative liberty of making comedy without any direct association with the actual Battalion scenarios. Though they both claim to be based on a true story, author Jon Ronson and screenwriter Peter Straughan took wide artistic license blurring the lines between fact and fiction in order to create a somewhat dark Hollywood comedy. Here are some important facts:
• Jim Channon was never discharged from the U.S. Army. He served in the U S Army as an infantry officer and creative spark-plug from 1962 to 1982 and was in Vietnam twice 65-66 and 70-71. During his time in Vietnam, he lost just one infantry soldier and never killed an innocent civilian. He was known for his ability to imagine and illustrate the future battlefield and its advanced applications.

Returning home from Vietnam, his goal was to find non-lethal and peaceful solutions to potentially change the shape of war as we know it and save lives in the process. His work in the military was highly respected as he was asked to present to large high ranking conferences with his most creative talents and launched a simulation and games program that is now funded at 50 million dollars a year.
• Channon retired from the military in 1982 and did not serve in Iraq. (Ronson speculated that the sound healing therapies detailed in Evolutionary Tactics evolved into torture techniques in Abu Graib or Guantanamo. This is total speculation since sounds have been used since the beginning of armed struggle to influence moral or frighten the enemy.

Was The First Earth Battalion A Secret Paranormal Force In The U.S. Military?
No. The Earth Battalion has acted like a think-tank collecting and reviewing advanced human performance skills from all disciplines and it still does. It was never secret although some of the spin-off ideas may have became secret once tested (such as remote viewing.) The think-tank is still active and provides advanced human performance solutions for soldiers planet-wide. It is supported by Jim’s retirement pay and has dozens of other volunteer military thinkers as part of the brain trust. Paranormal sensibilities possessed by soldiers can increase survival rates on the modern and very complex battlefield. The goal is to create more situationally-aware combatants with a more advanced understanding of threats, allowing for peaceful incursions into dangerous areas and sparing the lives of civilians.

Optimal Futurist
Most futurists today tend to be people who communicate about what might happen in the next few years. Visionaries tend to cast images about possibilities that seem far ranging. What he does is interview leaders and scan the planet for things that are working now. Then he upgrades their potential and bundles them into socially attractive settings. So, then they become strategies that are describable and organized graphically so people may actually get at the business of creating and even constructing them. Walt Disney created the word imagineer to make the connection between visionaries and engineers. To some extent his graphics talents allow him to illustrate things that can be constructed because they are drawn in 3D. He uses a personally created advanced visual language to get this done. If you view his over 70 videos on you will see the graphics and storywork live.

His real gift is that he has scanned the social architecture of the earth and has created bundled solutions for many parts of the coming world. His focus is on qualities of life assembled in beautiful settings. He has interviewed over 2000 leaders on their ideas of a future with a higher purpose. Those ideas have been assembled in PROJECT EARTHRISE that he created with the fellows at the World Business Academy. They are ideas projected 100 years out. We believe he may be more fluent in long range futures than anyone alive at the moment. He has an extra-ordinary set of skills.

Where Are Members Today?
Not surprisingly many original members remain actively involved in planetary affairs. Jim Channon lives in Hawaii on an eco-homestead and has pioneered a wide range of evolutionary ideas for living. Jim is still actively engaged in envisioning the global militaries of the world coming together as a New Earth Army to deal with environmental and social problems of the future. He calls this endeavor Operation Noble Steward and has written about on his website and discussed it in his many You Tube videos. John Alexander, the father of non-lethal weapons has just completed a major analysis of Africa and has written two books on the future of warfare. His character in the film is played more or less by the George Clooney role although there are few direct correspondences since the comedy writer needed all the creative license he could get. John’s book, The Warrior’s Edge, provided an accurate description of many of his projects that explored phenomenology. Still exploring, he currently serves as a council member of the Society for Scientific Exploration [] and the board of directors of the International Remote Viewers’s Association []. Major General Bert Stubblebine is developing a sustainable community in Panama and raising global awareness about questionable medical practices created by large pharmaceutical companies involved in Codex. Most of the 130 some odd members of the Army’s original think-tank called Task Force Delta (where these ideas were spawned) have gone on to positions of meaningful social responsibility and other future-based technologies.

Psychic Spies, Acid Guinea Pigs, New Age Soldiers: the True Men Who Stare at Goats
BY David Hambling  /  November 6, 2009

“More of this is true than you would believe,” we’re told, just a few minutes into the movie version of The Men Who Stare At Goats, which opens today. But how many of the film’s outlandish military research projects really happened? Turns out there’s plenty of material in the movie which sticks quite close to the truth — though reality is a bit more complicated. (Warning: minor spoilers ahead.)

Psychic spies? True. The non-fiction book which serves as the movie’s basis features Colonel John B. Alexander. He served as a Special Forces commander in Vietnam and spent decades promoting the use of psychics and “remote viewers” for national security. (That is, when he wasn’t pursuing his interests in -linguistic programming, UFOs, or non-lethal weapons.) In 2007, our own Sharon Weinberger interviewed Col. Alexander in some depth on the military use of witches. “They were doing palmistry, crystal ball kinds of stuff,” he said. Danger Room also noted Col. Alexander’s long-running feud with Armen Victorian (alias Henry Azadehdel, alias Habib Azadehdel, alias Cassava N’tumba and others), orchid smuggler, conspiracy theorist and all-round spooky character in the intelligence world.

Moving into the further reaches of the fringe we find earlier work, such as Boeing’s 60’s psychic experiments which concluded that certain subjects could force a random number generator to produce a specific number by sheer willpower. By 1985 an Army report declared that “psychokinesis could, with continued research, have a potential military value for future military operations ” and as recently as 1996 the phenomenon of eyeless vision was being investigated. Military psychics may still be in business: a 2007 report suggested that the 9/11 attacks had been predicted some years beforehand by Remote Viewers. In the post-9/11 world where every option seemed worth exploring, it’s not implausible that some psychic spies were reactivated.

Drug experimentation? True. Troops were doused with everything from concentrated cannabis oil to LSD — at times, without their knowledge. Researchers would watch as servicemen would then “carry on conversations with various invisible people for as long as 2-3 days.” The CIA was so enamored of acid, the agency had to issue a memo instructing that the punch bowls at office Christmas parties were not to be spiked.

Hippie Army? True. Lt. Col. Jim Channon dove deep into the New Age movement, and came back to the military with a most alternative view of warfare — one in which troops would carry flowers and symbolic animals into battle. In the movie, Channon is played by Jeff Bridges. His First Earth Battalion is renamed the “New Earth Army.” But the ideas are the same. Much of the artwork from the New Earth manual is lifted straight from the Channon original.

Channon has been taking advantage of the publicity for his cause; this week he has a column in the Guardian newspaper, suggesting (among other things) that armies should be used for reforestation and navies to control over-fishing. The military’s interest in Eastern and alternative practices is once again on the rise. “Warrior mind training“, apparently based on ancient Samurai techniques, is being taught at Camp Lejeune as a possible treatment for PTSD. Elsewhere the Army has a $4 million initiative exploring other approaches including Reiki, transcendental meditation and “bioenergy.” The Air Force is looking into acupuncture for battlefield pain relief.

Sound weapons? True. Unpleasant sounds and repetitive music — including the Barney theme — have been used as real-life psychological warfare and interrogation techniques. (Some of the bands involved have been less than happy about it.) Repetitive music takes a long time to be effective, but loud, discordant noise is becoming more common as a method of dispersing crowds. Danger Room’s David Axe was a test subject for the LRAD sonic blaster and reported “It was like having a hundred nagging girlfriends in my brain screaming at me”, while Sharon Weinberger tried the Inferno blaster and experienced “the most unbearable, gut-wrenching noise I’ve ever heard in my life.”

Killing animals with telepathy? False. The most outrageous claims in the movie (and book) is that military psychics could kill goats by looking at them. Even John Alexander says this isn’t true.  “As I told Jon Ronson when the book first came out, Alexander writes, ‘He [one of the soldiers] hit the goat.’” Goats are the one of the preferred substitutes for human targets in military testing, and there are rumors of lethal goat-zapping experiments with the Active Denial System. Special operations Command use them for training battlefield medicine – first shoot your (anesthetised) goat —  a practice which is still controversial.

In her review of the movie, Col Alexander’s wife mentions that in real life her husband can disperse clouds by looking at them — “It certainly helped during our cruise to Antarctica!” – but asserts that he has never used his powers to kill a goat. (Look at time lapse photography of clouds and cloud-busting becomes less impressive). Psychics are notoriously prone to believing in their own powers and are often convinced that experiments have proven their abilities when the results have been equivocal. In the Guardian, Dr. Phillip Sponenberg suggests that mytonic or fainting goats plus little self-deception may be behind the supposed success of the goat-staring experiment.

However, as the First Earth Battalion’s manual makes clear, winning the psychological battle is a big part of the struggle. If your opponent believes that you can kill them with a look, then they are already half-way to being defeated. And many martial arts masters know that by overawing their students with displays that might be described as trickery, they can convince them of the value of their discipline. So it might be best not to take everything quite at face value, as Jon Ronson does in the book and Ewan Mcgregor does in the movie. Or maybe they really can kill goats with a look.

Crazy Rulers Of The World (BBC 2004)

A viewers guide to the Goats movie TRUE OR FALSE
BY John B. Alexander  /  U.S. Army (retired)  /  11.06.2009

The movie, The Men Who Stare at Goats, is based on a book of the same title. While listed as nonfiction, the facts were extrapolated almost beyond recognition. The people in the book were listed by their real names. I was named many times. While some Special Forces units experimented with various techniques, the vast majority of the incidents came from one of two other sources. Formal psi research programs were conducted in the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM). There was also a unique think tank called Task Force Delta at Headquarters Department of the Army and later at the Army War College. Delta was arguably the most innovative organization in the world. With support of senior leadership, we were consciously pushing the envelope. It should be noted that all of the explorations undertaken were done based on solid rationale.

Facts and Fiction
– The First Earth Battalion (1EB) was created by Lt. Col. Jim Channon, a brilliant imaginer and artist. He literally owns the First Earth Battalion concept.
– The 1EB was never an authorized military unit of the U.S. Army
– The 1EB was a notional concept that encouraged/allowed people to think innovatively, yet within a military construct
– The New Earth Battalion is a movie version of 1EB
– Most of the movie characters are based on real people – though some are composites
– The Kevin Spacey character seems to be made up for movie purposes
– Senior officer with ponytail (Jeff Bridges) NOT REAL
– Remote Viewing – REAL- and was a 20 year official program
– Use of Remote Viewing in Gen Dozier kidnapping by Red Brigade – REAL
– Concern about Soviet psychic research – REAL
– JEDI projects – REAL – but ad hoc (I had one of them with multi-agencies)
– Spoon bending – REAL – was taught to hundreds
– Cloud busting –REAL – though never as fast as done by Clooney
– Computer crashing – REAL – incident did happen
– Fire walking -REAL
– New Age exploration – REAL
– Running into walls – NOT REAL (is the opening scene of the movie)
– Use of LSD – not only NO, BUT HELL NO
– Hamster staring –ATTEMPTED – by Guy Savelli (a civilian martial artist)
– Goat Lab – REAL – used to train medics
– Goats – Hit by martial artists – It did die hours later
– Goats – Staring – no credible evidence to support this allegation
– Dim mak – PROBABLY REAL – supported by physical evidence
– References to a hollow army –REAL – post Vietnam was a traumatic period

Pushing The Envelope
’“If everything you’re attempting is successful, you are nowhere close to the edge!”

The U.S. Military and Creativity
BY John B. Alexander, Ph.D.  /  10.26.2008

“Colonel John Alexander was an original member of the Earth Battalion and served in many interesting paranormal scouting efforts. Eventually he headed up the non-lethal weapons world for the Army. He continues to be a trusted thinker and solid communicator to the Defense world about many of the gifts created by the members of this circle of pioneers. Thanks for this outstanding coverage of much of the Battalions near legendary works.” -Jim Channon


The U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) lists four core values: Integrity, Courage, Competency, and Creativity. In 2006, as a senior fellow at the Joint Special Operations University (JSOU), I drafted a monograph addressing creativity as it applied to Special Operations Forces (SOF).* Indeed, SOF elements pride themselves their ability to quickly adapt to rapidly changing, and often extremely dangerous situations, and rightfully so. Of concern to me was not the myriad of operations successfully conducted by small units. Rather, it was that problems emerge when large organizations, such as USSOCOM, attempt to institutionalize creativity. To quote on young U.S. Army Special Forces officer I encountered in Timbuktu, “Creativity is directly proportional to the distance from the flag pole.”

Having been involved in many creative projects during my 32 years in the United States military, and observing the Army’s responses to them, my objective was to point out that creativity is much easier to say, than it is to execute in large organizations. Almost invariably, as creative projects gain increased visibility, the more traditional values of the large system come in conflict. When that happens, steps are taken to eliminate the creative project.

In the monograph I addressed seven such innovative Army projects as well as several from the other services. (No service, organization, or individual has a corner on creativity.) The Army projects addressed were all successful, yet all were terminated as opposition from conventional sources rose. One of those projects, the Army’s Organizational Effectiveness program, was probably the largest institutional transformation project ever undertaken by any organization.

The monograph covered several projects, including remote viewing, that run counter to conventional scientific wisdom. Despite theoretical arguments about the fundamental causation, an operational capability was developed. However, because of the perceived controversial nature of some of the material, including remote viewing, an executive decision was made that the monograph would not be published by a U.S. Government organization. Based on my agreement with JSOU, I am free to publish that material in other sources. The monograph will be done in its entirety in book form at a later date.

Given the recent development of the inept and highly fictionalized book, Men Who Stare at Goats, as a movie, it was determined it would be useful to present a more accurate picture of the history surrounding some of those projects. While the book tends to present the material in a ridiculing and somewhat humorous manner, these projects were both successful and developed with a lot of serious thought behind them. Both Jim Channon and I are covered extensively in the book, for which even the title is misleading. (While there was a goat involved, it was physically hit by a martial arts instructor.) This article will present material that provides background on two of the seven projects. One lesser-known project, called Task Force Delta, was closely related to Jim Channon’s legendary and boundary-breaking work on The First Earth Battalion.** In a large part, it was we, the members of Task Force Delta, who initially helped spread the about Jim Channon’s creative endeavor.

Appendix B
Task Force Delta
‘Creativity is the power to connect the seemingly unconnected.’ -William Plomer

The early 1980s military think tank called Task Force Delta was an extremely creative organization dedicated to exploring concepts of high performance. It is unlikely that any military unit has ever been as cost-effective. General Don Starry actuated the concept when he was the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) commander (1977-1981). He was familiar with James Grier Miller’s Living Systems theory, which was just emerging at that time. This theory posited that all living systems, no matter what size or complexity, had three main functions. Those were input, throughput, and output and they applied from unicellular life, such as ameba, through large social organizations including the U.S. Army.

General Starry believed that systems theory offered lessons that would be beneficial to the Army’s development and the future challenges that it would face. Initially Colonel Mike Malone, a respected leadership and systems theory expert, directed the evolution of the organization. With Malone’s retirement, the Task Force Delta think tank soon moved to the Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. Then Lieutenant Colonel Bill Witt provided leadership while waiting for the permanent director to be transferred from the Army Chief of Staff office. Lieutenant Colonel Frank Burns, an OE officer for General Meyer, became the director and remained there until the unit was abolished. All of those directors possessed inquisitive minds and a healthy understanding of emerging systems theory.

The basis of the Task Force Delta think tank was an extremely small core group, supported by interested people, all of whom worked in other organizations. The entire staff consisted of one lieutenant colonel, one civilian equivalent, and three administrative personnel. Participation by other people was on a totally voluntary basis. Frank Burns cast a wide net both inside the Army and in the civilian sector looking for people with innovative ideas and concepts they could contribute. Meetings were held quarterly, and most participants had to secure their own funding. Even many civilians with no other affiliation with the Army attended at their own expense. The meetings were so mentally stimulating that members rarely missed a session.

Some sessions could best be described as data gathering and mental cross-pollination. Presentations on a wide range of topics would be arranged. For many of the civilians it was a unique opportunity to provide ideas directly to an Army audience that was open to new ideas. Some noted their frustration at previous attempts to beat on the Army’s front door only to find that most offices were just too busy to listen. In those times, fighting fires was the theme of the day.

More important than the formal sessions was the ability to network with bright, innovative people. It was not uncommon for informal gatherings to go on late into the night, sometimes at the expense of nodding off the next day. That really did not matter. Also significant were the interpersonal contacts that routinely assisted participants in their regular assignments back at home station. Many deep bonds were formed. In fact, a substantial number of these relationships continue today, nearly 25 years later and long after the official demise of the Task Force Delta think tank.

On occasion, tasks would be assigned to the members attending the Task Force Delta think tank meetings. An example is when Lieutenant General Max Thurman, then Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel, asked the group to explore all aspects of future Army personnel issues. The topics ranged from recruiting and retention to professional education, health and welfare, leadership principles, organizational structures and assignments, and emerging human capabilities. In response, meetings were conducted from Monday through Thursday noon. Initially plenary sessions occurred and later small, self-defined groups that discussed specific aspects of the personnel system. As with other meetings, these sessions tended to run through meals and late into the evening.

At noon on Thursday the discussions stopped, and the real work began. Each person decided what topic area they wanted to contribute to. A chapter outline was provided, and the teams went to work. Being very self-motivated, most people worked continuously throughout the night. When General Thurman arrived at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, he received a bound book containing the deliberations on all aspects of the personnel system and many suggestions about how to deal with future complex issues.

Two items are important to remember for this 1982 time: a) word processing, as it is commonly known today, did not exist and b) the think tank conference attendees were all volunteers. Nobody had a laptop computer, shared networks, or memory sticks. The physical requirements of producing a written document of that magnitude took tremendous effort. Nobody was graded on their input, nor would their efforts ever be reflected in personal efficiency reports. Some of the participants were civilians, whose only motivation was the excitement of being able to collaborate in a truly high performing organization and the possibility that somebody might read their concepts and recognize that it could be applied in the Army.

Obviously the book had not been edited, and chapter formats did not all match; that would come later. The success was definitively demonstrating the primary effort necessary to create such a complex document in a short period of time. The Task Force Delta think tank proved what systems theorists predicted about the possibilities that emerge when high performing organizations are tasked and then given permission to respond as they deem necessary.

The networking efforts went far beyond periodic meetings. The Task Force Delta think tank led the way in obtaining and initiating computer networks that were populated by regular people, not just techno-wizards. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, only a few researchers and innovative managers understood the potential power of computer networks. Malone envisioned a small organization that could be used to research the possibilities that emerging technology and networking provided by the think tank. At this time, personal computers were scarcely known. Yet many of the think tank members were given one to take home and use. Most of the communication was done during off-duty hours and transmitted at the rate of 600 baud, thus simple messages could take several minutes to download. In an age where 24 mega bits per second (Mbps) is attainable, communicating at such slow speeds is almost inconceivable.

While the Internet concept in 1980 was embryonic, the ability to network was considered extremely innovative. For the first time, the Task Force Delta think tank members demonstrated how to staff papers around the world in less than 24 hours. This ability was a dramatic improvement over the telecommunications of the day, or sending printouts via mail and taking weeks for coordination.

Following Malone’s initial guidance, the composition of the Task Force Delta think tank remained closely balanced. He insisted that organizational composition include what he termed both “bumblebees and butterflies.” In other words, as a counterweight to some pretty far out ideas, he wanted people with their feet planted firmly on the ground and an excellent sense for the realistic needs of the Army. As we were just coming out of the Vietnam War, virtually all of the Army officers involved had combat experience, which served well as a sobering reminder of the real world.

What the Task Force Delta think tank demonstrated was that high performing networks could provide significant advantages over traditional organizational communications. The financial costs were very small compared to the return of efforts provided from the vast volunteer network that addressed a myriad of tasks because they found it interesting. People worked extensively, not because they had to, but because they wanted to. Guidance was minimal and generally not necessary. Participants with difficult problems could have near instant access to a wide range of technical experts. As each scouted the burgeoning intellectual terrain, they reported back, often self-initiating new areas of inquiry. However, some traditional leaders viewed such intellectual freedom as a threat. Shortly thereafter, the Task Force Delta think tank was closed.

Appendix C
Origins of the First Earth Battalion
‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’ -William Shakespeare, Hamlet

During the late 1970s and early 1980s one of the Army’s brightest and most futuristic thinkers was Lieutenant Colonel Jim Channon. A military intelligence officer by training, Channon served 10 years in the Infantry, including an assignment as a platoon leader in Vietnam. He also had spent some time in Public Affairs. As such, he was even assigned the Army interface with Hollywood. During this period Channon initiated a scouting mission to explore the various emerging human potential movements that were burgeoning in California at the time. This effort was purely volitional and conducted mostly on his free time. In no way could his activities be construed as part of the domestic surveillance activities that later led to extreme difficulties for the military.6

Among his personal skills Channon was (and still is) a phenomenally gifted artist. He had an extraordinary ability to listen to people describe abstract concepts, then quickly transform those ideas into easily understandable graphics. In fact, some of the basic symbols and graphic designs used in the Army today originated with Channon over 25 years ago. His artistic ability and mental acuity were widely known by senior officers who often coveted his capabilities. Before Thurman briefed the U.S. Army senior leadership, he would always ask, “Where’s Jimmy?” Although assigned outside of the Pentagon, even on the West Coast, Channon would be summoned to quickly create the visual briefing materials. His renderings included a vast number of the normal overhead transparencies as well as his large-scale summaries called “monster-grams,” continuous charts that would cover many feet and could be taped to the walls of the briefing room. The state of the art in projection technology had not advanced to a degree anywhere close to what is available today.

Channon was also a key member of the Task Force Delta think tank and worked closely with Frank Burns and others in that circle. Therefore, he was one of the group who were seriously engaged in studying cultural transformation in the post-Vietnam era. As repeated attempts to convey transitional concepts in traditional briefing format failed, Channon realized that an innovative framework was required to help people fully understand the significance of these events. As with all organizations, especially old institutions, change is mightily resisted. The concept, he believed, had to be one that fostered free thinking, or what later became known as “out of the box” thinking.

The name First Earth Battalion literally appeared in his head during one of his many transcontinental flights. He terms this innovation as a “mystical hit.” The concept was to create a large catalogue of possibilities and display them graphically. At that time a book titled The Whole Earth Catalogue was selling widely in New Age circles. It contained pages and pages of new technologies, techniques, and materials from which the reader could choose. Similarly, Channon created the First Earth Battalion catalogue as a field manual, which was designed to provide readers a permissive-thinking platform. Channon now describes the Earth Battalion as protomythological—looking at the future while rooted in a historic framework (the battalion). The motto of the First Earth Battalion was dare to think the unthinkable. These words were taken in a positive sense, not the foreboding notion that meant massive death.

Channon’s drawings were done in black and white. Often they were sketchy and suggestive with limited text, and the concepts intentionally never were written out in detail. He wanted people to fill in the missing material for themselves. The concept was to get people to think, not to view the catalogue as a finished document, or worse, a total blueprint for an actual Army organization.

Many of the concepts were way beyond the understanding of traditional Army officers. For instance, exchanging soldiers and their families to populate critical targets in opposing countries was never seriously considered as a viable operational concept. Rather, by describing a conscience corps, Channon was focusing on the consequences in human terms should a nuclear exchange occur. In truth, many in the military had become rather cavalier when discussing nuclear strike capabilities. However impractical in reality the notion was, it did cause readers to think about the implications of nuclear strikes in a new and more personal light. He eventually bundled these ideas under what he called “combat for collective conscience.” As he predicted, global opinion today is shaped by the ethical judgments of the world that watches combat unfold.

Well before the current outpouring of concerns about global warming, Channon’s work had strong ecological preservation components. He envisioned energy conservation, recycling technologies, and reforestation as voluntary integrants of the military, not issues to be forced on posts through draconian legislation. In many areas Channon’s concepts were way ahead of their times; and he readily acknowledges the need for an incubation period, often years and maybe decades, before new ideas can be brought to fruition. As a further example, in a 1979 version of the First Earth Battalion, he already envisioned strategic micro forces—smaller units that could act decisively without requiring the massing of larger forces. In a way, he was describing what SOF has become but at a time when these elements were not as highly regarded as they are today.

Balance was an essential element in much of Channon’s work. In some areas the Army could easily accept his ideas. Physical fitness, albeit with lower impact on joints, was reasonable. He was a strong advocate of establishing and maintaining a healthy diet. New theories were emerging about how the brain functions and exercises to enhance cognitive capabilities. The use of previsualization before engaging in complex tasks was encouraged. Also advocated were ancient, and proven effective, meditation techniques.

Establishing a balance between mind and body seemed to resonate well in the Army. However, Channon’s notions of integrating spiritual concepts, especially ones that transcended national boundaries, were of more concern to some casual observers. In fact, the First Earth Battalion did suggest that individuals would operate in a global, not national, context and focused on planetary peace making. The acknowledgement of a tripartite balance of body, mind, and spirit is less well accepted within military circles. The concept of the warrior-monk has survived for millennia. However, in the U.S. Army, spiritual matters were generally left to the chaplains and seen as matters of personal choice. Channon, however, invoked the need for balance in all three domains, and did so unapologetically.

At the time Channon wrote the First Earth Battalion, General “Shy” Meyer was the U.S. Army Chief of Staff. As the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, he had inherited an Army that was in need of repair. Meyer’s efforts to rebuild the Army continued as he was selected over many more senior generals as one of the youngest Army Chiefs of Staff. Throughout his tenure Meyer strived to create an environment that permitted exploration. Channon viewed the publication of the First Earth Battalion, and its acceptance by many senior officers, as a mechanism for more junior officers to see that they had permission to think more freely.7

A limited number of original copies were made of the First Earth Battalion. Initially these 300 copies were circulated to selected members of Task Force Delta think tank. The draft annotation on the title page expressed the notion that this document was a living instrument. Demand for copies quickly grew as information about the script spread via word of mouth. Those officers holding originals began photocopying additional copies and handing them to friends. Channon notes that this was an intentional means of distribution as it created a mystique about the nature of the manuscript and gave it enhanced value. Many people who had only a vague notion of the Task Force Delta think tank wanted copies of the coveted First Earth Battalion. People who never would have normally read the paper did so because of the preternatural aura associated with owning a copy. The underground distribution technique probably ensured wider readership than it would have obtained had it been formally printed and officially sent out. The effectiveness of this scheme has been noted. Over the decades, photocopied versions of the original manuscript could be found with officers who were interested in future concepts. With the military today, a sub rosa element that circulates this document still exists.

Soon this somewhat mysterious concept was to escape beyond the bonds of the Army. Within a short time civilian media were asking Channon for information about the First Earth Battalion. In February 1982, a popular publication of the day, Omni Magazine, carried an article by that title. That was quickly followed by a Dateline segment on NBC that featured Lieutenant Colonel Channon discussing the inner workings of the notional organization. Despite prior approval of the Public Affairs Office at Fort Lewis, Washington, many senior officers in the “Big Army” were not happy seeing a lieutenant colonel pushing the conceptual envelope on national television.

Under-appreciated by a number of traditional-minded generals, Channon retired from the Army in September 1982. He retained the copyright for First Earth Battalion, and in recent years he has slightly updated the original publication by adding a colored cover. It is currently available on the Internet. In 2005 more than 10,000 copies were downloaded for free; printed copies are sold to those interested in that format. As testament to the efficacy of the notional concepts Channon brought to the Army, he successfully transitioned those same skills to the civilian sector. There, he has assisted a dozen of the world’s largest 100 companies (and many others) to envision their futures. He provides multidimensional graphics and storytelling magic that allow their employees to more fully comprehend, and be charged, by the company’s objectives.

In a recent interview, Channon noted many of the key aspects that led to the development of First Earth Battalion. At that time the Army depended heavily on formal written documents to convey structural information. Various field manuals and other official publications provided rather sterile, highly organized transfer mechanisms for technical information. Eschewed by the military, Channon opined, was transmission of the cultural information that engendered the soul of the organization. Like today, the late 1970s was a period of cultural transformation as the Army struggled to recover from the distasteful experience of Vietnam. To be successful, the change must be deeper than doctrine documents. Channon’s objective was to revitalize the Army he loved at a most visceral level.

Channon studied various religious rites of passage. Throughout history these rituals have evoked primal emotions, a very scary notion, even counterintuitive, for many staid military officers. He noted also the importance of symbology and ceremonies. True loyalty was not something obtained by a written or sworn oath. Rather deep and abiding loyalty comes from shared common experience, especially when endured in hardship. To communicate culture means establishing programs that produced many such shared experiences and often incorporated historical events of great importance to the organization. He noted that cultural transference through ceremonies has tended to be squeezed out by the exigencies of day-to-day business. The importance of this medium is still not fully understood.

Beyond the printed document, Channon embodied the essence of cultural transformation. He advocated and demonstrated the ability to simultaneously communicate complex, value-laden information on multiple channels simultaneously. Employing visual and auditory effects as well as orchestrated emotional stimuli, Channon’s techniques had the ability to initiate concordance in multisensory modes so that soldiers would integrate the Army’s values at a deep-seated, core level.

End Notes:
* Among the SOF elements are U.S. Army Rangers, U.S. Army Special Forces, U.S. Navy SEALS and Special Boat units, U.S. Air Force Air Commandos, and other specialized units.
** Note that Task Force Delta was an Innovate think tank that had no relationship with any other military organization using Delta In Its title.

{John Alexander currently lives In Las Vegas and, though retired, Is still active with several governmental and nongovernmental agencies.}

John Alexander
email : nonlethal2 [at] aol [dot] com


“Dr. John Alexander has been a leading advocate for the development of non-lethal weapons since he created renewed interest in the field starting in 1989. An original thinker, he has developed other unique concepts for conflict that must remain undisclosed at this time. He entered the US Army as a private in 1956 and rose through the ranks to sergeant first class, attended OCS, and was a colonel of Infantry in 1988 when he retired. During his varied career, he held many key positions in special operations, intelligence, and research and development. From 1966 through early 1969 he commanded Special Forces A-Teams in Vietnam and Thailand. His last military assignment was as Director, Advanced Systems Concepts Office, US Army Laboratory Command. After retiring from the Army, Dr. Alexander joined Los Alamos National Laboratory where he was instrumental in developing the concept of Non-Lethal Defense. As a program manager, he conducted non-lethal warfare briefings at the highest levels of government including the White House Staff, National Security Council, Members of Congress, Director of Central Intelligence, and senior Defense officials. He also met with heads of industry, and presented at academic institutions, including Columbia, Harvard and MIT.

Dr. Alexander organized and chaired the first five major conferences on non-lethal warfare and served as a US delegate to four NATO studies on the topic. As a member of the Council on Foreign Relations non-lethal warfare study, he was instrumental in influencing the report that is credited with causing the Department of Defense to create a formal Non-Lethal Weapons Policy in July 1996. For several years, he has been a distinguished guest lecturer at the US Air Force Air University and participated in key war games when non-lethal weapons were first being considered. Dr. Alexander wrote the seminal articles on current non-lethal warfare.”

Staring at Goats: The Rest of the Story
BY John B. Alexander  /  10.02.2009

There has been substantial derision associated with the book, The Men Who Stare at Goats, and the movie of the same name. However, information has recently come to light that suggests that the basic concept that led to the ignoble title was derived from a painful lesson in the U.S. Army Special Forces history. Specifically, it stems from the capture, and lengthy captivity, of then-Lieutenant James “Nick” Rowe in South Vietnam. For those who may not be familiar with him, Rowe is still considered a hero in Special Forces. Unfortunately, despite his legendary actions as a prisoner of war (POW) in Vietnam, he was assassinated by communist insurgents in Quezon City, in the Philippines on 21 April 1989. Almost presciently, now-Colonel Rowe had reported that he was second or third on the terrorist’s target list.

The basics of his capture and imprisonment are known. On 29 October 1963, LT Rowe, along with Captain Rocky Versace and team medic, Sergeant First Class Dan Pitzer, was taken as a POW near the village of Le Coeur in An Xuyen Province while advising a Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG) unit. The team members were separated and later, in 1965, Rocky Versace was executed by the Viet Cong. He was last heard singing God Bless America at the top of his voice. It was based on reports of his continued resistance, that Versace was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 2002.

Then, in December 1968, 62 months after falling into the hands of the Viet Cong, Rowe was rescued during an American air cavalry raid in the U-Minh Forest also known as the “forest of darkness.” The years in captivity were extremely harsh for Rowe. He repeatedly attempted to escape and was frequently subjected to torture and physical deprivation. Like Versace, he was also threatened with execution on several occasions. As the VC had grown tired of his continued resistance, Rowe was finally scheduled for execution at the end of December, just a few days after his fortuitous rescue. Even that event proved to be a close call as Rowe was nearly shot by the helicopter crews. Though clad in black pajamas, he was recognized as an American by his beard and scooped up.

Throughout his years in detention Rowe maintained a constant vigil and mental awareness of his surroundings. Though physically weakened, he tried many methods to gain an upper hand. For a long time he convinced the Viet Cong that he was an engineer who happened to be the war zone. Rowe was concealing the fact that he was a Special Forces intelligence officer and had access to information about camps across the Mekong Delta. It was only after some American peace-advocates went to North Vietnam and provided a complete list of names and units that his captors learned his true identity and that they had been fooled. Rowe paid a high price for that revelation, but he had successfully evaded being forced to provide useful information to the enemy. By the time the Viet Cong understood his importance, the information he had was too dated to be actionable.

After his recovery from serious diseases and extensive injuries, Rowe left the Army. Then, in 1981 he was recalled to active duty and went to Ft. Bragg where he became the director the Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape (SERE) course.* The intent of that course was to prepare members of special operations forces, and other personnel conducting high risk missions, to be better prepared for the eventuality of being cut off from friendly forces or worse yet, captured. Obviously, it was Colonel Rowe’s personal experience in captivity that caused the senior leadership of the U.S. Army Special Forces to place him in that position of high responsibility.

Enter the goats. As mentioned, during his captivity Rowe tried a wide variety of techniques to assist in escape. Being the director of SERE, he had considerable latitude in exploration of unique measures that might be helpful for the students. Drawing on his background Rowe was determined to explore all options of techniques that might prove useful. To that end, he directed a senior NCO assigned to the school to track down information about dim mak, a relatively obscure martial arts skill known in English as the death touch. Dim mak defies conventional physiology. It is not a hard blow to a vital organ. Rather, it involves a relatively light strike that is designed to interrupt the flow of chi (or ki in the Japanese tradition) in such a manner that death follows several hours later. According to Chinese medicine philosophy, this life force, or chi, flows along meridians throughout the body and moderates all human functioning. This concept of chi is the basis for the Eastern medical practice of acupuncture, and while easily observable it is not commonly accepted by Western medicine practitioners.

Rowe was painfully aware of the physical degradation that follows captivity. He reasoned that almost all traditional martial arts techniques require too much physical exertion for most prisoners to execute effectively. His interests therefore, were in locating and pursuing techniques that could be employed by POWs while requiring minimum output of physical energy. (Are we still laughing?)

The NCO went to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and worked with members of the combative skills course. There he was told about a civilian instructor by the name of Guy Savelli who professed some of these very advanced skills.

Savelli was contacted, his capabilities verified, and then he was brought to Ft. Bragg where he taught several students. As I told Jon Ronson when the book first came out, “He hit the goat.” At that time I thought it was Savelli who had executed the blow to the goat in question. In fact, it was this same senior NCO who had been trained by Savelli who hit the goat leading directly to its death several hours after that. It was the moderate physical energy expended combined with the delay in time of death that was the sought after outcome. It worked.

As I recorded in my first book, The Warrior’s Edge, I have seen the photos taken of the necropsy that show most remarkable physical damage to the goat. Specifically, there was a path of energy, not unlike what a bullet would produce while transiting a body, which ran across the chest cavity. The difference was that there was no wound of entrance or wound of exit. The NCO has recently confirmed those observations as well. That experiment may be the first tangible, albeit elusive, evidence that dim mak can produce physical results (death). Like this NCO, I trained with Savelli, but for a shorter period of time. That experience left little doubt that Savelli had mastered some very advanced martial arts skills and could teach them to others.

Rowe was not prepared to limit his inquiry to the physical impact of dim mak. Based on his extensive experience with his Viet Cong captors, he believed that they could be mentally influenced. The first objectives were relatively simple. Could a guard be made to look in a certain direction? Could the prisoner cause the guard to walk in a specified direction, or pause for a longer period of time? What were the limits of influence that could be applied by a prisoner?

While the answers to these questions remain obscured, there is some literature, mostly anecdotal, that supports the notion that remote influence is a distinct possibility. During my training in the Washington area, Savelli described to us a technique he called the mind stops. In it, he claimed that he could confront an adversary, and then he would maneuver himself behind that person without them being aware of his movement. This capability is not unique and has been reported by other researchers. One fairly well documented case is that of Wolf Messing, a German Jew who fled to the USSR at the beginning stages of World War II. His unusual mental skills attracted the attention of Stalin who arranged for a series of tests. During one dramatic demonstration he was able to pass by attentive guards and enter Stalin’s well-protected house. When questioned, the guards claimed that they had witnessed Lavrenti Beria, dreaded head of the NKVD, enter the premises, not Messing.

Another, more extreme, form of remote mental influence was reported by KGB defector, Major Nikolai Kokolov. Among other topics Kokolov reported on the extent of psychic research being conducted during the Cold War. In debriefings, he described the Soviet use of mental influencing to actually fracture the spinal columns of test subjects. Current readers may not be aware that lethal experimentation on humans was conducted in several subject areas. By the time he took over leadership of SERE, COL Rowe had access to that intelligence information as well as his personal experience with similar techniques to draw upon.

It is worth noting that beyond the anecdotes, there is scientific research has been conducted in the area of remote influencing. In its most basic form, prayer is a method of invoking remote intervention in one’s life, and there are many studies demonstrating the success of those techniques. Those are beyond the scope of this piece, but worth exploring to interested readers.

In addition to esoteric mental influence techniques, the SERE instructors explored more mundane and pragmatic approaches as well. Of particular interest were martial arts techniques in which the initial movements appeared normal and non-threatening. As an example, simply brushing one’s hair aside in a seemingly harmless manner may allow the prisoner to move their hand within a few inches of a guard’s eyes. Under other conditions, allowing a prisoner’s hand close to vital organs would be perceived as a potential attack, and would likely cause a severe response by the guard.

Camouflaging intent of aggression is not new. In fact, there is an entire martial arts form that was founded on the concept of masquerading offensive movements, thus allowing practice to occur uninhibited. Capoeira is a Brazilian fighting art form that was developed by the African slaves as they prepared for conflict with their owners. The graceful and intricate movements were portrayed as a harmless folk dance. In reality, the moves were designed to enhance the fighting skills of the practitioners. The history dates back at least two centuries, and Capoeira can be observed in many Brazilian cities today.

As renowned commentator Paul Harvey used to proclaim, “And know you know the rest of the story.” Therefore, taken in context, staring at goats, or hitting them, makes more sense than what one might initially believe. Instead of being overly concerned about a foreigner’s attempt at humor via gross distortion of truth, maybe we should embrace this opportunity to explain the perfectly logical origins that form the basis of those experiments. That includes acknowledging visionary contributions of one of our heroes and fallen comrade, Colonel Nick Rowe!

• The site, located at Camp Mackall, NC, is now officially the Colonel James “Nick” Rowe SERE Training Center
• Note: SFC Pitzer was released by the Viet Cong in 1967. This action was in response to American protestor visits. Pitzer was a medic, and the other two POWs released were black soldiers as the VC played the race card.
• Like many SOF personnel, the NCO involved with the SERE training described wishes to remain anonymous. While retired from the U.S. Army, he continues to work in a sensitive position serving the interests of his country.

My First Earth Battalion comes to life in The Men Who Stare at Goats
BY Jim Channon  /  2 November 2009

Five years ago, Jon Ronson showed up on my doorstep to interview me for a TV series, Crazy Rulers of the World. I watched with interest as he digested all the edgy ideas about an army trying to reinvent itself for the 21st century into his programme. Jon’s job was to show the paradox between how visionaries think and how politicians get it wrong. He then expanded the show into a book, The Men Who Stare at Goats, partly based on my First Earth Battalion manual.

The Battalion “mythology” I developed was a creative thinking tool designed to encourage the young leaders in the army to think of new ways, with the aim of changing the nature of war and improving the chances of survival for all involved. It was intended to stretch the imagination. The film is a comedy, because the screenwriter Peter Straughan saw great potential in the humorous contrast between the soldier archetype and some of the more “hippy” ideas mentioned.

So, why did four of the brightest actors in Hollywood team up to make a movie about a small, activist band of army officers? Was it their fascination with the audacity and spirit of these men, who wanted to make a difference in the world? Could it have been George Clooney, known for his politically provocative films, who felt he just had to tell the world the unbelievable tale about a very creative period in the US army’s history?

People ask if I’m upset about myself or other members of the First Earth Battalion being portrayed as fools. I guess it’s the ultimate “roast”. What I’m mostly pleased about is that the First Earth Battalion’s shelf life has been extended far into the future, and that the real story now has a chance of getting out.
Strategic shamanism and the new world order
BY Jim Channon  /  3 November 2009

I find it very interesting to remind people that 30 years have passed since I wrote the Earth Battalion field manual. I’ve always wanted the story to be told by Hollywood – it’s one of great hope and promise, a mythology meant to start a social movement and to inspire individuals, both military and civilian. The goal is to evolve beyond conflict to a new level of peace-making where we can collectively address the social and environmental challenges that create global conflicts in the first place. So I have been doing lots of other strategic shamanic work since 1978.

My work shifted to corporations: I have taken the same approach to redirecting Fortune 500 companies and other large institutions toward their higher purposes; I leave them with visionary illustrations to guide the followup. I came to London and reminded Shell that they were really a liquid transportation company and they could carry fresh water about with virtually the same technology they use for oil. Paradigm shift!

But old-world thinking persists on the battlefield. What really gets my goat is that the “shock and awe” that happened in Baghdad is now part of the reason it’s taking so long for trust to be restored in Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s hard on the frontline soldiers.
The paranormal soldier demystified
BY Jim Channon  /  4 November 2009

The term “psychic spy” features in The Men Who Stare at Goats. That’s because the paranormal is critical to New Earth Army missions. Firstly, an extended range of perception using all senses is the key to not stepping into a killing zone. Modern warfare may seem less violent than traditional scenes of men charging up hills in the face of oncoming fire. But paradoxically, it can be worse – worse because civilians are also often present in the battle area. One miscue and an avalanche of bullets or shrapnel can be triggered in which everyone in range becomes the victim of the chaos. Not entering such situations is the key to victory.

Remember, the real victims of war are the young soldiers who must live a lifetime of regret and trauma because they have inadvertently killed a woman or child in the heat of a firefight. We must accept that the trauma victims of modern warfare are casualties for the rest of their lives. Not moving into danger zones is simply the most skillful thing any unit can do in many situations.

Another important idea about the paranormal is that it is currently one of the most overlooked skillsets in modern life. We must awaken to the possibility that the most important single advance the human race can make to enter this century where we engage the galaxy and all of its mysteries will require we become adept at moving through dimensions of many kinds. We must tend to our interdimensional world.
The armies of the world should unite to save Earth
BY Jim Channon  /  5 November 2009

It is often overlooked, but the Marshall Plan executed after the second world war may have been the largest humanitarian exercise in the history of the planet. The allied armies decided to put Europe back together. Military forces had, and have, the tools and proper organisation to help reconstruct the very things they have destroyed. Imagine if all services were asked to recover the living biosphere of our planet which we know is compromised. The Earth is the only stage for life that we have.

After years of thinking I have conceived of important missions matched to a corresponding capability for each branch of service. The army would properly reforest and clean the fresh water sources. The navy would control over-fishing and recycle the ocean waste. The marines would tend the shorelines and restore the coral reefs and wetland areas. Then the air forces would sense the environment from above and detect polluters while also having the instant mass transport of rescue villages for all the displaced refugees likely to surface during climate change.

The many national guard units would reconstruct the countryside with the assistance of the youth to bring nature back to her fullness for a more decentralised and sustainable world. The corporations would all shift 30 degrees to the green. Global villages and the internet will become our worldwide exchange system, and former power centres will just be support services. The world is already one culture. Countries are obsolete and have been for 30 years.


Precepts For More Effective Training: “To have paranormal results, one must live a paranormal life.”



Jedi Warrior Training for the U.S. Army Special Forces Green Berets
BY Dr. Joel & Michelle Levey, Program Co-designers and Directors of Advanced Biocybernaut Training

Our Trojan Warrior Program – aka – Jedi Warrior, or the Ultimate Warrior Training Program for the U.S. Army Special Forces – is to date the most intensive mental training and transformation program to be offered in the military in modern times. The program review team at West Point Military Academy described Jedi Warrior as, “The most exquisite orchestration of human technology that we have ever seen.” Two of our advisors, George Leonard and Michael Murphy, founders of Esalen and the Human Potential Movement, described the program as “the most intensive leadership and human development program to be offered in modern times.”

The full story on this program has yet to be fully told and we are the only members of the original design team who were also involved with the program’s full delivery.  The senior officer whose inspired leadership brought this program into being, has asked us to consider writing the definitive full story of this historic program. Some day we hope to fulfill his request.  We are frequently invited to offer briefings on this program for leaders around the globe who are interested in the profound implications of applying lessons learned to equipping cadres of leaders in other disciplines with the wisdom, resiliency and capacity to accomplish their complex missions. This work clearly has increasing relevance in preparing leaders and communities to resiliently meet the challenges, and embrace the opportunities, of these times.

Special Forces of the Mind
In 1982 we were approached by the US. Army to design and direct the “Ultimate Warrior Training Program”, AKA “Jedi Warrior,” and “The Ultimate Warrior,” for two A Teams of Special Forces, Green Berets.  This six month-long, full-time program came about through the efforts of a number of concerned and high-ranking officers who were inspired by the vision of the First Earth Battalion, compelled by the psi/ESPinage research taking place in China and behind the Iron Curtain, and by increasing interest in advanced mental development possibilities. These leaders also lived with the grief of knowing how much unnecessary suffering took place during and following the war in South East Asia, and wanted to find ways to reduce the likelihood of that happening in the future. (Note: It was estimated at that time that more than twice as many men and women committed suicide after returning from SE Asia than died in combat… envision three Vietnam Memorials…)

These visionary and compassionate leaders understood that because their people were unprepared to stop the war inside themselves, under pressure the seeds of violence within them manifested as the outer violence that destroyed many innocent people, including their families and themselves. We were told that more than twice as many people committed suicide after returning home than died in combat, and that they lived with the grief of that knowledge on a daily basis. These courageous military leaders approached us with a hope and confidence that we would be able to help design a state of the art, advanced leadership and human development program for their elite Special Forces soldiers.

The stakes were very high. We* were asked to work with two highly strategic elite teams, whose mission had the potential to either trigger or avert World War III, under the old Cold War scenario. Our mission was to design and deliver a full-time intensive and holistic program to equip these two A Teams of Special Forces Troops with the personal, team, and mission capabilities necessary to recognize and reduce the conflict/war within themselves so they could perform at peak levels in the midst of extreme danger and distress – such as working behind enemy lines for prolonged periods of time.

Prior to submitting our proposal, we went through considerable soul searching. We consulted many of our mentors and advisors, and contemplated the potential implications, both positive and negative of participating in designing and implementing such a program. During this same period, Trident submarine was coming into Puget Sound for the first time. As we pondered this RFP from the Army we realized that if we had six months to train the crew of a nuclear submarine that we would feel that the world was a safer place. It became clear that the benefits to the men and to the globe were potentially extreme. We assembled our team, created and submitted our proposal for a six-month full time training program. We received an almost immediate reply from leaders at West Point Military Academy who evaluated our proposal and stated that our proposal represented “the most exquisite orchestration of human technology we had ever seen!”  Their response was heartening.

In preparation for the program we engaged dozens of our mentors to ask for their council and advice.  Our primary question for them was: “If you had the opportunity to work intensively for six months with men who were in a position to start or stop the next world war, what would you do and what would be most essential to teach them?” Our advisors and collaborators ranged from Vietnam veterans and respected military leaders, to leading martial artists, noted researchers like Elmer Green from the Menninger Foundation, Benedictine monk Brother David Steindl-Rast, and Nobel Peace Laureate, His Holiness the Dalai Lama. By the time the program began, we had woven the best of our own experience with the insights of many others to deliver what Michael Murphy, founder of the Esalen Institute, and Esquire editor George Leonard, once called, “the most intensive leadership and human development program to be offered in modern times.”

For this pioneering project we designed an extensive lab of state-of-the art technology to teach the men mastery of their minds and bodies.  It was vital that our soldiers learned skills for recognizing and transforming their inner demons into inner allies.  Our advanced Biocybernaut training combined technologies of biofeedback, neurofeedback, cyberphysiology, and contemplative inner methods of mastery drawn from the vast array of contemplative science traditions. In our lab the soldiers developed the skill and confidence necessary to sense and control many previously unconscious physiological functions: they learned to recognize and control muscle tension, to control blood circulation in order to keep their hands warm in cold environments, manage the intensity and physiology of their responses to stress. For many visiting dignitaries to the base, the Jedi Biocybernaut Lab became a first stop on the tour of the base, where they learned that it was actually possible to recognize and control the level of their blood pressure. The lab included the world’s first multiple-synchrony brainwave feedback system, which we helped to design, in order to teach up to sixteen people at a time to “synchronize” their brain waves in order to move toward a team resonance and flow state of deep attunement to each other’s inner state of being.

Our goal with all of this modern and ancient technology was to build the soldiers’ skills and confidence that they could indeed recognize, understand, and influence/control their mental, emotional, and physiological experience, and that they could strengthen the mindful clarity they’d need to choose the wisest path of action even in the midst of the “VUCA” conditions of the battlefield.  (Note:  VUCA is a military term referring to operations in Volatile, Uncertain, Chaotic, and Ambiguous conditions.  Our training helped equip our men with the skills necessary to bring a deeper Vision, Understanding, Clarity, and Agility forward to meet the challenges of their VUCA mission environments.)

For men who were outwardly fearless and willing to give their lives for their country, the most terrifying part of our training was a month-long silent meditation retreat that was called, “the encampment.”  This was a time of intensive mental training and martial arts training where they learned skills for looking deeply into their own minds and bodies in order to recognize, befriend and transform their “inner enemies”, to resolve inner conflicts and tap inner strengths that could influence their outer effectiveness. They deepened their insight into how these internal enemies could ultimately cost them their lives if they were deployed on their mission. Our teams discovered and learned how to tap reservoirs of inner strength they never dreamed existed. Following this month of intensive mindfulness and meditation training the men were parachuted at night into a four-day ordeal called “the gut check” – a field simulation in very rugged terrain with a series of tests and check-points that needed to be passed on a strict timeline or the men would not have food or water for the next leg of the test.  Our two teams were the first in history to muster both the individual and team strengths necessary to successfully complete this extremely arduous mission simulation.

The “integral nature” of the Jedi Warrior training design provided an exquisite blend of methods for developing the wholeness and extra-ordinary capabilities of our soldiers. Ours was also the first program for the Special Forces to openly address issues regarding death, dying and grieving. We introduced highly sophisticated methods of physical and team training that were a step beyond the somewhat archaic practices that were the norm in their physical training. Our men learned to make wiser choices in diet to promote higher levels of performance. Jedi Warrior training enabled our soldiers to develop extraordinary skills for self-mastery, self-regulation, and resilience.  They learned skills for high-performance sleep, deep relaxation, energy healing, and how to find an inner state of calm intensity in which they could focus their minds for self -healing or to maintain states of clear alertness for long periods of time. They trained intensively in the martial art of Aikido, a martial art form that emphasizes cultivating a greater sensitivity to energy flow and force while creatively transforming the energy of inner and outer conflict. We applied these learnings to enhancing the mission skills and technical capabilities essential to their success, such as working with code, emergency medical work, and other vital skills necessary for their work. We also worked closely with the soldiers’ families and significant others to help integrate these insights and learnings into their home life and relationships.

In addition to the outcomes summarized below, some of the most notable impacts of our work were evident in an enhanced quality of communication and relationship with their families. Many wives and children of the men thanked us because their spouse/father came home and talked to them and openly shared his feelings and fears. Some commented that their husband/father seemed more in control of his emotions and was able to talk through difficulties without getting physically abusive. One team was selected as the most outstanding team in the NATO Games that year. Many of these men went on to train others in these inner arts, while others were recruited by Delta Force and other special units in the Service. Others taught at the War College or were decorated for their special roles in operations in Somalia, the Gulf War, and Eastern Europe. Over the years we have heard from many of the men that what they learned has saved their lives, their missions, their teams, and their families from many difficult situations. Reports over time indicate that the program had a profound effect on the lives of those who participated in it, opening a vast horizon of new possibilities for personal and professional development. The benefits of this investment in these people’s lives continue to this day.

Organizational Warrior Training: Special Forces at Work
The methods distilled through our work with the Jedi Warrior project have inspired and informed the design of hundreds of programs we have subsequently offered to organizations around the globe. Jedi Warrior provided an organizational learning laboratory that has great relevance for leaders in complex, high-stakes systems who seek wisdom, resilience, mindful presence, collective creative intelligence, fierce compassion, and courage. With practice, the Jedi Warrior core disciplines allow insight and intuition to deepen, courage and confidence to grow, health and performance to improve, and innovation to be guided by a wisdom congruent with the pressing needs of the times.

When our colleagues in other organizations hear about the work we did with the Army Special Forces, they often respond by saying,  “We need a Jedi Warrior or ‘ultimate warrior’ training program for the people in our organization! We work on an organizational battlefield with every growing levels of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity and need to develop greater skills to increase our personal and collective resilience, wisdom, creativity, and strength.” In response to these requests we have designed and delivered a variety of programs incorporating methods from the Jedi Warrior program for over 100 corporate clients around the globe with inspiring and enduring results.

*The original design for this program was created by us (Joel & Michelle Levey) and Bud Cook, and then at a later stage we brought in Richard Strozzi Heckler (aikido teacher), and Jack Cirie (team leader) as members of our core delivery team.  It was inspired by the vision of Lt. Col. Jim Channon’s inspired work with the First Earth Battalion.  A host of remarkable advisers and visiting trainers also participated in this program, and each brought great wisdom, expertise, and inspiration to this historic training.

Joel & Michelle Levey
email : levey [at] wisdomatwork [dot] com


The Defense Center of Excellence (DCoE) for Psychological Health (PH) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is soliciting proposals for studies on Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) in service members dealing with sustainment and treatment for psychological health and promoting healing for traumatic brain injuries in service-members. The high prevalence of psychoneurological and other brain injuries associated with the current OEF/OIF war effort make it especially important to understand current use of CAM therapies by service-members, and to explore approaches that may be particularly effective in both protecting and treating the injured service-member. The DoD is dedicated to supporting evidence-based approaches to medical treatment and wants to support the use of alternative therapies if they are proven efficacious. Specific aims of this call for proposals focus on a holistic approach for trauma spectrum disorders, including patients with TBI and/or post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and/or substance dependence/abuse. With the focus on a holistic approach for trauma spectrum disorders, including patients with TBI and/or post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and/or substance dependence/abuse, the following delineate several of the areas of interest: 1. Conducting rigorous clinical studies to determine the efficacy of alternative therapies for treating psychological health injuries using techniques such as music, animal-facilitated therapy, art, dance/movement, massage therapy, EMDR program evaluation, virtual reality, acupuncture, spiritual ministry, transcendental meditation, yoga and other novel approaches. 2. Identification of patterns of use of CAM therapies to build resilience in military populations, 3. Identification of factors and perceptions associated with use of alternative and complementary therapies by service-members, 4. Studies of mechanisms and efficacy of biologically-based treatments, botanicals, and nutritional supplements for enhancing cognitive function and mood in patients with trauma spectrum disorders, including TBI and/or PTSD, depression, anxiety, and/or substance dependence/abuse, 5. Studies that examine gender-specific implications and issues related to the use of CAM therapies, 6. Biological mechanisms and efficacy underlying acupuncture for trauma spectrum disorders, including TBI and/or PTSD, depression, anxiety, and/or substance dependence/abuse, including neuroimaging studies, and 7. Identification of the use and efficacy of therapies using bioenergies such as Qi gong, Reiki, distant healing, and acupuncture, especially new biophysical approaches involving instrumentation.Proposals must provide a clear justification and military relevance for the choice of therapies selected for study. Collaboration with DoD medical researchers at the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC), clinical research laboratories at military medical centers and VA centers are encouraged and will be considered in the selection of awards. Studies should be designed to test pragmatic and theoretical components at once; thus, they need to include sham control to separate specific from non-specific effects. Rationale should include why the intervention should have effects across trauma spectrum and evaluate putative mechanisms. Use of primary care and community sites should be accessed and networked into participate. Two types of proposals will be considered. Individual research proposals containing preliminary data are expected to average $200,000 per year for up to four years of support; no proposal award will exceed $1M in total funding (including indirect costs). Seedling grants proposing innovative but testable hypotheses without preliminary data, will be considered for $300,000 in total funding (including indirect costs), with research to be completed within 18 months. A total of approximately $4,000,000 is available for the portfolio of projects to be funded.

Pentagon researches alternative treatments
BY Gregg Zoroya  /  10.7.2008

The Pentagon is seeking new ways to treat troops suffering from combat stress or brain damage by researching such alternative methods as acupuncture, meditation, yoga and the use of animals as therapy, military officials said. “This new theme is a big departure for our cautious culture,” Dr. S. Ward Casscells, the Pentagon’s assistant secretary for health affairs, told USA TODAY. Casscells said he pushed hard for the new research, because “we are struggling with” post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) “as we are with suicide and we are increasingly willing to take a hard look at even soft therapies.” So far this year, the Pentagon is spending $5 million to study the therapies. In the previous two years, the Pentagon had not spent any money on similar research, records show. About 300,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans suffer from PTSD or major depression, and about 320,000 may have experienced at least a mild concussion or brain injury in combat, according to a RAND Corp. study released this year.

The Army reported a record 115 suicides last year, and suicides this year are at a rate that may exceed that, said Col. Eddie Stephens, the Army’s deputy director for human resources policy. The Department of Veterans Affairs reported last month that suicides among Iraq- and Afghanistan-era veterans from all services reached a record high of 113 in 2006, the latest year for which there were figures.  Some military hospitals and installations already use alternative therapies, such as acupuncture as stress relievers for patients. The research will see whether the alternatives work so the Pentagon can use them more, said Army Brig. Gen. Loree Sutton, head of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury. Many of the treatments have been used for centuries, Sutton said, “so it just makes sense to bring all potential therapies to bear.”

Her office issued a request for research proposals this year on therapies ranging from art and dance, to the ancient Chinese healing art of qigong or a therapy of hands-on touching known as Reiki. Sutton’s office narrowed a list of 82 proposals to about 10 projects this year, and research should begin, with servicemembers as subjects in some cases, in the next few months, said Col. Karl Friedl, head of the Army’s Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center, which oversees the work. Friedl said research will include how meditation can improve emotional resilience; how holding and petting an animal can treat PTSD and how acupuncture pain relief can relieve headaches created by mild brain damage from blasts. “We want to add everything we can to our tool kit” for these injuries, said Col. Elspeth Ritchie, an Army psychiatrist.

Some soldiers who suffer from PTSD are reluctant to share their experiences in traditional psychiatric therapy, said Col. Charles Engel, an Army psychiatric epidemiologist. He said those soldiers may be more willing to use acupuncture and other alternatives if they are effective. Initial research this summer with combat veterans showed that acupuncture relieved PTSD symptoms and eased pain and depression, Engel said. “Improvements were relatively rapid and clinically significant,” he said. About one third of sailors and Marines use some types of alternative therapies, mostly herbal remedies, according to a survey conducted last year. A recent Army study shows that one in four soldiers with combat-caused PTSD turned to herbs, chiropractors, acupuncture or megavitamins for relief. Although the Pentagon’s study of alternative medicine for combat diseases is unique, research into such therapies for broad public use is not new, said Richard Nahin, a senior adviser for the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The NIH spends about $300 million a year on similar research.

Probing Edges Of Medicine — And Reality
Homeopathy Against Bioterrorism? For a Local Research Institute, Few Areas of Study Are Too Far Out
BY Sandra G. Boodman  /  July 12, 2005

Ask Wayne B. Jonas why the scientific foundation he directs is funding research into the effects of prayer, the use of homeopathy to fight bioterrorism and whether magnetic devices can heal orthopedic injuries, and he offers a straightforward answer: Science is the way to determine whether they work. “We’re trying to stimulate good-quality research,” said Jonas, a former chief of the Office of Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) who directs the nonprofit Samueli Institute for Information Biology (SIIB) in Alexandria. “There is a good case for looking at these things scientifically, because we don’t know a lot about them.”

But, the 51-year-old board-certified family physician and retired Army doctor adds, “it’s difficult to walk the scientific fence” — dodging criticism from “the hard-core skeptics” who dismiss alternative medicine as quackery and the “hard-core advocates” who accept it uncritically. Jonas has headed the institute — named for its principal benefactor, California philanthropist Susan Samueli — since its inception in 2001. What began as a two-person foundation has grown into a research organization with four offices and a staff of 15. It has an annual budget of about $4 million provided by the Samueli family, and an additional $5 million in contracts from the Department of Defense (DOD) to study alternative treatments. Currently the institute is funding about 50 projects, awarding grants ranging from $20,000 to $250,000 to researchers in the United States, Europe and Asia. Some grants have been awarded to institute staff members.

Among the DOD-related projects, which are a collaboration with the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, the military medical school in Bethesda where Jonas is a clinical professor, are several to determine whether the use of extremely diluted poisons, including cyanide and botulinum toxin, might protect soliders from higher doses to which they could be exposed in biological warfare. “The work in this area is in its earliest stages but has some promising characteristics,” said Iris R. Bell, director of research for the integrative medicine program at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. “The Samueli staff are open-minded scientists, they are not taking anything as dogma. They are asking the bigger questions, such as what are the assumptions of science? I would expect the work they do and the work they fund is going to be controversial.”

Critics of the institute say that while they support rigorous research into alternative medical treatments, Samueli is not doing it. “There is nothing of scientific value they’re doing that I’m aware of,” said Wallace Sampson, editor of the Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine and clinical professor emeritus of medicine at Stanford. “They’re all ideologues trying to prove something that doesn’t exist.”

Homeopathy, prayer and other forms of “energy medicine” belong to a category the NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the name for the office Jonas once directed, calls “among the most controversial of CAM practices.” Homeopathy, a treatment invented in the late 1700s, is predicated on the belief that “like cures like” and that illnesses can be treated by stimulating a healing response through the ingestion of highly diluted substances such as herbs, heavy metals or poison ivy, which would cause harm at larger doses. In most cases no single molecule of the substance remains. Homeopathy has not been conclusively proven to be effective for any clinical condition, according to NCCAM, and its “key concepts do not follow the laws of science.”

Sampson and other critics of Samueli’s work also question its use of terminology not found in science, such as “information biology,” which Jonas defines as “the interaction of information with biological systems”; and “salutogenesis,” which he says is the process of healing and the opposite of pathogenesis, the process of disease. “We have to keep an open mind, but not an open mind to nonsense,” said Bruce Flamm, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, Irvine. “The Samuelis are very generous people,” said obstetrician-gynecologist Flamm, “but this institute is a sadly misguided waste of money that could be spent on legitimate research.”

Last year, after Flamm repeatedly raised questions about a widely promulgated study conducted by researchers affiliated with Columbia University that prayer could help infertile women conceive, the study was withdrawn. (Samueli had no affiliation with the study.) One of the authors is currently serving time in federal prison on unrelated criminal fraud charges. Some skeptics say the Samueli-sponsored research is fundamentally unscientific and that much of it lacks the necessary safeguards to prevent spurious results. One paper presented at a Samueli-sponsored conference last year on optimal healing environments — a concept Jonas said he is helping to synthesize — was entitled “The Spa as a Model of an Optimal Healing Environment.” Written by an executive of the posh Canyon Ranch Spa in Tucson, it was published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Using Canyon Ranch as a case study, the author concluded that “creating an optimal healing environment at any price point” requires “a dedicated, caring staff.”

What Objective?
“What they’re doing isn’t science, it’s faith healing,” said Robert L. Park, a professor of physics at the University of Maryland and the author of a 2002 book entitled “Voodoo Science,” which includes a lengthy discussion of homeopathy. Adrienne Fugh-Berman, an associate professor in the complementary medicine program at Georgetown University, said she regarded the studies listed on the SIIB Web site as “pretty self-indulgent.” Fugh-Berman, a physician who has published two dozen studies of alternative treatments, called the belief that homeopathy could be used to fight bioterrorism “embarrassing” and said she regarded optimal healing environments as “spa therapy for rich people. What bothers me about some of the research is that I suspect its objective is to create a veneer of science over certain strongly held beliefs,” she said.

Jonas disputes these criticisms and says the institute follows standard NIH grant review practices. He said the goal is to fund credible pilot studies to determine what works — or doesn’t — and that he has no other agenda. Negative results of studies are published on the SIIB Web site, he noted. While the nonprofit foundation tries to subsidize research that is rigorous, Jonas continued, it is not always possible to conduct randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies of alternative therapies. “A high percentage meet those requirements,” he said, but “some things can’t be blinded.” Richard H. Grimm, an epidemiologist who is director of the Berman Center for Outcomes at the University of Minnesota, agreed, noting that much of conventional medicine is predicated on treatments that haven’t been put to such a test. “It’s relatively easy to do a randomized, placebo-controlled trial of something that fits into a capsule,” Grimm said, but not for a non-drug treatment.

Andew J. Vickers, an assistant attending research methodologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, said the Samueli Institute should be judged on the quality of science it supports. Vickers said he forsees three possible outcomes for the research on homeopathy and prayer. The first is that they work, the second is that “none of this works and it’s a waste of time” and the third is that “they find other things along the way that would be scientifically useful. Science is full of examples of that.”

Suddenly Samueli
It was Susan Samueli’s longstanding interest in alternative medicine that led to the creation of the institute in 2001, Jonas said. Around the same time, she and her husband Henry endowed the Susan Samueli Center for Integrative Medicine in the medical school at the University of California, Irvine. The family’s fortune comes from Henry Samueli’s interest in Broadcom, a company he co-founded in the early 1990s while on leave from teaching at UCLA, where he earned a doctorate in electrical engineering. Broadcom pioneered the manufacture of chips used in DSL and cable modems just before the demand for these chips skyrocketed. Over a period of a few years, that invention catapulted the Samuelis from middle-class comfort to the ranks of the Forbes 400, a listing of America’s richest families.

The son of Polish Holocaust survivors who as a youth worked in his family’s liquor store, Henry Samueli has made record gifts to the engineering schools at UC Irvine and UCLA, both of which now bear his name. Several months ago the couple bought the Mighty Ducks professional hockey team. Susan Samueli, whose undergraduate degree in math is from Berkeley, has a PhD from the American Holistic College of Nutrition and a diploma from a British homeopathic institute. The holistic college is an unaccredited correspondence school located in Birmingham, Ala.

Jonas’s interest in homeopathy dates back to college. In a 1996 book entitled “Healing With Homeopathy,” he wrote that as a medical student he suggested trying homeopathy on several patients who were faring poorly with conventional treatments and was upbraided by supervisors. Later, while stationed as an Army doctor in Germany, where homeopathy is popular, Jonas said his interest in the subject grew, in part because he couldn’t understand how it might work. Jonas said he thinks the answer might lie in a substance released by an ingredient in glass or could be due to the placebo effect. He said he doubts the view, widely held by other homeopaths, that the water somehow retains the “memory” of the diluted substance, which results in healing. “There are possible ways to explain this on a rational basis,” he said.

Two months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Jonas, a former official at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, urged Congress to consider the use of homeopathy to fight bioterrorism. In testimony before a commitee chaired by Indiana’s Republican Rep. Dan Burton, one of the most enthusiastic supporters of alternative medicine in Congress, Jonas said that “homeopathic medical literature reveals numerous reports of apparently successful treatment of epidemic diseases . . . including smallpox” from the last century. A month later NCCAM chief Stephen E. Straus, a virologist, warned the House commitee against using alternative remedies for biological weapons. In 2003 Jonas was lead author of an analysis of homeopathy studies published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The authors, all specialists in alternative medicine, concluded that homeopathy may be effective for some conditions and “deserves an open-minded opportunity to demonstrate its value” but should not supplant proven therapies.

To Colorado physician Steven Bratman, the author of a dozen books on alternative medicine and an expert in research in the field, using homeopathy to combat bioterrorism is “completely insane — not as insane as UFOs, but pretty close. For homeopathy to work, there would have to be a whole new law of science,” said Bratman, a former alternative medicine practitioner who said he abandoned acupuncture and other treatments about a decade ago after he grew increasingly uneasy about their lack of scientific underpinnings. “The fact that DOD is spending money on this research is unfortunate,” he said.

Increasingly, Jonas said, the Samueli Institute is focusing on projects that explore and define optimal healing environments, a concept that grows out of his long-standing interest in preventive medicine. “We have a biomedical system that is attempting to apply the acute care model to chronic illness,” he said. “We need a new way of thinking. . . . That’s the salutogenic model.” This interest in healing is reflected in the institute’s expensively decorated suite of offices overlooking the King Street Metro station in Old Town Alexandria. Situated outside Jonas’s office is a large section of an aspen tree, trucked in from land the Samueli family owns in Telluride, Colo. Native Americans, Jonas said, believed the aspen tree was endowed with curative properties. It seemed a fitting symbol.

Military tries ‘battlefield’ acupuncture to ease pain
BY David Wood  /  December 11, 2008

Using ancient Chinese medical techniques, a small team of military doctors here has begun treating wounded troops suffering from severe or chronic pain with acupuncture. The technique is proving so successful that the Air Force will begin teaching “battlefield acupuncture” early next year to physicians deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan, senior officials will announce tomorrow. The initiative marks the first high-level endorsement of acupuncture by the traditionally conservative military medical community, officials said.

Using tiny needles that barely penetrate the skin of a patient’s ear, Air Force doctors here say they can interrupt pain signals going to the brain. Their experience over several years indicates the technique developed by Col. Richard Niemtzow, an Air Force physician, can relieve even unbearable pain for days at a time. That enables badly wounded patients who arrive here by medevac aircraft to begin to emerge from the daze of pain-killer drugs administered by surgeons in the field. “This is one of the fastest pain attenuators in existence – the pain can be gone in five minutes,” said Niemtzow, a physician, acupuncturist and senior adviser to the Air Force surgeon general.

He and others stressed that tiny needles cannot replace morphine and other powerful drugs used in combat medicine. And they acknowledged that acupuncture doesn’t work for everyone. But neither does acupuncture provoke the kind of adverse side effects, allergic reactions and potential addiction associated with powerful psychotropic drugs often used to dull the pain of the severely wounded. “We use acupuncture as an adjunct” to traditional therapy, said Niemtzow. “The Chinese have used it for 5,000 years. It works, and it’s powerful.”

The procedure developed by Niemtzow is a variation of traditional Chinese acupuncture in which long, hair-thin needles are inserted into the body at any of hundreds of points to ease pain. Niemtzow’s variation uses one or more needles inserted into any of five points on the ear. The needles, which penetrate about a millimeter (or 4/100ths of an inch) into the skin, fall out after several days. The procedure can be repeated. The ear acts as a “monitor” of signals passing from body sensors to the brain, he said. Those signals can be intercepted and manipulated to stop pain or for other purposes.


Lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD, has been a sacrament of artists, would-be prophets, and other such social chaff since the 1960s. Invented in 1938 by chemist Dr. Albert Hofmann while looking for an analeptic (circulatory stimulant), he found it had no effect on lab animals and forgot all about it. Years later, on the fateful day 16 of April, 1953, he accidentally absorbed a little through his fingertips and went flying on the first acid trip. By then the CIA had a ten-year-old program running, looking for interrogation drugs and truth serums. They’d played with caffeine, barbiturates, peyote, and marijuana. They also tried to get subjects to kill while under hypnosis, rounding out an operation seemingly concocted from the plots of situation comedies. Martin A. Lee and Bruce Shlain report in their Acid Dreams: The CIA, LSD, and the Sixties Rebellion, that by 1953, the CIA had authorized project MK-ULTRA, designed to perfect mind-control drugs during the Cold War. Conceived by Richard Helms of the Clandestine Services Department, it went beyond the construction of mere truth serums and ventured into disinformation, induction of temporary insanity, and other chemically-aided states.

The director of MK-ULTRA, Dr. Sidney Gottlieb, figured LSD’s potential as an interrogative agent paled in comparison to its capacity to publicly humiliate. Lee and Shlain note the CIA imagined a tripping public figure might be amusing, producing a memo that says giving acid “to high officials would be a relatively simple matter and could have a significant effect at key meetings, speeches, etc.” But Gottlieb knew that giving LSD to people in the lab was a lot different than just passing it out, and felt the department did not have an adequate grasp on its effects. So the entire operation tripped to learn what it was like, and, according to Lee and Shlain, “agreed among themselves to slip LSD into each other’s drinks. The target never knew when his turn would come, but as soon as the drug was ingested a … colleague would tell him so he could make the necessary preparations (which usually meant taking the rest of the day off). Initially the leaders of MK-ULTRA restricted the surprise acid tests to [their own] members, but when this phase had run its course they started dosing other Agency personnel who had never tripped before. Nearly everyone was fair game, and surprise acid trips became something of an occupational hazard among CIA operatives…. The Office of Security felt that [MK-ULTRA] should have exercised better judgment in dealing with such a powerful and dangerous chemical. The straw that broke the camel’s back came when a Security informant got wind of a plan by a few [MK-ULTRA] jokers to put LSD in the punch served at the annual CIA Christmas office party … a Security memo writer… concluded indignantly and unequivocally that he did ‘not recommend testing in the Christmas punch bowls usually present at the Christmas office parties.'”


British Army

Czech Army

Researchers tested pot, LSD on Army volunteers
BY Richard Willing  /  4.6.2007

Army doctors gave soldier volunteers synthetic marijuana, LSD and two dozen other psychoactive drugs during experiments aimed at developing chemical weapons that could incapacitate enemy soldiers, a psychiatrist who performed the research says in a new memoir. The program, which ran at the Army’s Edgewood, Md., arsenal from 1955 until about 1972, concluded that counterculture staples such as acid and pot were either too unpredictable or too mellow to be useful as weapons, psychiatrist James Ketchum said in an interview. The program did yield one hallucinogenic weapon: softball-size artillery rounds that were filled with powdered quinuclidinyl benzilate or BZ, a deliriant of the belladonnoid family that had placed some research subjects in a sleeplike state and left them impaired for days. Ketchum says the BZ bombs were stockpiled at an Army arsenal in Arkansas but never deployed. They were later destroyed. The Army acknowledged the program’s existence in 1975. Follow-up studies by the Army in 1978 and the National Academy of Sciences in 1981 found that volunteers suffered no long-term effects.

Insider’s account
Ketchum’s book, Chemical Warfare: Secrets Almost Forgotten, appears to be the first insider’s account of experiments performed on about 2,000 soldier volunteers, says Steven Aftergood, a government-secrecy expert for the Federation of American Scientists in Washington, D.C. Ketchum self-published the book, which he sells on his website. In an interview, Ketchum, 75, said he wrote the book to trigger a debate about the potential uses of non-lethal chemicals to incapacitate terrorists who take hostages or use human shields. “Incapacitating agents are designed to save lives,” he said. “Isn’t it at least something we should be thinking about?” Such research, says chemical weapons opponent Edward Hammond, would not only be illegal under current international law but probably never should have been performed. “There are things that have taken place in the past that should probably stay there,” says Hammond, director of the Sunshine Project, an Austin group that opposes biological warfare. Ketchum’s memoir draws from previously classified files, including filmed experiments, and notes of tests given subjects before, during and after they were fed, sprayed or injected with mind-altering chemicals.

He says:
•LSD was rejected for weapons use because even soldiers on prolonged trips could carry out violent acts.
•Even especially powerful marijuana lacked “knockdown effect.” It was rejected because its effects could be overcome simply by lying down and resting.
•Soldier volunteers were willing participants who knew the program’s potential risks. Drugs given to soldiers were described in general terms but not named though “many seemed to find out through the grapevine.”
•Intelligence reports of the time showed that Soviet researchers were planning a large-scale LSD program.
•The CIA ran a parallel program that sometimes gave hallucinogens secretly to unwitting citizens. The agency persuaded two Army doctors to carry out experiments for the CIA that the Army would not have authorized.

Ketchum says the Army phased out the hallucinogen project in about 1972, in part because disclosure of such research would have caused a “public relations problem.” Ketchum’s notes suggest the Army’s fears were not imaginary. They describe soldiers on “red oil,” an especially powerful form of marijuana, who smirked for hours and found even routine spatial reasoning tests to be hilarious. Soldiers under the influence of hallucinogens ate imaginary chickens, took showers in full uniform while smoking cigars and chatted with invisible people for two to three days at a time. One attempted to ride off on an imaginary horse while another played with kittens only he could see. Another described an order of toast as smelling “like a French whore.” Some of the researchers also took LSD “as a matter of curiosity,” Ketchum says. His lone trip, he adds, was “something of an anti-climax.” Colors seemed more vivid and music more compelling, he remembers, but “there were no breakthroughs in consciousness, no Timothy Leary stuff.” At least two soldiers who received LSD in the 1950s later sued the Army, alleging that the drug later caused them to suffer memory loss, hallucinations and occasional outbursts of violence. The claims were denied. After leaving the Army, Ketchum saw patients in a private psychiatric practice. The experiments on human subjects ended in 1975, according to Jeff Smart, historian for the Army’s Research, Development and Engineering Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. The United States signed a United Nations-sponsored chemical weapons ban in 1993 that outlawed incapacitating agents.

Calmative agents
Even so, the U.S. military has remained interested in researching non-lethal chemicals. In 2000, the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate, a Quantico, Va., group run by all four major military branches, commissioned a study of the possible military uses of “calmative” pharmaceuticals such as anesthetics and serotonin reuptake inhibitors. The Sunshine Project’s Hammond, who obtained the study through the Freedom of Information Act, says using calmatives as weapons would also be outlawed by the 1993 chemical weapons ban. Ketchum says that is not clear. In October 2002, Russian special forces used a calmative agent to subdue Islamist Chechen terrorists who were holding about 850 hostages in a Moscow theater. More than 120 hostages died from the drug’s effects.


Researchers tested pot, LSD on Army volunteers
BY Richard Willing  /  4/6/2007

Army doctors gave soldier volunteers synthetic marijuana, LSD and two dozen other psychoactive drugs during experiments aimed at developing chemical weapons that could incapacitate enemy soldiers, a psychiatrist who performed the research says in a new memoir. The program, which ran at the Army’s Edgewood, Md., arsenal from 1955 until about 1972, concluded that counterculture staples such as acid and pot were either too unpredictable or too mellow to be useful as weapons, psychiatrist James Ketchum said in an interview.

The program did yield one hallucinogenic weapon: softball-size artillery rounds that were filled with powdered quinuclidinyl benzilate or BZ, a deliriant of the belladonnoid family that had placed some research subjects in a sleeplike state and left them impaired for days. Ketchum says the BZ bombs were stockpiled at an Army arsenal in Arkansas but never deployed. They were later destroyed. The Army acknowledged the program’s existence in 1975. Follow-up studies by the Army in 1978 and the National Academy of Sciences in 1981 found that volunteers suffered no long-term effects.

Insider’s account
Ketchum’s book, Chemical Warfare: Secrets Almost Forgotten, appears to be the first insider’s account of experiments performed on about 2,000 soldier volunteers, says Steven Aftergood, a government-secrecy expert for the Federation of American Scientists in Washington, D.C. Ketchum self-published the book, which he sells on his website. In an interview, Ketchum, 75, said he wrote the book to trigger a debate about the potential uses of non-lethal chemicals to incapacitate terrorists who take hostages or use human shields. “Incapacitating agents are designed to save lives,” he said. “Isn’t it at least something we should be thinking about?”

Such research, says chemical weapons opponent Edward Hammond, would not only be illegal under current international law but probably never should have been performed. “There are things that have taken place in the past that should probably stay there,” says Hammond, director of the Sunshine Project, an Austin group that opposes biological warfare. Ketchum’s memoir draws from previously classified files, including filmed experiments, and notes of tests given subjects before, during and after they were fed, sprayed or injected with mind-altering chemicals.

He says:
•LSD was rejected for weapons use because even soldiers on prolonged trips could carry out violent acts.
•Even especially powerful marijuana lacked “knockdown effect.” It was rejected because its effects could be overcome simply by lying down and resting.
•Soldier volunteers were willing participants who knew the program’s potential risks. Drugs given to soldiers were described in general terms but not named though “many seemed to find out through the grapevine.”
•Intelligence reports of the time showed that Soviet researchers were planning a large-scale LSD program.
•The CIA ran a parallel program that sometimes gave hallucinogens secretly to unwitting citizens. The agency persuaded two Army doctors to carry out experiments for the CIA that the Army would not have authorized.

Ketchum says the Army phased out the hallucinogen project in about 1972, in part because disclosure of such research would have caused a “public relations problem.” Ketchum’s notes suggest the Army’s fears were not imaginary. They describe soldiers on “red oil,” an especially powerful form of marijuana, who smirked for hours and found even routine spatial reasoning tests to be hilarious. Soldiers under the influence of hallucinogens ate imaginary chickens, took showers in full uniform while smoking cigars and chatted with invisible people for two to three days at a time. One attempted to ride off on an imaginary horse while another played with kittens only he could see. Another described an order of toast as smelling “like a French whore.” Some of the researchers also took LSD “as a matter of curiosity,” Ketchum says. His lone trip, he adds, was “something of an anti-climax.” Colors seemed more vivid and music more compelling, he remembers, but “there were no breakthroughs in consciousness, no Timothy Leary stuff.”

At least two soldiers who received LSD in the 1950s later sued the Army, alleging that the drug later caused them to suffer memory loss, hallucinations and occasional outbursts of violence. The claims were denied. After leaving the Army, Ketchum saw patients in a private psychiatric practice. The experiments on human subjects ended in 1975, according to Jeff Smart, historian for the Army’s Research, Development and Engineering Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. The United States signed a United Nations-sponsored chemical weapons ban in 1993 that outlawed incapacitating agents.

Calmative agents
Even so, the U.S. military has remained interested in researching non-lethal chemicals. In 2000, the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate, a Quantico, Va., group run by all four major military branches, commissioned a study of the possible military uses of “calmative” pharmaceuticals such as anesthetics and serotonin reuptake inhibitors. The Sunshine Project’s Hammond, who obtained the study through the Freedom of Information Act, says using calmatives as weapons would also be outlawed by the 1993 chemical weapons ban. Ketchum says that is not clear. In October 2002, Russian special forces used a calmative agent to subdue Islamist Chechen terrorists who were holding about 850 hostages in a Moscow theater. More than 120 hostages died from the drug’s effects.

Vietnam Vets Sue CIA for Secret Drug Experiments on GIs
BY Jeff Stein  /  January 7, 2009

A Vietnam veterans group is suing the CIA for “thousands of secret experiments to test toxic chemical and biological substances under code names such as MKULTRA.,” its attorneys said today. The suit was filed in federal court in northern California on behalf of the Washington-based Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc., and six aging veterans with multiple diseases and ailments “tied to a diabolical and secret testing program, whereby U.S. military personnel were deliberately exposed, by government and military agencies, to chemical and biological weapons and other toxins without informed consent,” the Morrison & Foerster law firm said in a press release. The firm said the alleged CIA research program was launched in the early 1950s and continued through at least 1976 at the Edgewood Arsenal and Fort Detrick, Md., as well as universities and hospitals across the country contracted by the CIA. Defendants include the CIA, the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense and various government officials responsible for these agencies. “The CIA secretly provided financing, personnel, and direction for the experiments, which were mainly conducted or contracted by the Army,” the suit says.

According to the veterans, the experiments, conducted over a 25 year period, included:
·    the use of troops to test nerve gas, psychochemicals, and thousands of other toxic chemical or biological substances, and … the insertion of septal implants in the brains of subjects in … mind control experiments that went awry, leaving many civilian and military subjects with permanent disabilities;
·    the failure to secure informed consent and other widespread failures to follow the precepts of U.S. and international law regarding the use of human subjects, including the 1953 Wilson Directive and the Nuremberg Code;
·    a … refusal by the DoD, the CIA, and the Army to … locate the victims of their … experiments or to provide health care or compensation to them;
·    the  destruction by the CIA of evidence and files

Update: CIA spokeswoman Marie Harf said the agency would have no comment “on specific matters before the court.” But, she added, “CIA activities related to MK-ULTRA have been thoroughly investigated, and the CIA fully cooperated with each of the investigations. In addition, tens of thousands of pages from documents related to the program have been declassified and released to the public. “MK-ULTRA was investigated in 1975 by the Rockefeller Commission and the Church Committee, and in 1977 by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Subcommittee on Health and Scientific Research,” Harf added.


I saw the movie The Men Who Stare at Goats [] with interest. I enjoyed the movie for what it was – a satirical look at the US military’s attempt to develop more of the full potential of their warriors using so-called paranormal approaches. Unfortunately, words like “paranormal” and “supernatural” are loaded terms which carry negative connotations. For this reason, scientists are hesitant to associate themselves with people who profess interest in such things. However, since I have already been associated with one of the real-life characters of the book and movie, I would like to discuss the real-life military possibility of using more of the potential of the human mind through my area of expertise – Invincible Defense Technology (IDT), a technique that includes Yogic Flying. I would also like to recommend a book by Craig Pearson, Ph.D. titled: The Complete Book of Yogic Flying [] which discusses this approach in great detail. (Full disclosure: Dr. Pearson is the Executive Vice-President of Maharishi University of Management. I am employed at the Center for Advanced Military Science (CAMS) which is affiliated with this institution.)

In The Men Who Stare at Goats, the character General Hopgood (played by Stephen Lang) is based on Major General Albert Stubblebine, US Army (Retired), a former commander of the US Army Intelligence & Security Command (INSCOM). He is satirically portrayed as attempting to walk through walls without success. In both the book and movie, a soldier under his command allegedly killed a goat by staring at it. In real life, Stubblebine served as a consultant on my Consciousness-Based Military Defense doctoral committee at The Union Institute & University. He was an intelligent pioneer in the development of human resource technologies for the US Army. Stubblebine understood the latent potential of the human mind, and, that warriors would eventually be trained to harness it. Jon Ronson wrote in his book, The Men Who Stare at Goats, “General Stubblebine passionately believes the First Earth Battalion [] doctrine that every human being alive was capable of performing supernatural miracles.”

While serving on my doctoral committee, Stubblebine helped organize my lecture series about Invincible Defense Technology in Moscow. Thanks to him, and the late Brig. Gen. Clarence E. Beck, U.S. Army (Ret.), I recruited another distinguished general (retired Soviet Army General-Major Leonid Shershnev, who fought in Afghanistan) as well as other military-related leaders to participate in my doctoral program in Consciousness-Based Military Defense which is now known as Invincible Defense Technology in military circles.

Shershnev was a key figure in the Soviet’s war in Afghanistan. His reflections on the futility of war were similar to Stubblebine’s and those of many of our own military personnel after the Vietnam War. Shershnev regretted the inappropriate waste of lives, and has vowed to spend his life working to create world peace. Probably due to his efforts, many generals and other military-related leaders from Russia and other former Soviet-block countries attended the Third International Conference on Invincible Defense in The Netherlands in the 1990’s. Senior leaders wrote encouraging assessments of the potential of Invincible Defense Technology to prevent war and terrorism and apparently reported back to their governmental leaders, urging implementation. See “The Need for a Prevention Wing of the Military by the Conference Participants” [
] and “The Race for ‘Inner Space'” [
] for related information.

The goal of Invincible Defense Technology is to enhance the peace-keeping capabilities of the military, adding a “non-lethal weapon,” a kind of national armor (called “rastri kavach” in ancient Vedic literature) that would ensure the security and invincibility of their nation. The founder and chief proponent of this approach is the late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a renowned scientist of consciousness and Vedic scholar. Maharishi stated that so-called supernatural abilities are normal to a stress-free nervous system, which can be achieved through the Transcendental Meditation program and its advanced practices, if people are properly trained in the correct manner to harness them. In 1997, studying this non-religious approach, I completed my Ph.D. under the auspices of the doctoral program at The Union Institute & University. Invincible Defense Technology was labeled such because Maharishi recognized its potential to prevent the birth of an enemy, a principle he abbreviated with the phrase “victory before war.” His vision was that any country taking full advantage of this technology could become invincible. He asserted that invincibility can never be attained through conventional weapons, but can be attained if a nation is incapable of creating enemies. If a nation has no collective stress, it becomes “friends” with everyone.

Prevention Wings of the Military consisting of about 3% of the military could ideally achieve this goal. These special units would be trained in the Transcendental Meditation (TM) and TM-Sidhi programs. They would practice them in large groups, twice a day. Extensive scientific research shows these programs not only reduce stress on the individual level, but also reduce the collective societal stress that is ultimately responsible for social problems, like war, terrorism and crime. For instance, a peer-reviewed study published in the Journal of Conflict Resolution [
] (32: 776-812, 1988) found that a group of only two hundred people practicing IDT in Israel during the Lebanon war were able to reduce war deaths there by seventy-six percent. A follow-up study of seven different TM-Sidhi assemblies published in the Journal of Social Behavior and Personality [
] (17: 1, 285-338, 2005) showed similar results as well as a 68% reduction of war injuries.

These “effects at a distance” have been studied in other ways, such as research showing changes in EEG (brainwave) coherence. During the practice of Transcendental Meditation, an individual experiences “transcendental consciousness,” a proposed fourth state of consciousness. This state is characterized by increased coherence of the EEG where different parts of the brain are working together more coherently. Increased EEG coherence during the TM program correlates with increased creativity and achievement outside the TM program, in activity. When many people practice this technique (or the more advanced TM-Sidhi program) together in one place, the coherence-generating effect is enhanced. Also, when meditating groups are large, similar increases in coherence are produced in subjects far removed from the group. One experiment showed increases in EEG coherence one thousand miles from the group. Another study offers a proposed explanation of causality in biological terms. Research conducted on the powerful neurotransmitter serotonin shows that it produces feelings of contentment, happiness and even euphoria. Low levels of serotonin, according to research, correlate with violence, aggression, and poor emotional moods. The peer-reviewed study showed that higher numbers of Invincible Defense Technology experts correlated with a marked increase in serotonin production among other community members. This finding offers a plausible neurophysiologic mechanism to explain reduced hostility and aggression in society at large. Another peer-reviewed study conducted globally showed that international terrorism dropped 72% and world conflict dropped 32% during the global experiment and went back to previous levels after it was over.

Militaries and civilian groups worldwide have already begun to harness the full potential of the human mind using Invincible Defense Technology. The book titled The Complete Book of Yogic Flying: Maharishi’s Mahesh Yogi’s Program for Enlightenment and Invincibility by Craig Pearson, Ph.D. is available at [] and is the most comprehensive book available on the topic of Invincible Defense Technology.

Editor’s Note: The Seoul Times previously published Dr. David Leffler’s co-authored article with renowned quantum physicist John Hagelin , Ph.D., which further discusses the military potential of Invincible Defense Technology. It is titled “S. Korea Needs a Defense System Beyond Nuclear Weapons.” []

{Dr. David R. Leffler serves as the Executive Director at the Center for Advanced Military Science (CAMS) []. David received his Ph.D. in Consciousness-Based Military Defense from The Union Institute & University in Cincinnati.}

Military solution improbable in Afghanistan
BY Maj.Gen.(Ret.) Kulwant Singh, Col. Brian Rees & Dr. David Leffler  /  Jun 17, 2009

In congressional testimony, Army Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal vowed that he would use a “holistic” strategy and take extreme measures to avoid Afghan civilian casualties. Its “measure of effectiveness will not be the number of enemy killed, it will be the number of Afghans shielded from violence,” he said. By starting to think holistically and measuring the effectiveness of avoiding casualties, McChrystal is on the right track. However, his new strategy may not be sufficient to bring an end to the protracted violence. War is based in social stress that is not likely to be ended by changing the rules of engagement, limiting airstrikes or using small ground units in search and detention operations.

Although a military solution to the Afghanistan war is improbable, it is possible to deploy a scientifically verified technology of defence to reduce societal stress and end the war. Extensive research has confirmed its effectiveness, and militaries have already applied it in order to defuse and eliminate conflict and prevent disruption and attack from within the country or outside the country.

Meditation has been shown to reduce stress not only in the individual but also throughout society. The Vedic tradition of knowledge, from ancient India, includes highly developed, non-religious meditation practices, in particular the Transcendental Meditation programme and its advanced techniques that have become the focus of intense scientific research over the past 50 years. These practices, taken together, are known as Invincible Defence Technology (IDT) in military circles. They have been used by members of many faiths to eliminate conflict in the recent past. If the military were to apply this human resource-based technology, which is non-lethal and non-destructive, it could reduce the collective societal stress fuelling the tensions in Afghanistan.

A Prevention Wing of the Military would be the ideal way to achieve this goal. It would comprise about 2 to 3 percent of the military of Afghanistan. The personnel involved would practice these technologies in large groups, morning and evening. Studies show that when the size of the IDT group reaches a particular threshold, war and terrorism abate, crime goes down in the affected population, and quality-of-life indices go up. Scientists have named this phenomenon the Maharishi Effect after Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who first predicted it. In 1993, a two-month Maharishi Effect intervention was studied in Washington, DC. Predictions of specific drops in crime and other indices were lodged in advance with government leaders and newspapers. The research protocol was approved by an independent Project Review Board. The findings, published in Social Indicators Research, showed that crime fell 23 percent below the predicted level when the IDT group reached its maximum. Temperature, weekend effects, and previous trends in the data failed to account for changes.

Over 50 studies have evaluated and confirmed the reduction of crime, violence, terrorism, and even open warfare through the establishment of IDT groups. The causal mechanism has been postulated to be a field effect of consciousness — a spillover effect on the level of the unified field from the peace-creating group into the larger population. A study published in the Journal of Social Behaviour and Personality offers an explanation of a proposed causality of IDT in biological terms. Research on the powerful neurotransmitter serotonin has shown that it produces feelings of contentment, happiness and even euphoria. Low levels of serotonin correlate with violence, aggression, and poor emotional moods.

The peer-reviewed study showed that higher numbers of IDT experts practicing in groups correlated with an increase in serotonin production among other community members. These results were statistically significant and followed the attendance figures in the IDT group. This finding offers a plausible neurophysiologic mechanism to explain reduced aggression and hostility in society at large. The Maharishi Effect has also been documented on a global scale in a study published in the Journal of Offender Rehabilitation. When large assemblies of IDT experts exceeded the Maharishi Effect threshold for the world (about 7,000 at that time) during the years 1983-1985, terrorism globally decreased 72%, international conflict decreased 32%, and violence was reduced in other nations without intrusion by other governments. This study used data provided by the Rand Corporation.

The evidence indicates that the military may be able to accomplish its mission simply by establishing a coherence-creating unit of IDT experts. As part of its responsibility to protect, the military is obligated to thoroughly examine methods for preventing war and terrorism. IDT is such a method. All that is necessary is to provide the proper training for a group of military personnel- or indeed, any large group within the country. Lt. Gen. McChrystal has the opportunity today to implement a cost-effective, scientifically validated and truly holistic strategy to bring peace to Afghanistan. Events on the ground in Afghanistan and Pakistan may increase the difficulty of exploiting this opportunity in the future.

{Major General (R) Kulwant Singh, UYSM., PhD, leads an international group of generals and defence experts that advocates Invincible Defence Technology. Colonel Brian M. Rees, MD, US Army Reserve, a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan, is a graduate of the US Army War College, and is currently Deputy Command Surgeon of 63rd RRC, Los Alamitos, California. David Leffler, PhD, a US Air Force veteran, is the executive director at the Centre for Advanced Military Science.}

David Leffler
email : drleffler [at] hotmail [dot] com



“Blue helmets have already planted nearly 30,000 saplings in 11 peacekeeping missions worldwide, in countries including Timor-Leste, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Georgia and Lebanon. To date, more than 4 billion trees have been planted, with 169 countries having taken part in UNEP’s Billion Tree Campaign. Ethiopia alone has planted 1.4 billion trees, while Turkey has planted 707 million and Mexico has planted 537 million.”


Fear, Greed, and Crisis Management:
A Neuroscientific Perspective
BY Andrew W. Lo  /  January 9, 2009

The alleged fraud perpetrated by Bernard Madoff is a timely and powerful microcosm of the current economic crisis, and it underscores the origin of all financial bubbles and busts: fear and greed. Using techniques such as magnetic resonance imaging, neuroscientists have documented the fact that monetary gain stimulates the same reward circuitry as cocaine — in both cases, dopamine is released into the nucleus accumbens. Similarly, the threat of financial loss activates the same fight-or-flight circuitry as physical attacks, releasing adrenaline and cortisol into the bloodstream, which results in elevated heart rate, blood pressure, and alertness.

These reactions are hardwired into human physiology, and while some of us are able to overcome our biology through education, experience, or genetic good luck, the vast majority of the human population is driven by these “animal spirits” that John Maynard Keynes identified over 70 years ago.

From this neuroscientific perspective, it is not surprising that there have been 17 banking-related national crises around the globe since 1974, the majority of which were preceded by periods of rising real-estate and stock prices, large capital inflows, and financial liberalization. Extended periods of prosperity act as an anesthetic in the human brain, lulling investors, business leaders, and policymakers into a state of complacency, a drug-induced stupor that causes us to take risks that we know we should avoid.

In the case of Madoff, seasoned investors were apparently sucked into the alleged fraud despite their better judgment because they found his returns too tempting to pass up. In the case of subprime mortgages, homeowners who knew they could not afford certain homes proceeded nonetheless, because the prospects of living large and benefiting from home-price appreciation were too tempting to pass up. And investors in mortgage-backed securities, who knew that the AAA ratings were too optimistic given the riskiness of the underlying collateral, purchased these securities anyway because they found the promised yields and past returns too tempting to pass up.

If we add to these temptations a period of financial gain that anesthetizes the general population — including C.E.O.’s, chief risk officers, investors, and regulators — it is easy to see how tulip bulbs, internet stocks, gold, real estate, and fraudulent hedge funds could develop into bubbles. Such gains are unsustainable, and once the losses start mounting, our fear circuitry kicks in and panic ensues, a flight-to-safety leading to a market crash. This is where we are today.

Like hurricanes, financial crises are a force of nature that cannot be legislated away, but we can greatly reduce the damage they do with proper preparation.

Because the most potent form of fear is fear of the unknown, the most effective way to combat the current crisis is with transparency and education. In the short run, one way to achieve transparency is for our president-elect to convene a “crisis summit” once in office, in which all the major stakeholders involved in this crisis, and their most knowledgeable subordinates, are invited to an undisclosed location for an intensive week-long conference.

During this meeting, detailed information about exposures to “toxic assets,” concentrations of risky counterparty relationships, and other systemic weaknesses will be provided on a confidential basis to regulators and policymakers, and various courses of action can be proposed and debated in real time. Afterward, a redacted summary of this meeting should be provided to the public by the president, along with a specific plan for addressing the major issues identified during the conference. This process would go a long way toward calming the public’s fears and restoring the trust and confidence that are essential to normal economic activity.

In the long run, more transparency into the “shadow banking” system; more education for investors, policymakers, and business leaders; and more behaviorally oriented regulation will allow us to weather any type of financial crisis. Regulation enables us to restrain our behavior during periods when we know we will misbehave; it is most useful during periods of collective fear or greed and should be designed accordingly. Corporate governance should also be revisited from this perspective; if we truly value naysayers during periods of corporate excess, then we should institute management changes to protect and reward their independence.

If “crisis is a terrible thing to waste,” as some have argued, then we have a short window of opportunity — before economic recovery begins to weaken our resolve — to reform our regulatory infrastructure for the better. The fact that time heals all wounds may be good for our mental health, but it may not help maintain our economic wealth.

Andrew Lo
email : alo [at] mit [dot] edu

Brian Knutson
email : knutson [at] psych.stanford [dot] edu

Sex, drugs, money: The pleasure principle
Theory of ‘neurofinance’ draws doubts on Wall St.
BY Adam Levy  /  February 2, 2006

Palo Alto, California: Late at night, in a basement laboratory at Stanford University, Brian Knutson was sending his students through a high-power imaging machine called an fMRI. Deep inside each volunteer’s head, electrical currents danced through a bundle of neurons about the size and shape of a peanut. Blood was rushing to the brain’s pleasure center as the students executed mock stock and bond trades. On Knutson’s screen, this region of the brain, the core of human desire, flashed canary yellow.

The pleasure of orgasm, the high from cocaine, the rush of buying Google at $450 a share – the same neural network governs all three, Knutson, a professor of neuroscience and psychology, concluded. What’s more, our primal pleasure circuits can, and often do, override our seat of reason, the brain’s frontal cortex, the professor said. In other words, stocks, like sex, sometimes drive us crazy.

That is something those in the world of finance need to know, according to Andrew Lo, a professor of finance and investment at the Sloan School of Management, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who thinks conventional financial analysis fails to take into account human behavior. “Finance and economic research has hit a wall,” said Lo, who runs AlphaSimplex Group, a hedge fund firm based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “We can’t answer any more questions by running another regression analysis. Now, we need to get inside the brain to understand why people make decisions.”

Still, Knutson said he knew how heretical his findings were. Wall Street is dedicated to the principle that when it comes to money, logic prevails, that intellect matters in investing. The idea is enshrined in the economic theory of rational expectations, for which Robert Lucas was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 1995. Lucas, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago, maintains that people make economic choices based on all the information available to them and learn from their mistakes. As a result, their expectations about the future – from the price of Citigroup stock next week to the earnings of General Motors next quarter – are, on average, accurate.

Or so the theory goes. In practice, of course, investors do foolish things all the time. Some gamble away fortunes on money-losing investments, doubling down when logic tells them to fold, or letting winnings ride when the rational person would cash out.

Others seem to have an uncanny knack for knowing when to buy and sell. In the 1970s, Richard Dennis parlayed an initial stake of several thousand dollars into a $200 million fortune trading commodities in the Chicago futures pits. In the 1980s, the hedge fund icon Paul Tudor Jones made $80 million by betting against U.S. stocks just before the market crashed. In the 1990s, the billionaire investor George Soros, the man who beat the Bank of England, made $1 billion in an afternoon by shorting the British pound.

The question that keeps nagging Knutson is this: Why do some traders get rich while others walk away losers? The answer, he said, may lie somewhere in the 96,000 kilometers, or 60,000 miles, of neural wiring inside our brains. The results of the Stanford study, conducted in 2004 and published in September’s issue of Neuron magazine, have caused a stir among the small group of neuroscientists and psychologists who are mapping the human brain in hopes of understanding investor behavior.

This controversial field, called neurofinance, may represent the next great frontier on Wall Street, said Daniel Kahneman, the 2002 Nobel laureate in Economic Science for his pioneering work in behavioral finance, which fuses classical economic theory and studies of human psychology. “The brain scientists are the wave of the future in the financial world,” Kahneman said. “If you seek to maximize understanding, whether you’re in academia or in the investment community, you’d better pay very serious attention to them.”

To proponents like Kahneman, the potential of neurofinance seems virtually limitless. One day, brain science may help money managers spot shifts in investor sentiment, said David Darst, chief investment strategist for the individual investor group at Morgan Stanley. Armed with brain scans, psychotherapists may be able to hone traders’ natural impulses of fear and greed.

Neuroscientists may even develop psychoactive drugs, or neuroceuticals, that make people better, more-profitable traders, Knutson and other psychologists say. Look at Prozac. In the space of a few years, Prozac and other drugs have not only revolutionized the treatment of depression but also profoundly changed the way we view the mind.

People recognize that chemistry drives their brains, moods and behavior – and that chemistry can change them. Similar drugs, ones that improve a trader’s decision making by 20 percent to 30 percent, may be just a few years away, said Zack Lynch, managing director of NeuroInsights, a consulting firm based in San Francisco that tracks the $100 billion neurotechnology industry. If these neuroceuticals work, they could rock Wall Street. “The whole investment community will be scrambling to get these things,” Lynch said.

So far, the hopes and claims of neurofinance have far outpaced its science. Few investment professionals have even heard of the field. Many who have dismiss it as hokum. “It’s the latest malarkey,” said Richard Michaud, president of New Frontier Advisors, based in Boston. Michaud, who has a doctorate in mathematics from Boston University, said neurofinance and its forerunner, behavioral finance, have no place on Wall Street.

“I find these so-called disciplines to be more of a marketing tool, a way of taking an ages-old market valuation problem and calling it something space-age,” Michaud said. “I doubt it will be fruitful.” Knutson’s response: Just wait. “Investors want to beat the market and become better traders,” he said. “The first step is to know how the machinery works. The applications to exploit the machinery will soon follow.”

For Wall Street, brain science eventually could mean big money, said Darst of Morgan Stanley. Securities firms spend millions of dollars annually researching companies and crunching numbers in an attempt to predict the financial future. “Meanwhile, we spend peanuts on human psychology,” said Darst, author of “The Complete Bond Book: A Guide to All Types of Fixed-Income Securities.” “We have to take account of the deep atavistic and visceral traits and instincts that are triggering the buying and selling of securities.”

Knutson’s Stanford study caused a buzz in September at the third annual conference of the Society for Neuroeconomics, held at the Kiawah Island Golf Resort in South Carolina. The three-day event drew 115 people, mostly from academia. The sole Wall Streeter was Arnold Wood from Martingale Asset Management in Boston, who said he was confident neurofinance would catch on.

Food Dance Gets New Life When Bees Get Cocaine
BY Pam Belluck  /  January 6, 2009

Buzz has a whole new meaning now that scientists are giving bees cocaine. To learn more about the biochemistry of addiction, scientists in Australia dropped liquefied freebase cocaine on bees’ backs, so it entered the circulatory system and brain. The scientists found that bees react much like humans do: cocaine alters their judgment, stimulates their behavior and makes them exaggeratedly enthusiastic about things that might not otherwise excite them.

What’s more, bees exhibit withdrawal symptoms. When a coked-up bee has to stop cold turkey, its score on a standard test of bee performance (learning to associate an odor with sugary syrup) plummets. “What we have in the bee is a wonderfully simple system to see how brains react to a drug of abuse,” said Andrew B. Barron, a senior lecturer at Macquarie University in Australia and a co-leader in the bees-on-cocaine studies. “It may be that when we know that, we’ll be able to stop a brain reacting to a drug of abuse, and then we may be able to discover new ways to prevent abuse in humans.”

The research, published in The Journal of Experimental Biology, advances the knowledge of reward systems in insects, and aims to “use the honeybee as a model to study the molecular basis of addiction,” said Gene E. Robinson, director of the neuroscience program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a co-author with Dr. Barron, and Ryszard Maleszka and Paul G. Helliwell at Australian National University.

The researchers looked at honeybees whose job is finding food — flying to flowers, discovering nectar, and if their discovery is important enough, doing a waggle dance on a special “dance floor” to help hive mates learn the location. “Many times they don’t dance,” Professor Robinson said. “They only dance if the food is of sufficient quality and if they assess the colony needs the food.”

On cocaine the bees “danced more frequently and more vigorously for the same quality food,” Dr. Barron said. “They were about twice as likely to dance” as undrugged bees, and they circled “about 25 percent faster.” The bees did not dance at the wrong time or place. Cocaine only made them more excited about the food they found. That’s like “when a human takes cocaine at a low dose,” Dr. Barron said. “They find many stimuli, but particularly, rewarding stimuli, to be more rewarding than they actually are.”

Now, scientists are studying whether bees begin to crave cocaine and need more for the same effect, like humans. The testing occurred in Australia, and, Dr. Barron said, “my dean got extremely twitchy about holding cocaine on campus. It’s in a safe bolted to a concrete floor within a locked cupboard in a locked room in a locked building with a combination code not known even to me. A technician from the ethics department has to walk across campus to supervise the release of the cocaine.”

That, Dr. Barron said, for a bee-size supply of “one gram, which has lasted me two years. One gram, a human would go through in one night. I’m not like the local drug lord.”

Dancing Honeybee Using Vector Calculus to Communicate


BY Kathryn Knight  /  December 26, 2008

Since its discovery in the 18th century, cocaine has been a scourge of western society. Strongly stimulating human reward centres in low doses, cocaine is extremely addictive and can be fatal in high doses. But this potent compound did not evolve to ensnare humans in addiction. Andrew Barron from Macquarie University, Australia, explains that cocaine is a powerful insect neurotoxin, protecting coca bushes from munching insects without rewarding them. Knowing that foraging honey bees are strongly motivated by rewards (they dance in response to the discovery of a rewarding nectar or pollen supply) and that this behaviour is controlled by similar mechanisms to the ones that leave humans vulnerable to cocaine addiction, Barron and Gene Robinson from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign wondered whether bees may be vulnerable to cocaine’s allure at the right dose. Teaming up with Ryszard Maleszka at the Australian National University, Barron set about testing how honey bees respond to cocaine (p. 163).

Setting up his hives on a farm just outside Canberra, Barron trained the insects to visit a feeder stocked with a sugar solution. Then he gently applied a tiny drop of cocaine solution to the insect’s back, and waited to see how enthusiastically the foraging insects danced when returning to the hive. Amazingly, low doses of the drug stimulated the insects to dance extremely vigorously. They behaved as if the sucrose solution was of a much higher quality than it really was. The cocaine seemed to be hitting the insects’ reward centres, but were they really responding to the drug like humans or was the drug stimulating some other aspect of the insects’ behaviour to look as if they were becoming addicted?

Working with a team of undergraduate students, Barron tested whether cocaine stimulated the insects’ locomotion centres by monitoring their movements after a dose of the drug. The insects behaved normally, so the drug probably doesn’t affect their movements. However, when Paul Helliwell tested the bees’ sensitivity to sugar solutions, the drugged bees responded more strongly than the undrugged insects, so cocaine was increasing their sugar sensitivity. But was it only increasing their sensitivity to sugar, or increasing their response to all rewards? Barron offered the drugged insects pollen to see if cocaine increased their sensitivity to other floral rewards and found that the foragers were equally overenthusiastic, dancing as if the pollen quality was much better than it really was.

Finally Barron and Helliwell wondered whether bees that had been on cocaine for a few days had become dependent and went into withdrawal when the drug was withheld. Testing the insects’ ability to learn to distinguish between lemon and vanilla scents, they found that the bees were fine so long as their cocaine supply was maintained. But as soon as the drug was withdrawn the bees had difficulty learning the task, just like humans going into withdrawal.

Barron is confident that honey bees are as susceptible to cocaine’s allure as humans, and is keen to find out more about the drug’s effects. He hopes to identify the neural pathways that it targets to find out more about the mechanisms involved in human addiction and to find out whether the drug has as devastating an effect on honey bee society as it does on human society.

Andrew Barron
email : andrew.barron [at] [dot] au

Gene Robinson
email : generobi [at] uiuc [dot] edu

Effects of cocaine on honey bee dance behaviour
BY Andrew B. Barron, Ryszard Maleszka, Paul G. Helliwell, and Gene E.
Robinson  /  22 November 2008
“The role of cocaine as an addictive drug of abuse in human society is hard to reconcile with its ecological role as a natural insecticide and plant-protective compound, preventing herbivory of coca plants (Erythroxylum spp.). This paradox is often explained by proposing a fundamental difference in mammalian and invertebrate responses to cocaine, but here we show effects of cocaine on honey bees (Apis mellifera L.) that parallel human responses. Forager honey bees perform symbolic dances to advertise the location and value of floral resources to their nest mates. Treatment with a low dose of cocaine increased the likelihood and rate of bees dancing after foraging but did not otherwise increase locomotor activity. This is consistent with cocaine causing forager bees to overestimate the value of the floral resources they collected. Further, cessation of chronic cocaine treatment caused a withdrawal-like response. These similarities likely occur because in both insects and mammals the biogenic amine neuromodulator systems disrupted by cocaine perform similar roles as modulators of reward and motor systems. Given these analogous responses to cocaine in insects and mammals, we propose an alternative solution to the paradox of cocaine reinforcement. Ecologically, cocaine is an effective plant defence compound via disruption of herbivore motor control but, because the neurochemical systems targeted by cocaine also modulate reward processing, the reinforcing properties of cocaine occur as a `side effect’.”


Town where cocaine is the only currency
Guerima, a remote Colombian settlement, wants its Marxist rebels back.
With the national army deployed in a stranglehold around the town,
there is nobody to traffic the town’s only commodity – drugs.
BY Jeremy McDermott  /  15 Jun 2008

More than 1,000 people live in Guerima, carved out of the Amazonian rainforest. Its clearings are filled with coca bushes, the basis for cocaine. This was once the heartland of the 16th Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), the Marxist guerrilla movement that has fought in Colombia’s jungles for the past 44 years. But now the troops of the 58th Counter-Guerrilla Battalion patrol the dirt streets.

Their presence has stirred deep resentment, revealing the complexities of Colombia’s war against Left-wing rebels and drug lords. Countless ordinary people depend on the coca trade. “We are sitting on a mountain of coca and a series of Farc ‘IOUs’ “, said one local. “We need the rebels back to pay the debts and buy the coca, otherwise the town will die.”

No money has reached Guerima for months and transactions are conducted in coca, with one gram enough to buy a soft drink.

Major Edgar Gomez, who commands the troops, knows the community feels under siege. He also knows that most locals have friends or family among the rebels. But the major is also aware that his presence in Guerima is hitting the guerrillas’ finances. The rebels here once earned £10 million a month from cocaine. Now they will be lucky to get £1 million.

But the local people would prefer a return to the days when their fate was in the hands of the Farc. Tomas Medina, the local guerrilla commander, was seen as a Robin Hood-style hero, maintaining the drug economy and imposing law and order. “Before the army came there was no crime,” said one man. “Now the soldiers steal from us. Two girls have been raped. “This would not have happened before and if it did the criminals would have been punished, perhaps shot.”

There was no confirmation of the man’s claims and Major Gomez said that winning over the locals was more important than driving out the rebels. “I know these people live on coca,” he said. “The government has to offer them a viable alternative and we are just the first presence of the state. “Healthcare, education and economic investment must follow.”


Cocaine users are destroying the rainforest – at 4 square metres  gram
BY Sandra Laville  /  19 November 2008

Four square metres of rainforest are destroyed for every gram of cocaine snorted in the UK, a conference of senior police officers as told yesterday.

Francisco Santos Calderón, the vice-president of Colombia, appealed to British users of the class A drug to consider the impact on the environment. He said that while the green agenda would not persuade addicts to give up, the middle-class social user who drove a hybrid car and was concerned about the environment might not take the drug if they knew its impact. Santos said 300,000 hectares of rainforest were destroyed each year in Colombia to clear land for coca plant cultivation, predominantly controlled by illegal groups, including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as Farc. Officers were told cocaine and heroin use cost the British economy around £15bn a year in health and crime bills.

Santos outlined to the Association of Chief Police Officers how lives were lost in the illegal cocaine trade in Colombia. He said landmines that were used to protect crops and processing labs killed almost 900 civilians this year. Farc and other groups funded by narcotics production were also involved in kidnapping. The Colombian-French politician Ingrid Betancourt was held for more than six years before her release earlier this year, and Santos himself was kidnapped and held by a cocaine gang for 18 months in the 1990s. He told the Belfast conference: “If you snort a gram of cocaine, you are destroying four square metres of rainforest and that rainforest is not just Colombian – it belongs to all of us who live on this planet, so we should all be worried about it. Not only that, the money that you use to buy the cocaine goes into the hands of Farc, of illegal groups that plant mines, that kidnap, that kill, that use terrorism to protect their business.”

Santos said many middle-class Britons who used cocaine were unaware of its environmental impact. “For somebody who drives a hybrid, who recycles, who is worried about global warming – to tell him that that night of partying will destroy 4m square of rainforest might lead him to make another decision.” Santos said Europe was experiencing a boom in cocaine use among more affluent people that was comparable with that seen in the USA 25 years ago. Everyone, he said, had a duty to change their behaviour to halt a rise in demand that was destroying his country. “We call it shared responsibility, We can’t do it on our own. We need everybody’s action; police here, police in Colombia, the authorities in both countries and the consumers too. If there is no consumption, there will be no production.

“There is a sense of frustration, because here drug use is seen as a personal choice and to some extent cocaine is seen as the champagne of drugs which causes no effect and is a victimless crime. It is not victimless.” Bill Hughes, the director general of the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, told the conference that the UK was a very attractive market for drug traffickers. “There is still a lot of disposable income; the risk compared to the US if you are caught is felt to be much less,” he said.

The £15bn cost to the economy reduced the amount of money available for schools, teachers and police officers. He said traffickers moved their drugs from South America to west Africa, and then to the EU and Britain, often operating through insecure countries with poor law enforcement. Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands were major staging posts on the trafficking routes and much of the synthetic drug market was supplied from the Netherlands. Hughes said the proceeds of crime were undermining or corrupting governments globally, with the trade worth £4bn-£6.6bn in the UK.

The World; Where a Little Coca Is as Good as Gold
BY Juan Forero  /  July 8, 2001

The Drug Center, the only pharmacy in the stiflingly hot jungle town of Camelias, deep in southern Colombia, looks ordinary, with wide glass counters and shelves stacked high with medicines. Then the customer pays the bill. The customer produces one of the clear plastic bags in which people here carry around coca paste. The pharmacist, Socrates Solis, scoops out a bit of the paste, weighs it on a digital scale and gives back change — the excess he had ladled out.

Welcome to the Caguan River valley, a swath of jungle towns and coca fields in far-flung Caqueta province, a part of Colombia with no government presence, only guerrillas. The economy is built on coca production, and coca paste has become a main currency. In the pharmacy, for example, everything is priced in grams. Expensive antibiotics retail for 45 grams, worth roughly $36; a bottle of aspirin costs a little more than a gram, or $1; medical exams are given to prostitutes for 12 grams, or $10.

”I was speechless when people would drop by the pharmacy and pay for the doctor’s bills or their medicines with coca instead of money,” Mr. Solis, 35, told the photographer Carlos Villalon when he visited the town. ”The first three months I worked here we collected six and a half kilos of base.”

In this part of Colombia, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia run things, patrolling roads, punishing law breakers, even building bridges over creek beds. Perhaps most controversially, the rebels regulate and tax a thriving trade in coca leaves and coca paste. Traffickers buy the paste, process it into cocaine and ship it by the ton to quench the United States’ insatiable appetite for the drug. It is a business that President Andrés Pastrana’s government says fortifies the rebel army and helps fuel Colombia’s brutal civil conflict.

But in a dozen towns in the region, coca paste is seen in much less nefarious terms. Paper money is in short supply, since conventional businesses are few. Instead, everything revolves around coca, as evidenced by thousands of acres of coca fields and the coca-processing laboratories in the jungles.

It is not unusual for people to be paid for their work in coca. They, in turn, pay for necessities with the paste, which is soft and powdery like flour. Need a pair of shoes for the little one? El Combate general store in Sante Fe takes coca paste. Groceries at Los Helechos in the village of Peñas Coloradas? Just drop the powder on the scale, the merchant says with a smile.

It feels quite normal for Wilber Rozas, 34, of Peãs Coloradas to spend 1.08 grams (worth 90 cents), for a large glass of juice at the Peñas Juicery. Or for villagers at the annual festival in Santa Fe to lug bags of coca paste to buy clothing from traveling salesmen or to bet in the cock fights. ”I would like to always take cash, but if I do not receive coca base I might as well shut down my restaurant,” said Selmira Vasquez, who owns the Buenos Aires restaurant in Peñas Coloradas.

As a currency, the coca paste is as good as gold. When traffickers arrive every few weeks to buy coca paste, they pay with a wad of bills — and soon money is flowing again. The merchants have cash. So do workers. The value of the paste, however, is unpredictable. ”The price of paste can go up or down, like having money in the bank,” explained Ms. Vasquez. ”When the dealers show up, the prices could be lower or higher than when I bought, so it is like gambling.”

The region’s bartering system does not mean the inhabitants themselves are cocaine addicts or gang members. The rebels keep the peace by prohibiting drug consumption. Those who violate the ban end up on road-paving or bridge-building duty.

The guerrillas also forbid those most susceptible to drug use — the young, single men who have come from across Colombia to pick coca leaves — to be paid in coca paste. They receive coupons they can cash once the traffickers arrive with money. ”That is the way it works in the Caguan river region,” explained Jose Sosias, 28, a villager. ”We are a coca culture. Our money, some times during the year, is coca base but we just use it as currency. No one here consumes the drug.”













From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]



AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to the three American military contractors
freed from the Colombian jungle, speaking out against their former
captors, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC—Marc
Gonsalves, Thomas Howes and Keith Stansell, among the fifteen
hostages, including the French Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt,
who was rescued in an elaborate military operation last week. The
Colombian government says it managed to infiltrate FARC command and
fool the rebels into thinking they were transferring the hostages to
another location.

On Monday, the three Americans spoke publicly for the first time since
their release. Marc Gonsalves called his former FARC captors
“terrorists” and urged them to release hundreds of remaining hostages.

The freed Americans are employees of the military firm Northrop
Grumman. They have been captured—they were captured in 2003 after
their surveillance plane crashed in the Colombian jungle.

The rescue operation was widely seen as a major blow to the FARC. The
fifteen freed prisoners were the most high-profile of hundreds the
FARC had held in hopes of securing the release of captured rebels and
achieving other political demands. The group has already been depleted
by the deaths of three senior leaders this year and a series of

Criticism of FARC has come from all sides. Indigenous, peasant and
human rights groups have denounced FARC’s kidnappings and armed
operations and said they also deflect attention from government

I’m joined now by three guests. Here in the firehouse, Mario Murillo,
professor of communications at Hofstra University, a producer at
Pacifica radio station WBAI here in New York, author of the book
Colombia and the United States: War, Terrorism and Destabilization,
currently finishing another book on the indigenous movement in
Colombia and its popular use of the media in community organizing.
Also, in Washington, D.C., I’m joined by Michael Evans, director of
the Colombia Documentation Project at the National Security Archive.
And on the line from New Brunswick, Canada, Manuel Rozental. He’s a
Colombian physician, human rights activist and member of the
Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca in Colombia. He
fled to Canada in 2005 following several threats on his life.

Mario, you have been writing about what happened, and now there’s
serious questions, Swiss reports of whether in fact this was staged,
whether $20 million wasn’t paid in ransom for these prisoners by the
Colombian government.

MARIO MURILLO: Right. There’s a lot of questions, actually, because
there’s three different versions. Unfortunately, the official version
is the one that’s getting the most play, and obviously Alvaro Uribe is
getting a lot of political mileage out of it. And that’s, of course,
this dramatic rescue operation that you described in the introduction.

There’s two other reports. The one that you just alluded to from the
French—Swiss radio—public radio service, that—based on high sources
that the reporters had, saying that one of the wives of one of the
guards, one of the FARC rebels who was involved in securing and
maintaining security around the hostages, was in constant contact and
made this arrangement for a $20 million ransom pay. And that’s from
one report.

Another report, which probably is a lot more feasible if this—you
know, I haven’t gotten deeper in that one, but the other report is
that the Colombian government actually took advantage of a diplomatic
effort that was already underway for a long time by the former French
consul in Bogota, as well as a leading Swiss diplomat who was in
Colombia, and they were making arrangements, and they even got the
green light from the Colombian government. It was in the Spanish
daily, El Pais, when the president, Colombian president, actually
announced that, yeah, this interchange, this dialogue, was actually
proceeding. And it turns out, apparently, according to this report,
that the Colombian government intercepted the helicopters that were on
their way, so it wasn’t really a high infiltration operation that was
in the highest levels of the FARC commanders. The FARC were actually
turning the folks over to specifically this delegation led by these
two diplomats, and apparently the Colombian government kind of took,
you know, a right turn and got a lot of political mileage as a result.

A lot of questions are still around what happened, but unfortunately,
as I said, the official story is the one that’s getting out the most.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn now to the freed American military
contractors. On Monday, they spoke out for the first time since their
rescue. Marc Gonsalves was the most vocal of the three in criticizing
FARC. This is some of what he had to say.

MARC GONSALVES: There was a time that when I slept, I would
dream that I was free. That time was only a few days ago. It feels so
good to be free here now with all of you.

I want to tell you about the FARC, a guerrilla group who claim
to be revolutionaries fighting for the poor people of Colombia. They
say that they want equality. They say that they just want to make
Colombia a better place. But that’s all a lie. It’s a cover story, and
they hide behind it, and they use it to justify their criminal

The FARC are not a revolutionary group. They are not a
revolutionary group. They are terrorists. Terrorists with a capital T.
Bad people. Their interests lie in drug trafficking, extortion,
kidnapping. They refuse to acknowledge all human rights. And they
reject democracy.

I’ve seen them hold a newborn baby in captivity, a baby that
needed medical help, that was sick. They kept him there in the jungle.

I, myself, and my friends, Tom and Keith, we’ve also been victim
of their hate, of their abuse and other torture. And I have seen how
even their own guerrillas commit suicide in a desperate attempt to
escape the slavery that the FARC have condemned them to.

The majority of the FARC’s forces are children and young adults.
They come from extreme poverty and have very little or no education.
Many of them, they can’t even read. So they’re easily tricked into
joining the FARC, and they’re brainwashed into believing that their
cause is a just cause. But once they join, they can never leave,
because if they try, they will be killed.

There are people who right now in this very moment, they’re
still there in the jungle being held hostage. In this exact moment,
right now, they’re being punished, because we got rescued
successfully. I want you guys to imagine that. Right now, right now,
they’re wearing chains around their necks. They’re going to get up
early tomorrow morning, and they’re going to put a heavy backpack on
their backs, and they’re going to be forced to march with that chain
on their neck, while a guerrilla with an automatic weapon is holding
the other end of his chain like a dog.

Those are innocent people. Those are people that were fighting
or working for the country. And all they want is what we wanted and
what God had the grace to give us: our freedom.

I want to send a message to the FARC. FARC, you guys are
terrorists. You deny that you are. You say with words that you’re not
terrorists, but your words don’t have any value. Don’t tell us that
you’re not terrorists; show us that you’re not terrorists. Let those
other hostages come home. Agree to President Uribe’s proposal of an
encounter zone. Anywhere and any time you want, he proposed an
encounter zone. Then make the humanitarian agreement and let the
others come home. Then after that, a peace process, because otherwise
this downward spiral that the FARC are on now will continue, and the
Colombian military is going to dismantle the entire organization.


AMY GOODMAN: That is the quote of the man, the American contractor,
who was captured, Gonsalves, speaking yesterday—Marc Gonsalves—in San
Antonio. Let’s begin with you, Mario. Your thoughts?

MARIO MURILLO: Well, first of all, he said a lot of things, so we can
comment on a lot of things, obviously. One of the things being the
fact of the terrible conditions in which these hostages are held is
something that obviously nobody could really argue about. It’s unjust,
and everybody from Fidel Castro to Hugo Chavez to many other people
around the world have been demanding the FARC turn these folks over.

But he also says a lot of things that kind of whitewash the situation.
First of all, I think it’s very important, one of the tragedies of
this whole thing is that we will never get to the bottom of what
Gonsalves and his so-called contractors were doing in Colombia. We
have to recall that he was—first of all, the fact that his plane went
down—the official record says it was an accident and they went down in
the jungles, although the FARC had claimed initially that they shot it

We also have to point out that to use the term “hostages” in their case
—not to justify that they were held for five years, by no stretch of
the imagination—but to use the term “hostages” is very problematic in
the context in which they were operating in southern Colombia. They
were there in 2003, two years—a year and a half after President Bush
already authorized US servicemen and contractors to conduct
counterinsurgency, not counter-drug operations. That was in the heart
of where the FARC were operating, in Caqueta and in the southern part
of the country. So we will never get to the bottom of what exactly
these folks were doing down there—again, not to justify, but I think
that’s one of the many questions that are left unsaid.

And then, finally, his last comments there about what Uribe’s
proposals are really are optimistic, if not completely naive. He
doesn’t seem to understand that Uribe’s strategy is not to dialogue
with the FARC. His intention is to totally dismantle them. He does not
recognize them as a belligerent force. And the argument that they’re
terrorists, which Gonsalves here is arguing, is something that Uribe
has embraced to the detriment of any possibility of dialogue for long-
lasting peace in Colombia.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me turn to Manuel Rozental. Your response right now,
as a man who has fled Colombia, a physician, a human rights activist,
now living in Canada, hearing the description of the FARC and also
talking about the Uribe government? It’s interesting that Ingrid
Betancourt, perhaps the most well-known hostage, who has now returned
to France—said she may run for president again, in fact ran against
Uribe—said Colombian President Alvaro Uribe should soften his tone
when dealing with FARC guerrillas. She urged Uribe to break with the
language of hatred. Manuel?

MANUEL ROZENTAL: Yes. Hi, Amy. Indeed, it’s very interesting. I, first
of all, have to say, like I think almost every Colombian, that we were
absolutely elated by the liberation of Ingrid and that her condition
is good, and one cannot downplay that. Regardless of how it was
achieved, it was fantastic that she was released unharmed and that all
the other ones were, as well.

Also, what Mario was saying, they were really fourteen prisoners of
war and one hostage released. The fourteen prisoners of war,
mistreated, abused, and I’m also glad, as everybody, that they’re

And in fact, I would say, knowing Ingrid before she was kidnapped, and
precisely two or three days before she was kidnapped by FARC, she
actually met with FARC commanders, including Raul Reyes, and said
directly that she demanded a gesture of goodwill from FARC in order
for peace to be achieved in Colombia. And her almost exact words were
“Your gesture of goodwill has to be no more kidnapping in Colombia,
and then, otherwise, if you don’t do that gesture, if you don’t carry
it out, then Colombia will explode into a spiral of disaster, and you
will lose all credibility.” So I think that background is essential,
because just a couple of days after she says that, she’s kidnapped by
the very people she demands that gesture from.

But I think it’s very important to put the whole thing into context.
First, the Uribe government has peaked in popularity but also has
reached a bottom in terms of illegitimacy. It was condemned just a few
days before this operation of liberation was carried out because of
buying out votes from congress to achieve re-election in a fraudulent
way. Uribe’s administration is also linked to death squads, and so are
the members of a coalition that led him to win the elections twice and
high officials in government, including the secret police. So we’re
talking about the regime with the worst human rights record in the
continent and the army with the worst human rights record in the
continent with the greatest US support, including the contractors or
mercenaries that Mario was talking about. So the fact that this regime
was involved in this liberation does not and should not and cannot
cover up the fact that it is a horrendous regime.

So, the main point I’d like to make here beyond the discussion as to
whether FARC or the government, which one is worse or which one is
legitimate, the main point here is an SOS for the popular movements
and organizations and the people of Colombia who right now, with the
validation of Uribe’s regime, are at the greatest risk of continuing
to be or even worsening the human rights records and abuses.

And to put this into perspective, there is a major plan in progress
within Colombia and from Colombia with US support and for corporate
interests to take over resources and wealth in territories in Colombia
and, from there, to launch a war or a major conflict in the Andean
region. That agenda is going to advance even further, after—if Uribe
gets away with the legitimization of his regime after the liberation
of Ingrid.

So, to go back to where I started, if Ingrid was the same Ingrid that
was kidnapped by FARC, the one that denounced corruption of the
government and launched a presidential campaign, she would be saying
what I’m saying now. You cannot legitimate a corrupt regime for profit
because you have liberated somebody. In fact, the person they’ve
liberated fought against that corruption, and we hope she’ll do it

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to bring Michael Evans into this discussion,
director of the Colombia Documentation Project at the National
Security Archive. Inter Press Service wrote an interesting piece
called “Colombia: The General Ingrid Hugged,” and they’re talking
about General Mario Montoya—General Mario Montoya Uribe and Ingrid
Betancourt. For our radio listeners, we’re showing the image. You can
go to our website at Tell us about this general.

MICHAEL EVANS: Sure. Thanks for having me on the show. General Mario
Montoya is the commander of the Colombian army, and he has a sort of
spotted history with respect to human rights.

And it’s important to—for the listeners of this show to realize that
there’s another side to the coin with the FARC. Few people have
illusions that the FARC are well-intentioned liberals, but the other
side of it are the right-wing paramilitary groups that have operated
virtually unhindered in Colombia for decades.

Mario Montoya, the general that Ingrid hugged—and I haven’t seen the
Inter Press story, but I can imagine where it goes—just last year was
the subject of a CIA report leaked to the Los Angeles Times that
implicated him in a joint operation with paramilitary forces in the
city of Medellin just a few years ago, when he was a commander of an
army brigade there. And Montoya, throughout his career, has been
dogged by these kinds of allegations. A unit that he was a member of
in the late 1970s, when he was a young intelligence officer, had
actually formed a supposedly independent spontaneous paramilitary
group known as the Triple A, the American Anticommunist Alliance, that
was responsible for bombings and other kinds of threats and
intimidation, sort of black ops type operations in Colombia. The unit
that he was associated with created it as a completely clandestine
project. So General Montoya has a lot to answer for, as does President
Uribe. You know, many of his political allies have been implicated in
the parapolitical scandal, a scandal touched off by the discovery of a
paramilitary laptop a couple of years ago.

So there’s another side to this that I think is lost in this and is in
danger of sort of being consumed or buried under this sort of all this
wave of adoration for, you know, what is, I think, rightly considered
a very successful military operation. Of course, everybody is happy
that the hostages have been released, and it’s a huge victory for them
and their families, but you have to also see this as a huge victory
for Uribe and for—really as something that’s going to help him to get
through and sort of avoid addressing some of these larger problems
that he faces.

AMY GOODMAN: The Triple A, what is it, Michael Evans?

MICHAEL EVANS: Yeah, the Triple A was a group, again, that in the late
1970s and early 1980s operated as a clandestine unit of a Colombian
military intelligence unit. Essentially, they were formed completely
covertly, behind the scenes, without any attribution to the Colombian
army. They were responsible for bombing the Communist Party
headquarters and some other acts of intimidation around that time.
It’s really the first documented evidence that I’ve seen, at least in
US government documents, declassified documents, where a Colombian
army unit is directly tied to a clandestine paramilitary group or

AMY GOODMAN: And its relation to the United States?

MICHAEL EVANS: Well, its relation to the United States, as far as I
know, ends where—in a cable reported from the US ambassador, Diego
Asencio, in 1979, where he knows of this project and says—kind of
downplays it and says, well, it’s not a big deal; you know, these are
kind of dirty tricks being carried out by a desperate military facing
this—excuse me, this guerrilla threat from the—what then was the M-19
guerrillas. But the US certainly knew about that project, and if they
had done a little digging, would have known that Mario Montoya was a
part of it, the man, of course, who is now the senior Colombian army
official that is considered a great ally of the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: Manuel Rozental, can you return to Colombia today?

MANUEL ROZENTAL: Yeah, actually, I have been returning to Colombia,
and my situation is not unusual, in that many of the people under
threat actually go back to Colombia and have to be very careful and
keep looking for mechanisms to work with social movements. In fact, my
working with the Association of Indigenous Councils is at a moment
when more indigenous peoples, through this regime of Alvaro Uribe,
have been threatened, killed, disappeared or attacked than in any
other previous regimes, which has a lot to say about what’s going on.

But, Amy, I wanted to point out something. Maybe you saw this, or the
people listening to us. There was a 60 Minutes special on the Chiquita
Brands scandal. The Chiquita is, of course, a banana company. And the
documentary actually interviewed the CEO of Chiquita that had pleaded
guilty of funding the paramilitary forces. But the argument he
presented was that he was forced to fund the paramilitaries in order
to survive, because he was threatened by them.

The main point here is that the person doing the interview managed to
get through to Mancuso, the paramilitary commander and a close friend
of Uribe’s, and Mancuso stated clearly in the program that many people
saw in the US that there was never a threat, and it was out of
consideration that there would be any tense relationship or threat
between three companies—Dole, Chiquita, and Del Monte—in Colombia,
because they were actually allies. He actually said clearly, “They
funded us. They armed us. They trained us,” which is very important.

In fact, just a few days after this came out to the US public, Mancuso
and another fourteen paramilitaries were taken, extradited into the
US, so that they would be charged for drug trade and all the crimes
against humanity and all the names he said he was going to name—
Mancuso said he was going to denounce the direct links between the
multinational US corporations, the US government, the Colombian
government and the paramilitaries to the State Department and
Department of Justice. And just after he says that, he is thrown into
jail into darkness in the US, so that all these criminal activities
and the architecture of power in Colombia could not be exposed. All
this stuff is covered up.

And then, the links between corporate interest, paramilitary death
squads, the Uribe and the Bush administration have been hidden,
covered up completely. And then, the real problem in Colombia, which
is an experiment from transnational corporations through the Uribe
administration with the support of the Bush and the US government, can
be hidden, and further hidden with what just happened.

As was being explained before, the whole paramilitary and death squad
machinery in Colombia has been in existence for a long time with clear
US support, with direct involvement of military and paramilitary
forces in Colombia, and the Uribe regime is directly linked to all

AMY GOODMAN: It seems that the FARC has served the president of
Colombia very well—Uribe. The US has given billions of dollars to
Colombia. Mario Murillo, let’s end there.

MARIO MURILLO: Yeah. Well, I would make the argument that the FARC
continue to be a kind of crutch for Uribe, and it’s all couched in the
war against narcotrafficking and the war against terror. The United
States is looking at this as the prime éxito or success story, and
they’re pumping tens of millions of—billions of dollars into Colombia.
And McCain was down there just last week, touting it—

AMY GOODMAN: Was there the day of the release.

MARIO MURILLO: Was there the day of the rescue, and he’s touting it as
a success story, without pointing out what already has been said, as
well as the—it’s not only a thing of the past, it’s a thing of the
present. Amnesty International and the Fellowship of Reconciliation
came out with a scathing report in May—late April, early May this
year, documenting how the regiments, the army units that the Colombian
army is receiving the most money of Colombian—of US support are
directly involved in extrajudicial executions, a story that has been
reported in the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post but that,
unfortunately, as you know, doesn’t get the drumbeat that this
dramatic rescue would get.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you all for being with us. Mario Murillo
is a WBAI producer, professor at Hofstra University, author of the
book Colombia and the United States: War, Terrorism and
Destabilization. Michael Evans in D.C., director of the Colombia
Documentation Project at the National Security Archive. We’ll link to
that. And Manuel Rozental, physician, human rights activist, member of
the Hemispheric Social Alliance and Association of Indigenous Councils
of Northern Cauca in Colombia. I wish we could be speaking to him in
Colombia, but he fled to Canada in 2005 following several threats
against his life.

Michael Evans
email : mevans [at] gwu [dot] edu

“Michael L. Evans is director of the Colombia Documentation Project
and serves concurrently as the Archive’s Webmaster. He is the author
of several Archive Electronic Briefing Books on U.S.-Colombia
relations, international counternarcotics policy, the 1975 invasion of
East Timor by Indonesian forces and U.S.-China relations. He also
writes a monthly column for, the online publication of
Colombia’s leading news magazine. His work has been recognized by The
New York Times, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and
other publications. He has appeared on television and radio broadcasts
in the U.S. and Colombia, including the BBC World Service, Fairness
and Accuracy in Reporting’s “Counterspin,” Pacifica Radio’s “Democracy
Now!” and RCN Television in Colombia. He joined the Archive in 1996
and worked as a Research Associate on several Archive publications,
including Death Squads, Guerrilla War, Covert Operations, and
Genocide: Guatemala and the United States, 1954-1999, Presidential
Directives on National Security, Part 2: From Harry Truman to George
W. Bush, China and the United States: From Hostility to Engagement;
and U.S. Espionage and Intelligence: Organization, Operations, and
Management, 1947-1996. He is a graduate of Miami University and did
his graduate work in international affairs at The George Washington


Colombia rejects intelligence report  /  March 26, 2007

Colombia on Sunday rejected a Los Angeles Times report that the CIA
had intelligence alleging that the country’s army chief collaborated
with right-wing militias accused of atrocities, drug trafficking and
massacres. The report, published Sunday, cited a CIA document about
Colombia’s army commander, Gen. Mario Montoya, and a paramilitary
group jointly planning and conducting an operation in 2002 to wipe out
Marxist guerrillas from poor areas around Medellin.

The report came as the White House is asking Congress to approve
extending approximately $700 million a year in mostly military aid to
help Colombia’s government fight rebels and the illicit drug trade.
Montoya has a close association with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe
and would be the highest-ranking Colombian officer implicated in a
scandal over links between the outlawed militias and some of Uribe’s
political allies.

In a brief statement, Colombia’s government called for any charges
with proof to be presented before judicial authorities. “Colombia’s
government rejects accusations made by foreign intelligence agencies
against army commander Gen. Mario Montoya, that have been filtered
through the press, without evidence being presented to Colombian
justice and the government,” it said.

Most of Colombia’s paramilitaries have demobilized under a deal with
Uribe, but revelations are surfacing about ties to the political
elite. Rights groups have long charged that some military officers
have cooperated with the militias in a brutal counterinsurgency
campaign. Eight pro-Uribe lawmakers and a state governor have been
arrested on criminal charges involving alleged collusion with
paramilitary commands, which were set up in the 1980s to help fight
Marxist rebels. U.S. officials brand the militias as drug-trafficking


/  May 11, 2008

“For American corporations, the rewards of doing business abroad are
enormous, but so are the risks. And over the past 25 years no place
has been more perilous than Colombia, a country that is just beginning
to emerge from the throes of civil war and narco-terrorism. Chiquita
Brands International of Cincinnati, Ohio, found out the hard way. It
made millions growing bananas there, only to emerge with its
reputation splattered in blood after acknowledging it had paid nearly
$2 million in protection money to a murderous paramilitary group that
has killed or massacred thousands of people.

As correspondent Steve Kroft reports, the Colombian government is now
talking about extraditing Chiquita executives to Colombia, and
investigators in Bogota and on Capitol Hill are looking at other U.S.
companies that may have done the same thing. From the air, the plains
of the Uraba region are carpeted with lush foliage of banana
plantations, which have long provided a livelihood for the people of
northern Colombia. And for the better part of century, its best known
product has been the Chiquita banana.

But since the 1980’s, the business of bananas there has been
punctuated with gunfire. First, the area was taken over by Marxist
guerillas called the “FARC,” whose ruthlessness at killing and
kidnapping was exceeded only by the private paramilitary army that
rose up to fight them. Chiquita found itself trying to grow bananas in
the middle of a war, in which the Colombian government and its army
were of no help. “These lands were lands where there was no law. It
was impossible for the government to protect employees,” says Fernando
Aguirre, who became Chiquita’s CEO long after all this happened.

Aguirre says the company was forced to pay taxes to the guerillas when
they controlled the territory in the late 1980s and early 90s. When
the paramilitaries, known as the “AUC,” moved in in 1997 they demanded
the same thing. “Did the paramilitaries state, specifically to you,
that if you didn’t make the payments, your people would be killed?”
Kroft asks. “There was a very, very strong signal that if the company
would not make payments, that things would happen. And since they had
already killed at least 50 people, employees of the company, it was
clear to everyone there that these guys meant business,” Aguirre says.

Chiquita only had a couple of options and none of them were
particularly good. It could refuse to pay the paramilitaries and run
the risk that its employees could be killed or kidnapped, it could
pack up and leave the country all together and abandon its most
profitable enterprise, or it could stay and pay protection, and in the
process, help finance the atrocities that were being committed all
across the countryside. “These were extortion payments,” Aguirre says.
“Either you pay or your people get killed.”

“And you decided to pay,” Kroft remarks. “And the company decided to
pay, absolutely,” Aguirre says. There was no doubt in the company’s
mind that the paramilitaries were very bad people, Aguirre says.

Just how bad was already becoming evident. The paramilitaries, who
were funded initially by large landowners, and later by the cocaine
trade, not only drove the Marxist guerillas from the area, they tried
to eliminate anyone who might have leftist sympathies, from labor
leaders to school teachers. Sometimes entire villages were wiped out
in the most grisly fashion. Gloria Cuartes was the mayor of Apartado,
and witnessed much of it with her own eyes. “I was a mayor whose job
was just to gather the dead,” Cuartes says.

In 1996 she went to a school to talk to the children about the
violence that surrounded them. While she was there, the paramilitaries
arrived and murdered a 12-year-old boy, whose only crime had been to
announce their presence. “They cut off his head, and they threw the
head at us,” Cuartes remembers. “I went into a state of panic. They
were there for four hours, with their weapons, firing shots toward the
ceiling. One hundred girls and boys were with me. The children did not
scream. They were in shock.”

Asked if they said anything to her, Cuartes says, “No. Their language
was death. Their message was that if they could do this to children,
they could do it to me.” As the atrocities piled up all across the
country, Chiquita continued to make the payments to the
paramilitaries, viewing itself as a victim of the violence, not a

But all of that changed in 2001, when the U.S. government designated
the paramilitaries a terrorist organization, making any kind of
financial assistance to the group, coerced or otherwise, a felony. Yet
Chiquita continued to make the payments for another two years,
claiming it missed the government’s announcement. “It was in the
newspapers. It was in the Cincinnati Enquirer, which is where your
company headquarters is. It was in the New York Times,” Kroft points
out. “I mean, this is a big part of your business, doing business in
Colombia. I mean, how did you miss it?”

“Well, again, I don’t know what happened during that time frame,
frankly. What I know is, all the data shows that the company, the
moment it learned that these payments were illegal in the United
States, that’s when they decided to self-disclose to the Department of
Justice,” Aguirre says.

By “self-disclose,” he means Chiquita, on the advice of its attorneys,
turned itself in to the Justice Department. One of the first things
Aguirre did when he became CEO was to stop the payments and sell the
company’s Colombian subsidiary. Last year the company pled guilty to a
felony and agreed to pay a $25 million fine, but that wasn’t the end
of its legal problems. “This company has blood on its hands,” says
attorney Terry Collingsworth, who has filed one of four separate
lawsuits against Chiquita, seeking money for the families of
Colombians killed by the paramilitaries.

Collingsworth says the money Chiquita paid for seven years may have
kept its employees safe, but it also helped buy weapons and ammunition
that were killing other people. “Are you saying that Chiquita was
complicit in these massacres that took place down there?” Kroft asks.
“Absolutely. If you provide knowing substantial assistance to someone
who then goes out and kills someone, or terrorizes, or tortures
someone, you’re also guilty,” Collingsworth says.

Asked if he believes that Chiquita knew this money was being used to
go into the villages and massacre people, Collingsworth says, “If they
didn’t, they would be the only ones in the whole country of Colombia
who didn’t think that.” “You’re not saying that Chiquita wanted these
people to be killed?” Kroft asks. “No, they were indifferent to it,”
Collingsworth says. “…they were willing to accept that those people
would be dead, in order to keep their banana operation running
profitably, and making all the money that they did in Colombia.”

Collingsworth says he thinks the company should have just picked up
and left. “It’s easy for a lawyer to give that type of advice, after
the fact,” Aguirre argues. “When you have more than 3,500 workers,
their lives depend on you. When you’ve been making payments to save
their lives, you just can’t pick up and go.”

“What did the company think this money was gonna be used for?” Kroft
asks. “Well, clearly to save lives,” Aguirre says. “The lives of your
employees?” Kroft asks. “Absolutely,” Aguirre says.

“It was also being used to kill other people,” Kroft says. “Well,
these groups were funded with hundreds of millions of dollars. They
had the guns,” Aguirre says. “They had the bullets. So I don’t know
who in their right mind would say, ‘Well, if Chiquita would have
stopped, these killers would have stopped.’ I just don’t see that

“Do you feel that the company has any responsibility to compensate the
victims of the paramilitaries in Colombia?” Kroft asks. “The
responsibility of any murders are the responsibility of the people
that made the killings, of the people who pulled the trigger,” Aguirre

The Justice Department decided not to prosecute any corporate officers
at Chiquita, which included prominent businessmen such as former CEO
Cyrus Freidheim Jr., now head of Sun-Times Media Group, and board
member Roderick Hills, a former chairman of the Securities and
Exchange Commission. The decision created a furor in Colombia. The
country’s prosecutor general said he would begin his own
investigation, and has threatened to extradite some of Chiquita’s
executives to stand trial in Colombia.

There’s also a Congressional investigation, led by Representative
William Delahunt of Massachusetts, who chairs a House Foreign Affairs
subcommittee. Rep. Delahunt has been quoted as saying that Chiquita is
the tip of the iceberg. Asked what he means by that, Delahunt tells
Kroft, “Well, I think that there are other American companies that
have conducted themselves the same way that Chiquita has, except they
haven’t been caught.” How many companies? “Well, there are several,”
Delahunt says. Delahunt says he doesn’t want to share more information
“because I want to give those companies an opportunity to come before
the committee.”

60 Minutes did find one person who was willing to name names inside a
maximum security prison outside Medellin: Salvatore Mancuso was once
the leader of the paramilitaries. “Chiquita says the reason they paid
the money was because your people would kill them if they didn’t. Is
that true?” Kroft asks. “No it is not true,” Mancuso says. “They paid
taxes because we were like a state in the area, and because we were
providing them with protection which enabled them to continue making
investments and a financial profit.”

“What would have happened to Chiquita and its employees if they had
not paid you?” Kroft asks. “The truth is, we never thought about what
would happen because they did so willingly,” Mancuso says. Asked if
the company had a choice, Mancuso says, “Yes, they had a choice. They
could go to the local police or army for protection from the
guerillas, but the army and police at that time were barely able to
protect themselves.”

Mancuso helped negotiate a deal with the Colombian government that
allowed more than 30,000 paramilitaries to give up their arms and
demobilize in return for reduced prison sentences. As part of the
deal, the paramilitaries must truthfully confess to all crimes, or
face much harsher penalties.

Update: Mancuso, along with 13 other paramilitary warlords, was
extradited on May 13, 2008 to the United States for failing to comply
with the peace pact.  “Was Chiquita the only American company that
paid you?” Kroft asks Mancuso. “All companies in the banana region
paid. For instance, there was Dole and Del Monte, which I believe are
U.S. companies,” Mancuso claims.

Both Dole Food Company and Fresh Del Monte Produce, which is not
affiliated with Del Monte Foods, have issued statements strongly
denying that they made payments to the paramilitaries. Fresh Del Monte
Produce said its Colombian operation is “limited to a sales office
which purchases bananas from independent growers.”

“Dole and Del Monte say they never paid you any money,” Kroft tells
Mancuso. “Chiquita has been honest by acknowledging the reality of the
conflict and the payments that it made; the others also made payments,
not only international companies, but also the national companies in
the region,” Mancuso says. “So you’re saying Dole and Del Monte are
lying?” Kroft asks. “I’m saying they all paid,” Mancuso says.

Mancuso has been indicted in the U.S. for smuggling 17 tons of cocaine
into the country. He says he’s more than willing to tell U.S
prosecutors anything they want to know.

“Has anyone come down here from the United States to talk to you about
Dole, or to talk to you about Del Monte or any other companies?” Kroft

“No one has come from the Department of Justice of the United States
to talk to us,” Mancuso says. “I am taking the opportunity to invite
the Department of State and the Department of Justice, so that they
can come and so I can tell them all that they want to know from us.”
“And you would name names?” Kroft asks. “Certainly, I would do so,”
Mancuso says.

So far, the only company that’s been charged with paying money to
terrorists in Colombia is the one that turned itself in. “Do you think
if you hadn’t gone to the Justice Department and disclosed the
situation, that anything would’ve happened to you?” Kroft asks. “Well,
Mr. Kroft, if we hadn’t gone to the Justice Department, we probably
would not be here talking about this whole issue. No one would know
about this,” Aguirre says.

The General Ingrid Hugged  /  July 6 2008

General Mario Montoya Uribe, the national commander of the Colombian
army, whom Ingrid Betancourt thanked on Wednesday for rescuing her
from captivity, has a controversial service record. Montoya, whom
Betancourt embraced soon after her rescue from over six years as a
hostage of the insurgent Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
(FARC), was born on Apr. 29, 1949 in the western department (province)
of Valle del Cauca.

Throughout his army career he has received more than 20 decorations,
including a U.S. Army medal. He has been in command positions in many
regions of his country, and holds a postgraduate degree in higher
management from the University of the Andes, according to his résumé
posted on the army Internet site. He followed courses of study at the
National War College, an advanced course on armoured vehicles at Fort
Knox, Kentucky, and was a military attaché at the Colombian embassy in

A cable despatched in 1979 by the U.S. embassy in Bogotá, declassified
at the request of the non-governmental National Security Archive
(NSA), a U.S. research institute, “reveals that a Colombian army
intelligence battalion linked to Montoya secretly created and staffed
a clandestine terror unit in 1978-1979,” researcher Michael Evans said
in an article published in July 2007 in the Colombian weekly Semana.

“Under the guise of the American Anti-communist Alliance (AAA or
Triple-A), the group was responsible for a number of bombings,
kidnappings and assassinations against leftist targets during that
period,” he wrote.

Evans, the head of NSA’s Colombia Documentation Project, also referred
to a mass grave discovered in the department of Putumayo in March 2007
containing the remains of more than 100 victims “killed over the same
two-year period that Montoya led the Joint Task Force South, the U.S.-
funded unit charged with coordinating counternarcotics and
counterguerrilla operations in that region from 1999-2001.”

“Declassified documents also detail State Department concern that one
of the units under Montoya’s command at the Task Force, the 24th
Brigade, had ties with paramilitaries based in (the town of) La
Hormiga, the location of the gravesite,” he said. Montoya was the
commander of the Fourth Brigade of the army, with jurisdiction over
the municipality of Bojayá in the western department of Chocó, when
119 civilians were massacred in the urban centre of Bellavista on May
2, 2002. In spite of three warnings delivered days in advance about
the imminent danger to the civilian population, the army did not enter
the area or take action to protect residents.

On Apr. 21, 2002, at least seven motorboats brought some 250
paramilitaries belonging to the ultra-rightwing United Self-Defence
Forces of Colombia (AUC) to Bellavista and the nearby town of Vigía
del Fuerte, through three separate checkpoints manned by the navy, the
police, and the army, the latter in Riosucio, 157 kilometres north of
Bellavista. The paramilitaries took up positions in both towns,
observed from the surrounding rural areas by the FARC.

On Apr. 23, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for
Human Rights expressed its “concern” about the paramilitary incursion
to the Colombian government and urged it to take action to protect
civilians. On Apr. 24 and 26, the Attorney General’s Office and the
Ombudsman added their voices to the warning. On May 1 the battle
between the FARC and the AUC started. More than 300 people sought
sanctuary in the Bellavista church and the AUC took cover behind and
around it. The following day the guerrillas launched gas cylinder
bombs at the paramilitary positions, one of which fell through the
church roof and exploded, killing 119 people including 44 children,
and leaving over 100 injured or mutilated.

The army showed up five days later. Survivors of the tragedy told IPS
last year about General Montoya’s arrival on the scene, and how he
wept for the dead children in front of television cameras, holding up
a little shoe of an expensive brand that local children had never seen
before. In May this year, an administrative tribunal issued two
verdicts, blaming the state for not having protected the population,
and ordering it to pay an indemnity of 1.5 billion pesos (870,000
dollars) to the victims’ families. Fourteen other civil lawsuits are
still pending.

The military justice system and the Attorney General’s Office
investigated army officers implicated in the events for dereliction of
duty. But Montoya’s career was not interrupted and he was promoted,
although soon afterwards, in October 2002, he was involved in another
controversial situation. An intelligence report produced by the U.S.
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was leaked to the Los Angeles Times,
which published it in March 2007. It indicated that Montoya and a
paramilitary group known as Bloque Cacique Nutibara “jointly planned
and conducted a military operation in 2002 to eliminate Marxist
guerrillas from poor areas around Medellin, a city in northwestern
Colombia that has been a centre of the drug trade.”

What is known as Operation Orion began at 2:00 a.m. on Oct. 15, 2002
in Medellín’s 13th district. At least 14 people were killed, and
residents and human rights organisations testified that about 50 more
“disappeared” in the following weeks. On Oct. 21 that year the
presidential web site featured a statement by Montoya saying that “we
will continue, and what we are doing in the 13th district is a message
to the violent, telling them: desist, we will go everywhere in the
country because urban guerrilla warfare has no place in Colombia.”
Bloque Cacique Nutibara’s actions in the 13th district went on for two
months and, according to demobilised paramilitaries, were coordinated
with the authorities.

The CIA intelligence report included information from other Western
intelligence services and indicated that U.S. officials have received
similar information from a “proven” source, according to journalists
Greg Miller and Paul Richter, the authors of the Los Angeles Times
article. The report was leaked to the newspaper by a source who would
only identify himself as a U.S. government employee. The CIA would
neither deny nor confirm the information, but asked the newspaper not
to publish certain details.

In addition to his close collaboration with U.S. officials on Plan
Colombia, a strategy financed by Washinton to combat drug trafficking
and insurgency, Montoya was an instructor at the former School of the
Americas, renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security
Cooperation in 2001.

On Wednesday night, when the government showed on television how the
operation to rescue Betancourt and the other 14 hostages was planned
and executed, President Álvaro Uribe announced that Montoya had
commanded the successful rescue mission, and praised the 2002
Operation Orion in Medellín, without further comment. Uribe mentioned
that the same day he had received messages from members of the
military, complaining that they were “unjustly” imprisoned and asking
him to “intercede” for them.

In Colombia there is freedom of opinion, Uribe said, and he asked
human rights organisations to “believe in Colombia, in this
government; the respect shown for human rights in this operation is no
accident.” The president “respectfully” asked judges to review the
cases of the imprisoned members of the army and “if an error appears,
to correct it”.



Improbable Database Of A Farc Commander
BY Maurice Lemoine  /  July 07, 2008
Source: Le Monde diplomatique

Media attention following Ingrid Betancourt’s dramatic release from
captivity should not obscure a surprising revelation: laptop computers
implausibly retrieved from an obliterating air raid on a Farc base in
Colombia are being used to sour the country’s relations with Ecuador
and smear the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez, in western and Latin-
American media.

The first of 10 smart bombs guided by GPS hit its target at 00.25 on 1
March 2008, less than two kilometres from the Ecuador-Colombia border,
along the Putomayo river. Four Blackhawk OH-60 helicopters appeared
out of the darkness with 44 special commandos from Colombia’s rapid
deployment force on board. But there was no fighting: the temporary
camp of the Farc (the Marxist-inspired Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia) had been destroyed by the explosions and 23 people killed in
their sleep (1). Among them was Raúl Reyes, the Farc’s second-in-
command and the group’s “foreign minister”. His remains were taken
back to Colombia by ground troops as a trophy.

Early that morning the Colombian president Alvaro Uribe contacted his
Ecuadorian counterpart, Rafael Correa, to brief him on the raid: the
Colombian airborne unit had been attacked from within Ecuador and had
pursued the rebels in legitimate self-defence. But, he assured Correa,
their return of fire came from Colombian territory and didn’t violate
Ecuador’s airspace. Colombia’s defence minister, Juan Manuel Santos,
gave the same assurance later.

Initially Correa took Uribe at his word. Until this incident they had
been on good terms and spoke on the phone every day. Two weeks before,
Correa had said in private to one of the close advisers of the
Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez: “Tell Chávez that I get on very well
with Uribe and that if he wants I can help smooth things out between
them.” Correa felt betrayed, a feeling compounded when Ecuadorian
military personnel arrived at the bombed camp: not only had the
Colombians violated Ecuadorian territory, they had also, as Correa put
it in a press conference on 2 March, conducted “a massacre”.

Reyes’ death sparked a crisis. Ecuador severed diplomatic relations
with Colombia and deployed 11,000 men along its border. Venezuela also
sent 10 battalions to its border. “We don’t want war,” Chávez warned,
“but we won’t allow the [North American] empire, nor its little dog
[Colombia], to weaken us.” Nor were they willing to allow it to act
with impunity on its neighbours’ territory.

Unanimously rejected

The word “condemnation” was avoided, but South American governments
unanimously “rejected” Colombia’s incursion. The United States
supported Bogotá in the name of the “war on terror”. Craig Kelly,
principal deputy assistant secretary at the Bureau of Western
Hemisphere Affairs, explained: “What we have said is firstly that a
state must defend itself against the threat of terrorism and that when
you talk about a border, you have to consider the general context,
which [in this case] is a continual violation of the borders by the
Farc.” An interviewer asked: “Does that mean that, for example, if
Mexico pursued drug traffickers _into the US, the US wouldn’t have any
objection to Mexican forces entering its territory?” Kelly replied:
“I’m not going to get into a theoretical discussion” (2).

There has been speculation about the planes used on 1 March. Five
Brazilian-made Supertucanos EMB314s and three US-manufactured A-37
attack aircraft have been mentioned, but the bombs couldn’t have been
released from either of those planes. One thing is certain: weapons of
the same sophisticated kind did a lot of damage during the US invasion
of Iraq.

The long arm of Washington was also discernible when Correa made other
discoveries, notably that his military command had lied to him.
Tension peaked when General Jorge Gabela, the Ecuadorian air force
commander, revealed that the radar nearest to Santa Rosa, the zone
where the Farc camp was located, had been down for maintenance for
several days. Correa sacked the head of the army’s intelligence
services, Colonel Mario Pazmiño, and announced in a broadcast to the
nation that “the CIA has totally infiltrated some of Ecuador’s
military intelligence bodies”. He also replaced defence minister
Wellington Sandoval with loyalist Javier Ponce. Correa’s reassertion
of his authority also led to the resignations of the joint chief of
staff and the heads of the army, navy and air force.

Correa soon began to see the consequences of his actions. He had
announced in his election campaign that he would close the US base at
Manta. The lease on this “foreign operating location” granted to the
US in 1999 expires in 2009. On 28 February the assembly set up to
“refound the country” adopted an article which asserts that “Ecuador
is a land of peace; foreign military bases or foreign installations
with military purpose will not be allowed.” With its state-of-the-art
technology, Manta plays a key role in US military support for
Colombia. During the operation on 1 March it would have controlled the
air space the mystery planes overflew.

Opening salvo

The Colombian government announced that during the raid its army had
seized a laptop (later increased to three laptops) belonging to Reyes,
which revealed that both Chávez and Correa have close links to the

In the absence of hard evidence, questions arise. Reyes’ main camp is
known to be in Colombia near the border. In that region the Farc have
many hiding places, secret shelters and secondary camps. Yet the
guerrilla leader had apparently gone to Ecuador with three laptops,
two hard drives and three USB drives – everything but the kitchen
sink. According to the Ecuadorian army, the 10 missiles made craters
2.4m wide and 1.8m deep and destroyed the vegetation all around, yet
the computers emerged without a scratch.

What a tale those laptops told. The Spanish daily El País, which is
the spearhead of a campaign against the progressive governments of
Latin America, didn’t stop to question the authenticity of the
revelations. On 12 March its readers learned in an article, “Farc
finds refuge in Ecuador”, that “guerrillas drive around the north of
Ecuador in vans, as a member of the OEA (Organisation of American
States) attested. He privately expressed astonishment at encountering
fully equipped guerrillas in restaurants in border country.”

What readers didn’t see was a letter sent to the editor of El País on
15 March by the OEA’s secretary general, José Miguel Insulza, in which
he expressed his “astonishment and indignation”: “I can assure you
that this claim is absolutely false. The OEA does not have special
missions, nor does it have representatives at any level deployed on
Ecuador’s northern border, therefore it is impossible that any member
of the organisation could have made such a statement” (3).

Reyes and his guerrillas were in Ecuador. Reyes had for months been
the key contact for the representatives from France, Spain, Venezuela
and Ecuador negotiating hostage releases, including that of the French-
Colombian Ingrid Betancourt. The Farc have long been intransigent over
their demand for direct dialogue with the Colombian government. They
insisted on “humanitarian exchange” – hostages for guerrillas – or
nothing. Their aim is political: to achieve the status of legitimate
combatants by gaining recognition from the Colombian government. The
Farc have been on the list of terrorist organisations since 2002 but
have never accepted that they are terrorists. Uribe wanted to avoid
giving them recognition at all costs.

Chávez mediates

The mediation which Chávez set in motion on 31 August 2007 broke a
stalemate that had lasted since 2002. The guerrillas freed seven
hostages unconditionally, leading Caracas to say: “The Farc are using
a more political logic, which is a positive sign for how things could
develop.” But hostages warmly thanking members of the Venezuelan
government dressed in red must have been a great source of irritation
to the Colombian president.

Open dialogue had been ongoing in Caracas through the intermediary of
Farc leaders Iván Marquez and Rodrigo Granda, and sometimes even with
Reyes at the camp in Ecuador. The French and Ecuador governments knew
this. A troubling detail is that a week before the 1 March raid,
French representatives met Colombia’s High Commissioner for Peace,
Luis Carlos Restrepo, in Panama. Restrepo told them they should stay
in contact with Reyes. “He’s the one who can help you. He’s your man.
He can help you get Ingrid freed.” This explains Correa’s fury: “Look
how low Alvaro Uribe has sunk! He knew that in March 12 hostages were
going to be freed, including Ingrid Betancourt. He knew that, and
still he used his contacts to spring this trap.” Kill the negotiator
and you kill the negotiation.

But the hostage aspect of this crisis took second place to the
revelations at a news conference on 3 March by the director general of
the Colombian police, General Oscar Naranjo. He revealed that, based
on computer equipment found near Reyes’ body, there was an “armed
alliance” between the Farc and the Venezuelan government, as well as
political and economic links between Correa and the guerrillas from
the time of his election campaign.

Media revelation

The media went to town with these “explosive documents” from the
seized computers, which the Colombian intelligence services had
helpfully filtered. Prominent were the Spanish El País (4) and the
Colombian daily El Tiempo, which is owned by the Santos family, to
which both the vice-president and the defence minister belong. On 4
March El País ran with “Bogotá unmasks the Farc’s support”. On 10 May,
in the first of a series of articles by Maite Rico, “The Farc papers
point the finger at Chávez”, readers learnt that “without raising an
eyebrow Chávez approved a request for $300m” from the guerrillas. On
12 May the article condemned by the secretary general of OEA appeared.
The day before Rico had written of “groups linked to Chávism which
regularly train in Farc camps in Venezuela”. There were even claims of
waiting lists to take part in their courses.

When The Economist wrote about Chávez’s generosity in providing $300m
to the Farc on 24 May, it mentioned as its source a message from Raúl
Reyes reproduced in El País and the Colombian weekly Semana. It also
quoted from a document obtained by the Wall Street Journal: “The
Venezuelan interior minister, Ramón Rodríguez Chacín, asked the Farc
to train Venezuelan soldiers in guerrilla tactics.” It’s unclear
whether the Wall Street Journal copied the Miami Herald, which printed
the same claim.

The improbable was followed by the bizarre: between 2000 and 2002, the
Farc and ETA allegedly planned an attack in Madrid on prominent
Colombian figures – the current vice-president Francisco Santos
Calderón, the former head of state, Andrés Pastrana, and the former
ambassador in Spain Noemi Sanín (El Tiempo, 2 June). BBC Mundo
reported on 5 March that the Farc had tried to get hold of uranium to
make a dirty bomb.

According to the Reyes documents, Chávez’s friendship with the
Colombian rebels dated back at least as far as 1992. When he was
imprisoned for a failed coup attempt in February that year, he
received $150,000 from the Farc (Le Figaro, 5 March and Wall Street
Journal, 11 March). He must have spent it all in the prison canteen,
because when he was released in 1994, he had no money and had to stay
in a small apartment in central Caracas belonging to his future
minister of the interior, Luis Miquilena, who also lent him a car.

Though it was more cautious, Le Monde ran a piece on 12 March about a
Farc deserter: “According to the deserter, the Farc leader Iván
Marquez and its commander-in-chief Manuel Marulanda are staying in
Venezuela”. That will stick in the reader’s mind, as will the Figaro
heading “Dangerous liaisons between the Farc and Chávez” (15 May).

In Venezuela, the dailies El Nacional and El Universal, along with the
private channels Radio Caracas Télévisión (RCTV) and Globovisión, are
having a field day. They are only too happy to broadcast the views of
the governor of Zulia state or the former presidential candidate
Manuel Rosales, accusing president Chávez of betraying the country.

One of the many editorials in the Washington Post about Venezuela sums
up this media firestorm: “If managed correctly, the laptop scandal
will surely deepen the domestic political hole into which the would-be
`Bolivarian’ revolutionary is sinking.”

Verified by Interpol

Throughout, Bogotá and the media have relied on a seemingly
unimpeachable line of defence: the validity of seized documents has
been verified by Interpol. And yet, closer examination yields
interesting results.

General Naranjo requested Interpol’s independent opinion of the eight
key “exhibits” (the computer equipment) on 4 March. Interpol’s report
was presented in Bogotá on 15 May by its secretary general, the
American Ronald Noble. He paid extensive tribute at his press
conference to General Naranjo, who was seated beside him, and to the
Department of State Security (DAS), the political police (5). Naranjo,
the former head of the Colombian anti-drug police, had to stand down
after his brother, Juan David, was arrested in Germany in March 2007
for drug trafficking. He was implicated by the Venezuelan interior
minister for his links with the “narco” Wilmer Varela (assassinated on
29 February). As for the DAS, its former director, Jorge Noguera, was
arrested on 22 February 2007 for allowing paramilitaries to use its

According to Noble’s report (6) and statements, Interpol’s role was
limited to “(a) determining the actual data contained in the eight
seized Farc computer exhibits, (b) verifying whether the user files
had been modified in any way on or after 1 March 2008, and (c)
determining whether Colombian law enforcement authorities had handled
and examined the eight seized Farc computer exhibits in conformity
with internationally recognised principles for handling electronic
evidence by law enforcement.” But “the remit of the IRT and Interpol’s
subsequent assistance to Colombia’s investigation did not include the
analysis of the content of documents, folders or other material on the
eight seized Farc computer exhibits. The accuracy and source of the
user files contained in the eight seized Farc computer exhibits are
and always have been outside the scope of Interpol’s computer forensic

Interpol’s team of experts, who came from Singapore and Australia and
didn’t speak Spanish, didn’t examine the contents of the files.
Perhaps this is understandable: in the 609.6 gigabytes in the eight
“exhibits” there were 37,873 text documents, 452 spreadsheets, 210,888
images, 22,481 web pages, 7,989 email addresses (no reference to
emails, though they were widely quoted in the media), and 983
encrypted files. “In non-technical terms, such a volume of data would
correspond to 39.5 million full pages in Microsoft Word format
and . . . would take more than a thousand years to go through it all
at a rate of a hundred pages per day.”

That’s a lot of data for one man to produce. Especially Raúl Reyes,
constantly on the move in the jungle, living the dangerous life of a
guerrilla. But it wasn’t too much data for the Colombian government,
which within a few hours had begun releasing a continuous stream of
revelations from the files. Nor was it too much for journalists who
wove the documents (authenticated by Interpol) into their own stories.

A troubling lack of rigour

The Interpol report shows a troubling lack of rigour. It says Reyes
and Guillermo Enrique Torres, alias Julián Conrado, a Farc commander,
were killed in the operation (page 10). But Bogotá, which had
announced the death of Conrado on _1 March, had to retract that after
a DNA examination of the only body (apart from Reyes) brought back by
their forces. Similarly, the statement “Farc has been designated a
terrorist organisation by Colombia, other governments and
Interpol” (page 10) requires qualification. The designation has only
been adopted by the US, Colombia, Peru, the EU, and Israel (31
countries in all), or 17% of the 186 countries that are Interpol

More significantly, the statement: “the eight seized Farc computer
exhibits belonged to Raúl Reyes” or: “the eight seized Farc computer
exhibits” (both page 10) should more properly have been: “the eight
exhibits given to Interpol by the Colombian authorities”. Interpol has
accepted the Colombian version of events, though there was no witness
present to verify that the equipment was actually found near the body
of the Farc leader. This provoked Correa to say on 13 May when he
visited Paris: “Who can show that the computers were indeed found in
the Farc camp?”

In the first fax Naranjo sent on 4 March to request Interpol help, he
mentioned “three computers and three USB devices” (Appendix 2 of the
report). In his reply of 5 March, Noble agrees on behalf of his
organisation to examine “three computers and three USB keys” (Appendix
3). But on 6 March, in a letter to Interpol from the director of DAS,
Maria del Pilar Hurtado, the equipment has become “three laptop
computers, the three USB keys and [for the first time] two hard-disc
drives” (Appendix 4). Where did these hard drives come from? Had no
one noticed them before?

The overall conclusion of the report is that “no data were created,
added, modified or deleted on any of the these exhibits between 3
March 2008 at 11.45 am [the date and time when they were entrusted to
the computer forensic specialists of the Colombian Judicial Police]
and 10 March 2008 when the exhibits were handed over to Interpol’s
experts to make their image discs” (page 29). It also states that
“access to the data . . . [during the same period] conformed to
internationally recognised principles for handling electronic evidence
by law enforcement” (page 28).

But what happened between 1 March and 3 March? An officer of
Colombia’s anti-terrorist unit “directly accessed the eight seized
Farc computer exhibits under exigent and time-sensitive
circumstances” (page 30) and they were all connected to a computer
“without prior imaging of their contents and without the use of write-
blocking hardware” (page 31). As a result of this, during those three
days, “access to data . . . did not conform to internationally
recognised principles for handling electronic evidence by law
enforcement” (page 8). This is not insignificant, as Interpol
discovered that a total of 48,055 files “had either been created,
accessed, modified or deleted as a result of the direct access to the
eight seized exhibits by Colombian authorities between the time of
their seizure on 1 March 2008 and 3 March 2008 at 11.45am” (page 33).

No court of law anywhere could rely on the results of such a report to
pass judgment on anyone. But that doesn’t stop the rumours or the
headlines. The rumour mills are now turning in Ecuador and Venezuela.
Even if today the conditions are not yet right for Venezuela to be
classed as a terrorist or rogue state, this campaign is creating the
right conditions in public opinion. According to Maximilien Arvelaiz,
an adviser to President Chávez: “George Bush wants to leave behind a
time bomb so that, whatever the outcome of the election in November,
it will be very difficult to soften US policy on Venezuela.”

But an unforeseen turn of events can never be ruled out — as has been
shown by the spectacular, surprise release by Colombian troops of the
French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and 14 other hostages,
held for years by Farc guerrillas in jungle captivity.

(1) Among the dead were an Ecuadorian, four Mexican students and a
Colombian soldier killed, not in combat, as Bogotá claimed when it
accorded him a state funeral, but by a falling tree.
(2) BBC Mundo, London, 7 March 2008.
(4) The centre-left El País belongs to the multinational Prisa group,
which controls more than 1,000 radio stations in Spain, the US,
Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, Colombia, Argentina and Chile with a total
audience of 30 million listeners.
(6) The full public report in English can be downloaded here:
Translated by George Miller

By Greg Palast  /  6 March

“Do you believe this? In early March Colombia invaded Ecuador, killed
a guerrilla chief in the jungle, opened his laptop – and what did the
Colombians find? A message to Hugo Chavez that he sent the FARC
guerrillas $300 million – which they’re using to obtain uranium to
make a dirty bomb! That’s what George Bush tells us. And he got that
from his buddy, the strange right-wing President of Colombia, Alvaro

So: After the fact, Colombia justifies its attempt to provoke a border
war as a way to stop the threat of WMDs! Uh, where have we heard that
before? The US press snorted up this line about Chavez’ $300 million
to “terrorists” quicker than the young Bush inhaling Colombia’s
powdered export. What the US press did not do is look at the evidence,
the email in the magic laptop. (Presumably, the FARC leader’s last
words were, “Listen, my password is ….”)

I read them. (You can read them too.) While you can read it all in
español, here is, in translation, the one and only mention of the
alleged $300 million from Chavez: “… With relation to the 300, which
from now on we will call “dossier,” efforts are now going forward at
the instructions of the boss to the cojo [slang term for ‘cripple’],
which I will explain in a separate note. Let’s call the boss Ángel,
and the cripple Ernesto.”

Got that? Where is Hugo? Where’s 300 million? And 300 what? Indeed, in
context, the note is all about the hostage exchange with the FARC that
Chavez was working on at the time (December 23, 2007) at the request
of the Colombian government. Indeed, the entire remainder of the email
is all about the mechanism of the hostage exchange.

Here’s the next line: “To receive the three freed ones, Chavez
proposes three options: Plan A. Do it to via of a ‘humanitarian
caravan’; one that will involve Venezuela, France, the Vatican[?],
Switzerland, European Union, democrats [civil society], Argentina, Red
Cross, etc.” As to the 300, I must note that the FARC’s previous
prisoner exchange involved 300 prisoners. Is that what the ‘300’
refers to? ¿Quien sabe? Unlike Uribe, Bush and the US press, I won’t
guess or make up a phastasmogoric story about Chavez mailing checks to
the jungle.

To bolster their case, the Colombians claim, with no evidence
whatsoever, that the mysterious “Angel” is the code name for Chavez.
But in the memo, Chavez goes by the code name … Chavez. Well, so what?
This is what . . . .

Colombia’s invasion into Ecuador is a rank violation of international
law, condemned by every single Latin member of the Organization of
American States. But George Bush just loved it. He called Uribe to
back Colombia, against, “the continuing assault by narco-terrorists as
well as the provocative maneuvers by the regime in Venezuela.”

Well, our President may have gotten the facts ass-backward, but Bush
knows what he’s doing: shoring up his last, faltering ally in South
America, Uribe, a desperate man in deep political trouble. Uribe
claims he is going to bring charges against Chavez before the
International Criminal Court. If Uribe goes there in person, I suggest
he take a toothbrush: it was just discovered that right-wing death
squads held murder-planning sessions at Uribe’s ranch. Uribe’s
associates have been called before the nation’s Supreme Court and may
face prison.

In other words, it’s a good time for a desperate Uribe to use that old
politico’s wheeze, the threat of war, to drown out accusations of his
own criminality. Furthermore, Uribe’s attack literally killed
negotiations with FARC by killing FARC’s negotiator, Raul Reyes. Reyes
was in talks with both Ecuador and Chavez about another prisoner
exchange. Uribe authorized the negotiations. However, Uribe knew,
should those talks have succeeded in obtaining the release of those
kidnapped by the FARC, credit would have been heaped on Ecuador and
Chavez, and discredit heaped on Uribe.”