Tuesday, June 27, 2006

One voice, one nation

The lesson learned from the two great upheavals in the Philippines is quite unmistakable: people power, the triumphant march of the “politically active,” purporting to represent the silent majority, is incapable of undertaking any coordinated action in the absence of a clear and manifested position about the goals and visions the movements have aspired to achieve and to which the leading participants, self-appointed or otherwise, could be held accountable. The route One Voice (whose membership includes the president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines; seven other bishops and archbishops; clerical activists; leaders from the academe, NGOs and the business community; electoral reformists; and political pundits) has chosen to pursue can at least be seen as an attempt to avoid this vacuity from taking place again.

One Voice five-point proposals are as follows:

1. Discontinue the present “People’s Initiative.”
2. Implement a Social Reform program now.
3. Hold elections in 2007 as scheduled, as an indirect referendum on the term of the present administration and implement genuine electoral reform now.
4. Hold a Constitutional Convention—not a Constituent Assembly or Con-Ass—after the 2007 elections assuming that there is an authentic clamor for it.
5. Exert a collective effort to rebuild the trustworthiness of democratic institutions.

No frills, the focal point of the proposals boils down to: The legitimacy issue of the Arroyo government triggered by, among others, the “Garci tapes” scandal, should be resolved via the 2007 mid-term elections with such elections considered as an “indirect referendum.”

Meanwhile, between now and the 2007 elections (the referendum), the following conditions according to the proposals should take place:

a. The discontinuance of the drive to amend the constitution through People’s Initiative.
b. The implementation of a social program, if any.
c. The implementation of genuine electoral reform.
d. The exertion of a collective effort to rebuild the trustworthiness of democratic institution.

After the 2007 elections, if there is an authentic clamor for Charter Change, hold a “constitutional convention” of delegates elected by the people for the purpose (not a “constituent assembly,” where Congress, in lieu of elected delegates, doubles as the constituent body to propose revisions or amendments to the Charter).

I have certain concerns about One Voice proposals.

First, are there mechanics in place on how to get the Arroyo camp agree to the proposals in some binding form, i.e., make President Arroyo issue a counter-proposal (such as how in her view the COMELEC body should be reconstituted and the electoral system modernized within the existing framework) or acceptance in a similarly clear and publicly manifested fashion?

Second, if pre-election conditions b, c and d are met (especially through “collective efforts”) to some perceptible extent, isn’t the fragmented opposition being pigeonholed to a no-win situation or practically relegated to a “nuisance” status, the incumbent being better-positioned to take full credit for them?

Third, given the limited timetable (barely a year), how can compliance with such gargantuan objectives as implementation of social program or genuine electoral reform, not to speak of the abstraction of building the “trustworthiness of democratic institutions” be reasonably quantified?

Last, while the political issue of Arroyo’s legitimacy is decidedly national in scope, aren’t the 2007 elections, especially in the Philippine setting, essentially local?

Granted that the multitude is not capable of undertaking any coordinated action, its various components (One Voice is one) have the means for such action. But first to force the issue, an even wider spectrum of these “minorities” should coordinate, and the fundamental commonalities having been determined and shared, act as one voice for the silent majority.

Specifically, if the main idea behind the One Voice proposals is to give Arroyo the opportunity to obtain a fresh mandate from the people and thereby resolve the question of legitimacy, isn’t referendum via “snap elections” a more direct and democratic process than, say, a resignation (voluntary, forced or constructive), ouster via a military-backed people power uprising, Supreme-Court selection, or an “indirect referendum”?

The now long-embattled President Arroyo should welcome the idea of a presidential snap election - the loose equivalent of a confidence vote in a parliamentary system, no less - that would render nugatory the second impeachment proceeding. Aside from the opportunity to wiggle out from what many think is her lameduck predicament right now deeply traumatizing the country (by resolving in an electoral exercise the lingering question of whether the tape scandal is a minor lapse in judgment or not), it would certainly be propitious for Arroyo as a presidential candidate again to raise the level of the present political discourse. For one who has a single six-year term of office liable to the vagaries of people power, she gets another chance to woo the electorates by distinguishing anew her political and economic platforms from the largely vague and disparate positions of her opponents. On the other hand, the diverse components of the opposition could grab the prospects to redefine themselves and what they stand for as one meaningful alternative.

Direct referendum could be a win-win proposition for the nation as a whole.

Friday, June 23, 2006

The Chinese in Filipino identity

“It is the original Malay population, which has mainly undergone the influences of the East, first of all, the stream of culture and civilization and race. One stream came from China, fairly constant and unchanging through the ages, the other from India, through Indonesia, modified by Indonesia in a very significant manner, since in Indonesia itself the influx of Indian culture had become Indonesian and yet continued to undergo influences that changed as India itself changed, from Brahmanism, to Buddhism to Islam.

“It was these influences, which undoubtedly underwent modifications in the Philippines, which had already modified the original Malay way of life, which, assimilated in varying ways and degrees, constituted the way of life of these Islands, when the impact of the West was felt, an impact which has made us a people unique in the world.”
(Italics and underscoring mine)

Manuel L. Quezon, Jr.

To the bigot - first thought to be Art Bell - who had ruffled the sensibilities of many Filipinos on being challenged, among others, to “demonstrate how you use Confucianism or Taoism in your everyday life,” I reacted in the following:
The Hollywood, the Iberian and the Islamic cultures are as much a part of the Filipino identity as the Confucian. In fact the latter is so subsumed in the Filipino soul it is too hard to distinguish it from the core Malayo-Polynesian being of the Filipino. The cultivation of the self and centrality of the family as prerequisites for social order are Confucian philosophy now simply taken for granted in Philippine society. The enduring Filipino filial obedience and other familial terms of respect such as Kuya and Ate are directly traceable to Confucian values. The unwritten law Huwag mong gaw’in sa kapwa mo ang ayaw mong gaw’in saiyo (“Not to do unto others as you would not wish done unto yourself”) had been a Filipino virtue probably handed down by our Confucian ancestors before the advent of Christianity to the Islands. So is the maintenance of distance in pedagogy, the master-student relationship, the continuing disappearance of which in America is playing havoc with its educational system. Perhaps of further relevance here are such historical accounts as, that the names of certain important places in the Philippines come from Chinese characters, namely: the largest land mass, Luzon, from Liu Sung; Manila probably from Ma-yi (a place known at that time, according to Rizal, not to be inferior to that of China); Palawan from Pa-lao-y; and Lingayen from Li-yin-tung.

The Chinese ancestors of the Filipinos, unlike the Anglo-Saxons or the Iberians counterparts, connected and blended with the “natives,” fell in love with them and brought into being the First Filipinos: Fr. Gomez, Aguinaldo, Mabini, Bonifacio, and of course Philippines’ national hero Jose Rizal, whose great ancestors were all Chinese. Certainly, Filipinos are also proud of their Malay heritage, of the great warrior Lapu-lapu who routed the forces of Ferdinand Magellan in the battle of Mactan, or the proud Raja Soleiman whose descendants have never been crushed by Spain, a world power then, by GI Joe despite vicious military campaign, or the surrogate Philippine army.

On another breadth, the Japanese, in almost similar vein as the modern Filipino, have the “white” (from the aboriginal Ainus), the Mongolian and the Malay strains and were first “civilized” by the Chinese. The proud Japanese enriched the Chinese culture, studied the white man’s society and surpassed both. By contrast, the Filipinos, subjected to the same cultural assault, danced to the prevailing tune, retained their core values but have yet to gain the confidence, owing to centuries of enslavement and subjugation, to surpass the strange ways of life forced on them.
In Build or Perish! I have written thus:
On his martyrdom, Rizal might have driven out the last Spaniard in the Philippines that the friar personified, and ushered in the conception of the First Filipino. And with the birth of the Filipino being, the Indio stigma was cast off in the course of time together with what today might be the equivalent of the ubiquitous hyphenated identities: Oriental-Europeans, with which Filipinos in Europe were lumped with other Asians; the appellations expatriates casually tagged themselves with, such as Tagalog-Filipino, Ilongo-Filipino, Ilokano-Filipino, Bikolano-Filipino; Malay-Tagalog by which Rizal was referred to by some of his European colleagues; or, for that matter, the still acceptable Spanish-Filipino or Chinese-Filipino.
And concluding I posed the following:
So, Tisoy, Tsinoy, Pinoy rin, Moro, Amboy, Expat or simply Pinoy, does it really matter?

Following the example of the First Filipinos, the next generation of Chinese mestizos allowed their ancestral nativism eventually to evanesce and let what had remained of its essence to regenerate upon coalescing with the identities of the peninsulares (Spaniards from Spain) and the criollos (Spaniards born in the Philippines) and the Spanish mestizos. Hence, the descendants of the pariahs and the pirates, the proselytizers and the proselytized, the conquerors and the conquered, the colonizers and the colonized founded a nation of “natives.” And with the sinews of the fiber that knitted their newly found citizenship outdoing the accidental tendril of their ancient birthright and transcending their frittered roots, they forthwith consigned themselves to preserve, secure, and fulfill the Filipino being. This generation picked up from where the original First Filipinos had left off, proudly seizing the singular honor of calling themselves “Filipinos.” Whereupon, they squandered no time to begin laying the foundation of the Filipino nation.

The native Indios have become Filipinos too with many of them absorbing the attributes of their “betters” but many more have remained unfulfilled, mainly economically, as Filipinos. Still, a few more others have simply opted out of the new arrangement of nationhood so as to continue abiding in their primeval or indigenous realms.

On the other hand, those who have chosen to remain as sangleys have preserved their hyphenated identity. Without a true “sense of country,” they have remained essentially pariahs, much like, interestingly, the increasingly stateless TNCs creating a global network of common interests and pitting one host state against another. Adrift, they are today blind-sided by some newly found ways to make a living or by certain exotic credos couched in oxymoron, like “rational self-interest” or “market democracy,” which they have freely appropriated while in select institutions of learning only they could afford to attend. Meanwhile, they, as the self-anointed “rags-to-riches” paladins of success, have yet to figure out a smarter way to deal with the lingering misery of the less fortunate ones in the land they also like to call home. It seems that when the infrastructures of societal behavior, practices and institutions are stacked to favor one, whether individuals, groups or nations, even wrongs so conspicuous, so historically certified could be turned into a glamorous success story of supposedly remarkable work ethics, industry and smarts.
In one of Pinoy-rin forums I have been asked to share my thoughts on whether the American system the Filipinos borrowed could ever work in the Philippines.

In essence, my response was that the real challenge is how to make the Western/American model work based on the Filipinos’ own distinctiveness taking into account the other civilizations or cultures that make up the Filipino essence. I explained that the Western culture, while promoting hierarchical governance, brought to us constitutional and liberal (market) democracy as well as the Christian teaching of service and humility. The new culture was introduced by the West in the midst of the “politics by consensus” our ancestral barangay folks and chieftains, and their Muslim mentors had practiced together at the community level as going concern. On another sphere, I mentioned that the proper approach toward ecological conservation for the benefit of the next generation could be explored by drawing from the wellspring of our Malayo-Polynesian respect for and love of nature.

I then noted that today, governance by consensus is being reexamined for its efficacy as an alternative to traditional governance through elected representatives (often a subterfuge for “elite governance”) in the same manner as legitimation through popular sovereignty (as opposed to the “divine right” theory) and government by example, which are essentially Confucian values of our early Chinese ancestors, are being revalued for their true worth.

“In the past, we had two powerful allies, distance and time. The jet age has nullified distance. Mass media of communications and daily contact with foreigners at all levels of society have robbed us of time, time to transform and assimilate, time to weigh—for selective acceptance or rejection—the avalanche of influences which press on us and threaten to bury us.” MLQ, Jr.

I guess I have had one occasion to grapple with MLQ, jr.’s fears as follows:
The irony is that North America, the favored expatriation of many, as well as Australia, was once a place of banishment where European labor, who couldn’t sell their skills in the market during the early phase of industrial revolution, had been ostracized to go, the better skilled craftsmen having been forced into the burgeoning factories principally in England. In recent years however, a reverse phenomenon—which is quite endemic in the Archipelago—has been taking place. More and more of the “best and the brightest” are lured to leave for the beckoning “upland” in an exodus of some kind because there are no factories, offices or hospitals in town to tap their craftsmanship and expertise with commensurate remuneration. Like other countries whose endowments are natural resources and the human constituents, the adventurism (or, perhaps, abnegation) of the latter would prove to be heroically significant in a lot ways, more particularly in keeping the struggling ship of the nation afloat. The [Filipino Diaspora] is therefore both a blessing and disguise.

Today, one of the challenges in our rapidly transforming global village could be how to create new meanings and purpose from such our state of affairs. Or, how to avail of the scientific and technological advances that are continuing to shrink both time and space, and turn our situation of physical dispersion to our favor.

In retrospect, Filipinos in exile during Rizal’s times, had taken advantage of the liberal ideas in Spain to hone their cosmopolitanism and proved that given the opportunity they could rise easily to be equals with their “masters.” It was also during this period when the conversation about which course to pursue to attain “emancipation”—either through reforms within the existing colonial relationship with Spain or by social upheaval of the French paradigm—was deepened and polarized. There are lingering questions today whether the Filipino Diaspora, generally speaking, is a reaction to some insurmountable obstacles to reaching rising expectations, such obstacles as anachronistic societal relationship, population growth, technological divide, blighted discipline, geographic fractiousness, prolonged experience of dependency and marginalization, or the ineptitude of self-seeking elites, to cite only those already recognized by some scholars, self-serving or otherwise.

As expatriates ourselves, we have the practical edge of critically looking at certain things that are occurring in our adopted countries from the perspective of our native culture and sub-cultures vis-à-vis our economic, political and demographic structures. Now, which ones do we choose to let go, or intend to preserve, capitalize on and impart? In an age of connectivity and information as wealth, there is an excellent window of opportunities to enrich our exchanges or share our social, cultural and other experiences with one another, and with our compatriots from a geographically distant town we still love to call home.
“I can think of few worse threats to a vigorous nationalism than a nation despondent over its culture. The Filipino culture is a monument to our ability through the centuries to master the influences which outwardly seemed solely to master us—for to be transformed mechanically is to be mastered, but to modify, to transform, to assimilate, and to give a distinctive character is also in the best, non-destructive sense, to master.” MLQ, Jr.

I believe one of the fundamental challenges then, to echo the opening proem from Mr. Quezon, is first and foremost how -

. . . to recognize that our country is very fortunate to have been the recipient of three great cultures - the Western, the Islamic, as well as the Confucian - and that as these cultures have imbued our evolving Filipino heritage, to enhance and secure the commonalities, respect the differences and harmonize the continuing bonds to our earlier beginnings in the hope of understanding and strengthening the true essence of Filipino identity.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Parrot and stick

Remember these lines: “You are not a Filipino if you are against the peace and progress being offered by the Balikatan* 2002. You are not a Filipino if you are against the help being offered by a friend. You are either for or against democracy, freedom and prosperity. There can be no bystanders”?

In an old op-ed commentary of mine (“A lover’s delight,” INQ7.net, Feb. 11, 2002), I’ve reacted to the above by saying “This is sounding more like a playact between a child and an adult, with the former gladly parroting the latter. As a parrot, GMA is attempting to solve the Mindanao conflict from the standpoint of subservience and myopia. This shameless repeat-after-George W. [“if you are not with us, you are against us”] stance is truly deplorable.”

The footnote (in my book) to the commentary even points out that “The embarrassing . . . parroting has continued after the [waging of] Gulf War II, the GMA government this time employing such overused words as ‘embedded’ or ‘selective’ as in ‘embedded terrorist cells’ or ‘selective targets’ in the renewed Mindanao bombings. And when Indonesian terrorist, Al-Ghozi, was slain by the PNP, the cadaver was allowed to be publicly exhibited by the GMA government the way the mangled bodies of Saddam Hussein’s two sons, Odai and Qusai, were displayed to the American public as a tonic for a faltering US campaign in Iraq.”

During the months immediately preceding the May 2004 presidential elections in the Philippines, one Aziz Choudry took note of the similarities between George W. Bush and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and found them as “both surreal and striking.” Choudry explained:
Born only nine months apart, Bush and Arroyo are children of former presidents. . . George and Gloria came to power not through winning elections, but on the basis of Supreme Court decisions in their respective countries. Both were sworn in to the presidency on January 20, 2001. . .

Both Bush and Arroyo hope to stay in power past the 2004 elections. Both have made the “war on terror” and free market capitalism their central concerns. She claims that her market reforms and the nation’s security are at risk in the election. So does he. He used the capture of Saddam to halt his falling popularity, albeit temporarily. She has tried, unsuccessfully, to use the domestic “war on terror” to bolster her flagging ratings.
The supposedly second mandate for both presidents has been marred by serious allegations of rigging. Now, fast forward 2006. Bush’s approval rating at an all-time low of 31 percent in May has seen a post-Zarquawi bounce to 38% and an additional $71 billion funding from Congress as Bush, in an uncharacteristic scheme, sneaked to Baghdad for a full-court press on America’s doddering operations in Iraq. Arroyo, still the most unpopular president the country has ever had, apparently saw that even when losing ground a hard-hitting or bunker-busting policy against terrorists works. But there are no Al Qaedas roaming in the streets of Manila and suburbs, not even the homespun Abu Sayyaf. Who will absorb the parrot and stick? The Left.

As Arroyo dumbly equates the Left with terrorists, INQ7.net banners this headline: “Gov’t going full blast with NPA rebels.” Armed with a one-billion peso funding commitment to AFP and PNP for the eradication of the four-decade old communist insurgency, the little sister is zestfully marching behind the big brother again to crush their imagined foes in another aberrant but deadly playacting.

But the scripts don’t seem to fit according to Randy David: “Not all leftists advocate the violent overthrow of the State, and not all armed groups are leftist. To be Left is to think and speak radically about social problems; to be an armed rebel is to participate in the forcible overthrow of government. Our Constitution outlaws armed rebellion, but it resolutely protects freedom of thought and of speech.”

Surely, there are brutal terrorists causing untold sufferings among innocent civilians in Iraq but there are also patriotic nationalists among Iraqis who are fighting to end the “illegal” occupation of their country. Yet, today everyone fighting the US in Iraq is a “terrorist” just as any critic - whether journalists, farmers, students, priests, activists and the like - of the Arroyo regime is leftist. Indeed, “both striking and surreal” are the similarities.

There’s one explanation. “But let’s not forget,” mlq3 warns, “that [President Arroyo] relies on the media planning and political advice of the same people who advise the Republicans in the United States.” That makes sense.

*Joint US-RP military exercises.

Monday, June 12, 2006

The silent conspiracy

Here and also here, the thesis advanced in this site points out why People Power has been intently, patiently and wisely on a stakeout over what would become of the government of Gloria-Macapagal Arroyo. It’s been an attempt to explain away the other proposition that People Power has simply worn out (or “fatigued”) itself, thereby losing the potency to inspire.

It may be well to note however that the legitimacy of the Arroyo government morphed into a “regime” status not during the ousting of Estrada by the exercise of people power in 2001, but at the constitutionally mandated canvass in Congress of the votes cast in the presidential election of May 2004. Many Filipinos still believe the canvass was crudely handled by Arroyo’s allies which command overwhelming majority in Congress to proclaim her the elected president.

No sooner than the outing of the “Garci tapes” the embryonic phantom of illicitness quickly turned into a fuller life form; ever since, Arroyo has been on a survival mode. But the outcome of her impeachment, haphazardly utilized by her fragmented political adversaries, has afforded her instead some essential gasping respite as she manages quite skillfully to stay afloat in a sea of political uncertainty.

The question remains thus: Is People Power just being watchful over the way the political lifeboat of Arroyo is behaving or is it actively contemplating ways to “rock the boat”?

To be sure, there exits institutional resistance even to a “regime change,” not to speak of some larger or systemic transformation. The mindset of the middle class is one such source of resistance. What amounts for example as the naivete “let’s move on” call of Bong Austero, exploited in many ways by the status quo defenders, has been seen by some quarters to be a pushback or a copout from any meaningful change in Philippine society, the perception being that it was more in keeping with the let’s-sweep-the-dirt-under-the-rug mentality.

In hindsight, maybe it should be recalled that Cory Aquino and her largely middle class adherents have not been so expected to act as genuine transformational, much less revolutionary, agents. While People Power I was beyond doubt successful in its bid for a regime change - the termination of Marcos dictatorship and the restoration of pre-martial law democracy - Cory also served as a “stabilizing” agent, the right persona at the time to preserve the status quo, instituting only perimetric changes in the process. Be that as it may, her lasting legacy to the Filipinos is the 1987 Charter which has laid the constitutional groundwork for People Power.

If Cory Aquino had been an unwilling housewife shoved into the larger-than-life shoes of her martyred spouse, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was an accidental rebel whose uncomplimentary branding as such was graciously sugar-coated by a calculating Supreme Court upon conveniently invoking the constitutional provisions on succession. The Court has decided to interpret the confluence of events surrounding People Power II as leading to Estrada’s “constructive resignation” in the constitutional sense. But People Power II attaining no more than “personnel change” was certainly of lesser substantive dimension than the first uprising. To the status quo beneficiaries, as well as defenders like Austero and others of his kind, Arroyo notwithstanding her “flaws” is still a safer bet for stability.

Arroyo’s staying power is comparable in reverse to the surge to victory of erstwhile president Alan Garcia during the recently held presidential runoff election in Peru. The former Peruvian leader overcame a sizeable lead of nationalist and populist Ollanta Humala by his better reading of the middle class mindset. Garcia, who had already let down Peru by disastrously governing the country between 1985 and 1990, portrayed the presidential contest as a choice between American imperialism and Venezuelan interventionism (Humala having allied his political and economic agendas with the “Bolivarian revolution” of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez). Peruvians voted for stability by keeping the status quo and returned Garcia to power, his notorious record of failure notwithstanding.

A very noteworthy commenter in Pinoy political blogosphere (he posts by his initials cvj) has seen similar writing on the wall. He is one serious commenter who has fervently differed from the stance articulated by Austero that has caught the fancy of the “silenced” middle. The Filipino middle class was once at the center of the two uprisings, but cvj believes that “by foolishly casting its lot with Arroyo, (it) becomes complicit with her failings.” The indictment sounds more like conspiracy by silence.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Poor faith

The government in Iran has once called the United States the “Great Satan” (thanks God – well, whose God? – Iranians believe at least in the biblical Satan) and George W. Bush names Iran, with Iraq and North Korea, as the “axis of evil.” The other “evil empire,” by courtesy of Ronald Regan, was of course the former Soviet Union. Now that the parties have identified each other, one senior administration official, according to several news sources, believes one of them as regards the controversy over Iran’s pursuit of nuclear technology may intend to “negotiate in poor faith.”

The White House official was clearly alluding to Iran as the dishonest party. But some neoconservatives who are ideologues rather than realist and hawkish on foreign policy (i.e., it’s perfectly alright for them to use military force to prevent an imagined threat with or without the consensus of the “international community” or U.N. authority) were quick to denounce the supposedly radical diplomatic shift toward Iran, not since the Iranian Revolution, with which Condoleezza Rice, U.S. secretary of state, has surprised the world. A “betrayal” of the “Freedom Agenda,” the neocons carp at the announcement of Ms. Rice last week for direct negotiation with Iran subject to the condition that Iran agree to suspend uranium enrichment and processing activities.

The agenda is about the ideology President Bush also articulated during his second presidential inaugural address that the U.S. should lead the charge for the “success of liberty in other lands”; Rice’s overture about direct talks with Iran, “the leading terrorist nation in the world" according to U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, betrays the neoconservative creed.

Many may still remember the senior Bush toasting with Marcos, the Filipino tyrant, “for his adherence to democratic principles and the democratic process” at the height of the dictatorship. Wasn’t this a creedal betrayal?

According a U.S. Senate committee report, didn’t the U.S. approve private business sales of intermediate compound for biological weapons to Iraq during the massacre at the Iraqi Kurdish town of Halabja? This was in the face of a preliminary study at the time by Defense Intelligence Agency imputing to Iran the responsibility for the Halabja attack.

While U.S. denies it, weren’t there accounts to the effect that U.S. supported Osama bin Laden’s organization Maktab al-Khadamat, which served as conduit for financial support, arms and mujahideen fighters into the Afghan war?

And wasn’t the nuclear technology Iran has started under the Shah supplied by the U.S.?

Read in part below a Jan. 2006 commentary by Professor William O. Beeman of Brown University which provides a different perspective on the so-called nuclear standoff and go to the full piece here:
The White House staffers, who are trying to deny Iran the right to develop its own nuclear energy capacity, have conveniently forgotten that the United States was the midwife to the Iranian nuclear program 30 years ago. Every aspect of Iran’s current nuclear development was approved and encouraged by Washington in the 1970s. President Gerald Ford offered Iran a full nuclear cycle in 1976, and the only reactor currently about to become operative, the reactor in Bushire, was started before the Iranian revolution with U.S. approval.

Kenneth Timmerman, in Countdown to Crisis: The Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran presents a misleading description of this plant, claiming again and again that the facility might be used to produce nuclear fuel.

As the late Tom Stauffer and I wrote in June, 2003, the Bushire (Bushehr) reactor--a “light water” reactor--does not produce weapons grade Plutonium. It produces Pu 240, Pu241 and Pu242. Although these isotopes could theoretically be weaponized, the process is extremely long and complicated, and also untried. To date no nuclear weapon has ever been produced with plutonium produced with the kind of reactor at Bushire. Moreover, the plant would have to be completely shut down to extract the fuel rods, making the process immediately open to detection and inspection. (The plant IS shut down to change the fuel rods, but only every 30-40 months to provide longer and better energy generation)

By contrast, the Dimona reactor in Israel--a “heavy water” reactor--is an example of a reactor that is ideal for producing weapons fuel. It produces Pu239 and the fuel rods can be extracted “on the fly” without any need to shut down the plant or alter its operation. The fuel rods are exchanged every few weeks.
Poor faith, bad faith or false faith?

Meanwhile, after speaking with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, the firebrand Iranian President, said on June 2 that Iran would study the proposal or “package of carrots and sticks” from the U.S., U.K., France, Russia, China (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council) and Germany.

Is Rice joining a peace offer or issuing an ultimatum?