Britain is on the brink of tyranny. The Justice and Security Bill, if it becomes law, will enable judicial trials to be held in secret, and it will even be illegal to tell anyone about them. The bill has now gone through all stages in the House of Commons, and will now go to the House of Lords for consideration. In other words, it’s nearly there (http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2012-13/justiceandsecurity.html).

The bill’s sponsor in the Commons is Justice Minister Kenneth Clarke, who is widely believed to be on the steering committee of the highly secretive Bilderberg meetings. In a foreward to a consultation document, he explains that the purpose of the bill is to enable the government to defend itself against civil claims, with claimants typically seeking significant amounts in damages, but where the facts of the case turn on highly sensitive information (http://consultation.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/justiceandsecurity/).

But it seems that’s just the gloss. Richard Cottrell, in his book ‘Gladio: NATO’s Dagger at the Heart of Europe’ (http://progressivepress.com/book-listing/gladio-natos-dagger-heart-europe) wrote a lot about this bill. At the time it had been rejected, but he rightly predicted that it would return. He wrote to me: “The Justice and Security Bill has been around for some years, since 7/7 hardly by co-incidence. It proposes that secret courts will inquire into any matters concerning individuals or events that the authorities decide they want to keep secret. This will apply in the case of the as yet unheld inquests on those blamed for 7/7.

“It was also to apply to living accused persons who would be denied under this Orwellian draft the right to represent themselves or have their own lawyers represent them. Nor will they be allowed to know what they are accused of. In the Soviet Union this was perfectly normal. In the place of legal representation the state will appoint Special Advocates who will not be under any responsibility to represent the accused, or explain to that person of what he is accused, and nor will they be under any responsibility to offer a defence.

“The Bill was savaged by the Lords, but returned to the Commons with all the Lords’ amendments struck out. On the day of the vote on gay marriages it slipped through the vote in the select committee with the vote of one backwoods Ulsterman rushed in at the last minute. (The vote was held at the same [time] as members were in the lobbies voting on the gay marriage Bill). … This law when passed, as it will be, can then be applied to all and any offence, even as lowly as a traffic accident. Accused persons will never be told of what they are charged and of course it is very unlikely they would be found ‘not guilty.’”

The British press is now very quiet on this, though the Daily Mail published an article on 10 February headed ‘Last week MPs revived the corpse of the ‘Secret Justice’ Bill. Here we spell out the full terrifying implications of life in… Secret Britain’ (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2276327/Last-week-MPs-revived-corpse-Secret-Justice-Bill–debating-gay-marriage-time-noticed-Here-spell-terrifying-implications-life–Secret-Britain.html). Interestingly, their sister paper, The Mail on Sunday, is about to take legal action to make public a secret judgement issued in an Afghan alleged torture case two years ago, which resulted from an earlier form of secret hearing, now deemed illegal by the Supreme Court (http://www.leighday.co.uk/News/2013/January-2013/Secret-evidence-challenge-by-Mail-on-Sunday). Also, political campaigner Chris Mullin gave a warning in The Guardian website on 28 January, headed ‘Justice and security bill: last chance to back away from secret justice’ (http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2013/jan/28/justice-security-last-chance-secret-evidence).

And now Big Brother Watch has launched a campaign, asking people to write to their MP (http://www.bigbrotherwatch.org.uk/home/2013/03/write-to-your-mp-about-the-justice-and-security-bill-today.html). Someone commented “What’s the point?”. OK, write to your local newspaper then.

Whistleblowers gagged – and there’s worse to come

Another piece of legislation which could make it difficult to expose possible government crimes is a proposed amendment to the  1984 Police and Criminal Evidence Act, as proposed by the Leveson Inquiry into phone hacking. This would make it easier for the police to seize confidential material from journalists, and it would weaken protection for whistleblowers (http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/feb/13/whistleblowers-press-new-police-powers). A leading barrister warned of a potential breach of European human rights law, the article states. But now the Government intends to do away with European human rights law (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/mar/04/theresa-may-human-rights-stunt). It looks as if the question of UK membership of the EU is being used as cover for this.

An editorial in The Guardian four days later drew attention to the general vulnerability of whistleblowers, as in the case of a former chief executive in the National Health Service, Gary Walker, who had been told that he would have to pay back any compensation payment arising from his dismissal if he spoke out (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/feb/17/journalistic-sources-law-editorial). But the problem was bigger than that. ‘NHS spends £15million (the same as 750 nurses’ salaries) on gagging 600 whistleblowers’ announced the Daily Mail (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2282600/NHS-spends-15million-750-nurses-salaries-gagging-600-whistleblowers.html), saying that this had cost the lives of 1 200 patients. The new legislation will make it even more difficult to blow the whistle, even when many lives are at stake.

“Democracy cannot work when secrecy exceeds its proper limits”, states the Guardian editorial, adding that hospitals, banks, corporations, meat producers and police forces alike must be open to scrutiny. I would add even humble membership associations to that list; that is something we can all do something about. Whenever we are met with indignation, having asked such basic questions as “Have these accounts been audited?”, “What is the basis of your proposal?”, or “How much money do we have?”, or in trying to raise perfectly legisimate issues, we need to stand up to such negative reactions. You’re standing up not just for your cause, but for your just cause of democracy.

Her Name is Rachel Corrie

March 10th, 2013 by Eileen Fleming

“My Name is Rachel Corrie” is based on the writings and journals of Rachel Corrie, the 23-year-old Evergreen State College student, who traveled to the Gaza Strip in 2003 and was run over and killed by a USA MADE Caterpillar D9R armored bulldozer which was operated by Israeli Forces, on March 16th, which was just a few days before President Bush began the bombing of Baghdad.

Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister at the time of Corrie’s death, promised a “thorough, credible and transparent investigation” would be conducted.

An internal military inquiry cleared the two soldiers operating the bulldozer was even criticized by US officials.

Human Rights Watch noted it “fell far short of the transparency, impartiality and thoroughness required by international law”.

The army report said Rachel Corrie “was struck as she stood behind a mound of earth that was created by an engineering vehicle operating in the area and she was hidden from the view of the vehicle’s operator who continued with his work. Corrie was struck by dirt and a slab of concrete resulting in her death.”

Tom Dale, a British activist who was 10m away when Corrie was killed, wrote an account of the incident two days later. He described how she first knelt in the path of an approaching bulldozer and then stood as it reached her. She climbed on a mound of earth and the crowd nearby shouted at the bulldozer to stop. He said the bulldozer pushed her down and drove over her.

“They pushed Rachel, first beneath the scoop, then beneath the blade, then continued till her body was beneath the cockpit. They waited over her for a few seconds, before reversing. They reversed with the blade pressed down, so it scraped over her body a second time. Every second I believed they would stop but they never did.”

Rachel has been eulogized and demonized, celebrated and castigated. Her words and witness speak for themselves and what follows are but a few excerpts from her emails written while in the homes of strangers who became friends and family in Rafah.

In January 2003, upon leaving Olympia, Washington, Rachel wrote:

We are all born and someday we’ll all die…to some degree alone. What if our aloneness isn’t a tragedy?  What if our aloneness is what allows us to speak the truth without being afraid? What if our aloneness is what allows us to adventure – to experience the world as a dynamic presence – as a changeable, interactive thing?

On February 7, 2003, Rachel wrote:

No amount of reading, attendance at conferences, documentary viewing and word of mouth could have prepared me for the reality of the situation here. You just can’t imagine it unless you see it – and even then you are always well aware that your experience of it is not at all the reality…Nobody in my family has been shot, driving in their car, by a rocket launcher from a tower at the end of a major street in my hometown…When I leave for school or work I can be relatively certain that there will not be a heavily armed soldier waiting…at a checkpoint with the power to decide whether I can go about my business, and whether I can get home again when I’m done…I am in Rafah: a city of about 140,000 people, approximately 60% of whom are refugees – many of whom are twice or three times refugees. Today, as I walked on top of the rubble where homes once stood, Egyptian soldiers called to me from the other side of the border, ‘Go! Go!’ because a tank was coming. And then waving and [asking] ‘What’s your name?’

Something disturbing about this friendly curiosity.

It reminded me of how much, to some degree, we are all kids curious about other kids. Egyptian kids shouting at strange women wandering into the path of tanks. Palestinian kids shot from the tanks when they peak out from behind walls to see what’s going on. International kids standing in front of tanks with banners. Israeli kids in the tanks anonymously – occasionally shouting and also occasionally waving – many forced to be here, many just aggressive – shooting into the houses as we wander away…There is a great deal of concern here about the “reoccupation of Gaza”. Gaza is reoccupied every day to various extents but I think the fear is that the tanks will enter all the streets and remain here instead of entering some of the streets and then withdrawing after some hours or days to observe and shoot from the edges of the communities. If people aren’t already thinking about the consequences of this war for the people of the entire region then I hope you will start….

Currently, the Israeli army is building a fourteen-meter-high wall between Rafah in Palestine and the border, carving a no-mans land from the houses along the border. Six hundred and two homes have been completely bulldozed according to the Rafah Popular Refugee Committee. The number of homes that have been partially destroyed is greater. Rafah existed prior to 1948, but most of the people here are themselves or are descendants of people who were relocated here from their homes in historic Palestine—now Israel. Rafah was split in half when the Sinai returned to Egypt.

In addition to the constant presence of tanks along the border and in the western region between Rafah and settlements along the coast, there are more IDF towers here than I can count—along the horizon, at the end of streets. Some just army green metal. Others these strange spiral staircases draped in some kind of netting to make the activity within anonymous. Some hidden, just beneath the horizon of buildings. A new one went up the other day in the time it took us to do laundry and to cross town twice to hang banners.

Despite the fact that some of the areas nearest the border are the original Rafah with families who have lived on this land for at least a century, only the 1948 camps in the center of the city are Palestinian controlled areas under Oslo.

But as far as I can tell, there are few if any places that are not within the sights of some tower or another. Certainly there is no place invulnerable to Apache helicopters or to the cameras of invisible drones we hear buzzing over the city for hours at a time.

…According to the municipal water office the wells destroyed last week provided half of Rafah’s water supply. Many of the communities have requested internationals to be present at night to attempt to shield houses from further demolition. After about ten p.m. it is very difficult to move at night because the Israeli army treats anyone in the streets as resistance and shoots at them. So clearly we are too few.

Many people want their voices to be heard, and I think we need to use some of our privilege as internationals to get those voices heard directly in the US, rather than through the filter of well-meaning internationals such as myself. I am just beginning to learn, from what I expect to be a very intense tutelage, about the ability of people to organize against all odds, and to resist against all odds.

People here watch the media, and they told me again today that there have been large protests in the United States and “problems for the government” in the UK. So thanks for allowing me to not feel like a complete Polyanna when I tentatively tell people here that many people in the United States do not support the policies of our government, and that we are learning from global examples how to resist.

February 20, 2003:

Now the Israeli army has actually dug up the road to Gaza, and both of the major checkpoints are closed. This means that Palestinians who want to go and register for their next quarter at university can’t. People can’t get to their jobs and those who are trapped on the other side can’t get home; and internationals, who have a meeting tomorrow in the West Bank, won’t make it. We could probably make it through if we made serious use of our international white person privilege, but that would also mean some risk of arrest and deportation, even though none of us has done anything illegal.

The Gaza Strip is divided in thirds now. There is some talk about the “reoccupation of Gaza”, but I seriously doubt this will happen, because I think it would be a geopolitically stupid move for Israel right now. I think the more likely thing is an increase in smaller below-the-international-outcry-radar incursions and possibly the oft-hinted “population transfer”.

…A move to reoccupy Gaza would generate a much larger outcry than Sharon’s assassination-during-peace-negotiations/land grab strategy, which is working very well now to create settlements all over, slowly but surely eliminating any meaningful possibility for Palestinian self-determination. Know that I have a lot of very nice Palestinians looking after me…

February 27, 2003:

…I have bad nightmares about tanks and bulldozers outside our house…Sometimes the adrenaline acts as an anesthetic for weeks and then in the evening or at night it just hits me again – a little bit of the reality of the situation. I am really scared for the people here. Yesterday, I watched a father lead his two tiny children, holding his hands, out into the sight of tanks and a sniper tower and bulldozers and Jeeps because he thought his house was going to be exploded. Jenny and I stayed in the house with several women and two small babies. It was our mistake in translation that caused him to think it was his house that was being exploded. In fact, the Israeli army was in the process of detonating an explosive in the ground nearby – one that appears to have been planted by Palestinian resistance.

This is in the area where Sunday about 150 men were rounded up and contained outside the settlement with gunfire over their heads and around them, while tanks and bulldozers destroyed 25 greenhouses – the livelihoods for 300 people. The explosive was right in front of the greenhouses – right in the point of entry for tanks that might come back again. I was terrified to think that this man felt it was less of a risk to walk out in view of the tanks with his kids than to stay in his house. I was really scared that they were all going to be shot and I tried to stand between them and the tank. This happens every day, but just this father walking out with his two little kids just looking very sad, just happened to get my attention more at this particular moment, probably because I felt it was our translation problems that made him leave.

I thought a lot about what you said on the phone about Palestinian violence not helping the situation. Sixty thousand workers from Rafah worked in Israel two years ago. Now only 600 can go to Israel for jobs. Of these 600, many have moved, because the three checkpoints between here and Ashkelon (the closest city in Israel) make what used to be a 40-minute drive, now a 12-hour or impassible journey. In addition, what Rafah identified in 1999 as sources of economic growth are all completely destroyed – the Gaza international airport (runways demolished, totally closed); the border for trade with Egypt (now with a giant Israeli sniper tower in the middle of the crossing); access to the ocean (completely cut off in the last two years by a checkpoint and the Gush Katif settlement). The count of homes destroyed in Rafah since the beginning of this intifada is up around 600, by and large people with no connection to the resistance but who happen to live along the border……about non-violent resistance.

When that explosive detonated yesterday it broke all the windows in the family’s house. I was in the process of being served tea and playing with the two small babies. I’m having a hard time right now. Just feel sick to my stomach a lot from being doted on all the time, very sweetly, by people who are facing doom. I know that from the United States, it all sounds like hyperbole. Honestly, a lot of the time the sheer kindness of the people here, coupled with the overwhelming evidence of the willful destruction of their lives, makes it seem unreal to me. I really can’t believe that something like this can happen in the world without a bigger outcry about it.

It really hurts me, again, like it has hurt me in the past, to witness how awful we can allow the world to be…you actually do go and do your own research. But it makes me worry about the job I’m doing. All of the situation that I tried to enumerate above – and a lot of other things – constitutes a somewhat gradual – often hidden, but nevertheless massive – removal and destruction of the ability of a particular group of people to survive. This is what I am seeing here. The assassinations, rocket attacks and shooting of children are atrocities – but in focusing on them I’m terrified of missing their context.

The vast majority of people here – even if they had the economic means to escape, even if they actually wanted to give up resisting on their land and just leave (which appears to be maybe the less nefarious of Sharon’s possible goals), can’t leave…they can’t even get into Israel to apply for visas, and because their destination countries won’t let them in (both our country and Arab countries).
…when all means of survival is cut off in a pen (Gaza) which people can’t get out of, I think that qualifies as genocide. Even if they could get out, I think it would still qualify as genocide. Maybe you could look up the definition of genocide according to international law…

When I come back from Palestine, I probably will have nightmares and constantly feel guilty for not being here, but I can channel that into more work. Coming here is one of the better things I’ve ever done. So when I sound crazy, or if the Israeli military should break with their racist tendency not to injure white people, please pin the reason squarely on the fact that I am in the midst of a genocide which I am also indirectly supporting, and for which my government is largely responsible.

February 28, 2003:

…I spent a lot of time writing about the disappointment of discovering, somewhat first-hand, the degree of evil of which we are still capable. I should at least mention that I am also discovering a degree of strength and of basic ability for humans to remain human in the direst of circumstances – which I also haven’t seen before. I think the word is dignity. I wish you could meet these people. Maybe, hopefully, someday you will…

I think I could see a Palestinian state or a democratic Israeli-Palestinian state within my lifetime. I think freedom for Palestine could be an incredible source of hope to people struggling all over the world. I think it could also be an incredible inspiration to Arab people in the Middle East, who are struggling under undemocratic regimes which the US supports.

I look forward to increasing numbers of middle-class privileged people like you and me becoming aware of the structures that support our privilege and beginning to support the work of those who aren’t privileged to dismantle those structures.

I look forward to more moments like February 15 when civil society wakes up en masse and issues massive and resonant evidence of it’s conscience, it’s unwillingness to be repressed, and it’s compassion for the suffering of others.

I look forward to more teachers emerging like Matt Grant and Barbara Weaver and Dale Knuth who teach critical thinking to kids in the United States.

I look forward to the international resistance that’s occurring now fertilizing analysis on all kinds of issues, with dialogue between diverse groups of people.

I look forward to all of us who are new at this developing better skills for working in democratic structures and healing our own racism and classism and sexism and heterosexism and ageism and ableism and becoming more effective.

In fifth grade, at the age of ten, Rachel Corrie wrote her heart out and stated it at a Press Conference on World Hunger in 1990:

I’m here for other children.
I’m here because I care.
I’m here because children everywhere are suffering and because forty thousand people die each day from hunger.
I’m here because those people are mostly children.
We have got to understand that the poor are all around us and we are ignoring them.
We have got to understand that these deaths are preventable.
We have got to understand that people in third world countries think and care and smile and cry just like us.
We have got to understand that they dream our dreams and we dream theirs.
We have got to understand that they are us. We are them.
My dream is to stop hunger by the year 2000.
My dream is to give the poor a chance.
My dream is to save the 40,000 people who die each day.
My dream can and will come true if we all look into the future and see the light that shines there.
If we ignore hunger, that light will go out.
If we all help and work together, it will grow and burn free with the potential of tomorrow.

1. http://rachelcorriefoundation.org/site/about-rachel-corrie/rachels-emails-from-palestine/

In Canada where early March brings no good news, Prime Minister Harper has used the Venezuelan leader’s death for ideological propaganda favouring his own brand of economics. At Venezuela’s first shock into mourning the Prime Minister responded – “At this key juncture, I hope the people of Venezuela can now build for themselves a better, brighter future based on the principles of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights.”

The Ottawa Citizen headlined an article by Terry Glavin, “Hugo Chavez: Venezuela’s incompetent fake socialist.” The Canadian Broadcasting Company‘s initial reporting took pains to present the opposition’s challenges to the succession of interim President Nicolás Maduro, and Human Rights Watch objections to the Chávez human rights record.

As the West’s media opened a one-note program sustaining the importance of corporate profit and inefficiency of any socialism which includes people, faces of newscasters morph into the perfection of Venezuela’s elite with perfect teeth and coiffes, the select malls of designer dresses, falsely clean banks, the privilege of not understanding, the outrage at challenges to previous advantage.

It’s impossible to respect the casual contempt of the Canadian Prime Minister’s response to the death of a world leader who both took care of the poor and by embracing his own multi-racial ancestry challenged the psychological trap of colonialism’s caste system and its stigmatization of  ’mixed’ blood.

The effects of Hugo Chávez the teacher are in motion beyond Venezuela. It is  Chávez before the U.N. General Assembly who compares George W. Bush to the Devil whose sulphurous fumes still linger in the room. Who forges a military tie with the radical left and unions, which eventually bring him to power. Who raises millions of Venezuelans out of poverty and supplies heating oil to the poor of  New England and the South Bronx.

Who brings Simon Bolívar back to the Americas. Who earns the love of the world’s poor by championing them at home. Who is at ease with himself. Who likes the colour red. Who acts out liberation theology before a retrograde  Church. Who understands the need for South American and African leaders to ally. Who sings to his people. Who builds a socialist government of aware workers understanding from the start their enemy. Chávez, who conveys to people everywhere, it’s all right just to be people.

By March 8th two million Venezuelans filed by their President’s casket, some saluting, others with genuflection, some in physical silence, some in tears. Among others, Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad kissed the coffin.

Among mourners who went to pay their respects in Venezuela were the head of State of Brazil and its former president, of Cuba, Argentina,  Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Haiti, Peru, Bolivia, Belarus, Equatorial Guinea, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Suriname, Aruba, Curacao, Mexico, Guatemala, Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, the Foreign Minister of Russia, Spain’s Prince Felipe de Borbon, but officially to represent Canada – a Parliamentary  secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bob Dechert.

India sent its Minister of corporate Affairs. The U.S. sent a Congressman and former Congressman. China sent the chief of its National Development and Reform Commission. Of African countries which generally praised and mourned Chávez, despite the global media accounts stating the attendance of African heads of State, none seem to have appeared at the funeral, suggesting a fear of NATO’s ugly stick.  Unofficially, Jean Chretien of Canada was there. The American, Jesse Jackson, shared a prayer. After the funeral Nicolás Maduro was installed as interim President, until the elections, currently called for April 14th.

The opposition candidate, Henrique Capriles Radonski, refused to attend the interim swearing-in ceremony, calling it a fraud and furthering the tactic of questioning the succession’s legitimacy. Capriles is widely quoted as saying “Nicolás, no one elected you president. The people didn’t vote for you, boy.” Yet Chávez chose as his successor, his Vice President Nicolás Maduro. The Venezuelan Constitution’s order of Presidential succession notes the Speaker of the National Assembly as successor, but when a President can’t be sworn in. Maduro could be and was, with approval of the Speaker of the Assembly who administered the oath of office, as well as of Venezuela’s Supreme Court.

While the opposition, representing the elites, continues to object to the swearing-in of Maduro as interim President, claiming a Constitutional violation, as extensively covered in the media, one is reminded of the 2009 Honduran coup d’état. The Honduran elite (with heavy U.S. support and investment for its military electronics command in Honduras) removed democratically elected President Zelaya on the pretext that the President betrayed his Constitution.

The pattern of a U.S. backed military kidnapping and removal was previously established with the removal of Haiti’s democratically elected President Aristide. Essentially the same pattern of removal was attempted in the 2004 coup against Chávez which failed. Venezuelans, have worked through questions about Presidential succession quite thoroughly: awaiting Chávez’s return to the Presidential Palace after the coup, the Speaker of the National Assembly assumed unofficial authority until the Vice-President was sworn in as temporary President. So the most likely reason for the opposition candidate to confuse the order of succession, is to appeal outside the Venezuelan process, to gain a victory he has no chance of winning by popular vote.

The overthrows of democracy which Americans take casually sadden everyone but corporate financiers. As a people the U.S. still hasn’t recovered from the assassinations of the Kennedys. It is possibly, a practice to murder the people’s leaders: Arbenz, Lumumba, the Kennedys, King, Malcolm X, René Schneider, Allende, etc.. There was no reciprocation. The leaders who betrayed their people into illegal wars survived untouched. As International Monetary Fund austerity programs disenfranchise the people of democracies, national leaders feed their populations into economic gas chambers of a false necessity. In healthy societies oppressive leaders would be removed by their people’s consensus, so the health of our societies is removed.

Interim President of Venezuela Nicolás Maduro has assured a scientific enquiry into the causes of Chávez’s death. In January Maduro reported an assassination attempt against himself and another Chávez ally. In 2009 Frederic Laurent Bouquet , admitted he was a French secret service agent, trained in Israel, and engaged in an attempt to assassinate Chávez. Arrested in Venezuela with three citizens of the Dominican Republic, plastique  explosives, and a small arsenal of guns, Bouquet was sentenced to 4 years in prison and in 2012 deported back to France.

There are reasonable allegations that in 2004 Venezuela’s State Prosecutor was killed by a right wing Colombian death squad with F.B.I. and C.I.A. assistance. CIA past involvement in the deaths and attempted assassinations of leaders serving the people of their nations is a matter of historical record. With 21rst Century electromagnetic, laser, radar and microwave weapons, biological and chemical technology, historically familiar methods of assassination seem intended for psychological effect or distraction. Current U.S. policy openly subverts the laws of war claiming the legality of assassinating foreign leaders, suspected terrorists, as well as Americans. The assassination of Yassar Arafat, ordered by the Israeli Cabinet was approved by the U.S. government.  When exhumed the Palestinian leader’s body revealed abnormally large amounts of radioactive material.

Chávez loved Venezuela’s poor. He loved the people of America and Canada, where the increasing numbers of poor find their lives are of no value to political leaders. Chávez provides hope for broken societies to heal. That’s part of what it means when you hear Chavez vive, la lucha sigue!

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 416

Edited by Carlos Osorio

Former military officers from Argentina and Uruguay went on trial this week in Buenos Aires for their human rights abuses in Operation Condor, a cross-border conspiracy of dictatorships in the 1970s and 1980s to “eradicate ‘subversion,’ a word which increasingly translates into non-violent dissent from the left and center left,” according to declassified documents posted today by the National Security Archive ( www.nsarchive.org).

Today’s posting of documents and evidence provided by the Archive to Argentine prosecutors includes the first briefing report, from August 1976, to then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on the secret police collaboration in the Southern Cone to “find and kill” opponents of their military regimes.

“The documents are very useful in establishing a comprehensive analytical framework of what Operation Condor was,” said Pablo Enrique Ouvina, the lead prosecutor in the case.

Founded by the Pinochet regime in November 1975, Operation Condor was the codename for a formal Southern Cone collaboration that included transnational secret intelligence activities, kidnapping, torture, disappearance and assassination, according to the National Security Archive’s documentary evidence from U.S., Paraguayan, Argentine, and Chilean files.

Prominent victims of Condor include two former Uruguayan legislators and a former Bolivian president, Juan Torres, murdered in Buenos Aires, as well as former Chilean ambassador Orlando Letelier and his 26-year old American colleague, Ronni Moffitt, assassinated by a car bomb in downtown Washington D.C.

The historic trial charges 25 high-ranking military officials, including former Argentine presidents Jorge Videla and Reynaldo Bignone, with conspiracy to “kidnap, disappear, torture and kill” 171 opponents of the military dictatorships that dominated the Southern Cone in the 1970s and 1980s. Among the victims are approximately 80 Uruguayans, 50 Argentines, 20 Chileans and a dozen from Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador who were targeted by Condor operatives. The kidnapping and disappearance of two Cuban Consulate officials in Buenos Aires on August 9, 1976, is also part of the prosecution.

“Condor was a latter day rendition, torture and assassination program,” noted Carlos Osorio, who directs the Archive’s Southern Cone Documentation project. “Holding these officials accountable for the multinational crimes of Condor,” he said, “cannot help but set a precedent for more recent abuses of a similar nature.”

Besides Generals Videla and Bignone, those indicted included 22 Argentine military intelligence officers and agents. In preparation for the trial, prosecutors sought the extradition of several foreign high ranking officers from Chile and Paraguay among other Condor countries. The only foreigner sitting at the courtroom, however, is Uruguayan Army Major Manuel Cordero, charged with participating in death squads and torture at the infamous Orletti Motors secret detention center in Buenos Aires. He was extradited by Brazil where he was living.

Of the 171 Condor victims cited in the indictments, approximately forty-two survived and a number of them are expected to testify in court. One hundred twenty others were killed and/or disappeared.

 


THE DOCUMENTS

Document l: Department of State, Report to Kissinger, SECRET, “The Third World War and South America,” August 3, 1976.

This report, based on CIA intelligence, was written by Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America, Harry Shlaudeman and presented to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in August 1976. The document summarizes the coordination of Southern Cone security forces:

“[T]hey are joining forces to eradicate ‘subversion,’ a word which increasingly translates into non-violent dissent from the left and center left. The security forces of the Southern Cone now coordinate intelligence activities closely; operate in the territory of one another’s countries in pursuit of ‘subversives’; have established Operation Condor to find and kill terrorists…in their own countries and in Europe. Brazil is cooperating short of murder operations.”

Document 2: Defense Intelligence Agency, [Report on Operation Condor] “Special Operations Forces,” SECRET, October 1, 1976.

This comprehensive intelligence report, based on information gathered by the FBI legal attaché in Buenos Aires, provides details on the collaboration between Argentina, Uruguay, and other Southern Cone military dictatorships. The document provided critical information to prosecutors on a joint operation with Uruguayan intelligence agents in late September 1976, in which dozens of Uruguayan members of the militant leftist movement OPR-33 were rounded up, detained, tortured, and a number killed in Buenos Aires. “The entire OPR-33 infrastructure in Argentina has been eliminated,” the document states. The kidnapped Uruguayans are among the over one hundred disappeared victims included in the Operation Condor trial. The document goes on to describe the “formation of special teams” to “carry out operations to include assassinations” in countries as far away as Portugal and France. The report cited a “favorite remark” of Southern Cone military officers as saying that “one of their colleagues is out of country because he is flying like a condor.”

Document 3: CIA, SECRET, A Brief Look at Operation Condor, August 22, 1978.

In the aftermath of the Letelier-Moffitt assassination, the CIA prepared this short briefing paper for Eugene Propper, the Justice Department’s lead prosecutor in the case. “Operation Condor is a cooperation effort by the intelligence/security services of several South American countries to combat terrorism and subversion. The original members included services from Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil and Bolivia; Peru and Ecuador recently became members.”

Document 4: Department of State, SECRET, “Conversation with Argentine Intelligence Source,” April 7, 1980.

In this revealing memorandum to Ambassador Castro, James J. Blystone, the Regional Security Officer (RSO) at the US Embassy in Buenos Aires, details his April 2 meeting with an Argentine intelligence source. The anonymous Argentine source describes how Horacio Campiglia and Susana Binstock, two militant Montoneros, were captured by Argentine officers of Battalion 601 (in coordination with Brazilian intelligence), taken to Argentina and held at the Campo de Mayo Army base. Campiglia and Binstock who were never seen again, are amongst the more than a hundred victims included in the Operation Condor trial.

Alleged CIA Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders

March 9th, 2013 by Global Research News

The Church Committee investigated CIA plots to assassinate foreign leaders. This Interim Report, published in 1975, discusses alleged plots to kill:

• Patrice Lumumba (Congo)
• Fidel Castro (Cuba)
• Rafael Trujillo (Dominican Republic)
• Ngo Dinh Diem (Vietnam)
• Rene Schneider (Chile)

The Committee also examined the CIA’s development of a general “executive action” capability. The Committee found that the U.S. initiated plots to assassinate Fidel Castro and Patrice Lumumba.

In the other cases, either U.S. involvement was indirect or evidence was too inconclusive to issue a finding.

In Lumumba’s case, the Committee asserted that the U.S. was not involved in his death, despite earlier plotting. The Committee was unable to state with certainty whether any plots were authorized by U.S. Presidents.

Original Church Committee Interim Report:

US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders,  Washington 1975 (pdf) (351 pages)

US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (link to Church Committee page, US Senate)

Church Committee Interim Report  Table of Contents and supporting documents

O presidente Hugo Chávez, que faleceu no dia 5 de março de 2013, vítima de câncer, aos 58 anos, marcou para sempre a história da Venezuela e da América Latina.

1. Jamais, na história da América Latina, um líder político alcançou uma legitimidade democrática tão incontestável. Desde sua chegada ao poder em 1999, houve 16 eleições na Venezuela. Hugo Chávez ganhou 15, entre as quais a última, no dia 7 de outubro de 2012. Sempre derrotou seus rivais com uma diferença de 10 a 20 pontos percentuais.

2. Todas as instâncias internacionais, desde a União Europeia até a Organização dos Estados Americanos, passando pela União de Nações Sul-Americanas e pelo Centro Carter, mostraram-se unânimes ao reconhecer a transparência das eleições.

3. Jimmy Carter, ex-presidente dos Estados Unidos, inclusive declarou que o sistema eleitoral da Venezuela era “o melhor do mundo”.

Milhares de venezuelanos se concentram nas ruas de Caracas para acompanhar cortejo fúnebre de Hugo Chávez

4. A universalização do acesso à educação, implementada em 1998, teve resultados excepcionais. Cerca de 1,5 milhão de venezuelanos aprenderam a ler e a escrever graças à campanha de alfabetização denominada Missão Robinson I.

5. Em dezembro de 2005, a Unesco decretou que o analfabetismo na Venezuela havia sido erradicado.

6. O número de crianças na escola passou de 6 milhões em 1998 para 13 milhões em 2011, e a taxa de escolarização agora é de 93,2%.

7. A Missão Robinson II foi lançada para levar a população a alcançar o nível secundário. Assim, a taxa de escolarização no ensino secundário passou de 53,6% em 2000 para 73,3% em 2011.

8. As Missões Ribas e Sucre permitiram que dezenas de milhares de jovens adultos chegassem ao Ensino Superior. Assim, o número de estudantes passou de 895.000 em 2000 para 2,3 milhões em 2011, com a criação de novas universidades.

9. Em relação à saúde, foi criado o Sistema Nacional Público para garantir o acesso gratuito à atenção médica para todos os venezuelanos. Entre 2005 e 2012, foram criados 7.873 centros médicos na Venezuela.

10. O número de médicos passou de 20 por 100 mil habitantes, em 1999, para 80 em 2010, ou seja, um aumento de 400%.

11. A Missão Bairro Adentro I permitiu a realização de 534 milhões de consultas médicas. Cerca de 17 milhões de pessoas puderam ser atendidas, enquanto que, em 1998, menos de 3 milhões de pessoas tinham acesso regular à saúde. Foram salvas 1,7 milhão de vidas entre 2003 e 2011.

12. A taxa de mortalidade infantil passou de 19,1 a cada mil, em 1999, para 10 a cada mil em 2012, ou seja, uma redução de 49%.

13. A expectativa de vida passou de 72,2 anos em 1999 para 74,3 anos em 2011.

Agência Efe

14. Graças à Operação Milagre, lançada em 2004, 1,5 milhão de venezuelanos vítimas de catarata ou outras enfermidades oculares recuperaram a visão.

15.  De 1999 a 2011, a taxa de pobreza passou de 42,8% para 26,5%, e a taxa de extrema pobreza passou de 16,6% em 1999 para 7% em 2011.

16. Na classificação do IDH (Índice de Desenvolvimento Humano) do PNUD (Programa das Nações Unidas para o Desenvolvimento), a Venezuela passou do posto 83 no ano 2000 (0,656) ao 73° lugar em 2011 (0,735), e entrou na categoria das nações com o IDH elevado.

17. O coeficiente Gini, que permite calcular a desigualdade em um país, passou de 0,46 em 1999 para 0,39 em 2011.

18. Segundo o PNUD, a Venezuela ostenta o coeficiente Gini mais baixo da América Latina, e é o país da região onde há menos desigualdade.

19. A taxa de desnutrição infantil reduziu 40% desde 1999.

20. Em 1999, 82% da população tinha acesso a água potável. Agora, são 95%.

21. Durante a presidência de Chávez, os gastos sociais aumentaram 60,6%.

22. Antes de 1999, apenas 387 mil idosos recebiam aposentadoria. Agora são 2,1 milhões.

23. Desde 1999, foram construídas 700 mil moradias na Venezuela.

24. Desde 1999, o governo entregou mais de um milhão de hectares de terras aos povos originários do país.

25. A reforma agrária permitiu que dezenas de milhares de agricultores fossem donos de suas terras. No total, foram distribuídos mais de 3 milhões de hectares.

26. Em 1999, a Venezuela produzia 51% dos alimentos que consumia. Em 2012, a produção é de 71%, enquanto que o consumo de alimentos aumentou 81% desde 1999. Se o consumo em 2012 fosse semelhante ao de 1999, a Venezuela produziria 140% dos alimentos consumidos em nível nacional.

27. Desde 1999, a taxa de calorias consumidas pelos venezuelanos aumentou 50%, graças à Missão Alimentação, que criou uma cadeia de distribuição de 22.000 mercados de alimentos (MERCAL, Casa da Alimentação, Rede PDVAL), onde os produtos são subsidiados, em média, 30%. O consumo de carne aumentou 75% desde 1999.

28. Cinco milhões de crianças agora recebem alimentação gratuita por meio do Programa de Alimentação Escolar. Em 1999, eram 250 mil.

29. A taxa de desnutrição passou de 21% em 1998 para menos de 3% em 2012.

30. Segundo a FAO, a Venezuela é o país da América Latina e do Caribe mais avançado na erradicação da fome.

31. A nacionalização da empresa de petróleo PDVSA, em 2003, permitiu que a Venezuela recuperasse sua soberania energética.

32. A nacionalização dos setores elétricos e de telecomunicação (CANTV e Eletricidade de Caracas) permitiu pôr fim a situações de monopólio e universalizar o acesso a esses serviços.

33. Desde 1999, foram criadas mais de 50.000 cooperativas em todos os setores da economia.

34. A taxa de desemprego passou de 15,2% em 1998 para 6,4% em 2012, com a criação de mais de 4 milhões de postos de trabalho.

35. O salário mínimo passou de 100 bolívares (16 dólares) em 1998 para 2.047,52 bolívares (330 dólares) em 2012, ou seja, um aumento de mais de 2.000%. Trata-se do salário mínimo mais elevado da América Latina.

36. Em 1999, 65% da população economicamente ativa recebia um salário mínimo. Em 2012, apenas 21,1% dos trabalhadores têm este nível salarial.

37. Os adultos com certa idade que nunca trabalharam dispõem de uma renda de proteção equivalente a 60% do salário mínimo.

38. As mulheres desprotegidas, assim como as pessoas incapazes, recebem uma ajuda equivalente a 70% do salário mínimo.

39. A jornada de trabalho foi reduzida a 6 horas diárias e a 36 horas semanais sem diminuição do salário.

40. A dívida pública passou de 45% do PIB em 1998 a 20% em 2011. A Venezuela se retirou do Fundo Monetário Internacional e do Banco Mundial, pagando antecipadamente todas as suas dívidas.

41. Em 2012, a taxa de crescimento da Venezuela foi de 5,5%, uma das mais elevadas do mundo.

42. O PIB por habitante passou de 4.100 dólares em 1999 para 10.810 dólares em 2011.

43. Segundo o relatório anual World Happiness de 2012, a Venezuela é o segundo país mais feliz da América Latina, atrás da Costa Rica, e o 19° em nível mundial, à frente da Espanha e da Alemanha.

44. A Venezuela oferece um apoio direto ao continente americano mais alto que os Estados Unidos. Em 2007, Chávez ofereceu mais de 8,8 bilhões de dólares em doações, financiamentos e ajuda energética, contra apenas 3 bilhões da administração Bush.

45. Pela primeira vez em sua história, a Venezuela dispõe de seus próprios satélites (Bolívar e Miranda) e é agora soberana no campo da tecnologia espacial. Há internet e telecomunicações em todo o território.

46. A criação da Petrocaribe, em 2005, permitiu que 18 países da América Latina e do Caribe, ou seja, 90 milhões de pessoas, adquirissem petróleo subsidiado em cerca de 40% a 60%, assegurando seu abastecimento energético.

47. A Venezuela também oferece ajuda às comunidades desfavorecidas dos Estados Unidos, proporcionando-lhes combustíveis com tarifas subsidiadas.

48. A criação da Alba (Aliança Bolivariana para os Povos de Nossa América), em 2004, entre Cuba e Venezuela, assentou as bases de uma aliança integradora baseada na cooperação e na reciprocidade, agrupando oito países membros, e que coloca o ser humano no centro do projeto de sociedade, com o objetivo de lutar contra a pobreza e a exclusão social.

49. Hugo Chávez está na origem da criação, em 2011, da Celac (Comunidade de Estados Latino-Americanos e Caribenhos), agrupando, pela primeira vez, as 33 nações da região, que assim se emancipam da tutela dos Estados Unidos e do Canadá.

50. Hugo Chávez desempenhou um papel chave no processo de paz na Colômbia. Segundo o presidente Juan Manuel Santos, “se avançamos em um projeto sólido de paz, com progressos claros e concretos, progressos jamais alcançados antes com as FARC, é também graças à dedicação e ao compromisso de Chávez e do governo da Venezuela”.

Salim Lamrani

 

Israel: A De Facto Member of NATO

March 9th, 2013 by Prof Michel Chossudovsky

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen received Israel’s president Shimon Peres at NATO headquarters in Brussels on March 7.

The order of the day: to enhance military cooperation between Israel and the Atlantic Alliance focusing on issues of counter-terrorism.

“Israel will be happy to share the knowledge it has gained and its technological abilities with NATO. Israel has experience in contending with complex situations, and we must strengthen the cooperation so we can fight global terror together and assist NATO with the complex threats it faces including in Afghanistan. “

Israel is already involved in covert operations and non-conventional warfare in liaison with the US and NATO.

This agreement is of particular significance because it deepens the Israel-NATO relationship beyond the so-called “Mediterranean Dialogue”.

The joint statement points to an Israel NATO partnership “in the fight against terror and the search for peace… in the Middle East and the world”.

What this suggests is the participation of Israel in active theater warfare alongside NATO –i.e. as a de facto member of the Atlantic Alliance.

In other words, Israel would be directly involved were US-NATO to launch an outright military operation against Syria, Lebanon or Iran.

Israel offered to assist NATO in counter-terrorism operations directed against Hezbollah and Iran.

“The two agreed during their discussions that Israel and NATO are partners in the fight against terror…the statement said.

President Peres stressed the need to maintain and increase the cooperation between Israel and NATO and Israel’s ability to cooperation and provide technological assistance and knowledge from the vast experience Israel had gained in the field of counter-terrorism.

“Israel will be happy to share the knowledge it has gained and its technological abilities with NATO. Israel has experience in contending with complex situations, and we must strengthen the cooperation so we can fight global terror together and assist NATO with the complex threats it faces including in Afghanistan, ” Peres told Rasmussen.

History of Israel-NATO Military Cooperation

It is worth noting that in November 2004 in Brussels, NATO and Israel signed an important bilateral protocol which paved the way for the holding of joint NATO-Israel  military exercises. A followup agreement was signed in March 2005 in Jerusalem between NATO’s Secretary General and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

The 2005 bilateral military cooperation agreement was viewed by the Israeli military as a means to “enhance Israel’s deterrence capability regarding potential enemies threatening it, mainly Iran and Syria.”

The ongoing premise underlying NATO-Israel military cooperation is that “Israel is under attack”.

There is evidence of active military and intelligence coordination between NATO and Israel including consultations pertaining to the occupied territories.

“Before Operation Cast Lead was launched in Gaza, NATO was already exchanging intelligence with Israel, sharing security expertise, and organising military drills. …. Former NATO chief Scheffer visited Israel in the midst of Israel’s offensive on Gaza. And NATO officials were at the time of the opinion that cooperation with Israel was essential for their organisation. (Al Ahram, February 10, 2010)

The March 2013 Israel-NATO Brussels bilateral agreement is the culmination of more than ten years of Israel-NATO cooperation.

Does this agreement “obligate” NATO “to come to the rescue of Israel” under the doctrine of “collective security”?

The agreement tightens the ongoing process of US-NATO-Israel military planning and logistics relating to any future operation in the Middle East including an aerial bombing of Iran’s nuclear plants.

The Israeli presidential delegation consisted of several top military and government advisers, including Brigadier General Hasson Hasson, Military Secretary to President Peres (See image below: first from left) and Nadav Tamir, policy adviser to the president of Israel (first right of president Peres).

The text of the Israel NATO agreement following discussions behind closed doors (see image below) was not made public.

(Click image to enlarge)

Following the meeting, a joint statement was released by NATO. Secretary-General Rasmussen stated in the press report:

“Israel is an important partner of the Alliance in the Mediterranean Dialogue. The security of NATO is linked to the security and stability of the Mediterranean and of the Middle East region. And our Alliance attaches great value to our political dialogue and our practical cooperation. Israel is one of our longest-standing partner countries. We are faced with the same strategic challenges in the Eastern Mediterranean.

And as we face the security threats of the 21st century, we have every reason to deepen our long-standing partnership with our Mediterranean Dialogue countries, including Israel. We all know the regional situation is complex. But the Mediterranean Dialogue remains a unique multilateral forum, where Israel and six Arab countries can discuss together with European and North American countries common security challenges. I see further opportunities for deepening our already close political dialogue and practical cooperation to our mutual benefit.”

Author’s Note:

The following article was published two years ago on March 9, 2011, at the outset of the US-NATO intervention in Libya.  Libya’s oil reserves are twice those of the United States.

In retrospect. the 2011 US-NATO led war on Libya was a multi-trillion dollar trophy for the United States. It was also, as outlined in the article a means to establishing US hegemony in North Africa, a region historically dominated by France and to lesser extent by Italy and Spain.

The US-NATO intervention was also intent upon excluding China from the region and edging out China’s National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), which was a major player in Libya.

Libya is the gateway to the Sahel and Central Africa. More generally, what is at stake is the redrawing of the map of Africa at the expense of France’s historical spheres of influence, namely a process of neo-colonial redivision.

Michel Chossudovsky, March 9, 2013


The geopolitical and economic implications of a US-NATO led military intervention directed against Libya are far-reaching.

Libya is among the World’s largest oil economies with approximately 3.5% of global oil reserves, more than twice those of the US.

“Operation Libya” is part of  the broader military agenda in the Middle East and Central Asia which consists in gaining control and corporate ownership over more than sixty percent of the world’s reserves of oil and natural gas, including oil and gas pipeline routes.

“Muslim countries including Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Yemen, Libya, Egypt, Nigeria, Algeria, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, possess between 66.2 and 75.9 percent of total oil reserves, depending on the source and methodology of the estimate.” (See Michel Chossudovsky, The “Demonization” of Muslims and the Battle for Oil, Global Research, January 4, 2007) .

With 46.5 billion barrels of proven reserves, (10 times those of Egypt), Libya is the largest oil economy in the African continent followed by Nigeria and Algeria (Oil and Gas Journal). In contrast, US proven oil reserves are of the order of 20.6 billion barrels (December 2008) according to the Energy Information Administration.  U.S. Crude Oil, Natural Gas, and Natural Gas Liquids Reserves)


2011 Top African reserve holders<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />

The most recent estimates place Libya’s oil reserves at 60 billion barrels. Its gas reserves at 1,500 billion m3. Its production has been between 1.3 and 1.7 million barrels a day, well below its productive capacity. Its longer term objective is three million b/d and a gas production of 2,600 million cubic feet a day, according to figures of the National Oil Corporation (NOC).

The (alternative) BP Statistical Energy Survey (2008) places Libya’s proven oil reserves at 41.464 billion barrels at the end of 2007 which represents 3.34 % of the world’s proven reserves. (Mbendi  Oil and Gas in Libya – Overview).


Oil is the “Trophy” of US-NATO led Wars

An invasion of Libya under a humanitarian mandate would serve the same corporate interests as the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq. The underlying objective is to take possession of Libya’s oil reserves, destabilize the National Oil Corporation (NOC) and eventually privatize the country’s oil industry, namely transfer the control and ownership of Libya’s oil wealth into foreign hands.

The National Oil Corporation (NOC) is ranked 25 among the world’s Top 100 Oil Companies. (The Energy Intelligence ranks NOC 25 among the world’s Top 100 companies. – Libyaonline.com)

The planned invasion of Libya, which is already underway is part of the broader “Battle for Oil”.  Close to 80 percent of Libya’s oil reserves are located in the Sirte Gulf basin of Eastern Libya. (See map below)

Libya is a Prize Economy. “War is good for business”. Oil is the trophy of US-NATO led wars.

Wall Street, the Anglo-American oil giants, the US-EU weapons producers would be the unspoken beneficiaries of a US-NATO led military campaign directed against Libya.

Libyan oil is a bonanza for the Anglo-American oil giants. While the market value of crude oil is currently well in excess of 100 dollars a barrel, the cost of Libyan oil is extremely low, as low as $1.00 a barrel (according to one estimate). As one oil market expert commented somewhat cryptically:

“At $110 on the world market, the simple math gives Libya a $109 profit margin.” (Libya Oil, Libya Oil One Country’s $109 Profit on $110 Oil, EnergyandCapital.com March 12, 2008)

Foreign Oil Interests in Libya

Foreign oil companies operating prior to the insurrection in Libya include France’s Total, Italy’s ENI, The China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), British Petroleum, the Spanish Oil consortium REPSOL, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Occidental Petroleum, Hess, Conoco Phillips.

Of significance, China plays a central role in the Libyan oil industry. The China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) had a workforce of some 400 employees. The total Chinese workforce in Libya was of the order of 30,000.

Eleven percent (11%) of Libyan oil exports are channelled to China. While there are no figures on the size and importance of CNPC’s production and exploration activities, there are indications that they are sizeable.

More generally, China’s presence in North Africa is considered by Washington to constitute an intrusion. From a geopolitical standpoint, China is an encroachment. The military campaign directed against Libya is intent upon excluding China from North Africa.

Also of importance is the role of Italy. ENI, the Italian oil consortium puts out 244,000 barrels of gas and oil, which represents almost 25 percent of Libya’s total exports. ( Sky News: Foreign oil firms halt Libyan operations, February 23, 2011).

Among US companies in Libya, Chevron and Occidental Petroleum (Oxy) decided barely 6 months ago (October 2010) not to renew their oil and gas exploration licenses in Libya. (Why are Chevron and Oxy leaving Libya?: Voice of Russia, October 6, 2010). In contrast, in November 2010, Germany’s oil company, R.W. DIA E signed a far-reaching agreement with Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) involving exploration and production sharing. AfricaNews – Libya: German oil firm signs prospecting deal – The AfricaNews, 

The financial stakes as well  as “the spoils of war” are extremely high. The military operation is intent upon dismantling Libya’s financial institutions as well as confiscating billions of dollars of Libyan financial assets deposited in Western banks.

It should be emphasised that Libya’s military capabilities, including its air defense system are weak.

Libya Oil Concessions

Redrawing the Map of Africa

Libya has the largest oil reserves in Africa. The objective of US-NATO interference is strategic: it consists in outright theft, in stealing the nation’s oil wealth under the disguise of a humanitarian intervention.

This military operation is intent upon establishing US hegemony in North Africa, a region historically dominated by France and to lesser extent by Italy and Spain.

With regard to Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria, Washington’s design is to weaken the political links of these countries to France and push for the installation of new political regimes which have a close rapport with the US. This weakening of France is part of a US imperial design. It is a historical process which goes back to the wars in Indochina.

US-NATO intervention leading to the eventual formation of a US puppet regime is also intent upon excluding China from the region and edging out China’s National Petroleum Corp (CNPC). The Anglo-American oil giants including British Petroleum which signed an exploration contract in 2007 with the Ghadaffi government are among the potential “beneficiaries” of  the proposed US-NATO military operation.

More generally, what is at stake is the redrawing of the map of Africa, a process of neo-colonial redivision, the scrapping of the demarcations of the 1884 Berlin Conference, the conquest of Africa by the United States in alliance with Britain, in a US-NATO led operation.

The colonial redivision of Africa. 1913

Libya: Strategic Saharan Gateway to Central Africa

Libya has borders with several countries which are within France’s sphere of influence, including Algeria, Tunisia, Niger and Chad.

Chad is potentially an oil rich economy. ExxonMobil and Chevron have interests in Southern Chad including a pipeline project. Southern Chad is a gateway into the Darfur region of Sudan, which is also strategic in view of its oil wealth.

China has oil interests in both Chad and Sudan. The China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) signed a farreaching agreement with the Chad government in 2007.

Niger is strategic to the United States in view of its extensive reserves of uranium. At present, France dominates the uranium industry in Niger through the French nuclear conglomerate Areva, formerly known as Cogema. China also has a stake in Niger’s uranium industry.

More generally, the Southern border of Libya is strategic for the United States in its quest to extend its sphere of influence in Francophone Africa, a vast territory extending from North Africa to Central and Western Africa. Historically this region was part of France and Belgium’s colonial empires, the borders of which were established  at the Berlin Conference of 1884.

Image Source www.hobotraveler.com

The US played a passive role at the 1884 Berlin Conference. This new 21st Century redivision of the African continent, predicated on the control over oil, natural gas and strategic minerals (cobalt, uranium, chromium, manganese, platinum and uranium) largely supports dominant Anglo-American corporate interests.

US interference in North Africa redefines the geopolitics of an entire region. It undermines China and overshadows the influence of the European Union.

This new redivision of Africa not only weakens the role of the former colonial powers (including France and Italy) in North Africa. it  is also part of a broader process of displacing and weakening France (and Belgium) over a large part of the African continent.

US puppet regimes have been installed in several African countries which historically were in the sphere of influence of France (and Belgium), including The Republic of the Congo and Rwanda.  Several countries in West Africa (including Côte d’Ivoire) are slated to become US proxy states.

The European Union is heavily dependent on the flow of Libyan oil. 85 percent of its oil is sold to European countries. In the case of a war with Libya, the supply of petroleum to Western Europe could be further disrupted, largely affecting Italy, France and Germany. Thirty percent of Italy’s oil and 10 percent of its gas are imported from Libya. Libyan gas is fed through the Greenstream pipeline in the Mediterranean (See map below).

The implications of these potential disruptions are far-reaching. They also have a direct bearing on the relationship between the US and the European Union.

Greenstream pipeline linking Libya to Italy (right)

Concluding Remarks

The mainstream media through massive disinformation is complicit in justifying a military agenda which, if carried out, would have devastating consequences not only for the Libyan people: the social and economic impacts would be felt Worldwide.

There are at present three distinct war theaters in the broader Middle East Central Asian region: Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq. In the case of an attack on Libya, a  fourth war theater would be opened up in North Africa, with the risk of military escalation.

Public opinion must take cognizance of the hidden agenda behind this alleged humanitarian undertaking, heralded by the heads of state and heads of government of NATO countries as a “Just War”. The Just War theory in both its classical and contemporary versions upholds war as a “humanitarian operation”. It calls for military intervention on ethical and moral grounds against “rogue states” and “Islamic terrorists”. The Just war theory demonizes the Gaddafi regime while providing a humanitarian mandate to US-NATO military intervention.

The heads of state and heads of government of NATO countries are the architects of war and destruction in Iraq and Afghanistan. In an utterly twisted logic, they are heralded as the voices of reason, as the representatives of the “international community”.

Realities are turned upside down. A humanitarian intervention is launched by war criminals in high office, who are the unchallenged guardians of the Just War theory.

Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo,… Civilian casualties in Pakistan resulting from US drone attacks on towns and villages ordered by president Obama, are not front page news, nor are the 2 million civilian deaths in Iraq.

There is no such thing as a “Just War”.  The history of US imperialism should be understood. The 2000 Report of the Project of the New American Century entitled “Rebuilding Americas’ Defenses” calls for the implementation of a long war, a war of conquest. One of the main components of this military agenda is: to “Fight and decisively win in multiple, simultaneous theater wars”.

“Operation Libya” is part of that process. It is another theater in the Pentagon’s logic of “simultaneous theater wars”.

The PNAC document faithfully reflects the evolution of US military doctrine since 2001. The US plans to be involved simultaneously in several war theaters in different regions of the World.

While heralding the need to protect America (i.e. ”National Security”), the PNAC report does spell out why these multiple theater wars are required. What purpose do they serve. Are they an instrument of peace? The usual humanitarian justification is not even mentioned.

What is the purpose of America’s military roadmap?

Libya is targeted because it is one among several remaining countries outside America’s sphere of influence, which fail to conform to US demands. Libya is a country which has been selected as part of a military “road map” which consists of “multiple simultaneous theater wars”.  In the words of former NATO Commander Chief General Wesley Clark:

 ”in the Pentagon in November 2001, one of the senior military staff officers had time for a chat. Yes, we were still on track for going against Iraq, he said. But there was more. This was being discussed as part of a five-year campaign plan, he said, and there were a total of seven countries, beginning with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia and Sudan…. (Wesley Clark, Winning Modern Wars, p. 130).

Part I

Insurrection and Military Intervention: The US NATO Attempted Coup d’Etat in Libya?

Global Research Editor’s Note

This article published by Global research on March 15, 2011 focuses on the chronology of an impending catastrophe.

We recall that the first explosion was on March 11, 2011 at Reactor 1 of the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

“A hydrogen explosion caused by nuclear fuel rods overheating and then coming into contact with water collapsed the outside walls and roof of containment vessel.”

A second explosion occurred the following day at Reactor No. 3. 

A third explosion also on March 13 occurred at Reactor 2.

“The emergency cooling system at Unit 2 was damaged during the Unit 3 blast, resulting in the uranium fuel rods at 2 becoming dangerously, and completely, exposed for a number of hours.”  

The fourth explosion occurred the following day, on March 14  at Reactor 4 :

“Spent nuclear fuel in the reactor heated up, creating hydrogen and triggered a hydrogen explosion. Officials now admit that radiation levels are harmful to human health.” 

Two years later, the crisis is by no means over.

There are ongoing dangers of radioactive groundwater from flowing from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi plant into the Pacific ocean.

“record cesium level has been detected in a fish in the area.  The Asahi Shimbun newspaper has reported [March 2013] that a greenling registered 510,000 becquerels per kilogram. That’s 5,100 times the Japanese government’s standard.

A rockfish caught in the area in mid-February contained 277,000 becquerels per kilogram.

 

Michel Chossudovsky, March 9, 2013


In a deepening tragedy, after an earthquake and tsunami caused four explosions at nuclear reactor plants in Japan, most of those who evacuated the area headed south, since winds normally would have pushed the radioactive clouds to the north and east. Instead, winds pushed the r-clouds south, according to The Australian. The shift in winds now threatens Hawaii with fallout from the Fukushima nuclear facilities.

Officials finally admit radiation has reached lethal levels in the area surrounding the explosions. Tokyo, 200 miles to the south, is also seeing higher levels of radiation. “[A]bnormal radiation and traces of radioactive elements were detected around Greater Tokyo, the world’s most populous metropolitan region with 36 million people.”

The paper also noted that “Hong Kong, The Philippines, Singapore and South Korea began testing Japanese food imports for radiation yesterday.”

Reactor No. 1. First explosion, March 11 at Fukushima Daiichi plant on east coast, 200 miles north of Tokyo. A hydrogen explosion caused by nuclear fuel rods overheating and then coming into contact with water collapsed the outside walls and roof of containment vessel. Hourly radiation leaking from Fukushima is equal to amount permitted in one year, official tells Kyodo. The nuclear agency says that they have detected cesium and iodine outside the unit, which certainly indicates fuel melting at the very least. Noriyuki Shikata, Dir. of Communitions for Prime Minister tweets: Blast was caused by accumulated hydrogen combined with oxygen in the space between container and outer structure. No damage to container. (BradBlog citing several sources)

Reactor No. 3. Second explosion, March 12 Containment vessel housing the fuel rods was not breached, per officials. Explosion damaged the reactor building, but not the nuclear containment vessel. The Fukushima facility began using MOX (mixed oxide) fuel last September, becoming the third plant in Japan to do so. MOX fuel has a lower melting point than the other fuels and contains plutonium, making it more volatile and toxic than the fuel used in other reactors. (Also see BradBlog and CLG, collected here.)

Reactor No. 2. Third explosion, March 13 The emergency cooling system at Unit 2 was damaged during the Unit 3 blast, resulting in the uranium fuel rods at 2 becoming dangerously, and completely, exposed for a number of hours. Containment vessel is damaged, radiation leak feared. Bottom of containment vessel blows. There are several containers around the nuclear fuel for the reactor. The fuel itself is inside rods, which are, in turn, inside a steal and concrete container vessel, currently filled — or partially filled, in this case — with sea water, to try to cool the fuel rods. If the container vessel, “the last line of defense from keeping the radioactivity from being released,” has been damaged by the explosion, fuel and radioactivity could leak into the environment. (BradBlog and CLG, collected here.)

Reactor No. 4. Fourth explosion, March 14 Spent nuclear fuel in the reactor heated up, creating hydrogen and triggered a hydrogen explosion. Officials now admit that radiation levels are harmful to human health. (Washington’s Blog citing several sources.)

BBC reports “Japanese engineer Masashi Goto, who helped design the containment vessel for Fukushima’s reactor core, says the design was not enough to withstand earthquakes or tsunami …” MSNBC notes there are 23 virtually-identical reactors in the U.S. built by General Electric.

This global catastrophe highlights the lunacy of building nuclear power plants on an island that sees 1,500 earthquakes a year.

The number of jobs in the US grew by 236,000 in February, and the official unemployment rate fell to its lowest level since 2008, according to the Labor Department’s latest jobs report released Friday.

The media jumped on the jobs total—significantly higher than the 165,000 that had been predicted—to proclaim an economic turnaround, while the Obama White House said the report indicated that “the recovery that began in mid-2009 is gaining traction.”

In reality, the jobs gained are a drop in the bucket compared to those lost during the recession. In the downturn that started in 2008, the US economy lost 8.9 million jobs, and if previous economic trends had continued, another 5.9 million jobs would have been added. Since the end of 2009, the economy has added only 5.7 million jobs.

At February’s rate of job growth, the US economy would not get back to the pre-recession level of unemployment until 2017.

By and large, the new jobs created pay much less than those lost during the crash. According to Friday’s figures, average hourly earnings for production workers have risen by only 2 percent over the past year, a figure wiped out by rising prices.

In addition to paying lower wages, an increasing number of new jobs are part time. Compared to late 2007, 5.8 million fewer people in the US are now working full time, but 2.8 million more are working part time. The share of people working part-time has grown from 16.9 percent at the start of the recession to 19.2 percent today.

Even as payrolls increased in February, a significant number of people simply stopped looking for work and dropped out of the labor force. With 130,000 people dropping out of the workforce, the labor force participation rate fell to 63.5 percent, the lowest level in over three decades.

The percentage of the population that is employed fell from 63.3 percent in February 2007 to 58.5 percent in February 2010. This figure has stayed essentially unchanged at that level since then, with the latest figure coming in at 58.5 percent.

Long-term unemployment has likewise increased significantly in the most recent report. The percentage of unemployed people who have been out of work for more than half a year hit 40.2 percent in February, up from 38.1 in January. At the end of December 2007, this figure stood at 17.4 percent.

The latest jobs report came after a surprise drop in the United States’ gross domestic product in the fourth quarter of 2012, which was revised up to a growth of only 0.1 percent. The combined economies of the advanced industrial countries in that quarter shrank by 0.2 percent.

The US public sector once again shed jobs in February, losing 10,000 positions. Since June 2009, 742,000 state, local, and federal jobs have been eliminated, half of those in public education.

The slashing of government jobs is only likely to intensify with last week’s passage of $1.2 trillion in ‘sequester’ job cuts. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the imposition of the sequester will result in 750,000 job losses, and significantly increase the unemployment rate.

Friday’s US jobs report appeared the same day the DOW Jones Industrial average hit the highest level in its history. The corporate cash hoard has likewise reached a new record, hitting an estimated $1.79 trillion in the fourth quarter of last year, up from $1.77 trillion in the previous quarter. Instead of investing the money, however, companies are using it to buy back their own stock and pay out record dividends.

Corporations have sharply increased dividend payments to investors. The New York Times reported Friday that S&P 500 companies are expected to pay over $300 billion in dividends this year, a sharp increase over last year’s payout of $282 billion. American corporations bought back $117.8 billion in their own stock last month, the highest total on records going back to 1985.

“Corporations are flush with cash and that cash sitting in the corporate coffers is earning next to nothing,” Rob Leiphart, an analyst at Birinyi, told the Times. “Companies have to do something with it.”

The rise in corporate stock buy-backs harkens back to the period prior to the 2008 crash. As the Times noted, “Similar buyback activity occurred the last time stocks hit record highs. During the housing boom that ended in 2007, S&P 500 companies ramped up their share buybacks to what were the highest levels in history.”

After four years of “recovery,” the US economy is nowhere near its pre-recession level of unemployment. Instead of investing in production, major corporations, flush with cash and with their stock at record levels, are paying out dividends and inflating their own stock values.

These actions work to further enrich the financial elite, which has seen its wealth increase dramatically with the rise of the stock market. This is made possible in large measure by the US Federal Reserve’s vastly expansionary monetary policy, which is throwing $85 billion a year into financial markets and ultimately into the coffers of the super-rich.

The unprecedented combination of mass unemployment, falling wages and an influx of free money from the Federal Reserve has led to a boom in corporate profits, which have set records for three years in a row. In the third quarter of 2012, corporate profits as a percentage of the total economy were 14.2 percent, the highest level on record going back to 1950, while the share of national income that went to workers, 61.7 percent, was at its lowest level in nearly five decades.

by Jason Liosatos

There is a new trend in the ‘war on terror’ by the real world terror of the US, Israeli and Western governments, and it is called ‘bomb them just in case’.

With the looming threat of an attack on ‘innocent’ Iran, it is the same premise of ‘bomb them just in case’. This tactic is no different than shooting someone ‘just in case’ they get a gun and kill you, even though they have never exhibited any aggression or threat of aggression towards you, or indeed never possessed a gun in the past.

A similar analogy is that of a bully in a school yard, terrorizing and beating up the younger kids ‘just in case’ they grow bigger and tougher and ‘just might’ become a threat to you later on, so get them anyway ‘just in case’. It is the same as the horrific, unprovoked murders taking place in Pakistan by the Drone strikes, which is murder without a trial for the victims or the perpetrators. Again we see the same pattern of ‘kill them just in case’ they might be guilty, with no evidence, no proof, and no trial. Simply suspects, possible criminals, like dogs being punished ‘just in case’ they might bite someone, or hitting a child ‘just in case’ they are naughty.

The Drone operators murder the suspects via a screen in a live reality video show from thousands of miles away, and are now suffering terrible traumatic stress, as the Drone operators often watch a house and its family and children coming and going for sometimes weeks before the order is given to blow the house up, with all its inhabitants and suspects at home, children and all. This has proved to be more traumatizing to the Drone operators than it would be for a fighter jet pilot who does the same, though from a cowardly 2,000 feet and who cannot see the beautiful little children who live inside the property he bombs.

Iran is the latest example of this on a bigger scale, and it is the same old thing, ‘bomb them just in case’ they get a bomb one day, which is the same as the example I gave of shooting someone ‘just in case’ they get a gun someday and ‘just might’ for some reason shoot you. It is becoming more and more obvious that the real terrorists are the paranoids running the US, Israeli and Western governments, hell bent on attacking, bullying, bombing or strangling anyone with the noose of sanctions that ‘just might be’ a future threat, so get them ‘just in case’. We as the population must be very careful not to become accustomed to the slow creep towards further ethical compromises being committed by government.

There is no doubt that we are in the bloodiest, most brutal century in our human history, spearheaded by world leaders whose vision and wisdom has been not only compromised but dehumanized and anesthetized by their insatiable lust for power and greed at any cost to humanity and the planet. It is an absolute emergency that these ongoing crimes against humanity be quelled, and that quelling will come about by the people of the world refusing to tolerate such imbalanced, and insane behavior from the very people they vote for. Ultimately the military must refuse to carry out such orders to murder their fellow human beings with no trial or proof of them being guilty, and there is growing evidence that the military are beginning to hear their inbuilt, ethical alarm bell, which nature gave them to know what is right and wrong.

Of course there are high profile hits on Saddam Hussein, Bin Laden, Gaddafi – all killed without a trial, but countless other suspects are killed daily, none of whom we ever hear about, along with women and children, all innocent until proven guilty. But there is hope because although things are getting worse,  the people are getting better, and rapidly awakening to the terrible crimes against humanity being committed by their own terrorizing US, Israeli and Western governments, the very governments they clap and cheer for at elections, and vehemently defend as their chosen ones, their leaders, their saviors, but at last people are realizing this is not so.

The conditioning and chloroform is at last wearing off, and there is a mass awakening taking place worldwide, with people everywhere realizing that something must be done to stop the wanton destruction of happiness, peace and freedom. We have definitely reached a critical fork in the road, a turning point in our human history. We can no longer rely on any world government to change things, their obsession with money and power has consumed them and us. The transformation so urgently needed will come from each persons individual transformation and awakening which will change everything, and which is the key to the solution of the worlds problems.

Author Jason Liosatos is a artist, writer and peace advocate based in the UK, and host of Global Peace Radio Show.

Libya was a self-sufficient, prosperous state which collapsed two years ago. It makes remember the dramatic events and what it resulted in. First of all, it was a new type of war, a «virtual revolution» and the United Nations Security Council’s resolutions were based on…editing the stages of a TV movie.

After the United Nations Security Council’s resolution N 1970 was adopted, the UN Human Rights Council sent the Independent Investigation Commission to Libya. The Libyan government allowed seeing all the places where public protesters were allegedly shot at. The Commission members were permitted to go anywhere they wanted to and they…hastily left the country. Gaddafi invited them for a meeting, but they didn’t even wait for it! No other investigation by «international community» followed. Vladimir Chamov, former Russian Ambassador to Libya (2008-2011), wrote, «The lie used by NATO to justify its war against Libya made pale even the one concocted as a pretext for invading Iraq». He knows what he is talking about, he’s was Russian Ambassador to Iraq too.

The UN Security Council’s resolution envisaged the possibility of «any actions» against Libya. It is said Russia committed a major mistake when it abstained while the Security Council voted for the resolution N 1973. And Russian diplomats, including Oleg Peresypkin, former Russian Ambassador to Libya (1984-1986), say it was quite possible to oppose the text before the vote. Indeed, for the first time in the history of international law any statescould take any measures against Libya. The wording was defying, it needed polishing, and making it more precise, altered, but…it never happened.

It was also for the first time ever, a country’s case was transferred to the International Criminal Court, though Libya is not even a party to it.

After the events in Libya, election results and adherence to internal law stopped being yardsticks for judging the legitimacy of state power. It was the statements by foreign leaders (the President of the United States, for instance) that mattered now. 

The so-called Arab revolutions brought a lot of harm to Russia’s interests. No doubt, the cooperation with Arab world was beneficial, multiple contacts are lost now. Pavel Akopov, president of the Association of Russian diplomats, former Russian Ambassador to Libya, recalls, «The Soviet economists worked out a system of granting credits to the Arab States. A loan for ten years was granted with 2.5% interest rate. It was allowed to pay with the commodities produced by a country’s industry or by the enterprises built with the help rendered by the Soviet Union at the expense of the loans. That’s how we exported engineering industry products». The model of developing bilateral mutually beneficial relations was so attractive that they started to copy it in the West.

For Russia Libya was the biggest loss in the Middle East. Former Russian Ambassador to Libya (1991-1992) Veniamin Popov says that while redeeming loans Libya paid to Russia more than any other country in the history of economic cooperation between the USSR and other states. The Libyans always paid in cash, if not, they exported oil supplies. The Libyan crude is a high-quality product, it has almost no sulfur. According to Alexey Podzerob, Russian ex Ambassador to Libya (1992-1996), even writing off a part of the debt was beneficial because the money was used for placing orders for Russian industry!

The elimination of Libya is a crime against this state, but also an attempt to arbitrarily decree a new international law. The events in Mali are a direct aftermath of what took place in Libya. The case is already transferred to the International Criminal Court and it was done after the legally elected President had been toppled. On February 19 2013 the UN International Independent Investigation Commission offered a report to the UN Security Council strongly recommending to transfer the situation in Syria to the Court too. The Commission acknowledged that «Anti-government armed groups have committed war crimes, including murder, torture, hostage-taking and attacking protected objects. They continue to endanger the civilian population by positioning military objectives inside civilian areas». Still, according to the Commission «The violations and abuses committed by anti-Government armed groups did not, however, reach the intensity and scale of those committed by government forces and affiliated militia». (1) By the way, Carla Del Ponte, a former Chief Prosecutor of two United Nations international criminal law tribunals, is a member of the Commission. Considering civil war cases, she made a one-sided persecution a norm of international «justice».

The lessons of Libya are to be drawn to rectify mistakes. Speaking at the press-conference by the end of December 2012, President Putin said Russia would not repeat the mistake. According to him, «We’ll not support any armed groups that try to solve internal problems by use of force». He also made a statement that just couldn’t go unnoticed. Speaking at the press-conference in Copenhagen in 2011 he said nobody has the right of interference into others internal conflicts. Today this stance acquires specific significance. The international intervention in other countries is not considered to be interference into internal affairs anymore. The position made public by Putin calls for leaving behind fictitious arbitrary decisions presented as legal acts and getting back to the real international law. It’s something to be remembered by all advocates of «new» parallel international legal system.

* * *

The elimination of the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya was the end of a large-scale world project, an alternative pattern of society… 

Remembering the Libyan Jamahiriya one should not forget the founder of the country who sacrificed his life for it. Muammar Gaddafi died and did it with dignity. He had thought about death for as long time. Almost forty years ago his famous story called Death saw light. There he wonders if death is male or female. From the point of view of Gaddafi’s philosophy the difference is significant. If death is male then it should be resisted at all costs, if it is female – then it should finally be given place to. The story says death can take any form and it’s the form that defines your actions. The leader of Libyan Jamahiriya acted as described he should in his touching story.

(1) The full text of the UN Investigation Commission ‘s report is available on the website of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights:

http://www.ohchr.org/ Documents/ HRBodies/ HRCouncil/CoISyria/A.HRC.22.59_en.pdf

Cheney Admits that He Lied about 9/11

March 9th, 2013 by Washington's Blog

What Else Did He Lie About?

The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd writes today:

In a documentary soon to appear on Showtime, “The World According to Dick Cheney,” [Cheney said] “I got on the telephone with the president, who was in Florida, and told him not to be at one location where we could both be taken out.” Mr. Cheney kept W. flying aimlessly in the air on 9/11 while he and Lynn left on a helicopter for a secure undisclosed location, leaving Washington in a bleak, scared silence, with no one reassuring the nation in those first terrifying hours.

“I gave the instructions that we’d authorize our pilots to take it out,” he says, referring to the jet headed to Washington that crashed in a Pennsylvania field. He adds: “After I’d given the order, it was pretty quiet. Everybody had heard it, and it was obviously a significant moment.”

***

When they testified together before the 9/11 Commission, W. and Mr. Cheney kept up a pretense that in a previous call, the president had authorized the vice president to give a shoot-down order if needed. But the commission found “no documentary evidence for this call.”

In other words, Cheney pretended that Bush had authorized a shoot-down order, but Cheney now admits that he never did. In fact, Cheney acted as if he was the president on 9/11. *

Cheney lied about numerous other facts related to 9/11 as well. For example, Cheney:

* Indeed, Cheney initiated Continuity of Government plans on 9/11 which essentially nullified America’s constitutional form of government.

Global Research News Hour Episode 17

Imagine a middle-aged couple starting a simple business. They provide herbs or vitamins or some other innocuous product to the public. Let’s suppose they also promote the health benefits of taking this product.

Under current laws, the couple could find themselves the target of a sting operation in which an armed RCMP SWAT team might swoop down on their residence, bust their door down, stick guns in the occupants’ faces and force them to sit on a couch for eleven hours while the agents search for contraband.

According to constitutional lawyer Rocco Galati, not only could this happen, it has happened! In Canada!

The offensive legislation in question relates to an Act that governs so-called Natural Health Products. Dietary supplements, vitamins, herbs, foods and any other such natural item have proven to be far less dangerous than most over the counter prescription medications. These are now being targeted by Health Canada as a potential health hazard.

Galati is mounting a legal challenge against Health Canada. He tells the Global Research News Hour why the legislation on the books is insidious and unconstitutional and needs to be changed.

The Fracking Bubble

According to Deborah Rodgers of Energy Policy Forum, the current boom in shale oil and gas is not only unsustainable and environmentally contentious, it is built on unreliable estimates and projections. In this interview she explains the critical difference between reserve estimates and resource estimates, and why Wall Street is deriving profits from what appears to be a bubble akin to the Sub Prime Mortgage bubble which burst in 2008.

The Death of Chavez

Millions around the world are mourning the death of Bolivarian leader Hugo Chavez who died of cancer on Tuesday March 5 at the age of 58. Chavez defied US imperial aims including a coup attempt in 2002. He has since been a thorn in the side of both the Bush and the Obama administrations.

As the Venezuelan people grieve and admirers around the world pay homage, the Global Research News Hour brings in frequent guest and Chavez admirer Stephen Lendman to examine Chavez’s impact on international geo-politics. We also discuss the possibility that the Venezuelan President may have been the victim of a US assassination attempt!

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The Global Research News Hour, hosted by Michael Welch, airs on CKUW 95.9FM in Winnipeg Thursdays at 10am CDT. The programme is now broadcast weekly by the Progressive Radio Network in the US, and is available for download on the Global Research website.

All Western agencies joined together reporting the news that Yoani María Sánchez Cordero, a 37 years old Cuban blogger, got a permission to leave Cuba. She had tried to get the permission for five years, now she got it. Sánchez was kind of frustrated that her leaving was far from being an event in the focus of public attention. No dramatic actions: no interrogations, no searches, there was nothing to be used for denigration of the «Castro brothers regime».

Yoanni’s 80 days trip is to include ten states, including Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Italy and the United States. Brazil was the country to start… The first appearance there was a failure: a group of left-wing protesters demonstrated against the screening of a libelous documentary entitled «Cuba-Honduras Connection», devoted to curbing the freedom of speech in the countries ruled by «dictatorial regimes». Yoani Sánchez plays a part. She is the one to tell about the fight for democracy in Cuba, the use of social networks for uniting the young people. She has an aversion for life in Cuba and dreams about «genuine democracy for all».

The blogger was frustrated over the fact the «Advocates of Castro brothers regime in Brazil» disrupted the screening. She called on the government of Dilma Rousseff to take a «more energetic» and «tougher» position to address the issue of human rights with the government of Raúl Castro. According to her, «There is a lack of toughness or frankness when talking about the subject of human rights on the island. There has been too much silence. The people do not forget». Her guard was reinforced after the first incident. Some media outlets reported Habana was ready to go to any length in order to get the blogger’s tour disrupted. Brazilian Foreign Minister Patriota denied the rumors. He said there were no obstacles on the way of the visit. Yoani stopped at the most fashionable hotels reputed as the most safe ones for US citizens. Her stay was at the expense (hosting courtesy) of Brazilian Hotel Association.

The fame Yoani gained thanks to social networks is a matter of special attention. How could a hardly out of the ordinary blogger critical of Habana’s communal services and transport problems become a key figure in the propaganda campaigns launched by the US State Department and the CIA in Cuba? She emigrated to Switzerland in 2002 after a fictitious marriage. Probably then the US special services laid eyes on her as a promising influence agent. There are many Latin Americans living on Switzerland and the CIA has always been well connected and strongly positioned there. She had all the makings for the job. Graduated in philology, she was full of ambitions and had a special aptitude for analysis and improvisation. The blogger tried to compensate her lack of physical attractiveness by intellectual prowess, achievements in politics and journalism. The CIA operatives used it all to their advantage, promising her a «smooth career path», international fame and protection from «repressions» on the part of Cuban government.

She became computer savvy in Switzerland and got introduced to programming and other skills. The training was useful afterwards. She told that on a number of occasions that she pretended to be a German tourist to get access to Internet connections in the hotels destined for foreigners. Not once she disguised beyond recognition to get necessary information at party gatherings. The blogger was master of disappearing when being watched and followed so that she could meet her connection from the United States Interests Mission in Havana. But it’s not always she used the art of conspiracy for working meetings with Americans. Many a time she met them in broad daylight in her apartment: kind of «I have nothing to hide and do it all openly» behavior.

Sanchez got back to Cuba in the summer of 2004. In April 2007 she launched the Generation Y blog full of blunt reflections on Cuban life. From the start it was mainly destined for young people. Yoani positioned herself as a young Cuban mulling over the issues of right and wrong in the conditions of «tough life». She said in an interview once that she had «a lot of issues and stories never discussed in press or on television. It was all strongly mixed up with skepticism…, the blog made it possible to get rid of many demons: apathy, fear, inertness. The blog therapy found its way to many hearts captured by the same demons».

The State Department and the CIA did their best to promote the blog in the shortest time possible. The blogger’s posts were translated into twenty languages. The texts were accumulated together, sorted according to the issues and then made public as books. There were four bulky volumes published in 2010-2011.

The number of issues encompassed has grown as time went by. The state of Cuban economy, public sentiments, rumors about possible changes at the top – the blog was referred to as the most reliable information source by Western media. The Huffington Post, the Miami Herald, the New York Times, Spanish El Pais and Argentinian Clarin began to cooperate with her. A flow of prestigious international awards followed. In April 2008 she won the Ortega y Gasset journalism prize from the Spanish daily El País. In a short period of time she received around twenty awards totally equal to over $250 thousand. US Time lost no time in inserting her name into an annual list of the 100 most influential people of the planet, Foreign Policy called her one of the ten leading Latin American intellectuals.

The US Habana Mission reports made public by WikiLeaks, mention promising young «non-traditional dissidents», like Yoani Sánchez, who are able to influence the Cuban social and political life after the Castro brothers are gone. That’s what explains why President Obama pays such attention on what Sánchez does. In 2007 he responded to seven questions of the blogger. That’s what it looked like in practice. The US Mission got the questions and made answers in the name of President. Then they sent it to Washington for the approval by State Department and the White House. After that the document went back to the Mission and re-sent to Sánchez.

In 2011 Sanchez received the US Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award. Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton took part in the ceremony. According to her, no matter the persecution by Cuban authorities Sanchez was going her own way telling the things that could not be told by others.

In 2012 the blogger was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Spanish Union, Progress and Democracy (Spanish: Unión Progreso y Democracia) party. The prize went to the European Union. No doubt she’ll be nominated again. Her chances will go up in case of repressions on the part of the government. But the Cuban leadership is reserved even in view of intermittent information war waged against it by the blogger. Does she have support on the Island? Not much. The Cubans know well the examples of other countries that refused socialism.

After a 13-hour filibuster by Senator Paul asking for a yes-or-no answer, on the question of whether the government could kill Americans on U.S. soil with drones, the Attorney General responded:

Dear Senator Paul:

It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: “Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?” The answer to that question is no.

Sincerely,

Eric Holder

But – as anyone who has worked in the legal or legislative field knows – statements which do not pin down all possibilities create loopholes large enough to drive trucks through.

Remember, Holder’s letter to Paul can’t be taken in a vacuum. The government has said for many months that it has the power to assassinate Americans on U.S. soil.

William Grigg notes:

This brief message from Holder … should be read in terms of the supposed authority claimed thereby. This means removing useless qualifiers in the interest of clarity.

What Holder is saying, in substantive terms, is that the President does have the supposed authority to use a drone to kill an American who is engaged in “combat,” whether here or abroad. “Combat” can consist of expressing support for Muslims mounting armed resistance against U.S. military aggression, which was the supposed crime committed by Anwar al-Awlaki, or sharing the surname and DNA of a known enemy of the state, which was the offense committed by Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdel. Under the rules of engagement used by the Obama Regime in Pakistan, Yemen, and Afghanistan, any “military-age” male found within a targeted “kill zone” is likewise designated a “combatant,” albeit usually after the fact [update: children too]. This is a murderous application of the “Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy,” and it will be used when — not if — Obama or a successor starts conducting domestic drone-killing operations.

Holder selected a carefully qualified question in order to justify a narrowly tailored answer that reserves an expansive claim of executive power to authorize summary executions by the president.

Indeed, the Supreme Court ruled in Hamdi that American citizens can be treated as enemy combatants.

But the determination of who is a “combatant” is made in secret and without judicial review.  For example, AP notes:

Pentagon counsel Jeh Johnson … said only the executive branch, not the courts, is equipped to make military battlefield targeting decisions about who qualifies as an enemy.

Secretive, unaccountable agencies are making life and death decisions which effect our most basic rights. They provide “secret evidence” to courts which cannot be checked … and often withhold any such “evidence” even from the judges. For example:

“I find myself stuck in a paradoxical situation in which I cannot solve a problem because of contradictory constraints and rules — a veritable Catch-22,” the judge wrote. “I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the Executive Branch of our Government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws, while keeping the reasons for their conclusion a secret.”

The government uses “secret evidence” to spy on Americans, prosecute leaking or terrorism charges (even against U.S. soldiers) and even assassinate people.

Secretive, unaccountable agencies are making life and death decisions which effect our most basic rights. They provide “secret evidence” to courts which cannot be checked … and often withhold any such “evidence” even from the judges. For example:

“I find myself stuck in a paradoxical situation in which I cannot solve a problem because of contradictory constraints and rules — a veritable Catch-22,” the judge wrote. “I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the Executive Branch of our Government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions [i.e. assassinations] that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws, while keeping the reasons for their conclusion a secret.”

Moreover:

The government’s indefinite detention policy – stripped of it’s spin – is literally insane, and based on circular reasoning. Stripped of p.r., this is the actual policy:

  • If you are an enemy combatant or a threat to national security, we will detain you indefinitely until the war is over

  • But trust us, we know you are an enemy combatant and a threat to national security

See how that works?

The government also wants to expand its assassination program to cover “associates of associates” of Al Qaeda.

And – given that political dissent is now considered terrorism, and protesters considered low-level terrorists – does that mean that dissent or protest makes one a “combatant”?.

Karl Denninger also points out that Holder didn’t say anything about other types of assassination:

Still can’t be bothered to make a clear statement can you?

So in your opinion, Mr. Holder, it’s perfectly ok if the President uses an M-16, a 9mm, a bomb constructed out of C-4 or burns the building you’re in to the ground?

Therefore, Holder’s letter raises more questions than it answers.

Update:  One of the nation’s top constitutional and military law experts – Professor Jonathan Turley – just weighed in on this issue:

We previously discussed how Attorney General Eric Holder wrote a letter confirming that the President would have authority to kill citizens on U.S. soil without a charge or conviction. His answer triggered a principled filibuster by Sen. Rand Paul and another embarrassment to Democratic Senators who, again, chose personality over principle in staying silent. Now, Holder has issued a new statement. No, President Obama still claims the right to kill U.S. citizens on his sole authority. However, Holder now says that, if the citizen is “not engaged in combat on American soil,” the President cannot vaporize him. The answer leaves the constitutional claim of Obama even more confused and conflicted. Does this mean we have a third category now under the policy: citizen, citizen terrorist, and citizen non-combatant terrorist?

In his prior letter, Holder answered a question about whether the President was claiming the right to kill citizens on U.S. soil. This follows the release of a memo showing that Holder’s description of the policy at Northwestern University Law School was narrower than the actual policy described within the Administration. A memo leaked to the press shows that the Administration has adopted a virtual limitless definition of imminence: “The condition that an operational leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.”

Last week, Holder said “It is possible I suppose to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States.”

***

It is not clear what Holder means by “engaged in combat” since the Administration memo shows that the Administration is using an absurdly broad definition of “imminent” threat under the kill list policy. Since the Administration has continued to assert that terrorists are engaged in a war against the U.S., the terse reply of Holder seems designed to preserve later flexibility.

Moreover, there is nothing in the constitutional claim of the Administration that reflects such a limitation. Deciding on where to kill a citizen would be an discretionary policy under the sweeping presidential authority described by the Administration. As noted in earlier columns (here and here and here), it is astonishing how citizens, including so many liberals and civil libertarians, Obama is saying that his appointment of a non-binding committee satisfied due process and relieves any need for judicial review. Moreover, if the President has the inherent authority to kill a citizen in Canada, it is not clear why such inherent authority would not exist a few hundred yards away in Detroit. The Administration has said that it can use the unilateral power when it considers a capture to pose undue risk to its personnel.

What is particularly striking is that we have a president who is asserting the right to kill any citizen but the Administration has classified memos on that authority and the Attorney General will only give a Senator a terse two line conclusory statement on scope. The Administration appears to believe that there is little need to explain the details on killing citizens, such as how it defines “combat.” Obviously, if there is a war occurring in the United States, a president has the right to put down insurrection or attacks on the federal government. These strikes concern targeting terrorists. One can easily foresee this or a future president insisting that an alleged terrorism conspiracy is a form of combat.

It would seem an obvious thing to explain how they define combat and whether an alleged terrorist would fall into it. Does this mean that there will be a category of non-combatant terrorists for domestic strikes? How is that defined? It seems like a hole big enough to fly a drone through.Since police can already use lethal force to stop an attack in progress, the answer leaves more questions than it answers in my view. For a citizen it would mean that he or she can be killed abroad on the basis of the Administration’s wildly broad definition of “imminent” but domestically would fall under a different “combat” definition. Where is the line between an “imminent” threat and “combat” drawn? Does Holder mean there is a different meaning to imminence when someone steps over the border? We already have the definition of “imminent” and the Administration’s new definition of “imminent.” Is this yet a third option?

 The primary reason, we are told, that the West must immediately begin wider operations to support the so-called Syrian rebels is to head off extremists – namely Al Qaeda, from overrunning Syria. This narrative has been sold for nearly a year now as it has become evidently clear that all major offensives in Syria against the Syrian people and their government have been led by Al Qaeda terrorist fronts, including most notoriously, Jabhat al-Nusra.

It turns out, however, according the London Telegraph, that the US and Britain have already been arming terrorists operating in Syria for some time, including a massive airlift of 3,000 tons of weapons, sent across Syria’s borders with Jordan and NATO-member Turkey. In the Telegraph’s article titled, “US and Europe in ‘major airlift of arms to Syrian rebels through Zagreb’,” it is reported:

It claimed 3,000 tons of weapons dating back to the former Yugoslavia have been sent in 75 planeloads from Zagreb airport to the rebels, largely via Jordan since November
The story confirmed the origins of ex-Yugoslav weapons seen in growing numbers in rebel hands in online videos, as described last month by The Daily Telegraph and other newspapers, but suggests far bigger quantities than previously suspected.
The shipments were allegedly paid for by Saudi Arabia at the bidding of the United States, with assistance on supplying the weapons organised through Turkey and Jordan, Syria’s neighbours. But the report added that as well as from Croatia, weapons came “from several other European countries including Britain”, without specifying if they were British-supplied or British-procured arms.
British military advisers however are known to be operating in countries bordering Syria alongside French and Americans, offering training to rebel leaders and former Syrian army officers. The Americans are also believed to be providing training on securing chemical weapons sites inside Syria.

With so much admitted involvement in the violence aimed at overthrowing Syria’s government by the West, it is inconceivable that Al Qaeda could be “overrunning moderate forces” in Syria, unless of course, no such moderate forces exist, and the West had planned from the beginning to use Al Qaeda as a mercenary force. And indeed, that is precisely what is happening. It has been established with documented evidence since at least 2007, and reaffirmed with this latest report.


Pulitizer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh, in his 2007 New Yorker report titled, “The Redirection: Is the Administration’s new policy benefiting our enemies in the war on terrorism?“stated explicitly that:

“To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.”

Is there any doubt that the US has executed this plot in earnest, arming and funding sectarian extremists “sympathetic to Al Qaeda” on both Syria’s northern and southern border? Where else, if not from the West and its regional allies, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, could extremists be getting their weapons, cash, and logistical support from?

And of course, Syria’s borders with Jordan and Turkey have been long-ago identified by the US Army’s own West Point Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) as hotbeds of sectarian extremist/Al Qaeda activity – hotbeds that the West is purposefully funneling thousands of tons of weaponry through, while disingenuously claiming it is attempting to prevent such weapons from falling into the hands of extremists.

The CTC’s 2007 report, “Al-Qa’ida’s Foreign Fighters in Iraq,” identified Syria’s southeastern region near Dayr Al-Zawr on the Iraqi-Syrian border, the northwestern region of Idlib near the Turkish-Syrian border, and Dar’a in the south near the Jordanian-Syrian border, as having produced the majority of fighters found crossing over into Iraq throughout the duration of the Iraq War.

Image: (Left) West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center’s 2007 report, Al-Qa’ida’s Foreign Fighters in Iraq” indicated which areas in Syria Al Qaeda fighters filtering into Iraq came from during the US invasion/occupation. The overwhelming majority of them came from Dayr Al-Zawr in Syria’s southeast, Idlib in the north near the Turkish-Syrian border, and Dar’a in the south near the Jordanian-Syrian border. (Right) A map indicating the epicenters of violence in Syria indicate that the exact same hotbeds for Al Qaeda in 2007, now serve as the epicenters of so-called “pro-democracy fighters.”

….

These areas are now admittedly the epicenters of fighting, and more importantly, despite being historical hotbeds of Al Qaeda activity, precisely where the West is flooding with cash, weapons, and military “advisers.” Just like in Libya where the West literally handed an entire nation to sectarian extremists, we are watching a verbatim repeat in Syria – where we are told Al Qaeda terrorists are “pro-democracy” “freedom fighters” that deserve US cash, weapons, and support, when it couldn’t be any clearer they aren’t.

Not only has the US and UK lied to the world about their policy toward Syria and their current level of support for increasingly overt terrorists committing an array of atrocities – their latest act including the taking of over 20 UN peacekeepers hostage in the Golan Heights – but have revealed once again the manufactured facade that is the “War on Terror.”

by Nidal Hmadeh 

The document is a ten page application form distributed by the Turkish authorities on Syrians inside Syria. Based on the information mentioned in the application, the individual is enlisted either in the ranks of a certain phalanx that fights in Syria, as an intelligence agent, or as a recruit for the intelligence agents that work inside Syria.

The source of this document is an injured Syrian who was in the ranks of the militants. His family took him to Europe for treatment after he was injured in his spinal cord, so he passed on this document to us to publish it and comment on its articles and points.

Turkey also relies on these forms to specify the individuals that it could take to military training camps in Turkey, as well as those who could form military and security cells inside Syria.

He added that “all the supervisors of this center are from the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and they personally lead Al-Nusra Front.”

The injured Syrian further tells us that one person could fill more than one form, as he could fill forms for people he knows, or he could work on finding people that would fill their personal forms.

Moreover, Turkey presents for each individual, who could find 60 people to fill forms in Syria, a large sum of money.

The injured Syrian said that this form was put by the Turks and they are the ones who supervise the training program, while Qatar and Saudi Arabia fund the civil society center, in addition to cash money that come from France, America, and Germany.

The application form is consisted of 28 articles, and the following points are noticed in it:

1- Article number seven is related to military information and data from the Syrian Arab Army, and it is consisted of 13 sections.

2- Articles between nine and 23 are questions and information about the Syrian society.

3- Articles between 23 and 27 are security and intelligence questions.

4- Article 28 includes questions about the sectarian structure in each applicant’s region.

To see the original document press here

 

Iraq War Crimes: Neocons Escape Accountability

March 9th, 2013 by Paul R. Pillar

Nearing the Iraq War’s tenth anniversary, an overriding truth is that few of the key participants – in government, media or think tanks – have faced accountability commensurate with the crime. Indeed, many of these Mideast “experts” are still go-to people for advice.

One regularly hears much talk in Washington about accountability, but also regularly sees examples of how the concept of accountability gets applied in this town in an inconsistent and warped way. There are the inevitable calls for heads to roll after any salient untoward event, and huzzahs to senior managers who do roll heads in response.

have addressed previouslywhat tends to be wrong about how such episodes play out. Too often there is no consideration of whether the untoward event is or is not part of some larger pattern of malfeasance or incompetence, whether those at any one level in a chain of command could reasonably be expected to prevent all such events when the action is at some other level, and whether there is any reason to expect the changes in personnel to result in any change in institutional performance.

Nor is there consideration of why those who roll heads and collect the huzzahs but who also are part of the same chain of command should be allowed to determine — in a very un-Truman-like, the-buck-didn’t-get-to-me way — that accountability stops just below their own level.

The converse of this is that in some instances in which there is a proven pattern of error, and good reason to believe that if we trust the same people who led us into failure in the past we are likely to be led into failure again, no accountability seems to be taking place. Accountability in this instance would not necessarily mean losing a particular job; it could mean being discredited as a source of policy advice.

Image: Dennis Ross, who has served as a senior U.S. emissary in the Middle East.

There is such a thing as malpractice in policy analysis. The most obvious example of lack of this type of accountability is that neocons — the people who gave us the Iraq War — still get listened to. Not only that, but they still get listened to on matters eerily reminiscent of getting us into the Iraq War.

Another example is brought to mind by the latest set of recommendations from veteran Middle East peace processor Dennis Ross. A fair reaction to this comes from Lebanese commentator Rami Khouri. Khouri observes that it is understandable to think about how the Obama administration, with its new secretary of state, might try to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. But, he continues,

“Less understandable is why a leading American publication — the New York Times in its Sunday Review section — should turn for advice on this issue from former diplomat Dennis Ross. … I say this is less understandable because Ross has almost nothing but failure to show for his 11 years of leadership on Arab-Israeli and other Middle Eastern issues in the White House and State Department, between 1993 and 2011. Only in Washington could a serial failure in Arab-Israeli diplomacy such as Ross be consulted on how to move ahead in Arab-Israeli diplomacy.”

Another type of accountability-shedding, which one sees especially on Capitol Hill but also elsewhere, is that someone who supported what turned out to be a failure disclaims responsibility on grounds of having been misinformed. This certainly has been a pattern regarding the Iraq War ever since it turned sour. Some proponents of the war have confessed to having made an error; a larger number have used the excuse of having been misinformed by the Bush administration, the intelligence community, or both about Iraqi weapons programs.

The excuse gets repeated even though very few members of Congress ever bothered to look at what the intelligence agencies were saying either about the weapons programs or about anything else concerning Iraq, and even though there would not have been a case for launching this offensive war even if everything the administration had said about the weapons had been true.

A similar way of shedding responsibility, again a favorite of members of Congress, is to immerse oneself in the political mood of the moment and to disregard how that mood represents a change from earlier moods. Here the outstanding example is the practice that gets euphemistically called enhanced interrogation techniques.

Scott Shane has an excellent description in the New York Times of the state of play about this issue that confronts John Brennan, and particularly about the question of how he will handle a reportedly damning report prepared by Democratic Congressional staff.

He faces Democrats who have moved strongly into the anti-torture camp, Republicans who haven’t moved as much, and employees involved in the interrogation process who have seen public and political standards about this subject shift markedly between the early post-9/11 days, when they were doing some of this stuff, and now, when people want to hold someone accountable for doing that stuff.

Given past patterns, the smoothest way out of this bind may be found in the report itself, in which, according to Shane, people involved in the interrogation program are described as having given “top Bush administration officials, members of Congress, the American public and even their own colleagues — possibly including Mr. Brennan himself — a deeply distorted account of its nature and efficacy.”

Here’s a prediction: Mr. Brennan will find places at lower levels to satisfy the appetite for accountability, while further determining that both he and members of Congress had been “misinformed.”

Paul R. Pillar, in his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is now a visiting professor at Georgetown University for security studies. (This article first appeared as a blog post at The National Interest’s Web site. Reprinted with author’s permission.)

Hugo Chavez, Humble Man Who Transformed the World

March 9th, 2013 by Rick Rozoff

AUDIO

He reconfigured the power relationships not only in the Western Hemisphere, but globally, in a way that could not have been foreseen. The head of state of a country that isn’t a tremendously large one, isn’t a tremendously powerful one, certainly not in military terms, but this is a man who made frequent visits to Russia, to the African continent, to the Middle East, to China, who cultivated relationships with the emerging multi-polar world…

Just as Venezuela has been the bellwether, has been the prototype for the transformation that has occurred throughout Latin America in the last 14 years, so the US sees it, I suppose, as the transformation, the revolution, that needs to be reversed first.

Hugo Chavez was a humble man from humble origins who did more than anyone else to lift up and unite the countries and the people of Latin America after being subjugated to decades of US imperialism. He was an inspiration and a beacon who will be sorely missed by many. Hours after the passing of the late President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez, Rick Rozoff spoke with John Robles about the legacy and the positive changes the late leader single-handedly brought to the world.

Robles: In our discussions of NATO expansion, US imperialistic movements all over the globe, many times we’ve talked about Hugo Chavez and his independence and the way he stood up to the US. Can you give us your opinions of the great achievements of Mr. Hugo Chavez?

Rozoff: The late and very much lamented, Hugo Chavez, was a remarkable man but in many ways remarkable despite the fact that he was not remarkable. That is, he was born in a very humble family, one that might even be described as impoverished. He was born in a village. He was part indigenous, that is of Native American Indian background, as well as reportedly of African background.

He was somebody who resembles people like you or me, our parents, our grandparents: people who have not gone to elite schools, people who have not been born in privilege and have been selected from birth, if you will, for positions of honor and power. A simple man who applied himself and developed his talents and his abilities, but most of all his dedication.

We have to remember that his election as president of Venezuela in 1999 set the stage for, heralded, a whole series of election victories and transformations throughout Latin America, Central as well as South America, in countries like Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil, Nicaragua, El Salvador, that he himself was the prime mover in setting up what is known by the acronym of ALBA (The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America) that he was a prime mover in setting up something by the acronym of CELAC (the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), the Bank of the South, TeleSur (the television network for South America).

It was this one man instrumental in turning the tide of Latin America and in many ways of the southern hemisphere of the world that has been wracked by the neoliberalism of the 1990s.

And his actions have been described, I think very accurately, John, as having, on his initiative that we have seen the reversal of 200 years of the Monroe Doctrine.

A few years ago when Russian and Venezuelan vessels participated in a joint naval exercise in the Caribbean, it was exactly in that context it was remarked that this had basically reversed 200 years of the Monroe Doctrine, that is of Washington and the United States claiming exclusive sphere of influence throughout the entire Western Hemisphere.

And that this was the doing of Hugo Chavez, this humble former soldier, who became 14-year-president of Venezuela, one who read distributed the wealth from petroleum and other industries in the country to benefit the agrarian as well as the rural poor, or offered major economic assistance, including subsidized energy deals with countries throughout the Caribbean and Latin America, even parts of the United States, as a matter of fact, New York City.

He reconfigured the power relationships not only in the Western Hemisphere, but globally, in a way that could not have been foreseen. The head of state of a country that isn’t a tremendously large one, isn’t a tremendously powerful one, certainly not in military terms, but this is a man who made frequent visits to Russia, to the African continent, to the Middle East, to China, who cultivated relationships with the emerging multi-polar world, particularly those nations represented in BRICS: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. And he was arguably the most persuasive advocate for a newly emerging system of multi-polarity in the world of anyone I know.

Robles: Let me ask you about Nicolas Maduro the Vice President. Yesterday he said that Hugo Chavez’s cancer was part of a conspiracy against him and basically he had been poisoned by enemies.

He also expelled two US military attachés from the country. Would you care to speculate on those accusations, thta he made?

Rozoff: On the first accusation, you know that the suspicious incidence of cancer amongst independent Latin American heads of state – in Argentina, in Bolivia, earlier in Brazil, in Venezuela, even, one can argue, with Fidel Castro in Cuba – that there certainly is room for legitimate suspicion and investigation.

I might recommend a book that was published in the last couple of years with the intriguing title “Dr. Mary’s Monkey”, a book written about the late Mary Sherman and about CIA-linked operations in the early 1960s to actually develop types of cancer for use against political adversaries. So, it’s not that far-fetched an accusation.

On the second score, the fact that two US embassy personnel have been declared persona non grata and expelled from or invited to leave Venezuela, I think what is of most concern to us right now is the fact that, should a new election be held because of the death of Hugo Chavez, that the United States would certainly kick into high gear the entire color revolution operation that has been employed in the past, in Yugoslavia, Georgia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon and so forth. But we may see it done on a much more ambitious scale even than we saw in the countries that I’ve just mentioned. Just as Venezuela has been the bellwether, has been the prototype for the transformation that has occurred throughout Latin America in the last 14 years, so the US sees it, I suppose, as the transformation, the revolution, that needs to be reversed first.

Robles: Rick, if we could maybe about a minute more and I really appreciate you speaking with me at this late hour.

Rozoff: Thank you for the opportunity.

I think when talking about somebody like Chavez, who again was as humble and unpretentious a person as any of us could hope to be, that in speaking of him nevertheless, it is almost a paradox, I am reminded of the lines in the Bible, in the Gospel, that I don’t feel worthy to lace his sandals.

I mean I can pay him a tribute, but it’s a tribute of a very simple person who was immensely grateful and stands in eternal admiration of everything that he has done.

And all the people that he has made enthusiastic about the process that he in many ways initiated, and that his faith and the faith that he has instilled in them will continue. And I’m very much saddened with his demise. I’m very proud of his accomplishments. I’m very confident that Latin America and the world will continue towards a world that is really worthy of mankind.

These documents, including an instructional guide on assassination found among the training files of the CIA’s covert “Operation PBSUCCESS,” were among several hundred records released by the Agency on May 23, 1997 on its involvement in the infamous 1954 coup in Guatemala.

After years of answering Freedom of Information Act requests with its standard “we can neither confirm nor deny that such records exist,” the CIA has finally declassified some 1400 pages of over 100,000 estimated to be in its secret archives on the Guatemalan destabilization program. (The Agency’s press release stated that more records would be released before the end of the year.) An excerpt from the assassination manual appears on the Op-Ed page of The New York Times on Saturday, May 31, 1997. The small, albeit dramatic, release comes more than five years after then CIA director Robert Gates declared that the CIA would “open” its shadowy past to post-cold war public scrutiny, and only days after a member of the CIA’s own historical review panel was quoted in the New York Times as calling the CIA’s commitment to openness “a brilliant public relations snow job.” (See Tim Weiner, “C.I.A.’s Openness Derided as a ‘Snow Job’,” The New York Times, May 20, 1997, p. A16)

Arbenz was elected President of Guatemala in 1950 to continue a process of socio- economic reforms that the CIA disdainfully refers to in its memoranda as “an intensely nationalistic program of progress colored by the touchy, anti-foreign inferiority complex of the ‘Banana Republic.’” The first CIA effort to overthrow the Guatemalan president–a CIA collaboration with Nicaraguan dictator Anastacio Somoza to support a disgruntled general named Carlos Castillo Armas and codenamed Operation PBFORTUNE–was authorized by President Truman in 1952. As early as February of that year, CIA Headquarters began generating memos with subject titles such as “Guatemalan Communist Personel to be disposed of during Military Operations,” outlining categories of persons to be neutralized “through Executive Action”–murder–or through imprisonment and exile. The “A” list of those to be assassinated contained 58 names–all of which the CIA has excised from the declassified documents.

PBSUCCESS, authorized by President Eisenhower in August 1953, carried a $2.7 million budget for “pychological warfare and political action” and “subversion,” among the other components of a small paramilitary war. But, according to the CIA’s own internal study of the agency’s so-called “K program,” up until the day Arbenz resigned on June 27, 1954, “the option of assassination was still being considered.” While the power of the CIA’s psychological-war, codenamed “Operation Sherwood,” against Arbenz rendered that option unnecessary, the last stage of PBSUCCESS called for “roll-up of Communists and collaborators.” Although Arbenz and his top aides were able to flee the country, after the CIA installed Castillo Armas in power, hundreds of Guatemalans were rounded up and killed. Between 1954 and 1990, human rights groups estimate, the repressive operatives of successive military regimes murdered more than 100,000 civilians.

Click on the document icon to view each document. Document 1, “CIA and Guatemala Assassination Proposals, 1952-1954″, CIA History Staff Analysis by Gerald K. Haines, June 1995.

CIA records on assassination planning in Guatemala were first gathered pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed in 1979. All of them were withheld on national security grounds at that time. In 1995, the CIA’s historical staff “rediscovered” these records during a search of Guatemala materials to be declassified as part of the agency’s “Openness” program. A staff historian, Gerald Haines, was assigned to write this brief history of these operations. He concluded that as early as January 1952, CIA headquarters began compiling lists of individuals in Arbenz’s government “to eliminate immediately in event of [a] successful anti-Communist coup.” Planning for assassination included budgeting, training programs, creation of hit teams, drafting of target lists of persons, and transfer of armaments. Haines writes that “until the day that Arbenz resigned in June 1954 the option of assassination was still being considered.” The CIA, according to this history, did not implement its assassination strategy. But the declassifiers of this study, and other related documents, have deleted the names of the targeted individuals, making it impossible to verify that none of them were killed during or in the aftermath of the coup.

Document 2, “A Study of Assassination”, Unsigned, Undated.

Transcription

Among the documents found in the training files of Operation PBSUCCESS and declassified by the Agency is a “Study of Assassination.” A how-to guide book in the art of political killing, the 19-page manual offers detailed descriptions of the procedures, instruments, and implementation of assassination. “The simplest local tools are often much the most efficient means of assassination,” counsels the study. “A hammer, axe, wrench, screw driver, fire poker, kitchen knife, lamp stand, or anything hard, heavy and handy will suffice.” For an assassin using “edge weapons,” the manual notes in cold clinical terms, “puncture wounds of the body cavity may not be reliable unless the heart is reached….Absolute reliability is obtained by severing the spinal cord in the cervical region.” T he manual also notes that to provide plausible denial, “no assassination instructions should ever be written or recorded.” Murder, the drafters state, “is not morally justifiable,” and “persons who are morally squeamish should not attempt it.”

Document 3, “Selection of individuals for disposal by Junta Group”, March 31, 1954.

One of the many assassination lists compiled by the CIA during planning for Operation Success. As the memorandum indicates, the chief of one of the CIA’s divisions involved in the coup (the division title has been deleted) requested a list of names of Arbenz government leaders, members of the Communist Party, and individuals “of tactical importance whose removal for psychological, organizational or others reasons is mandatory for the success of military action.” The memo asks that CIA personnel read through the list and initial the names of those who should be included on a “final list of disposees.” The list (and the initials or names of all CIA officers appearing in the document) has been withheld. A handwritten note attached on the bottom of the memo reads:

Elimination List April [illeg.] – [Illeg.] is taking a copy of list of names for checking with the [illeg.] April 7 – Original Memo with attached Biographic data has been passed to [deleted] Returned by [deleted] on 1 June 1954

Document 4, “Guatemalan Communist Personnel to be disposed of during Military Operations of Calligeris”, Origin deleted, Undated.

Another version of the assassination lists compiled by the CIA and Carlos Castillo Armas (code-named “Calligeris”) in the course of preparing for the 1954 coup. The names of the agency’s intended victims were divided into two categories: persons to be disposed of through “Executive action” (i.e., killed) and those to be imprisoned or exiled during the operation. Before releasing this document to the public, the CIA deleted every name, leaving only the rows of numbers to indicate how many people were targeted.

Document 5, “Operation PBSUCCESS: The United States and Guatemala, 1952- 1954″, CIA History Staff document by Nicholas Cullather, 1994. Excerpt.

A narrative history of the CIA’s role in planning, organizing and executing the coup that toppled Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán on June 27, 1954. Cullather, now a diplomatic historian at the University of Indiana, worked on contract for one year with the CIA, where he was given access to thousands of agency records and secret operational files in order to produce this overview. The result is a surprisingly critical study of the agency’s first covert operation in Latin America. Beginning with a review of the political, economic and social forces that led to Arbenz’s presidency in 1951, the document is an intimate account of how cold war concerns convinced President Eisenhower to order the removal of the democratically-elected leader by force. It also provides countless new details of a covert mission plagued by disastrous military planning and failed security measures: according to Cullather, “Operation Success” barely succeeded. The CIA scrambled to convince the White House that it was an unqualified and all but bloodless victory, however. After Arbenz resigned, Eisenhower called the Director of Central Intelligence, Allan W. Dulles, and his senior covert planners into a formal briefing of the operation. Cullather’s account now reveals that the agency lied to the president, telling him that only one of the rebels it had backed was killed. “Incredible,” said the president. And it was. At least four dozen were dead, according to the CIA’s own records. Thus did the Guatemala coup enter agency lore as an “unblemished triumph,” Cullather explains, and become the model for future CIA activities in Latin America.

In Guatemala, of course, “Operation Success” had a deadly aftermath. After a small insurgency developed in the wake of the coup, Guatemala’s military leaders developed and refined, with U.S. assistance, a massive counterinsurgency campaign that left tens of thousands massacred, maimed or missing.

By Steve Rendall

In the gun lobby’s arsenal of propaganda, the claim that guns make people safer may be the most potent.

After all, while gun advocates make grandiose—and historically inaccurate (Consortium News, 12/21/12)—claims about the Second Amendment being designed to enable armed citizens to resist government tyranny, no sane person believes individuals armed with handguns and rifles would stand a chance against a trillion-dollar 21st century military backed by vast surveillance systems.

But protecting one’s family, home or person? That seems sensible enough. If guns make us safer, as they say, then having a gun for self-defense isn’t an irrational choice.

sociopath

The premise is regularly featured in news reports. This Week host George Stephanopoulos (ABC, 1/20/13) offered no challenge when former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum claimed, “There are more people who protect themselves and stop violence …happen[ing] to them with the ownership of a gun than [there are] people who commit crimes with a gun.”

Fox News, of course, where gun ownership is practically a sacrament, has featured a virtual rhumba line of pro-gun guests touting the virtues of safety by gun. Hannity’s January 18 show might as well have been renamed the NRA Hour, featuring first NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre stating that the vast majority of the American public “deeply believes in the Second Amendment, deeply believes they have a right to protect themselves”—followed by former Rep. Asa Hutchinson, director of the NRA’s National School Shield Project, who told gun-toting host Sean Hannity that the solution to school shootings was “to have the armed, trained presence there to really protect the children.”

It’s not just conservatives and Fox pundits who embrace the self-defense argument. Discussing gun regulations on CBS’s Face the Nation (12/16/12), anchor Bob Schieffer endorsed the view that protection was a legitimate rationale for gun ownership: “By now, the pros and cons of the gun issue are well known…. Of course, there are legitimate reasons for both pleasure and protection to own guns.”

On January 9, CNN’s Anderson Cooper presented a segment that gave more or less equal weight to arguments for and against the notion that guns make us safer, concluding that it’s hard to say for sure:

The one true thing that we know about the gun debate here at home, that neither side has a monopoly on the truth, or even the facts, because the facts can be so hard to establish. One side has studies linking gun ownership with violent death. But correlation is not causation.

The other side has research showing when people are allowed to carry concealed weapons, violent crimes slow down. Yet newer studies cast doubt on that conclusion.

Studying the problem is hard, said Cooper, “with a shortage of facts but a surplus of victims and anguish and loss, the debate so far has evolved into passionately stated and exclusively competing articles of faith.”

But is it really hard to study the effects of guns on public health and safety? And is the debate merely between competing articles of faith? Perhaps more to the point, does the evidence support Schieffer’s and the others’ claims that guns are a rational choice for self-defense?

The pro-gun crowd sure wants you to think so, promoting studies over the years claiming guns are used defensively thousands of times per day and that broader gun ownership makes communities safer, and repeating anecdotes in which guns are reported to have thwarted crimes.

A favorite study of these advocates is 1995’s “Armed Resistance to Crime: The Prevalence and Nature of Self-Defense With a Gun” (Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Fall/95), by Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz, which found that guns were used defensively about 2.5 million times annually in the U.S.—or almost 7,000 times a day.

Researcher John Lott conducted another study favored by gun advocates, published in his 1998 book More Guns, Less Crime, which claimed that increasing numbers of concealed carry permits in a given area are associated with decreasing crime rates.

Both studies have been convincingly challenged in the scientific community. In a 2004 meta-study of gun research, the National Research Council of the National Academies of Science found that Lott’s claims were not supported by his data. And when Lott misrepresented the report (New York Post, 12/29/04), the NAS published a letter (Deltoid, 1/26/05) listing his distor-tions. Shooting Down the More Guns Less Crime Hypothesis (11/02), a paper pub-lished by the National Bureau of Economic Research, found crime actually increased in states and locales where concealed carry laws had been adopted.

The Harvard School of Public Health’s David Hemenway took on Kleck in Survey Research and Self Defense Gun Use: An Explanation of Extreme Overestimates (Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 1997), demonstrating that because of the nature of the data, Kleck’s self-reported phone survey finding 2.5 million defensive uses of guns per year was wildly exaggerated. For example, Kleck says guns were used to defend against 845,000 burglaries in 1992, a year in which the National Crime Victimization Survey says there were fewer than 6 million burglaries.

Hemenway put together facts from the well-regarded NCVS—that someone was known to be home in just 22 percent of burglaries (1.3 million), and that fewer than half of U.S. households have firearms—and pointed out that Kleck “asks us to believe that burglary victims in gun-owning households use their guns in self-defense more than 100 percent of the time.”

Hemenway noted that respondents may also have a distorted view of “self-defense”—e.g., mistakenly thinking they are legally defending themselves when they draw a gun during a minor altercation. As the Harvard researcher and his co-authors in another study pointed out (Injury Prevention, 12/00): “Guns are used to threaten and intimidate far more often than they are used in self-defense. Most self-reported self-defense gun uses may well be illegal and against the interests of society.”

A National Crime Victimization Survey report, controlling for many of the methodological problems in Kleck, supported Hemenway, finding 65,000 defensive gun uses per year (NCVS Report, 1997). Current NCVS estimates are in the 100,000 range.

To assess the benefits and costs of pervasive gun ownership—there are currently 300 million firearms in the U.S., and roughly 80 million gun owners (CNSNews.com, 2/4/13)—it’s useful to compare the self-defense numbers to the gun crime numbers. The National Institute of Justice reported that in 2005, “11,346 persons were killed by firearm violence and 477,040 persons were victims of a crime committed with a firearm.” Or, to put it in starker terms, the FBI’s Crime in the United States report for 1998 found that for every instance that a civilian used a handgun to kill in self-defense, 50 people lost their lives in handgun homicides.

With a gun murder rate about 20 times the average of other industrialized countries (Washington Post, 12/14/12), it’s hard to argue with Hemenway’s conclusion (Harvard Injury Control Research Center, “Homicide”): “Where there are more guns, there is more homicide.”

A New England Journal of Medicine study (10/7/93) in 1993 concluded that a gun in the home raised the chances someone in a family will be killed by nearly three times, with the danger to women—who are more likely to be killed by a spouse, intimate or relative—even greater. A 1997 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine (4/14/97) reinforces that danger, finding that the homicide risk for women increased 3.4 times in a home with one or more guns. Taken together with the heightened risk of suicide and accidental deaths posed by guns in the home, these numbers demolish the argument that guns enhance family protection.

Much of the research on guns and public health dates back to the 1990s, it should be noted, because of the near total ban that Congress imposed on public funding for studies of guns and public health in 1996, singling out the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). “Scientific inquiry in this field has been systematically starved, and as a result almost no one does it,” University of California–Davis professor Garen Winte-mute told Huffington Post (1/10/13). The ban was driven by the NRA, whose anti-inquiry view is shared by gun researcher Lott; when conservative talkshow host Mark Levin (WABC, 1/16/13) asked Lott whether he wanted “the Centers for Disease Control to be delving into studying the gun issue,” Lott responded, “No, no, I don’t.”

In addition to underplaying the statistical case that guns are a destructive force in society, the media have largely ignored experts who can explain the practical reasons why guns are not necessarily a rational choice for self-defense. An exception was 20/20’s report, “If I Only Had a Gun” (ABC, 4/10/09), which explored the issue with firearms experts.

20/20 took a group of college students of varying familiarity with guns, and provided them with professional training exceeding the level required by most states for concealed carry permits. Then the producers recorded the students reacting to simulations in which an aggressive, active gunman entered a classroom. In every simulation, the student failed to stop the aggressor and was badly or fatally wounded; in one instance, the student narrowly missed shooting a victim of the assault.

According to the weapons experts 20/20 consulted, only professionals who drill continuously in live shooter situations can hope to succeed in such chaotic situations. Firearms instructor Glen Dorney told host Diane Sawyer, “Even police officers, through extensive training, if you don’t continue with your training, ongoing training, it’s a perishable skill. You’ll lose it.” When Sawyer asked him, “How long before you’re going to lose it, even at your level of training?” Dorney answered, “If you go for a month to two months without training, you lose it.” A Time feature (1/16/13) that looked at how unpredictably even well-trained police respond to crisis situations came to similar conclusions.

The debate over the wisdom of wholesale arming of citizens for the purpose of self-defense is not a debate between two sides arguing “articles of faith,” and there is no shortage of facts. The verdict has been in for years: Guns, as they are bought and sold and regulated in U.S. society, do far more harm than good. And if we had a media culture where public health actually mattered in discussions of guns, the argument that they are helpful for protection or self-defense would be relegated to the margins.

The fabled but previously secret State Department intelligence memorandum that predicted, five months in advance, the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, has now emerged from classified vaults that were so obscure that even State Department historians and CIA FOIA officers could not penetrate them. Published for the first time today by the National Security Archive the INR memo from May 1973 warned Acting Secretary of State Kenneth Rush that there was a “better than even bet” that war between Egypt and Israel would occur “by autumn.”

According to the INR analysis, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat would initiate a war with Israel not for specific military objectives but to spur “big power” diplomatic intervention in the Arab-Israeli conflict so that Egypt could regain the Sinai Peninsula lost in the 1967 War. On 6 October 1973 war broke out in the region.

The existence of this example of INR acuity has been known for years, but the document itself was surprisingly elusive. State Department historians preparing the official Foreign Relations of the United States series could not find a copy, even with their security clearances and access to classified files, and neither could CIA FOIA offices as recently as 2011.

The author of the INR paper, Roger Merrick, anticipated that if war unfolded, U.S. “interests” in the region would come under attack because of the close American-Israeli relationship. He anticipated the possible nationalizations of petroleum facilities, “efforts to displace US oil companies with those from Europe and Japan,” and “prolonged oil embargoes.” The prescient analyst did not discuss the implications of such a conflict for U.S. relations with the Soviet Union, which had close ties to Egypt and Syria (U.S.-Soviet relations was not his field), but he might have anticipated that it could lead to increased tensions, possibly even a crisis. Other intelligence organizations in the U.S. government disagreed with the estimate of war and the conflict came as a surprise to the U.S. and Israeli governments. A post-mortem of the intelligence failure characterized the INR paper as a “case of wisdom lost.”

A discussion of the INR memo was a highlight of a remarkable conference held at the Washington D.C. Cosmos Club in October 1998 on the war’s 25th anniversary. Organized by the late ambassador Richard Parker, the conference included a wide range of senior and mid-level former officials from Egypt, Syria, Israel, the United States, and the former Soviet Union, all of whom played important roles at the time, including ambassadors and generals and a KGB station chief (resident). The October 1973 intelligence failure was an important element of the discussion and a memorable moment was when INR’s former desk officer for Egypt, Roger Merrick, spoke on how he developed the estimate with input from INR colleagues David Mark and Philip Stoddard.[1]

For Merrick, the possibility of an early conflict was inherent in the dynamics of the situation. Egyptian leaders had tried to use diplomacy to recover territory in the Sinai Peninsula lost to Israeli forces during the June 1967 Six Day War. But the Israelis were unresponsive and U.S. diplomacy had gone nowhere. National security adviser Henry Kissinger was conducting backchannels with Sadat’s national security adviser but Kissinger had little to offer. By the spring of 1973, according to Merrick, Egyptian President Sadat had “established himself as a strong player, serious”; yet despite his push for a diplomatic resolution of the Sinai problem, he was “neglected, and in an intolerable position with his political alternatives exhausted.” Yet, his “forces were in place to launch hostilities and had not raised any significant alarm; thus the estimate that there was a better than even chance of major hostilities within six months.”

Analysts at the State Department’s Office of Near Eastern Affairs [NEA] rejected the INR view and according to Merrick, Kissinger tried to get the two offices to reconcile their views. Yet, despite the INR view, senior officials such as Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Under Secretary of State Joseph Sisco felt no alarm because the Israelis kept assuring them that there was no danger. Kissinger did not tell anybody at the State Department that Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev had warned of war in the region during his visit to the United States in June 1973. The dispute between INR and NEA over the possibility of war, Merrick recounted, “continued throughout the summer and fall until hostilities erupted” and the estimate was vindicated. At the Cosmos Club meeting, Sisco recalled that when the war broke out U.S. government officials went back to their files and reread the prescient memorandum.

Taken in November 1973, this picture of the U.S. Intelligence Board, then chaired by Director of Central Intelligence William E. Colby, shows representatives of the organizations which collected and reviewed intelligence before and during the October 1973 War. INR Director, Ray Cline, who signed the memorandum predicting war by the autumn, sits fourth from left clockwise . (Photo, courtesy CIA History Staff)

INR analysts have often been on the money in significant decisions and inter-agency debates since the 1960s. In 1964, Allen Whiting predicted the strong likelihood of a Chinese atomic test which Secretary of State Dean Rusk announced to the world two weeks before the event. During theVietnam War INR analysts beginning with Lewis Sarris critically assessed the Pentagon’s evaluation of “progress” in South Vietnam. INR has not always been right and during the lead-up to the recent Iraq War apparently shared in the consensus that Sadam had been trying seriously to establish a biological and chemical warfare capability. Yet the Bureau was spectacularly right in its highly critical assessment of the most important claim in the Bush White House’s case for war: that Sadam was “reconstituting” a nuclear weapons capability. For example, on a key issue-the Iraqi purchase of aluminum tubes–INR dissented from the assertions in the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate that the tubes were for gas centrifuge enrichment technology for a nuclear weapons program.

Hide and Seek

Some of the instances of INR’s astuteness cited above are well documented but the estimate on the possibility of war in 1973 was difficult to locate. During the 1998 conference I spoke with Merrick and asked whether he had a copy of his INR paper or knew where it could be found. He assumed it would be in the Bureau’s retired files at the State Department. This conversation set off a 15-year on-again-off-again quest through archival research and FOIA requests to the State Department and the CIA, all of which proved in vain.

One trace of the document was found, however, in the intelligence community’s post-mortem of the October War intelligence failure, which the National Security Archive obtained from the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP) in 2009 after a final mandatory review appeal. ISCAP heavily excised the discussion of COMINT and other sensitive intelligence sources and methods, but the release included a detailed account of the INR report, characterizing it as a “remarkable memorandum” and a “case of wisdom lost,” and quoting it at length. Plainly, the analysts of the “Intelligence Community Staff” that produced the post-mortem had access to the INR paper so I filed a new request to CIA to see if they could find a copy. Two years later, in 2011 the CIA reported that they could not find a copy.

In the meantime, State Department historians vainly tried to locate Merrick’s report. Craig Daigle, then a Ph.D. student at George Washington University’s history department, was working at the Department’s Office of the Historian. While completing work on the Foreign Relations of the United States compilation of primary sources documents on the October war, he tried to locate the document. Yet it remained elusive even to a skilled researcher like Daigle who had access to all the relevant classified files of the Department of State. To compensate for the gap, he memorialized the INR memo in an editorial note where he quoted from the excerpts in the intelligence community post-mortem (number 68 at pages 193-194.[2]

This story ends well but weirdly. In January 2013 the Nixon Presidential Library had a conference on the Nixon administration and the October War. Staffers in the CIA’s Historical Collections Division compiled a set of documents for the event, and the conference booklet includes a list of key documents. The present writer was astonished to see, on page 42, a capsule summary of the INR memorandum. On request, the CIA kindly provided the author a copy of the document, which is slated to appear in the on-line compilation at the CIA’s Web site.

How and where the CIA editors found the INR report remains a mystery. The first page of it shows that the State Department reviewed it for declassification in 2002 but that the CIA refused to declassify it, which seems absurd. For some 10 years it sat in an obscure paper or electronic file where State Department historians could not find it and where even the CIA’s FOIA researchers could not locate it. A perfect example of one hand not knowing what the other one was doing.

Somewhat shamelessly the CIA officials who reviewed this “case of wisdom lost” censored the names of its authors (see bottom of page 4). This is standard practice when CIA declassification reviewers scrutinize Agency intelligence reports-the names of the author/analyst are almost never declassified. But this is a State Department document and the names of the authors of INR reports are hardly even excised from records at the National Archives or in State Department FOIA releases. These are not CIA officials whose names are kept officially secret. But at least now we can be sure that Roger Merrick and his colleagues get full credit for their work.

THE DOCUMENTS

Document 1: Ray Cline [Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research] to Acting Secretary [Kenneth Rush], “Growing Risk of Egyptian Resumption of Hostilities With Israel,” 31 May 1973, Secret, excised copy

Source: Central Intelligence Agency

Document 2: U.S. Intelligence Community Staff, “The Performance of the Intelligence Community Before the Arab-Israeli War of October 1973: A Preliminary Post-Mortem Report,” December 1973, Top Secret, Excised copy

Source: release by Interagency Security Classification Appeal Panel in response to mandatory review request

The CIA has published the post-mortem in its October War on-line document collectionhttp://www.foia.cia.gov/sites/default/files/1973-12-20-CM.pdf but only the first 11 pages, leaving out the interesting retrospective on “The Analytic Effort” and the report’s recommendations.

 


NOTES

[1] Richard Paker, ed., The October War: A Retrospective (University Press of Florida, 2001), 113-116.

[2] Craig Daigle reviews pre-October War diplomatic and intelligence issues in his extraordinary book, based on his Ph.D. dissertation at George Washington University, The Limits of Détente : the United States, the Soviet Union, and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1969-1973 (Yale University Press, 2012)

Outgoing Premier Wen Jiabao warned this week, in his final report to the National Peoples Congress (NPC), that China faces a series of unresolved crises, ranging from a lack of access to basic healthcare and education, to a yawning gap between rich and poor, and an “unbalanced, uncoordinated and unsustainable” economy.

A new leadership will be formally installed at the NPC, which opened on March 5. Chinese Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping, anointed by last November’s 18th party congress, will take over the presidency from Hu Jintao, while Vice Premier Li Keqiang will succeed Wen.

Efforts were made to disguise the gross social inequality that dominates the Chinese regime. In recent years, scenes of wealthy NPC delegates bearing mink coats, luxury European handbags and watches, or reports of their combined fortunes, totalling tens of billions of dollars, have fuelled popular anger in China. The NPC has become known as a “billionaires’ congress.” Xi’s new leadership recently warned of the fate suffered by the French aristocracy during the French Revolution. That is why luxury brands were reportedly absent among the NPC delegates arriving at Beijing’s Great Hall of People this year. (See: “China’s red aristocracy”)

Nevertheless, the NPC delegates include 83 billionaires, measured in US dollars. Another 53 billionaires are delegates to the advisory body meeting alongside the NPC, the Chinese Peoples Political Consultative Conference.

Wen’s report reflected the needs and concerns of this tiny super-rich elite, including his own family, which has reportedly amassed $2.7 billion. These elements are deeply hostile to, and fearful of, the 400 million Chinese workers they exploit. “We are keenly aware that we still face many difficulties and problems,” Wen said, referring to the widening gulf between rich and poor, official corruption and environmental degradation. As a result, “social strains are clearly increasing.”

The danger of social unrest has increased as the global economic slump has overwhelmed the impact of Beijing’s stimulus measures since the global crash of 2008. Wen predicted economic growth this year of just 7.5 percent—down from last year’s actual growth of 7.8 percent, the slowest pace since 1999. Even this would be achieved only though “hard efforts”, he said. Such a growth rate, he claimed, would create nine million jobs in order to keep urban unemployment under control, mainly through shifting the government’s economic model from an export-led one, to one based on domestic consumption.

Wen stressed repeatedly the need to provide social protection to the poor, as a key mechanism to boost consumption. He said the government would spend 655 billion yuan on social welfare. “To expand individual consumption, we should enhance people’s ability to consume, keep their consumption expectations stable, boost their desire to consume, improve their consumption environment and make economic growth more consumption-driven,” he said.

In reality, the CCP bureaucracy cannot simply adopt a new economic model. China is a highly specialised cheap labour platform, geared to export production on behalf of transnational corporations. Higher wages could undermine the competitiveness of China’s export industries.

In fact, Wen’s government presided over the largest decline in consumption, as a share of the economy, in Chinese history. With millions of workers on poverty-line wages in order to boost export-led production, private consumption as a share of gross domestic product (GDP) fell to 33 percent in 2010, down from 46 percent in 2000. Physical capital investment surged to an unsustainable 40-50 percent of the GDP, compared to 20 percent in most developed countries.

Workers and poorer rural farmers, cannot become a new consuming force, not only because of their low incomes, but due to the lack of any social protection network to secure them from joblessness or illness. That forces them to save for their own retirement or inability to work.

The state-owned enterprises that once provided a minimal safety net to urban workers have largely disappeared since the massive privatisation program of the 1990s. Xi’s leadership is under instructions from the 18th party congress and international capital to open up the remaining state sectors to private ownership.

As for the 200 million internal migrant workers, who are part of the urban workforce but deprived of residency rights, education and other public services, their jobs and livelihoods depend on expanding the labour-intensive export industries. Yet, China’s main markets in Europe and America are mired in slump.

Wen set a growth target for foreign trade of just 8 percent, down from the 10 percent goal in 2012. Even that is optimistic—actual growth was only 6.2 percent last year, down from 22.5 percent in 2011. With rising competition from other low-wage platforms like India, and the drastic lowering of pay rates in Europe and America, Chinese exports can expand only by enforcing higher productivity and lower wages.

Because of a crisis of overcapacity, manufacturing capital has engaged heavily on real estate speculation, rather than production. As a result, economists are warning of a “nightmare scenario” for the Chinese economy. In a revealing sign of fragility, the Shanghai share market tumbled on the opening day of the NPC, with the property index down almost 10 percent during the day.

The sharp fall followed a government announcement of measures to curb real estate speculation. Following the stimulus package in 2008, housing prices soared 20 percent in 2009. Despite measures by the government in late 2011 to bring prices down, the deepening European debt turmoil last year forced the Chinese central bank to inject more credit into the economy, further pushing up home prices, which are already beyond the reach of most people.

Mark Williams of London’s Capital Economics recently noted in China Daily that 11 million housing units were built in 2012, yet it was “the sector’s most difficult year on record”. That was because a small wealthy layer bought most units as investments, rather than residences. If the building rate continued, “that would leave a colossal glut of housing that could only be sold if prices collapsed,” he commented.

Tom Holland of the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post warned that China faced a crisis of “stagflation”: “If they keep the credit taps open, the asset bubbles and the inflation rate will only get worse. If they close off the supply of credit and tighten monetary policy, growth will slow even further, asset prices will collapse, and they run the risk that many of the new loans will turn bad, triggering a banking crisis that could weigh on growth rates for years to come.”

With these economic and social contradictions looming, the regime is assembling a massive repressive apparatus to suppress unrest. For the third consecutive year, the domestic security budget of $124 billion (up 8.7 percent) outstripped military spending of $114 billion (up 10.7 percent) and also Wen’s proposed social welfare spending of $105 billion. These economic priorities demonstrate that Beijing’s greatest fear is not US military encirclement or the revival of Japanese militarism, but an uprising by the working class at home.

John Brennan, the mastermind of the Obama administration’s drone assassination program, was confirmed by the US Senate as CIA director on Thursday by a vote of 63 to 34. The confirmation, which comes as no surprise, is another step in the direction of extra-constitutional, dictatorial rule in the United States.

Four years ago, Brennan was considered by Barack Obama for the CIA position, but his association with torture under George W. Bush made his nomination “politically difficult,” as the New York Times euphemistically puts it. The Obama administration today, along with the US Congress, has no such qualms.

The vast majority of Democrats in the Senate voted for Brennan’s nomination, along with a handful of Republicans. Obama immediately praised the vote, saying, “The Senate has recognized in John the qualities I value so much.”

The vote followed a quarrel within the political establishment over the claim by the Obama administration that it has the authority to assassinate American citizens on US soil without trial or charges being laid. The tremors the debate set off are indicative of the depth of the political crisis in the US and the great concern of the ruling elite to conceal its preparations for police-state dictatorship from the American population.

In a March 4 letter to Sen. Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican, US Attorney General Eric Holder declared that the Obama administration considered itself empowered “to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States” against American citizens.

At a Senate hearing on Wednesday, Holder agreed with Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republican from South Carolina, that the American government had been given Congressional authorization to launch military attacks against opponents in “the homeland.”

On Wednesday Paul carried out a 13-hour filibuster, which blocked Brennan’s confirmation vote, insisting on a response from the attorney general as to whether government officials believed they had had the right to kill American citizens without due process.

During his filibuster, Paul raised the explosive issue of whether the Obama administration considered it had the authority to launch drone strikes on political opponents, pointing to the anti-Vietnam War protest movement as an example. The Kentucky Republican asked at one point, “Is objection to the policy of your government sympathizing with the enemy? … Are you just going to drop a Hellfire missile on Jane Fonda?”, referring to the actress who opposed American imperialist intervention in Southeast Asia during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Rand is a right-wing figure, associated with “libertarian” elements, and a dedicated enemy of the working class and social progress. However, he was asking questions that provoked consternation within the Obama administration and Congress, because they got too close to the heart of the matter for comfort: that Holder’s March 4 letter was a green light, for example, under conditions of widespread social turmoil, for the president to suppress political opposition through murder.

At a Thursday press briefing, White House press secretary Jay Carney revealed that Attorney General Holder had written a second, three-sentence letter to Paul. This is the entire text:

“Dear Senator Paul: It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: ‘Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?’ The answer to that question is no.”

Carney told the media, “The president has not and would not use drone strikes against American citizens on American soil.”

Holder’s dismissive and arrogant letter should be treated with the skepticism and contempt it deserves.

First of all, his new message contradicts the March 4 letter, responding to a question specifically about drone strikes, in which Holder wrote that it was indeed possible “to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force [i.e., drones] within the territory of the United States.”

Second, the March 7 letter takes for granted that the US president has the right to order the assassination of just about anyone, anywhere, except for American citizens on US soil not engaged in combat. This is already a radically authoritarian and reactionary claim, only made by imperial rulers, who determine by a hand signal who lives and who dies.

Is there any reason to have the slightest confidence in Holder’s supposed change of heart? The denial comes from an administration carrying out illegal and murderous daily drone strikes in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and elsewhere, which have already killed US citizens, on the basis of infamous “kill lists.” The Obama government, moreover, has maintained the institutionalized torture in Guantanamo Bay and relentlessly attempted to destroy Bradley Manning. No one should doubt its willingness and capacity to launch attacks, pre-emptive or otherwise, on political opposition within the United States.

In any event, the phrase “engaged in combat” is elastic enough, from the point of view of the American establishment, to include mass protest, political strikes and efforts to create new, more democratic organs of political power. Moreover, the US military regularly categorizes as “combatants” anyone it kills, deliberately or accidentally, in air or drone strikes. Will the Pentagon stop telling lies at the borders of the United States?

Holder’s second letter reflects nervousness about popular opposition to the government’s claims of dictatorial power, but should do nothing to assuage it. There were other efforts on Thursday to close down and cool off the debate.

Paul’s reference to the possible murder of Jane Fonda elicited angry and anxious comments from Graham and Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican, both of whom have close associations with the military and intelligence apparatus.

McCain attacked Rand Paul for his “rant,” adding: “I don’t think what happened yesterday was helpful to the American people.” According to the Associated Press, McCain “derided that notion of an attack against the actress [Fonda] and argued that Paul was unnecessarily making Americans fear that their government poses a danger.”

The Arizona senator continued, “To somehow allege or infer that the president of the United States is going to kill somebody like Jane Fonda or somebody who disagrees with the policies is a stretch of imagination which is, frankly, ridiculous.” In fact, Holder’s letter and the ensuing discussions make crystal clear that such things are already being discussed by the White House, military and CIA.

Graham criticized Republicans who took the opportunity to grandstand at Obama’s expense by supporting Rand’s filibuster. The South Carolina Senator said that Obama had the “good judgment to understand we’re at war. To my party: I’m a bit disappointed that you no longer apparently think we’re at war.” He also said on the Senate floor, “To my Republican colleagues, I don’t remember any of you coming down here suggesting that President Bush was going to kill anybody with a drone.”

Graham was effusive in his praise for the Obama administration during Wednesday’s hearings involving Holder. On Thursday, he called the vote for Brennan a “referendum on the drone program.”

Paul, for his part, once he received the terse reply from the attorney general and after the scolding from McCain and Graham, packed up his tent and described himself as satisfied and “victorious.” Ridiculously, he told the media, “I’m quite happy with the answer [i.e., Holder’s letter] …Through the advise and consent process, I’ve got an important answer.”

That US senators are openly discussing the assassination of left-wing political opponents is absolutely extraordinary. This, along with the bipartisan support for Obama, the drone program and Brennan’s nomination, are a further dire warning about the state of political affairs in the US, increasingly a democracy in name only.

The so-called “Syrian rebels” have taken dozens of UN peacekeepers hostage, demanding the Syrian Army withdraw its troops from its own nation’s territory. The UN has confirmed that their peacekeepers are indeed being held hostage by what they call “rebels,” and has demanded their release.

Despite this overt, criminal act of terrorism directed at the UN, the West has spun, downplayed, and otherwise ignored the incident, an incident that had the Syrian Army been behind, would have invoked howling indignation, frothing condemnation, and in all likelihood, full-scale military intervention.

Image: Several of over 20 UN peacekeepers taken hostage by terrorists operating in Syria – operating with Western cash, arms, and immense, continuous political and media support. The inability of the West to condemn and recognize the so-called “rebels” as intolerable terrorists, ravaging an entire nation, inflicting death, injury and suffering upon tens of millions, is indicative of a West that has resigned entirely its legitimacy, and even feigned interest in the impartial application of international law. Worst of all, the West had purposefully planned this orgy of terror since 2007, not for promoting “democracy,” but specifically to undermine and destroy neighboring Iran. 

….

Instead, the US Secretary of State John Kerry awarded the terrorists a whopping $60 million in what he called “non-lethal aid.” The UK’s Foreign Secretary William Hague also pledged support, including sending armor, vehicles and even weapons directly to the hostage-taking terrorists.  This substantial and continuous torrent of cash, equipment, and weapons is sent to Al Qaeda terrorists even as both the US and UK sink in unprecedented domestic budget crises.

The West’s Arab collaborators, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have led the Arab World in offering these verified Al Qaeda terrorists Syria’s seat in the Arab League. The Arab League has given the green light (officially) to begin directly and openly arming the terrorists, though they have been arming them since at least 2007.

As the West coddles terrorists who are more overtly committing atrocities, both against the Syrian people, along Syria’s peripheries, and even against international observers including the United Nations, they shed the remainder of their legitimacy. In fact, a US State Department, a British Foreign Office, and even a UN who refuses to condemn and entirely break off relations with an organization that takes hostages amidst a myriad of other atrocities documented over the past 2 years, already has absolutely no legitimacy.

The people of the West must realize their governments have descended into a dangerous psychosis and has abandoned even a face-value commitment to maintaining a rule of law. A nation not confined by law, or even attempting to pretend to be, is a nation capable of anything, on any scale, at any time.

The people of the West now reside in nations far beyond the red line. Now, more than ever, people must begin making hard decisions about their lifestyles and their patronizing of the West’s corporate-financier monopolies. It is not the government or the individuals that constitute it that drive this agenda. It is the corporate-financier interests that create policy think-tanks, that literally write the scripts congressmen, presidents, secretaries and ministers read from – corporate-financier interests we patronize on a daily basis.

While we cannot change the current, perhaps terminal unraveling of Western civilization overnight, we can begin with small but significant steps in rolling back our dependency on corporate-financier monopolies by boycotting them and replacing them. Even a miniscule percentage of change in our lifestyles, month to month will have a profound, collective effect on usurping the unwarranted influence that has granted these insidious interests free reign over the planet and humanity. Decentralizing these monopolies is the ultimate goal, but will take hard work and patience – but it is a goal that most certainly can be achieved, and in many parts of the world it is already being achieved.

If we read the news of hostage-taking terrorists being showered with millions of our tax dollars and being allowed to destroy an entire nation after our own soldiers paid in blood to fight them in a 10 year faux “War on Terror” and are angered, searching desperately for a solution – getting self-sufficient, and decentralizing this war machine, thus returning the reins of power back to the people is that solution. That is real revolution.

The problems in Syria may seem distant, even if absolutely outrageous, but it is a symptom of a sickness our Western governments, amongst us, involved in our daily lives, suffer from. Refusal to treat the illness now, as it ravages Syria, will only allow it to get worse until it inevitably visits upon us the same unhinged hypocritical insanity it is now unleashing on the Syrian people. The fate of the Syrian people is indeed tied directly to our own wealth, prosperity, peace, and well-being. Failing to realize that is folly we shall pay for many generations to come.

“The Pentagon sent a US veteran of the ‘dirty wars’ in Central America to oversee sectarian police commando units in Iraq that set up secret detention and torture centres to get information from insurgents,” The Guardian reports. “These units conducted some of the worst acts of torture during the US occupation and accelerated the country’s descent into full-scale civil war.”

After a 15-month investigation, The Guardian and the BBC Arabic has published its findings about the torture and atrocities organized and committed by US officials reporting directly to the highest echelons of the US government, including General David Petraeus.

“I remember a 14-year-old who was tied to one of the library’s columns,” said General Muntadher al-Samari, one of the Bush administration’s Iraqi proxies who helped run the torture centers. “And he was tied up, with his legs above his head. Tied up. His whole body was blue because of the impact of the cables with which he had been beaten.”

The report was “sparked by the release of classified US military logs on WikiLeaks that detailed hundreds of incidents where US soldiers came across tortured detainees in a network of detention centers run by the police commandos across Iraq.”

Antiwar.com reported on some of those leaks at the time: On May 30, 2006, the WikiLeaks releases revealed, “a joint US-Iraqi inspection” of an Iraqi detention facility “discovered more than 1,400 detainees in squalid, cramped conditions,” many of whom were illegally detained. Prisoners “displayed bruising, broken bones, and lash-marks, many claimed to have been hung by handcuffs from a hook in the ceiling and beaten on the soles of their feet and their buttocks.”

The inspectors found a torture contraption where ”a hook…on the ceiling of an empty room at the facility” was “attached [to] a chain-and-pulley system ordinarily used for lifting vehicles” and that “apparent bloodspots stained the floor underneath.” All 41 prisoners interviewed by US inspectors had reported being tortured and 37 juveniles were held illegally.

Rape and sexual abuse, primarily of young teenagers, was also widespread. “A number of juvenile detainees,” reads the cable, “alleged…that interrogators had used threats and acts of anal rape to induce confessions and had forced juveniles to fellate them during interrogations.”

Other instances of close cooperation between the US and abusive Iraqi forces in the MOI have been previously uncovered and the Iraq War Logs published by WikiLeaks revealed a secret US military order to ignore cases of torture and abuse by Iraqi interrogators.

The Guardian has compiled their findings into a 50-minute documentary which can be viewed here.

Poison in the Food Chain: The Health Impacts of Aspartame

March 8th, 2013 by Global Research News

The big health news from this past week is the petitioning of the FDA by two very powerful dairy organizations, The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), to allow aspartame and other artificial sweeteners to be added to milk and other dairy products without a label.

Aspartame, also known by the brand name Nutrasweet, is made up of three components: 50% phenylalanine (a chemical that affects human brain activity by transmitting impulses), 40% aspartic acid and 10% methanol (poisonous wood alcohol).

Based on the FDA’s track record in handling the aspartame issue, things are not looking good to stop approval of this outrageous measure.

For one, back in 1996 when aspartame was first approved for use in thousands of food products, the FDA used 15 “pivotal” studies as the basis for its decision.

One of these pivotal studies involved oral dosage of aspartame to infant Rhesus monkeys for 52 weeks.   The research was conducted by the University of Wisconsin Medical Center in Madison, Wisconsin.

milk at store

The monkeys were divided into three groups.   A low dose group which received 1.0 g of aspartame/kg of body weight per day, a medium dose group receiving 3.0g/kg per day and a high dose group receiving 4-6 g/kg per day.

The high dose group ended up ingesting about the same amount as the medium dose group as the high dose monkeys would not consume intended levels of aspartame possibly because it was too sweet at that amount.   There was no control group.

The monkeys in this study were served their aspartame in an orally consumed milk based formula.

Starting about 7 months (218 days) into the experiment, ALL the medium and high dose monkeys began having brain seizures.

“All animals in the medium and high dosage groups exhibited seizure activity. Seizures were observed for the first time following 218 days of treatment… The seizures were of the grand mal type… One monkey, m38, of the high dose group, died after 300 days of treatment. The cause of death was not determined…”

Grand mal seizures also known as tonic clonic seizures are horrific –  a very dangerous seizure which affects the entire brain.

The low dose monkeys might have started to have seizures as well, but the death of one of the researchers, H. A. Waisman, caused a lack of staffing for the study.  As a result, the low dose monkeys were withdrawn from the group at 200 days which is before the seizures in the medium and high dose group began occurring.

As soon as the aspartame was withdrawn from the monkey’s diets, the seizures stopped.

How the FDA could call a study “pivotal” for approving aspartame’s use in thousands of products where every single monkey suffered from grand mal seizures and one died while consuming milk based formula containing this artificial sweetener is incomprehensible.

According to Robert Cohen of Oradell, New Jersey, who rediscovered this study which was reported in 1972, the dairy formula/aspartame milk which the monkeys ingested would have been a key reason for the brain seizures.

Cohen, who holds a degree in brain chemistry, suggests that the ingestion of dairy has the effect of elevating the pH of the stomach.  He contends that drinking a single 12 oz. glass of milk would have the effect of buffering the pH of the human stomach from 2 to 6.

When the stomach pH is 6, Cohen explains that the simple proteins that comprise aspartame would pass through undigested and hence move into the blood intact. 

Testing of the monkeys in this study showed that there was in fact phenylalanine (which comprises 50% of aspartame) in their blood which proves that it is absorbed.  Phenylalanine affects human brain activity by transmitting impulses and the brain seizures started occurring after this compound was detected in the monkey’s blood.

With aspartame, aka Nutrasweet, already used but still included on the label of many dairy products, it’s not a big leap for the FDA to take it to unlabeled status based on the petition from Big Dairy.

This is especially probable given the FDA’s backward interpretation of the Rhesus monkey study which it called “pivotal” in proving human safety and yet all the monkeys suffered from grand mal seizures while ingesting aspartame laced dairy formula.

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Sources: Aspartame in Milk Without a Label?  Big Dairy Petitions FDA for Approval

FDA Pivotal Safety Study: Aspartame Caused Brain Seizures

52 Week Oral Toxicity Infant Monkey Study

Picture Credit

The mass media’s near universal defamation of Hugo Chavez, presumably to counter the outpouring of eulogies and tributes that attended the Venezuelan president’s death, illustrates the lengths to which the wealthy (in whose hands the mass media repose) will go to vilify anyone who commits the highest international crime: curbing free enterprise.

To say that the anti-Chavez obloquies have been over the top would hardly be an exaggeration. Author and journalist Terry Glavin, whose credentials as a propagandist on behalf of the capitalist faith have been solidly affirmed by his loosing possibly the most extreme diatribe against Chavez ever written, assures us the Bolivarian revolutionary was “a sadistic, egomaniacal thug,” a “megalomaniac” at the center of an “autocracy,” who left “millions of Venezuelans living in fear of the knock on the door in the night.” (“Hugo Chavez, incompetent fake socialist,” The Ottawa Citizen, March 7, 2013.)

Sparing no slur, Glavin adds“strongman” and “hysterical paranoid” to his Himalaya of affronts against the deceased Venezuelan president, at the same time accusing Chavez of creating a police state where “an off-the-cuff remark could land you in jail.” Glavin, needless to say, doesn’t trouble himself to marshal any evidence to support his slanders, and his editors apparently didn’t ask him to either.

To explain away the difficulties of smearing the four-time elected Chavez as a dictator, Gavin invokes the concept of the “glorious contradiction, as in “…a deep contradiction was always at the heart of the Chavez pathology. Venezuela under his rule became ‘a glorious contradiction—an autocracy with a popular, elected megalomaniac at its center.’” This is the same glorious contradiction that once turned Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, an ardent friend of free enterprise, the wealthy, and Wall Street, into a champion of democracy. Here’s how it works: If the characterization contradicts the evidence, so much worse for the evidence.

In the hands of the mass media, then, a popularly elected socialist is demonized as an autocratic thug, while a servant of the super-rich who comes to power in a military coup that topples a socialist government is hailed as a democrat. The same logic allows the United States and its circle of free-enterprise, free-market-promoting allies to rail and plot against a secular Arab nationalist in Syria on grounds his rule is an affront to democracy, while propping up Arab autocracies in the Persian Gulf who are running guns to religious fanatics bent on bringing down the same secular forces that happen to put local interests ahead of Wall Street’s.

The contradictions—hardly glorious—should disabuse leftists who haven’t already been disabused of the illusion that securing a popular mandate at the polls confers an immunity against defamation by the wealthy class’s ideological prizefighters, an important element of which are mainstream writers and journalists. By the same token, failing to secure a popular mandate will hardly earn you a thrashing in the Western press so long as you subordinate local interests and those of the oppressed, afflicted, and exploited to the foreign interests of comfortable bankers on Wall Street and oil company executives in Texas.

No matter how they come to power, effective leftist and nationalist leaders will be smeared as “thugs,” “strongmen,” “autocrats,” and “paranoids,” by Wall Street’s ideological handmaidens. Ineffective leftist leaders and false messiahs (Polish trade union Solidarity and Mikhail Gorbachev come to mind) will be celebrated. In southern Africa, Robert Mugabe, who democratized patterns of land ownership, has received the same demonizing treatment at the hands of imperialist ideologues as Chavez has, while Nelson Mandela, whose revolution left property relations intact, is celebrated.

It might be worthwhile, then, to consider whether other leaders of popular causes, who themselves have been run through the mass media demonization machine, are as bad as the imperial class’s ideological prizefighters have made them out to be. If the four-time elected social reformer Chavez can be turned into a sadistic, egomaniacal thug at the center of an autocracy, imagine the extremes that defenders of capitalist privilege will go (and have gone) to vilify leaders who, in their championing the interests of the poor and exploited, pose (and have posed) an even greater threat than Chavez did to free enterprise, free markets and domination by capitalist masters from abroad.

 

How Deregulation Has Resurrected American Economic Insecurity

March 8th, 2013 by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

We might not be in a Great Depression, but economic insecurity has nevertheless returned to America.

John N. Gray, a distinguished intellect and retired professor of intellectual history at the London School of Economics, disagrees with the view that “the end of history” has placed humanity on a course of ethical and economic progress. History, Gray believes, is not progressing to a higher stage. Instead, humanity is repeating the same follies and is destined to endure the same disasters. It is the Enclosures, the Repeal of the Corn Laws, and the Poor Law Act of 1834 all over again.

The problem is humans themselves. They are not questioning beings. “Human beings use the power of scientific knowledge to assert and defend the values and goals they already have.” Instead of ethics and politics having advanced with the growth of knowledge, we are experiencing today state terror and murder on unprecedented scale as Washington kills people with drones and invasions in seven countries and threatens others. The US claims to be the democratic “light unto the world,” the “indispensable nation,” but it has resurrected in violation of its own law and international law the torture dungeons of the unaccountable governments of medieval Europe.

Few people see the disconnect between the propaganda about the goodness of America and the evil that its government practices. Torture was banned. Its practice was  made the act of a war criminal government. But the Bush and Obama regimes have resurrected torture as a defense of the state against citizens who reveal its crimes and against those who resist its aggression.

The CIA official who revealed that the US government was torturing detainees in violation of US and international law, John Kiriakou, was subjected to wrongful prosecution and sentenced to prison. The elected officials who approved the torture and those who conducted the torture remain free of all charges to torture again.

Bradley Manning, the US soldier who did his duty under the military code and revealed US war crimes that were ignored by his superiors had all of his constitutional rights violated and is now being tried on trumped-up and false charges. The US government claims that  by telling the truth Manning aided the “enemies of the United States.”

The US government is so corrupt that it doesn’t realize the self-damnation of declaring the truth to be against it. Some “light unto the world” Washington is.

The myths to which Americans subscribe are resulting in their social, political, and economic destruction. In False Dawn: The Delusions Of Global Capitalism, John Gray lays out the destructive consequences of the free market ideology.

Gray demonstrates that the libertarian belief that free markets are something that the government suppresses and takes away from us is contradicted by the historical fact that “free markets are creatures of state power, and persist only so long as the state is able to prevent human needs for security and the control of economic risk from finding political expression.”

Free unregulated markets have existed only during short periods of history when state power and economic conditions were conducive to the imposition of unregulated markets.  Unregulated markets existed for awhile in Victorian England, and Clinton, Bush, Obama, Thatcher and politicians in Australia, and New Zealand have removed regulation from various economic activities from the 1980s through the present.

The evidence is in and piles up daily. Instability is on the rise, and with it has come economic insecurity. Homelessness is increasing. In the last decade, New York City has experienced a 73 percent increase in homelessness, while the net worth of the city’s mayor has risen to $27 billion.

Deregulation of the financial system produced such massive instability that the Federal Reserve had to lend the banks $16 trillion (a sum equal to US national debt). The Federal Reserve is in the fourth year of monetizing $1 trillion annually of US debt, raising the specter of dollar devaluation and inflation. Once great manufacturing cities, such as Detroit, are in steep decline. Real interest rates are negative, depriving retirees of interest income. The high unemployment rate of recent university graduates, despite an alleged economic recovery, proves that education is no longer the answer. Millions of jobs have disappeared. Unemployment is high. Poverty has increased as has the number of Americans on food stamps.

The once vibrant American middle class is disappearing. The blue-collar working class is being proletarianized.  Labor arbitrage across national borders has destroyed millions of US manufacturing and professional service jobs such as software engineering. What was formerly the incomes of millions of Americans was turned into incomes for Chinese, Indians, and into capital gains for shareholders and mega-million dollar bonuses for the corporate CEOs who offshored the Americans’ jobs and banked the lower labor costs as profits.  One result has been a massive increase in US income and wealth inequality.

The US now has the worst economic inequality of all developed countries and one of the worst in the entire world. This 6 minute video will give you a visual picture:

Another result has been the shrinking of the American consumer market and the reliance on debt instead of income gains to keep the economy going, an expedient now exhausted by the high debt levels of American households.

The lost tax revenues from offshoring now threaten social institutions put in place decades ago in order to reduce economic insecurity and improve social cohesion. Social Security and Medicare are under attack, but not the wars that are the vehicle for spreading US hegemony and “democratic capitalism.” Even the concept of a career is vanishing as the pace of economic instability forces people into ever different jobs if they can find replacements for the ones they lose. Free unregulated markets disconnect economic activity from human well-being. As Gray says, markets are supposed to serve man, not man the market.

The neoconservative belief that America possesses the only true way–”democratic capitalism”–is a delusion. Gray shows that “democracy and the free market are rivals, not allies.” Free markets are not sustainable in a democracy, because free markets erode stability, security, and social cohesion. Free markets existed for a short time in Victorian England, because “the franchise was small and the overwhelming majority of the population was excluded from political participation.” Gray concludes that the American project of constructing a worldwide free market in an age of democratic government requires the instabilities and insecurities that free markets create to be protected from democratic politics and insulated from correction and reform.

We see everywhere in the West the effort to insulate the political process from the people it governs. In the US, the two political parties represent the few powerful private interests that supply their campaign funds. In the EU, Brussels is using the sovereign debt crisis to compromise the sovereignty of the member countries and remove their accountability to the people. In the US, Homeland Security has purchased a billion rounds of ammunition and 3,000 tanks. These purchases are not directed at the rare or nonexistent terrorist, but at the US population. They are Washington’s response to the social and political instability for which deregulation has set the stage.

Gray concludes that a global free market is a project destined to fail, and its casualty list will be long. Insecurities will rise everywhere as globalism sets countries against one another in geo-political struggles to control dwindling natural resources that no country or institution has any responsibility to conserve.  History is returning, and the neoconservatives will be remembered, if at all, as another utopian movement, a collection of bloody fools.

Gray’s conclusion is consistent with the trends that Gerald Celente forecasts: currency wars, trade wars, political upheavals, and hot wars.

Libertarians will be the last to comprehend that the return of crony capitalism, robber barons, and economic insecurity is the direct consequence of a quarter century of deregulation.  As I show in my new book, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism And Economic Erosion Of The West, it is the failure of the latest laissez faire experiment that has saddled us with crony capitalism. Monopoly concentration and rule by the few, not Libertarian nirvana, is what deregulation and unbridled greed produce.

Democrats Shamefully Silent on Obama Administration’s Assertion of Right to Assassinate Americans on U.S. Soil

Rand Paul carried out a historic 13-hour filibuster of dronemaster-in-chief John Brennan’s nomination for CIA chief.

Huffington Post slammed Democrats for being missing in action and progressive news host Cenk Uygur called Senator Paul a “constitutional hero”.

One of the top constitutional law experts in the country – Jonathan Turley, a progressive liberal – writes:

What was most striking about this principled stand is the virtual total absence of Democrats in speaking out against Obama. Just this week, Attorney General Eric Holder admitted that this policy could include killing citizens on U.S. soil with drones. Yet, the Democrats worked to stop not the kill list policy but Paul’s filibuster. Obama apologists have attacked Rand for some of his other positions to avoid dealing with the fact that Obama is claiming the powers of an Imperial President. I do not agree with Paul on many things, but I commend him for this stand and condemn those who remained silent, again, in the face of this authoritarian policy of Obama.

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The lack of opposition to Obama’s kill list policy is a national disgrace. It shows the triumph of a cult of personality within the Democratic ranks where both members and voters have chosen Obama over long-standing values of civil liberties that once defined their party.

Senator Paul’s office sent us a series of unofficial transcripts of Paul’s filibuster speech.  Below are our favorite excerpts (constitutional experts like Turley have confirmed that Paul’s statements are accurate).

No American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court. That Americans could be killed in a cafe in San Francisco or in a restaurant in Houston or at their home in bowling green, Kentucky, is an abomination. It is something that should not and cannot be tolerated in our country.

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The principle is one that as Americans we have fought long and hard for and to give up on that principle, to give up on the bill of rights, to give up on the Fifth Amendment protection that says that no person shall be held without due process, that no person shall be held for a capital offense without being indicted. This is a precious American tradition and something we should not give up on easily.

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When I asked the President, can you kill an American on American soil, it should have been an easy answer. It’s an easy question. It should have been a resounding and unequivocal, “no.” The President’s response? He hasn’t killed anyone yet. We’re supposed to be comforted by that.

The President says, I haven’t killed anyone yet. He goes on to say, and I have no intention of killing Americans. But I might. Is that enough? Are we satisfied by that? Are we so complacent with our rights that we would allow a President to say he might kill Americans? But he will judge the circumstances, he will be the sole arbiter, he will be the sole decider, he will be the executioner in chief if he sees fit. Now, some would say he would never do this. Many people give the President the – you know, they give him consideration, they say he’s a good man. I’m not arguing he’s not. What I’m arguing is that the law is there and set in place for the day when angels don’t rule government. Madison said that the restraint on government was because government will not always be run by angels. This has nothing, absolutely nothing to do with whether the President is a Democrat or a Republican. Were this a Republican President, I’d be here saying exactly the same thing. No one person, no one politician should be allowed to judge the guilt, to charge an individual, to judge the guilt of an individual and to execute an individual. It goes against everything that we fundamentally believe in our country.

This isn’t even new to our country. There’s 800 years of English law that we found our tradition upon. We founded it upon the Magna Carta from 1215. We founded it upon Morgan from Glamorgan and 725 A.D. We founded upon the Greeks and Romans who had juries. It is not enough to charge someone to say that they are guilty.

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If there’s a gentleman or a woman with a grenade launcher attacking our buildings or our Capitol, we use lethal force. You don’t get due process if you’re involved with actively attacking us, our soldiers or our government. You don’t get due process if you’re overseas in a battle shooting at our soldiers. But that’s not what we’re talking about. The Wall Street Journal reported and said that the bulk of the drone attacks are signature attacks. They don’t even know the name of the person. A line or a caravan is going from a place where we think there are bad people to a place where we think they might commit harm and we kill the caravan, not the person. Is that the standard that we will now use in America? Will we use a standard for killing Americans to be that we thought – killing Americans to be that we thought you were bad, we thought you were coming from a meeting of bad people and you were in a line of traffic and so, therefore, you were fine for the killing? That is the standard we’re using overseas. Is that the standard we’re going to use here?

I will speak today until the President responds and says no, we won’t kill Americans in cafes; no, we won’t kill you at home in your bed at night; no, we won’t drop bombs on restaurants. Is that so hard? It’s amazing that the President will not respond. I’ve been asking this question for a month. It’s like pulling teeth to get the President to respond to anything. And I get no answer.

The President says he hasn’t done it yet and I’m to be comforted, you are to be comforted in your home, you are to be comforted in your restaurant, you are to be comforted on-line communicating in your e-mail that the President hasn’t killed an American yet on the homeland. He says he hasn’t done it yet. He says he has no intention to do so. Hayek said that nothing distinguishes arbitrary government from a government that is run by the whims of the people than the rule of law. The law’s an amazingly important thing, an amazingly important protection. And for us to give up on it so easily really doesn’t speak well of what our founding fathers fought for, what generation after generation of American soldiers have fought for, what soldiers are fighting for today when they go overseas to fight wars for us. It doesn’t speak well of what we’re doing here to protect the freedom at home when our soldiers are abroad fighting for us, that we say that our freedom’s not precious enough for one person to come down and say, enough’s enough, Mr. President. Come clean, come forward and say you will not kill Americans on American soil. The oath of office of the President says that he will, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution. He raises his hand, his right hand, puts his left hand on the bible, and he says, “i will.” The President doesn’t say, “I intend to if it’s convenient.” “I intend to, unless circumstances dictate otherwise.”

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If you are sitting in a cafeteria in Dearborn, Mich., if you happen to be an Arab-American who has a relative in the Middle East and you communicate with them by e-mail and somebody says, oh, your relative is someone we suspect of being associated with terrorism, is that enough to kill you? For goodness sakes, wouldn’t we try to arrest and come to the truth by having a jury and a presentation of the facts on both sides of the issue? See, the real problem here, one of the things we did a long time ago is we separated the police power from the judicial power. This was an incredibly important first step. We also prevented the military from acting in our country because we didn’t want to have a police state.

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I’m not casting any aspersions on the President. I’m not saying he is a bad person at all, but he is not a judge. He’s a politician. He was elected by a majority, but the majority doesn’t get to decide who we execute. We have a process for deciding this. We have courts for deciding this, to allow one man to accuse you in secret, you never get notified you have been accused. Your notification is the buzz of the propellers on the drone as it flies overhead in the seconds before you’re killed. Is that what we really want from our government? Are we so afraid of terrorism, are we so afraid of terrorists that we’re willing to just throw out our rights and our freedoms, things that have been fought for and that we have gotten over the centuries.

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Madison wrote in the federalist papers, he said that the Constitution states what history demonstrates, that the executive branch is the branch most prone to war, most likely to go to war, and therefore we – we took that power to declare war and we vested it in the legislature. We broke up the powers. Montesquieu wrote about the checks and balances and the separation of powers. He was somebody who Jefferson looked towards. They separated the powers because there was a chance for abuse of power when power resides in one person. Montesquieu said there can be no liberty when you combine the executive and the legislative. I would say something similar. There can be no liberty when you combine the executive and the judiciary. That’s what we’re doing here. We’re allowing the President to be the accuser in secret and we’re allowing him to be the judge and we’re allowing him to be the jury. No man should have that power. We should fear that power. Not because we have to say oh, we fear the current President. It has nothing to do with who the President is. It has nothing to do with whether you’re a Republican or Democrat. It has to do with whether or not you fear the consolidation of power, were you – whether you fear power being given to one person, whether they are a Republican or a Democrat. This is not necessarily a right-left issue.

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What’s important here is that we’re talking about a war without geographic limitations, but we’re also talking about a war without temporal limitations. There is no limit, no limit in time to this war. When will this war end? It’s a war that has, I think, an infinite timeline. So if you’re going to suspend your rights, if there is going to be no geographic limits to killing, which really means we’re not at war in Afghanistan, we’re at war everywhere and everybody that pops up is called al-Qaida now, whether they have ever heard of al-Qaida or not, whether they have any communication with some kind of network of al-Qaida, everybody is al-Qaida, but there is a new war or an ongoing war everywhere in the world, there is no limitations.

Glenn Greenwald … says there is a theoretical framework being built that posits that the U.S. Government has unlimited power.

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To think that we were opposed to them listening to your conversations without a warrant but no one’s going to stand up and say they can kill you without a warrant, a judge’s review or a jury, no one’s going to object to that, where is the cacophony that stood up and said how can you tap my phone without going to a judge first? I ask how can you kill someone without going to a judge or a jury?

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Civil libertarians once expected more from the President. In fact, it was one of the things that I liked about the President. I’m a Republican. I didn’t vote or support the President either time, but I admired him, particularly in 2007 when he ran. I admired his ability to stand up and say we won’t torture people, that’s not what America does. How does the President’s mind work, though? The President that seemed so honorable, seemed so concerned with our rights, seemed so concerned with the right not to have your phone be tapped now says he’s not concerned with whether you can be killed without a trial. The leap of logic is so fantastic as to boggle the mind. Where is the Barack Obama of 2007? Has the presidency so transformed him that he has forgotten his moorings, forgotten what he stood for? Civilian libertarians once expected more from the President. Ask any civil libertarian whether or not the President should have the right to arbitrarily kill Americans on American soil and the answer is easy. Of course, no President should have the right or that power under the Constitution.

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The President a year ago lined up – signed a law that says that you can be detained indefinitely, that you can be sent from America to Guantanamo Bay without a trial, and he wants us to be comforted, he wants us to remember and think good of him because he says I don’t intend to do so. It’s not enough. I mean, would you tolerate a Republican who stood up and said well, I like the First Amendment, I’m quite fond of the First Amendment, and I don’t intend to break the First Amendment but I might.

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So my question is if you’re not a civilian, if you’re in proximity to bad people, is that the standard we’re going to use in the United States? So if we’re going to kill Americans on American soil and the standard is going to be signature strikes that you’re close to bad people or that you’re in the same proximity as bad people, would that be enough? Are we happy with that standard? Are we happy that we have no jury, no trial, no charges, nothing done publicly?

***

Many of the drone strikes overseas are done when you’re walking – I don’t know where you are a walking … To church, you’re walking along the road – they’re done when you’re in a car driving, they’re done when you’re in a house eating. They’re done when you’re at a restaurant eating. They’re done when you’re in a house sleeping. I am saying that they’re not actively involved in something that’s an imminent threat and if they were in America, they would be arrested.

***

The Bureau of Justice put out a bulletin within the last year describing people who you need to be worried about. These are [terrorists]. Who are these terrorists that live among you?

People who might be missing fingers on one hand, people who might have stains on their clothing, people who might have changed the color of their hair, people who like to pay in cash, people who own more than one gun, people who own weatherized ammunition, people who have seven days of food in their house. These are people that you should be afraid of and that you should report to your government. So says your government. Are they going to be on the drone strike list? I think we need to get an answer from the President.

If you’re going to kill people in America, we need rules, and we need to know what your rules are. Because I certainly don’t want to have seven days of food in my house if that’s on the list to terrorism. Interestingly, on government websites there are some government websites that advise you to have it in your house. If you live in a hurricane-prone area you’re supposed to keep some area food around. Who is going to decide when it’s okay to have food in your house and when it’s not?

***

The people on the list from the fusion center in Missouri that you need to be worried about, that policemen should stop, are people that have bumper stick theirs might be pro-life, who have bumper stickers that might be for more border security, people who support third-party candidates ….

You believe in the Constitution so much, you might be a terrorist – you believe in the Constitution so much, you might be a terrorist. We need to be concerned about this. Things are not so black and white. If someone is shooting at us, a canon, a missile, a rocket, a plane, it is pretty easy to know what lethal attacks are. We’re talking about people in their homes, at a restaurant, or a cafe that someone is making an accusation. If the accusation is based on how many fingers you have on your hand, I have got a problem with that standard. If the standard to be used for killing Americans is whether you pay in cash, I’ve got a problem with that. If the standard to be used in America is being close to someone who is bad or the government thinks is bad is enough for you to be killed and not even account you as an accidental kill, to count you as combatant because you were near them [I"ve got a problem with that].

***

But here’s the real problem: When the President’s spokesman was asked about al-Awlaki’s son, you know what his response was? This I find particularly callous and particularly troubling. The President’s response to the killing of al-Awlaki’s son, he said he should have chosen more a responsible father.

***

I cannot sit at my desk quietly and let the President say he will kill Americans on American soil who are not actively attacking the country.

***

Should we live in a country where you have to be worried about what you say? Should we live in a country where you have to worry about what you write? What kind of country would that be?

***

Officials said the kill list in Pakistan has slipped to fewer than ten al-Qaida targets, down from as many as two dozen, and yet we’re killing hundreds of people in Pakistan.

***

What if you just happen to live in the neighborhood of somebody who is a suspected terrorist. Is it okay because you were close to them? What if you happened to go to dinner with a guy you didn’t know or a woman you didn’t know and the government says they’re a terrorist? Just because you’re having dinner with them and you are a male between the ages of 16 and 50, does that make you a combatant? We also asked the question do you condone the CIA’s practice of counting civilians killed by U.S. drone strikes as militants simply because they were of the same age? Like every other question, no answer. We asked him whether al-Awlaki’s son was a target. No answer. We asked how many people have been targeted. No answer.

***

As this war has dragged on, they take that authorization of use of force to mean pretty much anything. And so they have now said that the war has no geographic limitations, so it’s really not a war in Afghanistan, it’s a war in Yemen, Somalia, Mali. It’s a war in unlimited places.

***

About a year ago, I tried to end the Iraq war. You may say, well, I thought the Iraq war was already over. It is, but we still have an authorization of use of force that says we can go to war in Iraq any time.

And since they think the use of force in Afghanistan means limitless war anywhere, any time in the whole world, for goodness sakes, wouldn’t we try to take back a declaration of war, an authorization of force if the war is over? But here’s the sad part. I actually got a vote on it and I think I got less than 20 votes. You can’t end a war after it’s over up here. And it has repercussions, because these authorizations to use force are used for many other things. So the authorization of force says you can go after al-Qaida or associated terrorists. The problem is, is that when you allow the Executive Branch to sort of determine what is al-Qaida, you’ve got no idea.

***

Alarm bells should go off when people tell you that the battlefield’s in America. Why? Because when the battlefield’s in America, we don’t have due process.

***

One of them, in fact, said if you – if you – if they ask for a lawyer, you tell them to shut up. Well, if that’s the standard we’re going to have in America, I’m – I’m quite concerned that the battlefield would be here and that the Constitution wouldn’t apply. Because, to tell you the truth, if you are shooting at us in Afghanistan, the Constitution doesn’t apply over there. But I certainly want it to apply here. If you’re engaged in combat overseas, you don’t get due process. But when people say, oh, the battlefield’s come to America and the battlefield’s everywhere, the war is limitless in time and scope, be worried, because your rights will not exist if you call America a battlefield for all time. We’ve asked him whether the strikes are exclusively focused on al-Qaida and what is the definition of being part of al-Qaida.

***

Now, the President has said, don’t worry because he’s not going to kill you with a drone unless it’s infeasible to catch you.

***

Maybe he’s not got enough people to go arrest you …. So maybe he’s going to … kill you.

***

It is not because we think our military are bad people. I’m proud of our soldiers, I’m proud of our army, I’m proud of what they do for our country. But they operate under different rules. And it’s a much more dangerous environment they operate under. And it’s different. It’s still dangerous in America, but policemen have a different rules of engagement than your soldiers have. And there’s – there’s more restrictions and restraint on what we do in our country. So that’s why we say the military can’t operate here. So when we asked the President, can you kill Americans on American soil with your drone strikes, which is part of the military, it should be an easy answer.

***

John Yoo was one of the architects of this, basically just saying hey, if I’m going to protect you, I can do whatever the hell I want. Many on the left objected to that. Some of us on the right also objected to this – this usurpation of power by the Republican President. But the thing is, is it – now the shoe’s on the other foot and we’re not seeing any of that.

***

When we separate out police power from judicial power, it’s an important separation. You know, the police can arrest you, they’re allowed to do certain things, but the policeman that comes to your door and puts handcuffs on you doesn’t decide your guilt.

***

I’m not really disputing his motives or not saying he isn’t a good person. But I’m disputing someone who’s naive enough to think that that’s good enough for our republic, that his good intentions are good enough for our republic. It never would have been accepted, it would have been laughed out of the Constitutional Convention. The Founding Fathers would have objected so strenuously that that person probably would never have been elected to office in our country. Someone who doesn’t believe that the rules have to be in place and that we can’t have our rights guaranteed by the intentions of our politicians. Think about it. Congress has about a 10 percent approval rating. Do you think the American people want to base whether they’re going to be killed by a drone on a politician? I certainly don’t. Doesn’t have anything to do with whether he’s a Republican or a Democrat. I would be here today if this were a Republican President.

Because you can’t give that much power to one person.

***

No one is questioning whether the U.S. can repel an attack. No one is questioning whether your local police can repel an attack. Anybody involved in lethal force, the legal doctrine in our country and has been historically, has always been that the government can repel lethal attacks. The problem is, is that the drone strike program is often not about combatants. It is about people who may or may not be conspiring but they’re not in combat.

***

Is objecting to your government or the policies of your government – the policy of your government sympathizing with the enemy?

***

There is, though, a difference between sympathizing and taking up arms. Most people around here who want to justify no rules, America is a battlefield, no limits to war, they really want to blur it all together. Because it’s easier to say, oh, you don’t want to stop anybody who is shooting at Americans.

***

Certain things rise above partisanship. And I think your right to be secure in your person, the right to be secure in your liberty, the right to be tried by a jury of your peers – these are things that are so important and rise to such a level that we shouldn’t give up on them easily.

***

And really, the great irony of this is that President Obama’s position on this is an extension of George Bush’s opinion. It basically is a continuation and an expansion of George Bush’s opinion. George Bush was a President who believed in a very expansive power. Virtually, some would say, unlimited. He was accused of running an imperial Presidency. The irony is that this President that we have currently was elected in opposition to that. This President was one elected who when he was in this body was often very vocal at saying that the President’s powers were limited.

***

One of the President’s [i.e. Obama's] writings I found very instructive and I was quite proud of him for having said it, the President said that no President shall unilaterally go to war without the authority of Congress unless there is an imminent threat to the country. I guess we should be a little wary of his unless now since we know imminent doesn’t have to be immediate and imminent no longer means what humans once thought imminent meant. But he did say that the President doesn’t go to war by himself. I think it would be fair to say that candidate Obama also felt that the President didn’t have the authority to imprison you indefinitely without a trial. I think it’s also safe to say that Barack Obama of 2007 would be right down here with me arguing against this drone strike program if he were in the Senate.

***

Presidents have been getting more and more powerful for over a hundred years, Republican and Democrat. There was at one point in time in our history a pride among the Senate and a pride among the Congress that said these are our powers and we’re not giving them up. There were people on both sides of the aisle who would stand firm and say this is not a power I’m willing to relinquish. This is not something that is good for the country. And by relinquishing the power of Congress, we relinquish something very fundamental to our Republic, which is the checks and balances that we should have checks and balances to help and try to prevent one body or one part of the three parts of government from obtaining too much power.

***

Guilt or innocence isn’t always apparent, and sometimes an accusation is a false accusation. Sometimes accusations are made because people politically don’t like your point of view. So the question becomes should we have a process where we try to determine innocence or guilt?

***

If inconveniencecy is our standard for going to war without Congress, inconveniency is our standard for killing Americans on American soil with drones – I mean, I think we’ve sunk to a new low. I just can’t imagine as a country that that’s the standard that you want to have.

War Is a Lie

March 7th, 2013 by David Swanson

In honor of the 10th Anniversary of Operation Iraqi Liberation, and in hopes of helping us keep in mind that every war is based on similar lies, even if sometimes the lies are told more competently, I’m making available here the introduction to my book War Is A Lie.  If you’re near the heart of the empire on March 18th, join us at the 10 Years Later: Still Shocked, Not Awed event.

INTRODUCTION

Not a single thing that we commonly believe about wars that helps keep them around is true. Wars cannot be good or glorious. Nor can they be justified as a means of achieving peace or anything else of value. The reasons given for wars, before, during, and after them (often three very different sets of reasons for the same war) are all false. It is common to imagine that, because we’d never go to war without a good reason, having gone to war, we simply must have a good reason. This needs to be reversed. Because there can be no good reason for war, having gone to war, we are participating in a lie.

A very intelligent friend recently told me that prior to 2003 no American president had ever lied about reasons for war. Another, only slightly better informed, told me that the United States had not had any problems with war lies or undesirable wars between 1975 and 2003. I hope that this book will help set the record straight. “A war based on lies” is just a long-winded way of saying “a war.” The lies are part of the standard package.

Lies have preceded and accompanied wars for millennia, but in the past century war has become far more deadly. Its victims are now primarily non-participants, often almost exclusively on one side of the war. Even the participants from the dominant side can be drawn from a population coerced into fighting and isolated from those making the decisions about or benefitting from the war. Participants who survive war are far more likely now to have been trained and conditioned to do things they cannot live with having done. In short, war ever more closely resembles mass murder, a resemblance put into our legal system by the banning of war in the Kellogg-Briand Peace Pact in 1928, the United Nations Charter in 1945, and the International Criminal Court’s decision to prosecute crimes of aggression in 2010. Arguments that might have sufficed to justify wars in the past might not do so now. War lies are now far more dangerous things. But, as we will see, wars were never justifiable.

A defensive war remains legal, even if not necessarily moral. But any defensive war is also a war of illegal aggression from the other side. All sides in all wars, even wars with two clear aggressors, always claim to be acting defensively. Some actually are. When a powerful military attacks a weak and impoverished nation halfway around the globe, those who fight back may tell lies — about the aggressors, about their own prospects for victory, about atrocities they commit, about rewards for martyrs in paradise, etc., — but they do not have to lie the war into existence; it has come to them. The lies that create wars, and the lies that allow war to remain one of our tools of public policy, must be addressed before any others.

This book focuses, not exclusively but heavily, on the United States’ wars, because the United States is my country and because it is the leading war maker in the world right now. Many people in our country are inclined to a healthy skepticism or even fanatical certainty of disbelief when it comes to statements our government makes about anything other than wars. On taxes, Social Security, healthcare, or schools it simply goes without saying: elected officials are a pack of liars.

When it comes to wars, however, some of the same people are inclined to believe every fantastical claim that comes out of Washington, D.C., and to imagine they thought it up for themselves. Others argue for an obedient and non-questioning attitude toward “our Commander in Chief,” following a pattern of behavior common among soldiers. They forget that in a democracy “we the people” are supposed to be in charge. They also forget what we did to certain German and Japanese soldiers following World War II, despite their honest defense of having followed their commanders’ orders. Still other people are just not sure what to think about arguments made in support of wars. This book is, of course, addressed to those who are thinking it through for themselves.

The word “war” conjures up in many people’s minds the U.S. Civil War or World War I. We hear constant references to “the battlefield” as if wars still primarily involved pairs of armies lined up against each other in an open space. Some of today’s wars are more usefully referred to as “occupations” and can be visualized more as a Jackson Pollock painting with three colors splattered everywhere, one representing the occupying army, a second representing the enemy, and a third representing innocent civilians — with the second and third colors only distinguishable from each other using a microscope.

But hot occupations involving constant violence must be distinguished from the many cold occupations consisting of foreign troops stationed permanently in allied nations. And what to make of operations involving the steady bombing of a nation from unmanned drones piloted by men and women on the other side of the world? Is that war? Are secret assassination squads sent into yet other nations to work their will also taking part in war? What about arming a proxy state and encouraging it to launch attacks on a neighbor or its own people? What about selling weaponry to hostile nations around the world or facilitating the spread of nuclear weapons? Perhaps not all unjustifiable warlike actions are actually acts of war. But many are actions to which domestic and international laws of war should be applied and which we should have public knowledge of and control over. In the U.S. system of government, the legislature shouldn’t cede the constitutional power of war to presidents simply because the appearance of wars has changed. The people shouldn’t lose their right to know what their government is doing, simply because its actions are warlike without actually being war.

While this book focuses on the justifications that have been offered for wars, it is also an argument against silence. People should not permit congress members to campaign for office without explaining their positions on the funding of wars, including undeclared wars consisting of repeated drone strikes or bombings into foreign nations, including quick wars that come and go in the course of a term of Congress, and including very long wars that our televisions forget to remind us are still going on.

The U.S. public may be more opposed to wars now than ever before, the culmination of a process that has taken over a century and a half. Anti- war sentiment was extremely high between the two world wars, but it is now more firmly established. However, it fails when confronted with wars in which few Americans die. The steady drip of a handful of U.S. deaths each week in a war without end has become part of our national scenery. Preparation for war is everywhere and rarely questioned.

We are more saturated with militarism than ever before. The military and its support industries eat up an increasingly larger share of the economy, providing jobs intentionally spread across all congressional districts. Military recruiters and recruitment advertising are ubiquitous. Sporting events on television welcome “members of the United States armed forces viewing in 177 nations around the world” and nobody blinks. When wars begin, the government does whatever it has to do to persuade enough of the public to support the wars. Once the public turns against wars, the government just as effectively resists pressure to bring them to a swift end. Some years into the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, a majority of Americans told pollsters it had been a mistake to begin either of those wars. But easily manipulated majorities had supported those mistakes when they were made.

Up through the two world wars, nations demanded ever greater sacrifices from the majority of their populations to support war. Today, the case for war must overcome people’s resistance to arguments that they know have fooled them in the past. But, in order to support war, people need not be convinced to make great sacrifices, enlist, register for a draft, grow their own food, or curtail their consumption. They just have to be convinced to do nothing at all, or at most to tell pollsters on the phone that they support a war. The presidents who took us into the two world wars and deeper into the Vietnam War were elected claiming they’d keep us out, even as they also saw political advantages to getting in.

By the time of the Gulf War (and following British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s patriotic boost of support during her speedy 1982 war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands) the prospect of electoral gains, at least from quick wars, had come to dominate political thinking. President Bill Clinton was widely suspected, accurately or not, of launching military actions to distract from his personal scandals. George W. Bush made no secret of his hunger for war when running for president, blurting out at a December 1999 six-way New Hampshire Primary debate, which the media concluded he’d won, “I’d take him out, take out the weapons of mass destruction. . . . I’m surprised he’s still there.” Bush later told The New York Times he’d meant “take ‘em out” referring to the weapons, not the ruler of Iraq. Presidential candidate Barack Obama promised to end one war but escalate another and enlarge the war-making machine.

That machine has changed over the years, but some things haven’t. This book looks at examples of what I take to be the main categories of war lies, examples taken from around the world and through the centuries. I could have arranged this story in chronological order and named each chapter for a particular war. Such a project would have been both endless and repetitive. It would have produced an encyclopedia when what I thought was needed was a guidebook, a how-to manual to be employed in preventing and ending wars. If you want to find everything I’ve included about a particular war, you can use the index at the back of the book. I recommend, however, reading the book straight through in order to follow the debunking of common themes in the war lying business, lies that keep coming back like zombies that just won’t die.

This book is aimed at exposing the falsehood of all the more and less coherent rationales that have been offered for wars. If this book succeeds in its intent, the next time a war is proposed there will be no need to wait to see whether the justifications turn out to be false. We will know that they are false, and we will know that even if true they will not serve as justifications.  Some of us knew there were no weapons in Iraq and that even if there had been that could not have legally or morally sanctioned war.

Going forward, our goal should be war preparedness in a particular sense: we should be prepared to reject lies that might launch or prolong a war. This is just what the overwhelming mass of Americans did by rejecting lies about Iran for years following the invasion of Iraq. Our preparedness should include a ready response to that most difficult argument to refute: silence. When there’s no debate at all over whether to bomb Pakistan, the pro-war side automatically wins. We should mobilize not only to halt but also to prevent wars, both of which actions require applying pressure to those in power, a very different thing from persuading honest observers.

Yet, persuading honest observers is the place to start. War lies come in all shapes and sizes, and I have grouped them into what I see as the dominant themes in the chapters that follow. The idea of “the big lie” is that people who would themselves more readily tell small fibs than giant whoppers will be more reluctant to doubt a big lie from someone else than to doubt a small one. But it’s not strictly the size of the lie that matters, I think, so much as the type. It can be painful to realize that people you look up to as leaders recklessly waste human lives for no good reason. It can be more pleasant to suppose they would never do such a thing, even if supposing this requires erasing some well-known facts from your consciousness. The difficulty is not in believing that they would tell enormous lies, but in believing that they would commit enormous crimes.

The reasons often given for wars are not all legal reasons and not all moral reasons. They don’t always agree with each other, but they are usually offered in combination nonetheless, since they appeal to different groups of potential war supporters. Wars, we are told, are fought against evil demonic peoples or dictators who have already attacked us or might soon do so. Thus, we are acting in defense. Some of us prefer to see the enemy’s entire population as evil, and others to place the blame only on their government. For some people to offer their support, wars must be seen as humanitarian, fought on behalf of the very people other supporters of the same war would like to see wiped off the face of the earth. Despite wars becoming such acts of generosity, we are nonetheless careful to pretend that they are unavoidable. We are told and believe that there is no other choice. War may be a horrible thing, but we have been forced into it. Our warriors are heroes, while those who set the policy have the noblest of motives and are better qualified than the rest of us to make the critical decisions.

Once a war is underway, however, we don’t continue it in order to defeat the evil enemies or to bestow benefits on them; we continue wars primarily for the good of our own soldiers currently deployed on the “battlefield,” a process we call “supporting the troops.” And if we want to end an unpopular war, we do that by escalating it. Thus we achieve “victory,” which we can trust our televisions to accurately inform us of. Thus do we make a better world and uphold the rule of law. We prevent future wars by continuing the existing ones and preparing for ever more.

Or so we like to believe.

##

War Is A Lie is available at Better World Books, 100 Fires, Powell’s, Barnes and Noble, Amazon, or at bulk discount or as audio, PDF, epub, or kindle at http://warisalie.org

Or in the UK: http://www.bitebackpublishing.com

Or in China in Chinese: http://book.360buy.com/11090534.html

“David Swanson’s War Is A Lie (Charlottesville, VA, 2010) may be the most comprehensive antiwar statement available in the English language.” — Kevin Young, ZNet

“David Swanson despises war and lying, and unmasks them both with rare intelligence. I learn something new on every page.” — Jeff Cohen, founder of FAIR and author of Cable News Confidential.

“There are three insightful books I’ve read that explain how and why no good can come of the current U.S. reliance on military force and war in seeking its desired ‘Pax Americana’: War Is A Racket by General Smedley Butler; War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning by Chris Hedges, and War Is A Lie by David Swanson.” — Coleen Rowley, former FBI special agent, whistleblower, and Time magazine person of the year.

“If you stop and think, and genuinely wonder; and long for a new, better world, I urge you to read a book I’ve just finished. It’s self-published, brilliantly and passionately written, and while being truthful is full of hope of destroying the military-industrial-media-congressional-imperialpresidential-complex. It’s “War Is A Lie” by David Swanson.” - Mumia Abu-Jamal.

“If decisions to go to war were really made on the basis of reason and facts, rather than greed and power, David Swanson’s brilliant new book would put a stop to them. Those of us who know David understand that he writes quickly and eloquently, speaks honestly and powerfully, and follows a logical point all the way to its conclusion. He has a philosopher’s mind with a computer’s precision. And he always maintains a justifiable moral outrage at the lies of the war criminals — calling out their crimes, detailing their carnage, poking holes in their excuses. Reading ‘War Is a Lie’ is like reading Mark Twain’s ‘War Prayer,’ only in book form.” — Steve Cobble, IPS Associate Fellow, PDA co-founder, AfterDowningStreet.org co-founder, Jackson & Kucinich campaign advisor.

“While Americans elect leaders whom they trust are honest, truthful and really care about the kids they send to kill for our country, War Is A Lie reveals decade after decade the sordid side of our history — that our elected officials lie us into war with stunning and embarrassing regularity and are little concerned about the harm to innocent civilians, much less to members of our own military.” — Colonel (retired) Ann Wright, author of Dissent: Voices of Conscience.

“This book is every American’s best defense against the greatest danger we face as human beings: the threat of war. Swanson reveals how American leaders (from both major political parties) have confused the public to create the illusion of consent for endless destruction and slaughter. Behind the fear-mongering, flag-waving and lies of George W. Bush and the blandishments of Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama lies the ugly reality that our leaders have been seduced by political ambition, delusions of military superiority, and the promise of secrecy and impunity to commit otherwise unthinkable crimes.” — Nicolas J. S. Davies, Author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq.

“David Swanson is an antidote to the toxins of complacency and evasion. He insists on rousing the sleepwalkers, confronting the deadly prevaricators and shining a bright light on possibilities for a truly better world.” — Norman Solomon, author of War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.

“This book is revolutionary, and certainly truth-telling in a remarkable and brave way. The writing is so clear and easy-to-read, too. A pleasure to read, except that the content is so devastating, because it all means that not only are we utterly deceived but our entire reality is based on that deception. Swanson has gotten to the core of something. The only thing is I’m not sure he realizes how hopeless it is to expect a change — and yet that is part of the appeal of his writing: his hopefulness in the face of lies and repression and denial.” — Jennifer Van Bergen, author of The Twilight of Democracy: The Bush Plan for America.

“War Is A Lie is an important and compelling book that arrives at a time when America is engaged in its longest running war to date. Swanson offers an incisive examination of the rationalizations, justifications, and outright lies that have led the United States, and other nations, into battle. And he shows the personal cost to the current generation of combatants returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.” — Cynthia Wachtell, author of War No More: The Antiwar Impulse in American Literature 1861-1914.

“David Swanson has taken the mantle of AJ Muste, who had the guts and the audacity to declare World War II to have been unnecessary and wrong. Swanson takes Muste’s argument further to make the audacious claim that all wars are not just unnecessary, but a crime. He is correct, of course. Just as no good outcome (whether the ouster of a tyrant or the freeing of captive nations) can compensate for the death of millions of innocents, which of course is the argument made in defense of calling World War II a ‘good’ war, no good (whether the ousting of a tyrant or the claimed improvement in the rights of oppressed women) can compensate for the death of hundreds of thousands of innocents in Iraq or of tens of thousands of innocents in Afghanistan. This is a book that every American should read, especially those who think the United States is the good guy.” — Dave Lindorff , journalist, author of The Case for Impeachment, and founder of the online newspaper ThisCantBeHappening!

“War is a Lie is a must read for anyone who wants to break the centuries-long cycle of a perennially war-waging United States. In this carefully researched book, Mr. Swanson exposes the falsehoods that a willing government sells to a gullible public to gain support for one unnecessary war after another. The profit motives, power plays and perennial chest-thumping, that have all been given more importance than human lives, are exposed in all their ugliness. The lie of a Department of ‘Defense’ is laid bare; there has been little, if any, defensive maneuvering by the U.S. military since its own violent birth. The empire-building that the U.S. criticizes in the name of citizen democracy is exposed as a main motivation for the U.S.’s many wars. With facts, figures and a clear and engaging writing style, Mr. Swanson cuts through the fog of government rhetoric to expose the reality of why the U.S. is constantly at war. War is a Lie will enable peace activists to ask questions of the U.S.’s so-called representatives that they will simply be unable to answer. Additionally, this book should be required reading in every high school history class in the country.” — Robert Fantina, author: “Desertion and the American Soldier: 1776 – 2006.”

“David Swanson is a fearless and tireless advocate of peace and works ceaselessly to unmask the mechanisms that keep us perennially at war.” — Russ Baker, author of “Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America’s Invisible Government, and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years.”

“Activist David Swanson is well respected in the anti-war community as a man who walks his talk in a bold, committed, solid way, that he is a principled leader. Now we must add to that list of credentials authorship of an important, destined to be classic book. ‘War Is A Lie’ addresses the web of lies, the taboo subjects, the false claims, the mythic messages that are hollow and empty and it lays waste to them. Swanson’s book is a (I’ve never used the term to describe a book before) Tour de Force, an intellectual accomplishment that lays out the truths about war and the lies that support in a way that every peace activist, every anti-war organization and group must digest and frankly, use as the tools to take the arguments against war to a new more effective level. If there are awards for brilliant books that explode new ways to oppose the evils of this world, then David should sweep the field this year. One more thing. It is an exceptional accomplishment to present a book with such important ideas. It is another thing to write extraordinarily well, so, on page after page, the words are quotable, rising off the page with vivacity.” — Rob Kall, creator of http://opednews.com.

“You don’t believe in war, but can you articulate your reasons? What if someone challenges your position? Can you defend it? Suppose someone told you that spending for the military is good for the economy? What if they agreed that war is generally bad – but there are exceptions, such as the ‘good war’ against Hitler and Japan, or even the ‘war on terror’? How about the notion that war makes us more secure? David Swanson’s new book, War Is A Lie, provides answers to these questions and more. In 336 pages, he debunks every argument you’ve heard used to justify, glorify, instigate, promote, prolong, and expand war.” — Kim Carlyle, War Crimes Times.

“Keep it simple stupid or KISS has been shouted at nearly every Private in every army for decades, hell even maybe centuries and with War is a Lie David Swanson KISSes near perfection. Not since General Smedley Butler’s War is a Racket has a simpler, more brilliant, or truer book been published. The simple truth is that war is a lie! From the lies that are told to get countries into war, to the lies told to young men (traditionally though this is changing) to fight them, to the lies we are told about how wars are fought, to the lies we are told as they end so that another generation can have it’s war in a few short years. Swanson captures these lies brilliantly from start to finish in his newest book.” — Geoffrey Millard, Iraq Veterans Against the War.

“It was a Republican U.S. senator, Hiram Johnson of California, who is credited with coining the phrase: ‘The first casualty when war comes is truth.’ … Were he serving in the Senate now, Hiram Johnson would go to the floor of the Senate, hold up a copy of David Swanson’s essential new book and demand that the chamber and the whole of the American people recognize the reality of its title: War Is a Lie.” John Nichols, The Nation.

“In War Is a Lie, David Swanson underscores a vital point that has been ignored by far too many people who hoped President Obama and the Democrats would bring about a break from the disastrous policies of the Bush years: ‘we can’t sit in elected officials’ offices demanding peace while promising to vote for them, no matter what they do – not if we expect to be heard.’ He shows how Democrats historically — and President Obama today — are part of the toxic bipartisan consensus that sustains repeated military intervention, at enormous and mounting cost to the world. And he importantly reminds us that it will take mobilize, active, engaged popular movements to change a status quo that will lead to only more wars.” — Anthony Arnove, author, Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal.

“In ‘War is a Lie’ David Swanson carves himself a monumental task: to prove the truth of this in every historical instance for which background is available. He accomplishes his task, with a weight of evidence which can only be described as devastating. Swanson sets forth a deceptively simple yet provocative thesis: War is never the only choice, and always the worst one.” Ralph Lopez.

“David Swanson writes in the tradition of Howard Zinn. He always goes for clarity, both in his relentless orchestration of the facts and his ethical vision. War Is A LIe is as clear as the title. Wars are all based on lies, could not be fought without lies, and would not be fought at all if people held their governments to any reasonable standard of honesty. The book is easy to understand, easy to read, if you have the will to face a vast array of facts that hold the United States government to a reasonable standard of honesty.” Charles M. Young.

“War Is A Lie is a book that belongs on the bookshelf or the bedside-table of every American, with pages dog-eared for future reference, and choice passages marked or highlighted. You can reach for it as a shield against lies and hypocrisy during Presidential speeches or as you watch Congressional committee hearings on C-SPAN, or wherever mythological versions of history are trotted out to justify policies or actions that threaten human life. If enough Americans read this book, it will give us the collective power to stand up to our warmongering leaders by disarming the most powerful and destructive of all their weapons: their lies.” Nicolas Davies.

“Swanson’s penetrating analysis of the lies behind wars, backed by his extensive historical knowledge, shine a light not only on the destructive wars but on the irrational, delusional thinking and propaganda that starts and prolongs them and leads to so much death, destruction, and suffering. In the last chapter he also gives peace activists hope and some practical means to overcome the Scourge of War and build a more peaceful world for the children. Let’s hope this book gets wide circulation. Swanson is an inspiration to all of us with his tireless energy in educating and motivating people that a better world of peace and justice is possible. If we work together we can make it happen.” — Jay Kvale, member of the Minnesota Peace Project.

“I’ve been reading a bit of this book every night since I got it. The effect it’s having on me is hard to explain. Like I’ve been born into a cult whether or not I want it, but now the lies are being washed away by the rain. Bringing down the rain of truth, that’s something. Trapped people, taken hostage, facing death, if they want to live, they start to agree with their captors, their oppressors – they start playing their game, thinking what they’re told to think, seeing what they’re told to see. The Stockholm Syndrome, that’s something. The grieving mother takes home the folded flag. You think she’d take a match and watch it burn. But she sets it in a place of honor in a plastic bag. Don’t even approach her about it, she’ll never learn. Honoring the thing that kills you, that’s something.” — John Bostrom

“When you signed my copy at the Charlottesville, VA reading/signing you asked me to let you know what I thought of War is a Lie. I just finished reading it. Excellent, comprehensive and well written. Great manual for spotting the lies and countering arguments for war. Just what I needed after a discouraging campaign season to get me charged up and back in the peacemaking game. Thanks for broadening our knowledge and telling what needed to be told.” — Harry Davis

“Well, here we are in the 21st century of the Common Era, and given the violent history of the past decade, evidently the arguments about the disutility of warfare still need to be made, again and again and again… Depressing, really. But thank goodness David Swanson has taken up the effort. Buy the book!” Helena Cobban

“David Swanson’s new book has given me a fresh perspective on a topic I’ve dedicated my life to: America’s war culture and its ever-nuanced fall out. Economic collapse, pollution, dependence on fossil fuels, even global warming: you can’t begin to fathom our predicaments until you conceive of the American War monster. Swanson rips away the public relations/advertising of this military industrial giant to show its true cancerous colors. Read slowly, America. This is a powerful mirror for those still clinging to our media distortions. It’s an indictment of a culture grown dependent on, and distorted by the machinery of violence. But there is a compassion, an empathy to the author’s tone. We are all victims, Swanson argues. We are a people kept blind to the true costs, the human tragedies, by the never ending lie of war.” Charles Bivona

“I am less than halfway through the book – and – I am learning so much! I consider myself very well read, a student of history, TV-free for over 14 years, etc. etc. – but – your book is a revelation. I’ve known for decades that the history we were fed in school is nothing but propaganda and lies, but the information in your book takes that to a whole new level. I have told people to read your book and that I rate its importance, for what it reveals about the mendacity of scholars, historians, the liberal class, politicians and propagandists, up there with Zinn’s People’s History. I’m serious about that – I don’t say it lightly. Thank you for writing this book. I hope sales are going better than you expected. I am telling people about the book and making sure that when I’m reading it in a public place people see the title. I’ve had a couple people approach me, so I’ve been happy to tell them about such an important work. My husband is an artist and focused on his work (landscapes in oils) but I read him a lot of things that I read – and last night while he was making dinner, I read excerpts – things he didn’t know either. He wants me to read him more – which I will happily do! I’ve been reading it at lunch and in what little free time I have in the evenings and weekends – which isn’t much. My proverbial hat is off to you, David. I’m really impressed. Of course, I thought it would be another good and valuable addition to ‘left’ literature, but it is proving to be much more than that to me. I strongly feel the facts you have revealed are intrinsic to Americans’ understanding of our real history – history which is forgotten, deliberately hidden and covered with the propaganda masquerading as history in our schools. I have an awful feeling that your book may not have a wide readership – which it certainly should – because of how books are marketed these days and the problems inherent within the publishing industry. I’m doing what little I can do alert people to its value and importance. And I’m not even quite halfway through yet!” — Maria Allwine

“It’s been a week since I finished “War Is A Lie,” and I can’t stop thinking/talking about it…. Everyone in my life is getting a copy for their b-day this year and I’m composing a letter to the editor of every major paper in ID. I’m also working w/ a local organization to contact you to come speak here and hoefully other places in ID. (although this is a blue county, unfortunately, this is the reddest of states as a whole). Thank you for rocking my world.” — Kim Mazik

 

A trial that opened Tuesday in Buenos Aires is the first to consider the totality of crimes carried out under Operation Condor, a coordinated campaign by various US-backed Latin American dictatorships in the 1970s and 1980s to hunt down, torture and murder tens of thousands of opponents of those regimes.

Condor was prosecuted in the name of a crusade against “terrorism.” Its methods in many ways prefigured the systematic and continuing crimes carried out by the US government decades later with its use of “extraordinary rendition,” torture and “targeted killings.”

The case will take up the disappearance and murder of 106 people, the greatest number of them (48) Uruguayans, but also Chileans, Paraguayans, Bolivians, Argentines and one Peruvian.

While other cases in both Spain and Italy have touched on the crimes carried out under Operation Condor, the Argentine trial is of far greater historic weight. This is the country in which an estimated 30,000 workers, students, left-wing activists, intellectuals and others targeted by the regime are believed to have been abducted and executed, and where the greatest number of killings of foreigners was carried out.

Those who organized Operation Condor included the military regimes in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay. Peru and Ecuador also participated in some of the operation’s crimes. The US government, and in particular former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, provided crucial support for the bloody repression carried out under the mantle of Condor.

The lead defendants in the proceedings are former Argentine dictators Jorge Videla, 87, and Reynaldo Bignone, 85. Videla headed the Argentine junta from the 1976 coup until 1981, while Bignone was the chief of the right-wing military regime from 1982 to 1983. Both men, who have already been sentenced to life terms for crimes carried out by the dictatorship, will be joined in the dock by the ex-commander of Argentina’s Third Army Corps, Luciano Benjamín Menéndez, also already sentenced to two life terms for forced disappearances, torture and murder.

Another 22 former members of the Argentine military and security forces are also being prosecuted in the trial, which judges said could be expected to last for up to two years. The only non-Argentine defendant is Manuel Cordero, an ex-colonel and intelligence officer in the Uruguayan army.

Legal proceedings surrounding the case began in the 1990s, when most crimes of the Argentine dictatorship were covered by amnesty laws passed after the end of military rule, promising the killers and torturers impunity. The cross-border operations of Operation Condor, however, were not covered by these decrees.

Among those who belong in the dock with Videla and Bignone, many of whom are dead, include former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, Paraguay’s longtime ruler Alfredo Stroessner, Gen. Hugo Banzer of Bolivia, Generals Ernesto Geisel and Joao Baptista Figueiredo of Brazil and former Uruguayan rulers Jose Maria Bordaberry and Aparicio Mendez.

The Peruvian high court rejected Argentina’s request for the extradition of former military ruler Francisco Morales Bermúdez.

The trial is unfolding under conditions in which the criminals of former dictatorships have escaped prosecution in a number of countries. It begins only weeks after Uruguay’s supreme court struck down a law under which such prosecutions had begun in that country, a ruling that triggered angry mass demonstrations.

Meanwhile, in Brazil, where the first of the Southern Cone dictatorships backed by the CIA took power in 1964, the government of Workers Party President Dilma Rousseff has established a “truth commission” to gather information on the repression carried out during two decades of military rule, but none of those responsible has ever been prosecuted.

Carolina Varsky, an attorney representing Argentine and Uruguayan victims in the case, told the AFP news agency, “What we now must prove is the existence of an illicit association between the dictatorships of Argentina, Bolivia, Brail, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay to hunt down and eliminate opponents in any one of these countries, with the support of the United States.”

She said that the evidence would include the testimony of survivors of the continental repression, some 500 of whom are expected to take the witness stand, as well as declassified documents, most of them from Washington.

It was on the basis of these incriminating documents that Argentine federal judge Rodolfo Canicoba Corral issued a formal request last August to the Obama administration’s Justice Department to make Henry Kissinger, US secretary of state between 1973 and 1977, available for questioning. The Justice Department did not even reply to the request.

One of the documents declassified by Washington over the past decade was a transcript of a June 1976 discussion in Santiago, Chile between Kissinger and the foreign minister of the Argentine dictatorship, Admiral Cesar Augusto Guzzetti.

The transcript, declassified in 2004, records Guzzetti spelling out the plans being developed under Operation Condor, claiming that there were 10,000 foreign “terrorists” in Argentina and similar problems throughout the Southern Cone, and that his regime was joining forces with those of Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Bolivia and Uruguay to “combat” them.

Kissinger’s response was to wish the dictatorship “success,” while advising, “If there are things that have to be done, you should do them quickly.”

Another document, declassified in 2010, establishes that Kissinger intervened in September 1976 to stop the issuance of diplomatic warnings to the US-backed dictators in Latin America not to organize “a series of international murders.”

Kissinger’s September 16, 1976 cable to his assistant secretary of state for Inter-American affairs, Harry Shlaudeman, ordered that “no further action be taken on this matter.” Five days later, a car bomb killed Chile’s former foreign minister, Orlando Letelier, a prominent opponent of the Pinochet dictatorship, and his American colleague, Ronni Karpen Moffitt, as they were riding past Washington, DC’s Embassy Row.

Kissinger’s order amounted to a green light for Letelier’s killing, which was organized by Michael Townley, who had served as an agent of both the CIA and Chile’s DINA intelligence agency, using anti-Castro Cuban operatives to carry out the assassination. Convicted for Letelier’s murder, Townley was jailed for little more than five years and then placed in the federal witness protection program and shielded from prosecution for his role in other Operation Condor murders. He continues to reside in the US under a new identity.

Manuel Cordero, the ex-Uruguayan military intelligence officer and only non-Argentine who is a defendant in the Operation Condor trial, has been identified by survivors of the Latin American state terror campaign as having been responsible for multiple disappearances and killings, including that of María Claudia García de Gelman, the daughter-in-law of the Argentine poet Juan Gelman.

Heavily armed men abducted María Claudia along with her husband Marcelo from their home in Buenos Aires in August 1976. The couple was taken to a clandestine detention center where they were tortured and Marcelo was executed with a gunshot to the head.

Seven months pregnant, Maria Claudia was transported across the border to Montevideo, Uruguay, where she was held until she gave birth and then murdered. Her daughter was handed over to an Uruguayan policeman.

Thanks to the relentless, quarter-century-long campaign by Juan Gelman to find his grandchild, María Macarena, who only learned her true identity at the age of 23, the case became emblematic of the crimes of Operation Condor.

The former Uruguayan colonel, Cordero, had gone into hiding in Brazil, but was extradited by a Brazilian court to Argentina in 2009.

In the light of recent developments concerning the death on Hugo Chavez, it is important to emphasize that the US has an explicit policy pertaining to the extrajudicial assassination of foreign leaders.

Since 2001, the order to assassinate foreign leaders emanates from the White House, following the revocation of Executive Order 12333 (!976) which prevented the CIA from ordering the assassination of foreign leaders.

According to Seymour Hersh, there was a second area of extra-legal operations,  the Joint Special Operations Command.

“It is a special wing of our special operations community that is set up independently… They do not report to anybody, except in the Bush-Cheney days, they reported directly to the Cheney office. … Congress has no oversight of it.”

“It’s an executive assassination ring essentially, and it’s been going on and on and on,… Under President Bush’s authority, they’ve been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving. That’s been going on, in the name of all of us.”

In recent developments, following the endorsement of the US Congress, the US president can order the “lawful” assassination of a US citizen or a foreigner, in the US and abroad, theoretically as part of the “Global War on Terrorism”.

The covert assassination of foreign leaders is an integral part of what is euphemistically called “US foreign policy”.

Yasser Arafat was assassinated on the orders of the Israeli Cabinet. In 2003, Israel’s cabinet for political security affairs declared it “a decision to remove Arafat as an obstacle to peace.” When the decision did not mention when the assassination of Arafat would be carried out: “we will choose the right way and the right time to kill Arafat.”

The Israeli Cabinet decision was the object of a debate at the UN Security Council and a motion condemning Israel’s decision to asassinate Arafat. That decision  was officially endorsed by the US, which vetoed the UN Security Council Resolution.

Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, March 7, 2013


The 2004 assassination of  Yasser Arafat was part of a broader military and intelligence agenda to destroy the Palestinian Authority.  

What recent news reports fail to mention is that the extra-judicial assassination had been ordered by the Israeli cabinet in 2003. It was subsequently approved by the US which vetoed a United Nations Security Resolution condemning the 2003 Israeli Cabinet decision to “get rid of Arafat”.  ”We will choose the right way and the right time to kill Arafat.”

(See Michel Chossudovsky, The Invasion of Gaza: “Operation Cast Lead”, Part of a Broader Israeli Military-Intelligence Agenda, Global Research, November 2009)

The assassination of Yasser Arafat had been on the drawing board since 1996 under “Operation Fields of Thorns”. According to an October 2000 document “prepared by the security services, at the request of then Prime Minister Ehud Barak, stated that ‘Arafat, the person, is a severe threat to the security of the state [of Israel] and the damage which will result from his disappearance is less than the damage caused by his existence’”. (Tanya Reinhart, Evil Unleashed, Israel’s move to destroy the Palestinian Authority is a calculated plan, long in the making, Global Research, December 2001. Details of the document were published in Ma’ariv, July 6, 2001.).

Arafat’s assassination was ordered in 2003 by the Israeli cabinet. It was approved by the US which vetoed a United Nations Security Resolution condemning the 2003 Israeli Cabinet decision. Reacting to increased Palestinian attacks, in August 2003, Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz declared “all out war” on the militants whom he vowed “marked for death.”

“In mid September, Israel’s government passed a law to get rid of Arafat. Israel’s cabinet for political security affairs declared it “a decision to remove Arafat as an obstacle to peace.” Mofaz threatened; “we will choose the right way and the right time to kill Arafat.” Palestinian Minister Saeb Erekat told CNN he thought Arafat was the next target. CNN asked Sharon spokesman Ra’anan Gissan if the vote meant expulsion of Arafat. Gissan clarified; “It doesn’t mean that. The Cabinet has today resolved to remove this obstacle. The time, the method, the ways by which this will take place will be decided separately, and the security services will monitor the situation and make the recommendation about proper action.” (See Trish Shuh, Road Map for a Decease Plan,  www.mehrnews.com November 9 2005)

The assassination of Arafat was part of the 2001 Dagan Plan. In all likelihood, it was carried out by Israeli Intelligence. It was intended to destroy the Palestinian Authority, foment divisions within Fatah as well as between Fatah and Hamas. Mahmoud Abbas is a Palestinian quisling. He was installed as leader of Fatah, with the approval of Israel and the US, which finance the Palestinian Authority’s paramilitary and security forces.

To Read complete Article:

The Invasion of Gaza: “Operation Cast Lead”, Part of a Broader Israeli Military-Intelligence Agenda
- by Michel Chossudovsky – 2009-01-04

Israel’s Supreme Court ruled twice on her. Most recently it did so in mid-February. It went both ways. More on that below.

In July 2010, Knesset members stripped her of key parliamentary rights and privileges. They did so lawlessly and maliciously. They targeted her for doing the right thing.

She participated in the May 2010 Freedom Flotilla. She was aboard the Mavi Marmara. It was bringing vital aid to Gaza. Israeli commandos attacked it. They murdered nine activists on board in cold blood.

Zoabi was lucky. She escape unharmed. She called Israel’s attack a “pirate military operation.” She did so in Israel’s Knesset.

“It was clear from the size of the force that boarded the ship that the purpose was not only to stop this sail(ing), but to cause the largest possible number of fatalities in order to stop such initiatives in the future.”

Other members repeatedly interrupted her. Some shouted “Go to Gaza, traitor!” She received death threats. Two security guards were assigned to protect her.

Zoabi’s a Balad party member (National Democratic Alliance). She’s been a MK since February 2009. She’s Israel’s first Palestinian one from an Arab party.

From 1999 – 2003, Arab Israeli Hussniya Jabara served as a Meretz MK. From 2006 – 2009, Nadia Hilou did so for Labor.

Zoabi joined Balad in 2001. In 2000, she co-founded I’lam: Media Center for Arab Palestinians in Israel. She served as general director. In 2009, she resigned. She did so to run for Knesset membership.

I’Iam “seeks to strengthen the media cadre, raise awareness and educate Palestinian society in Israel in media practices.”

“It also seeks to democratize media policies and practices within the local Arab and Hebrew language medias, towards the realization of media rights in Palestinian society.”

It’s “deeply committed to the democratization of media policies, media practices, and the media landscape in Israel.”

Zoabi rejects the notion of Israel as a Jewish state. She calls accepting it “inherently racist.”

She deplores requiring Arab Israelis to pledge loyalty to “the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.” Mandating it has no legitimacy.

“The Jewish state is not democratic and cannot represent me,” she said. She wants her Arab heritage respected.

She’s been vilified, harassed and threatened. Hardliners call her a traitor. Israel’s Interior Minister Eli Yishai wanted her parliamentary immunity revoked and citizenship stripped.

He urged Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to criminalize her. He wanted her charged with a “premeditated act of treason.”

Arab MKs endure repeated abuse. Israel scorns non-Jews. Arabs are treated like vermin. Rogue states operate that way. Israel’s one of the worst.

On December 18, its Central Election Committee (CEC) members disqualified Zoabi from seeking reelection.

Knesset hardliners charged her with violating Israeli Basic Law. Doing so was unprincipled and lawless. It had no legitimacy whatever.

They claimed anyone not swearing fealty to Israel as a Jewish state can’t serve in parliament. Nor can others supporting “terrorism” and armed struggle.

Zoabi serves honorably and legitimately. Charges made were baseless. She called them “political vengeance and a pathetic attempt to harm the representation of the Arab public.”

She added that “the struggle for full equality is the only way possible toward democracy.”

CEC members “blatantly ignored the unequivocal advice of the Attorney General, which said there is no legal basis for the disqualification.”

“It is now clear that the elections committee is a political body meant to harm the representatives of the Arab public, and has nothing to do with democracy.”

“Instead of holding a public debate, they wish to silence me and with me a whole demographic, and we will not cooperate with such silencing.”

Israeli Basic Law gives Supreme Court justices final say. It’s their call on whether political candidates may or may not be disqualified.

On December 30 they ruled. Disqualifying her is lawless. Justices ruled unanimously. She’s free to seek reelection, they said.

Many Supreme Court decisions violate fundamental international rule of law principles. This time justices ruled responsibly. Doing otherwise was more than even conservative ones could tolerate. It was a no-brainer.

Ahead of their ruling, Israeli Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein opposed petitioning against Zuabi’s right to serve.

He claimed “no sufficient, exceptional critical mass of evidence” justified disqualifying her. He stopped short of calling efforts to do so lawless and racist.

Zoabi’s an Israeli citizen. She’s qualified to run. She’s entitled to represent her people. Arabs constitute 20% of Israel’s population.

They’re harassed, marginalized, and persecuted. They’re denied most rights. They’re treated like fifth column threats. Knesset members maliciously targeted Zoabi. They went all out to remove her. They failed.

On February 13, Israel’s High Court addressed Zoabi’s petition. Adalah and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel(ACRI) represented her.

She wants her full parliamentary rights and privileges restored. Justices decided otherwise. They denied her, saying:

“Since the 18th Knesset’s mandate has ended, so has its decision….to withdraw certain rights from MK Zoabi.”

There’s no cause for “the court to allocate its limited resources to consideration of a theoretical issue.”

At issue are three parliamentary rights and privileges:

(1) overseas travel all MKs enjoy;

(2) restoring her diplomatic passport; and

(3) defraying her legal expenses if parliamentary immunity is revoked for criminal prosecution.

Adalah and ACRI responded. Justices “finished hearings on this petition months before elections,” they said.

“Had (they) issued a timely decision, (they) could have prevented the Knesset’s illegal and undemocratic action, which is nothing but a reflection of the tyranny of the majority over the minority.”

Adalah attorney Hassan Jabareen and ACRI’s Dan Yakir said stripping Zoabi’s rights and privileges sets a dangerous precedent.

It lets MKs punish other members for legitimate political activity. Doing so contradicts “the basic purpose of parliamentary immunity.”

It’s there for a purpose. It protects important rights. Revoking them limits freedom. It reflects tyranny.

Justices ruled irresponsibly. They supported wrong over right. They violated rule of law principles. They mocked democratic values. They do it often.

Israeli authorities take full advantage. Palestinians and Israeli Arabs pay hugely. Racist persecution victimizes them.

Courts provide no redress. Equal justice under law is just a figure of speech. Israel’s Supremes support what demands rejection. Palestine’s liberating struggle continues.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected]

His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

http://www.dailycensored.com/persecuting-hanin-zoabi/

The Attorney General of the United States made the following 2 statements within 48 hours:

These statements may – at first glance – seem unconnected.  And the mainstream media is treating them as separate.

True, the government is hell-bent on keeping the giant banks afloat, even though virtually all independent economists, financial experts and bankers are calling for them to be broken up, and Americans overwhelmingly want the government to get tougher on prosecuting Wall Street fraud.

But there might be more to it then than that … and Holder’s statements may be intimately connected.

For example, the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, and other government agencies worked hand-in-hand with the big banks to violently crack down on the Occupy protests.

And what was Occupy protesting?  One of the core complaints of the Occupy protesters was that there are two systems of justice: the little guy gets thrown in jail for the smallest infraction, while banksters escape prosecution for their criminal fraud.  (Occupy also protested the fact that that the big banks got bailed out, while the rest of us got sold out.  And see this.)

In other words, it is exactly the Department of Justice’s policy of not prosecuting big bank crimes which was one of Occupy’s core complaints … and – in response – the federal government sent in the goons to crack heads and trash the free speech rights of the protesters.

This is not an isolated incident.

The big banks literally own the politicians.

For many years, the government has used anti-terror laws mainly to crush political dissent and to help the too big to fail businesses.

Asking questions about Wall Street shenanigans, speaking out against government policies, and protesting anything are all considered grounds for being labeled a “potential terrorist” by the government.  Whistleblowers are also being treated as terrorists.

Indeed, the government agency with the power to determine who gets assassinated is the same agency that is at the center of the “ubiquitous, unaccountable surveillance state aimed at American citizens.”

If this sounds like breathless fearmongering, please remember that the U.S. military now considers the American homeland to be a “battle zone” (and see this).

And the banking system is considered “critical infrastructure” by the Department of Homeland security.

Another Connection Between Big Banks and Drones

There is another connection between big banks and drones.

The big banks have a direct role in encouraging and financing war. And see this.

And Ron Paul noted in 2007:

Congress and the Federal Reserve Bank have a cozy, unspoken arrangement that makes war easier to finance. Congress has an insatiable appetite for new spending, but raising taxes is politically unpopular. The Federal Reserve, however, is happy to accommodate deficit spending by creating new money through the Treasury Department. In exchange, Congress leaves the Fed alone to operate free of pesky oversight and free of political scrutiny.

The big banks own the Federal Reserve.

Indeed, some say that all wars are really bankster wars.

According to the Obama administration, the president has the right to assassinate American citizens within the United States, without charges or any legal process. This claim, contained in a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder, constitutes the most far-reaching abrogation of constitutional rights and is aimed at establishing the pseudo-legal framework for military rule.

Holder’s letter, the first explicit assertion of a power to extrajudicially kill Americans in their homes, was in response to a question delivered to the Obama administration from Republican Senator Rand Paul. In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, Holder reiterated and expanded on this position, declaring that the authorization to use military force in the “war on terror” extends to the United States.

In the letter to Paul, Holder responds to a question as to whether “the President has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a US citizen on US soil, and without trial.”

Holder’s answers are a series of evasions and absurd rationalizations. He repeats the statement made repeatedly by the administration before, that the “US government has not carried out drone strikes in the United States and has no intention to do so.” He adds that “as a matter of policy”—that is, not as a matter of legality—“we reject the use of military force where well-established law enforcement authorities in this country provide the best means for incapacitating a terrorist threat.”

In other words, under circumstances where the executive branch and military decide that police action is not the “best means” of responding to an undefined threat, the military will be deployed to kill people at will.

Holder then declares that under undefined “extraordinary circumstances,” the president could “authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States.”

As two “examples” of such circumstances, Holder cites the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and the attacks of September 11, 2001.

The comparisons are absurd. Pearl Harbor involved a full-scale attack by the Japanese military on Hawaii. At issue, however, is not a response to a military invasion, but the claim that the administration has the right to assassinate American citizens in the United States who are not engaged in any hostile actions. The administration has already killed at least three US citizens abroad, including Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son.

As for September 11, the circumstances behind these attacks have yet to be explained, but involved a number of individuals who were being followed by US intelligence agencies.

Holder’s letter is a sweeping declaration of the ability to deploy the military in the United States in response to an “emergency” connected to some past or allegedly future attack. Under such conditions, the military would be given unrestricted powers and the Bill of Rights rendered a dead letter.

Holder expanded his remarks in the course of testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, in which the bipartisan support for the assault on democratic rights was on display.

In the course of the testimony, senators from both parties largely avoided the issue or praised Holder and the administration. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, who is also the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, declared that the legal opinions prepared by the administration on assassinating US citizens were “very thoughtful, very impressive” and urged that all of them be made available to the judiciary committee. She added that deploying military force within the United States against US citizens was “something we have to grapple with.”

The greatest praise for Holder came from Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican from South Carolina, who is close to the military and intelligence apparatus. Graham lauded the administration’s efforts to “defend the homeland,” singling out the drone assassination program in particular. Then the following exchange took place:

Graham: It is a longstanding proposition in American law that an American citizen who joins forces with our enemies can be considered an enemy combatant, do you agree with that?

Holder: Yes.

Graham: Hypothetically, if there are Patriot missile batteries around this capitol and other key government infrastructure, to protect the capitol from an attack, it would be lawful for those batteries to launch, is that correct?

Holder: Yes…

Graham: When we say that Congress gave every administration the authorization to use military force against Al Qaeda, we didn’t exempt the homeland, did we?

Holder: No, I don’t think we did…

The conclusion: Anyone declared by the president to be an “enemy combatant,” including American citizens in the United States, can be summarily executed without any judicial review.

In referring to American citizens who have “joined forces” with the enemy, Graham cited individuals who supported Germany in the Second World War, with which Holder readily agreed. Again, the historical comparison is absurd. Even so, the traditional response of the state under such conditions is to try individuals for treason, in which their alleged crimes must be proven. Now the government asserts the right to act as judge, jury and executioner.

Graham’s introduction of the hypothetical deployment of Patriot missiles by the military around the capitol and other critical institutions makes clear that what is being contemplated is the full militarization of American society.

There were a number of other significant exchanges. Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who like Paul is a right-wing libertarian and Tea Party-backed Republican, asked Holder whether the president had the constitutional authority to assassinate an American citizen in the United States with a drone while that person was “sitting quietly in a cafe.”

On four occasions, Holder said such action would not be “appropriate,” deliberately avoiding a statement that it would not be legal. In response to repeated questioning from Cruz, Holder finally indicated that his reference to such action not being appropriate should be translated as a “no”—apparently suggesting that it would not be constitutional.

This statement, however, was conditioned on the premise that the person involved did not pose an “imminent” threat. The requirement of “imminence” is also included in the administration’s white paper on assassinating US citizens abroad; however, this is essentially meaningless. The document states that imminence “does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on US persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.”

Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, asked Holder, “Do you believe Congress has the constitutional authority to pass a law prohibiting the president from using US drones against US citizens?”

Holder replied that in his view such a law “would not be constitutional” as it would “run contrary to the Article II powers” of the executive branch—that is to say, the section relating to the president’s authority as commander-in-chief of the military.

Politicians of both parties are participating in a conspiracy against the most basic democratic rights. Earlier this week, the Senate Intelligence Committee voted 12 to 3 in favor of the nomination of John Brennan—the individual most closely associated with the assassination program—to head the CIA. All Democrats voted in favor.

Holder’s comments aroused almost no comment from the American media. On the evening news Wednesday, the story was almost entirely buried, with only brief reference to a filibuster stunt carried out by Paul, a right-wing libertarian Republican, against the nomination of Brennan. The abrogation of the Bill of Rights provokes little more than a few raised eyebrows.

The essential target of these measures is the emergence of domestic opposition within the United States to the policies of the financial aristocracy that controls both big-business parties. Under conditions of deepening polarization, and as the ruling class is implementing measures that are overwhelmingly opposed by the vast majority of the population, the government is actively preparing dictatorial forms of rule.

 

Default on the public debt, nationalization of the banks, and a citizen dividend could actually save the Italian economy.

Comedian Beppe Grillo was surprised himself when his Five Star Movement got 8.7 million votes in the Italian general election of February 24-25th.  His movement is now the biggest single party in the chamber of deputies, says The Guardian, which makes him “a kingmaker in a hung parliament.”

Grillo’s is the party of “no.” In a candidacy based on satire, he organized an annual “V‑Day Celebration,” the “V” standing for vaffanculo (“f—k off”).  He rejects the status quo—all the existing parties and their monopoly control of politics, jobs, and financing—and seeks a referendum on all international treaties, including NATO membership, free trade agreements and the Euro.

“If we get into parliament,” says Grillo, “we would bring the old system down, not because we would enjoy doing so but because the system is rotten.” Critics fear, and supporters hope, that if his party succeeds, it could break the Euro system.

But being against everything, says Mike Whitney in Counterpunch, is not a platform:

To govern, one needs ideas and a strategy for implementing those ideas. Grillo’s team has neither. They are defined more in terms of the things they are against than things they are for. It’s fine to want to “throw the bums out”, but that won’t put people back to work or boost growth or end the slump. Without a coherent plan to govern, M5S could end up in the political trash heap, along with their right-wing predecessors, the Tea Party.

Steve Colatrella, who lives in Italy and also has an article in Counterpunch on the Grillo phenomenon, has a different take on the surprise win. He says Grillo does have a platform of positive proposals. Besides rejecting all the existing parties and treaties, Grillo’s program includes the following:

  • unilateral default on the public debt;
  • nationalization of the banks; and
  • a guaranteed “citizenship” income of 1000 euros a month.

It is a platform that could actually work. Austerity has been tested for a decade in the Eurozone and has failed, while the proposals in Grillo’s plan have been tested in other countries and have succeeded.

Default: Lessons from Iceland and South America

Default on the public debt has been pulled off quite successfully in Iceland, Argentina, Ecuador, and Russia, among other countries.  Whitney cites a clip from Grillo’s blog suggesting that this is also the way out for Italy:

The public debt has not been growing in recent years because of too much expenditure . . . Between 1980 and 2011, spending was lower than the tax revenue by 484 billion (thus we have been really virtuous) but the interest payments (on the debt of 2,141 billion) that we had to pay in that period have made us poor. In the last 20 years, GDP has been growing slowly, while the debt has exploded.

. . . [S]peculators . . . are contributing to price falls so as to bring about higher interest rates. It’s the usurer’s technique. Thus the debt becomes an opportunity to maximize earnings in the market at the expense of the nation. . . . If financial powerbrokers use speculation to increase their earnings and force governments to pay the highest possible interest rates, the result is recession for the State that’s in debt as well as their loss of sovereignty.

. . . There are alternatives. These are being put into effect by some countries in South America and by Iceland. . . . The risk is that we are going to reach default in any case with the devaluation of the debt, and the Nation impoverished and on its knees. [Beppe Grillo blog]

Bank Nationalization:  China Shows What Can Be Done

Grillo’s second proposal, nationalizing the banks, has also been tested and proven elsewhere, most notably in China. In an April 2012 article in The American Conservative titled “China’s Rise, America’s Fall,” Ron Unz observes:

During the three decades to 2010, China achieved perhaps the most rapid sustained rate of economic development in the history of the human species, with its real economy growing almost 40-fold between 1978 and 2010.  In 1978, America’s economy was 15 times larger, but according to most international estimates, China is now set to surpass America’s total economic output within just another few years.

According to Eamonn Fingleton in In The Jaws of the Dragon (2009), the fountain that feeds this tide is a strong public banking sector:

Capitalism’s triumph in China has been proclaimed in countless books in recent years. . . .  But . . . the higher reaches of its economy remain comprehensively controlled in a way that is the antithesis of everything we associate with Western capitalism.  The key to this control is the Chinese banking system . . . [which is] not only state-owned but, as in other East Asian miracle economies, functions overtly as a major tool of the central government’s industrial policy.

Guaranteed Basic Income—Not Just Welfare

Grillo’s third proposal, a guaranteed basic income, is not just an off-the-wall, utopian idea either. A national dividend has been urged by the “Social Credit” school of monetary reform for nearly a century, and the U.S. Basic Income Guarantee Network has held a dozen annual conferences.  They feel that a guaranteed basic income is the key to keeping modern, highly productive economies humming.

In Europe, the proposal is being pursued not just by Grillo’s southern European party but by the sober Swiss of the north.  An initiative to establish a new federal law for an unconditional basic income was formally introduced in Switzerland in April 2012. The idea consists of giving to all citizens a monthly income that is neither means-tested nor work-related. Under the Swiss referendum system of direct democracy, if the initiative gathers more than 100,000 signatures before October 2013, the Federal Assembly is required to look into it.

Colatrella does not say where Grillo plans to get the money for Italy’s guaranteed basic income, but in Social Credit theory, it would simply be issued outright by the government; and Grillo, who has an accounting background, evidently agrees with that approach to funding.  He said in a presentation available on YouTube:

The Bank of Italy a private join-stock company, ownership comprises 10 insurance companies, 10 foundations, and 10 banks, that are all joint-stock companies . . .  They issue the money out of thin air and lend it to us.  It’s the State who is supposed to issue it.  We need money to work.  The State should say: “There’s scarcity of money?  I’ll issue some and put it into circulation.  Money is plentiful?  I’ll withdraw and burn some of it.” . . . Money is needed to keep prices stable and to let us work.

The Key to a Thriving Economy

Major C.H. Douglas, the thought leader of the Social Credit movement, argued that the economy routinely produces more goods and services than consumers have the money to purchase, because workers collectively do not get paid enough to cover the cost of the things they make.  This is true because of external costs such as interest paid to banks, and because some portion of the national income is stashed in savings accounts, investment accounts, and under mattresses rather than spent on the GDP.

To fill what Social Crediters call “the gap,” so that “demand” rises to meet “supply,” additional money needs to be gotten into the circulating money supply. Douglas recommended doing it with a national dividend for everyone, an entitlement by “grace” rather than “works,” something that was necessary just to raise purchasing power enough to cover the products on the market.

In the 1930s and 1940s, critics of Social Credit called it “funny money” and said it would merely inflate the money supply. The critics prevailed, and the Social Credit solution has not had much chance to be tested. But the possibilities were demonstrated in New Zealand during the Great Depression, when a state housing project was funded with credit issued by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, the nationalized central bank. According to New Zealand commentator Kerry Bolton, this one measure was sufficient to resolve 75% of unemployment in the midst of the Great Depression.

Bolton notes that this was achieved without causing inflation.  When new money is used to create new goods and services, supply rises along with demand and prices remain stable; but the “demand” has to come first. No business owner will invest in more capacity or production without first seeing a demand. No demand, no new jobs and no economic expansion.

The Need to Restore Economic Sovereignty

The money for a guaranteed basic income could be created by a nationalized central bank in the same way that the Reserve Bank of New Zealand did it, and that central bank “quantitative easing” (QE) is created out of nothing on a computer screen today.  The problem with today’s QE is that it has not gotten money into the pockets of consumers. The money has gotten—and can get—no further than the reserve accounts of banks, as explained here and hereA dividend paid directly to consumers would be “quantitative easing” for the people.

A basic income guarantee paid for with central bank credit would not be “welfare” but would eliminate the need for welfare.  It would be social security for all, replacing social security payments, unemployment insurance, and welfare taxes.  It could also replace much of the consumer debt that is choking the private economy, growing exponentially at usurious compound interest rates.

As Grillo points out, it is not the cost of government but the cost of money itself that has bankrupted Italy. If the country wishes to free itself from the shackles of debt and restore the prosperity it once had, it will need to take back its monetary sovereignty and issue its own money, either directly or through its own nationalized central bank. If Grillo’s party comes to power and follows through with his platform, those shackles on the Italian economy might actually be released.

Ellen Brown is an attorney and the author of eleven books, including Web of Debt: The Shocking Truth About Our Money System and How We Can Break Free. Her websites are webofdebt.com and ellenbrown.com. She is also chairman of the Public Banking Institute. Details of the June 2013 Public Banking Institute conference are here.

 The death of Hugo Chávez is a great loss to the people of Venezuela who have been lifted out of poverty and have created a deep participatory democracy. Chavez was a leader who, in unity with the people, was able to free Venezuela from the grips of US Empire, bring dignity to the poor and working class, and was central to a Latin American revolt against US domination.

Chávez grew up a campesino, a peasant, raised in poverty. His parents were teachers, his grandmother an Indian whom he credits with teaching him solidarity with the people. During his military service, he learned about Simon Bolivar, who freed Latin America from Spanish Empire.  This gradually led to the modern Bolivarian Revolution he led with the people. The Chávez transformation was built on many years of a mass political movement that continued after his election, indeed saved him when a 2002 coup briefly removed him from office. The reality is Venezuela’s 21st Century democracy is bigger than Chávez.  This will become more evident now that he is gone.

The Lies They Tell Us

If Americans knew the truth about the growth of real democracy in Venezuela and other Latin American countries, they would demand economic democracy and participatory government, which together would threaten the power of concentrated wealth. Real democracy creates a huge challenge to the oligarchs and their neoliberal agenda because it is driven by human needs, not corporate greed. That is why major media in the US, which are owned by six corporations, aggressively misinform the public about Chávez and the Bolivarian Revolution.

Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research writes:

The Western media reporting has been effective. It has convinced most people outside of Venezuela that the country is run by some kind of dictatorship that has ruined it.

In fact, just the opposite is true. Venezuela, since the election of Chávez, has become one of the most democratic nations on Earth. Its wealth is increasing and being widely shared. But Venezuela has been made so toxic that even the more liberal media outlets propagate distortions to avoid being criticized as too leftist.

We spoke with Mike Fox, who went to Venezuela in 2006 to see for himself what was happening. Fox spent years documenting the rise of participatory democracy in Venezuela and Brazil. He found a grassroots movement creating the economy and government they wanted, often pushing Chávez further than he wanted to go.

They call it the “revolution within the revolution.” Venezuelan democracy and economic transformation are bigger than Chávez. Chávez opened a door to achieve the people’s goals: literacy programs in the barrios, more people attending college, universal access to health care, as well as worker-owned businesses and community councils where people make decisions for themselves. Change came through decades of struggle leading to the election of Chávez in 1998, a new constitution and ongoing work to make that constitution a reality.

Challenging American Empire

The subject of Venezuela is taboo because it has been the most successful country to repel the neoliberal assault waged by the US on Latin America. This assault included Operation Condor, launched in 1976, in which the US provided resources and assistance to bring friendly dictators who supported neoliberal policies to power throughout Latin America. These policies involved privatizing national resources and selling them to foreign corporations, de-funding and privatizing public programs such as education and health care, deregulating and reducing trade barriers.

In addition to intense political repression under these dictators between the 1960s and 1980s, which resulted in imprisonment, murder and disappearances of tens of thousands throughout Latin America, neoliberal policies led to increased wealth inequality, greater hardship for the poor and working class, as well as a decline in economic growth.

Neoliberalism in Venezuela arrived through a different path, not through a dictator. Although most of its 20th century was spent under authoritarian rule, Venezuela has had a long history of pro-democracy activism. The last dictator, Marcos Jimenez Perez, was ousted from power in 1958. After that, Venezuelans gained the right to elect their government, but they existed in a state of pseudo-democracy, much like the US currently, in which the wealthy ruled through a managed democracy that ensured the wealthy benefited most from the economy.

As it did in other parts of the world, the US pushed its neoliberal agenda on Venezuela through the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. These institutions required Structural Adjustment Programs (SAP) as terms for development loans. As John Perkins wrote in Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, great pressure was placed on governments to take out loans for development projects. The money was loaned by the US, but went directly to US corporations who were responsible for the projects, many of which failed, leaving nations in debt and not better off. Then the debt was used as leverage to control the government’s policies so they further favored US interests. Anun Shah explains the role of the IMF and World Bank in more detail in Structural Adjustment – a Major Cause of Poverty.

Neoliberalism Leads to the Rise of Chávez

A turning point in the Venezuelan struggle for real democracy occurred in 1989. President Carlos Andres Perez ran on a platform opposing neoliberalism and promised to reform the market during his second term. But following his re-election in 1988, he reversed himself and continued to implement the “Washington Consensus” of neoliberal policies – privatization and cuts to social services. The last straw came when he ended subsidies for oil. The price of gasoline doubled and public transportation prices rose steeply.

Protests erupted in the towns surrounding the capitol, Caracas, and quickly spread into the city itself. President Perez responded by revoking multiple constitutional rights to protest and sending in security forces who killed an estimated 3,000 people, most of them in the barrios. This became known as the “Caracazo” (“the Caracas smash”) and demonstrated that the president stood with the oligarchs, not with the people.

Under President Perez, conditions continued to deteriorate for all but the wealthy in Venezuela. So people organized in their communities and with Lieutenant Colonel Hugo Chávez attempted a civilian-led coup in 1992. Chávez was jailed, and so the people organized for his release. Perez was impeached for embezzlement of 250 million bolivars and the next president, Rafael Caldera, promised to release Chávez when he was elected. Chávez was freed in 1994. He then traveled throughout the country to meet with people in their communities and organizers turned their attention to building a political movement.

Chávez ran for president in 1998 on a platform that promised to hold a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution saying:

I swear before my people that upon this moribund constitution I will drive forth the necessary democratic transformations so that the new republic will have a Magna Carta befitting these new times.

Against the odds, Chávez won the election and became president in 1999.

While his first term was cautious and center-left, including a visit by Chávez to the NY Stock Exchange to show support for capitalism and encourage foreign investment, he kept his promise. Many groups participated in the formation of the new constitution, which was gender-neutral and included new rights for women and for the indigenous, and created a government with five branches adding a people’s and electoral branches. The new constitution was voted into place by a 70 percent majority within the year. Chávez also began to increase funding for the poor and expanded and transformed education.

Since then, Chávez has been re-elected twice. He was removed from power briefly in 2002, jailed and replaced by Pedro Carmona, the head of what is equivalent to the Chamber of Commerce. Fox commented that the media was complicit in the coup by blacking it out and putting out false information. Carmona quickly moved to revoke the constitution and disband the legislature. When the people became aware of what was happening, they rapidly mobilized and surrounded the capitol in Caracas. Chávez was reinstated in less than 48 hours.

One reason the Chávez election is called a Bolivarian Revolution is because Simon Bolivar was a military political leader who freed much of Latin America from the Spanish Empire in the early 1800s. The election of Chávez, the new constitution and the people overcoming the coup set Venezuela on the path to free itself from the US empire. These changes emboldened the transformation to sovereignty, economic democracy and participatory government.

In fact, Venezuela paid its debts to the IMF in full five years ahead of schedule and in 2007 separated from the IMF and World Bank, thus severing the tethers of the Washington Consensus. Instead, Venezuela led the way to create the Bank of the South to provide funds for projects throughout Latin America and allow other countries to free themselves from the chains of the IMF and World Bank too.

The Rise of Real Democracy

The struggle for democracy brought an understanding by the people that change only comes if they create it. The pre- Chávez era is seen as a pseudo Democracy, managed for the benefit of the oligarchs. The people viewed Chávez as a door that was opened for them to create transformational change. He was able to pass laws that aided them in their work for real democracy and better conditions. And Chávez knew that if the people did not stand with him, the oligarchs could remove him from power as they did for two days in 2002.

With this new understanding and the constitution as a tool, Chávez and the people have continued to progress in the work to rebuild Venezuela based on participatory democracy and freedom from US interference. Chávez refers to the new system as “21st century socialism.” It is very much an incomplete work in progress, but already there is a measurable difference.

Mark Weisbrot of CEPR points out that real GDP per capita in Venezuela expanded by 24 percent since 2004. In the 20 years prior to Chávez, real GDP per person actually fell. Venezuela has low foreign public debt, about 28 percent of GDP, and the interest on it is only 2 percent of GDP. Weisbrot writes:

From 2004-2011, extreme poverty was reduced by about two-thirds. Poverty was reduced by about one-half, and this measures only cash income. It does not count the access to health care that millions now have, or the doubling of college enrollment – with free tuition for many. Access to public pensions tripled. Unemployment is half of what it was when Chávez took office.

Venezuela has reduced unemployment from 20 percent to 7 percent.

As George Galloway wrote upon Chávez’s death:

Under Chávez’ revolution the oil wealth was distributed in ever rising wages and above all in ambitious social engineering. He built the fifth largest student body in the world, creating scores of new universities. More than 90% of Venezuelans ate three meals a day for the first time in the country’s history. Quality social housing for the masses became the norm with the pledge that by the end of the presidential term, now cut short, all Venezuelans would live in a dignified house.

Venezuela is making rapid progress on other measures too. It has a high human development index and a low and shrinking index of inequality. Wealth inequality in Venezuela is half of what it is in the United States. It is rated “the fifth-happiest nation in the world” by Gallup. And Pepe Escobar writes that:

No less than 22 public universities were built in the past 10 years. The number of teachers went from 65,000 to 350,000. Illiteracy has been eradicated. There is an ongoing agrarian reform.

Venezuela has undertaken significant steps to build food security through land reform and government assistance. New homes are being built, health clinics are opening in under-served areas and cooperatives for agriculture and business are growing.

Venezuelans are very happy with their democracy. On average, they gave their own democracy a score of seven out of ten while the Latin American average was 5.8. Meanwhile, 57 percent of Venezuelans reported being happy with their democracy compared to an average for Latin American countries of 38 percent, according to a poll conducted by Latinobarometro. While 81 percent voted in the last Venezuelan election, only 57.5 percent voted in the recent US election.

Chávez won that election handily as he has all of the elections he has run in since 1999. As Galloway describes him, Chávez was “the most elected leader in the modern era.” He won his last election with 55 percent of the vote but was never inaugurated due to his illness.

Beyond Voting: The Deepening of Democracy in Venezuela

This is not to say that the process has been easy or smooth. The new constitution and laws passed by Chávez have provided tools, but the government and media still contain those who are allied with the oligarchy and who resist change. People have had to struggle to see that what is written on paper is made into a reality. For example, Venezuelans now have the right to reclaim urban land that is fallow and use it for food and living. Many attempts have been made to occupy unused land and some have been met by hostility from the community or actual repression from the police. In other cases, attempts to build new universities have been held back by the bureaucratic process.

It takes time to build a new democratic structure from the bottom up. And it takes time to transition from a capitalist culture to one based on solidarity and participation. In “Venezuela Speaks,” one activist, Iraida Morocoima, says “Capitalism left us with so many vices that I think our greatest struggle is against these bad habits that have oppressed us.” She goes on to describe a necessary culture shift as, “We must understand that we are equal, while at the same time we are different, but with the same rights.”

Chávez passed a law in 2006 that united various committees in poor barrios into community councils that qualify for state funds for local projects. In the city, community councils are composed of 200 to 400 families. The councils elect spokespeople and other positions such as executive, financial and “social control” committees. The council members vote on proposals in a general assembly and work with facilitators in the government to carry through on decisions. In this way, priorities are set by the community and funds go directly to those who can carry out the project such as building a road or school. There are currently more than 20,000 community councils in Venezuela creating a grassroots base for participatory government.

A long-term goal is to form regional councils from the community councils and ultimately create a national council. Some community councils already have joined as communes, a group of several councils, which then have the capacity for greater research and to receive greater funds for large projects.

The movement to place greater decision-making capacity and control of local funds in the hands of communities is happening throughout Latin America and the world. It is called participatory budgeting and it began in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 1989 and has grown so that as many as 50,000 people now participate each year to decide as much as 20 percent of the city budget. There are more than 1,500 participatory budgets around the world in Latin America, North America, Asia, Africa, and Europe. Fox produced a documentary, Beyond Elections: Redefining Democracy in the Americas, which explains participatory budgeting in greater detail.

The Unfinished Work of Hugo Chávez Continues

The movements that brought him to power and kept him in power have been strengthened by Hugo Chávez. Now the “revolution within the revolution” will be tested.  In 30 days there will be an election and former vice president, now interim president, Nicolas Maduro will likely challenge the conservative candidate Chávez defeated.

If the United States and the oligarchs think the death of Chávez means the end of the Bolivarian Revolution he led, they are in for a disappointment.  This revolution, which is not limited to Venezuela, is likely to show to itself and the world that it is deep and strong. The people-powered transformation with which Chávez was in solidarity will continue.

Once, as a reporter, I covered wars, conflicts, civil wars, and even a genocide in places like Vietnam, Angola, Eritrea, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, keeping away from official briefings and listening to the people who were living the war.  In the years since the Bush administration launched its Global War on Terror, I’ve done the same thing without ever leaving home.

In the last decade, I didn’t travel to distant refugee camps in Pakistan or destroyed villages in Afghanistan, nor did I spend time in besieged cities like Iraq’s Fallujah or Libya’s Misrata.  I stayed in Great Britain.  There, my government, in close conjunction with Washington, was pursuing its own version of what, whether anyone cared to say it or not, was essentially a war against Islam.  Somehow, by a series of chance events, I found myself inside it, spending time with families transformed into enemies.

I hadn’t planned to write about the war on terror, but driven by curiosity about lives most of us never see and a few lucky coincidences, I stumbled into a world of Muslim women in London, Manchester, and Birmingham.  Some of them were British, others from Arab and African countries, but their husbands or sons had been swept up in Washington’s war. Some were in Guantanamo, some were among the dozen Muslim foreigners who did not know each other, and who were surprised to find themselves imprisoned together in Britain on suspicion of links to al-Qaeda. Later, some of these families would find themselves under house arrest.

In the process, I came to know women and children who were living in almost complete isolation and with the stigma of a supposed link to terrorism. They had few friends, and were cut off from the wider world. Those with a husband under house arrest were allowed no visitors who had not been vetted for “security,” nor could they have computers, even for their children to do their homework.  Other lonely women had husbands or sons who had sometimes spent a decade or more in prison without charges in the United Kingdom, and were fighting deportation or extradition.

Gradually, they came to accept me into their isolated lives and talked to me about their children, their mothers, their childhoods — but seldom, at first, about the grim situations of their husbands, which seemed too intimate, too raw, too frightening, too unknowable to be put into words.

In the early years, it was a steep learning curve for me, spending time in homes where faith was the primary reality, Allah was constantly invoked, English was a second language, and privacy and reticence were givens. Facebook culture had not come to most of these families. The reticence faded over the years, especially when the children were not there, or in the face of the kind of desolation that came from a failed court appeal to lift the restrictions on their lives, an unexpected police raid on the house, a husband’s suicide attempt, or the coming of a new torture report from Washington’s then-expanding global gulag of black sites and, of course, Guantanamo.

In these years, I met some of their husbands and sons as well.  The first was a British man from Birmingham, Moazzam Begg. He had been held for three years in Washington’s notorious offshore prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, only to be released without charges.  When he came home, through his lawyer, he asked me to help write his memoir, the first to come out of Guantanamo.  We worked long months on Enemy Combatant. It was hard for him to relive his nightmare days and nights in American custody in Kandahar and in the U.S. prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and then those limbo years in Cuba. It was even harder for him to visit the women whose absent husbands he had known in prison and who, unlike him, were still there.

Was My Husband Tortured?

In these homes he visited, there was always one great unspoken question: Was my husband or son tortured? It was the single question no one could bear to ask a survivor of that nightmare, even for reassurance. When working on his book, I deliberately left the chapter on his experiences in American hands in Bagram prison for last, as I sensed how difficult it would be for both of us to speak about the worst of the torture I knew he had experienced.

Through Moazzam, I met other men who had been swept up in the post-9/11 dragnet for Muslims in Great Britain, refugees who sought him out as an Arabic speaker and a British citizen to help them negotiate Britain’s newly hostile atmosphere in the post-9/11 years.  Soon, I began to visit some of their wives, too.

In time, I found myself deep inside a world of civilian women who were being warred upon (after a fashion) in my own country, which was how I came upon a locked-down hospital ward with a man determined to starve himself to death unless he was given refugee documents to leave Britain, children who cried in terror in response to a knock on the door, wives faced with a husband changed beyond words by prison.

I was halfway through working on Moazzam’s book when London was struck by our 9/11, which we call 7/7. The July 7, 2005, suicide bombings, in three parts of the London underground and a bus, killed 52 civilians and injured more than 700. The four bombers were all young British men between 18 and 30, two of them married with children, and one of them a mentor at a primary school. In video statements left behind they described themselves as “soldiers” whose aim was to force the British government to pull its troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Just three weeks later, there were four more coordinated bomb attacks on the London subway system.  (All failed to detonate.) The four men responsible, longterm British residents originally from the Horn of Africa, were captured, tried, and sentenced to life imprisonment. In this way, the whole country was traumatised in 2005, and that particularly includes the various strands of the Muslim community in Great Britain.

The British security services quickly returned to a post-9/11 stance on overdrive. The same MI5 intelligence agents who had interrogated Moazzam while he was in U.S. custody asked to meet him again to get his thoughts on who might be behind the attacks. However, three years in U.S. custody and five months at home occupied with his family and his book had not made him a likely source of information on current strains of thought in the British Muslim community.

At the same time, the dozen foreign Muslim refugees detained in the aftermath of 9/11 and held without trial for two years before being released on the orders of the House of Lords were rearrested. In the summer of 2005, the government prepared to deport them to countries they had originally fled as refugees.

All of them had been made anonymous by court order and in legal documents were referred to as Mr. G, Mr. U, and so on. This was no doubt intended to safeguard their privacy, but in a sense it also condemned them.  It made them faceless, inhuman, and their families experienced it just that way. “They even took my husband’s name away, why?” one wife asked me.

The women I was meeting in these years were mostly from this small group, as well as the relatives of a handful of British residents — Arabs — who were not initially returned from Guantanamo with the nine British citizens that the Americans finally released without charges in 2004 and 2005.

Perhaps no one in the country was, in the end, more terrorised than them, thanks to the various terror plots by British nationals that followed. And they were right to be fearful.  The pressure on them was overwhelming.  Some of them simply gave up and went home voluntarily because they could not bear house arrest, though they risked being sent to prison in their native lands; others went through years of house arrest and court appeals against deportation, all of which continues to this day.

Among the plots that unnerved them were one in 2006 against transatlantic aircraft, for which a total of 12 Britons were jailed for life in 2009, and the 2007 attempt to blow up a London nightclub and Glasgow International Airport, in which one bomber died and the second was jailed for 32 years. In the post-9/11 decade, 237 people were convicted of terror-related offences in Britain.

Though all of this was going on, much of it remained remote from the world of the refugee women I came to know who, in the larger world, were mainly preoccupied with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that, with Palestinian developments, filled their TV screens tuned only to Arabic stations.

These women did not tend to dwell on their own private nightmares, but for anyone in their company there was no mistaking them: a wife prevented from taking her baby into the hospital to visit her hunger-striking husband and get him to eat before he starved to death; another, with several small children, turned back from a prison visit, despite a long journey, because her husband was being punished that day; children whose toys were taken in a police raid and never given back; midnight visits from a private security company to check on a man already electronically tagged.

Here was the texture of a hidden war of continual harassment against a largely helpless population.  This was how some of the most vulnerable people in British society — often already traumatised refugees and torture survivors — were made permanent scapegoats for our post-9/11, and then post-7/7 fears.

So powerful is the stigma of “terrorism” today that, in the name of “our security,” whether in Great Britain or the United States, just about anything now goes, and ever fewer people ask questions about what that “anything” might actually be. Here in London, repeated attempts to get influential religious or political figures simply to visit one of these officially locked-down families and see these lives for themselves have failed. In the present political climate, such a personal, fact-finding visit proved to be anything but a priority for such people.

A Legal System of Secret Evidence, House Arrest, and Financial Sanctions

Against this captive population, in such an anything-goes atmosphere, all sorts of experimental perversions of the legal system were tried out.  As a result, the British system of post-9/11 justice contains many features which should frighten us all but are completely unfamiliar to the vast majority of people in the United Kingdom.

Key aspects for the families I have been concerned with include the use of secret evidence in cases involving deportation, bail conditions, and imprisonment without trial. In addition, most of their cases have been heard in a special court known as the Special Immigration Appeals Commission or SIAC, which is housed in an anonymous basement set of rooms in central London.

One of SIAC’s innovative features is the use of “special advocates,” senior barristers who have security clearance to see secret evidence on behalf of their clients, but without being allowed to disclose it or discuss it, even with the client or his or her own lawyer. The resignation on principle of a highly respected barrister, Ian Macdonald, as a special advocate in November 2004 exposed this process to the public for the first time — but almost no one took any interest.

And a sense of the injustice in this arcane system was never sufficiently sparked by such voices, which found little echo in the media. Nor was there a wide audience for reports from a team of top psychiatrists about the devastating psychological impact on the men and their families of indefinite detention without trial, and of a house-arrest system framed by “control orders” that allow the government to place restrictions of almost any sort on the lives of those it designates.

An even less noted aspect of the anti-terror legal system brought into existence after 9/11 was the financial sanctions that could freeze the assets of designated individuals.  First ordered by the United Nations, the financial-sanctions regime was consolidated here through a European Union list of designated people. The few lawyers who specialized in this area were scathing about the draconian measures involved and the utter lack of transparency when it came to which governments had put which names on which list.

The effect on the listed families was draconian.  Marriages collapsed under the strain. The listed men were barred from working and only allowed £10 a week for personal expenses. Their wives — often from conservative cultures where all dealings with the outside world had been left to husbands — suddenly were the families’ faces to the world, responsible for everything from shopping to accounting monthly to the government’s Home Office for every item the family purchased, right down to a bottle of milk or a pencil for a child. It was humiliating for the men, who lost their family role overnight, and exhausting and frustrating for the women, while in some cases the rest of their families shunned them because of the taint of alleged terrorism. Almost no one except specialist lawyers even knew that such financial sanctions existed in Britain.

In the country’s High Court, the first judicial challenge to the financial-sanctions regime was brought in 2008 by five British Muslim men known only as G, K, A, M, and Q. In response, Justice Andrew Collins said he found it “totally unacceptable” that, to take an especially absurd example, a man should have to get a license for legal advice about the sanctions from the very body that was imposing them. The man in question had waited three months for a “basic expense” license permitting funds for food and rent, and six months for a license to obtain legal advice about the situation he found himself in.

In a related case before the judicial committee of the House of Lords, Justice Leonard Hoffman expressed incredulity at the “meanness and squalor” of a regime that “monitored who had what for lunch.” More recently, the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court endorsed the comments of Lord Justice Stephen Sedley who described those subject to the regime as being akin to “prisoners of the state.”

Among senior lawyers concerned about this hidden world of punishment was Ben Emmerson, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms While Countering Terrorism. He devoted one of his official U.N. reports to the financial sanctions issue. His recommendations included significantly more transparency from governments who put people on such a list, the explicit exclusion of evidence obtained by torture, and the obligation of governments to give reasons when they refuse to remove individuals from the list.  Of course, no one who mattered was paying the slightest attention.

Against ideological governments obsessed by terrorism on both sides of the Atlantic and a culture numbed by violent anti-terrorist tales like “24” and Zero Dark Thirty, such complicated and technical initiatives on behalf of individuals who have been given the tag, implicitly if not explicitly, of “terrorist” stand little chance of getting attention.

“Each Time It’s Worse”

Nearly a decade ago, at the New York opening night of Guantanamo: Honour Bound to Defend Freedom, the play Gillian Slovo and I wrote using only the words of the relatives of prisoners in that jail, their lawyers, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, an elderly man approached Moazzam Begg’s father and me.  He introduced himself as a former foreign policy adviser to President John Kennedy. “It could never have happened in our time,” he said.

When the Global War on Terror was still relatively new, it was common for audiences to react similarly and with shock to a play in which fathers and brothers describe their bewilderment over the way their relation had disappeared into the legal black hole of Guantanamo Bay. In the years since, we have become numb to the destruction of lives, livelihoods, futures, childhoods, legal systems, and trust by Washington’s and London’s never-ending war on terror.

In that time, I have seen children grow from toddlers to teenagers locked inside this particular war machine.  What they say today should startle us out of such numbness. Here, for instance, are the words of two teenagers, a girl and a boy whose fathers had been imprisoned or under house arrest in Britain for 10 years and whose lives in those same years were filled with indignities and humiliations:

“People seem to think that we get used to things being how they are for us, so we don’t feel the injustices so much now. They are quite wrong: it was painful the first time, more painful the second, even more so the third. In fact, each time it’s worse, if you can believe that. There isn’t a limit on how much pain you can feel.”

The boy added this:

“There is never one day when I feel safe. It can be the authorities, it can be ordinary people, they can do something bad for us. Only like now when we are all in the house together can I stop worrying about my mum and my sisters, and even me, what might happen to us. On the tube [subway], in class at university, people look at my beard.  I see them looking and I know they are thinking bad things about me. I would like to be a normal guy who no one looks at. You know, other boys, some of my friends, they cut corners, things like driving without a current license, everyone does it. But I can’t, I can’t ever, ever, take even a small risk. I have to always be cautious, be responsible… for my family.”

These children have been brought up by women who, against all odds, have often preserved their dignity and kept at least a modicum of joy in their families’ lives, and so, however despised, however unnoticed, however locked away, made themselves an inspiration to others. They are not victims to be pitied, but women our societies should embrace.

South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s response to recent proposals that Washington establish a secret court to oversee the targeting of terrorist suspects for death-by-drone and President Obama’s expanding executive power to kill, speak for the world beyond the West.  They offer a different perspective on the war on terror that Washington and Great Britain continue to pursue with no end in sight:

“Do the United States and its people really want to tell those of us who live in the rest of the world that our lives are not of the same value as yours? That President Obama can sign off on a decision to kill us with less worry about judicial scrutiny than if the target is an American? Would your Supreme Court really want to tell humankind that we, like the slave Dred Scott in the nineteenth century, are not as human as you are? I cannot believe it.  I used to say of apartheid that it dehumanized its perpetrators as much as, if not more than, its victims. Your response as a society to Osama bin Laden and his followers threatens to undermine your moral standards and your humanity.”

Victoria Brittain, journalist and former editor at the Guardian, has authored or co-authored two plays and four books, including Enemy Combatant with Moazzam Begg. Her latest book, Shadow Lives: The Forgotten Women of the War on Terror (Palgrave/Macmillan, 2013) has just been published.

 

You can get much farther with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone. — Al Capone

In Reckless Endangerment, a lively exposé of the frauds at the heart of the subprime meltdown, journalists Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner wrote that if “mortgage originators like NovaStar or Countrywide were the equivalent of drug pushers hanging around a schoolyard and the ratings agencies were the narcotics cops looking the other way, brokerage firms providing capital to the anything-goes lenders were the overseers of the cartel.”

Their observations are all the more relevant given the outrageous behavior by major banks which polluted an already terminally corrupt financial system with blood-spattered cash siphoned-off from the global drug trade.

It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to insist that drug money laundered by financial giants like HSBC and Wachovia were in fact, little more than “hedges” designed to offset losses in residential mortgage backed securities (RMBS), sliced and diced into toxic collateralized debt obligations, as the 2007-2008 global economic crisis cratered the capitalist “free market.”

And like Wachovia’s ill-fated $25.5 billion (£16.96bn) buy-out of Golden West Financial/World Savings Bank at the top of the market in 2006, HSBC’s 2002 purchase of Household International and its mortgage unit, Household Finance Corporation for the then princely sum of $15.2 billion (£10.02bn) also proved to be a proverbial deal too far.

Evidence suggests that HSBC stepped up money laundering for their cartel clients as the hyperinflated real estate bubble collapsed. Along with other self-styled masters of the universe who were bleeding cash faster than you can say credit default swaps, HSBC posted 2008 projected first quarter losses of “$17.2 billion (£8.7bn) after the decline in the US housing market hit the value of its loans,” BBC News reported.

From there RMBS deficits skyrocketed. By 2010, as Senate and Justice Department investigators were taking a hard look at bank shenanigans, Reuters reported that HSBC Holdings was “working off $20 billion [£13.19bn] worth of loans per year in its US Household Finance Corp. unit” where “liabilities stood at about $70 billion [£46.17bn].”

However you slice today’s epidemic of financial corruption, a trend already clear two decades ago when economists George Akerlof and Paul Romer published their seminal paper, Looting: The Economic Underworld of Bankruptcy for Profit, incentives were huge as senior bank executives inflated their balance sheets with “criminal proceeds … likely to have amounted to some 3.6 per cent of GDP (2.3-5.5 per cent) or around US$2.1 trillion in 2009,” according to a 2011 estimate by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

To make matters worse, willful criminality at the apex of the financial pyramid was aided and abetted by the US Justice Department and the federal regulatory apparatus who allowed these storied economic predators to walk.

‘Change’ that Banksters Can Believe In

In late January, Bloomberg News reported that US prosecutors have “asked a federal judge to sign off on HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA)’s $1.9 billion [£1.2bn] settlement of charges it enabled drug cartels to launder millions of dollars in trafficking proceeds.”

Prosecutors justified the settlement on grounds that “it includes the largest-ever forfeiture in the prosecution of a bank and provides for monitoring to prevent future violations,” arguing that “strict conditions, and the unprecedented forfeiture and penalties imposed, serve as a significant deterrent against future similar conduct.”

Let’s get this sick joke straight: here’s a bank that laundered billions of dollars for Colombian and Mexican drug lords, admittedly amongst the most violent gangsters on earth (120,000 dead Mexicans and counting since 2006) and we’re supposed to take this deal seriously. Seriously? Remember, this an institution whose pretax 2012 profits will exceed $23.5 billion (£15.63bn) when earnings are reported next week and the best the US government can do is extract a promise to “do better”–next time.

That deal, a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) was cobbled together between the outgoing head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Lanny A. Breuer and HSBC, Europe’s largest bank. At the urging of former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, no criminal charges were sought–or brought–against senior bank executives.

Why might that be the case?

During a press conference trumpeting the government’s “shitty deal,” Breuer breezily declared that DOJ’s decision not to move forcefully against HSBC was in everyone’s best interest: “Had the US authorities decided to press criminal charges, HSBC would almost certainly have lost its banking license in the US, the future of the institution would have been under threat and the entire banking system would have been destabilized.”

As if allowing drug-connected money launderers license to pollute one of the world’s largest financial institutions hadn’t already “destabilized” the banking system!

Although Obama’s Justice Department smeared “lipstick” on this pig of a deal, their own “Statement of Facts” submitted to US District Judge John Gleeson paints a damning picture of criminal negligence that crossed the line into outright collusion with their Cartel clients:

From 2006 to 2010, HSBC Bank USA violated the BSA and its implementing regulations. Specifically, HSBC Bank USA ignored the money laundering risks associated with doing business with certain Mexican customers and failed to implement a BSA/AML program that was adequate to monitor suspicious transactions from Mexico. At the same time, Grupo Financiero HSBC, S.A. de C.V. (“HSBC Mexico”), one of HSBC Bank USA’s largest Mexican customers, had its own significant AML problems. As a result of these concurrent AML failures, at least $881 million in drug trafficking proceeds, including proceeds of drug trafficking by the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico and the Norte del Valle Cartel in Colombia, were laundered through HSBC Bank USA without being detected. HSBC Group was aware of the significant AML compliance problems at HSBC Mexico, yet did not inform HSBC Bank USA of these problems and their potential impact on HSBC Bank USA’s AML program.

As with Wachovia, oceans of cash generated through drug trafficking were laundered by HSBC via the Black Market Peso Exchange (BMPE), a nexus of interconnected firms controlled by Colombian and Mexican drug cartels.

According to the DPA, “peso brokers purchase bulk cash in United States dollars from drug cartels at a discounted rate, in return for Colombian pesos that belong to Colombian businessmen. The peso brokers then use the US dollars to purchase legitimate goods from businesses in the United States and other foreign countries, on behalf of the Colombian businessmen. These goods are then sent to the Colombian businessmen, who sell the goods for Colombian pesos to recoup their original investment.”

“In the end,” the Justice Department informed us, “the Colombian businessmen obtain US dollars at a lower exchange rate than otherwise available in Colombia, the Colombian cartel leaders receive Colombian pesos while avoiding the costs associated with depositing US dollars directly into Colombian financial institutions, and the peso brokers receive fees for their services as middlemen.”

Got that? And it wasn’t only plasma TVs, diamond-studded Rolexes or armored-up SUVs that cartel heavies were buying from enterprising businessmen on this side of the border. Add to their list of must-haves: fleets of airplanes and enough weapons to equip an army!

DOJ investigators discovered that “drug traffickers were depositing hundreds of thousands of dollars in bulk US currency each day into HSBC Mexico accounts. In order to efficiently move this volume of cash through the teller windows at HSBC Mexico branches, drug traffickers designed specially shaped boxes that fit the precise dimensions of the teller windows. The drug traffickers would send numerous boxes filled with cash through the teller windows for deposit into HSBC Mexico accounts. After the cash was deposited in the accounts, peso brokers then wire transferred the US dollars to various exporters located in New York City and other locations throughout the United States to purchase goods for Colombian businesses. The US exporters then sent the goods directly to the businesses in Colombia.”

The investigation further revealed that “because of its lax AML controls, HSBC Mexico was the preferred financial institution for drug cartels and money launderers. The drug trafficking proceeds (in physical US dollars) deposited at HSBC Mexico as part of the BMPE were sold to HSBC Bank USA through Banknotes.”

What’s the “get” for the bank? Former Senate investigator Jack Blum told Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi: “If you have clients who are interested in ‘specialty services’­–that’s the euphemism for the bad stuff–you can charge ‘em whatever you want.” Blum said “the margin on laundered money for years has been roughly 20 percent.”

How’s that for an incentive!

‘Big Audits, Big Problems. No Audits, No Problems’

In cobbling together the HSBC deal, the Justice Department ignored Senate testimony by whistleblowers, some of whom were fired or eventually resigned in disgust when higher-ups thwarted their efforts to get a handle on AML “lapses” by the North American branch during a critical period when it was becoming clear that losses in the subprime market would be huge.

We were informed that senior level officials at HBUS were keep in the dark about the extent of problems plaguing HBMX by HSBC Group (London) executives, “including the CEO, Head of Compliance, Head of Audit, and Head of Legal,” all of whom were aware “that the problems at HSBC Mexico involved US dollars and US dollar accounts.”

We’re supposed to believe that Canary Wharf “did not contact their counterparts at HSBC Bank USA to explain the significance of the problems or the potential effect on HSBC Bank USA’s business.” This fairy tale is further enlarged upon when we’re informed that “HSBC North America’s General Counsel/Regional Compliance Officer first learned of the problems at HSBC Mexico and their potential impact on HSBC Bank USA in 2010 as a result of this investigation.”

According to the suspect narrative concocted by government prosecutors, HBUS’s General Counsel was informed by HSBC Group Compliance Chief, David Bagley, that she wasn’t told about “potential problems” at HBMX because the bank doesn’t “air the dirty linen of one affiliate with another . . . we go in and fix the problems.”

Really?

Keep in mind that the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency had issued not one, but two toothless cease-and-desist orders between 2003 and 2010 ordering HSBC to clean up their act, all of which revolved around strengthening anti-money laundering controls which were promptly ignored.

But as the US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations revealed in their 335-page report (large PDF file) and related hearings last summer, despite the fact that “Compliance and AML staffing levels were kept low for many years as part of a cost cutting measure,” Senate investigators learned through HSBC internal correspondence that those charged with monitoring suspicious transactions were “struggling to ‘handle the growing monitoring requirements’ associated with the bank’s correspondent banking and cash management programs, and requested additional staff.”

“Despite requests for additional AML staffing,” the Senate reported that “HBUS decided to hold staff levels to a flat headcount.”

“After being turned down for additional staff, Carolyn Wind, longtime HBUS Compliance head and AML director, raised the issue of inadequate resources with the HNAH board of directors. A month after the board meeting, after seven years as HBUS’ Compliance head Ms. Wind was fired,” Senate investigators disclosed.

Wind, who had met with HNAH’s board in October 2007 to discuss staffing, was reprimanded by her supervisor, Regional Compliance Officer and Senior Executive Vice President Janet L. Burak, for raising the issue. In an email to disgraced Group Compliance chief David Bagley, who dramatically resigned on camera during those Senate hearings, Burak “expressed displeasure” with Wind and told Bagley:

“I indicated to her my strong concerns about her ability to do the job I need her to do, particularly in light of the comments made by her at yesterday’s audit committee meeting …. I noted that her comments caused inappropriate concern with the committee around: our willingness to pay as necessary to staff critical compliance functions (specifically embassy banking AML support), and the position of the OCC with respect to the merger of AML and general Compliance.”

In marked contrast to the government’s version, it appears that HBUS had been fully apprised of “cash management” problems three years earlier than claimed in the DPA, yet senior level executives choose to look the other way–so long as the cash keep flowing.

Burak’s firing of Wind should have raised eyebrows at the Justice Department. As Regional Legal Department Head for North America, Burak was appointed by the HNAH board to serve as the bank’s Regional Compliance Officer, a move which was even criticized by Bagley, but he was overruled by his Canary Wharf masters.

Her appointment as Regional Compliance Officer shouldn’t come as a surprise however, considering that before joining the HSBC team, Burak “was group general counsel, Household International . . . as well as for Household’s federal regulatory coordination and compliance function,” according to a 2004 BusinessWire profile. And with the bank on the hook for some $70 billion (£46.17bn) and counting in toxic Household International mortgage liabilities, her choice by London to supervise AML operations was a slam dunk.

In her new dual-hatted role, Burak was taken to the woodshed by both the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve “for her lack of understanding of AML risks or controls” according to the Senate report. Indeed, OCC stated that Burak had “not regularly attended key committee or compliance department meetings” and had failed to keep herself and other bank executives “fully informed about issues and risks within the BSA/AML compliance program.”

But if the task at hand was to keep AML staff to a “flat headcount” and not make waves with pesky audits that might force compliance with trivial matters such as legal requirements under the Bank Secrecy Act, well you get the picture! Senate investigators learned however, that BSA compliance issues were legion and what they found was just a tad troubling:

The identified problems included a once massive backlog of over 17,000 alerts identifying possible suspicious activity that had yet to be reviewed; ineffective methods for identifying suspicious activity; a failure to file timely Suspicious Activity Reports with U.S. law enforcement; a failure to conduct any due diligence to assess the risks of HSBC affiliates before opening correspondent accounts for them; a 3-year failure by HBUS, from mid-2006 to mid-2009, to conduct any AML monitoring of $15 billion [£9.53bn] in bulk cash transactions with those same HSBC affiliates, despite the risks associated with large cash transactions; poor procedures for assigning country and client risk ratings; a failure to monitor $60 trillion [£38.14tn] in annual wire transfer activity by customers domiciled in countries rated by HBUS as lower risk; inadequate and unqualified AML staffing; inadequate AML resources; and AML leadership problems.

But wait, there’s more!

After Wind’s dismissal, the HNAH board hired Lesley Midzain to fill the posts of Compliance head and AML director. But as Senate investigators revealed, “Ms. Midzain had no professional experience and little familiarity with US AML laws.” Indeed, in December 2008 “HNAH’s regulator, the Federal Reserve, provided a negative critique of Ms. Midzain’s management of the bank’s AML program.”

According to Senate staff, the Federal Reserve complained that “Ms. Midzain did ‘not possess the technical knowledge or industry experience to continue as the BSA/AML officer’.” It noted that she “was interviewed by OCC examiners from another team and they supported the conclusion of the OCC resident staff that Midzain’s knowledge and experience with BSA/AML risk is not commensurate to HNAH’s BSA/AML high risk profile, especially when compared to other large national banks.”

As a result of these rather pointed criticisms, Midzain was removed from the AML post and HBUS hired a new director, Wyndham Clark, a former US Treasury official. According to the Senate report, Clark “was required to report to Curt Cunningham, an HBUS Compliance official who freely admitted having no AML expertise, and through him to Ms. Midzain, whom the OCC had also found to lack AML expertise.”

Call it a small world.

It soon became clear to Clark that although the bank had an “extremely high risk business model from AML perspective,” as director he was “granted only limited authority to the AML director to remedy problems.” According to a memorandum sent by Clark to his boss Curt Cunningham, he complained that “AML Director has the responsibility for AML compliance, but very little control over its success.”

If one were a “conspiracy buff” one might even argue this was precisely as intended.

Senate investigators revealed that as he continued his work, “Clark grew increasingly concerned that the bank was not effectively addressing its AML problems. In February 2010, Mr. Clark met with the Audit Committee of the HNAH board of directors and informed the committee that he had never seen a bank with as high of an AML risk profile as HBUS.”

In May 2010, he wrote to a more senior compliance officer: “With every passing day I become more concerned…if that’s even possible.”

Less than a year after taking the thankless job, in July 2010 Clark quit. He wrote HSBC Group Compliance chief David Bagley that he had neither the authority nor the support from senior managers needed to do his job. He told Bagley in no uncertain terms:

[T]he bank has not provided me the proper authority or reporting structure that is necessary for the responsibility and liability that this position holds, thereby impairing my ability to direct and manage the AML program effectively. This has resulted in most of the critical decisions in Compliance and AML being made by senior Management who have minimal expertise in compliance, AML or our regulatory environment, or for that matter, knowledge of the bank (HBUS) where most of our AML risk resides. Until we appoint senior compliance management that have the requisite knowledge and skills in these areas, reduce our current reliance on consultants to fill our knowledge gap, and provide the AML Director appropriate authority, we will continue to have limited credibility with the regulators.

According to the DPA, despite the risks associated with HSBC’s highly-profitable Banknotes business, used and abused by all manner of shady customers, “from 2006 to 2009, Banknotes’ AML compliance consisted of one, or at times two, compliance officers.”

In 2006, the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued an Advisory warning that “US law enforcement has observed a dramatic increase in the smuggling of bulk cash proceeds from the sale of narcotics and other criminal activities from the United States into Mexico. Once the US currency is in Mexico, numerous layered transactions may be used to disguise its origins, after which it may be returned directly to the United States or further transshipped to or through other jurisdictions.”

What was HSBC’s response? The Justice Department informed us that despite the FinCEN notification “Banknotes stopped regular monthly monitoring of transactions for HSBC Group Affiliates, including HSBC Mexico, in July 2006.”

And despite multiple notifications from government regulators, the bank accelerated their shady purchases: “Banknotes purchased approximately $7 billion [£4.51bn] in US currency from Mexico each year, with nearly half of that amount supplied by HSBC Mexico. From July 2006 to December 2008, Banknotes purchased over $9.4 [£6.06bn] billion in physical US dollars from HSBC Mexico, including over $4.1 billion [£2.64bn] in 2008 alone.”

As a result of these rather willful “lapses” by senior executives, the Justice Department’s “Statement of Facts” cited HSBC’s,

a. Failure to obtain or maintain due diligence or KYC information on HSBC Group Affiliates, including HSBC Mexico; b. Failure to adequately monitor over $200 trillion [£126.9tn] in wire transfers between 2006 and 2009 from customers located in countries that HSBC Bank USA classified as “standard” or “medium” risk, including over $670 billion [£425.1bn] in wire transfers from HSBC Mexico; c. Failure to adequately monitor billions of dollars in purchases of physical US dollars (“banknotes”) between July 2006 and July 2009 from HSBC Group Affiliates, including over $9.4 billion [£5.96bn] from HSBC Mexico; and d. Failure to provide adequate staffing and other resources to maintain an effective AML program.

Yet in the face of evidence that laundering drug money was anything but a mistake, Judge Gleeson was told that DOJ’s decision not to criminally prosecute senior HSBC executives was predicated on the fiction that the $1.9 billion settlement’s “strict conditions, and the unprecedented forfeiture and penalties imposed, [will] serve as a significant deterrent against future similar conduct.”

Never mind the lack of evidence that DPA’s are a “deterrent” to financial crimes. Indeed, a 2009 study by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded “that the Department of Justice (DOJ) lacked performance measures to assess how Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPA) and Non-Prosecution Agreements (NPA) contribute to its efforts to combat corporate crime.”

Well, if the Justice Department lacked “metrics” as to whether or not their agreements with corporate criminals act as a deterrent to future crimes, were there other considerations behind the sweetheart deals forged between the Criminal Division, HSBC and other banks?

You bet there were and it’s worth recalling statements by former UNODC director Antonio Maria Costa in this regard. In 2009, Costa told The Observer that “he has seen evidence that the proceeds of organised crime were ‘the only liquid investment capital’ available to some banks on the brink of collapse last year. He said that a majority of the $352bn (£216bn) of drugs profits was absorbed into the economic system as a result.”

Costa said that “in many instances, the money from drugs was the only liquid investment capital. In the second half of 2008, liquidity was the banking system’s main problem and hence liquid capital became an important factor.”

“Inter-bank loans were funded by money that originated from the drugs trade and other illegal activities… There were signs that some banks were rescued that way.” Although Costa declined to identify the banks involved because it would not be “appropriate,” he told The Observer that “money is now a part of the official system and had been effectively laundered.”

“That was the moment [last year] when the system was basically paralysed because of the unwillingness of banks to lend money to one another,” Costa averred. “The progressive liquidisation to the system and the progressive improvement by some banks of their share values [has meant that] the problem [of illegal money] has become much less serious than it was.”

In other words, as illegal cash propped up the banks while the crisis was being sorted out, at the expense of the working class mind you, the financial pirates responsible for the capitalist meltdown have become even larger, thanks to taxpayer bailouts, in effect holding the economy hostage as they became “too big” to either “fail or jail.”

As Matt Taibbi observed in Rolling Stone, “At HSBC, the bank did more than avert its eyes to a few shady transactions. It repeatedly defied government orders as it made a conscious, years-long effort to completely stop discriminating between illegitimate and legitimate money. And when it somehow talked the U.S. government into crafting a settlement over these offenses with the lunatic aim of preserving the bank’s license, it succeeded, finally, in making crime mainstream.”

What we are dealing with here is nothing less than a perverse economic system thoroughly criminalized by its elites; a bizarro world as Michel Chossudovsky pointed out where “war criminals legitimately occupy positions of authority, which enable them to decide ‘who are the criminals’, when in fact they are the criminals.”

Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly and Global Research, an independent research and media group of writers, scholars, journalists and activists based in Montreal, he is a Contributing Editor with Cyrano’s Journal Today. His articles can be read on Dissident Voice, Pacific Free Press, Uncommon Thought Journal, and the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks. He is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military “Civil Disturbance” Planning, distributed by AK Press and has contributed to the new book from Global Research, The Global Economic Crisis: The Great Depression of the XXI Century.

EU-Funded Israeli Theft

March 7th, 2013 by Jamal Kanj

A leaked report commissioned by the European Union (EU) has concluded that Israeli settlement construction “remains the single biggest threat” to peace in the Middle East.

The confidential, 15-page report outlines 10 recommendations for the 27 EU states to consider regarding Israel’s wanton activities in occupied Palestine. It describes proposals by the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – to build more “Jewish-only” colonies – as “systematic, deliberate and provocative”. The document raises alarm about current construction efforts around East Jerusalem, new plans effectively bisecting the West Bank into two separate geographical entities and isolating the future capital of Palestine from the rest of the Palestinian population – “making it impossible” to achieve peace.

In addition to settlements, the report warns of systemic institutional racism “undermining the Palestinian presence” in East Jerusalem. It highlights two unequal systems of government: one for native Palestinians and another for Jews.

For example, city zoning changes and construction permits are issued frequently to accommodate structures dedicated for new Jews in the eastern part of the city.

Another system is imposed on taxpaying native Jerusalemites in “zoning and planning, demolitions and evacuations”.

The report highlights “discriminatory access to religious sites”, as well as an “inequitable education policy” and denial of the same “access to health care”.

The internal report calls on EU member states to voluntarily review direct or indirect assistance that might enable Israel to further colonise occupied areas, especially those which could contribute to “settlement activities, infrastructure and services” – including, but not limited to, financial transactions and foreign direct investment.

Undoubtedly, the report is more candid and progressive than previous EU-commissioned reviews discussing the occupation. But it still falls short of adopting tangible measures that would end the Israeli “threat” to a viable Palestinian state. One major, yet feeble, recommendation was to stop settlements getting the same “preferential tariffs” on imports as goods originating from within the green line, as well as the labelling of products from settlement industries. Through such labelling, the EU would relegate responsibility to European consumers to make an “informed choice” when purchasing goods from Israeli settlements. But this combined with a nominal tax somehow renders it OK for Israel to continue “laundering” profits from goods and resources stolen from Palestinian land.

Soon after the “managed” leak of the report, European leaders were in a hurry to defend the report’s weak recommendations.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague last week said the report contained “incentives and disincentives” for peace talks, while a French diplomat described it as a tool to persuade Israel.

Responding to earlier EU criticism, the mayor of the “Jewish only” colony of Maale Adumim, Benny Kashriel, told The Daily Beast that Europeans “know that we (Israeli settlers) will continue to build”.

Meanwhile, the EU report was sharply criticised by European legislator Daniel Cohn-Bendit, who said it effectively told Israel “do what you want”.

The EU can’t possibly be sincere in opposing Israeli colonies when it only taxes their theft. Israeli companies operating within the green line will likely take advantage of the EU’s “preferential tariffs” to subsidise the extra levy imposed on products originating from settlements. Israel’s Supreme Court ruled in January last year that Israeli companies were entitled to exploit the West Bank’s natural resources for economic gain.

The EU’s non-binding recommendations are hypocritical at best. While it continues to provide formal “preferential treatment” for other Israeli goods, informally it wants an informed public to decide on purchases violating international trade. The EU should instead use the report as justification for banning products and boycotting Israeli companies that invest in “Jewish only” colonies, while forbidding its licensed institutions from collaborating with organisations benefiting from Israeli settlement industry.

By leaving the EU market open for “taxed” settlement products, Europe is in effect subsidising “the single biggest threat” to peace in the Middle East.


Jamal Kanj (www.jamalkanj.com) writes  weekly newspaper column and publishes on several websites on Arab world issues. He is the author of “Children of Catastrophe,” Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America. A version of this article was first published by the Gulf Daily News newspaper. He is a frequent contributor to this blog.

Gun “Background Check” on Pentagon

March 7th, 2013 by Norman Solomon

Stringent “background checks” are central to many proposals for curbing gun violence. The following is a background check on the nation’s largest buyer of firearms:

The applicant, U.S. Pentagon, seeks to purchase a wide variety of firearms in vast quantities. This background check has determined that the applicant has a long history of assisting individuals, organizations and governments prone to gun violence.

Pentagon has often served as an active accomplice or direct perpetrator of killings on a mass scale. During the last 50 years, the applicant has directly inflicted large-scale death and injuries in numerous countries, among them the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Grenada, Panama, Kosovo, Serbia, Iraq and Afghanistan (partial list). Resulting fatalities are estimated to have been more than 5 million people.

For purposes of this background check, special attention has been necessarily focused on the scope of firearms currently sought by Pentagon. They include numerous types of semi-automatic and fully automatic rifles as well as many other assault weapons. Continuing purchases by the applicant include drones and cruise missiles along with the latest models of compatible projectiles and matching explosives.

Notable on Pentagon’s shopping list is the Massive Ordnance Penetrator. This “bunker buster” weapon — with a weight of 30,000 pounds, set for delivery by a B-2 stealth bomber — is for prospective use in Iran.

While considering the likely outcomes of authorizing Pentagon to purchase such large-scale assault weapons, past lethal recklessness should be viewed in context of present-day mindset. A meaningful background check must include a current psychological profile.

Despite the abundant evidence of massive carnage made possible by past Pentagon acquisitions of firearms and other weapons, the applicant is unrepentant. This indicates that the applicant is sociopathic — unwilling to acknowledge, let alone express any semblance of remorse for, pain and suffering inflicted on human beings.

The unrepentant character of Pentagon is reflected in continued use of the alias “Department of Defense.” This background check strongly indicates the prevalence of a highly functional yet psychically numbed institutional personality disorder, with reflexive denial and perennial insistence on claiming victim status even while victimizing others.

In addition, Pentagon has used guns of all types to fire on countless civilians including young people. The ongoing threat to children posed by weapons in the hands of the applicant, therefore, is grave.

Grim evidence emerged with the unauthorized release of the “Collateral Murder” video three years ago by WikiLeaks. That video, filmed in 2007 in the district of New Baghdad, showed a callous disregard for human life as 30 mm cannon fire from Apache helicopters caused the deaths of nearly a dozen Iraqi adults while wounding two children.

In a deeply sociopathic mode, Pentagon — rather than expressing remorse or taking action to prevent such tragedies in the future — has sought retribution against those shedding light on many of such terrible actions. Pentagon has subjected whistleblower Bradley Manning to protracted inhumane treatment and relentless prosecution. By sharp contrast, in the last few days alone, tens of thousands of people have expressed their admiration, love and support by signing an online letter to Thank Bradley Manning.

Meanwhile, Pentagon is seeking approvals for items ranging from new firearms to F-35 jet fighters, recently dubbed by Time magazine “the costliest weapons program in human history.”

Even a cursory background check on the applicant must conclude that augmenting Pentagon’s vast stockpile of guns and other weapons would be unconscionable.

If background checks are to be a meaningful tool for curbing gun violence, they must apply to individuals and institutions alike, without fear or favor.

Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” He writes the Political Culture 2013 column.

Image: Malaysia has called in air support and armor to confront a bizarre terrorist invasion in its eastern state of Sabah.

The West’s woeful, irresponsible coverage of a burgeoning region-wide destabilization, fits in nicely with its coverage of US-Saudi funded/armed terrorism around the world, including in Syria where US-funded terrorists of the so-called “Free Syrian Army” have just taken dozens of UN peacekeepers hostage in the Golan Heights – just days after the US announced it would fund the terrorists further, to the tune of $60 million and the West’s Arab partners have just granted the terrorist faction Syria’s seat at the “Arab League.”

Terrorists are US-Saudi Funded Extremists – Part of Engineered Destabilization.

While the West pleads ignorance over the identity of the militants held up in the jungles of Malaysia’s Sabah state, the militant organizations themselves have declared thousands more in reinforcements are being arranged in the Philippines to join and exasperate the conflict. The Free Malaysia Today newspaper reported in its article, “10,000 Tausugs to sail to Sabah,” that :

Thousands of Tausug from Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi have sailed to Sabah to reinforce members of the so-called royal army of the sultanate of Sulu who are fighting it out with Malaysian security forces, a Moro National Liberation Front official said Tuesday.

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) of course, is one of several of Al Qaeda’s franchises in Southeast Asia, and spun off the notorious terrorist organization, Abu Sayyaf, a US State Department-listed foreign terrorist organization with direct ties to Al Qaeda.

The Philippines’ terrorist organizations, located amongst the country’s southern islands have long held ties to Al Qaeda and receive funding and support from Saudi Arabia. AFP reported in their 2010 article, “WikiLeaks: US suspected Saudi ambassador to the Philippines of terror link,” that:

The United States suspected a Saudi Arabian ambassador to the Philippines of potential involvement in funding terrorists, according to US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks this week.

The report would also state:

Francis Townsend cited Waly’s intervention to secure the release of two members of an Islamic charity detained in the Philippines, the cable showed.

The group was suspected of funnelling funds to Al-Qaeda-linked groups based in the southern Philippines.

It continued stating:

The February 24, 2007, US embassy cable named the charity suspected of terror financing in the Philippines as IIRO, which stands for the International Islamic Relief Organisation.
Intelligence agencies have said IIRO was set up by Muhammad Jamal Khalifa, a brother-in-law of Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.

The report concluded by stating:

Overall, the WikiLeaks cables singled out Saudi Arabia as the key source of funding for radical Islamist groups including Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hamas.

Saudi Arabia is of course is the chief financier of Al Qaeda, and is currently leading efforts to fund, arm, and fill the ranks of Al Qaeda’s franchises from Mali and Libya, to Syria and Iraq. A multitude of reports from across the West have identified Saudi Arabia as the lynch pin in Al Qaeda’s global terror campaign, including the US Army West Point Combating Terrorism Center.

Its reports “Al-Qa’ida’s Foreign Fighters in Iraq” and “Bombers, Bank Accounts and Bleedout: al-Qa’ida’s Road In and Out of Iraq,” identify a vast terrorist network maintained by the Saudis that recruits, arms, and funds terrorists from across the Muslim World, and can funnel a mercenary army into any desired nation. At the time, the desired nation was Iraq. In 2011, it was Libya. Today it is Syria. The same network that US soldiers fought in Iraq is verifiably in use today, in support of US regime-change operations in Syria.

And while it is acknowledged across even the Western mainstream media that Saudi Arabia is a notorious state-sponsor of terrorism, including the terrorists allegedly behind the September 11, 2001 attacks that left 3,000 Americans dead, the US has had a decades-long, deep economic and military relationship with the despotic Arabian autocracy.

The US maintains permanent military bases inside Saudi Arabia, funds the Saudi military, and has recentlyconcluded the largest arms deal in US history with the Saudis. Additionally, Saudi Arabia’s brutally repressive internal security apparatus is a creation of US advisers and operators.

The Saudi royal family and the elite amongst the US corporate-financier Fortune 500, have maintained deep financial and political ties as well. Saudi Arabian corporate-financier interests (run by the royal family) are tied directly to Wall Street and London via conglomerations like the US-Saudi Arabian Business Council and representation upon the JP Morgan International Council (Khalid Al-Falih of Saudi Aramco, amongst the highest valued companies on Earth).

This also includes the Bin Laden family, whose multi-billion dollar Saudi Binladin Group is an active member of the US-Saudi Arabian Business Council and plays a central role in deciding bilateral policy for the benefit of collective US-Saudi corporate-financier and corresponding geopolitical interests. At one point, the Bin Ladens and the Bush family sat around the same table, as both families were involved in the equity firm, Carlyle. In fact, Bush and Bin Laden family members were clicking champagne glasses together in Washington on 9/11, an event that would make both families immensely rich in the coming decade.

It is clear, most acutely in Libya and Syria, that the use of Saudi Arabia’s global Al Qaeda mercenary army serves both Saudi Arabia’s interests as well as Western geopolitical ambitions, including to exact regime change around the world. And it just so happens that the West and Saudi Arabia both seek regime change in currently Russo-Iranian-Chinese friendly Malaysia.

West Attempts to Install Client Regime in Malaysia

The West has been propping up Malaysian opposition candidate Anwar Ibrahim for years.

Anwar Ibrahim, head of Malaysia’s opposition coalition, which includes the Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), has spent a lifetime in the service of Western interests. Anwar Ibrahim was Chairman of the Development Committee of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 1998, held lecturing positions at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, was a consultant to the World Bank, and a panelist at the Neo-Con lined National Endowment for Democracy’s “Democracy Award” and a panelist at a NED donation ceremony - the very same US organization whose subsidiaries are funding and supporting Bersih, a faux-pro-democracy Western-funded street movement that in fact was created by, and in the service of Anwar Ibrahim’s political ambitions.

Bersih’s street activism fits into a global pattern of Western-backed “color revolutions,” where meddling in sovereign nation’s political processes to install Western-client regimes is disguised as “democracy promotion.”

Anwar Ibrahim’s affiliations with Malaysian “Islamists,” the already active political subversion his US State Department-funded Bersih movement is sowing in Malaysia’s streets, and his Western backers’ habitual support for terrorism internationally as a geopolitical tool, raises the possibility that his opposition movement is complicit in the conveniently timed militant destabilization Malaysia now faces, only months before 2013′s general elections.

This may be why the Western media refuses to properly cover an otherwise very noteworthy conflict. The fact that these militants are emanating from long-time US ally, the Philippines, and the Philippines’ current role in assisting the US “pivot” towards Asia, and more specifically facilitating a proxy confrontation with China, illustrates the greater regional implications at play. The US intends to install client regimes in Myanmar led by Aung San Suu KyiThailand led by Thaksin Shinawatra’s despotic political dynasty, and in Malaysia led by Anwar Ibrahim. Together, this front will then be turned against Chinese interests as part of a long-planned desire to encircle and contain China.

It will be done so under ASEAN and at the cost of Asia’s stability and prosperity.

The future of Asia hangs in the balance, and therefore conflicts like Malaysia’s battle against armed extremists in Sabah may not be covered by the Western press, but it must be covered by the alternative press. The unhinged insanity that is now spilling blood on Malaysia’s shores, also represented by the West’s proxy Anwar Ibrahim and his attempts to provoke street protests against the ruling government, illustrates just how dangerous the current Anglo-American international order is, and how far its reach extends.

We must  identify the corporate-financier interests driving this agenda, – interests we most likely patronize on a daily basis, and both boycott and permanently replace them to erode the unwarranted influence they have used, and will continue to use against people the world over.

By Jim Naureckas

One of the more bizarre takes on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s death comes from Associated Press business reporter Pamela Sampson (3/5/13):

Chavez invested Venezuela’s oil wealth into social programs including state-run food markets, cash benefits for poor families, free health clinics and education programs. But those gains were meager compared with the spectacular construction projects that oil riches spurred in glittering Middle Eastern cities, including the world’s tallest building in Dubai and plans for branches of the Louvre and Guggenheim museums in Abu Dhabi.

That’s right: Chavez squandered his nation’s oil money on healthcare, education and nutrition when he could have been building the world’s tallest building or his own branch of the Louvre. What kind of monster has priorities like that?

In case you’re curious about what kind of results this kooky agenda had, here’s a chart (NACLA, 10/8/12) based on World Bank poverty stats–showing the proportion of Venezuelans living on less than $2 a day falling from 35 percent to 13 percent over three years. (For comparison purposes, there’s a similar stat for Brazil, which made substantial but less dramatic progress against poverty over the same time period.)

Of course, during this time, the number of Venezuelans living in the world’s tallest building went from 0 percent to 0 percent, while the number of copies of the Mona Lisa remained flat, at none. So you have to say that Chavez’s presidency was overall pretty disappointing–at least by AP‘s standards.

US corporate-financier funded think-tank, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), declared in its “post-Chávez checklist for US policymakers,” that the US must move quickly to reorganize Venezuela according to US interests. Upon its checklist were “key demands”:

  • The ouster of narco-kingpins who now hold senior posts in government
  • The respect for a constitutional succession
  • The adoption of meaningful electoral reforms to ensure a fair campaign environment and a transparent vote count in expected presidential elections; and
  • The dismantling of Iranian and Hezbollah networks in Venezuela

In reality, AEI is talking about dismantling entirely the obstacles that have prevented the US and the corporate-financier interests that direct it, from installing a client regime and extracting entirely Venezuela’s wealth while obstructing, even dismantling the progress and geopolitical influence achieved by the late President Hugo Chavez throughout South America and beyond.

The AEI “checklist” continues by stating:

Now is the time for US diplomats to begin a quiet dialogue with key regional powers to explain the high cost of Chávez’s criminal regime, including the impact of chavista complicity with narcotraffickers who sow mayhem in Colombia, Central America, and Mexico. Perhaps then we can convince regional leaders to show solidarity with Venezuelan democrats who want to restore a commitment to the rule of law and to rebuild an economy that can be an engine for growth in South America.

Of course, by “Venezuelan democrats,” AEI means Wall Street-backed  proxies like Henrique Capriles Radonski and his Primero Justicia (Justice First) political front, two entities the Western media is already gearing up to support ahead of anticipated elections.


West Has Positioned Proxies to Strip Venezuela to the Bone After Chavez’ Passing

Primero Justicia (Justice First) was co-founded by Leopoldo Lopez and Julio Borges, who like Radonski, have been backed for nearly a decade by the US State Department. Primero Justicia and the network of foreign-funded NGOs that support it have been recipients of both direct and indirect foreign support for at least just as long.

Image: US State Department document (archived) illustrating the role National Endowment for Democracy (NED)-funded NGOs play in supporting US-backed opposition figures in Venezuela. The US regularly fails to transparently list who is included in extensive funding NED provides opposition groups in Venezeula, so documents like this give a rare glimpse into the names and dynamics actually involved. As was suspected, NED money is going into networks providing support for current presidential candidate, Henrique Capriles Radonski.  In this particular document, NED-funded Sumate’s legal trouble is described in relation to its attempted defense of Radonski. At the time this document was written, Radonski was in jail pending trial for his role in facilitating the 2002 US-backed failed coup against President Hugo Chavez. The document may still be online at the US State Department’s official website here.

….

All three co-founders are US educated – Radonski having attended New York’s Columbia University (Spanish), Julio Borges attending Boston College and Oxford (Spanish), and Leopoldo Lopez who attended the Harvard Kennedy School of Government (KSG), of which he is considered an alumni of (and here).

The Harvard Kennedy School, which hosts the notorious Belfer Center, includes the following faculty and alumni of  Lopez, co-founder of the current US-backed opposition in Venezuela:

John P. Holdren, Samantha Power, Lawrence Summers, Robert Zoellick, (all as faculty), as well as Ban Ki-Moon (’84), Paul Volcker (’51), Robert Kagan (’91), Bill O’Reilly (’96), Klaus Schwab (’67), and literally hundreds of senators, ambassadors, and administrators of Wall Street and London’s current global spanning international order. Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government (KSG) is clearly one of several universities that form the foundation of both creating corporate-financier driven globalist-international policy, as well as cultivating legions of administrators to execute it.

To understand fully the implications of Lopez’ education it helps to understand the leadership and principles guiding Harvard’s mission statements, best exemplified by KSG’ Belfer Center, which to this day, lends its public support to Lopez and his Primero Justicia opposition party.

Image: John P. Holdren (bearded, left), an advocate for population reduction through forced sterilization overseen by a “planetary regime,” is just one of many “colorful” characters to be found within the halls of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government from which Primero Justicia co-founder Leopoldo Lopez of Venezuela graduated. To this day, KSG provides forums in support of US-backed opposition bids at seizing power in Venezuela. 

….

Named after Robert Belfer of the Belco Petroleum Corporation and later, director of the failed Enron Corporation, the Belfer Center describes itself as being “the hub of the Harvard Kennedy School’s research, teaching, and training in international security affairs, environmental and resource issues, and science and technology policy.” Robert Belfer still sits in as an International Council Member.

Belfer’s director, Graham Allison provides an example of self-serving corporatism steering US policy. He was a founder of the Trilateral Commission, a director of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a consultant to the RAND Corporation, Director of the Getty Oil Company, Natixis, Loomis Sayles, Hansberger, Taubman Centers, Inc., and Belco Oil and Gas, as well as a member of the advisory boards of Chase Bank, Chemical Bank, Hydro-Quebec, and the shady International Energy Corporation, all according to his official Belfer Center bio.

Other questionable personalities involved as Belfer alumnus are Goldman Sachs, CFR member, and former-World Bank president Robert Zoellick. Sitting on the board of directors is CFR member and former Goldman Sachs consultant, Ashton Carter. There is also former director of Citigroup and Raytheon, former Director of Central Intelligence and CFR member John Deutch, who required a pardon by Clinton to avoid prosecution over a breach of security while fumbling his duties at the CIA. Meanwhile, Nathaniel Rothschild of Atticus Capital and RIT Capital Partners, Paul Volcker of the Federal Reserve, and former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff all serve as Belfer Center’s “advisers.”

Last but not least, there is John P. Holdren, also a Council on Foreign Relations member, science adviser to both President Clinton and President Obama, and co-author with Paul Ehrilich, of the now notorious “Ecoscience.” When Holdren isn’t brand-building for “Climate Disruption,” he is dreaming of a Malthusian fueled totalitarian global government that forcibly sterilizes the world’s population. He feared, erroneously, that overpopulation would be the end of humanity. He claimed in his hubris filled, fact deficient book, “The No Growth Society,” that by the year 2040, the United States would have a dangerously unsustainable population of 280 million he called “much too many.” The current US population is over 300 million, and despite reckless leadership and policies, it is still sustainable.

One could argue that Lopez’ education is in his past, independent of his current political activities, however, the interests driving the agenda of the Belfer Center are demonstrably still backing his Primero Justicia party’s bid for seizing power in Venezuela. Lopez, Radonski, and Borges are to this day still receiving substantial funding and support through NGO networks funded directly by the US State Department’s National Endowment for Democracy, and is clearly favored by the Western press. Furthermore, the CFR, Heritage Foundation, and other corporate-financier driven think-tanks have all come out in support of Radonski and Primero Justicia, in their bid to “restore democracy” American-style in Venezuela.

With Chavez’ passing, the names of these opposition figures will become mainstays of Western reporting ahead of anticipated elections the West is eager to have held – elections the West is well positioned to manipulate in favor of Lopez, Radonski, and Borges.

Whatever one may have thought about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his policies, he nationalized his nation’s oil, forcing out foreign multinational corporations, diversified his exports to reduce dependency on Western markets (with US exports at a 9 year low), and had openly opposed corporate-financier neo-imperialism across the globe. He was an obstruction to Western hegemony – an obstruction that has provoked overt, depraved jubilation from his opponents upon his death.

And while many critics are quick to claim President Chavez’ policies are a “failure,” it would be helpful to remember that the US, on record, has arrayed its vast resources both overtly and covertly against the Venezuelan people over the years to ensure that any system outside the West’s sphere of influence inevitably fails.

Dark Days Ahead.

Dark days indeed lay ahead for Venezuela, with the AEI “checklist” foreshadowing an “uprising,” stating:

As Venezuelan democrats wage that struggle against chavismo, regional leaders must make clear that Syria-style repression will never be tolerated in the Americas. We should defend the right of Venezuelans to struggle democratically to reclaim control of their country and its future. Only Washington can make clear to Chinese, Russian, Iranian, and Cuban leaders that, yes, the United States does mind if they try to sustain an undemocratic and hostile regime in Venezuela. Any attempt to suppress their self-determination with Chinese cash, Russian arms, Iranian terrorists, or Cuban thuggery will be met with a coordinated regional response.

US military contractors and special forces had been caught operating in and around Venezuela. Just as there were warning signs in Syria years before the 2011 conflict began, the US’ intentions of provoking bloodshed and regime change in Venezuela stretch back as far as 2002. Just as Syria is now facing a Western-engineered proxy war, Venezuela will too, with the AEI already declaring US plans to wage a Syria-style proxy war in South America.

The AEI also reminds readers of the West’s faux-human rights, “economic development,” and “democracy promotion” racket Hugo Chavez had ejected from Venezuela and displaced across parts of South America, and the West’s desire to reestablish it:

US development agencies should work with friends in the region to form a task force of private sector representatives, economists, and engineers to work with Venezuelans to identify the economic reforms, infrastructure investments, security assistance, and humanitarian aid that will be required to stabilize and rebuild that country. Of course, the expectation will be that all the costs of these activities will be borne by an oil sector restored to productivity and profitability.

Finally, we need to work with like-minded nations to reinvigorate regional organizations committed to democracy, human rights, anti-drug cooperation, and hemispheric solidarity, which have been neutered by Chávez’s destructive agenda.

As the US openly funds, arms, and backs Al Qaeda in Syria, conducts global renditions, operates an international archipelago of torture dungeons, and is only now wrapping up a decade of subjugation and mass murder in Iraq and Afghanistan that is still claiming lives and jeopardizing the future of millions to this day, it is difficult to discern just who the AEI’s target audience is. It is most likely those who can read between the lines – the corporate-financier vultures waiting for the right moment to strip Venezuela to the bone.

The fate of Venezuela lies in its people’s hands. Covert destabilization must be faced by the Venezuelan people, while the alternative media must do its best to unravel the lies already being spun ahead of long-planned operations in “post-Chavez Venezuela.” For the rest of us, we must  identify the corporate-financier interests driving this agenda, – interests we most likely patronize on a daily basis, and both boycott and permanently replace them to erode the unwarranted influence they have used, and will continue to use against the Venezuelan people, as well as people across the globe.

Democracy, Disillusion and The Political Process

March 7th, 2013 by Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin

A new nationwide opinion poll in Ireland has shown that people are becoming more and more disillusioned with the political process leading one to wonder if democracy (people rule) has simply become demopsefia (people vote). This type of disillusionment is becoming widespread across Europe in general. While no one is naive enough to believe all the promises of politicians, in recent years the desires of the electorate seem to be ever more blatantly subsumed to the financial interests/problems of recent governments.

While in the past clientelism and patronage produced some semblance of benefit to the voters, the deepening financial crisis and unemployment is breaking down the old ways of thinking and behaving. Voters are becoming just that, voters. And as such, are starting to wonder what is the point of voting at all? Thus we have an increase in the third main aspect of the current crisis, emigration.  According to Aideen Sheehan emigration is ‘at famine levels’ as 200 leave country every day: ‘Some 87,000 people emigrated from Ireland in the year to April 2012, three times as many as the annual exodus during the boom years.’  Another source states that:  ‘More than half of those who left the country in the 12 months up to April [2012] were Irish and almost 36,000 were under the age of 25, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) said.’

We have come a long way from the desires of the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth century, whereby, as the former President of Ireland Mary Robinson writes:

‘The motto of The Irish Citizen newspaper, published by the Irish Women’s Franchise League from 1912 to 1920, encapsulates not only the ideals of the campaign for female suffrage in Ireland but the longing of women the world over to be equal and active citizens in their societies: “For men and women equally the rights of citizenship; from men and women equally the duties of citizenship.”’

The sleight-of-hand conversion of the citizen into consumer only works insofar as the consumer has the wherewithal to consume. Another recent surveyrevealed that ‘Irish consumer sentiment plunged five percentage points in February [2013] as the effects of January sales faded and a deal to restructure a €30 billion government debt failed to boost confidence.’

Furthermore, there is no reason to believe that consumer confidence will improve with the range of new taxes being prepared by the government at the moment. The downward spiral caused by taking more and more money out of the economy to pay government debts is reflected in the comment by KBC Bank economist Austin Hughes who remarked that: ‘The Irish consumer is seeing an improvement in ‘macro’ conditions across the economy but their personal finances remain under pressure.’

Yet while consumers become disillusioned and young people vote with their feet, the belief that the democratic system is not simply about voting on who will win/lose their well-paid jobs in the government is alive and well in the growing immigrant community in Ireland. At the Irish Citizenship Ceremony held in Dublin last year almost 4,000 people from 115 countries became Ireland’s newest citizens. According to Charlie Taylor in the Irish Times:

‘Attorney General Máire Whelan SC and retired justice Bryan McMahon presided over four ceremonies at which 3,800 individuals were sworn as Irish citizens, having made a declaration of loyalty to the nation and fidelity to the State as well as undertaking to faithfully observe the laws of the State and respect its democratic values.’

The enthusiasm of Ireland’s newest citizens was evident. ‘I am very excited today because I have been here for so long working hard to get my citizenship’ said Maria Elizabeth Mallo (50) from the Philippines who has lived in Roscommon for the past 10 years.

Is it possible that this enthusiasm for citizenship ignited by a newly globalised population will push the superficial concept of consumer (not to mention its manipulability) over the edge and bring about a return to a national ideology of rights and duties of citizenship? We are not beholden to the state for whatever we have or consume – we pay taxes and uphold the laws that keep the state in existence. To narrow the concept of citizen to the concept of consumer leaves out elites in society who have absolutely no loyalty to any state yet gain all the benefits. By re-defining ourselves as citizens again and re-imagining what kind of society we want to live in, surely we can put our votes to better use?

Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin is a prominent Irish artist who has exhibited widely around Ireland. His work consists of paintings based on cityscapes of Dublin, Irish history and geopolitical themes (http://gaelart.net/). His blog of critical writing based on cinema, art and politics along with research on a database of Realist and Social Realist art from around the world can be viewed country by country at http://gaelart.blogspot.ie/.

Wireless Smart Meters and Civil Rights

March 6th, 2013 by William Boardman

What do you call it when the police come onto your property over your objection, without a warrant, and then arrest you for blocking the installation of a surveillance device?  You call it smart meter installation in Naperville, Illinois, one of the few places where there’s still resistance to the unproven devices.

Naperville, with a city-owned electric utility, has almost finished installing all its smart meters.   In March it plans to “conduct a [1]public proceeding[1] in order to consider proposed Federal energy standards and decide whether it will implement these proposed standards or decline to do so,” as required by federal law.

Naperville, where the police arrested a woman for filming public officials carrying out their public duties, all the while being filmed by a TV camera crew, may be an unusual place, but the issues raised by smart meters are national and global.  The woman, arrested on a public sidewalk, was charged with [2]“attempted eavesdropping.”[2]

With almost 50 million residential [3]wireless smart meters[3] installed in the United States by the end of 2012, smart meters have largely disappeared from news media at all levels, even though their usefulness and safety are no more assured now than when they were first proposed years ago.

Even Backers Offer No Guarantees for Smart Meters 

The projected usefulness of wireless smart meters won’t be measurable until they have been more widely installed and in use for some time.  The most likely use will be a utility’s ability to raise electric rates by charging more when usage is highest.

Utilities might justify this by the cost of installing and operating wireless meter networks, although the installation has been heavily subsidized and utilities made the choice to use wireless meters even though a wired meter network is more stable and less expensive to operate.

The human health effects of wireless smart meters have yet to be demonstrated, since their impact is cumulative over time.  Basically the utilities are running a massive health experiment and most of the population will be the guinea pigs.

The security of wireless smart meters from hackers, government surveillance, marketing data collectors, or anyone else has yet to be demonstrated.  There is generally no protection, for example, preventing utilities from monitoring behavior and selling the data.

Despite these uncertainties, the relentless coercion exercised by governments and government-regulated utilities across the country has successfully overwhelmed  resistance in all but a few places.

City Arrests Single Moms for Opposing Smart Meters 

In Naperville, the city not only proceeded with its smart meter installation before holding public proceedings required by law, the city also went forward in the face of a [4]pending federal lawsuit[4] that sought an injunction against their doing exactly what they did.

In other words, the events of January 24 did not come out of nowhere, but could be seen as a deliberate attempt by the city to install smart meters on people before the court could stop them.   Of the numerous [5]videos documenting Naperville[5] activities, including outspoken criticism of the city’s actions.  One video, that has [6]over 72,000 views,[6] shows utility workers stepping over a locked private gate onto private property, without permission but with police protection.

Besides its pending federal lawsuit and belated public proceeding, Naperville also has local elections coming up in April.  Although [7]the Chicago Tribune[7] has provided consistent coverage of Naperville’s determination to impose smart meters on every electricity customer without exception, the story has had little coverage elsewhere.

More typically, the first line of coercion by government and utilities is a fundamental blackmail tactic: governments allow utilities to charge electricity consumers an extra fee for NOT having  a wireless smart meter installed at their residence.  In exchange, the governments and utilities produce no warranty of safety, efficacy, or security.

Vermont May Be Alone in Protecting Citizens 

Vermont is apparently the only state to have legislated this blackmail tactic out of legal existence.   Vermont customers not only have the right to opt our of smart meter installation at no cost, Vermont customers can also change their minds and have utilities remove smart meters at no cost to customers.

In contrast, [8]Texas is currently considering[8] allowing customers to opt out, but only  for a fee.  This is similar to laws that already exist in Arizona, Nevada, California, Oregon, and Wisconsin.   As elsewhere, smart meter opposition in Texas has been spotty.  A group calling itself [9]“Texans United Against Smart Meters”[9] is holding a  public hearing and demonstration in Austin on March 4, which they characterize as “a do or die point in our fight against Smart Meters.”

Democrats and Labor: A Tale of Abuse

March 6th, 2013 by Shamus Cooke

The Democratic Party’s participation in the recent national “sequester” cuts is yet another big dent in their love affair with organized labor. But break-ups are often a protracted process. Before a relationship ends there is usually a gradual deterioration based on irreconcilable differences, until the split becomes inevitable. The decades-long marriage of labor unions and the Democratic Party is nearing such a divorce. Labor unions are becoming frustrated as the Democrats flaunt their affair with corporate America and Wall Street.

What are some of the issues driving towards separation? It just seems that no matter how much labor leaders shower the politicians with money and affection, the Democrats just aren’t returning the love.

Although the Democrats were always a fickle partner, their coldness evolved into aggression under Bill Clinton, who oversaw a slew of anti-worker legislation, most notably NAFTA and welfare “reform.”

Obama has continued this rightwards trajectory, while portraying himself brilliantly as the “lesser evil” compared with the more honest anti-union rhetoric of the Republicans. He fulfilled none of his promises to labor in 2008, and essentially ignored all labor issues in his 2012 campaign. Labor leaders misinterpreted Obama as playing “hard to get,” when in fact the Democratic Party had already moved on.

To prove his fidelity to his new crush, Wall Street, Obama has made it a pet project to target the most powerful union in the country — the teachers’ union — for destruction. Obama’s innocent-sounding Race to the Top education reform is in actuality an anti-union dismembering of public education, with its promotion of charter schools and its mass closings of public high schools that Obama labels as “failing.” Bush, Jr.’s anti-union No Child Left Behind looks innocent compared to Obama’s education “reform.”

In fact, Obama has overseen the worst environment for organized labor since Ronald Reagan. But the problem is bigger than Obama. It’s the entire Democratic Party. For example, Democratic governors across the United States continue to work in tandem with Republicans in weakening public employee unions — the last bastion of real strength in the labor movement.

The Democrats have chosen to blame labor unions for the economic crisis and the consequent budget deficits affecting the states. These deficits have been used to attack the wages, health care, and pensions of public employees on a state-by-state basis, fundamentally weakening these unions while skewing the labor market in favor of the employers.

What some labor leaders fail to understand is that political parties like the Democrats are centralized organizations that share certain beliefs, and execute these ideas in a united fashion. It isn’t merely a coincidence that every Democratic governor in the United States has chosen a similar anti-labor path, its policy. There has been a fundamental shift in the Democratic Party’s relation to labor unions, and it is on display for everyone to see.

Not all labor leaders are feigning blindness to these facts. The president of the nation’s largest teachers’ union, Dennis Van Roekel, summarized teachers’ experience with the Obama Administration:

“Today our members face the most anti-educator, anti-union, anti-student environment I have ever experienced.” He was referring largely to Obama’s above-mentioned Race to the Top education program.

Van Roekel’s union, the National Education Association (NEA), also passed an excellent resolution at their national convention blasting Obama’s Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, for his anti-public education and anti-union policies.

But of course Arne Duncan is simply implementing the policies of his boss, President Obama. And Obama is simply implementing the policies of his boss, corporate America, which is insisting that market relations are imposed on public education. After passing the above resolution, the NEA leadership shamefully pressured its membership to campaign for the Obama Administration, akin to a survivor of domestic violence going to bat for the batterer.

The president of the large national public employee union American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Lee Saunders, also lashed out against the Democrats recently:

I am sick and tired of the fair-weather Democrats. They date us, take us to the prom, marry us, and then divorce us right after the honeymoon. I am sick and tired of the so-called friends who commend us when they’re running for election, but condemn us after they’ve won. I am sick and tired of the politicians who stand with us behind closed doors, but kick us to the curb in front of the cameras. I’m here to tell you that’s bullshit and we’re not gonna take it anymore.

Accurate remarks, but they were limited to a couple of select Democratic mayors and governors. Again, there is more than a “few bad apple” Democrats who are anti-labor; the whole party is sick with this cancer.

In private, all labor leaders acknowledge this fact. Politico reports:

Top labor leaders excoriated President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in a closed session of the AFL-CIO’s executive board meeting…Furious union presidents complained about budget cuts, a new [free] trade agreement and what some view as their abandonment, even by their typically reliable allies among Senate Democrats.

Presidents of several unions and an AFL-CIO spokesman declined to repeat their private criticism to a reporter Tuesday, a sign that labor feels it must still try to maintain a relationship with the Democratic Party, even if it’s deeply troubled.

So while the presidents of these unions speak honestly amongst themselves, they feel obligated to mis-educate their membership about the above facts. Labor leaders consistently minimize the Democrats’ role in anti-union policies, while exaggerating any morsel that can be construed to be pro-union. A mis-educated union membership makes for a weakened union movement.

When President Obama gave a largely right-wing state of the union address that included more corporate free trade agreements, more education “reform,” cuts to Medicare, and no plan to address the ongoing jobs crisis, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka responded shamefully by saying:

Tonight, President Obama sent a clear message to the world that he will stand and fight for working America’s values and priorities.

Again, Trumka knows better. He should tell union members the truth. The AFL-CIO and other unions have lied about President Obama’s role in the national “sequester” cuts, blaming the whole thing on the Republicans. The truth, however, is that Obama formed the “the deficit reduction committee” that gave birth to the sequester. He failed to take any significant action to prevent the cuts, because he agrees with them.

Rank-and-file union members aren’t stupid. They realize it when their paychecks shrink, when their health care costs skyrocket, when their pensions are destroyed, when they’re laid off, or when they campaign for Democrats who betray them post-election. Union leaders are creating distrust within their membership as they continue down a political road that has left labor weakened and politically tied to a “partner” that’s abusing it.

The Democrats have gone “all in” with Wall Street and the corporations. The big banks now feel as comfortable throwing campaign donations towards the Democrats as the Republicans. Labor unions can’t compete with Wall Street’s cash.

Breaking with the Democrats is long overdue. And once this is done union members will likely choose the path taken by labor unions in nearly every developed country: the creation of a labor party, with its own platform, funding, and member activists.

Such a party could appeal directly to all working people by demanding that a federal jobs program be immediately implemented to put those unemployed to work as well as fighting to save and expand Social Security and Medicare, while taxing the rich and corporations to fully fund public education and other social services. Such a platform would create a massive contrast to the mainstream corporate-bought parties that exist today, and thus attract millions of members and millions more voters.

 

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org)  He can be reached at [email protected]

Confounding was the Australian’s (newspaper) recent op-ed titled, “Death of a ruthless autocrat,” in regards to the late Hugo Chavez. Confounding not for the op-ed’s condemnation of socialist policies or its criticism of Hugo Chavez, an obstruction to Western corporate-financier interests in South America for over a decade, but because of the obscene hypocrisy displayed throughout, from a newspaper and a corporate-financier-academic establishment in Australia that coddles a figure in nearby Thailand that is every bit as guilty of everything it accuses Chavez of.

Image: When is blood-red socialism ok (Thailand) and when is it “ruthless autocracy” (Venezuela)? The answer depends on whether or not you serve Wall Street and London’s international order. Contrary to popular belief, socialism is not a unified global ideology and is instead like any tool – only as good or bad as the hands it finds itself in. The use of socialism by two governments no more indicates an affiliation than would guns in the hands of two opposing armies on a battlefield.

….

The piece begins with:

HE was lionised as a hero by the Western Left, of course, but it would be hard to find a leader in recent history who more comprehensively betrayed the wellbeing of his country than Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. He was driven by an irrational, demagogic and self-defeating antagonism towards Washington that blinded him to his nation’s best interests.

The rambling narrative of the Australian equates to condemning Venezuela for not opening itself up to Western exploitation, domination by corporate-financier monopolies, and the folly of its challenging of the West’s campaign of global aggression from Mali, Libya, and Syria, to Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq.


In fact, the Australian itself makes a point of condemning Chavez for his support of Saddam Hussein, who’s nation was occupied by the West during a brutal 10 year war, following a decade of sanctions that in total cost the lives of over 2 million Iraqis (including half a million children) and still counting.  The Australian implies that Chavez was wrong to support Iraq, despite documented evidence that the Western assault on Iraq was waged upon a patently false pretense.

The Australian condemns Chavez’ “populist economics” and ends its piece by stating:

Thumbing your nose at Washington and aligning your country with the world’s worst dictatorships is a recipe for disaster. Those who come after Mr Chavez should see that and change course.

Thumbing your nose at Washington and its interests is indeed a recipe for disaster, as has been thumbing your nose at brutal empires throughout human history. Your nation will become the target of covert military operations, terrorism, political subversion, and economic sabotage, the very root of Venezuela’s current malaise. Thumb your nose long and hard enough at the West, and you may even become subject to an outright invasion, as was the case in Iraq, Libya, Vietnam, and Afghanistan. Or, you may suffer a long-term proxy war, as Syria now faces.

In reality, the Australian reveals what Hugo Chavez was really guilty of. Not of being a “ruthless autocrat,” or of being a socialist, but of being independent and for having the nerve to challenge the extraterritorial interests of an increasingly violent and unhinged West.

Thaksin Shinawatra – Populist, Socialist, Ruthless Autocrat, and Darling of the West.

Of course, the most preposterous statement of the Australian’s op-ed would easily be, “but it would be hard to find a leader in recent history who more comprehensively betrayed the wellbeing of his country than Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.” The Australian might start with Thaksin Shinawatra of Thailand, propped up and coddled by the West since the 1990′s, and to this day given free passage throughout the West despite being a convicted criminal and a fugitive from the law in his native country.

The Australian’s editorial board itself has lent support to his despotic, nepotist regime, currently led by his own sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, defending him as a progressive, pro-democratic force in Thailand. In a 2011 Australian news article preceding Thailand’s national elections, no where is found the same venomous language directed at Chavez in describing Thaksin’s own populist/socialist schemes. No mention at all is made of Thaksin’s grotesque human rights record – the worst in Thai history, his intimidation of the press, and his habitual assault on any and all who challenge him.

Indeed, while the Australian calls Hugo Chavez a “ruthless autocrat,” it was Thaksin Shinawatra of Thailand who mass murdered 3,000 innocent people over the course of 90 days during a so-called “war on drugs” where police were sent into the streets to conduct extrajudicial executions. It would later be determined that most of the those murdered were not even involved in the drug trade. Human Rights Watch (HRW) would confirm this in their 2008 report titled, “Thailand’s ‘war on drugs’,” a follow up to the much more extensive 2004 report, “Not Enough Graves.”

To this day Thaksin counts his “war on drugs” as one of the many highlights of his 2001-2006 stint in office.  And while the Australian fails to remind readers of this inconvenient fact, other Western propagandists, such as the Economist, boldly defend the mass murder that took place under his ruthless regime. In its op-ed titled, “Thailand’s drug wars: Back on the offensive,” the Economist states:

Faced with soaring methamphetamine abuse, Mr Thaksin ordered the police to draw up blacklists of suspected traffickers and “to act decisively and without mercy”.

The Economist would also go on to say:

On the streets of Khlong Toey, the largest slum in Bangkok, there is nostalgia for Mr Thaksin’s iron-fisted drugs policy. The 2003 crackdown drove up prices, smashed trafficking networks and forced addicts into rehabilitation programmes. In drug-ravaged communities, where the ends tend to justify the means, that was enough to turn Mr Thaksin into a hero.

The Economist finishes its op-ed by lamenting that the then military-led government which ousted Thaksin in 2006, had not kept up Thaksin’s abhorrent, extrajudicial campaign of mass murder:

You might expect a military junta with sweeping powers to have kept up the fight against such illicit activity. Anti-narcotics officials say that drug seizures have risen since the military coup in September 2006.

And more recently, the Huffington Post hosted Stanley Weiss of the Business Executives for National Security (BENS) and his op-ed titled, “The Oracle of Thailand,” where he praises Thaksin Shinawatra’s populist-socialist policies and suggests the US would be better off if it applied his “Thaksinomics” across America. Weiss openly admits that Thaksin Shinwatra, despite being a convicted criminal and living in exile, is running the country by nepotist proxy. Yet, he defends what he considers a brilliant exploitation of Thailand’s desperately poor, notoriously under-educated rural population, spinning it as:

The great innovation of Thaksin and Pansak (along with U.S.-trained academic Somkid Jatusripitak) was “the increased role of government in the allocation of credit,” as Chulalongkorn University Professor Pasuk Phongpaichit writes. But not just anywhere: “Thaksinomics” focused the government’s attention on the poor and rural areas of Thailand. Arguing that “a country is a company and a company is a country,” the self-described “CEO Prime Minister” approached the national economy like a business, looking for ways, as Pasuk explains, to “mobilize any dormant or unexploited assets including unused natural resources and neglected human resources.”

Tapping unused reserves of credit in the state banking system, the team created one rural credit fund after another. To lower household expenses, they offered low-cost housing and health insurance; provided subsidized credit for buying taxis and provided loans for children to get to school.

One might wonder how that is any different than what Hugo Chavez did in Venezuela, who also won over the population in part by using state money to subsidize his support base. The difference is simple: Hugo Chavez used socialism to co-opt the population in opposition to the Wall Street-London international order, while Thaksin Shinwatra co-opted Thailand’s rural poor on behalf of Wall Street and London’s interests.Weiss’ BENS front is lined with representatives of America’s Fortune 500 who have played a pivotal role in both Thaksin’ rise to power, and his continued relevance in Thai politics.

Thaksin had been prime minister from 2001-2006. Long before Thaksin Shinwatra would become prime minister in Thailand, he was already working his way up the Wall Street-London ladder of opportunity, while simultaneously working his way up in Thai politics. He was appointed by the Carlyle Group as an adviser while holding public office, and attempted to use his connections to boost his political image. Thanong Khanthong of Thailand’s English newspaper “the Nation,” wrote in 2001:

“In April 1998, while Thailand was still mired in a deep economic morass, Thaksin tried to use his American connections to boost his political image just as he was forming his Thai Rak Thai Party. He invited Bush senior to visit Bangkok and his home, saying his own mission was to act as a “national matchmaker” between the US equity fund and Thai businesses. In March, he also played host to James Baker III, the US secretary of state in the senior Bush administration, on his sojourn in Thailand.”

Upon becoming prime minister in 2001, Thaksin would begin paying back the support he received from his Western sponsors. In 2003, he would commit Thai troops to the US invasion of Iraq, despite widespread protests from both the Thai military and the public. Thaksin would also allow the CIA to use Thailand for its abhorrent rendition program.

In 2004, Thaksin attempted to ramrod through a US-Thailand Free-Trade Agreement (FTA) without parliamentary approval, backed by the US-ASEAN Business Council who just before 2011′s elections that saw Thaksin’s sister Yingluck Shinawatra brought into power, hosted the leaders of Thaksin’s “red shirt” “United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship” (UDD).

Image: The US-ASEAN Business Council, a who’s-who of corporate fascism in the US, had been approached by leaders of Thaksin Shinwatra’s “red shirt” street mobs. (click image to enlarge)
….

The council in 2004 included 3M, war profiteering Bechtel, Boeing, Cargill, Citigroup, General Electric, IBM, the notorious Monsanto, and currently also includes banking houses Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Chevron, Exxon, BP, Glaxo Smith Kline, Merck, Northrop Grumman, Monsanto’s GMO doppelganger Syngenta, as well as Phillip Morris.

Photo: Deposed autocrat, Thaksin Shinawatra before the CFR on the even of the 2006 military coup that would oust him from power. Since 2006 he has had the full, unflinching support of Washington, Wall Street and their immense propaganda machine in his bid to seize back power.
….

Thaksin would remain in office until September of 2006. On the eve of the military coup that ousted him from power, Thaksin was literally standing before the Fortune 500-funded Council on Foreign Relations giving a progress report in New York City.

Since the 2006 coup that toppled his regime, Thaksin has been represented by US corporate-financier elites via their lobbying firms including, Kenneth Adelman of the Edelman PR firm (Freedom House, International Crisis Group, PNAC), James Baker of Baker Botts (CFR), Robert Blackwill of Barbour Griffith & Rogers (CFR), Kobre & Kim, and currently Robert Amsterdam of Amsterdam & Peroff (Chatham House).

Robert Amsterdam of Amsterdam & Peroff, would also simultaneously represent Thaksin’s “red shirt” UDD movement, and was present for the inaugural meeting of the so-called “academic” Nitirat group, attended mostly by pro-Thaksin red shirts (who literally wore their red shirts to the meeting). Additional support for Thaksin and his UDD street-front is provided by the US State Department via National Endowment for Democracy-funded “NGO” Prachatai.”

Time to Grow Up 

It is time for the general population to refine their understanding of socioeconomic-political processes. Socialism is not an internationally unified political ideology. It is a set of tools that is only as good or as bad as the hands that wield them. And just because these tools can be found in two different hands, does not mean that both hands serve the same agenda – no more so than would guns in two opposing armies’ hands indicate a mutual agenda or alliance.

Hugo Chavez used socialism to build a support base, because if he didn’t, Wall Street and London would do it themselves with their proxy opposition front in Venezuela – just as they have done in Thailand with Thaksin Shinwatra.

The proof is in the West’s own narrative, where they hypocritically celebrate Thaksin Shinawatra’s “Thaksinomics” while condemning Chavez’ “Chavismo.” It would appear that socialism is only “ok” if it is used to co-opt the population for the interests of Wall Street and London. “Thumb your nose” at the West, and it doesn’t matter what socioeconomic strategy you employ, you are a “ruthless autocrat” whose days are numbered and whose memory will be immediately defiled upon your passing.

Governments do not adhere to political ideologies, they simply use them when and where profitable. In the US where a corporate-financier oligarchy literally writes the policy for politicians on both sides of the aisle, the use of socialism and “free market” economics is done in tandem to achieve a multitude of goals that would be impossible using only one or the other. While the West itself placates its population with socialism, such policies are condemned when employed contra to their interests, especially when used to galvanize a population against Western advances – as was the case in Chavez’ Venezuela.

In reality, socialism is but a single tool. An entire nation cannot be sustained upon it, no more than an entire house can be built using only a hammer. The true test of a government is not whether it uses socialism or not, but with what other tools it employs it. A nation must seek to build upon socialism’s stop-gaps with sustainable, pragmatic solutions. Outside of Wall Street and London’s international order, many nations are doing just that, but progress is difficult to gauge when the West arrays the summation of its influence and power against such progress.

The general population’s habit of perceiving socialism, capitalism, or any other socioeconomic system as a unifying ideology is folly. The ruling elite, whichever side they stand on, do not see such systems as unifying ideologies, but merely tools. It is time for the general population to look at how these tools are used, and whose hands they are actually in, instead of fixating on the tool itself as being inherently “good” or “bad.”

The story of Chavez and Thaksin illustrates the double standards and hypocrisy hidden in plain sight and casts doubts on narratives proposing anyone using “socialism” is part of a unified global cabal. Such a notion falls flat unless financial and political ties can be documented. In the case of Hugo Chavez and Venezuela, the chasm between his movement and the West’s use of socialism couldn’t be any deeper or wider.

There can be no denying that unprecedented numbers of people, of all ages and creeds, are increasingly frustrated by the governmental and corporate financial machinations which keep them struggling to make ends meet while effectively jeopardizing their long-term potential to secure an adequate and fair standard of living.

Obama’s announcement this week of further government cutbacks (in the middle of a job crisis, no less) puts millions of people directly under the wheels of an economic steamroller that is being driven straight across the most vulnerable sectors of society.

Those who investigate deeper have come to see how the markets are manipulated by powerful figures to serve the interests of the few, the elite, the same individuals who control and determine economic trends and invariably direct them in their favour… at the expense of the broader public. As Paul Craig Roberts wrote:

“There was a time not that long ago when US corporations accepted that they had obligations to their employees, customers, suppliers, the communities in which they were located, and to their shareholders.  Today they only acknowledge obligations to shareholders. Everyone else has been thrown to the wolves in order to maximize profits and, thereby, shareholders’ capital gains and executive bonuses.” (The Missing US Economic Recovery, Global Research, March 4, 2013)

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Throughout his tenure, he ignored the best, brightest, most honorable and well qualified. He chose cabinet and other top picks he should have spurned.

He did again. He addressed reporters in the White House East Room. He “announc(ed nominations for) three outstanding individuals to help us tackle some of our most important challenges.”

He chose Sylvia Burwell as new Office of Management and Budget (OMB) director. She replaces Jeffrey Zients. She’s president of the Walmart Foundation.

Previously she was Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Global Development Program president. She prioritized profit making over good will.

In 2001, she joined the Gates Foundation. From 2002 – 2006, she was executive vice president, CEO and executive director.

Earlier she was Clinton’s OMB deputy director, assistant to the president, and deputy chief of staff. She served Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin in the same capacity.

Prior to entering government, she did financial consulting. She did so for McKinsey & Company.

She’s a Trilateralist. She’s a Council on Foreign Relations member. She serves on MetLife’s board of directors. She belongs to the Nike Foundation Advisory Group.

She’s an Aspen Institute member. She serves on its Strategy Group. It’s an elitist club. It’s international and influential. It’s comprised of businessmen, politicians, bureaucrats, and likeminded figures. They’re up to no good.

Center for Economic Policy & Research economist Dean Baker called her appointment “cause for concern.”

Author and filmmaker Kenneth Harvey said it’s “unnerving to suddenly find (Obama) in bed with Walmart.”

Nation magazine said it “wielded (the foundation’s) massive budget to expand the retail giant’s influence at all levels of government and to pave the way for store expansions.”

The Nation obtained a previously unreported document. It’s titled “Recognizing the Walmart Foundation For Its Good Works.”

It tells organizations “we are looking to the grantees that turn to the Walmart Foundation for funding to help us spread the word.”

Expect Burwell to sail through confirmation easily.

Obama chose Ernie Moniz as new Energy Secretary. He replaces Steven Chu.

He was Clinton’s Energy Department Under Secretary. He advised on overseas and DOE research and development, energy and environment technologies, national security, and various science issues.

He oversaw the national laboratory system. Doing so included national security programs, stockpile stewardship, and non-proliferation.

Earlier he was MIT Professor of Physics. He was its Institute of Technology’s Energy Initiative director. It’s funded by corporate heavyweights. They include BP, Chevron and Saudi Aramco.

Moniz directed research on coal’s future, nuclear energy and natural gas. He sought corporate backing to do so. He’s in bed with powerful interests he’s beholden to.

Expect them to take full advantage. Expect him to comply willingly.

Environmental groups are concerned. On February 21, Inside Climate News headlined “Moniz: Shale Gas Boom a Low-Carbon Solution – for Now,” saying:

He drew lots of fire for being “pro-industry.” It made him Obama’s top choice.

Food and Water Watch statement said “His appointment to the DOE could set renewable energy development back years.” It’s circulating a petition against him.

He doesn’t return requests for interviews. Perhaps he’ll feel otherwise now. He believes natural gas is “part of our energy solution for some time.”

He calls hydraulic fracking a “game-changer.” No politician in his view will “walk away from this,” he said.

He calls environmental risks manageable. They “can be mitigated to acceptable levels through appropriate regulation and oversight.” He said it knowing not to expect it.

Big Oil gets what it wants. He’s comfortable working with energy giants. He believes doing so will influence America’s energy future positively.

Earlier Moniz was Clinton’s Associate Director for Science in the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

His research interests include theoretical nuclear physics. He was MIT’s Bates Linear Accelerator Center director.

He served numerous universities, national laboratories, professional societies, and government agencies. He did so in advisory roles. Expect easy confirmation.

Obama chose Gina McCarthy EPA head. She’s an air quality expert. She’s EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation assistant administrator. She’ll replace Lisa Jackson if confirmed.

She’ll be involved in the Keystone XL Pipeline construction project. It’s a controversial 1,661-mile Alberta, Canada to Port Arthur, TX initiative.

Environmental groups strongly oppose it. They do so for good reason.

If completed, it’ll carry toxic tar sands oil from Western Canada to refineries on America’s Gulf coast. It’ll pass through environmentally sensitive areas.

They’re in six states. They include waterways and the Oballala Aquifer. It’s one of the world’s largest. In America, it supplies about 30% of the nation’s irrigation ground water.

Friends of the Earth says Keystone XL “will carry one of the world’s dirtiest fuels: tar sands oil.” Its route “could devastate ecosystems and pollute water sources, and would jeopardize public health.”

If completed, it’ll double America’s dirty tar sands oil supply. It’ll increase environmental toxicity.

Big Oil wants it. So do Republicans and conservative Democrats. Expect Obama to go along. He always does. McCarthy’s job is facilitating it. He chose her for that purpose. She’s got other corporate priorities to serve.

Her rhetoric has no bearing on policy. She’s beholden to powerful interests. Earlier she was Connecticut Department of Environment Protection commissioner. She served from 2004 – 2009.

From 1999 – 2003, she was Massachusetts Office of Commonwealth Development deputy secretary of operations. She  served five state governors. Mitt Romney was one.

Environmentalists hope she’ll address their concerns more responsibly. She wasn’t chosen to do so. She’s beholden to energy giant interests. So are Burwell and Moniz.

What corporate America wants, it gets. It’s in good hand with all three.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected]

His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

http://www.dailycensored.com/more-controversial-obama-appointments/

The Stock Market Bonanza

March 6th, 2013 by Barry Grey

Tuesday, four days after President Barack Obama signed the budget sequestration order unleashing brutal cuts in social programs, there was general jubilation in the media as the Dow Jones Industrial Average crashed through its previous high, dating from 2007.

The intervening period has been an unmitigated disaster for the vast bulk of humanity, including the broad mass of working people in the United States. The signs of social decay and suffering are everywhere. Unemployment remains at near-Depression levels. Poverty, hunger and homelessness continue to rise. Those workers with a job are working harder and longer than ever for lower wages and fewer benefits. The buying power of the wages of newly hired autoworkers is at or below the levels that prevailed in the 1930s.

Thousands of schools have been closed, hundreds of thousands of teachers laid off, and the public education system gutted to make way for for-profit charter schools.

Detroit, once a thriving metropolis and center of the world auto industry, has been turned into an impoverished and desolate city whose inhabitants face Third World conditions. It is about to be placed under a bankers’ dictatorship and very likely thrown into bankruptcy.

On Tuesday, as the New York Stock Exchange was hitting new heights, New York’s Coalition for the Homeless was reporting a different record. In January, an average of more than 50,000 people slept each night at a homeless shelter in the city, including over 21,000 children–more than 1 percent of the city’s youth.

Now the US government, with the sequester cuts as the down payment, is preparing to dismantle the core social programs remaining from the reforms of the 1930s and 1960s—Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

This social counterrevolution was inaugurated by the Wall Street crash of September 2008—the result of financial fraud and criminality on a colossal scale. Yet, amidst the still steaming rubble of the social tsunami they unleashed, the lords of finance are today able to celebrate their biggest heist ever.

How is this to be explained?

The media offers no explanation. The network commentators, in line with their six- and seven-figure salaries and their bulging portfolios, hail the new record on the stock market as though it were a national achievement. Rejoice, one and all!

In reality, the record highs on Wall Street are a measure of the scale of the theft of social resources carried out since the financial crash by the very parasites who were responsible for the collapse.

The obscene profits that are being made by the corporations and banks, the gargantuan pay packages that the CEOs are awarding themselves, the shameless fortunes that are being made through the manipulation of financial assets—in the midst of mass unemployment and austerity—none of this is seriously raised or questioned. The obvious contradiction between the official claims of “no money” for social needs and the vast sums sloshing around Wall Street is not even hinted at.

It is a fact that not a single leading banker or hedge fund speculator has been criminally prosecuted, let alone jailed, for crimes that have caused a level of misery, destruction and death that is incalculable. Instead, the Obama administration, both political parties and the entire panoply of official institutions—including the trade unions—have made it their business to ensure that every dollar lost by the financial aristocracy in the crash was paid back many times over.

Paid back by whom? By the working class in the US and the world, through the greatest assault on its living standards in history.

The latest surge in the stock market—which has soared almost without a hitch since the start of the year—is bound up with the fact that those in the know had been assured the White House and Congress would push through the sequester cuts. As a leading Bank of America executive told the New York Times this week, “The market wants more austerity.”

More broadly, since day one of the crisis the government has provided the banks with unlimited funds. Besides the trillions in cash injections, virtually interest-free loans and credit guarantees handed out by the Bush and Obama administrations and the Federal Reserve in the immediate aftermath of the September 2008 crash, the Fed has pumped trillions more into the financial markets through the dollar-printing operation knows as “quantitative easing.” This is currently running at $85 billion a month, or over $1 trillion a year—enough to cover the current budget deficit of the federal government.

Notwithstanding the pious disavowals of the Fed, it is financing the biggest financial bubble in history—with stocks, bonds and other financial assets at vastly inflated prices. With the White House and Congress refusing to impose any real bank reforms, the Fed has a green light to underwrite the same types of frenzied speculation that triggered the last financial meltdown, but on an even more vast scale.

The conditions are being created for another, more disastrous crash, but the financial plutocrats continue to plunder the country secure in the knowledge that they will, once again, be bailed out.

The events of 2008 definitively exposed the complete subordination of the government to the financial aristocracy. The developments since then have only confirmed this fact.

The record highs on Wall Street underscore the irreconcilable antagonism between the social needs of the people and the existing economic and political system. There are ample resources to guarantee every worker and young person a job at decent pay, a high quality education, decent housing and nutrition, access to culture, and a secure retirement—the basic social rights which every person should enjoy.

But they cannot be secured except through the mass struggle of the working class. The ill-gotten fortunes of the financial parasites must be expropriated and used to provide jobs, schools and housing. A revolutionary struggle is required to break the stranglehold of the financial oligarchy over the productive forces and place them under the democratic control of working people—that is, a struggle for socialism.

The question may not seem so far-fetched, as recent events have shown, the old continent is now confronted with ever (that is since the financial crisis first struck in 2008) deepening social fractures which have led to widening political instability. 

Throughout the EU, countries such as Italy, Portugal, Greece, Ireland, Spain and the latest state faced with a banking crisis or “financial meltdown”,that is Cyprus are all teetering on the edge of an economic abyss. What ails these euro zone states? It’s the draconian politics of austerity.  These low or no growth remedies imposed by non-elected officials have led to the fall of governments in the so called EU “core countries” including now Italy. New actors have emerged to take on the effete elite. The Beppe Grillo political phenomenon has sent a deafeningly loud message to the establishment.

Massively, austerity   with its adjunct deep social cuts, wage squeezes and endless “structural reforms”, has been rejected at the polling booth. The satirist cum politician, has not only provided some much needed  comic relief to a deeply discontented populace,  but  he  has also given vent to anger, or deep seated frustration with the out-going technocratic   government of Mario Monte. In the wake of the national elections, Italy seems destined to return back to an era of short lived coalition and chronic instability which characterized the political life of the country in the post-world war years. But much more worrisome for the Brussels “commissars” is what’s happening in the Balkans. Over there we might be seeing the beginnings of a really “civil society” led, yet not so peaceful revolution.

Balkans Spring?

Do events in Bulgaria mirror those of the Arab spring? Has the violence in North Africa crossed the Mediterranean via Greece to Bulgaria?  Yes it has, indeed. The confrontations between police and protestors in places like Varna and Sophia (sparked by rising energy costs, stagnant wages etc.)  have rocked the region to the same extend as those in Egypt or Tunisia.  And like in North Africa, the government in Sophia has fallen fast in the wake of popular unrest.

The death this week of Plamen Goranov due to self-immolation in Bulgaria is not unlike the protests actions of Mohamed Bonazizi, the Tunisian street vendor whose desperate act triggered massive demonstrations in his country, which later spread throughout the Maghreb.  Whatever similarities there might be between these dramatic events in history, the suicidal yet symbolic act of one man in Varna, has ignite done more powder keg in another highly volatile part of the world which is the Balkans; an area which as we all know, was a flashpoint ofa conflict which sparked the outbreak of the First World War and also was the venue of the ex-Yugoslavia war. Both wars altered the geopolitical face of Europe forever. And will likely do so again soon if the instability there continues.

Oxymoron: EU peace prize in times of great social, economic and political unrest on the continent

Where this growing popular unrest is leading is hard to tell. But one thing seems sure:  the EU is faced with widening instability not only in core states,but alsoin those on its periphery. That is the instability has spread beyond the Eurozone to the non-Eurozone states as well; or to Bulgaria, one of the newest member states but also one of its poorest. There is an explosive cocktail of dire poverty, widespread corruption and criminality known as “mafianomics” there, which characterizes boththe country and the region. This is not helpful.  But then neither are the policies of the troika: EU, IMF and European Central Bank. These policies devised in Brussels, Washington and Frankfurt are destabilizing not only Mediterranean anymore, but Europe and the Balkans as well. Europe’s underbelly is on fire. How long will it take before the conflagration reaches the EU’s inner core: that is France, and then Germany?

Will the widening social protests against austerity lead to a continent wide revolution as it did in 1848? Perhaps not, but the EU is faced with permanent fragmentation into blocs composed of “haves and have not” states which is reminiscent of pre-war and pre-revolutionary Europe. An unpalatable prospect indeed, for an institution which won the Nobel peace prize in 2012.

The Death of Hugo Chávez: Was it a Political Assassination?

March 6th, 2013 by Global Research News

Within hours of the announcement of the death of President Hugo Chávez, civil rights groups in the United States filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) demands with federal agencies seeking information and documents that “relate to or reference or discuss any information regarding or plans to poison or otherwise assassinate the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez.”

The records demands have been made to the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of State, and the Defense Intelligence Agency and have been filed by the civil rights legal organization, the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, the anti-war group, ANSWER Coalition and Liberation Newspaper.

The Venezuelan government is also calling for an investigation into the circumstances of President Chávez’s illness, specifically whether he was poisoned or deliberately exposed to cancer causing elements, according to NBC News and other media outlets.

The opening of the Freedom of Information Act reads as follows:

We are writing to request the following information on behalf of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, the ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), and Liberation Newspaper, pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552:

All records and documents, including but not limited to, emails, letters, cables or other communications, memoranda, notes, minutes, photographs, audio recordings, video recordings, digital recordings, intelligence assessments, communications, records or other data that relate to or reference or discuss any information regarding or plans to poison or otherwise assassinate the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, who has just died.

This request in made in light of the U.S. government’s acknowledged history of knowledge and possession of information regarding, and/or participation in, attempts to assassinate foreign leaders. The acknowledged attempts by the U.S. Government to assassinate foreign leaders, include Fidel Castro, Rafael Trujillo, and General René Schneider Chereau (See, e.g.., January 3, 1975 Memorandum of Conversation between President Gerald Ford and CIA Director William E. Colby), among others [secured by the National Security Archives pursuant to the FOIA].

This request is also made in light of the exhumation of Palestinian leader Yassar Arafat’s body to determine whether his death was caused by poisoning, including media reports that “[t]he Institute de Radiophysique discovered abnormal levels of polonium-210” in his personal effects, Chris McFreal, The Guardian, November 27, 2012, Yasser Arafat Exhumed and Reburied in Six-Hour Night Mission: Samples Taken From Corpse of Late PLO Leader Will Be Used to Investigate Claims He Was Poisoned With a Radioactive Substance; Arafat’s Body is Exhumed for Poison Tests, New York Times, November 28, 2012.

As described further below, the public has an urgent and compelling need for information underlying any effort to assassinate the President of Venezuela, including any knowledge the U.S. government has or had regarding such efforts and in particular any role the U.S. government had in such efforts. According to multiple media sources, the Venezuelan government is also calling for an investigation into the circumstances of President Chávez’s illness, specifically whether he was poisoned or deliberately exposed to cancer causing elements. See, e.g. “Venezuela VP: Chávez’s cancer was an ‘attack’ by his enemies,” NBC News, March 5, 2013.

The full FOIA letter is available here.

Obama’s Track Record

March 6th, 2013 by Washington's Blog

We’ve previously documented that Obama has redistributed wealth to the super-rich and trampled civil liberties even more than Bush. That Obama has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all other presidents combined … but fewer financial crimes than President Reagan, Clinton or either of the Bush presidents.

Redditor n3uromanc3r adds the following round up of Obama’s track record.

Obama extends Patriot Act without reform – [1]

http://articles.nydailynews.com/2011-05-27/news/29610822_1_terrorist-groups-law-enforcement-secret-intelligence-surveillance

Obama sends more troops to Afghanistan – [2]

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8389778.stm

Obama signs NDAA 2011 – [3]

http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2012/01/02/president-obama-signed-the-national-defense-authorization-act-now-what/

Obama appeals the Federal Court decision that “indefinite detention” is unconstitutional – [4]

http://www.businessinsider.com/unbelievable-obama-administration-has-already-appealed-ndaa-ruling-2012-9

Obama uses his Presidential Drone “Kill List” to kill American cleric without trial -[5]

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/07/world/middleeast/07yemen.html?_r=2&hp&

and his 16 year old son in a separate strike – [6]

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/anwar-al-awlakis-family-speaks-out-against-his-sons-deaths/2011/10/17/gIQA8kFssL_story.html

Continues to approve drone strikes that kill thousands of innocent civilians including women and children in Pakistan, Yemen, and other countries that do not want the US intervening – [7]

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/pakistan/7361630/One-in-three-killed-by-US-drones-in-Pakistan-is-a-civilian-report-claims.html

Protects Bush’s war crimes as State Secrets – [8] [9] [10]

http://www.salon.com/2010/09/08/obama_138/

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2009/04/obama-doj-worse-than-bush

http://washingtonindependent.com/33985/in-torture-cases-obama-toes-bush-line

Support for countries use of child soldiers -[11]

http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/10/26/why_is_obama_easing_restrictions_on_child_soldiers

Appointing Monsanto, GMO company with multiple unsafe practice violations, lobbyist to head the FDA – [12]

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/blogpost/post/monsanto-petition-tells-obama-cease-fda-ties-to-monsanto/2012/01/30/gIQAA9dZcQ_blog.html

Continuing prohibition and Federal attacks on legal marijuana dispensaries – [13]

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=685_1342311527

Protects AG Holder from Congressional “Fast and Furious” gun walking investigations – [14]

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/06/white-house-invokes-executive-privilege-on-fast-and-furious-documents/

Bringing no charges against bank executives that misused bailouts – [15]

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/26/opinion/sunday/no-crime-no-punishment.html

Engaging in a war on whistleblowers – [16]

http://dailycaller.com/2012/07/31/the-obama-administrations-war-on-whistleblowers/

Grants immunity to CIA torturers – [17]

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/31/obama-justice-department-immunity-bush-cia-torturer

Quadrupling the numbers of warrantless wiretapping since Bush era – [18]

http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2012/09/28/ACLU-Obama-Has-Quadrupled-Warrantless-Wiretaps

Continuing military tribunals he vowed to end – [19]

http://articles.cnn.com/2011-03-07/politics/obama.guantanamo_1_guantanamo-detainees-guantanamo-bay-facility-military-commissions?_s=PM:POLITICS

Failing to close gitmo – [20]

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/guantanamo-bay-how-the-white-house-lost-the-fight-to-close-it/2011/04/14/AFtxR5XE_story.html

Allowed innocent man to die at gitmo – [21]

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/suzanne-nossel/the-death-of-guantanamo_b_1878375.html

Violating the War Powers Act of 1973 – [22]

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/21/opinion/21Ackerman.html

Signed Anti-protest law – [23]

http://rt.com/usa/news/trespass-bill-obama-secret-227/

Deported more immigrants than any other president – [24]

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2012/aug/10/american-principles-action/has-barack-obama-deported-more-people-any-other-pr/

Increasing Drug War budget – [25]

http://www.whitehouse.gov/ondcp/the-national-drug-control-budget-fy-2013-funding-highlights

Defends raids on Amish raw milk farmers – [26]

http://reason.com/blog/2011/06/10/obama-food-safety-czar-defends

Granting the FBI access to private electronic communication without warrant – [27]

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/30/opinion/30fri1.html?_r=3

Building an even more intrusive TSA – [28]

http://www.presstv.ir/usdetail/218543.html

Says it’s legal to track individuals by pinpointing their cellphone without warrant – [29]

http://www.businessinsider.com/government-says-its-to-track-cell-phones-2012-10

Renewing FISA and NSA’s unregulated spying and banking of all wireless communication – [30] [31]

http://truth-out.org/news/item/11540-uncle-sam-is-watching-you

http://www.democracynow.org/2012/4/20/whistleblower_the_nsa_is_lying_us

Appeals SCOTUS ruling that warrantless installation of tracking devices on cars is unconstitutional – [32]

http://www.thenewamerican.com/usnews/constitution/item/11591-obama-admin-argues-no-warrant-required-for-gps-tracking-of-citizens

France perpetrated two large deceptions in conducting its military intervention into Mali more than seven weeks ago. These have been universally accepted in mainstream media reporting. The first is that the unilateral decision to invade Mali on January 11, 2013 was hastily made, prompted by imminent military threats by Islamic fundamentalist forces against the south of the country where the large majority of Malians live.

The second is that France intends to quickly exit Mali. “French leaders have said they intend to start pulling out the 4000 troops in Mali in March to hand over security to the Malian army and to the UN-backed AFISMA force, an African military contingent,” says a typical report, in the Chicago Tribune on February 18.

Restoring capitalist stability in Mali will be a tough job. The Mali population is deeply sensitive to violations of its national sovereignty. And the peoples of the world are weary from the recent military adventures in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

But the economic stakes leave France, the U.S. and their allies little choice but to carry on with intervention. Billions of dollars of capitalist investment is pouring into Africa in an unprecedented grab for resource wealth. Mining investments from Canada alone have risen from $6-billion in 2005 to $31.6-billion in 2011. Meanwhile, as an article in the Toronto Star recently reported, there is a “troubling trend” in the continent toward “resource nationalism.”

“Under pressure from civil society groups and labour unions, governments are driving a harder bargain” to obtain a better share of resource wealth and perhaps improve environmental and other regulations.

Far from planning any withdrawal, the imperialists are putting into place a long-term military occupation of Mali, likely masked with an “African” component and a rubber stamp approval of the UN Security Council.

A Planned Intervention

A February 7 report published in the France daily Le Nouvel Observateur provides an extraordinary, blow by blow account of the lead-up to the France intervention in Mali. Columnist Vincent Jauvert and his colleague Sarah Halifa-Legrand spoke to officials in the French government and ministry of defence. The journalists describe the deep concern that arose in the halls of power in France following the military defeat of Mali’s army and government in early 2012 by the pro-autonomy movements of the Tuareg and other national minorities in the north of the country.

The defeat became a double fiasco when the U.S.-trained leader of Mali’s army, Captain Amadou Sanogo, led an overthrow of the country’s constitutional government one month later, on March 22. None other than General Carter Ham, commander of the U.S. Africa Command (Africom) recently acknowledged the fiasco when he admitted to an audience at Howard University in Washington on January 24 that there have been “shortcomings” in the years-long training program of the Mali army.

French-led plans for intervention accelerated following the election in France in May 2012. “When the outgoing government passed over the (foreign affairs) files, Mali was on the top of the pile,” one official at the ministry of defence told the journalists.

New French president François Hollande has strenuously denied any planned intention to intervene in Mali. But soon after his election, French special military forces were infiltrating the north of the country to map aerial bombing targets and conduct other preparations.

The Hollande government masked its intentions by proposing an “African-led” military force to take control of northern Mali. But Jauvert reports that this was never a serious proposal. The United States was entirely unconvinced, saying that few, if any, of the African militaries are up to the task. Some leaders of African countries told France the same thing. Whether France believed its own words is largely unimportant because plans for an intervention proceeded apace.

Three UN Security Council resolutions on Mali were voted in 2012. They opposed the national rights struggles of the Tuaregs, Arabs and other national minorities in the north in increasingly harsh language. However, none endorsed a French intervention. The last resolution, in December, mentioned the creation of an “African-led” military occupation force, but that was left in the dust by the intervention of January 11.

France had no international mandate to intervene, and that’s equally the case in Mali law. There is no constitutional government in the country. The elected government was overthrown last March. The “interim” prime minister eventually invested by “interim” president Dioncounda Traoré was tossed out of office by the military on December 11. Traoré himself was badly beaten by Mali soldiers last May and went to Paris for safety and treatment. The army’s U.S. and French “trainers” were reduced to pressuring for Traoré’s return and resumption of office.

Adding to the political farce, Sanogo was appointed last week by Traoré to head a commission that is supposed to “reform” Mali’s military. The first fruit of the new commission appears to be the disbanding of the paratroop regiment that intervened unsuccessfully last April to reverse the March coup. As reported in January by the Ottawa Citizen‘s David Pugliese, several dozen of the Canadian-trained paratroopers were kidnapped and disappeared soon after by the army. Tensions remain high between that regiment and the army.

Without UN approval or an authoritative Mali government in place, a fable was needed by France to justify intervention. This appeared in the form of dire reports in early January that well-armed Islamic fundamentalists along the unofficial line demarcating the north of Mali were about to move on the south, possibly targeting the capital city Bamako. International news reports were all over this story, further lending it an air of credibility.

Who Are the ‘Jihadists’?

The entry of heavily armed and well-financed Islamic fundamentalist forces in the north of Mali last year has indeed been a deeply troubling event for the country. They pushed aside the longstanding, national rights movements of the Tuareg and other national minorities and ruled with an iron fist, violating the elementary rights of the populations they controlled and causing Malians to fear they could take control of larger areas of the country. France had considerable success in selling its military intervention as a rescue effort.

Author and professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London) Jeremy Keenan reported in some detail in a December 2012 article about the shadowy ties that link the fundamentalist forces across north Africa to Algeria, the U.S. and the Gulf states. His article was titled “How Washington helped foster the Islamist uprising in Mali” and he writes, “The catastrophe now being played out in Mali is the inevitable outcome of the way in which the Global War on Terror has been inserted into the Sahara-Sahel by the U.S., in concert with Algerian intelligence operatives, since 2002.”[1]

In the past decade, the United States has initiated a vast militarization of the countries of west Africa. It founded the Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism Partnership in 2005, now regrouping 10 west African countries. For three of the past six years, Mali was the host country of the annual military exercises of the partnership, termed “Operation Flintlock.”

Such wasteful expenditures of resources are especially repugnant considering the existing difficulties in west Africa, including extreme poverty, public health emergencies and sharp shifts in climate and rainfall patterns that are affecting peasant livelihoods and food production.

No Peace or Reconciliation

The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) has offered to cooperate with France in battling the fundamentalists.[2] There are reports of coexistence, if not cooperation, in some northern areas. On February 17, the movement issued a statement welcoming an eventual UN military force.

An earlier communiqué by the group on February 11 listed 12 proposals to guide the recovery and future development of the north of Mali, including respect for human rights, meaningful economic and social development and a resolution of decades-old demands for political self-determination. These could well serve as a social and economic blueprint for the whole country.

But there is little evidence that France and its allies have any intention of doing anything but continue the plunder of Mali’s and Africa’s resources. The MNLA’s demand that the Mali army not be allowed into the north of Mali has been ignored, for example. Leading human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and FIDA, as well as some media in France have documented predictable reprisals by the army against civilian populations as it arrived in the footsteps of the France invasion.

One tragic story among many has been the forced exodus of the Tuareg and Arab populations from Timbuktu as the French and Malian armies took control of the city in early February (a story that has been ignored by the world’s media).

A February 17 declaration by the MNLA explains, “The MNLA has established that the return of the army, militias and administration of Mali into the territory of Azawad with the support of France has opened the door to reprisals and massacres of the Tuareg and Arab populations.”

France has blocked journalists from traveling to and reporting from northern Mali.

Meanwhile, the offensive by the fundamentalists in 2011-12 has stirred an already existing anti-Tuareg chauvinism in southern Mali and in neighbouring countries, perhaps fueled by what may have been strategic errors by the MNLA in creating temporary alliances with fundamentalists to try and end the Mali army’s deepening war against Tuareg autonomy.

One capitalist politician in Mali calls the MNLA and its demands for political autonomy a “trojan horse” of Islamic fundamentalists. Another, former prime minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (1994-2000), says Mali should never talk to the MNLA because of the latter’s pro-autonomy program.

Most political parties in Mali, including those on the left, have supported the French intervention. Some on the left even backed the military coup last year. The coup’s declared aim was to prosecute a more effective war against “secessionists” in the north (this was even before the arrival of large numbers of armed fundamentalists).

Regional tensions are heightened by the French intervention, particularly with neighbouring Niger. Like Mali, it is a desperately poor country with a non-democratic government and with an even larger Tuareg population. AFP reported on February 10 that Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou “has made forceful demands for the disarmament of the MNLA and spoken out against talks with the movement on self-determination.”

Niger recently agreed to allow the U.S. to operate drones from its soil and U.S. President Barack Obama has dispatched 100 U.S. soldiers to the country. Niger has suffered three military coups in the past 16 years.

Obfuscation by media of the numbers and origins of people made refugees by the conflict in Mali further confuses the situation. The “hundreds of thousands” of refugees from northern Mali reported in mainstream press refer mostly to who fled the Mali army’s war against the peoples of the north.

Looking at prospects for peace, Peter Pham of the U.S. think-tank Atlantic Council (himself a supporter of the French intervention) told an IRIN News report on February 12, “The Tuareg historically have had three deals with Malian governments that were legitimate, but all of them are now in the dustbin of history. Why would they possibly believe that a deal with the current batch of characters would hold?”

At least one mining industry observer in Canada doesn’t hold out much hope for reconciliation in Mali, either. Canadian Business reports that Toronto mining analyst Pawel Rajszel, head of the precious metals team at Veritas Investment Research, told investors in January to, “take their money and run.” “We haven’t changed our opinion,” he told the Canadian Press more recently.

Imperial Solutions

France and its allies are now working at the UN Security Council to cobble together a Haiti-style military/political occupation mission in Mali. Ground soldiers will be African as much as possible, but the overall direction will be firmly in the hands of the U.S. and Europe. That will be all the more the case in Mali than in Haiti for there is no African military that can assume the same leading role as Brazil and Chile have rather successfully done in Haiti.

The European Union has already taken a big step toward occupation through its decision this week to dispatch a military “training” force of 500 soldiers. Lead contingents, including from Germany, have already arrived.

Another parallel with Haiti is the insistence by the foreign powers to stage a quick national election. Never mind that hundreds of thousands of people in Mali have been driven into refugee camps or other harsh living conditions and that the country’s military is still in control of political decision-making.

During a visit this past week to Mali of a delegation of U.S. senators and members of Congress, Senator Christopher Coons said, “After there is a full restoration of democracy, I would think it is likely that we will renew our support for the Malian military.” Coons is chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Africa.

Mali’s population has been weakened and disempowered by decades of neocolonial plunder, foreign aid and military intervention. As they recover from the disastrous policies of their pliant governments and foreign overseers, active solidarity is needed to assist them in asserting anew their class and national interests. •

Roger Annis is a writer and antiwar activist in Vancouver, Canada. This article first appeared on the Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal website.

Notes:

1. Jeremy Keenan is the author of the 2009 The Dark Sahara: America’s War on Terror in the Sahara and of the forthcoming The Dying Sahara: U.S. Imperialism and Terror in Africa, both published by Pluto Press.

2. Azawad is the name given by the Tuareg people to their historic homeland that transcends the present-day borders of Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Libya and Algeria. For background on the Tuareg people, read the recent article, “Who are the Tuareg?,” by Sarah Knopp.

Because America Is a Battlefield In The Eyes of the GovernmentAttorney general Eric Holder wrote the following to Senator Rand Paul yesterday:

On February 20, 2013, you wrote to John Brennan requesting additional information concerning the Administration’s views about whether “the President has the power to authorize lethal force, such as drone strike, against a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil, and without trial.”

As members of this administration have previously indicated, the US government has not carried out drone strikes in the United States and has no intention of doing so. As a policy matter moreover, we reject the use of military force where well-established law enforcement authorities in this country provide the best means for incapacitating a terrorist threat. We have a long history of using the criminal justice system to incapacitate individuals located in our country who pose a threat to the United States and its interests abroad. Hundreds of individuals have been arrested and convicted of terrorism-related offenses in our federal courts.

The question you have posed is therefore entirely hypothetical, unlikely to occur, and one we hope no president will ever have to confront. It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States. For example, the president could conceivably have no choice but to authorize the military to use such force if necessary to protect the homeland in the circumstances like a catastrophic attack like the ones suffered on December 7, 1941, and September 11, 2001.

Were such an emergency to arise, I would examine the particular facts and circumstances before advising the President on the scope of his authority.

THE SINKHOLE OF LIBERTY

Image by William Banzai

 

There’s more to the following statement than appears at first blush:

As a policy matter moreover, we reject the use of military force where well-established law enforcement authorities in this country provide the best means for incapacitating a terrorist threat.

Specifically, Holder did not say “we are legally constrained by the Constitution from depriving people of life, liberty or property without due process of law, and from using military force on U.S. soil”.  Instead, he said that the Obama administration was so far abstaining from using a power it already has as a current “policy” decision.

John Glaser notes:

The concluding legal opinion represents a radical betrayal of constitutional limits imposed on the state for depriving citizens of life, liberty and property. Officially now, Obama’s kingly authority to play Judge, Jury, and Executioner and deprive Americans of their life without due process of law applies not only to Americans abroad but to citizens that are inside the United States.

“The US Attorney General’s refusal to rule out the possibility of drone strikes on American citizens and on American soil is more than frightening – it is an affront the Constitutional due process rights of all Americans,” Sen. Paul said in a statement.

Holder, along with the Obama administration, is making it seem as if the President’s use of lethal force, as in the drone war, would only be used in circumstances like another impending 9/11 attack or something. Only when an attack is imminent.

But that categorical limitation on the President’s authority to kill depends upon their definition of “imminence,” which we learned from a leaked Justice Department white paper last month, is extremely broad.

The memo refers to what it calls a “broader concept of imminence” than what has traditionally been required, like actual intelligence of an ongoing plot against the US.

“The condition that an operational leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future,” the memo states, contradicting conventional international law.

Instead, so long as an “informed, high-level” US official claims the targeted American has been “recently” involved in “activities” that pose a threat and “there is  no evidence suggesting that he has renounced or abandoned such activities,” then the President can order his assassination. The memo does not define “recently” or “activities.”

Holder also insists that in the case of such “extraordinary circumstances,” like another impending 9/11, he ”would examine the particular facts and circumstances before advising the president of the scope of his authority.”

Boy, do I feel comforted.

This is not entirely surprising.  As we noted in December 2011, a top constitutional expert confirmed that Obama was claiming the authority to assassinate Americans on U.S. soil.   We reported that month:

For more than a year and a half, the Obama administration has said it could target American citizens for assassination without any trial or due process.

But now, as shown by the debates surrounding indefinite detention, the government is saying that America itself is a battlefield.

AP notes today:

U.S. citizens are legitimate military targets when they take up arms with al-Qaida, top national security lawyers in the Obama administration said Thursday.

***

The government lawyers, CIA counsel Stephen Preston and Pentagon counsel Jeh Johnson … said U.S. citizens do not have immunity when they are at war with the United States.

Johnson said only the executive branch, not the courts, is equipped to make military battlefield targeting decisions about who qualifies as an enemy.

The courts in habeas cases, such as those involving whether a detainee should be released from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba, make the determination of who can be considered an enemy combatant.

We pointed out a year ago, the director of the FBI said he’d have to “check” to see if the president had the authority to assassinate Americans on U.S. soil. We reported last October that form Department of Justice lawyer John Yoo – the guy who wrote the memo justifying torture, even of children, which was used to justify torture of innocent people, including children – said that the president has the power to assassinate Americans on U.S. soil in times of war.

And Mother Jones notes:

In a Google+ Hangout last month, President Obama refused to say directly if he had the authority to use lethal force against US citizens. As Mother Jones reported at the time, the reason the president was being so coy is that the answer was likely yes. Now we know that’s exactly what was happening.

It is not very reassuring that the same unaccountable agency which decides who should be killed by drones also spies on all Americans.

Indeed:

You might assume – in a vacuum – that this might be okay (even though it trashes the Constitution, the separation of military and police actions, and the division between internal and external affairs).

But it is dangerous in a climate where you can be labeled as or suspected of being a terrorist simply for questioning war, protesting anything, asking questions about pollution or about Wall Street shenanigans, supporting Ron Paul, being a libertarian, holding gold, or stocking up on more than 7 days of food. And see this.

And it is problematic in a period in which FBI agents and CIA intelligence officials, constitutional law expert professor Jonathan Turley, Time Magazine, Keith Olbermann and the Washington Post have all said that U.S. government officials “were trying to create an atmosphere of fear in which the American people would give them more power”, and even former Secretary of Homeland Security – Tom Ridge – admitst hat he was pressured to raise terror alerts to help Bush win reelection.

And it is counter-productive in an age when the government – instead of doing the things which could actually make us safer – are doing things which increase the risk of terrorism.

And it is insane in a time of perpetual war. See this, this, this and this.

And when the “War on Terror” in the Middle East and North Africa which is being used to justify the attack on Americans was planned long before 9/11.

And when Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser told the Senate in 2007 that the war on terror is “a mythical historical narrative”. And 9/11 was entirely foreseeable, but wasn’t stopped.   Indeed, no one in Washington even wants to hear how 9/11 happened, even though that is necessary to stop future terrorist attacks.  And the military has bombed a bunch of oil-rich countries when it could have instead taken out Bin Laden years ago.

As I noted in [an analogous context]:

The government’s indefinite detention policy – stripped of it’s spin – is literally insane, and based on circular reasoning. Stripped of p.r., this is the actual policy:

  • If you are an enemy combatant or a threat to national security, we will detain you indefinitely until the war is over
  • But trust us, we know you are an enemy combatant and a threat to national security

See how that works?

And – given that U.S. soldiers admit that if they accidentally kill innocent Iraqis and Afghanis, they then “drop” automatic weapons near their body so they can pretend they were militants – it is unlikely that the government would ever admit that an American citizen it assassinated was an innocent civilian who has nothing at all to do with terrorism.

Read this if you have any doubt as to how much liberty Americans have lost.

Senator Paul told MSNBC:

The response by Holder could lead to a situation where “an Arab-American in Dearborn (Mich.) is walking down the street emailing with a friend in the Mideast and all of a sudden we drop a drone” on him. He said it was “really shocking” that President Barack Obama, a former constitutional law professor, would leave the door open to such a possibility.

True … but you don’t have to be Arab-American to get in trouble.