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Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Billionaires Bankrolling the Tea Party

By Frank Rich
The New York Times
Op-Ed Columnist

August 28, 2010

Another weekend, another grass-roots demonstration starring Real Americans who are mad as hell and want to take back their country from you-know-who. Last Sunday the site was Lower Manhattan, where they jeered the “ground zero mosque.” This weekend, the scene shifted to Washington, where the avatars of oppressed white Tea Party America, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, were slated to “reclaim the civil rights movement” (Beck’s words) on the same spot where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. had his dream exactly 47 years earlier.

Vive la révolution!

There’s just one element missing from these snapshots of America’s ostensibly spontaneous and leaderless populist uprising: the sugar daddies who are bankrolling it, and have been doing so since well before the “death panel” warm-up acts of last summer. Three heavy hitters rule. You’ve heard of one of them, Rupert Murdoch. The other two, the brothers David and Charles Koch, are even richer, with a combined wealth exceeded only by that of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett among Americans. But even those carrying the Kochs’ banner may not know who these brothers are.

Their self-interested and at times radical agendas, like Murdoch’s, go well beyond, and sometimes counter to, the interests of those who serve as spear carriers in the political pageants hawked on Fox News. The country will be in for quite a ride should these potentates gain power, and given the recession-battered electorate’s unchecked anger and the Obama White House’s unfocused political strategy, they might.

All three tycoons are the latest incarnation of what the historian Kim Phillips-Fein labeled “Invisible Hands” in her prescient 2009 book of that title: those corporate players who have financed the far right ever since the du Pont brothers spawned the American Liberty League in 1934 to bring down F.D.R. You can draw a straight line from the Liberty League’s crusade against the New Deal “socialism” of Social Security, the Securities and Exchange Commission and child labor laws to the John Birch Society-Barry Goldwater assault on J.F.K. and Medicare to the Koch-Murdoch-backed juggernaut against our “socialist” president.

Only the fat cats change — not their methods and not their pet bugaboos (taxes, corporate regulation, organized labor, and government “handouts” to the poor, unemployed, ill and elderly). Even the sources of their fortunes remain fairly constant. Koch Industries began with oil in the 1930s and now also spews an array of industrial products, from Dixie cups to Lycra, not unlike DuPont’s portfolio of paint and plastics. Sometimes the biological DNA persists as well. The Koch brothers’ father, Fred, was among the select group chosen to serve on the Birch Society’s top governing body. In a recorded 1963 speech that survives in a University of Michigan archive, he can be heard warning of “a takeover” of America in which Communists would “infiltrate the highest offices of government in the U.S. until the president is a Communist, unknown to the rest of us.” That rant could be delivered as is at any Tea Party rally today.

Last week the Kochs were shoved unwillingly into the spotlight by the most comprehensive journalistic portrait of them yet, written by Jane Mayer of The New Yorker. Her article caused a stir among those in Manhattan’s liberal elite who didn’t know that David Koch, widely celebrated for his cultural philanthropy, is not merely another rich conservative Republican but the founder of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, which, as Mayer writes with some understatement, “has worked closely with the Tea Party since the movement’s inception.” To New Yorkers who associate the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center with the New York City Ballet, it’s startling to learn that the Texas branch of that foundation’s political arm, known simply as Americans for Prosperity, gave its Blogger of the Year Award to an activist who had called President Obama “cokehead in chief.”

The other major sponsor of the Tea Party movement is Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks, which, like Americans for Prosperity, is promoting events in Washington this weekend. Under its original name, Citizens for a Sound Economy, FreedomWorks received $12 million of its own from Koch family foundations. Using tax records, Mayer found that Koch-controlled foundations gave out $196 million from 1998 to 2008, much of it to conservative causes and institutions. That figure doesn’t include $50 million in Koch Industries lobbying and $4.8 million in campaign contributions by its political action committee, putting it first among energy company peers like Exxon Mobil and Chevron. Since tax law permits anonymous personal donations to nonprofit political groups, these figures may understate the case. The Kochs surely match the in-kind donations the Tea Party receives in free promotion 24/7 from Murdoch’s Fox News, where both Beck and Palin are on the payroll.

The New Yorker article stirred up the right, too. Some of Mayer’s blogging detractors unwittingly upheld the premise of her article (titled “Covert Operations”) by conceding that they have been Koch grantees. None of them found any factual errors in her 10,000 words. Many of them tried to change the subject to George Soros, the billionaire backer of liberal causes. But Soros is a publicity hound who is transparent about where he shovels his money. And like many liberals — selflessly or foolishly, depending on your point of view — he supports causes that are unrelated to his business interests and that, if anything, raise his taxes.

This is hardly true of the Kochs. When David Koch ran to the right of Reagan as vice president on the 1980 Libertarian ticket (it polled 1 percent), his campaign called for the abolition not just of Social Security, federal regulatory agencies and welfare but also of the F.B.I., the C.I.A., and public schools — in other words, any government enterprise that would either inhibit his business profits or increase his taxes. He hasn’t changed.

As Mayer details, Koch-supported lobbyists, foundations and political operatives are at the center of climate-science denial — a cause that forestalls threats to Koch Industries’ vast fossil fuel business. While Koch foundations donate to cancer hospitals like Memorial Sloan-Kettering in New York, Koch Industries has been lobbying to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from classifying another product important to its bottom line, formaldehyde, as a “known carcinogen” in humans (which it is).

Tea Partiers may share the Kochs’ detestation of taxes, big government and Obama. But there’s a difference between mainstream conservatism and a fringe agenda that tilts completely toward big business, whether on Wall Street or in the Gulf of Mexico, while dismantling fundamental government safety nets designed to protect the unemployed, public health, workplace safety and the subsistence of the elderly.

Yet inexorably the Koch agenda is morphing into the G.O.P. agenda, as articulated by current Republican members of Congress, including the putative next speaker of the House, John Boehner, and Tea Party Senate candidates like Rand Paul, Sharron Angle, and the new kid on the block, Alaska’s anti-Medicaid, anti-unemployment insurance Palin protégé, Joe Miller. Their program opposes a federal deficit, but has no objection to running up trillions in red ink in tax cuts to corporations and the superrich; apologizes to corporate malefactors like BP and derides money put in escrow for oil spill victims as a “slush fund”; opposes the extension of unemployment benefits; and calls for a freeze on federal regulations in an era when abuses in the oil, financial, mining, pharmaceutical and even egg industries (among others) have been outrageous.

The Koch brothers must be laughing all the way to the bank knowing that working Americans are aiding and abetting their selfish interests. And surely Murdoch is snickering at those protesting the “ground zero mosque.” Last week on “Fox and Friends,” the Bush administration flacks Dan Senor and Dana Perino attacked a supposedly terrorism-tainted Saudi prince whose foundation might contribute to the Islamic center.

But as The Daily Show” keeps pointing out, these Fox bloviators never acknowledge that the evil prince they’re bashing, Walid bin Talal, is not only the biggest non-Murdoch shareholder in Fox News’s parent company (he owns 7 percent of News Corporation) and the recipient of Murdoch mammoth investments in Saudi Arabia but also the subject of lionization elsewhere on Fox.

No less a Murdoch factotum than Neil Cavuto slobbered over bin Talal in a Fox Business Channel interview as recently as January, with nary a question about his supposed terrorist ties. Instead, bin Talal praised Obama’s stance on terrorism and even endorsed the Democrats’ goal of universal health insurance. Do any of the Fox-watching protestors at the “ground zero mosque” know that Fox’s profits are flowing to a Obama-sympathizing Saudi billionaire in bed with Murdoch? As Jon Stewart summed it up, the protestors who want “to cut off funding to the ‘terror mosque’ ” are aiding that funding by watching Fox and enhancing bin Talal’s News Corp. holdings.

When wolves of Murdoch’s ingenuity and the Kochs’ stealth have been at the door of our democracy in the past, Democrats have fought back fiercely. Franklin Roosevelt’s triumphant 1936 re-election campaign pummeled the Liberty League as a Republican ally eager to “squeeze the worker dry in his old age and cast him like an orange rind into the refuse pail.” When John Kennedy’s patriotism was assailed by Birchers calling for impeachment, he gave a major speech denouncing their “crusades of suspicion.

And Obama? So far, sadly, this question answers itself.


Sunday, May 08, 2011

The greatest purveyor of violence in the world today

By Mike Whitney
May 6, 2011

The greatest threat to Libyan sovereignty and independence is the United States of America. Nothing else comes close.

Gaddafi hasn't been targeted because he's a tyrant, but because he sits on an ocean of petroleum. That's what this is all about, right? If Libya's main source of wealth was car parts or coconuts, there never would have been a war.

The notion that a leader does not have the right to put down an armed rebellion against the state is too absurd to dispute. If we apply the same standard to the demonstrations in Wisconsin, then the teachers and other union members would be entirely justified in grabbing their hunting rifles and handguns and storming the capital in Madison. Can you see how stupid this is? And yet this is pretext that's being used to wage war on Libya.

"The greatest purveyor of violence in the world today is my own government." That was true when Martin Luther King uttered those words more than 40 years ago, and it's true today. Just ask anyone who lives in Baghdad.

Sure, no one wants to talk about Iraq anymore. It's more fun to watch while some dissolute sitcom star, like Charlie Sheen, has an emotional breakdown on national TV. Or listen to the endless blabbering of some clownish real estate mogul as he claws a path to the 2012 elections. But Iraq is still front-and-center on every Arabs mind. And, it should be. It's the prime example of US foreign policy at work.

Don't worry, I won't bore you with all the stats about the 1 million killed, the 4 million displaced, the lack of electricity, clean water, hospitals, schools etc., etc., etc. You've heard it all before. But there is one clip from an article in the New York Times that I will share with you because it perfectly summarizes how life has changed for many Iraqis since the invasion. The article is titled "City Upon a Hill of Scraps: Surviving on Scavenging in Iraq". Here's an excerpt:

"At the bottom of the economy here, life revolves around that humblest of commodities, garbage.....

On a recent morning, Hamad Tarish dropped down a bag of cans and scrap metal, showing off blackened hands that rarely touched running water. For Mr. Tarish, 22, garbage is his capital. Every night around 3 a.m. he leaves his home to scavenge in a neighborhood to the south before the sanitation trucks come, hustling to avoid the police and to compete with other collectors.

In front of a stretch of makeshift cinder-block houses he threw his haul onto a scale. Seventeen pounds of aluminum cans, worth $6. A hunk of scrap metal and a pound of wire from which he had burned the rubber insulation, each good for $2. In all, $10 to buy food for himself, his wife and their two children.

For Mr. Tarish, who said he usually earned about $4 a day, it was a good harvest. Tomorrow might not be as good, he said. You could never tell. His eyes were bloodshot, his limbs hung heavy with exhaustion.

“A kilogram of meat is $15,” he said. “It’s impossible. I don’t buy sugar for tea.”

As Iraq’s economy languishes, Mr. Tarish has found his livelihood in an underground economy that sustains and organizes whole neighborhoods. Around him were his fellow foot soldiers in this new marketplace — the nocturnal scavengers, the middlemen who bought the scrap for cents on the pound, the dirty horse-drawn carts bringing in more debris from more remote parts of the city. And around these were piles and piles of garbage, sorted by type and swarmed over by flies.

“People here are living on garbage and animals,” said Ali Hasun, 27, a middleman, gesturing around him at a horizon of improvised houses pressed one against another as far as the eye could see — a midsize city subsisting on refuge....

Mr. Hasun and Mr. Tarish live in a vast slum named Naser City, or Victory City, one of dozens of squatter settlements that have sprung up around Baghdad since the American invasion of 2003. Naser City, one of the largest, grew exponentially through the waves of sectarian violence that displaced people from other areas, and more recently because unemployment has forced others to leave their homes. With Baghdad experiencing a housing shortage, the squats — where land is free but illegal, and housing is whatever a family can erect — are in a construction boom.

Residents of Naser City believe that as many as 500,000 people live here, but that is just guesswork. The governor of Baghdad estimates that 600,000 people live in 42 squatter encampments around the city — roughly the population of Boston. But in a country without a census, where few government agencies venture into the squats, this, too, is more belief than fact.

“Those people need to pick up garbage because there are no chances to work,” said the governor, Salah Abdul-Razzaq.

Because the communities were not legal, he said, the province did not provide services like education, medical care, security, electricity, sewage and clean water. “The neighborhoods become places for criminals, thieves, terrorists, kidnappers. But we can’t move them out because there are no alternatives.”......("City Upon a Hill of Scraps: Surviving on Scavenging in Iraq", John Leland, New York Times)

This is what US "liberation" looks like up-close-and-personal, a half a million people foraging through garbage dumps to feed their kids and stay alive. Isn't that worth thinking about the next time Obama beats the war drum and tries to rally the masses to action?

The United States will never atone for what it did to Iraq. There's no making up for the lives that were lost or ruined. There's no making up for the blood that was spilled.

Here's a poem by the insightful Iraqi author, Layla Anwar, who asks Americans to consider what's been done in their names and to take a fresh look at the death and destruction we've left behind. The poem is called "Flying Kites":

Come and see our overflowing morgues and find our little ones for us...
You may find them in this corner or the other, a little hand poking out, pointing out at you...
Come and search for them in the rubble of your "surgical" air raids, you may find a little leg or a little head...pleading for your attention.
Come and see them amassed in the garbage dumps, scavenging morsels of food...
Half of them are under-nourished or dying from disease. Cholera, dysentery, infections of all sorts....
Come and see, come....” (“Flying Kites” Layla Anwar)


Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Osama bin Laden's last hours come into focus as White House revises its story

While US officials amend narrative of raid, Abbottabad residents describe Bin Laden’s ‘mansion’ and the brothers who built it.

by: Declan Walsh
The Guardian
May 4, 2011

By the time Pakistani soldiers lifted the cordon around Osama bin Laden’s house in the garrison town of Abbottabad, triggering a media stampede, the most obvious traces of its infamous resident had been effaced.

The American soldiers who had swept in aboard four helicopters on Sunday night had scoured the three-storey building, taking away computer hard disks and a trove of documents – as well as Bin Laden’s bloodied body, which was later buried at sea.The following day, Pakistani intelligence – angered at not having been informed of the raid, and embarrassed that it took place under their noses – made a second sweep.

Tractors carted away furniture and other belongings. But it was impossible to erase every trace of the drama that ended the manhunt.Beyond the gates, children in flip-flops and salwar kameez fished chunks of blackened helicopter debris from the surrounding fields, flung there after a US helicopter that failed to take off was blown up by its own soldiers.One boy produced a jagged, soot-encrusted chunk of metal, perhaps part of an exhaust, from a drain. “This is silver!” declared 12-year-old Yasser. A nervous looking intelligence official, loitering nearby, grabbed the child by the hand and led him away. Fascination with the raid was not confined to Abbottabad. In Washington, fresh details were being revealed by the White House, some which contradicted the earlier version of the demise of the world’s most wanted man.

In the hours after Bin Laden’s death, US officials briefed that he had put up a fight and shot at the Seal 6 team that stormed the second and third floors of his hideout. Other details suggested he used one of his wives as a human shield.

The White House confirmed that neither was true. Bin Laden was unarmed, was shot in the head and chest, and his wife had been wounded in the leg while rushing towards the special forces before he was killed.

The administration was considering whether to release the photos of the Saudi fugitive’s body to counter claims in the region that he had not been killed at all. “There are sensitivities about the appropriateness,” said spokesman Jay Carney. “It is fair to say it is a gruesome photograph.”

CIA director Leon Panetta told NBC that the government had been talking about the best way to release the photograph. “I don’t think there was any question that ultimately a photograph would be presented to the public,” he said.

Another shifting narrative concerned the property itself. Up close, Bin Laden’s house, a tall, unlovely piece of architecture, towering over the policemen guarding the gate, was not quite the million dollar mansion described by officials. The walls were high, certainly, but not unusually so for north-western Pakistan, where privacy is jealously guarded. The paint was peeling, there was no air conditioning.

But it was the only house in the neighbourhood with barbed wire and surveillance cameras. And it towered over its only neighbour, a small, ramshackle dwelling made of rough bricks with plastic sheeting for windows. The people inside were scared and apprehensive.

Zain Muhammad, an elderly man perched on a rope bed on the porch, said Pakistani soldiers had come in the night and taken away his son, Shamraiz. He produced a photo of a smiling man with a moustache in his early 40s. “I’ve no idea where he is. The soldiers won’t allow us to leave, not even to fetch water.” The family did harbour some suspicions about the house 10 feet away, however – and in particular the pair of secretive, security-conscious brothers who owned it.

They told us they had to protect themselves because they had enemies back in their home village. They had to screen off the house to protect their women. A lot of us thought they were smugglers,” said Abid Khan. Stranger still, the two men had two cows and some goats, but had no discernible source of income.

The house, it turned out, had been on the radar of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) for more than eight years. Construction started around 2001. Two years later, when it was still unfinished, ISI agents raided it in search of Abu Faraj al-Libbi, a senior Bin Laden lieutenant, but left empty-handed, an ISI official said.

Around 2005, Bin Laden moved in, according to US officials – perhaps around the time of the devastating Kashmir earthquake that killed 73,000 people in October of that year. As the wounded flooded into Abbottabad’s military hospital a mile away – so many that doctors set up a tent on the main lawn – the Saudi fugitive and his clan were settling into this house down the road.

There had been great speculation about his whereabouts. Across the border in Afghanistan, US soldiers distributed matchboxes with Bin Laden’s picture and details of a $25m bounty.

In Pakistan, the US embassy paid for expensive television ads appealing for information. “Who can stop these terrorists? Only you!” implored a voice as images of Bin Laden and 13 henchmen flashed across the screen.

The then president, Pervez Musharraf, insisted the Americans were wrong. His security forces had “broken the vertical and horizontal command and communication links of al-Qaida” in Pakistan, he boasted. “There are a lot of people who say that Osama bin Laden is here in Pakistan,” he said. “Please come and show us where.”

In Abbottabad, the two Pashtun brothers had finally completed their house, less than a mile from the Pakistan Military Academy where Musharraf himself had been trained.

One of them was Bin Laden’s courier, the man trusted to take his messages to the outside world. CIA officials subsequently learned his nom de guerre from an al-Qaida militant picked up in Iraq: Sheikh Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti. US officials described him a Pakistani brought up in Kuwait.

To the locals, however, he was simply a Pashtun businessman with an identity card issued in Charsadda, north of Peshawar. He and his brother seemed to be known by several names: Arshad and Tariq Khan, but also Rasheed, Ahmed and Nadeem. The gas bill was in the name of the elder brother, Arshad Khan, presumed to be the “courier” sought by the Americans. Oddly, the house had four separate gas connections.

They kept largely to themselves, coming and going in a small white Suzuki van and a red jeep. But they joined in with the everyday rituals of life, condoling the bereaved, celebrating weddings and births. It may have been a necessary part of the cover story; to have done otherwise might have aroused greater suspicion.

They weren’t chatty,” said Rasheed, a 32-year-old local shopkeeper, lounging behind his counter who said he sold the brothers salty biscuits and chewy toffees when they arrived with their seven children. He refused to believe they had any links to Kuwait. “We absolutely believed they were Pashtuns,” he said.

But the young trader did notice one strange thing. Seven years earlier he had worked on the house as a labourer when it was being built, and had wondered why the brothers insisted that the walls should be 3ft thick.

In the end, the two brothers were Bin Laden’s downfall. The CIA learned of Arshad Khan’s identity four years ago, and after a two-year search traced him to the Abbottabad area.

Then, last August, a Pakistani working for the CIA spotted one of the brothers as he drove his Suzuki van from Peshawar, leading them to the house. In February, the CIA became convinced Bin Laden was inside, leading to last Sunday’s raid.

The two brothers were killed in the opening moments of the assault, according to the CIA, along with Bin Laden and one of his sons, thought to be Khalid.

Many details, however, remain blurred. US officials amended their initial version to reveal that a woman who was killed during the raid on the compound was not Bin Laden’s wife.

It is also not clear how Bin Laden, who was cornered in a third-floor room now marked by a shattered windowpane, resisted as the US soldiers barged into his room.

President Barack Obama insists the Navy Seals would have detained him if they could, but it is hard to imagine US officials would have relished either a trial or the spectacle of the al-Qaida leader being held in Guantánamo Bay.

Bin Laden’s erstwhile neighbours, now in the gaze of the world’s media, congregated outside his house. Some seemed angry, others bemused. One bearded man scolded his friends for speaking to the foreign press; others seemed to relish the attention, presenting themselves for detailed interviews about their brushes with the neighbour they never knew. A few displayed pro-Osama bravado. “I would have opened fire on the Americans myself if I had to defend him!” declared one man.

Others worried about more material problems. “It’s going to destroy property prices in this area,” muttered one. And there was a surreal moment when an Osama lookalike – a man with a thin face, a large white turban and a full, scraggly beard – turned up at the front gate, triggering laughs and a flutter of camera shutters.

But there was no sign of life from a nearby property, about 50 metres from Bin Laden’s back wall, with a high perimeter wall and two watchtowers. Neighbours said it had been built three years ago by a man whose family has long owned property in the area. The nameplate read: Major Amir Aziz. Locals said he was a serving Pakistan army officer. Despite repeated rings on the doorbell, he refused to answer.

It is unclear what will happen now to the house that Osama built. It has become an embarrassment for Pakistan, a reminder of the fact that the world’s most famous fugitive managed to live in suburban comfort, apparently undetected, for up to six years.

Some fear it could become a shrine of sorts for al-Qaida supporters, and so it may be destroyed. But failing that, it may simply be rented out again. It is, after all, an attractive property – spacious, well located, and fully fitted with advanced security features. In fact it’s just the sort of house that is favoured by security-conscious US diplomats elsewhere in Pakistan. Perhaps they might consider taking it.


Monday, May 02, 2011

The Boogie Man is Dead, Long Live the Boogie Man

 The Power of Nightmares: Baby It's Cold Outside

Should we be worried about the threat from organized terrorism or is it simply a phantom menace being used to stop society from falling apart? In the past our politicians offered us dreams of a better world. Now they promise to protect us from nightmares.

The most frightening of these is the threat of an international terror network. But just as the dreams were not true, neither are these nightmares. In a new series, the Power of Nightmares explores how the idea that we are threatened by a hidden and organized terrorist network is an illusion.

It is a myth that has spread unquestioned through politics, the security services and the international media. At the heart of the story are two groups: the American neo-conservatives and the radical Islamists. Both were idealists who were born out of the failure of the liberal dream to build a better world.

These two groups have changed the world but not in the way either intended. Those with the darkest fears became the most powerful. Together they created today's nightmare vision of an organized terror network.
A fantasy that politicians then found restored their power and authority in a disillusioned age. Those with the darkest fears became the most powerful.

The rise of the politics of fear begins in 1949 with two men whose radical ideas would inspire the attack of 9/11 and influence the neo-conservative movement that dominates Washington. Both these men believed that modern liberal freedoms were eroding the bonds that held society together.

The two movements they inspired set out, in their different ways, to rescue their societies from this decay. But in an age of growing disillusion with politics, the neo-conservatives turned to fear in order to pursue their vision.

They would create a hidden network of evil run by the Soviet Union that only they could see. The Islamists were faced by the refusal of the masses to follow their dream and began to turn to terror to force the people to "see the truth"'.

Watch Part 1:

The Phantom Victory

The Power of Nightmares continues its assessment of whether the threat from a hidden and organised terrorist network is an illusion. Part two, the Phantom Victory looks at how two groups, radical Islamists and neo-conservatives with seemingly opposing ideologies came together to defeat a common enemy.

On 25 December 1979, Soviet forces invaded Afghanistan. Moscow was able to install a friendly government in a neighbouring country but at a price. The invasion gave a common cause to an extraordinary alliance of radical Islamists in Afghanistan and around the world and to the neo-conservatives in the US.

It was a key battleground of the Cold War. Washington provided money and arms including even Stinger missiles capable of shooting down Soviet helicopters. But it was Islamic Mujahideen fighters who would fire them. Among the many foreigners drawn to Afghanistan was a young, wealthy Saudi called Osama Bin Laden.

Long before 9/11, he would have been seen by neo-conservatives in Washington as one of their foot soldiers, helping fight America's cause. After nearly 10 years of fighting, Soviet troops pulled out of Afghanistan. Both the neo-conservatives and the Islamists believed that it is they who defeated the "evil empire" and now had the power to transform the world.

But both failed in their revolutions. In response, the neo-conservatives invented a new fantasy enemy, Bill Clinton, focusing on the scandal surrounding him and Monica Lewinsky. Meanwhile, the Islamists descend into a desperate cycle of violence and terror to try to persuade the people to follow them.

Out of all this comes the seeds of the strange world of fantasy, deception, violence and fear in which we now live.

Watch Part 2:

The Shadows In The Cave

The Power of Nightmares assesses whether the threat from a hidden and organised terrorist network is an illusion. In the concluding part of the series, the programme explains how the illusion was created and who benefits from it.

In the wake of the shock and panic created by the devastating attack on the World Trade Center on 11 September, 2001, the neo-conservatives reconstructed the radical Islamists in the image of their last evil enemy, the Soviet Union - a sinister web of terror run from the centre by Osama Bin Laden in his lair in Afghanistan.

There are dangerous and fanatical individuals and groups around the world who have been inspired by extreme Islamist ideas, and who will use the techniques of mass terror - the attacks on America and Madrid make this only too clear. But the nightmare vision of a uniquely powerful hidden organisation waiting to strike our societies is an illusion.

Wherever one looks for this al-Qaeda organisation, from the mountains of Afghanistan to the "sleeper cells" in America, the British and Americans are chasing a phantom enemy. But the reason that no-one questions the illusion is because this nightmare enemy gives so many groups new power and influence in a cynical age - and not just politicians.

Those with the darkest imaginations have now become the most powerful.

Watch Part 3: