Wednesday, September 24, 2008

FIRE!!!! Are Americans and the World Missing the Boat in Diagnosing what has occurred in the USA—i.e. Bubble, Bubble, Crash, Bubble, Crash, Bubble, Cr

FIRE!!!! Are Americans and the World Missing the Boat in Diagnosing what has occurred in the USA—i.e. Bubble, Bubble, Crash, Bubble, Crash, Bubble, Crash

By Kevin A. Stoda

A few years ago, Kevin Phillips wrote a sadly accurate and insightful book entitled AMERICAN THEOCRACY, in which he accurately predicted all of the economic troubles in the USA this autumn 2008. In his analyses, Phillips clearly saw that the failed attempt to boost the economy in the early Bush years of this decade simply covered up one bubble with another larger one. This is why Phillips called the Federal Reserve Board Chairman, Paul Volcker, a serial-bubbler.

“In official statistics, the finance, insurance, and real estate (FIRE) sector of the U.S. economy swelled to 20 percent of the gross domestic product in 2000, jumping ahead of manufacturing, which slipped to 14 percent. Since the 1980s financial deregulation has encouraged these three related vocations to interweave in so many holding companies and financial groups that their identification as one sector has become routine.”

In all, since 1987, the U.S. has faced an increasing set of bubbles and crashes—mostly propelled by casino-like speculation:

1987 Post-Stock Market Drive Rescue,
1989-1992 S & L Bailout,
1990-1992 Citibank & Bank of New England Bailout,
1994-1995 Mexican Peso Rescue,
1997 Asia Currency Bailout,
1998 Long-Term Capital Management Bailout,
1999-2000 Y2K Fears and .com Bubble Crash
2001-2005 Post-Stock-Market Crash Federal Rate Cuts Bubble
2006-2008 Real Estate Crash and Finance/Investment Sector Bubble Collapse

In short, as the former wizards of Wall Street, the Federal Reserve, and many financial firms’ supporting George W. Bush’s presidency cry that the sky is falling and America must cough up 800 billion dollars (and Now), Americans have to decide whether the proposed medicine for this FIRE—and America’s dependence on finance, insurance and real estate—will only continue to make more-and-more bubbles as the recent federal reserve chairmen have engineered so often over the past 20 years.


Phillips spent the last half of his book, AMERICAN THEOCRACY, going over the historical framework of political economic decline that great nations have faced over the past 500 years, i.e. as they have become over-dependent on the financial sector to run their political economic regimes. Phillips’ short narrations took us through the collapse of Habsburg Spain, the end of the Dutch financial wizardry of the 17th century, and the end of the British Colonial world financial system at the end of the world’s industrial revolution.

Now, America appears to be heading towards a swan dive because (particularly since the 1980s) its leadership has thrown more-and-more political weight (and federal rescue moneys) behind banks, insurance firms, and real estate lenders than moneys to support good education, development of production oriented jobs & industries, and generally improved the security of the commonweal.


In the INDEBTED SOCIETY, James Medoff and Andrew Harless, wrote, “Thirty years ago, neither firms nor politicians used (or could use) massive indebtedness to justify their actions or inaction. Since 1980, firms, politicians and others have regularly used debt to rationalize conduct that has been damaging to workers and to the poor . . . .Debt, directly or indirectly, has decayed the very soul of America.”

In short, it wasn’t until the last two (or so) decades that the USA decided to allow the financial, insurance, and real estate (FIRE) sector to surpass manufacturing. Phillips notes again and again that this overdependence on FIRE to run the US and global economy and provide GNP figures to rise is unparalleled in world history.

How could Americans have allowed this to happen? What happened to big projects that would have raised American production, like better directed investment into manufacturing and alternative energies. Imagine what we would be facing today if President George W. Bush had said in 2001 (in the wake of 9-11) that Americans should save more and invest in good products like regional metro lines and more efficient transport systems, instead of simply telling citizens to “borrow and consume consume consume”!

I’m sure there would have been a much smaller real estate and economic bubble over the past 6 to 7 years.

Moreover, fewer Americans would have gone bankrupt of lost savings and houses over the same period.

Over-reliance on predominantly on the financial sector is a losing approach for great nations. History shows this. The USA must invest in infrastructure and good sound construction, production and manufacturing—in balance with other sectors of the economy.

Americans cannot afford to continue to be exposed to so much debt. A great nation cannot borrow its way from one crisis to another.


What is worse, no presidency in USA history has been so dependent on the FIRE (finance, insurance and real estate) sector for its campaign financing as the George W. Bush Administration. Phillips writes,“In the mid-2004, the Center for Public Integrity tabulated the leading lifetime patrons of George W. Bush: the big four were Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, PriceWaterhouse Coopers, and MBNA, the credit-card giant. The [Bush] family background also blended these same origins and commitment.”

This does not mean that the Clinton Administration didn’t make the same sort of errors in abandoning more secure economic development in the areas of manufacturing (and in the areas of failing to reduce the average American’s debts, including education-, investment-, real estate-, and credit card debt). However, the number of economic bubbles created in the last decade dwarves the previous record setting levels of the 1960 through and early 1990s.

Long-time critiques of the rise of this unfettered finance, insurance and real estate industries over the past few decades have called this phenomena the “Rise of the U.S. Debt and Credit-Industrial Complex.”

It is a debt system of short-term joy which promotes long term pain and high cost of living for most American.


The hollowing out of the U.S. manufacturing and production economy has been propelling the casino-like nature of the world’s largest debtors—the U.S.A. and its citizens.

The solutions are clear:

(1) We, the people of the USA, need some control over banks, insurance, investment, and real estate lenders as long as the liaise faire system fails to stop greed from ruining so many American’s lives.

(2) America needs to build real things to sell and produce for all—for example: high speed trains, local alternative energy sources, local manufacturing and construction, and products and educational or health services that help reduce our mammoth personal and national “important-export” deficits.

(3) The federal government needs to reduce its own debt and encourage Americans
to save.

(4) The USA must become more supportive in the creation of jobs and education. Debt elimination in these two processes need to be important secondary goals of these areas of the economy. This means: Don’t unnecessarily encourage large or medium sized debt by individuals on the behalf of banks, even to jump start spending!

Let me explain! The current system of low interest rates by the federal reserve discourage savings tremendously. The Japanese tried this between 1989 and 2003—and it never really worked well.

Moreover, in our interrelated world, deflating the dollar also diminishes global earnings on dollar investments world wide. The USA will never be an island-unto-itself, so the US leaders need to learn to heed global warnings, such as the British and European banks and economists who consistently warned the USA against its high-debt path for the past 3 decades.

Finally, Americans need to be able to save and to be able to invest in their own homeland’s economy and national debt as well—however, currently foreign owners have now become the big new boomer owners of American debt. This is because many Americans have too much debt and the stock market where they place their savings have been run like casinos.

These pro-FIRE governmental trends in the USA has gotten to be so bad that one single bank Citibank, has had to be bailed out by foreign investors and the federal government more often than any other institution in the USA—and the world—over the past 20 years.

(And this same bank has been involved in more scandals world-wide than any other USA bank.)

In short, no blank check of 800 billion dollars can be afforded nor paid for by USA tax payers.


Phillips, Kevin , AMERICAN THEOCRACY, New York: Viking, 2006.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Bin Ladens, The Hurricanes (like Ike), and Legacy of Bush and America: any MEMORIAL for bad Governance 2001-2008???

The Bin Ladens, The Hurricanes (like Ike), and Legacy of Bush and America: any MEMORIAL for bad Governance 2001-2008???

By Kevin Stoda

In a week (September 14 to September 20) that began with the landfall of Hurricane Ike in Texas

and an hour-long narration of the life and times of the Bin Laden family in Saudi Arabia aired on DEMOCRACY NOW

, and concluded with a major bombing of the Marriot Hotel in downtown Islamabad

and the resignation of Thabo Mbecki in South Africa,0,3441318.story?track=rss

, it is only appropriate to begin to put the pieces together and ask Americans to demand more answers and reform as of this very week in 2008.

Let us see,

(1) If South Africans can replace a president who has been responsible for illegal acts or misleading peoples, why can't Americans have the same sort of good governance and positively functioning commonweal? i.e. why aren't Bush and Cheney out the window, too?

(2) If the USA can afford 800 billion dollars to bail out business failures, why can't we have great health care for all? Better education? Better aid to the poor? Better courts?

(3) If Pakistan can get Dictator Musharrif out of government reigns in Pakistan, why couldn't Bush capture Osama Bin Laden?

By the way, the DN program on the Bin Ladens states clearly that there is a connection—General Musharrif and his clan of cronies had simply thought that if they actually captured Bin Laden, the U.S. would no longer send 10s of billions of dollars to Pakistan, i.e. without vetting or asking questions about where the money was spent.

They were right—until 2008—will it be different next year?

(4) Are Americans going to continue to put up with regional and global disasters on an adhoc basis—by ignoring global warming facts and the backwash of bad energy and bad foreign policy--or will they move towards a true progressive movement?

For those people who do not whom to vote fore in 2008. Whatever you all do, do not keep these crazy paradigms from 2001-2008 going?

Also, look at Ralph Nader's issues and demand the big tent parties to take all his issues on—otherwise vote for Nader.

At least, his videos are more motivating than what the big parties offer.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008



By Kevin Anthony Stoda

During the Vietnam War era in the 1960s, several generals and military officers suggested to the President of the United States (and all Americans, including the military), “Let’s declare victory and go home!”

I have asked myself over the years whether (psychologically or) orally declaring a victory when there is not a clear victory is a good procedure for America to ever follow.


As I studied the Vietnam War in the early 1980s in college, I thought at times, “What if people in the mid-1960s had simply taken the advice of these particular military leaders and got out of Vietnam much earlier on?”

I had speculated as follows.

“On the surface level,” I saw, “It would seem to be a sign of maturity to clearly accept the facts when a nation lacked any further chances of great success. We had long overstayed our usefulness in Vietnam and its region in a series of battles that would leave two to four million people, mostly Southeast Asians, dead by 1975. A national acceptance of our needs (in America and abroad) to reduce future losses—i.e. in the mounting fruitless waste on energy, moneys and manpower—might be beneficial. Such a move seemed more mature than sticking it out simply because of hubris or misguided illusions of self.”

One would then be forced to work better internationally with all of ones neighbors and countries around the world. This would mean respecting the ballot over the bullet when even our so-called enemies elected someone who rubbed us the wrong way.

Certainly, in retrospect, America would not have had to come home from Vietnam in 1975 with its tail between its legs, if agreements had been made to end the conflict earlier on. It is quite possible that by working out a deal with North Vietnam, America may have been able to have helped keep Laos and Cambodia from going Communist.

As America finally high-tailed it out of South East Asia in the mid-1970s, a great national malaise hit many people in the American society. (Not that Jimmy Carter won any accolades for diagnosing this fact.)

Worse still, military America of 1979 was not ready to fight the Soviets and rising Middle Easter leaders’ various power plays at that time—i.e. without increasingly allying itself with thugs in Central America and despots or dictators in the Middle East throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

From 1975 onwards, America neither used the immediate postwar period to rebuild its military in a way to avoid allowing major wars to take place for decades to come nor revised its practices and self-images in a way that would lead many other nations and peoples to respect our foreign businesses and diplomatic practices in many post-colonial regions of the world, e.g. in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in Iran, in parts of Saudi Arabia, etc.

In short, throughout the last 70 years American leaders time and again have been fighting the last wars due to failure to recognize facts on the ground. This strategy has been filled with errors (as well as poor international intelligence) and has been one of national avoidance and denial at opportunities to try to learn from mistakes.

In short, declaring victory and moving out is a delusion. The fact is that America sometimes faces limits on its human and natural resources.

America today is not the America of the late 1940s when the U.S.A. possessed much of the world’s oil, gold and economic hegemony.

Nor was America of the 1960s that sort of America, either. This obvious fact was missing from the American psyche of the 1960s and was still not fully understood after the Soviet Union collapsed. This is why America, since NATO first began to expand 11 years ago, was simply waltzing its way to what we saw in Georgia this month.


In summary, in various ways, throughout the recent decades America has constantly failed to see the facts and has chosen image over substance.

When Ronald Reagan won the 1980 election for president, he had won only by less than the margin of votes handed out to independent presidential candidate, John Anderson—who had been a Republican.

Yet, upon entering the White House, Reagan and his supporters pretended that they had won a landslide of the popular vote and consistently marched a new revised American self-image forward in subsequent years. This quickly led to the first big post-Vietnam DOD spending spree without new taxes. This ballooning of the USA federal deficit would eventually help lead to a Wall Street collapse in the late 1980s--and the nation was in full recession again by the early 1990s.

NOTE: Back in 1986 to 1992, unlike politicians today, most people were not afraid to call a recession “a recession”. So, at least, some part of substance (naming recession as a recession) over image could still triumph back in the Reagan-Bush era—an era usually marked by rhetoric over substance at times.

Similarly, both George H.W. Bush and William Clinton, as U.S. presidents, claimed that NAFTA was an unequivocal success and denied the fact that parts of U.S. and Mexican economies would be hollowed out by NAFTA rules.

Finally, in March 2001, despite experiencing the closest presidential election in over 100 years, George W. Bush and Richard Cheney would claim a complete victory for the Republican party and shoved a Reagan-style you-are-either-with-us-or-against us series of bills through congress. These bills, which were signed into law, in 2001 and 2002 continued the process of tax-breaks for the wealthiest while failing to properly finance America’s largest DOD spending boom expansion in decades.

How did Bush and Cheney in 2001 “declare a victory and move on” like they had won a humongous mandate in 2000?
They were able to do this because of America’s penchant for image over substance. Americans love to embrace the idea of declaring a victory and moving on.

Psychologically, it is reassuring to believe that one is supported by a cast of 1000s or millions, when in fact one has a bare majority in the USA.

The same approach has been applied abroad in this decade to devastating washback on American image abroad.

When Bush declared victory in Iraq on May 1, 2003 on board an aircraft carrier in San Diego harbor, he was playing again to that reassuring imagery—the sign or claim of victory gives the one who claims victory the opportunity to move on.


This August there was an agreement signed by the U.S. and Iraqi leaders indicating that America will begin slowly bailing out Iraq during the next 5 years. However, this document doesn’t guarantee that a full-bail out from Iraq will be complete by 2013.

As a matter of fact, reductions of troop levels in Iraq should stay fairly stable until next spring or summer 2009.

Nonetheless, some political propagandists in America are already trying to paint this adventure in Iraq to be a victory—and an opportunity to move troops onward (or bring some home). They are attempting to claim victory in the run up to this presidential election. They may pull this off if most Americans are only focused on their jobs, lack of jobs, lack of housing, lack of health care, etc. this November 2008.

In a way, John McCain, Republican candidate for president of the USA, is playing indirectly on this image: “Now, we can declare victory and move on.”

McCain may even win the US election—if Americans accept the “We can now declare victory in Iraq” imagery and mentally tell themselves “the nightmare is over”.

NOTE: If Al-Qaida is planning an October Surprise, perhaps McCain will have to abandon such imagery. However, he may do well just growling at Iran and telling us lies, like Biden and Obama are doves or wimps.


Finally, most every single day in the mass communications world we now live in, Americans are constantly being subjected to some of the world’s greatest spin doctors and propagandists. These leaders and mind-manipulators love pithy phrases, like “It’s a done deal!”, “Whose cool-aid are you drinking?”, or “Declare Victory and Go home!”

America has the most powerful and wealthy political and image consultancy in the world. This is why we have to be vigilant and encourage our friends to ask the hard questions—especially the queries that wealthy media sources fail to shine their light on.

This autumn, as one of the most important presidential elections in world history is at our door, Americans must do better than our forefathers who have fallen time-and-again for pithy phrases and images of “victory is just round the corner”.

The American economy is in a mess. Over half of all Americans are either struggling financially or have no health insurance.

As a matter a fact, the world economy is now being hurt by business-as-usual in America.

NOTE: America still has a plethora of human and natural resources, though. So, there is certainly a way out of bad governance and economy.

All-in-all, my critique of the past is that the coziness between big business, big investors, banking interests, lobbyists, and those in Washington, D.C. leads to horrible banking laws and regulation, like the horrible Phil Graham legislation on investment banking and mortgages from a decade ago—which has led to the demise of many large mortgage lenders and investment lenders in recent decades.

Let’s stop calling bad bills good bills.

Let’s stop calling a recession a non-recession.

Let’s stop declaring victory when there is no victory.

Let’s be mature in our decision making.

Here is how:

(1) Support good local and regional banks as well as (or especially) credit unions.
(2) Demand legislation that doesn’t’ focus only on trickle down economics. Look for good bills that support all sectors of society.
(3) Look askance at politicians who see military spending as a sacred cow while failing to provide important support for social and humane infrastructure in America.
(4) Support those who support keeping education and training costs down.
(5) Support those politicians who seek to bring good jobs all over America.
(6) Support aware foreign policy and developmental policy that really improves foreign relations, i.e. not policies that look at the short-term interest of the few.
(7) Build a set of businesses in America that seek for the long-term interests of Americans, not just short term success for CEOs and a few stock holders or speculators.
(8) Support water and energy saving technologies, i.e. Don’t let T-Boon Pickens and his ilk hog the whole new market scene.
(9) Demand a more efficient and fairer tax system.
(10) Support energy policies that promote alternative energies more than nuclear power or imported fuels.
(11) Don’t shy from taxing windfall profits—and that includes CEOs who take huge profits and bonuses while working fro (or leaving) their corporations.
(12) Make sure every damn American is insured properly and has access to good health care and advice.

These are issues that go across the political spectrum. Demand congressmen and governors who work together to get these demands implemented in 2009. Elect only those people who are fully interested in these matters.

We need a lot of new renegades in office this year to shake up Washington, but they need to be the type who support the 12 steps I have outlined above.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008



By Kevin Stoda, Kuwait

I came across a recent article by Tim Johnson on the abusive nature of internet vigilantes in China.

The article, entitled "Web Vigilante Justice in China Draws Cry for Reform", begins by outlining the case of one victim of China's historical lack of support for citizen rights.

The parent's of the (internet victim)man's wife had claimed that this husband had done immoral things, which ultimately led to their daughter's suicide.

The injured parents put their story on the internet.

Within a few days, the modern world of Chinese "human flesh search engines" were "revved up".

These online search practices are "what Chinese Internet users call their Web hunts". Johnson explains, "They appealed to fellow Chinese to ferret out information about the philandering husband and humiliate him. They posted photos of Wang Fei [the husband] and details about his job, his car's license-plate number and his national ID number. Even his parents were drawn into the fray."

They were physically threatened and taunted by phone and graffiti.

The victim of this manhunt, Wang Fei, has since filed lawsuits against three of the "human flesh search engine" sites.

Johnson writes, "Worried by Internet manhunts, some legislators from the National People's Congress, China's largely ceremonial assembly, late last month proposed amendments to the criminal code to imprison for up to three years employees of government offices, and financial or educational institutions, who are found to leak personal information about people who are victims of 'human-flesh search engines.'"

In his short article, Johnson identifies 5 other persons in China found to be victims of web vigilantism. One of those had simply bemoaned the fact that China could not have a calm dialogue about Tibet. She and her family were treated as a national set of heretics and abused by many.


According to Johnson, " Experts [in China] say the phenomenon is far wider than simple vigilante justice. In some cases, Internet users have banded together to expose fraud, knock down charlatanism or in one case, to help the wife of a soldier deployed to an earthquake-devastated area of China. In a nation where information is controlled, a thirst for greater flows of information is growing, and people sometimes band together to gather it."

In a way, this sort of youthfully inspired vigilantism echoes back to the era of the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s when the gang mentality of vigilantism was raised to record-breaking standards as youth turned on by defaming and taking strikes at their elders, their teachers and any fallen-from-grace public official. In those days, the victims of youthful vigilantism were bullied and spat upon—even killed or sent into internal exile or hard labor.

One positive recent trend in China is that current polls find 41% of those surveyed stating that such search engine sites abused peoples privacy and their should be criminal penalties for such activities on the web.


What about other users on the web these days all around the planet? Do we need now need some (international) officials working both nationally and internationally to stop webuser vigilantism and web abuse of private persons?

I am beginning to think that the time is coming.

This was especially true for me after I did a quick search yesterday on Google for the name of a friend, who has worked in labor advocacy and labor unions for the past two decades in California.

We will call this friend Jean Q.

I clicked on the fourth hit under her name, Jean Q, under yesterday's Google search.

To my astonishment and sickening sense of horror, someone had placed a false link there by her name.

What I found in front of me was a porn site and it was not Jean Q or parts that were being displayed.

I pondered immediately who was using the web to attack this labor leader, Jean Q –what she had done to whom to make them abuse her. Had she stood up for worker rights one time too often?

That abusive porn site was so powerful that I was unable to click the browser off immediately. In a way it was acting like a bad virus—but luckily this pseudo virus disappeared once I rebooted my computer—or at least I hope so.

Anyway, to get to the point, I was so angry at the momentary defamation on the web of my friend, Jean Q, that I would have to say I had become fully committed to asking web users worldwide to identify these scoundrels who defame people—for whatever political or personal reason.

Then I'd have also liked to have been able to turn them into either local or international authorities.

If there is no law in your country against such defamation of people on the web, consider talking to your government representatives about doing something to stop abuse—even if it means setting up international agreements and an international agency to monitor such abuse.

I've calmed down a bit today.

I searched for Jean Q today and Google has apparently taken that link off.

Meanwhile, I'm still interested. What do you think about vigilantism on the web and are there any benefits?

If not, what can we do about it?


Friday, September 12, 2008

Book Review: THE SIEGE OF MECCA by Yaroslav Trofimov—Was this Largely Forgotten Uprising in Islam’s Holiest Shrine really the Birth of Al Qaeda?

Book Review: THE SIEGE OF MECCA by Yaroslav Trofimov—Was this Largely Forgotten Uprising in Islam’s Holiest Shrine really the Birth of Al Qaeda?

By Kevin Stoda

I was very anxious to read Yaroslav Trofimov’s THE SIEGE OF MECCA, published by Doubleday, especially in the wake of last year’s release of the film CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR. With the annual commemorations of the horrible events of 9-11 fresh in our memory, I suggest readers to check out Trofimov’s as it shows how both hawks and progressive doves started making mistakes in the Middle East in 1979 in ways that affect the world we live in immensely today.

In contrast to Trofimov’s THE SIEGE OF MECCA, CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR has been an important movie production. Nonetheless, a well made film of the non-fiction work, THE SIEGE OF MECCA, is also warranted.

When the film, CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR, was in the cinema in Kuwait last year it stayed only one or two weeks. I liked the film as a primer to U.S. of the 1980s from a neo-liberal perspective, but I felt that that film had been greatly underdeveloped in terms of making it clear that even prior to the invasion of Afghanistan on Christmas 1979, Saudi Arabia and the USA had been interested in supporting military opponents to the Soviet backed puppet regime in Afghanistan.

Moreover, the CHARLIE WILSON film, didn’t reveal that important Saudi Arabian funding—from both private and government sources—was being sent in great portions to support Afghani opposition to the Soviet Embassy by early 1980. Moreover, revolutionary furvor and trained fighters were being encouraged to go to Pakistan and Afghanistan to support the training of those opposing the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

Finally, the fact is, from the very first weeks after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, Saudi Arabian leadership and non-governmental religious organizations were consciously already trying to redirect anti-Saud family hostilities in the Saudi Kingdom into that particular foreign conflict with the Soviet Union. In Yaroslav Trofimov’s THE SIEGE OF MECCA, the author clears the murky waters of recent history of the mysterious Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In doing sell he is able to dispel some of both neo-con and neo-liberal propaganda (and misinterpretations of 1980 and 1990) which have adversely affected U.S. policy in the region. In short, in this very readable work, the historical narration of Saudi Arabia and its relationship to the West are greatly demystified.

NOVEMBER 20, 1979 to 9-11-01

Five weeks prior to the Soviet takeover of Afghanistan on Christmas Day 1979, the only known siege of Mecca in over 1000 years occurred. According to Trofimov’s fairly important research in THE SIEGE OF MECCA, this singular takeover of Islam’s holiest shrine, the Grand Mosque, had been carried out with relative ease.

Trofimov narrates how an anti-Saud, pro-Islamic revivalism led to a millennialist movement under messianic leadership. This anti-western movement had been allowed to fester in Saudi Arabia for decades while the Saudi secret police and others had focused fully on playing the Cold War game of blaming most of the bad in the Kingdom’s world on either the USA or the Soviet Union. (NOTE: Dear Americans and Russians, do we really want to return to that Cold Warrior nightmare?)

In fact, the main leadership of the millennialist group in Saudi Arabia had been arrested in 1978. However, after a little torture and mistreatment in jail, both the religious establishment of Saudi Arabia (under Wahabi-oriented Ulema leadership) and secret police decided to free the whole lot.

In short, all the main people in power at that time felt that the Cold War and Israel were absolutely the ONLY political games in town that could threaten the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They were greatly mistaken.

Just as in the days before the 9-11 massacres in the USA in 2001, whereby the American intelligence and military establishments failed to rise to the challenge in any timely fashion to facts on the ground, the Saudi Kingdom in 1979 had its head in the sand and was totally unready & unqualified to fight the wrong wars for the next years and decades to come.

Trofimov notes that it wasn’t until 2004 that Saudi Arabian leadership even began publically to admit that its decade’s long support for jihadism to redirect the energies of anti-Saudi regime activities (since 1979) had been a magnificent and dangerous folly. The Kingdom still keeps its own people and neighboring Arab lands in the dark as to what happened in Mecca and the Kingdom in November and December of year 1400 on the Islamic Calendar.

November 20, 1979 on the Islamic Calendar marked the end of the Islamic New Year’s celebration of the faith’s 1400th year.

In the weeks before this date, Juhayman bin Seif al Uteybi, the movement’s chief leader, former national guardsmen, and architect of the uprising at Mecca’s Grand Mosque, led his men into the main plaza and announce that the long awaited Sunni Mahdi or messiah had returned.

In the months and weeks leading to the takeover of Islam’s most holy site, Juhayman had been preaching that the return of the Mahdi was near. In fact, the pilgrims at Mecca that particular Hajj had been buzzing with the possibility that at the turn of the Islamic century they might see the Mahdi.

Juhayman and his compatriots, upon taking over the mosque with thousands of captives on hand, took to the Grand Mosque’s microphone and preached that the arrival of the Mahdi had occurred. A new age had dawned.

The twenty-something year-old Mahdi, Mohammed Abdullah Al-Qahtani, finally stepped to the microphone and forever the modern world (according to Trofimov’s narration) was irreversibly tilted.

I was first reminded of this particular 14-day-long “Takeover in Mecca of 1979” some months ago as I thumbed through a dated copy of Sandra Mackey’s SAUDIS: INSIDE THE DESERT KINGDOM.

Unlike Trofimov, Mackey had been living in Saudi Arabia at the time. In Mackey’s book I had read for the first time that Shias (even Iran’s Khomeini) had had no role at all in the misguided Sunni millenialist takeover of Mecca. Mackey tried to pinpoint the source of discontent leading to calls to overthrow the Saudi Kingdom’s leadership as coming from several sources, including the Ikwahn movement of the 1920s.

In fact, Juhayman was a second or third generation of the groups, known as Ikwahn in Islamic and Saudi history, who were the last Arabians in the desert kingdom to take a stand against the House of Saud in the 1920s. The Ikhwan had claimed even 8 decades ago that the founder of modern Saudi Arabia was no longer loyal to the Wahabi (Safeerist) ideals and beliefs that had enabled him to capture Mecca and Medina a decade earlier.

These Ikhwan had been avid Shia haters and saw them as infidels and soon called the King of Saudi Arabia such an infidel. However, by 1927 the Ikhwan revolt had been put down.

Trofimov, however, has spent many more years than any other writer searching specifically after the events and personages involved in the 1979 siege of Mecca than did Mackey. Trofimov traveled over several years to Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Jordan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, other Muslim lands, Britain, the USA, and France in order to undertake this important work.

As this subject itself remains very sensitive in the Saudi Kingdom, where no books nor textbooks on the subject are permitted, it is quite amazing that this former Wall Street journalist, Trofimov, was able to do so many interviews and gain access to so many documents there.

Trofimov’s cites many important source notes in the back of his book, and his claim that he cannot cite certain sources due to the fears they may have for their lives or careers appears to be valid.

However, occasionally Trofimov does go too far and makes a claim that is too vague, such as at the end of the last chapter when he claims a fairly direct link between writings and activities of later follower of Juhayman and the 1995 bombing in a Riyadhi National Guard building. In that particular case, Trofimov simply fails to cite who the immediate link was. Normally (i.e. in other parts of his writings) Trofimov at least provides a pseudonym of the bomber in Riyadh or the name of the source who claimed the bomber to be of an avid reader of Juhayman’s writings.

Aside from such sophomoric shortfalls, Trofimov’s work is over-all sound,and his conclusions and observations from a historical perspective are outstanding.

For example, unlike many Western scholars and journalists before him, Trofimov not once makes the mistake of equating the takeover of Mecca with the events in the same November 1979 in Iran, where the U.S. Embassy was taken over by students under the spell of radical Shiasm under Ayatollah Khomeini. This distinction makes Trofimov stand out from many neo-liberal and neo-conservative writers who ignored this key point for decades.

As well, Trofimov does a wonderful job of discussing the strong rising anti-Americanism in both the Arab and Islamic worlds in 1979—i.e. in the period leading up to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which-in-turn led to many Arabs and Islamacists turning away temporarily from using America as the whipping boy of radical nationalism in favore of taking on the other Great Satan: Communist Soviet Union. Trofimov reminds us, for example of the forgotten attacks on U.S. embassies in Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and Libya—all in November 1979. The takeover in Pakistan and in Libya are described in great detail.

This sort of writing is much more helpful than many post-Cold War writings which failed to raise the issue of Islamic sensitivies to growing U.S. expansion into the Gulf.


By looking at the takeover or attack of 6 U.S. embassies in South Asia and the Middle East in November 1979, Trofimov’s narration makes a sound basis for the Carter Administration’s horror that the Saudi regime failed to come forward with the truth about Mecca on November 20, 1979. That is, it took nearly a week for the Saudi government and the religious Ulema to let the Islamic world know that neither the USA nor Iran had had anything to do with the Saudi homegrown dissent and millenialist disorder which led to the takeover of the Mecca Kaba, the Hajj pilgrimage destination of all Muslims worldwide.

Moreover, the subsequent Kingdom lies and manipulation of news (after the fact of Mecca’s Siege) through its media, its ministries, and official historians in the 1980s led many in the Islamic world to believe the claim that the rebellion in Mecca under Juhayman had been small and that fears of a misguided Islamic extremist takeover were simply misguided. Furthermore, Saudi regimes continued to blame Shias for many of the land’s regions ill—i.e.without taking the bull by its horns and taking on homegrown extremism in its Sunni heartland which was fostered by Ulema leaders, like Abdeliz Bin Baz.

Meanwhile, Bin Baz and many Saudi ministerial leaders were allowed to stay in office in 1979--right through this very decade & with never suffering any repercussions for failures to stem Wahabi or Juhaymen extremism over recent decades.


In short, most of the Islamic world never really appreciated that Juhayman almost toppled the Saudi Regime in 1979. I have talked with two Egyptian brigadier generals in recent years who have noted how illusive it has been to gather facts about the Meccan takeover since 1979. For example, almost no one was informed at the time that there was any connection between the Ikhwan of the 1920s and the movement that raised its head in the Saudi Kingdom a half century later.

In the case Egypt, there is an outstanding lack of cultural memory related to the take over of the Grand Mosque because many Egyptians were involved alongside Saudis as part of Islam’s first multinational terrorist force spreading a global turn-back-the-clocks message to Middle Eastern Rulers and Westerners. Yemenis, Pakistanis, and even North Americans were also active in Juhayman’s 14 day occupation of the Grand Mosque.

More importantly, according to Trofimov, there was in Egypt a fairly direct link between the man who assassinated Anwar Sadat and the men who participated in or observed the millenialist movement of Mecca in November 1979

Trofimov explains, “One of the pilgrims who watched the takeover in Mecca, and who brought Juhayman’s writings home to Egypt, was a student named Mohammed Shawqi Islambouli. An activist in the burgeoning Islamic revival, Mohammed shared his literature, and exited tales of Meccas events with his brother Khaled.”

On October 6, 1981, Khaled Islambouli shot and killed President Sadat. Trofimov notes, “Juhayman’s writings, meanwhile, have become a success in Egypt. . . . [a 438 page volume] is now in its third edition.”

Moreover, Trofimov observes that many of those Juhayman followers who were not executed by Saudi Arabia were released and later encouraged to go to Afghanistan and fight the great Communist Menace, the Soviet Union during the 1980s.

Finally, Trofimov makes a case for an important interpretation for global historians, “In many ways, Juhayman’s venture, which blended for the first time the Saudi militants [Ikhwan] Wahhabi-inspired zeal and the Egyptian jihadis’ conspiratorial skills, was a precursor of Al-Qaeda itself.”

Trofimov adds that despite being “shocked by the ferocity of the battle in Mecca [in 1979], Al Qaeda’s future founder couldn’t help feeling sympathy for Juhayman and the rebel cause.”

In fact, in a 2004 interview, Osama Bin Laden talked about his reverence for Juhayman and what Juhayman had done and written.


In conclusion, I recommend that all victims and those affected through the blow-back from the wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East in recent years take time to read Trofimov’s fairly factual non-fiction work, THE SIEGE OF MECCA, and then inform others about its contents.

This is not a conspiracy theory book but a fairly well researched and extremely readable work. You won’t be able to put it down and the clarity it provides can be helpful in discussing peacemaking (conflict resolution) efforts in the future.

Through its strong critique of the Saudi Kingdom’s cover-up of the events on the ground in November and December 1979 and subsequent bad interpretations of the events by America’s national security teams and CIA in the 1980s, the novel fully supports progressive calls for change in foreign policy and more truthfulness and accuracy in reporting in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the Gulf region, Pakistan, and elsewhere in a region that is constantly allowing problems to stew and get worse for far too long.

The world does not need nor desire any more 9-11s.

Arm yourself with historical facts and talk to your leaders before the next one occurs.



Mackey, Sandra, SAUDIS: INSIDE THE DESERT KINGDOM, Boston: Houghton Mifflan, 1990.

Trofimov, Yaroslav, THE SIEGE OF MECCA, New York: Doubday, 2007


Tuesday, September 09, 2008



By Kevin Stoda, Kuwait

In a week that included the Republican national convention in the USA and several labor related deaths in locations in the wealthy United Arab Emirates, i.e. where the financial center Dubai is located, one author from the oil rich land of Kuwait, Dr. Hisham Al-Awadi wrote in the FRIDAY TIMES about his vision of a world following in the wake of a successful Barrack Obama presidency.


As the Republican convention came to an end, news cameras in the Middle East turned on themselves. First, rumors abounded—based on recent comments by the President of France, Sarkozy,--that Israel will likely attack Iran if it didn't get in line with the international community's desires for its nuclear technology practices.

Next, last Wednesday (September 3), a Bell 212 helicopter crashed in the Al-Rashid oil fields off the coast of the UAE. The copter killed 7 on board as the chopper struck an oil rig. The oil field was then shut down.

That very same week in Dubai, two Pakistani well diggers suffocated in a landside thirty meters below the earth's surface. The UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states have fairly poor safety and labor rights records

To a fairly significant degree, the GCC states in the Persian Gulf depend on foreign or international labor, so deaths in the workplace tend to affect expatriates from around the globe more directly than Arab nationals, who are often only the absentee employers in the Gulf region.

In this context, Dr. Al-Awadi determined to share his vision of life in Kuwait and the Gulf in 2020.


Al-Awadi described himself as an ostrich in the sand before he found himself listening to Barrack Obama's speech at the Democratic Convention two weeks ago.

That is, Obama's speech had left him and other Kuwaiti's pondering, "How are we going to live without oil?" This question was raised because Obama stated that he planned to make America significantly less dependent on the Middle East for oil by the year 2018.

Al-Awadi stated in his article to the Kuwait Times, entitled "A Life Without Oil and America", that Obama's speech at the Democratic Convention was great and had reminded him of MLK's "I have a Dream" speech.

On the other hand, Al-Awadi noted, "I would say that the some people's dreams are other people's nightmares! And I wondered what type of a nightmare awaits our Middle East, the Gulf and Kuwait. When we wake up one day we will find out that the American cameras have turned focus away from the Middle Eastern scene and oil cities. It hogged the spotlights that were protecting us against the 'bats of darkness'!"

Interestingly, Al-Awadi doesn't criticize the U.S.A. for such a dream or for its desire to bail out of the Middle East—i.e. a culture and region Americans have been having trouble comprehending, especially due to its emphasis on tribalism over building more direct democracy.


Al-Awadi began his dream for 2020 Kuwait by explaining, "In [the] 19th century, the Gulf region fell victim to the power-sharing competition between Britain and France. Kuwait's value increased substantially because of its strategic location as a route for trade and its proximity toward Iraq, Iran, and India. During the last two centuries, however, the Gulf's strategic value diminished, but its oil value soared, making the region a favorite for America. Now, in the face of America's non-dependence on the region's oil, the region will either make a gradual shift to the next superpower (China) or will be forced to stand on its own feet."

Next, Dr. Al-Awadi envisioned the social and health features of Kuwait's near new future in a world without America being so dependent on it for oil and fuels: "The expat labor issue will be solved soon. This is because the factors that tied down these workers into bearing with desert heat and sponsor abuse no longer exists. The people of the region will go through a period of shock which will ultimately force them to rely on themselves if they choose not to become extinct."

The Kuwaiti author continued, "I do not think that they [Kuwaitis] will return to the pre-oil pattern of living by resorting to diving, raising animals and farming. However, it will be different from the present way of life for sure. Due to life style changes, rich man's afflictions like diabetes, hypertension and obesity will be rare (and this may harm the interests of many doctors and pharmaceutical companies. This is because people will be forced to undertake more activities.)"


Dr. Al-Awadi notes that either the Middle East Gulf Arabs could (a) turn to China as the new cultural hegemon and say good-bye to McDonalds, Starbucks, Pepsi cola, and other western born brand names, or (b) Kuwait could turn inwards and look to tradition and tribes for many social, media, and cultural orientations. (However, Dr. Al-Awadi has not yet seen China produce many new cultural exports of its own—not even hip hop music in Kuwait originates much in China or East Asia. It generally comes from America.)

Al-Awadi noted that over the decades many Arabs have been blaming the West, and especially America for all their social and political ills, so there will be disorientation. For examples, Arab governments who have not been able to please their electorates to-date will not be able to blame the old Western foes and Jews once China become the hegemon. This will cause even more political tensions in years to come.

Arab leadership will stand their naked like the emperor with no clothes if they don't reform (and Al-Awadi doesn't hold out much hope that GCC leadership and Kuwaiti leadership will improve significantly by 2020). In the wake of such continuingly dissatisfying governance, Gulf Arabs will return in even greater numbers for support from tribal groupings, e.g. both politically and socially.

In any case, the demand to learn English and bilingual Arab-English educational institutions will fall out of favor and hurt the employment chances of many Americans and westerners now teaching and working in the Gulf region. (On the other hand, it is likely that bilingual, Arab-Chinese, schools could begin to pop up.)

Nonetheless, as the Gulf has already accumulated a disproportionate share of the world's money supply in recent times, perhaps Gulf States, like Kuwait and the UAE can continue to prosper in years ahead.

Dr. Al-Awadi, concludes his dream by stating, "Kuwait wants to become a financial center. Dubai wants to compete with America's sky scrapers, Gaddafi praises capitalism and flirts with Europe. Obama wants to wash his hands of the region. Arabs look like those who went to [a] just-concluded party. While [other] Arabs are desperate to imitate Americans, America wants to put an end to its oil addiction.

Finally, Al-Awadi writes, "Now that we have stopped imagining, you return to your beautiful American dream."


Al-Awadi , Hisham, "A Life Without Oil and America",

Dubai Copter Crash Kills 7, Shuts Oil Field,

Iran Rejects French Warning over possible Israeli Strike,

Two Laborers Killed in Well Collapse,


Friday, September 05, 2008



By Kevin Stoda, American abroad in Kuwait

Dear Christian and Non-Christian Progressives,

As many of you readers know, I am an evangelical Christian and have been ashamed of "good" Christian folk supporting the most lavish spending cynical groups of Republicanism imaginable for the past 30-plus years.

For over three decades, I have witnessed conservative evangelical alliances hoodwink clergy and laity all along the perspective (from misguided Baptists to born-again Catholics) who deny the fact that both Democratic presidents (Carter and Clinton) know more about the Bible than the last 4 Republicans combined.

I have watched while kin of mine, some who have successfully raised many hundreds of children in the foster care programs to become better adults, lie to themselves and their peers & their progeny about how the Republican image makers are more important sources of belief and doctrine than are the Bible and good sound Christian principles about how to treat the other, i.e. as well as you would treat your own loved one.

Instead, so-called evangelical Christian leadership in American has wedded itself in a manner to Republican Voodoo politicians and economists whohave kowtowed to the Gods of Image and Mammon time in again— for their pocket book instead of social and societal justice in America and abroad. Worse still, these "good" Christian brethren of mine have often voted to the Gods-of-unlimited military war budgetary while failing to provide first class health care and education to many aspiring and hardworking citizens.

I think it is high time that not only Progressive Christians take time this September to get out the vote in November 2008, but I ask that non-Christians sit down and meet Progressive Christians with Bible knowledge—and learn to frame their message—so as to aid our American Christian brother to no longer go astray.

Here are a list of some sites I know of, run by good Christians. They know how progressive the Bible was and how humanitarian leaning our Lord is. Learn to talk the talk and walk the walk the walk this election by reading writings of Jim Wallis, Tony Campolo, and Lyndsay Moseley, et. Al.

Take some Christian evangelicals out for a coffee and talk their language!

American Friends Service Committee,

Mennonite Central Committee,

Progressive Christian Witness,


Progressive Christianity,




I'd like to encourage readers to take time and share about their favorite scripture, their favorite talking points, and about their favorite authors, so that non-Christians as well as Christians can help turn America away from misguided demagoguery through the end of this millennium.

Let them know, for example, that some of these Christian sources out scoop secular media. For example, just this week, the Quakers managed to be the first to put online the English translation of the recent military accord with Iraq, i.e. which has been available in Arabic for weeks now. (See "Draft U.S.-Iraq Draft Agreement, English Version", )

So, many comments are welcome below. Thanks.

Kevin A. Stoda



Draft U.S.-Iraq Draft Agreement, English Version,

Faithful Democrats,

"In an Evangelical World, a Liberal View Steps Up!",

God's Mandate: Care for Creation,

McLaren, Brian, "Evanagelicals Beware, Progressive Revival",

Tony Campolo, "Who are the Red Letter Christians?",

Wage Peace Campaign,