Archive for October, 2006


October 31, 2006

weapons reportedly missing in Iraq

POSTED: 1522 GMT (2322 HKT), October 30, 2006


WASHINGTON (AP) — Thousands of weapons the United States has provided Iraqi security forces cannot be accounted for, and spare parts and repair manuals are unavailable for many others, a new report to Congress says.

The report, prepared at the request of the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Virginia Republican Sen. John Warner, also found that major challenges remain that put at risk the Defense Department’s goal of strengthening Iraqi security forces by transferring all logistics operations to the defense ministry by the end of 2007.

A spokesman for Warner said the senator read the report over the weekend in preparation for a meeting Tuesday with Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.

Warner, who requested the report in May, “believes it is essential that Congress and the American people continue to be kept informed by the inspector general on the equipping and logistical capabilities of the Iraqi army and security forces, since these represent an important component of overall readiness,” said Warner spokesman John Ullyot.

The inspector general’s office released its report Sunday in a series of three audits finding that:

  • Nearly one of every 25 weapons the military bought for Iraqi security forces is missing. Many others cannot be repaired because parts or technical manuals are lacking.
  • “Significant challenges remain that put at risk” the U.S. military’s goal of strengthening Iraqi security forces by transferring all logistics operations to the defense ministry by the end of 2007.
  • “The unstable security environment in Iraq touches every aspect” of the Provincial Reconstruction Team program, in which U.S. government experts help Iraqis develop regional governmental institutions.
  • The Pentagon cannot account for 14,030 weapons — almost 4 percent of the semiautomatic pistols, assault rifles, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and other weapons it has been supplying to Iraq since the end of 2003.

    The missing weapons will not be tracked easily: The Defense Department registered the serial numbers of only about 10,000 of the 370,251 weapons it provided — less than 3 percent.

    Missing from the Defense Department’s inventory books were 13,180 semiautomatic pistols, 751 assault rifles and 99 machine guns.

    The audit on logistics capabilities said there is a “significant risk” that the Iraqi interior ministry “will not be capable of assuming and sustaining logistics support for the Iraqi local and national police forces in the near term.” That support includes equipment maintenance, transportation of people and gear and health resources for soldiers and police.

    The audit on Provincial Reconstruction Teams said that, because of security issues, they “have varying degrees of ability to carry out their missions.” Auditors reviewed nine teams and four satellite offices and found “4 were generally able, 4 were somewhat able, 3 were less able and 2 were generally unable” to accomplish their goals.

    Civil War in France

    October 28, 2006



    Ongoing ‘intifada’ in

    France has injured


    police in 2006

    Special to World

    GEOSTRATEGY-DIRECT.COM Friday, October 27, 2006


    This might have dropped below the radar, but Al Qaida and its allies are literally battling the Crusaders every day in Europe. And so far, Europe isn’t doing so well. “We are in a state of civil war, orchestrated by radical Islamists,” said Michel Thoomis, secretary general of the Action Police trade union. “This is not a question of urban violence any more. It is an intifada, with stones and firebombs.”

    The French Interior Ministry has acknowledged the Muslim uprising. The ministry said more than 2,500 police officers have been injured in 2006. This amounts to at least 14 officers each day.


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    The battles have been under-reported but alarming to French authorities. Muslim street commanders, who run lucrative drug networks, have organized youngsters in housing projects to ambush police and confront security forces. The response time allows hundreds of Muslims to storm police cars and patrols within minutes. “You no longer see two or three youths confronting police,” Thoomis said. “You see whole tower blocks emptying into the streets to set their comrades free when they are arrested.”

    France’s huge Muslim minority community has come under the influence of agents often influenced and financed by Al Qaida. These agents have recruited Muslim youngsters for urban warfare in which police and government representatives are injured daily.

    Not surprisingly, Muslim neighborhoods are becoming autonomous zones, with police and government workers too scared to enter. The police union is demanding the Interior Ministry supply officers with armored cars.

    European law enforcement sources say France could be a model for other countries. The most worried are Britain and the Netherlands.


    October 27, 2006
    Times Online October 26, 2006

    A French police investigator inspects the charred remains of a city bus (Jacques Brinon/AP)

    Fears of repeat Paris riots as buses burn

    Armed youths today hijacked and burned a bus in Paris on the eve of the anniversary of the riots which tore through France last year.


    Around ten hooded men, five of them carrying handguns, put a weapon to the head of the driver and forced him and his passengers off a bus heading to the eastern suburb of Montreuil in the early hours of the morning.

    The gang then drove off in the vehicle before setting it alight in the second incident of its kind in Paris within a few hours.

    In the other attack in the suburb of Nanterre around ten passengers scrambled to safety after a bus was boarded by a group of six youths who sprayed it with flammable liquid before starting a fire.

    French Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said the vandals were guilty of “attempted murder”.

    Drivers on the Montreuil line went on strike to protest against the attack while the Essonne local public transport network, TICE, said it was suspending all night time bus services on 17 routes because of “a series of “minor incidents”.

    As the first bus was being attacked youths threw stones at passing vehicles at Grigny, in the south of the capital, as well as police cars that came to the scene while another group stoned police and firefighters who came to put out a burning car in the nearby town of Corbeil-Essonnes.

    The flare-ups are raising fears of renewed violence on the same scale as last year’s protests when youths burned more than 10,000 cars and damaged 300 buildings with Molotov cocktails in three weeks of rioting.

    A security services report leaked to a French newspaper earlier this week warned that the conditions that sparked last year’s riots were still in place.

    Tensions rose last year after Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy was pelted with stones and bottles as he visited the rundown Paris suburb of Argenteuil. He later stated it and other poverty stricken areas should be “cleaned with a power hose” describing violent youths as “gangrene” and “rabble”.

    Two days later, on October 27, teenagers Zyed Benna and Bouna Traore were fatally electrocuted after climbing into an electrical sub-station in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois as they apparently tried to hide from police sparing riots in the areas African and Arab communities which saw 15 vehicles destroyed.

    Four days later the rioting spilled out into other areas of Paris after a tear gas grenade went off at a mosque in Clichy-sous-Bois and the following night the police station in Aulnay-sous-Bois was ransacked with 177 vehicles burned.

    Rioting then spread to Dijon, Grigny, Stains, Seine-Saint-Denis, Amiens, Lyon, Toulouse and St Etienne.

    In an attempt to defuse the growing concerns of a repeat, Dominique de Villepin, the French Prime Minister was today due to speak on the problems of discrimination and joblessness in deprived neighbourhoods in the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise during his monthly press conference.


    October 27, 2006

    Russia Strengthens Ties With South Africa

    Vladimir Putin is resurrecting Russia’s special relationship with the ANC that has lain dormant for several years. Why?

    With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia withdrew somewhat from the world stage. The newly “democratic” and redefined nation struggled to find its place in the world. President Vladimir Putin, however, has changed all that.

    After consolidating his own power at home via a shift toward authoritarianism, Putin has been making Russia’s power felt around the world as he seeks to reassert his nation as a global power. In relations with former Soviet states, with Europe and even the United States, Putin has taken on a more confrontational stance than the world has seen from Russia in more than a decade. Armed not only with a nuclear arsenal and massive oil reserves but also an assertive, some would say even “czarist” leader, Russia once again has the confidence to stand up to the West and make its present felt in the world.

    It is within this context that we must view Putin’s two-day visit to South Africa this September—the first ever visit to that nation by a Russian president.

    After providing strong support to the African National Congress (anc) for decades and playing a decisive role in bringing it to power in 1994, Russia’s relations with South Africa have been low key over the past decade. Now, however, as Putin propels Russia forward and as the contest for natural resources, particularly in Africa, heats up, Russia is turning its attention to resource-rich South Africa and its old Communist friends, the anc. It appears that President Putin has decided it is time to rekindle those relations and call in Russia’s favors.

    During Putin’s September 5-6 visit, widely recognized as a move to secure resource deals with South Africa in the mining and metals sectors and make inroads into the rest of Africa, the two countries signed a Treaty of Friendship. However symbolic that treaty might be, it was given substance by a multitude of additional treaties and agreements that were concluded in areas ranging from nuclear power to education. Putin was accompanied on the trip by a delegation of over 100 top-level officials and businessmen, including the heads of several major Russian resource companies. Among them was one of Russia’s wealthiest men, the president of diamond giant Alrosa, and the head of Russia’s largest independent natural gas producer, Novatek.

    Though private Russian companies are already involved in South Africa in industries such as diamond, nickel, aluminum and gold production, Putin seeks to take Russia’s investment to a new level. Putin held talks with South African President Thabo Mbeki on expanding economic and political cooperation between their countries, “exploring possibilities of using their enormous mineral wealth to tap into one another’s potential” (Inter Press Service News Agency, September 9). Russia and South Africa agreed to expand cooperation in the energy and transportation sectors, the defense and aerospace industry, fishing, healthcare, culture, sports and tourism. ria Novosti reported September 6:

    The Russian president highlighted prospects for bilateral mining cooperation and the development of South African natural resources.

    He said Russian companies could invest and participate in exploration and prospecting work in the African country. … Putin also called for cooperation in the oil and gas sector. …

    South Africa has … proposed programs for the construction of ferroalloy smelting plants, assistance of Russian diamond producer Alrosa and the construction of an aluminum plant.

    “I think the issue is about investment worth hundreds of millions of dollars in several years, which can hit billions if we continue moving on this,” Putin said.
    During the visit, officials concluded a $1 billion agreement for Russian investment in a manganese production plant. Another key deal was the joint cooperation agreement made between Russia’s state-owned Alrosa and South African De Beers—two diamond producers that between them account for three quarters of the world’s diamonds. De Beers alone was responsible for 40 percent of diamond production in 2005. Agreements were also reached in the energy, automotive, banking and media fields.

    “Relations between Russia and the Republic of South Africa have lately reached a qualitatively new level,” State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov stated October 23, in reference to the historic visit (tass, October 23).

    Russia, of course, is keenly aware of South Africa’s vast mineral wealth that includes gold, diamonds and heavy metals. South Africa is the largest producer of gold, platinum and chromium in the world. The nation possesses 94 percent of the world’s platinum reserves, 92 percent of its manganese, 77 percent of its chrome, 72 percent of its vanadium, 62 percent of its gold.

    As such, the revived relationship between Russia and South Africa’s anc government, and the ensuing rush of treaties and agreements, may be a precursor to something the Trumpet wrote about in 1997: “a future mineral and metals blackmail against the combined Western economies.”

    At that time, we quoted Joseph de Courcy, editor of Intelligence Digest, from Dec. 3, 1993 (emphasis ours throughout):

    A recurring nightmare of the Cold War for Western military strategists was the possibility that a revolutionary government in South Africa could combine with the Soviet Union to deprive the West of vital raw materials. …

    Russia and South Africa together possess over 90 percent of the world’s strategic minerals. The Russian security services believe that a Russian-South African metals and minerals cartel could wield enormous influence over the industrialized world and that this could be used to enable Russia to catch up with the West economically.

    Should such a cartel ever be established, the potential effect on the industrialized world cannot be exaggerated. South Africa is a geological freak of nature. It is the largest gold producer in the world; it also has the world’s largest known deposits of chrome, manganese, vanadium, fluorspar, andalusite and platinum.

    Talks with the anc about future co-operation over the supply of strategic minerals and metals is very much a part of Kremlin understanding of where Russia’s future as a world power lies.
    Is what we currently see developing the beginnings of such a metals and minerals cartel? Russia certainly is seeking to catch up with the West. Why would it not then take advantage of its historically extremely close ties with the party that presently rules South Africa? President Mbeki himself at one time underwent military training in the Soviet Union.

    Which nation, then, would be most direly affected by such an embargo?

    The United States is heavily dependent upon South Africa for key minerals including chrome, manganese, vanadium and platinum. Though two decades old, the following New York Times report highlights not only U.S. dependence on South African strategic minerals, but its vulnerability to any future Russian-South African blockade. Written at the time of sanctions against South Africa in the apartheid era, the Feb. 8, 1987, article read:

    The State Department has told Congress that the United States economy and the military remain dependent on South Africa for 10 minerals and other raw materials that were not included in an import ban enacted last October.

    In a report sent to Capitol Hill this week, the Administration asserted that without South Africa, the Soviet Union would be the only source for sufficient amounts of many of the items needed to build jet engines, process steel, refine petroleum and perform other industrial functions. Even some officials who favor tougher measures against South Africa acknowledge that the United States faces a difficult problem in finding other sources of key items, especially chromium, cobalt, manganese and platinum group metals.

    Other crucial items are andalusite, antimony, chrysotile asbestos, industrial diamonds, rutile- and titanium-bearing slag and vanadium.

    American vulnerability to disruptions of such supplies is an old concern of officials and private experts. …

    Chromium is essential in producing superalloys with such corrosion-resistant metals as nickel, cobalt, aluminum and titanium. These are used as components of aircraft engines, such as turbine blades, that are exposed to high temperatures. Chromium is also used in insulating liners in boiler fireboxes. …
    The United States will only become more vulnerable the more global competition over strategic resources heats up (and anti-Americanism across the globe increases). Nations have already begun scrambling not only for energy resources, but strategic minerals, which are vital for defense industries in particular.

    If South Africa locked into a pact with anti-American nations competing for global influence, the U.S. could be isolated from vital resources. If Russia were to gain controlling influence over South Africa’s resources, it, in cooperation with China and the European Union, would be in a position to enforce a blockade on the Anglo-American nations.

    This is the precise scenario prophesied in the Bible to come upon the nations of Britain and America (the modern-day descendants of ancient Israel) in Deuteronomy 28:52. Read “The Battleground” to learn how the competition over resources will play out among the world’s great powers. 

    Foreign Ownership

    October 26, 2006

    Airbus and the Perils of Foreign Ownership

    Crafty kids don’t just share their dessert—they use it to make friends, build relationships and influence others. Similarly, politicians use international corporations to further national aspirations and get what they want.

    Events surrounding the recent Airbus scandal highlight the dangers the English-speaking economies of the world face by allowing their strategic corporations to be purchased and controlled by foreign nations.

    Over the past several months, Airbus, the domestic aircraft manufacturing subsidiary of European-owned eads aerospace technology group, has been plagued with financial problems—problems so severe, the company recently announced the possibility of closing up to five airplane manufacturing complexes and laying off up to 10,000 employees.

    As can be imagined, the negative news has caused eads shares to cascade. Adding even more intense downward pressure on eads’ share price was the fact that Germany’s Daimler-Chrysler, one of eads’ largest shareholders, announced plans to sell off a chunk of the company.

    According to the Times Online, Daimler-Chrysler, “which often acts in the German interest” owns approximately 22.5 percent of eads (October 5). The French government also owns 22.5 percent. Russia and Spain, which hold smaller amounts, have both announced their interest in buying up any shares Daimler-Chrysler will sell. To prevent the resulting erosion of German influence over eads, however, German Chancellor Angela Merkel acted quickly to ensure that the German state-owned bank KfW would buy Daimler-Chrysler’s eads shares. “We want France and Germany to have an equal say in the eads project,” Merkel explained.

    The potential corporate restructuring of eads has created a political firestorm between France and Germany, both of which are struggling to influence where the layoffs and plant closures will occur.

    As Airbus’s ceo has quickly learned, this political maneuvering makes it extraordinarily difficult to accomplish meaningful corporate changes. “[It’s] a fact of life” that “economic logic often contradicts the political logic that is so important in shaping behavior within the company and its executives,” says German newspaper Spiegel (October 16). In other words, with Airbus at least, the company is more than just a business—it is a political tool. Decisions are heavily influenced not only by business fundamentals, but also by political motivations.

    The idea of corporations acting as extensions of national governments brings up an important question—one that any nation promoting foreign ownership of domestic industries should consider. Is it in the best interest of a country to allow widespread foreign ownership of domestic industry? And what about in the case of strategic industries?

    In general, American, British, Canadian and Australian economists don’t seem to think it matters whether or not a company is domestically owned. In fact, free trade and the unrestricted movement of goods, services and finances are hailed as representing market efficiency. For everybody to be best off, borders must be completely open, they say. Consequently, foreign acquisitions of domestic companies are just seen as the economic marketplace at work—nothing of concern.

    Britain sports an especially casual attitude over the sale of strategic corporations. The UK is the world’s leading takeover target. “[M]any of the world’s largest cross-border takeovers in 2005 targeted UK-based companies,” the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reported.

    According to the Guardian,

    Britain is being sold off at a rate unprecedented in modern times. If the foreign takeover bids announced or hinted at over the past few months all go through, airports, ships, banks, gas pipelines, stock exchanges, chemical plants and glass factories will fall into foreign ownership. Yet there is no debate; scarcely an eyebrow is raised. In any other country, there would be uproar.

    In Canada and Australia, a similar situation is occurring—except that in these countries it is the natural resource sector that seems to be experiencing the brunt of foreign takeovers.

    Of the major English-speaking nations, only America has seen any real resistance to unrestricted foreign takeovers—albeit a limited one. Recall the outcry in February this year that resulted in blocking the United Arab Emirates state-owned company Dubai Ports World from purchasing the company that operates some of America’s largest port complexes. Yet what many people don’t realize is, operations at most of America’s major port complexes were already foreign owned, including the ones Dubai Ports was attempting to gain control of.

    Later in 2006, when Japan’s Toshiba Corporation bought Westinghouse—a nuclear technology company with operations based primarily in the U.S.—hardly an eyebrow was raised. When Engelhard, the strategic catalyst manufacturer, was targeted for hostile takeover by German-owned basf, this too provoked little concern. Although foreign ownership may not be as widespread as it is in Britain and Canada, much more of America is foreign owned than many realize.

    The open-market and largely unrestricted-ownership economic philosophies that the U.S. and other English-speaking nations live by may be efficient in an idealized, peaceful world—but sadly, this is not the world today.

    America, Britain and the English-speaking world must wake up. The world’s nations are not playing on a level field. Many Asian and European countries, for example, limit foreign ownership of domestic industry. They see the danger in allowing foreign entities to control industries essential to the functioning of the state.

    Remember the lesson that Gazprom, the Russian energy company, taught Europe at the beginning of the year when it shut off the gas to the Ukraine in what was seen as a political dispute. When the natural gas stopped flowing to the Ukraine, the pressure dropped all the way down the pipeline into Germany and other parts of Europe.

    As the eads situation shows, Germany’s Angela Merkel hasn’t forgotten the Gazprom lesson. She isn’t about to relinquish German influence over one of the world’s most strategic aerospace manufacturing, military and technology companies.

    Contrary to what many economists and open-market enthusiasts believe, corporations are more than just economic statistics, profit streams, share prices and employment numbers. Increasingly, corporations are political tools used by nations to exert influence over other nations.

    In times of peace and economic prosperity, foreign control of strategic industries and infrastructure may not be an immediate threat. But during major economic recessions—or, worse, times of geopolitical upheaval and war—the loss of ownership and full control of national industries can be catastrophic. 


    October 23, 2006

    Why 112 cars are burning every day

    A year after the Paris riots violence and despair continue to grip the immigrant suburbs

    FLAMES lick around a burning car on a tiny telephone screen. Omar, 17, a veteran of France’s suburban riots, replayed the sequence with pride. “It was great. We did lots of them and then we went out and torched more the next day.”Omar, whose parents immigrated from Mali, was savouring memories of the revolt that erupted 12 months ago from his home, the Chêne Pointu estate in Clichy-sous-Bois, in the eastern outskirts of Paris. “We’re ready for it again. In fact it hasn’t stopped,” he added.


    Before next week’s anniversary of the Clichy riots, the violence and despair on the estates are again to the fore. Despite a promised renaissance, little has changed, and the lid could blow at any moment.

    The figures are stark. An average of 112 cars a day have been torched across France so far this year and there have been 15 attacks a day on police and emergency services. Nearly 3,000 police officers have been injured in clashes this year. Officers have been badly injured in four ambushes in the Paris outskirts since September. Some police talk of open war with youths who are bent on more than vandalism.

    “The thing that has changed over the past month is that they now want to kill us,” said Bruno Beschizza, the leader of Synergie, a union to which 40 per cent of officers belong. Action Police, a hardline union, said: “We are in a civil war, orchestrated by radical Islamists.”

    Car-burning has become so routine on the estates that it has been eclipsed in news coverage by the violence against police. Sebastian Roche, a sociologist who has published a book on the riots, said that torching a vehicle had become a standard amusement. “There is an apprenticeship of destruction. Kids learn where the petrol tank is, how to make a petrol bomb,” he told The Times.

    Nicolas Sarkozy, the Interior Minister who hopes to win the presidency next May, has once again taken the offensive, staging raids on the no-go areas and promising no mercy for the thugs who reign there.

    With polls showing law and order as the top public concern, his presidential chances hang on his image as a tough cop.

    M Sarkozy’s muscular approach is being challenged not just by Socialist opponents. President Chirac and Dominique de Villepin, his Prime Minister, are waging their own, softer, campaign to undermine the colleague whom they do not want to be president. M de Villepin called in community leaders this week and promised to accelerate hundreds of millions of pounds of measures that were promised last autumn to relieve the plight of the immigrant-dominated suburbs.

    National politics seem far from Clichy, a leafy town of hulking apartment buildings only ten miles but a universe away from the Elysée Palace. However, the Interior Minister is cited by the estate youths as the symbol of their anger. “Sarko wants to wipe us out, clear us off the map,” said Rachid, 19. “They said they would help us after last year, but we’ve got nothing.”

    Rachid is to attend a march next Friday for Zyed and Bouna, the teenagers whose deaths in an electrical station sparked the rioting that engulfed the Seine-Saint-Denis département, known from its registration number, 93, as le Neuf-Trois. The boys, aged 17 and 15, who were hiding from police when they were electrocuted, are seen in Clichy as martyrs. Amor Benna, 61, the Tunisian father of Zyed, appealed this week to the young to refrain from violence and use their votes for change. “I don’t want to see cars burning again,” he said from his home on the Chêne Pointu estate. But the unhappiness was understandable, said M Benna, a street cleaner. “The young were born here and they are French. But they have nothing. The real problem is work. If they had any these riots would not have happened.”


    October 22, 2006

    Lighting Iran’s Fuse

    By Ron Fraser
    Pope Benedict XVI lit a fuse in Bavaria, a fuse destined to fire the flames of ancient hatred between two great religions, each striving against the other for the same universal goal!

    Religion is back on the agenda of international relations. The latest example of this reality occurred in Bavaria in September, with the visit of the pope to his home state—a visit that ignited a fire sure to burn for a long time to come.

    For three centuries, religion was shoved to the background as children of the Age of Enlightenment strove to develop a scientific approach to creating peace between nations. But their best efforts climaxed in the 20th century with the most devastating wars in mankind’s history.

    Political scientists still largely regard religion as passe. But it is now clear that, while they were looking for the formula for world peace, religion was working behind the scenes for a mighty comeback! That comeback was to be sourced within, and stimulated by, two great religions: Roman Catholicism and pan-Islamism.

    The great revivals of these two historically clashing religions began for the religion of Rome with the convening of its Second Ecumenical Council, Vatican ii, from 1962 to 1965, and for the Islamists with their June 1967 war against Israel.

    While Rome chose the way of dialogue and diplomacy to revive its universalist goals, Islam chose the way of war and terrorism. Since 1962, the Vatican has worked through diplomacy, by employing its excellent international intelligence network, and by exercising more open dialog with its wayward Protestant and Orthodox daughters to achieve its goal of the universal conversion of mankind. At the same time, since the Israelis withdrew from the territories they occupied in 1967, Islamists have been blowing up airplanes, blowing up embassies, blowing up their enemies by blowing up themselves, in their efforts to achieve the universal salvation of mankind in the name of Allah and their prophet Mohammad.

    Four decades on from those events of the mid-1960s, we see religion back with a vengeance as a real power in international relations.

    “A Deep Spiritual Experience”

    To the casual observer, the pope’s numerous speeches during his six-day visit to Bavaria, September 10 to 15, were a litany of homilies from a well-intentioned, if aging, religious leader. To the careful observer of history and to any student of the lifetime machinations of Joseph Ratzinger’s clerical career, they spell out an agenda. The ongoing effects of the pope’s visit have shown how powerfully he used that occasion to clarify his papacy’s future direction on matters destined to have a most significant global effect on religion and the international political order.

    As one long-time Ratzinger watcher observed, “Pope Benedict has an extraordinary gift for expressing complex ideas in simple ways, and although I’ve been reading and enjoying his work for years, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like the series of homilies and speeches he has given this week” (Phil Lawler, editor, Catholic World News, September 12).

    Upon perusing the media reports, one has to agree with Mr. Lawler. In Bavaria, the pope strove to establish a middle ground from which to speed the opening up of the ecumenical dialog with Protestant and Orthodox Christians that was initiated at Vatican ii. After having a private audience with Edmund Stoiber, the devout Catholic prime minister of Bavaria who has lobbied for the Sudetenland to return to German control, Benedict promised to visit the Czech Republic in the near future. His audience with Chancellor Angela Merkel gave Germany’s present government head the opportunity to assure the Roman pontiff that injecting “Christianity” into the European Constitution would be a top priority on Germany’s agenda during its six-month presidency of the European Union commencing in January. The papal audience with Germany’s President Horst Kohler extracted support from the pope regarding presidential concerns about the impact of Islamic penetration into German society.

    Whether it be ecumenism, pan-Islamism, the traditional connection between Germany and Rome, religion versus secularism, the need for Europe to return to its Roman Catholic roots, the juxtaposition between the Vatican’s view of Christ and of the virgin Mary, or be it politics in general, the pope covered it all in just six days. It was his most concentrated series of public addresses of real consequence in the whole of his reign thus far. As Benedict himself proclaimed September 17, his visit to Bavaria was a “deep spiritual experience.” Deep indeed! The results are still reverberating around the globe months later!

    Yet one has to look for the spice peppered throughout Benedict’s public dissertations in Bavaria to detect much of the reason for the profound effect this visit has had on both the pope and the public. As Joerg Beyer of the Ecumenical Network group observed, the pope isn’t as overtly confrontational as he was in his prior position: “Contrary to his style at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith … he now phrases things in a very clever way to avoid unnecessary friction” (Reuters, September 14).

    Experiences such as the Bavarian visit are progressively revealing this pope as a man for all seasons. Though he did indeed address some issues purely by allusion, others he addressed quite confrontationally, principally his pet theme of adjuring Europe to return to its religious roots and, most particularly, the burning issue of Islamic extremism!

    A Challenge to Islam

    Intriguingly, Benedict chose to address the quite separate and distinct challenges that secular rationalism and Islamism pose to the church in one powerful speech he delivered at the University of Regensburg. That speech has been the source of many a commentary since.

    With few exceptions, opinions in the world media and press have ranged from the proposition that the pope was ill-advised to use such inflammatory words, to the prospect that he did not really mean what he actually said. Few analysts have really come to grips with the pope’s true intent in his deliberate choice of the quotation he used that upset Islamists worldwide, neither why he chose that particular quotation, nor why he chose that particular time to use it in the manner he did.

    At the university where he once taught theology, before a group of scientists and scholars, Benedict spoke on a theme consistent in his writings: that Christianity welcomes intellectual inquiry and deeply values truth.

    What is fascinating is how the pope introduced this subject of the dichotomy between reason and faith. He opened his lecture by really going for the Islamic jugular! In his opening remarks, he clearly identified the divide that to his mind separates Islam from Christianity by quoting two documents: first the Koran; then a scholarly argument of the 14th-century Catholic emperor of Byzantium, Manuel ii Paleologus, which attacked the “holy war” concept of Mohammad.

    Thus, rather than come out publicly with a direct papal condemnation of pan-Islamism (the greatest present threat to Roman Catholicism), this calculating pope chose a quote from a well-documented historical occasion, one that came out of the Eastern (Byzantine) Roman Empire—one that was bound to stir Islamic ire.

    Speaking on the question of faith versus reason, Benedict referred to “part of the dialogue carried on—perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara [Turkey]—by the erudite Byzantine Emperor Manuel ii Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both” (Catholic World News, September 12; emphasis mine throughout).

    It is important to note here that in the course of his speech the pope indicated that Christianity—to his mind, Roman Catholicism—“always reveres the truth” (ibid.). So what was he really saying about Islam’s approach to truth?

    Continuing his speech, Benedict reasoned: “In the seventh conversation edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: ‘There is no compulsion in religion.’ … [H]e addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness, a brusqueness which leaves us astounded, on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: ‘Show me just what Mohammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.’ The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. ‘God,’ he says, ‘is not pleased by blood—and not acting reasonably is contrary to God’s nature. … Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats …. To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death.’

    “The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God’s nature” (ibid.).

    Throwing Down the Gauntlet

    Benedict concluded his nearly-4,000-word speech with a reinforcing, for effect, of that latter statement: “‘Not to act reasonably … is contrary to the nature of God,’ said Manuel ii, according to his Christian understanding of God, in response to his Persian interlocutor. It is … to this breadth of reason, that we invite our partners in the dialogue of cultures.”

    That is really throwing down the gauntlet to the Islamists! Reading between the lines, the pope is endorsing the notion that Islam is an irrational faith. He would not view Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a rational being! He is clearly inferring that his own god is the only rational one, and that dialogue between Islam and Christianity can only be within the framework of the reasoning and reasonableness of this god of the world’s Christian [Catholic] religionists alone.

    Surely the pope knew such comments were bound to light the fires of protest in every Islamic country throughout the world!

    Think on this. This pope is known for his brilliant intellect. This was a well-thought-out speech, prepared in advance of the event. These remarks about the Islamic faith were not off the cuff. The choice of Manual ii’s statement was both deliberate and calculated—calculated to get a reaction!

    And what a reaction it received! Public demonstrations broke out in Turkey, in Iran, in the Islamic communities in Britain and on the continent of Europe. Effigies of the pope were burned in the streets and al Qaeda was reported as calling for the pope’s death. Vatican City stepped up security within and around the papal state.

    Demands that the pope retract his remarks and make a public apology to Islamists were many. The Vatican released a prepared statement by the pope in which he carefully claimed he regretted the reaction his speech caused, but avoided apologizing for the remarks themselves.

    Why would this pope, this German pope, choose this moment—in this, his own home state of Bavaria, the very heartland of Catholicism in Middle Europe—to draw his verbal sword against Islam?

    Chosen Moment

    Think. Consider. Reflect.

    Reflect on history.

    Reflect on the nature of the Germanic peoples. They hate disorder. They are expert at creating a crisis then initiating a solution, as that inveterate watcher of Germany Rodney Atkinson has often observed.

    The pope knows that if Rome is to return to its former glory (a vision he shared with his predecessor Pope John Paul ii), given the present disordered state of the world, he needs urgently to unite his over 1 billion faithful who have suffered for decades from the impact of divisive secular thinking on their religion. He knows the best way to do this is to unite Catholics at their historic cultural base, the European continent! He knows that Islam poses the greatest threat to Catholicism in Europe. He sees this as his greatest cause—that he has been chosen for this moment!

    What better way to unite Europe and return it to its former imperial days of glory than to provide people with a single common cause that overrides all else and counteracts all tendencies for division?

    So, in his own very Germanic way, Benedict, this Bavarian pope, has simply lit the touch tape to an already smoldering issue of concern to all Europeans, the threat of Islamic jihad.

    Our news bureau sifted through all available commentary from the best of sources following the pope’s speech at Regensburg. Few were those who really saw what Benedict was up to. One astute observer, a student of history and international politics, did. The following analysis, from Dr. George Friedman, gets to the very essence of Benedict’s speech. It is worthy of the space we give it here, for it endorses much of what the Trumpet has indicated about Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict xvi, that we have observed and published since we began watching him from clear back in 1992!

    Speaking on the pope’s choice of the quotation from his 14th-century source, Friedman observed: “The essence of this passage is about forced conversion. … Clearly, Benedict knows that Christians also practiced forced conversion in their history.

    “… Benedict’s words were purposely chosen. The quotation of Manuel ii was not a one-liner, accidentally blurted out. … [T]here is no question that anyone who read this speech before it was delivered would recognize the explosive nature of discussing anything about Islam in the current climate. …

    “[E]ven the pope had to work hard to come up with this dialogue. There are many other fine examples of the problem of reason and faith that he could have drawn from that did not involve Muslims, let alone one involving such an incendiary quote. …

    “As a deliberate choice, the effect of these remarks could be anticipated. Even apart from the particular phrase, the text of the speech is a criticism of the practice of conversion by violence, with a particular emphasis on Islam. Clearly, the pope intended to make the point that Islam is currently engaged in violence on behalf of religion ….

    “Consider the fact that the pope is not only a scholar but a politician—and a good one, or he wouldn’t have become the pope. He is not only a head of state, but the head of a global church with a billion members. The church is no stranger to geopolitics. Muslims claim that they brought down communism in Afghanistan. That may be true, but there certainly is something to be said also for the efforts of the Catholic Church, which helped to undermine the communism in Poland and to break the Soviet grip on Eastern Europe. Popes know how to play power politics” (Stratfor, September 19).

    So, what are this pope’s true intentions?

    The Last Crusade

    In his unmatched analysis of Pope Benedict’s Regensburg speech, Dr. Friedman hints at a prospect that the Trumpet, in particular our editor in chief, has maintained as a theme throughout this magazine’s existence. Gerald Flurry wrote in August 1998, “Most people think the crusades are a thing of the past—over forever. But they are wrong. There is going to be a final crusade, and it is going to be the bloodiest one of all! … Any child should understand that the fruits of the ‘holy wars’ have been diabolical! There is no excuse for America and Britain not knowing the truth.” We believe the evidence proves this pope has sparked the crisis that will, inevitably, lead to Rome’s final, great crusade against its old Islamic foe.

    Dr. Friedman expressed it this way: “From an intellectual and political standpoint, therefore, Benedict’s statement was an elegant move. He has strengthened his political base and perhaps legitimized a stronger response to anti-Catholic rhetoric in the Muslim world. And he has done it with superb misdirection. …

    “The pope has thrown a hand grenade and is now observing the response.”

    Students of history will recall that Benedict has simply taken a leaf out of Pope Urban ii’s book. In 1095, Urban called for the knights of Europe to stop fighting each other and to join a holy war against Islam. Referring to the Ottoman Islamists as “a race … which has neither directed its heart nor entrusted its spirit to God,” he declared it was a Christian duty to “exterminate this vile race from our lands” (Robert the Monk, Historia Iherosolimitana). Upon purging the eastern empire of the followers of Mohammad, the knights were to liberate Jerusalem from Islam.

    Similarly, Pope Benedict has set himself the task to unite the fractious nations of the European Union, and he proposes to rally the leaders of these disparate nations to stop squabbling with each other and direct them to make common cause against the spreading tide of Islam that threatens the very continuity of the EU.

    It was thus most significant that, when the United Nations called for the EU to provide troops for an international peacekeeping force in Lebanon, following the Hezbollah/Israeli imbroglio earlier this year, that the papal newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, publicly aired concern at the slowness with which nations responded. The papal organ called for nations to rally with a heightened sense of the urgency of the moment to the UN call. Shortly after, they did. EU nations soon promised more troops and military hardware. Most significant was the German contribution—naval and air force—notwithstanding Germany’s publicly declared reluctance to enter the fray when first asked to do so. What started off with the offer of a few hundred military personnel by Germany soon escalated to the thousands!

    The Lighted Fuse

    Most do not even begin to comprehend that which is now building in the Middle East, the tensions greatly exacerbated by Pope Benedict’s Regensburg speech. One who does, an ex-Catholic nun, well versed in the history of the Crusades and their significance to the present-day situation, claims that abundant evidence exists to prove that “the irrationality and hatreds of crusading are far from dead.” Her views are remarkably similar to the point Benedict made in his Regensburg speech: “[W]e must not take these religious passions lightly or dismiss them as the crazed fantasies of an eccentric minority that cannot long survive in our enlightened world,” she says. “There is no purely rational explanation or solution to this problem” (Karen Armstrong, Holy War).

    But it is Armstrong’s conclusion to her detailed analysis of the connection between the Crusades of old and the rising reaction to jihad, such as what was sparked by Pope Benedict xvi, that are worthy of note. Her words are a dramatic endorsement of the forecasting by our editor in chief of a great final crusade ahead, and of its apocalyptic nature: “Obviously the religious passions of the Middle East are no longer always amenable to rational control. The area has become a tinderbox that could ignite into a nuclear holocaust, if this extreme spirit were allowed to get out of control” (ibid.).

    Pope Benedict has lit the fuse to that tinderbox. Islam will reap the whirlwind. The flames will not now be quenched until a force far more powerful than the gods of both Islam and Roman Catholicism enforces the eradication of jihad and crusading “holy war” forever.

    Beyond the great nuclear conflagration soon to come lies the answer to all the crusading efforts of mankind—by religion, by rationalist thought, by science—the final conclusive answer as to why man has never learned the way to world peace, the ultimate solution to that seemingly unsolvable problem of humankind.

    Write now for your own copy, gratis, of Mystery of the Ages to discover for yourself that earth-shaking solution, and learn how you can contribute to bringing it about! 


    October 21, 2006

    Zion Oil & Gas

    Vision Statement

    Comfort and Support to Israel

    From its inception, the calling of Zion Oil & Gas has been to assist Israel in the restoration of the Land by finding and producing oil and gas, the rock oil and source of energy buried deep beneath the ancient hills and valleys of the Land of Israel, necessary to make the People of Israel politically and economically independent. For the State of Israel is not only a refuge for Jews, but is the answer to the prayers of many generations of the Jewish people: “And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God.” (Amos 9:15)

    The Charitable Trusts

    In furtherance of its mission and the biblical principles of charity (Deuteronomy 15:11) and loving-kindness (Isaiah 63:7) which have guided its founder, John M. Brown, from the company’s inception, the company intends to establish two charitable trusts, one in Israel and one to be based in the United States. A 3% overriding royalty interest (or equivalent net operating profits interest) in the Joseph Project will be assigned to each of the trusts (6% in total), the proceeds of which will be used, respectively, in supporting projects for the restoration of the people and land of Israel and for social and educational rehabilitative projects in the United States and internationally. Income to the charitable trusts will commence after the Project will have returned from production an amount equal to exploratory expenditures, through and including the estimated cost of drilling and completing the first discovery well on the Ma’anit-Joseph License. Click here for more details.

    “Zion” of Many Meanings

    The earliest references to Zion in the Bible, II Samuel 5:7 and I Chronicles 11:5, refer to the Citadel of Zion on the flank of the lower eastern hill of Jerusalem, in what became known as the City of David. In I Maccabees 4:37, the Temple Mount – Mount Moriah – is referred to as Zion. Later the name became associated with the higher western hill of Jerusalem, overlooking the Temple Mount. David’s Tomb and the Coenaculum – the site of the Last Supper – are both located on Mount Zion. In the poetic writings, Zion becomes the equivalent of Jerusalem, the religious capital and spiritual heart of the People of Israel. At other points in the First Testament, Zion refers to the tribe or land of Judah or the whole of Israel. The name Zion also refers to the People of Israel themselves. After their exile from the Holy Land, Zion has meant to Jews their homeland, together with Jerusalem and the Temple, in all of Israel’s ancient glory. Among Christians, the name Zion is the church ruled by God, or the heavenly city or heavenly home.

    The Blessings of “Joseph”, “Asher” and the “Land of Israel”

    The Twelve Tribes in Canaan

    The lands of the Ma’anit-Joseph License lie in the heart of the lands of the Tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, the sons of Joseph. The Ma’anit #1 Well lies just south of I’ron Valley. The Valley is located at the mid-point of the ancient Way of the Kings – the Roman Via Maris – connecting the empires of Egypt and Syria. Some early maps show the I’ron Valley as the biblical border between the lands and hills of Ephraim and Manasseh; while others show the border as paralleling the east-west line forming the southern boundary of the Joseph Permit and the Joseph Reef. The lands of the Asher Permit lie in the northern portion of the lands of the Tribe of Manasseh and the southern portion of the Tribe of Asher, an area which some scholars also attribute to Manasseh during various periods of Israelite settlement of the Land of Israel. Click the map for a larger view.

    And Jacob blessed Joseph (Genesis 49: 22-26): “Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall. The archers fiercely attacked him, and shot at him and hated him; but his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made supple by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob (by the name of shepherd, the Rock of Israel), by the God of thy father who shall help thee; and by the Almighty who shall bless thee, with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that couches beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb. The blessings of thy father are mighty beyond the blessings of the eternal mountains, the bounties of the everlasting hills, they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separated from his brothers.”

    And Moses blessed the tribes of the sons of Joseph (Deuteronomy 33: 13-17): “And of Joseph he said, Blessed of the Lord be his land, for the precious things of heaven, for the dew and for the deep that couches beneath, and for the precious fruits brought forth by the sun, and for the precious things put forth by the moon, and for the chief things of the ancient mountains, and for the precious things of primordial hills, and for the precious things of the earth, and its fullness, and for the good will of him that dwelt in the bush. Let the blessings come upon the head of Joseph, and upon the top of the head of him who was separated from his brothers.”

    “And of Asher he [Moses] said, blessed above sons; let him be acceptable to his brethren, and let him dip his foot in oil.” (Deuteronomy 33:24.) Of the Land of Israel, Moses sung (Deuteronomy 32:13): “He made him ride on the high places of the earth, and he ate of the produce of the fields; and he made him suck honey out of rock, and oil out of the flinty rock.”

    Click here for a historical review of oil and gas exploration in Israel inspired by these blessings and a guide to a possible interpretation of the scriptural verses which have inspired Mr. Brown many other explorers for oil in Israel, both Christian and Jew, over close to half a century.

    Testimony of John Brown

    The mission of Zion began with a trip to Israel by our Founder, John Brown in 1983. Click here to view the testimony of Mr. Brown’s vision and calling.

    Details about the Charitable Trusts

    If we are successful in finding commercial quantities of oil and gas in Israel, we intend to donate a portion of our gross revenues to charities in Israel, the United States and elsewhere in the world. The donations will be made through entities we are in the process of establishing. These entities have not been as yet fully defined. For purposes of this discussion we call them charitable trusts, but they may be tax-exempt corporations, foundations, associations or some other form of charitable entity. This exact form of the charitable trusts, the domicile of the charitable trust for contributions outside Israel, and the exact form of the royalty interests to be donated have not yet been determined. Those forms will depend to an extent upon advice of tax counsel and the outcome of negotiations with the Israeli Tax Authority. Independent of the form of organization and the form of interest donated, our board of directors has established the following parameters for the charitable trusts:

    • There will be two separate and distinct charitable trusts, one to be established in Israel and one to operate outside Israel. Each of the charitable trusts will have its own board of directors (or board of trustees) consisting of up to nine members each, a majority of which shall not be our officers, directors or shareholders owning more than 1% of Zion.
    • At least two-thirds of the Israeli charitable trust’s board will be resident citizens of Israel. Our founder, John Brown, will serve as the initial chairman.
    • At least two-thirds of the non-Israeli charitable trust’s board will be resident citizens of the United States. John Brown will serve as the initial chairman of the board.
    • The two charitable trusts will be set up with the objective that to the extent possible our donations to them will be tax deductible under both Israel and U.S. tax law.
    • We will assign to each of the two charitable trusts an after payout (of exploration costs through the first discovery well) overriding royalty of 3% in the Joseph Project petroleum rights and any other petroleum rights that we acquire in Israel. This means that 6% of the gross proceeds of oil and gas production would go to the two charitable trusts for charitable purposes, 3% to be used for charitable activities in Israel by one charitable trust and 3% to be used for such purposes in the United States and internationally by the other.
    • The funds to be distributed by the two charitable trusts may only be given to charities that meet the qualification of section 501(c) (3) of the United States Internal Revenue Code or the equivalent section of the Israel Income Tax Code.
    • If we are unsuccessful in our exploration efforts, no funds will be available for donation.
    • The general application of the funds will be to support projects for the restoration of the land and people of Israel and social and educational and rehabilitative projects in the United States and internationally. Our board will establish more specific guidelines at the time the charitable trusts are formed.

    We plan to establish the charitable trusts as soon as sufficient funds are to establish them without derogating from our ability to efficiently comply with our commitments under our Ma’anit-Joseph License and Asher Permit.

    Our shareholders, in a resolution passed at the 2002 Annual Meeting, approved the concept in principle, as well as the specific sources of interest to be donated to the trusts. Specifically, the shareholders resolution gave the board the authority to transfer to each charitable trust a (i) 3% “overriding royalty”, (ii) net operating profits interest, or (iii) substantially equivalent interests.

    We have elected to apply the 3% overriding royalty and not the other interests, subject to any legal and tax restrictions under Israeli law as may be in effect at the time of the transfer of the interest. If, due to increased tax liability, we elect not to donate the overriding royalty but rather donate a substitute interest (such as a net profits interest) then the amount of the substitute interest would be calculated and specified such that it would have the same economic value to the charitable trust as would a 3% overriding royalty.

    These charitable trusts are to be new, separate and independent of any charitable organization supported by (or affiliated with) any of our officers or directors (a “Related Charitable Organization”). Nothing in the charters, organizational documents or bylaws of our charitable trusts will prohibit any Related Charitable Organization from applying for a grant or other financial support from one of the Zion charitable trusts. However, any member of the governing body or committee recommending allocation of grants of one of the charitable trusts who is affiliated with a Related Charitable Organization applying for such financial aid will be precluded from voting on the grant.


    France in Chaos

    October 20, 2006

    Muslims Create “Intifada”—in France

    Twelve months on from the devastating riots that plunged France into a state of emergency, the Muslim immigrant populations in parts of the country remain as volatile as ever. A surge of violent attacks against police in France’s housing estates have engendered warnings of an undeclared intifada, or uprising, with fears of worse to come.

    France’s Interior Ministry reports that so far this year nearly 2,500 officers have been wounded in violent clashes. This month alone, Muslims have sparked three major clashes in Paris suburbs, including an incident where three officers were set upon by a mob of around 50 young people with stones, steel bars and a gun, resulting in one of the officers being hospitalized.

    The level and intensity of attacks, taking place in low-income housing estates with large populations of immigrant Muslim youth, have led Michel Thoomis, the secretary general of the Action Police trade union, to demand that officers be provided with armored cars in certain areas. “We are in a state of civil war, orchestrated by radical Islamists,” he said earlier this month. “This is not a question of urban violence any more, it is an intifada, with stones and Molotov cocktails. You no longer see two or three youths confronting police, you see whole tower blocks emptying into the streets to set their ‘comrades’ free when they are arrested.” The police union asserts that the estates are becoming no-go zones.

    The number of attacks has increased by a third in the last two years, and is still rising. In September, Muslims unleashed 480 attacks on police and other officials, a 30 percent increase over August. “There has been a change over the past month. It’s like they want to kill,” said Bruno Beschizza of police union Synergie.

    The mood in many parts of France is such that a repeat of something on the scale of last year’s three-week rampage, which spread to hundreds of French towns and cost $500 million, could be sparked by a single incident such as the death of a rioter or police officer.

    However, “one of the biggest sources of dynamite,” in the words of the New Zealand Herald, is the upcoming presidential election campaign. Interior minister and presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy advocates harsh measures to deal with such violence. “With the vote only six months away, Sarkozy has declared the ‘cleanup’ of the suburbs as his rallying cry, and is stepping up high-profile snatch operations and patrols by crs riot police and gendarmes” (October 19).

    The ongoing unrest and violence in France illustrates the failure of immigrant Muslim populations in Europe to integrate. The result will be further alienation of Muslims, and increased support for those political parties that promise solutions. The increasing popularity of far-right parties across Europe demonstrates that Europeans are starting to get fed up with the inaction of the mainstream parties. When Europe does eventually go after the Muslim problem in force, the current violence in French housing estates will pale into insignificance.


    October 19, 2006

    WASHINGTON, Oct. 18, 2006 — President Bush said in a one-on-one interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos that a newspaper column comparing the current fighting in Iraq to the 1968 Tet offensive in Vietnam, which was widely seen as the turning point in that war, might be accurate.

    Stephanopoulos asked whether the president agreed with the opinion of columnist Tom Friedman, who wrote in The New York Times today that the situation in Iraq may be equivalent to the Tet offensive in Vietnam almost 40 years ago.

    “He could be right,” the president said, before adding, “There’s certainly a stepped-up level of violence, and we’re heading into an election.”

    “George, my gut tells me that they have all along been trying to inflict enough damage that we’d leave,” Bush said. “And the leaders of al Qaeda have made that very clear. Look, here’s how I view it. First of all, al Qaeda is still very active in Iraq. They are dangerous. They are lethal. They are trying to not only kill American troops, but they’re trying to foment sectarian violence. They believe that if they can create enough chaos, the American people will grow sick and tired of the Iraqi effort and will cause government to withdraw.”

    Bush said he could not imagine any circumstances under which all U.S. troops would be withdrawn from Iraq before the end of his presidency.

    “You mean every single troop out? No,” he told Stephanopoulos.

    Bush also had some tough words for Democrats, saying that pulling troops from Iraq would be the equivalent of surrender.

    “If we were to leave before the job is done, in my judgment, the al Qaeda would find a safe haven from which to attack. This is exactly what they said,” Bush said. The president insisted he was not disparaging his opponents.

    “It’s not questioning their patriotism. I think it’s questioning their judgment,” he said.

    When asked whether the midterm elections are a referendum on Iraq, the President replied, “I think they’re a referendum, from my perspective, which is kind of like your perspective, which is the Washington perspective, based upon: who best to secure this country from further attack and who best to help this economy continue to grow. The truth of the matter is, as you well know, most elections are very local elections. Sometimes those issues are salient, but sometimes there’s other issues at the local level as well.”

    “I’m not on the ballot,” Bush said. “This set of elections is much different from a presidential election year.”

    Stephanopoulos pointed out that 72 Democrats running for the House had used Bush in their campaign ads.

    “Are they saying good things?” Bush joked. “Look, maybe that strategy will work; maybe it won’t work. I’ve always found that when a person goes in to vote, they’re going to want to know what that person’s going to do. What is the plan for a candidate on Iraq? What do they believe?”

    Bush said he reads “every casualty.”

    “The hardest part of the presidency is to meet with families who’ve lost a loved one,” he said.

    October is shaping up to be one of the bloodiest months in Iraq since the war began, and the president assessed the situation somberly: “I’m patient. I’m not patient forever. But I recognize the degree of difficulty of the task, and therefore, say to the American people, we won’t cut and run.”

    On the issue of North Korea, said bluntly that if the rogue nation sold nuclear missiles to Iran or al Qaeda, “They’d be held to account.”

    Stephanopoulos noted that after last week’s latest nuclear missile test out of North Korea, the president referred to the country as a “grave threat,” a phrase Bush has used only once during his six years in office, in reference to Iraq before the U.S. invasion of that country. He asked the president what he means by that phrase now.

    “Well, time they find out, George,” Bush said. “One of the things that’s important for these world leaders to hear is, you know, we will use means necessary to hold them to account.

    “If we get intelligence that they’re about to transfer a nuclear weapon, we would stop the transfer, and we would deal with the ships that were taking the — or the airplane that was dealing with taking the material to somebody,” he said.

    “My point is that I want the leader to understand — the leader of North Korea to understand that he’ll be held to account,” Bush said. “Just like he’s being held to account now for having run a test.”

    Bush also suggested that China may be more committed to the recent round of U.N. sanctions than it has let on in public statements.

    “I’m getting a little different picture from Condi [Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice],” he said. “They don’t particularly want to board ships. But, on the other hand, if there’s good intelligence, they’ll work with us on that intelligence. They’re inspecting cargoes coming across their border.”

    He insisted China was not “half committed” to the sanctions.

    Moving away from the controversial issues likely to play a critical role in the 2006 midterms, Stephanopoulos asked the two-term incumbent which personal quality is going to be important for the next president.

    “Determination and compassion,” Bush said. When asked what advice he might have for his successor, Bush told ABC News, “Stand on principle