We wish to thank all the readers who recently made a donation or became Global Research members. Thank you for helping us fight mainstream propaganda! If you haven’t made a donation yet, don’t forget we are fighting for your knowledge.  Read the following and you will understand how important a small contribution to Global Research helps us provide you with free and valuable information.

Ever wonder why all news sound the same in the mainstream media? A quick look at media ownership answers that question and leaves no doubt on the necessity of independent media:

“In 1983, the men and women who headed the fifty mass media corporations that dominated American Audiences could have fit comfortably in a modest hotel ballroom … By 2003, five men controlled all these media once run by the fifty corporations of twenty years earlier. These five, owners of additional digital corporations, could fit in a generous phone booth.” (Ben H. Bagdikian, The New Media Monopoly: A Completely Revised and Updated Edition With Seven New Chapters, Beacon Press, 2004, p.27)

Yes, you read correctly: from 50 owners in 1983, the media ownership went down to 5 in only 20 years. Five sources of information for millions of Americans and the English speaking world who relies on them as well.  In 2011, Frugal Dad published a graphic (see picture below) on the “illusion of choice” showing the dramatic media consolidation in the U.S. Although slight changes have occurred since then, the media landscape has remained pretty much the same. And it is scary: today 90 % of the media in America is owned by only 6 corporations.

Mainstream media concentration is alarming and not only in the U.S. According to a 2012 report, Canada is the worst of all G8 countries in terms of media concentration, reaching a staggering 81,4%:

“Canada has the most concentrated TV industry ownership of any G8 country, and the second most concentrated TV audience … The Analysis Group’s report notes the degree of media concentration is increasing rapidly in Canada … ‘and the level of vertical integration exceeds any other G8 country’ …”

The report lists the degree of media concentration in all G8 Countries:

8. Russia – 0%

7. Germany – 7.1%

6. United States – 23.1%

5. France – 27%

4. United Kingdom – 31%

3. Italy – 33%

2. Japan – 37.5%

1. Canada – 81.4%

“Percentage represents value of TV distribution market (cable companies, satellite dish companies) controlled by companies that also create TV content (broadcasters, production companies)” (Daniel Tencer, Concentration Of Media Ownership In Canada Worst In G8 For TV Industry, Study Says The Huffington Post Canada, August 13, 2012)

Since they are held by corporations, the ultimate goal of the mainstream media is not to inform you, but rather to serve the interest of the corporate world, selling all sorts of propaganda to open new markets. War propaganda is the most common of all.

On the other hand, independent media such as Global Research have one goal: inform their readers, show them the real picture behind the mainstream media myths, smoke screens and manipulation.

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If each daily Global Research reader made a one time 5$ or 10$ donation in the month of June, we could cover our operation costs for a while, improve our content and provide you with a better coverage of world events and still, for free.

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MEDIA CONSOLIDATION: THE ILLUSION OF CHOICE

Infographic from Frugal Dad

Media Consolidation Infographic

 According to Ron Kirk former US Trade Representative: making the text public would raise such opposition that it could make the deal impossible to sign.

There is a battle building between the people of the planet and transnational corporations.  The battleground is the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  It is a battle the people can win if we act in solidarity.

 The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a global corporate coup that makes corporations more powerful than governments and undermines our national sovereignty.  While the public and media are not allowed to see the text, and members of Congress only receive limited, heavily restricted access, 600 corporations have been advising the president and suggesting amendments as they have full access to the documents.  This includes some of America’s worst corporate citizens: Monsanto, Walmart, Bank of America, JP Morgan, Phiser and big Pharma, Cargill, Exxon-Mobil, Chevron among them.

 The Green Shadow Cabinet is putting forward a critical, in-depth analysis of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (see links below).  Top people in their fields – movement leaders, academics, researchers and activists – are writing about specific aspects of the TPP and how it affects virtually every aspect of American life.  The Green Shadow Cabinet is about half way through its analysis with more statements coming over the rest of the week and into the next two weeks.  This is the type of in-depth analysis we need from people informed on the topic so that the public becomes informed and joins the campaign to stop the TPP.

 Some members of Congress are making their way through the bureaucratic process that allows them to see the text, but does not allow their staff to do so, nor does it allow elected officials to make copies, take notes with paper or computer; and they are not allowed to share it with their constituents.  It took Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) six weeks of negotiation with the US Trade Representative to finally got to review the text on June 17th.  He was only allowed to see an edited version of the text and was not allowed to bring any staff with him.

 Grayson told the Huffington Post that the Obama administration classifies the documents to prevent discussion of the contents, “They maintain that the text is classified information. And I get clearance because I’m a member of Congress, but now they tell me that they don’t want me to talk to anybody about it because if I did, I’d be releasing classified information.”

 While we appreciate Grayson for going as far as he has, Members of Congress need to break the silence and share the contents with the American people.  From what has been leaked, the TPP will give corporations control over every aspect of our lives and make them more powerful than governments.  This non-transparent approach to something so far-reaching is an assault on US democracy.  As Senator Elizabeth Warren said when questioning the new Trade Representative:

 “I have heard the argument that transparency would undermine the Trade Representative’s policy to complete the trade agreement because public opposition would be significant,” Warren explained. “In other words, if people knew what was going on, they would stop it. This argument is exactly backwards. If transparency would lead to widespread public opposition to a trade agreement, then that trade agreement should not be the policy of the United States.”

 Grayson pointed out the irony and hypocrisy of the Obama administration’s approach: “What I saw was nothing that could possibly justify the secrecy that surrounds it. It is ironic in a way that the government thinks it’s alright to have a record of every single call that an American makes, but not alright for an American citizen to know what sovereign powers the government is negotiating away.”

 The movement to stop the TPP calls on the administration to be transparent about this important treaty.  The administration needs to:

1. Release the text that has been agreed on.

 2. Release the proposals they are making in our names.

 The other essential step is for the administration to allow real democracy, to let the checks and balances of the US Constitution to be allowed to work. They should state publicly their support for transparency, checks and balances and Constitutional government by not pursuing “Fast Track” which short-circuits the Constitution and prevents Congress from doing its job.

 If you want to join the campaign to stop the TPP sign up at www.PopularResistance.org.

 Below are excerpts from the statements released so far by the Green Shadow Cabinet, to get the full statement click on the headline.  Visit the website for more statements in coming days. The first statement was signed by the full cabinet and it is a call for solidarity for all those concerned with economic and social justice as well as protecting the planet from ecological collapse to join together to stop the TPP.

 Green Shadow Cabinet joins critical struggle to defeat the Trans-Pacific Partnership

 By Green Shadow Cabinet

 The Green Shadow Cabinet stands united in opposition to the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and is committed to defeating this Obama administration effort to enrich and empower global corporations at the expense of people and planet.

 For three years, the Obama administration has engaged in 16 rounds of secret negotiations to develop the TPP. Those negotiations have included hundreds of representatives of global corporations. The TPP negotiations have excluded representatives of the vast majority of the American people. It is a fact that the TPP is global economic policy for the 1%, at the expense of the 99%.

 Today, all five branches and 81 members of the Green Shadow Cabinet begin to act in concert to not only defeat the TPP, but to show America that another government with another global economic agenda is possible. There is an alternative to the corrupt political establishment that produces economic terrors like the TPP. Our Cabinet is proof of that alternative.

 TPP: Global nightmare for democracy, workers rights and the 99%?

 Bv Ray Rogers, International Labor Rights Advisor to the President

 U.S. trade pacts must clearly protect the right of workers to organize and form unions to protect their jobs, health and safety and communities in which transnational corporations operate. It is only strong worker protections that can prevent such tragic situations from occurring that we have seen in the Union Carbide factory explosion in Bhopal, India that killed thousands in 1984; the recent tragedies in Bangladesh — the building collapse in April and the fire that killed more than a thousand workers in November, and the untold numbers in the U.S. and worldwide who have been victims of cancer alleys created by the oil, chemical, energy and agribusiness industries.

 TPP, Pivot to Asia, raise war risks in Asia Pacific region

 By Foreign Affairs Branch

 The desire of the Bush and the Obama administrations to pass the TPP is apparently an effort to create a coalition of nations to match China’s exploding economy and increased military and political influence in the region.  On Nov 12, 2011, Obama spoke before the Summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum and stated that, “… we’ve turned our attention back to the Asia Pacific region.” This is being accomplished through two vehicles:  the TPP and the “Pivot to Asia,” meaning a redeployment of American priorities and military forces away from Europe and the Middle East to Asia.  Also in the same month, this time speaking before the Australian Parliament, Obama said: “As a Pacific nation, the United States will play a larger and long-term role in shaping this region and its future.” The United States now has 320,000 troops in the Pacific region, and the Pentagon has promised there will be no reductions as troops are drawn down in Afghanistan and other parts of the world.

 The Trans-Pacific Partnership would increase poverty

By Rev. Bruce Wright, President’s Commission on Ending Homelessness

The much touted, at least by multinational corporations and some governments, Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, has grave consequences for the so-called poor of the world, including those in the United States. This agreement, clouded in secrecy, has been characterized as something akin to “NAFTA on steroids!”  But, what exactly does it mean for the poor and working class of the United States?

With TPP, Obama has moved from transparency to secrecy, from human rights to corporate rights

By Richard McIntyre, U.S. Trade Representative

Suppose a Taiwanese company wanted to open a factory in California to make clothing. They propose importing workers who would accept a daily wage of $10, would not spend any money in the plant to meet U.S. occupational health and safety regulations, and would be rabid in opposing workers’ attempts to meet collectively to discuss their grievances or to bargain collectively with management.

 The Trans-Pacific Partnership: Another assault on human rights that must be opposed

By Ajamu Baraka, Public Intervenor for Human Rights

The right to have the means to sustain one’s physical life is a foundational principle of human rights.  The right to work and earn a livable wage in conditions commensurate with human dignity that allow for securing adequate food, clothing, housing, medical care and necessary social services is the basis for material sustainability and a dignified life.

 The Top Secret deal between 11 countries that will affect your life

By Lee Camp, Commissioner for the Comedic Arts

You know one of the most powerful weapons the government can use against us? It’s not missiles, or gas, or propaganda, or threatening to release all the nude TSA body-scanner images of you as Christmas cards. Nope. …It’s boredom. When evil stuff is boring, mind-blowingly BORING, people don’t give a crap about it. Boring evil is the worst! People care less than Vladimir Putin at an Amnesty International convention.

The TPP is bad for business

By Sarah Manski, Small Business Administration

Small businesses and entrepreneurs are foundations of strong communities. Yet as with previous international trade agreements, small businesses are not at the table negotiating the details of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. Instead, the TPP is being drafted by the representatives of more than 600 major corporations. Unlike the owners of cooperatives and community businesses, the owners and managers of big capital are unconcerned about the economic impact of trade policies on local communities and the people who live in them. 

Kevin Zeese is a participant in PopularResistance.org which will be announcing a campaign to stop the TPP in the very near future; and a member of the Green Shadow Cabinet where he serves as Attorney General.

A terrible formula has taken hold: warfare state + corporate digital power = surveillance state.

 “National security” agencies and major tech sectors have teamed up to make Big Brother a reality. “Of the estimated $80 billion the government will spend on intelligence this year, most is spent on private contractors,” the New York Times noted. The synergy is great for war-crazed snoops in Washington and profit-crazed moguls in Silicon Valley, but poisonous for civil liberties and democracy.

  “Much of the coverage of the NSA spying scandal has underplayed crucial context: The capacity of the government to engage in constant surreptitious monitoring of all civilians has been greatly enhanced by the commercialization of the Internet,” media analyst Robert McChesney pointed out this week.

 Overall, he said, “the commercialized Internet, far from producing competition, has generated the greatest wave of monopoly in the history of capitalism.” And the concentration of online digital power is, to put it mildly, user-friendly for the surveillance state.

It’s a truly odious and destructive mix — a government bent on perpetual war and a digital tech industry dominated by a few huge firms with an insatiable drive to maximize profits. Those companies have a lot to offer the government, and vice versa.

“The giant monopolistic firms that rule the Internet — Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Version, AT&T, Comcast, Microsoft — all have tremendous incentive to collect information on people,” McChesney said. “There is a great deal of profit for these firms and others to work closely with the national security apparatus, and almost no incentive to refuse to participate. In short, there is a military-digital complex deeply embedded into the political economy and outside any credible review process by elected representatives, not to mention the public.”

Central pieces of the puzzle — routinely left out of mainline media coverage — have to do with key forces at work. Why such resolve in Washington’s highest places for the vast surveillance that’s integral to the warfare state?

What has not changed is the profusion of corporations making a killing from the warfare state in tandem with Washington’s quest for geopolitical positioning, access to fossil fuels and other raw materials — and access to markets for U.S.-based industries ranging from financial services to fast food.

 Let’s give credit to New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman for candor as he wrote approvingly in his book The Lexus and the Olive Tree: “The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the U.S. Air Force F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley’s technologies to flourish is called the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.”

On Wednesday, I had a brief on-air exchange with Friedman, live on KQED Radio in San Francisco.

Solomon:  “I think it’s unfortunate the sensibility that Thomas Friedman, who’s a very smart guy, has brought to bear in so many realms. For instance, we heard a few minutes ago, asked about Iraq and the lessons to be drawn — quote, ‘We overpaid for it.’ ‘We overpaid for it.’ Which is sort of what you might call jingo-narcissism, to coin a term. Just the dire shortage of remorse, particularly given Thomas Friedman’s very large role in cheering on, with his usual caveats, but cheering on the invasion of Iraq before it took place. Full disclosure, this is Norman Solomon, I chronicled his critique in my book War Made Easy, his critique of foreign policy, and he did cheerlead — in his sort of kind of erudite glib way, he did cheerlead the invasion of Iraq before it took place. Just as, as I chronicle in the book, he was gleeful in his columns about the bombing of Serbia, including Belgrade, civilian areas, just chortled and very very gleeful about that bombing. One other point I’d like to make. His recent column about NSA surveillance is absolutely a formula for throwing away the First Amendment gradually in stages. The idea that somehow we should relinquish the sacred Fourth Amendment, a little bit at a time, maybe not a little bit at a time, because if there’s terrorism that takes places in a big way again in this country then hold onto your hats — I mean, that is formulaic as an excuse, may I say a bit of a craven way, to accept this attack on our civil liberties.”

Host:  “Norman, let me thank you for the call and get a response from Tom Friedman.”

Friedman:  “Well first of all, I would invite, I wrote a book called Longitudes and Attitudes that has all my columns leading up to the Iraq War. And what you’ll find if you read those columns is someone agonizing over a very very difficult decision. To call it cheerleading is just stupid and obnoxious. Okay. Number one. And on the question of the Fourth Amendment, as has been pointed out, there actually has been no case of abuse that has been reported so far with this program. Believe me, if there were one, two, ten or twenty, then I think we’d be having a very different debate. And so to simply — he says I’m dismissing the Fourth Amendment, which is ludicrous, I’m terribly agonized over this whole business — but to simply blithely say, ‘Oh, you’re just trying to use the threat of another terrorist attack,’ as if that isn’t a live possibility, as if we haven’t had three or four real examples of people trying to do things that had they gotten through I think would have led to even worse restrictions on privacy and civil liberties.”

Well, that’s Thomas Friedman, in sync with the downward spiral of fear, threats, militarism and corporate consolidation. What a contrast with the clarity from Robert McChesney.

  A week before the Guardian began breaking stories about NSA surveillance, McChesney appeared on FAIR’s “CounterSpin” radio program to talk about the findings in his new book Digital Disconnect. He warned that we “have an economy dominated by a handful of monopolistic giants working hand in hand with a national security state that’s completely off-limits to public review, to monitor the population.” And he said: “It’s not a tenable situation for a free society.”

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.”

The U.S. reprises Iraq, inventing a WMD threat from Syria. The FBI concocts home-grown terror through stings, while the NSA claims it has secretly saved many lives. “Why this steady stream of government-invented terror, if the real thing is so abundant?” And, isn’t the U.S. arming and funding the same jihadists they are supposed to be listening for on our telephones?

The rulers would have you believe that the world is becoming more complex and dangerous all the time, compelling the United States to abandon previous (and largely fictional) norms of domestic and international legality in order to preserve civilization. In truth, what they are desperately seeking to maintain is the global dominance of U.S. and European finance capital and the racist world order from which it sprang.

The contradictions of centuries have ripened, overwhelming the capacity of the “West” to contain the new forces abroad in the world. Therefore, there must be endless, unconstrained war – endless, in the sense that it is a last ditch battle to fend off the end of imperialism, and unconstrained, in that the imperialists recognize no legal or moral boundaries to their use of military force, their only remaining advantage.

To mask these simple truths, the U.S. and its corporate propaganda services invent counter-realities, scenarios of impending doomsdays filled with super-villains and more armies of darkness than J.R.R. Tolkien could ever imagine. Indeed, nothing is left to the imagination, lest the people’s minds wander into the realm of truth or stumble upon a realization of their own self-interest, which is quite different than the destinies of Wall Street or the Project for a New American Century (updated, Obama “humanitarian” version). It is a war of caricatures.

Saddam “must go” – and so he went, along with a million other Iraqis. Gaddafi “must go” – and he soon departed (“We came, we saw, he died,” quipped Hillary), along with tens of thousands of Black Libyans marked for extermination. “Assad must go” – but he hasn’t left yet, requiring the U.S. and its allies to increase the arms flow to jihadist armies whose mottos translate roughly as “the western infidels must also go…next.” Afghanistan’s Soviet-aligned government was the first on the U.S. “must go” list to be toppled by the jihadist international network created as a joint venture of the Americans, Saudis and Pakistanis, in the early Eighties – a network whose very existence now requires that Constitutional law “must go” in the American homeland.

Naturally, in order to facilitate all these exits of governments of sovereign states, international law, as we have known it “must go.” In its place is substituted the doctrine of “humanitarian” military intervention or “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P), a rehash of the “White Man’s Burden” designed to nullify smaller powers’ rights to national sovereignty at the whim of the superpower.

The entire continent of Africa has fallen under the R2P umbrella (without ever having fully emerged from the colonial sphere – but, that’s the whole point, isn’t it?). Somalia achieved a brief period of peace, in 2006, under a broadly based Islamic Courts regime that had defeated an array of warlords backed by the U.S. Washington struck back late that year through its client state, Ethiopia. The Americans invoked both the Islamist enemy and “Responsibility to Protect” to justify an invasion that plunged Somalia into what UN observers called “the worst humanitarian crisis in Africa – worse than Darfur.” Eventually, the U.S. enlisted the African Union, itself, as the nominal authority in a CIA-led Somalia mission that has militarized the whole Horn of Africa.

U.S. proxies set off inter-communal bloodletting in Rwanda in 1994, a conflagration that served as pretext for Rwandan and Ugandan invasion of the mineral-rich Democratic Republic of Congo and the loss of six million lives – all under the protection, funding and guidance of a succession of U.S. administrations in mock atonement for the much smaller “genocide” in Rwanda. President Obama sent Special Forces on permanent duty to the region in search of another caricature, Joseph Kony, whose only central casting defect is his rabid Christianity but whose convenient presence in the bush justifies stationing Green Berets in Congo, Uganda, the Central African Republic and South Sudan.

Muammar Gaddafi’s exorcism in Libya energized jihadists all across the northern tier of Africa, as far as northern Nigeria, giving a green light to a French colonial renaissance and further expansion of AFRICOM, the U.S. Africa Command. Only five years after its official inception, AFRICOM reigns supreme on the continent, with ties to the militaries of all but two African countries: the nemesis states Eritrea and Zimbabwe. (They “must go,” eventually.)

New age Euro-American law holds sway over Africa in the form of the International Criminal Court. The Court’s dockets are reserved for Africans, whose supposed civilizational deficits monopolize the global judiciary’s resources. This, too, is R2P, in robes.

Back in Syria, the reluctant domino, blood samples taken from alleged victims of chemical weapons are sent to the Americans by jihadists in their employ to prove that Assad really, really, must go. Obama announces that he is going to do what he has actually been doing for a very long time: send weapons to the “rebels.” The Washington Post, forgetting its duty to follow the administration’s scripted timelines, reports that the decision to go public about arms transfers to jihadists was made two weeks before the “proof” arrived.

The lies become jumbled and are quickly superseded by new fictions to justify no-fly, but the targeted caricatures remain front and center, to be hooted and hollered over, once dead. It is only the lies that make these situations seem complex: the lies that cover up multiple U.S. genocides in Africa, to paint a canvas of humanitarian concern, when the simple truth is that the Americans and Europeans have established military dominion over the continent for their own greedy purposes. The lies that have attempted to camouflage a succession of brazen aggressions against unoffending secular Arab governments in order to remove any obstacles to U.S. domination of North Africa and the Near East. And, the lie that has become central to the U.S. global offensive since 9/11: that the U.S. is engaged in a global war against armed jihadists. In fact, the jihadists are American-contracted foot soldiers in an Arab world in which the U.S. is hated by the people at-large. Washington was the Godfather of international jihadism, its sugar daddy since at least the early Eighties in Afghanistan – and now, once again quite openly so in Syria as in Libya, at least for the time being.

The simple truth is, the U.S. is at war for continued hegemony over the planet, for the preservation of the imperial system and its finance capitalist rulers. In such a war, everyone, everywhere is a potential enemy, including the home population.

That’s why Bradley Manning and Julian Assange and, now, Edward Snowden are considered so dangerous; because they undermine popular consent for the government’s lies-based policies. The administration has sent its operatives to Capital Hill and all the corporate pseudo-journalistic outlets to explain how its mega-data mining of phones and the Internet has prevented “potential terrorist events over 50 times since 9/11,” including at least 10 “homeland-based threats,” as mouthed by National Security Agency chief Gen. Keith Alexander. The details are, of course, secret.

However, what we do know about U.S. domestic “terror” spying is enough to dismiss the whole premise for the NSA’s vast algorithmic enterprises. The actual “terrorist” threat on U.S. soil is clearly relatively slight. Otherwise, why would the FBI have to manufacture homegrown jihadists by staging elaborate stings of homeless Black men in Miami who couldn’t put together bus fare to Chicago, much less bomb the Sears tower? Why must they entice and entrap marginal people with no capacity for clandestine warfare, and no previous inclination, into schemes to bomb synagogues and shoot down military aircraft, as in Newburgh, New York? Why this steady stream of government-invented terror, if the real thing is so abundant? If the FBI, with NSA assistance, is discovering significant numbers of real terrorists, wouldn’t we be watching a corresponding number of triumphal perp-walks? Of course we would. The only logical conclusion is that terror is a near-negligible domestic threat, wholly unsuited to the NSA’s full-spectrum spying on virtually every American.

So, what are they looking for? Patterns. Patterns of thought and behavior thatalgorithmically reveal the existence of cohorts of people that might, as a group, or a living network, create problems for the State in the future. People who do not necessarily know each other, but whose patterns of life make them potentially problematic to the rulers, possibly in some future crisis, or some future manufactured crisis. A propensity to dissent, for example. The size of these suspect cohorts, these pattern-based groups, can be as large or small as the defining criteria inputted by the programmer. So, what kind of Americans would the programmers be interested in?

Ask Edward Snowden. He’s the only one talking.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected].

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chungying declared on Monday that the US “should pay attention to the international community’s concerns and demands and give the international community the necessary explanation” over its surveillance programs. She flatly rejected as “nonsense” insinuations by American officials that Snowden was a Chinese agent.

In an unprecedented step, China’s state-controlled media highlighted protests in “democratic” Hong Kong last weekend over Snowden’s disclosure that the NSA had hacked hundreds of Hong Kong and mainland Chinese computers. Led by pro-Beijing parties such as the Democratic Alliance for Betterment and Progress, a few hundred protesters marched to the US consulate, holding banners and shouting slogans such as “Defend free speech,” “Protect Snowden” and “No Extradition.”

Protest leaders submitted a letter to the US Consul General, denouncing Washington for having “publicly supported the cause of Internet freedom and criticised other governments for conducting cyber attacks, surveillance and censorship” when it was operating its “own blanket surveillance systems and allegedly conducting cyber warfare against Hong Kong.”

These pro-Beijing parties, which consistently oppose the extension of democratic rights in Hong Kong, are exploiting widespread public anger over the NSA revelations to discredit the local opposition Democratic Party and its “democratic” allies, which have longstanding relations with Washington and have been silent over the issue.

Snowden is currently in hiding in Hong Kong, a Chinese territory. According to the Hong Kong Economic Journal, the local authorities not only know where he is hiding, but have assigned special personnel to protect him “to prevent any incident.” Snowden has warned that he could be the target of assassination by the US intelligence agencies or their third party proxies.

The Chinese government, which maintains its own police-state apparatus, is not a defender of Snowden or democratic rights. It has an extensive Internet surveillance system, manned by an estimated 30,000 police, to monitor web activity and block access to sites regarded as politically dangerous. Dissident writers and workers seeking to organise strikes have been jailed for their Internet postings.

However, Beijing, for its own political purposes, is able to point to the utter hypocrisy of the US administration, which in the lead up to the recent summit between Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping, launched a strident public campaign against Chinese hacking. The Chinese foreign ministry’s comments about the NSA spying come ahead of next month’s US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, where cyber security will be a paramount issue.

The state-run Global Times pointed to the geo-political considerations involved when it called on China and Hong Kong not to allow the extradition of Snowden to the US, as it “would not only be a betrayal of Snowden’s trust, but a disappointment of expectations around the world.”

The article commented: “Cyber attacks, a weapon frequently used by the US government, have turned out to be its own Achilles’ heel. China is generous enough not to hype this incident in consideration of the Sino-US relationship.” Nevertheless, it insisted: “The Chinese government has no responsibility to help the US quench the fire… Beijing needs to demonstrate it can’t just be pushed according to Washington’s needs.”

Despite the devastating nature of the NSA revelations, Obama continued to brand China as the greatest threat to global cyber security. In a PBS TV interview this week, Obama claimed that Xi had understood his blunt message on alleged Chinese hacking, which could “adversely affect the fundamentals of the US-China relationship.”

Obama alleged that China was engaged in “stealing” the commercial and technical secrets of major American companies such as Apple, rather than the “standard fare” of other intelligence agencies, which seek to uncover military and diplomatic information. He said Chinese spying would affect “our long-term prosperity.” In reality, corporations like Apple are based on parasitic economic relations. They make huge profits by exploiting their brand monopolies in global markets to sell products made by poorly-paid workers in countries such as China.

So far, Washington has not requested Snowden’s extradition from Hong Kong, which Beijing has the legal power to veto. But as the Global Times article indicates, any decision by Beijing on the issue will be based on political expediency. The Chinese regime currently regards Snowden as useful for its propaganda, but could just as readily sacrifice him in negotiations with the US.

The Chinese government will quickly dump Snowden if his presence begins to threaten China’s own anti-democratic measures. Polls by the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong found that more than half the respondents opposed Snowden’s extradition. Many regarded him as a “hero.” The same sentiments certainly prevail among China’s own 700 million “netizens,” who resent the pervasive intrusion of China’s Internet police.

Snowden’s revelations have also raised serious security concerns in Chinese business, government and military circles. These particularly relate to the role of American IT giant Cisco Systems, which is one of the largest global suppliers of networking systems. Snowden exposed the fact that Cisco has provided US intelligence agencies with the means to electronically access its equipment and thus networks, not only in the US, but around the world, including China.

A Chinese financial journal, Securities Times, warned on Monday that Cisco was involved in virtually every major network in China, including those of the government, customs, postal services, finance, railways, civil aviation, healthcare and even the military. China’s two largest telecommunication networks, operated by China Telecom and China Unicom, carry more than 80 percent of the country’s Internet traffic. Cisco’s equipment accounts for 70 percent of the two network’s traffic. “Security experts are worried that in the event of war, the US government is very likely to use the products deployed by Cisco around the globe, to wage cyber war, launching fatal attacks on enemy states,” the journal reported.

Securities Times wrote that ever since Chinese telecommunications companies Huawei and ZTE were blocked from the US market last year on “national security” grounds, China has begun to replace US equipment inside China with Chinese technology.

Snowden’s revelations demonstrate that US “national security concerns” about these two companies did not relate so much to Chinese spying, as to worries that Chinese-installed equipment would not allow the NSA to so easily spy on the American population.

FBI Director Robert Mueller acknowledged in Congressional testimony on Wednesday that his agency has used aerial drones for surveillance purposes within the United States. The revelation came in the midst of more efforts to justify the Obama administration’s unconstitutional domestic surveillance programs under the banner of the “war on terror.”

During Mueller’s testimony, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley asked, “Does the FBI own or currently use drones and if so for what purpose?”

“Yes, and for surveillance,” Mueller replied

“[Drones are] very seldom used and generally used in a particular incident when you need the capability,” Mueller claimed in an attempt to downplay the significance of the revelation. Mueller gave no indication as to what these “particular incident(s)” were.

In the course of his testimony, Mueller repeated claims made by the Obama administration and intelligence officials over the past several days aimed at defending the unconstitutional and secret spying programs revealed by Snowden.

Obama himself, speaking in Germany yesterday, repeated talking points delivered by NSA Director Keith Alexander earlier this week. “This is not a situation in which we are rifling through the ordinary emails of German citizens or American citizens or French citizens or anybody else,” Obama claimed. “This is not a situation where we simply go into the internet and start searching any way that we want. This is a circumscribed, narrow system, directed at us being able to protect our people and all of it is done with the oversight of the courts.”

These are simply lies. What Obama calls a “circumscribed, narrow system” involves the collection of phone records of hundreds of millions of people in the United States and around the world, along with a system that sucks up billions of Internet communications on an ongoing basis.

Obama’s statements have been directly contradicted by Snowden, as well as fellow NSA whistleblowers Thomas Drake, William Binney, and J. Kirk Wiebe.

“There is no probable cause,” Drake told the USA Today in an interview published last weekend, referring to justifications given by the government to access the content of communications. “There is no indication of any kind of counterterrorism investigation or operation. It’s simply: ‘give us the data.’”

In an effort to justify the programs, Obama and the political establishment as a whole have brought out the standard “war on terror” arguments used for every war and violation of democratic rights over the past decade. On Wednesday, Obama repeated claims that the surveillance programs have prevented over fifty “potential terrorist events” since September 11.

The counter-offensive of the Obama administration is aimed both at undermining widespread opposition to the spying programs, as well as creating the rational for the arrest, prosecution or assassination of Snowden for “aiding the enemy” by leaking information to the American people.

For the US government, the Constitution and Bill of Rights—including the prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures—are treated as suggestions, useful perhaps under some circumstances, but which can be violated whenever it is deemed necessary by the state. Speaking yesterday in Germany, Obama claimed that “lives have been saved” and that the administration has “struck the appropriate balance” between security and privacy.

The rights guaranteed in the Constitution are not, however, suggestions. The “state of exception” and “balancing” arguments of government officials amount to declaration that the Constitution itself is invalid.

Even if one were to accept that the spying programs had “thwarted 50 attacks,” this would not justify the violation of democratic rights. However, all discussion on how best to strike the “appropriate balance” between “security” and “liberty” is predicated on a basic lie: that the “war on terror” places the American and international public under the constant threat of attack, and that this threat must be countered by setting the foundations of a police state. Such arguments are the hallmark of every authoritarian regime, from Nazi Germany to Pinochet’s Chile.

In fact, the various supposed plots cited by Alexander, Obama and others are described in the vaguest possible terms—post facto justifications for a policy implemented for entirely different reasons.

Moreover, many of the alleged terrorist plots over the past decade—both thwarted and otherwise—had involved individuals who were under close surveillance by the state prior to carrying out attempted attacks. Serious questions remain as to the connections between the security apparatus and the likes of Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 9/11 hijacker Khalid al-Mihdhar, and suspected Danish newspaper plotter David Headley.

It must be noted as well that the right-wing Islamic groups that that have committed terrorist attacks are the product of decades of US imperialist campaigns in the Middle East and Central Asia. More often than not, the American military has utilized the services of such organizations for their own purposes—as was the case in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Claims that the US government is “fighting terrorism” are all the more absurd considering the Obama administration’s recent decision to arm the Syrian opposition, which is spearheaded by Al-Qaida affiliated groups.

The testimony this week, along with Obama’s remarks in Berlin, are part of an intensifying campaign by the entire political establishment and the media, aimed at defending what is an unprecedented assault on the democratic rights of the population of the United States and the entire world.

Spying on its citizenry reflects one of the most defining police state characteristics. Post-9/11, America crossed the line.

Unconstitutional mass surveillance became official US policy. Bush began it. Obama accelerated it. He did so straightaway as president.

He promised otherwise. He pledged transparency and openness. He promised no more Bush/Cheney lawlessness. He lied. He exceeded the worst of his predecessors.

Free societies don’t tolerate these practices. Obama authorized them secretly. He subverted constitutional law. He violated the public trust. He broke a key campaign pledge.

He declared war on freedom. It’s more illusion than reality. It’s fast disappearing. It may entirely vanish on Obama’s watch. Big Brother is real. It’s no longer fiction. Privacy no longer exists.

Web site visits are tracked. Cell phones log our movements. Emails and social network communications are monitored and stored. Sweeping warrantless spying is policy.

Government is shrouded in secrecy. Constitutional protections don’t matter. Police states operate this way. America’s by far the worst. Everyone’s suspect unless proved otherwise. Guilt by accusation is policy.

Snowden provided a vital service. He did so at great risk. Lots of what he revealed was previously known. Too few people knew it. Many more now do. How they react matters most.

On June 17, Snowden engaged live with London Guardian readers. He answered questions they posed.

“All I can say right now is the US government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or ­murdering me. Truth is coming, and it cannot be stopped,” he said.

“The US government, just as they did with other whistleblowers, immediately and predictably destroyed any possibility of a fair trial at home, openly declaring me guilty of treason and that the disclosure of secret, criminal, and even unconstitutional acts is an unforgivable crime.”

“That’s not justice, and it would be foolish to volunteer yourself to it if you can do more good outside of prison than in it.”

“Ask yourself: If I were a Chinese spy, why wouldn’t I have flown directly to Beijing? I could be living in a palace petting a phoenix by now.”

More on what he said below. He’s a marked man. He knows it. He fled America for his safety. He’s in Hong Kong. It provides a “cultural and legal framework to allow me to work without being immediately detained,” he said.

He’ll be hounded wherever he goes. His life’s in danger. Washington called him a traitor.

Bipartisan rogues accused him of espionage. He aided the enemy, they said. A mock show trial was held. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence members did so.

It was called “How Disclosed NSA Programs Protect Americans, and Why Disclosure Aids Our Adversaries.” Orwellian best explains it. Rep. Mike Rogers (R. MI) chaired it.

He represents the worst of rogue governance. He menaces freedom. He supports Washington’s permanent war agenda. He endorses police state lawlessness. He’s against social justice.

Whatever corporate America wants, he’s for. He’s against government of, by and for everyone.

He calls openness and transparency threats to national security. Sunshine is “damaging,” he says. “(I)t paints an inaccurate picture and fosters distrust in government.”

It gives aid and comfort to America’s enemies, he claims. Snowden’s guilty as charged. Rogers and committee co-conspirators hung him out to dry.

He committed no crimes. He exposed them. He did what’s vital to do. He revealed US lawlessness. NSA operations harm “millions of innocent people,” he said.

He denounced Obama, saying:

“(H)e closed the door on investigating systemic violations of law, deepened and expanded several abusive programs, and refused to spend the political capital to end the kind of human rights violations like we see in Guantanamo, where men still sit without charge.”

Dick Cheney duplicitously called him a traitor. Snowden responded, saying:

“It’s important to bear in mind I’m being called a traitor by…. a man who gave us the warrantless wiretapping scheme as a kind of atrocity warm-up on the way to deceitfully engineering a conflict that has killed over 4,400 and maimed nearly 32,000 Americans, as well as leaving over 100,000 Iraqis dead.”

“Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give an American.”

He did nothing illegal. “I did not reveal any US operations against legitimate military targets.”

“I pointed out where the NSA has hacked civilian infrastructure such as universities, hospitals, and private businesses because it is dangerous. These nakedly, aggressively criminal acts are wrong no matter the target.”

“NSA is running network operations against (the rights of) millions of innocent people. And for what?”

“So we can have secret access to a computer in a country we’re not even fighting? So we can potentially reveal a potential terrorist with the potential to kill fewer Americans than our own Police?”

“No, the public needs to know the kinds of things a government does in its name, or the ‘consent of the governed’ is meaningless.”

More information is coming, Snowden said. Lots more needs to be told.

“(T)he reality is (that) if NSA, FBI, CIA, DIA, etc analyst has access to query raw SIGINT databases, they can enter and get results for anything they want,” he said.

“Phone number(s), email(s), user id(s), cell phone handset id(s) (IMEI), and so on – it’s all the same. The restrictions against this are policy based, not technically based, and can change at any time.”

Lawless surveillance is institutionalized. “The reality is that due to the FISA Amendments Act and its section 702 authorities, Americans’ communications are collected and viewed on a daily basis on the certification of an analyst rather than a warrant.”

“They excuse this as ‘incidental’ collection, but at the end of the day, someone at NSA still has the content of your communications.”

“Even in the event of ‘warranted’ intercept, it’s important to understand the intelligence community doesn’t always deal with what you would consider a ‘real’ warrant like a police department would have to.”

“The ‘warrant’ is more of a templated form they fill out and send to a reliable judge with a rubber stamp.”

America’s Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) overseas government monitoring requests. More on that below. Out-of-control spying is policy.

It’s extrajudicial. It’s longstanding policy. Post-9/11, it accelerated. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) provisions are spurned.

Bush administration officials lawlessly authorized NSA to compile millions of emails and phone calls into a database for analysis.

Obama officials claim no court or judge can challenge them. Legal considerations don’t matter.

Last September, Congress overwhelmingly passed the 2012 FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act. Obama signed it into law. He called doing so a national security priority.

He lied. It reflects police state harshness. It’s lawless. It extends the 2008 FISA Amendments Act (FAA). It’s for another five years.

It authorizes warrantless spying. It does so without naming names or probable cause. Fourth Amendment protections are violated. Lawless privacy invasions are permitted.

Overseas and domestic phone calls, emails, and other communications of US citizens and permanent residents are monitored without court authorization. Anything goes is policy.

Probable cause isn’t needed. Warrantless electronic eavesdropping is intrusive and lawless. Everyone is vulnerable for any reason or none at all. Vague language allows virtually anything.

Constitutional protections don’t matter. They’re null and void. What Bush began, Obama accelerated. Things are worse than ever. Diktat authority is policy.

America’s Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) is rubber stamp. It gives kangaroos a bad name. A previous article explained. It approves virtually all government warrant requests.

It’s longstanding policy. Eleven US district court judges serve staggered terms up to seven years. They’re chosen from at least seven judicial circuits. Supreme Court Justice John Roberts selects them.

The process is rigged against justice. It doesn’t have a chance. Police state operate this way. Obama lied claiming otherwise. On Charlie Rose June 17, he lied. He did so egregiously.

On the one hand, he said we “don’t go with a query (without) a pretty good suspicion.” Not so!

On the other, he claimed few annual FISA warrants are sought. False again! From 1979 through 2004 alone, 18,761 warrants were granted. Five requests were rejected. Some sources say four.

From 2005 through 2012, another 15,200 were approved. Seven were rejected. It gets worse. Few Americans know about National Security Letters (NSLs). They’re intrusive and lawless.

They’ve been around since the mid-1980s. They involve abusive police state intrusions. Pre-9/11, they had more limited authority. They were used to secure records and other personal information on alleged terrorists and spies.

The USA Patriot Act’s Section 505 changed things. It permits expanded FBI’s authority to obtain personal customer records from ISPs, financial institutions, credit companies, and other sources without prior court approval.

At issue is claiming information sought relates to alleged terrorism or espionage investigations. No proof is required.

Innocent people are targeted. Virtually all public and private records can be obtained. Gag orders prevent targeted individuals or groups from revealing the information sought. Doing so violates core First Amendment rights.

Service providers are gagged. They’re prevented from telling affected customers or the public what’s going on.

Constraining them violates the First Amendment’s procedural prior restraint provision. It lets federal authorities issue prior restraints of their own. It forces service providers to comply.

Judicial authority is bypassed. Legal challenges are virtually impossible. DOJ officials react aggressively. Countersuits are filed. Contesting government authority isn’t tolerated.

Post-9/11, NSL use increased exponentially. Between 2003 and 2006 alone, the DOJ’s inspector general reported nearly 200,000 NSLs issued.

By now, they may exceed a million. Using them violates constitutional freedoms. They’re disappearing in plain sight.

Obama said the FISC is “transparent.” He lied again. The ACLU calls it “a secretive intelligence court created to authorize government wiretaps.” Its “procedures, hearings and decisions are conducted in secret.”

Despite numerous ACLU and other public advocacy group FOIA challenges, DOJ refuses to disclose “even the most basic information about the court’s activities.”

In 2010 and 2011, Obama promised to declassify FISC rulings. He lied again. He hasn’t done so. He spurns transparency. He claims no one’s listening to your phone calls. Doing so requires probable cause, he says. A warrant must be obtained.

False on all counts! Warrantless spying is policy. It’s sweeping and intrusive. Law Professor Jack Balkin calls it “vacuum cleaner” surveillance. No probable cause is needed.

Obtaining FISC permission requires only providing general guidelines. Allegedly they determine what individuals or groups may be targeted.

Rubber stamp approval follows. A pro forma statement does so stating:

NSA’s request “contains all the required elements, and the revised NSA, FBI and CIA minimization procedures submitted with the amendment are consistent with (US statute) requirements and with the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.”

Once approval is gotten, monitoring follows. So does anything goes. Constitutional protections don’t matter. Enormous amounts of communications and other information is lawlessly obtained.

Millions of ordinary people guilty of nothing are most harmed. On June 18, NSA head General Keith Alexander testified before House Intelligence Committee members. He claimed surveillance programs foiled more than 50 terror plots post-9/11.

He lied saying so. America’s at war with Islam. It rages out-of-control. Dozens of innocent victims were wrongfully targeted, arrested, prosecuted, convicted and given long prison terms. They rot in America’s gulag.

None, repeat none, committed terrorism or conspiracy related to it. No plots or crimes existed. Fabricated charges substituted for legitimate ones. Witch hunt justice followed.

It’s the wrong time to be Muslim in America. Everyone’s just as vulnerable. Constitutional protections no longer matter. They lie in history’s dustbin.

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

An Illustration of War: US vs. North Korea Capabilities

 
Image source: www.homeland-security-degree.org

 

The Terror Con, Booz Allen Hamilton and the NSA

June 19th, 2013 by Robert Scheer

(Image: UGO Entertainment)

For defense contractors, the government officials who write them mega checks, and the hawks in the media who cheer them on, the name of the game is threat inflation. And no one has been better at it than the folks at Booz Allen Hamilton, the inventors of the new boondoggle called cyber warfare.

That’s the company, under contract with the National Security Agency, that employed whistle-blower Edward Snowden, the information security engineer whose revelation of Booz Allen’s enormously profitable and pervasive spying on Americans now threatens the firm’s profitability and that of its parent hedge fund, the Carlyle Group.

Booz Allen, whose top personnel served in key positions at the NSA and vice versa after the inconvenient collapse of the Cold War, has been attempting to substitute terrorist for communist as the enemy of choice. A difficult switch indeed for the military-industrial complex about which Dwight Eisenhower, the general-turned-president, had so eloquently warned us.

But just when the good times for war profiteers seemed to be forever in the past, there came 9/11 and the terrorist enemy, the gift that keeps on giving, for acts of terror always will occur in a less than perfect world, serving as an ideal excuse for squandering resources, as well as our freedoms.

Just ask New York Times columnists Thomas Friedman and Bill Keller. Rising to the defense of NSA snooping on a scale never before imagined in human history, they warn us that if there was a second 9/11-type attack, we would lose all of our civil liberties, so we should be grateful for this trade-off.

“I believe that if there is one more 9/11—or worse, an attack involving nuclear material—it could lead to the end of the open society as we know it,” Friedman wrote in his June 11 column.

No nation in history has ever possessed such an imbalance of military superiority and the ability to ward off foreign threats without sacrificing its core values. Never has this country been as vulnerable to foreign attacks as when the founders approved our Constitution with its Fourth Amendment and other protections of individual sovereignty against an intrusive government. They did so out of the conviction that individual freedom makes us stronger rather than weaker as a nation. In short, they trusted in the essential wisdom of the people as opposed to the pundits who deride it.

Defending Friedman’s column, Keller wrote Sunday:

“Tom’s important point was that the gravest threat to our civil liberties is not the NSA but another 9/11-scale catastrophe that could leave a panicky public willing to ratchet up the security state, even beyond the war-on-terror excesses that followed the last big attack.”

So it’s the panicky public’s fault and not the ill-informed work of establishment journalists like Friedman, who led the charge to war with Iraq based on phony claims about terrorism.

Once again, Friedman has a misplaced faith in the work of the intelligence community. The NSA snooping was quite extensive before 9/11 and certainly in full force prior to the Boston Marathon attack, but did not prevent either event. Indeed, our much-vaunted spy agencies still have not come up with an explanation of how 19 hijackers, 15 from our ally Saudi Arabia, managed to legally enter this country and learn flying skills while under our government’s watch.

Nor have those intelligence agencies explained why the only three countries that recognized the Taliban government sponsors of al-Qaida were that same Saudi Arabia as well as our other friends in Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates. For information on the UAE connection, the NSA might check with its buddies at Booz Allen Hamilton.

As The New York Times reported Saturday: “When the United Arab Emirates wanted to create its own version of the National Security Agency, it turned to Booz Allen Hamilton to replicate the world’s largest and most powerful spy agency in the sands of Abu Dhabi. It was a natural choice: The chief architect of Booz Allen’s cyber strategy is Mike McConnell, who once led the NSA and pushed the United States into a new era of big data espionage. It was Mr. McConnell who won the blessing of the American intelligence agencies to bolster the Persian Gulf sheikdom, which helps track the Iranians.”

Tracking the Iranians, you say? But they’re not the enemies who attacked us on 9/11, and indeed they are Shiites, who were implacably hostile to the Sunni fanatics of al-Qaida. The reasoning makes sense only if you follow the money that the UAE can pay. “They are teaching everything,” one Arab official told The New York Times about Booz Allen’s staffers. “Data mining, web surveillance, all sorts of digital intelligence collection.”

How great. Now, it’s not just the government we elect but also those everywhere, even in desert emirates, that can mine our data.

“The NSA data mining,” Keller assures us, “is part of something much larger. On many fronts, we are adjusting to life in a surveillance state, relinquishing bits of privacy in exchange for the promise of other rewards.”

Behold McConnell. While director of national intelligence from 2007-09, he did much to inflate the threat of cyberterrorism; he then returned to the private sector and was rewarded with $4.1 million his first year back at Booz Allen, solving the problem he had hyped while heading the NSA. There’s a guy who knows how to play the game.

Robert Scheer, editor in chief of Truthdig, has built a reputation for strong social and political writing over his 30 years as a journalist. MORE

Explaining Iran’s ‘Surprise’ Election

June 19th, 2013 by Dave Schneider

The dogs of war in the U.S. media bark and, in true Don Quixote fashion, it’s a sign that authors Hillary and Flynt Leverett are on the move. In their electrifying new book, Going to Tehran: Why the United States Must Come to Terms with the Islamic Republic of Iran, the former National Security Council experts – who were forced out of their positions for their opposition to Washington ’s war-mongering and occupation – take on the growing myths told by the U.S. government about Iran .

Liberals, conservatives and centrists in the U.S. media hysterically attacked Going to Tehran as soon as it came out. The Wall Street Journal derided the Leveretts as “Washington ’s most outspoken defenders of the mullahs.” In a particularly nasty hit-piece called “I Heart Khomenei.” Laura Secor of the New York Times called the book “one-sided” and a “mirror image” of the anti-Iran propaganda churned out by the U.S. government. Foreign Affairsclaims they “overargue” their case for ending U.S. hostilities. The Weekly Standard accused them of “paranoid dogmatism.” The New Republiccalled the book “an act of ventriloquism,” presumably with the Iranian government as the puppet master.

Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett. (Photo credit: Penn State)

When I see a book receive universal condemnation from the corporate-owned media, I take it as a sign that I need to read it. And ultimately every anti-war activist in the U.S. owes it to the people of Iran to check out this well-researched, persuasive and highly readable case against war with Iran. After all, we live in a country where Argo, a ludicrous xenophobic hit-piece on the Iranian Revolution, wins the Academy Award for Best Picture at the 2012 Oscars.

As the Leveretts show in their book, the U.S. government and the corporate media work hand-in-glove to dominate the narrative on Iran, telling and repeating all sorts of myths and falsehoods to build the case for war against a large, independent, oil-producing country in the Middle East. Going to Tehran sets the record straight.

The book focuses on dispelling three elements of the U.S. mythology around Iran, breaking each into three-chapter parts. First, it challenges the myth that Iran is an irrational state “incapable of thinking about its foreign policy interests,” arguing instead that the Islamic Republic is incredibly rational in its fight for survival as a revolutionary state in a region historically dominated by U.S. imperialism and Israeli militarism.

Second, it unravels the myth of Iran as an illegitimate state, by showing the overwhelming popularity of the Iranian government and refuting the unsubstantiated claims of electoral fraud in 2009. Finally, it challenges the myth that the U.S. can – or should – topple Iran through sanctions, diplomatic isolation and the threat of war.

A Strike Against Imperialism

The Leveretts devote a serious chunk of their book to tracing the roots and trajectory of the 1979 Iranian Revolution and detailing the history of U.S., Israeli and Iraqi aggression against the Islamic Republic. They contextualize Ayatollah Khomenei’s Shi’a Islam, which strongly focused on social justice and anti-imperialism, and they detail the Iranian people’s history of resistance to the brutal U.S.-backed Shah monarchy.

Khomenei’s thought and popularity casts a long shadow, even into Iranian society today, and the Leveretts give him appropriate treatment. Agree or disagree with their analysis, you have to admit that it’s a far cry from the cynical chauvinism of most Western commentators, who paint a crude (and often racist) caricature of the leading figure in Iran’s revolution.

Equally important is their handling of the Iran-Iraq War – called the “imposed war” by Iranians. In that war, then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein launched a U.S.-backed war of aggression against Iran. The Iranian people, inspired by the revolution’s promise of self-determination, sacrificed dearly to defend their country, with well over a million killed from both sides in the eight-year war. The Leveretts show how the “imposed war” still impacts Iranian policy today, seen in the election and re-election of war veterans, like current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for political offices.

U.S. policymakers constantly refer to Iran as a theocratic dictatorship, but the Leveretts expose this argument as baseless, chauvinistic and out of touch with ordinary Iranians. They write, “Most Middle Easterners do not think that the Islamist features of Iran’s political system make it undemocratic. … For most Egyptians and other Middle Easterners, the ‘main division in the world’ is not between democracies and dictatorships but between countries whose strategic autonomy is subordinated to the United States and countries who exercise genuine independence in policymaking. For most people in the Middle East , the Islamic Republic is on the right side of that divide.”

The Leveretts argue that this divide between imperialist and anti-imperialist countries explains Iran’s rising stock in the Middle East. After decades of U.S. wars and occupations, people in the Middle East support those forces that resist imperialism, rather than the Gulf monarchies that kowtow to Washington’s agenda.

Counter-Revolution Defeated

It does not seem like four years ago that Iran held its last presidential election, which triggered the so-called “Green Movement.” With the 2013 elections just behind us, the Leveretts revisit some key facts about the election in 2009 that were overlooked and distorted by the U.S. media. By examining polls, debate transcripts, voting patterns and Iranian election law, the Leveretts prove that Ahmadinejad legitimately won the 2009 election.

They write: “The facts were evident for anyone who chose to face them: neither Mousavi nor anyone in his campaign nor anyone connected with the Green Movement ever presented hard evidence of electoral fraud. Moreover, every methodologically sound poll carried out in Iran before and after the election – fourteen in all, conducted by Western polling groups as well as by the University of Tehran – indicated that Ahmadinejad’s reelection, with two-thirds of the vote (which was what the official results showed), was eminently possible.”

Far from the popular rebellion that the U.S. media portrayed, the Green Movement receded just weeks after its beginning. The Green Movement represents the interests of businessmen tied to Western banks and corporations, well-off students, urban intellectuals and professionals, rather than the majority of Iranians. Many Iranians view the Green Movement as an attempted counter-revolution – backed by the U.S. – aimed at destabilizing a popular government that supports the Palestinian liberation struggle, Hezbollah in Lebanon and other resistance forces which the Leveretts examine in detail. …

Even if the U.S. media refused to acknowledge the truth, the Iranian people clearly understood that the Green Movement was a threat to the independence of Iran. A Charney Research poll from 2010 found that “59% of responders said the government’s reaction had been ‘correct’; only 19% thought it ‘went too far.’”

According to the opposition’s numbers, about 100 people died in clashes with security forces. The Leveretts show that the protests regularly led to opposition-instigated violence, to which the state then responded. Most insightful of all, the Leveretts compare the hypocritical reaction to the Green Movement by the U.S. to the violent crackdown on African American and Latinos outraged at the 1992 Rodney King verdict. The State of California sent in the National Guard and killed 53 people for demonstrating against this racist miscarriage of justice, but rather than condemning government violence, the U.S. media called the uprising a ‘riot.’

Why did a solid majority of Iranians support Ahmadinejad in 2009 and approve of the government’s harsh response to the attempt at counter-revolution? The Leveretts argue in chapter four, entitled “Religion, Revolution and Roots of Legitimacy” that the Iranian people, especially poor farmers and workers, experienced real progressive gains from the revolution in 1979.

In spite of economic sanctions and external threats, “the percentage of Iranians living in poverty – less than 2% by the World Bank’s $1.25-per-day standard – is lower than that in virtually any other large-population middle-income country,” including Brazil, India, Mexico and Turkey. Iran’s rapidly expanding public and low-income health care services have increased life expectancy by 21.9 years since 1980, according to the UN Development Programme. This serves as a model that even universities and NGOs working in Mississippi are implementing. Literacy rose from 40% under the Shah to 99% in the present-day Islamic Republic; voting suffrage is universal and religious minorities have guaranteed representation in the Majlis (parliament).

Despite Western Islamophobia, women’s rights in Iran have (in some ways) drastically improved. In addition to six months of paid maternity leave – far higher than the U.S. – “the majority of university students in Iran [and] the majority of students at Iran’s best universities are now female.” Some of the evidence the Leveretts present around issues of gender will genuinely surprise readers. For instance, they say that “rulings from [Ayatollah] Khomenei recognizing transgendered identity as biologically grounded, today provide the legal basis for free elective gender-reassignment surgery.”

While Iran still has many contradictions, related to gender and the role that working people play in society, the Leveretts argue that the Iranian people elect to build on the progressive gains rather than overturning them. The Green Movement represented a step backwards in the history of Iran, and the majority of Iranians recognized that.

Setting the Record Straight

The Leveretts won themselves no friends in the political establishment with their chapter entitled “Myths and Mythmakers.” By far the strongest section of the book, they analyze the neo-conservatives, liberal interventionists, the Israel lobby and the Iranian expatriates as four distinct but inter-related groups that fuel anti-Iranian sentiment in the media and in Washington.

Many of these so-called ‘experts’ monopolize the corporate-owned press in the U.S., despite having never read a word of Farsi. Although these groups do not all outwardly advocate U.S. military intervention, the Leveretts show how even the more well-meaning liberal critics repeat the same myths told by the neo-cons and warmongers, effectively strengthening their case for a strike on Iran. It is disturbing to think that the U.S. media still gives a platform for the most vocal cheerleaders of the disastrous Iraq War – Thomas Friedman of the New York Times and the xenophobic CIA analyst Kenneth Pollack – to spew their venom against Iran.

Even readers convinced that Tehran has nefarious intentions would benefit from the Leveretts’ book. In 1987, current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivered a speech to the UN laying out a fundamental distinction between opposition to U.S. imperialism and support for the people, saying, “This indictment is directed against the leaders of the United States regime and not against the American people, who, had they been aware of what their governments have done against another nation, would certainly endorse our indictment.”

Facing the hostile threat of a nuclear-armed Israel, and the U.S. military occupation of Iran ’s next-door neighbors – Afghanistan , and previously Iraq – the people of Iran want peace and solidarity with the people of the U.S., not another war.

Going to Tehran is written primarily to persuade policy-makers to abandon the current U.S. strategy of toppling the government of Iran. Throughout the whole book, the Leveretts seem frustrated at the very likely possibility that their well-researched case against war with Iran will go unread by politicians. However, the primary audience that will benefit from Going to Tehran is not lawmakers, but rather anti-war activists. Anti-war organizers could use the book as a starting point for reading groups and teach-ins about the nature of U.S. aggression.

The disorganized response by the U.S. anti-war movement to NATO’s attack on Libya proves the need for a unified, principled, anti-imperialist opposition to war that seeks to build meaningful international solidarity. And in 2013, Going to Tehran is an important contribution to that struggle.

Las ocho plagas de África : Cincuenta años sin rumbo

June 19th, 2013 by Chems Eddine Chitour

África celebra cincuenta años sin rumbo que empezaron con el asesinato de Patrice Lumumba* y terminaron provisionalmente con el linchamiento de Gadafi. Coloso con pies de barro, África es la tierra de las paradojas, un continente demográficamente exuberante con mil millones de habitantes de los cuales aproximadamente 600 millones no tienen acceso a la electricidad. Recordemos que un somalí consume en un año la energía que un estadounidense consume en una semana. Sin embargo, África rebosa de riquezas pero, como escribe Sarkozy, “su drama es que todavía no ha entrado en la historia”. No más Hegel que Victor Hugo dieron crédito al pasado de África. Por el contrario, establecieron la base de la ideología de las raíces superiores y del deber civilizador que tanto gustaban a Jules Ferry**. Mejor aún, en la Conferencia de Berlín en 1885 el reparto de África autorizó al rey de los belgas a tener un territorio para él, el actual Congo, situado a ambos lados del río del mismo nombre y que actualmente se desgarra. Los beligerantes ayudados por unas potencias externas fascinados por las riquezas. A continuación vamos a enumerar las ocho plagas purulentas.
El hambre y el sida

No se pueden enumerar todos los males de África sin mencionar en primer lugar los dos más importantes, el hambre y el sida. Por lo que se refiere al hambre, que continúa ahí, en estado endémico, son decenas de miles las personas que mueren de hambre cada año y que sufren desnutrición. Recordemos que llenar el depósito de un 4×4 de biocarburante a base de maíz podría alimentar a una persona subsahariana durante un año. En cuanto al sida, Claire Brisse escribe: “Durante casi veinte años se ha considerado una enfermedad mortal, sin escapatoria posible. […] Pero este panorama global oculta unas sorprendentes desigualdades; desigualdades geográficas, puesto que conciernen más particularmente a determinados países del continente negro, y generacionales, puesto que afectan más a los niños de esos mismos países a pesar de los progresos constatados en otros lugares. En el África francófona es donde la lucha contra el sida va con retraso.[…] Según M. Sidibé, este retraso se debe sobre todo a la historia de la epidemia que se extendió aprovechando los desplazamientos de los trabajadores de las minas del África austral […] La violencia también favorece la difusión del virus: altercados civiles, guerras, violencia contra las mujeres… En efecto, en adelante hay que considerar la lucha contra el sida como un componente de las luchas en favor de los derechos y no solo como un reto de salud pública” (1).
Las riquezas mineras y la acaparamiento de tierras

En otro artículo hemos hablado del acaparamiento de tierras: “Ya era conocido el saqueo de materias primas del suelo y del subsuelo de África, sobre todo la energía y los metales raros, como el coltán que se utiliza en las tecnologías de la comunicación (ordenadores, teléfonos móviles…). Intermediarios sin escrúpulos revenden a un precio cien veces superior este coltán a multinacionales extranjeras muy discretas sobre este comercio mucho más abyecto que el comercio histórico de estos mismo civilizadores en tierra de conquista y de evangelización de estos poblados bárbaros a los que obligatoriamente tenía que llegar el Evangelio en nombre de la “regla de las tres Ces”, cristinización, comercio y civilización. […] El acaparamiento de tierras agrícolas en África por parte de Estados extranjeros y de las multinacionales ha sido denunciado varias veces, en especial en febrero de 2011 en Dakar, con ocasión del Foro Social Mundial, por la ONG Actionaid” (2).

Cincuenta años después África sigue tendiendo la mano. Es el continente de todas las calamidades, calamidades naturales, pero también provocadas por el ser humano. Paradójicamente, no se deja de anunciar la riqueza de estas tierras en una coyuntura cada vez más marcada por la escasez de materias primas de todo tipo. Pero se trata también de la energía y las antiguas potencias coloniales (Gran Bretaña, Francia y, en menor medida, Portugal) no quieren en absoluto soltar su presa. Nuevos países, y no menores, se interesan por ella: por supuesto, Estados Unidos, que se impone sobre todo estableciendo un comando, el AFRICOM, para controlar África a partir de bases permanentes, pero también China, que tiene una estrategia de poder blando; India y Japón, cuya ayuda al desarrollo es de casi 2.000 millones de dólares. Con todo, nunca se ha llegado el nivel de esta ayuda al desarrollo que los países desarrollados fijaron en el 7% del PIB. Además, cada país condiciona esta ayuda a una compra exclusiva en este país al tiempo que se fusionan diferentes limosnas bajo este término.

En este marco, se nos informa de que Japón solicita el “brazo armado” de Francia para abrir mercados en África: “[…] Francia aportará en este dominio su pericia y sus medios en materia de lucha contra el terrorismo. En efecto, la reciente toma de rehenes de In Amenas, en la que fallecieron ciudadanos japoneses, ha venido a recordar a las empresas niponas las razones de sus reticencias a implantarse en el continente. Francia y Japón tienen intereses comunes en África: que el continente sea estable y se convierta en un socio económico fiable, dotado de una buena gobernanza, análisis […]. Los franceses conocen el terreno y están bien integrados en las sociedades africanas en determinados países francófonos. Francia es una potencia dominante en esta región, cuenta con tropas sobre el terreno y con bases militares. Japón, en cambio, tiene poca información sobre grupos como Aqmi [Al Qaeda del Magreb Islámico]” (3).
La negación de las alternancias y los regímenes dinásticos

Con su particular lucidez Aimé Césaire fue uno de los primeros, si no el primero, que habló del África posterior a la independencia. Sobre todo escribió: “La lucha por la independencia es la epopeya, la independencia adquirida es la tragedia”. Por su parte, Frantz Fanon escribió: “El gran éxito de los enemigos de África es haber corrompido a los propios africanos”. En África se practica la alternancia, ya sea por medio de levantamientos populares ya sea por medio de la enfermedad. Precisamente, uno de los grandes males de África se debe a unos dirigentes que perpetúan el orden colonial en su propio beneficio al tiempo que toman la sabia precaución de haber sido armados caballeros por sus antiguos amos. La media de acaparamiento de poder suele superar los diez años. Cuando el potentado cede el poder suele ser a beneficio de su familia. Es una nueva forma de sumisión a distancia en la que el africano trabaja para los demás, pero es incapaz de cubrir sus necesidades. ¿Acaso es esto una maldición?
Las continuas injerencias occidentales

Hay que saber que los países occidentales e incluso los nuevos países emergentes no tienen el menor problema en recolonizar a distancia a los antiguos países [colonizados], lo que cuenta es que se permita el saqueo y todos los eslóganes sobre los derechos humanos solo sirven para deslumbrar. El sociólogo Hervé Amani nos describe los males de África debido al colonialismo: “NKrumah*** había predicho que «la principal prioridad de los intereses imperialistas es reforzar el colonialismo y el neocolonialismo, y nos engañaremos a nosotros mismos de la manera más cruel si consideramos que las acciones de los occidentales son claras y sin relación entre ellas» […]. NKrumah no fue seguido por sus semejantes. Para desgracia de África, los jefes de Estado cuya ideología era la longevidad en el poder predicaron el nacionalismo mezquino y siguieron los demonios de la división” (4).

“En 2013, es decir, cincuenta años después del discurso de NKrumah, la Unión Africana continúa en gestación”. A continuación, Hervé Amani desarrolla el macabro catálogo de las violencias que ha padecido África: “Olympio en Togo, Yaméogo en Haute Volta, Ahomadégbé en Benin, Hamani Diori en Niger, Modibo Kéïta en Mali… padecieron golpes de Estado; Sankara fue asesinado… Según NKrumah, su crimen fue haber defendido los intereses de su país, la dignidad de África. El coronel Gadafi fue el incansable artífice del establecimiento de la Unión Africana. Había emprendido la financiación de grandes proyectos como los preconizados por NKrumah. El Guía fue asesinado por las potencias occidentales con el falaz móvil de genocidio del pueblo. Entre los dirigentes de la época que se opusieron al espíritu de la Unidad Africana de NKrumah está el presidente Houphouët-Boigny de Costa de Marfil. Es un hecho. Sin lugar a dudas su longevidad es fruto de una sumisión a las potencias coloniales […]” (4).

“Nos equivocamos cruelmente si nos alegramos de lo que le ocurrió a Gadafi, a Gbagbo o a NKrumah. El nombramiento inesperado de lacayos por medio de la fuerza militar solo sirve a los intereses de la potencia de tutela y de la plutocracia”, continúa el autor y concluye: “África tiene que unirse porque nuestra evolución económica exige el fin de la dominación colonialista; ahora bien, cada Estado será impotente frente a los imperialistas. Hay que repetirlo: NKrumah había predicho que «[…] nos engañaremos a nosotros mismos de la manera más cruel si consideramos que las acciones de los occidentales son claras y sin relación entre ellas»” (4).

En ese sentido, dos fuerzas de acción rápida establecidas por Occidente tiene el objetivo de asentar el statu quo. En el punto álgido de Francia-África, el presidente francés François Hollande invitado a la fiesta religiosa de la zerda, previno que “son los africanos quienes mañana tendrán que garantizar la seguridad del continente”, aunque “Francia siempre esté a su lado” (4).
La corrupción

Entre 1980 y 2009 se transfirieron al extranjero 1350000 millones de dólares de flujos financieros ilícitos procedentes de África. Según un informe del Banco Africano de Desarrollo (BAD), África del Norte suma 415.600 millones de dólares de transferencias ilícitas durante este periodo. En la región norteafricana estas salidas fraudulentas de dinero conciernen en primer lugar a Egipto, seguido de Argelia en segunda posición y por último de Libia. Lo más frecuente es que el dinero se transfiera a paraísos fiscales, pero también a muchos países europeos, a Estados Unidos y a otras regiones del mundo. “La huida de recursos fuera de África en el curso de los últimos treinta años, aproximadamente el [equivalente al] PIB actual de África, frena el despegue del continente”, según Mthuli Ncube, economista jefe y vicepresidente del BAD. “Siempre se ha tenido la idea preconcebida de que Occidente inyecta dinero a África gracias a la ayuda extranjera y a otros flujos de capitales del sector privado, sin recibir gran cosa a cambio. Nuestro informe da la vuelta a este razonamiento: desde hace décadas África está en una situación de acreedor neto en relación al resto del mundo”, declara Raymond Baker, director del Centro de Investigación y de Defensa GFI de Washington (5).

La corrupción en Argelia, por ejemplo, se ha convertido en una ciencia exacta. Cuanto más se roba menos se arriesga. Así que pagan los subordinados. Pero los peces gordos, así como los escándalos de las «comisiones» que derraman las empresas que actúan en Argelia, acaban por desmoralizar a los argelinos para quienes el doble rasero está más presente que nunca.
La falta de visión de futuro

¿Qué se piensa que hace África ante todos estos agravios? ¿Acaso se coordina con vistas a una seguridad alimentaria, con vistas a una medicina de calidad?¿Estudia un desarrollo endógeno? ¿Pide que se la deje en paz alimentado con armas a los beligerantes o apoyando a unos tiranos que rechazan la alternancia? Nada de eso: ¡decide establecer una fuerza de acción rápida!! Lo hace con armas occidentales precisamente para mantener en el poder a tiranos consagrados y la frase de Chirac adquiere todo su significado cuando declara: “Hay que apoyar a los dictadores, de lo contrario no harían elecciones”, sobreentendiendo que sea cual sea el resultado, lo esencial es que las elecciones se celebren.

Las baladronadas tienen una época de bonanza ante sí. África, “coloso con un sable enano”, quiere tener su fuerza de acción rápida según el modelo francés. Recordemos la cacofonía de los países del África Occidental reunidos en el seno de la Comunidad Económica de Estados de África Occidental, organismo que a cuenta de Francia hace dóciles a los presidentes de opereta. “Los presidentes africanos reunidos en una cumbre en Addis-Abeba decidieron crear una fuerza de acción rápida encargada de intervenir en los conflictos del continente, declaró el presidente en ejercicio de la Unión Africana” (6).

El ridículo ya no mata, ¡quienes mueren son los condenados de la tierra, consecuencia de una política de huida hacia adelante, de obsesión por el poder !
Los conflictos futuros

Es un hecho que durante estos cincuenta años África nunca ha conocido la paz debido a las interferencias de las antiguas potencias coloniales, a la rareza de las materias primas de las que está abarrotada y a la aparición de nuevos actores que hacen unas propuestas a África que esta no podrá rechazar. Entre estos conflictos del futuro están sobre todo los debidos a los cambios climáticos para los que África no tiene respuesta alguna y que hacen que después de los refugiados políticos que son consecuencia de las guerras perpetuas, de los refugiados económicos que son consecuencia de epidemias pandémicas, tengamos cada vez más refugiados climáticos que no tendrán a dónde ir y no podrán sino seguir muriéndose poco a poco.

Además de ello y a consecuencia también de la demografía, [está] el agotamiento de los recursos hidráulicos en algunas regiones. La próxima guerra del agua se perfila en el horizonte como demuestra el conflicto latente sobre las aguas del Nilo.

“Desde 2010 Etiopía, Kenia, Uganda Burundi, Ruanda y Tanzania son signatarios de un nuevo tratado de reparto de las aguas del Nilo. Este texto pone en tela de juicio un tratado precedente que databa de 1929 y fue enmendado en 1959 por Egipto y Sudán. Este primer tratado otorgaba la mejor parte a Egipto y Sudán, los cuales disfrutaban de aproximadamente el 90% des las aguas del Nilo. […] Etiopía emprendió en 2011 las obras de su Gran Presa del Milenio, que produciría más de 5000 megavatios, contendría cerca 6300 millones de m3 de agua y se convertiría en la primera presa de África […]” (7).

Según las últimas noticias, el embajador de Asuntos Exteriores egipcio convocó al embajador etíope, aunque aún no se ha llegado a ningún acuerdo entre Egipto, Etiopía y Sudán concerniente a la gestión de las aguas del Nilo. Las obras empezarán el martes 28 de mayo. La presa costará 3,2 mds. Para construirla hay que secar y desviar el lecho natural del Nilo Azul. En varias ocasiones Egipto y Etiopía han estado al borde del enfrentamiento directo debido a esta cuestión crucial para ambos países (8).

¿Es racista la Corte Penal Internacional (CPI)? Los potentados africanos están inquietos: temen acabar sus días en La Haya. El CPI lleva a cabo una “especie de caza racial” al perseguir únicamente a los africanos, ha afirmado el presidente en ejercicio de la Unión Africana, el primer ministro etíope Hailemariam Desalegn. Estos mismos países, la mayoría de los cuales han ratificado el Tratado de Roma, creen que hay racismo y que lo que se pone en tela de juicio no es su desastrosa gestión. Es cierto que esta institución creada por los países occidentales para imponer un orden, el suyo, tiene por objetivo castigar a quienes no pasan por el aro en nombre de los derechos humanos, cuya definición universal alguien tendrá que darnos alguna vez. Hay que recordar que Estados Unidos no ha firmado el Tratado de Roma que creaba la CPI debido a que la constitución estadounidense prohíbe que sus ciudadanos sean juzgados por otros países.

Por lo que se refiere a Argelia, juega a ser mecenas y acaba de anular una deuda de 900 millones para asumir plenamente su compromiso a favor de la promoción económica del continente. Se habrá comprendido, un pozo sin fondo con una prima de ingratitud de estos países es lo que hace que no haya ninguna contrapartida a la inversión, ni política ni económica. Con 900 millones de dólares. Equivalen a diez universidades de alto nivel….

Chems Eddine Chitour

Texto original en francés :

carte-Afrique

Les huit plaies de l’Afrique : Cinquante ans d’errance, 03 juin 2013

Traducido del francés para Rebelión por Beatriz Morales Bastos


* Patrice Lumumba fue un dirigente anticolonialista y nacionalista congolés, y la primera persona que desempeñó el cargo primer ministro del país una vez recuperada la independencia. Sobre su asesinato, véase”El asesinato de Patricio Lumumba”, http://www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=15365 (N. de la t.).

** Jules Ferry, político francés (1832-1893): “Las razas superiores tienen derecho con respecto a las razas inferiores porque existe un deber para con ellas; las razas superiores tienen el deber de civilizar a las razas inferiores” (N. de la t.).

1. Claire Brisset http://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/2013/06/BRISSET/49201

2. Chems Eddine Chitour: http://www.legrandsoir.info/l-afrique-nourrit-les-autres-le-grabbing-des-terres.html

3. Emilie Guyonnet, http://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/2013/06/GUYONNET/49208

*** Kwame Nkrumah fue el primer presidente de Ghana una vez lograda la independencia, defensor del panafricanismo y uno de los fundadores de la Organización de la Unidad Africana. Fue derrocado por un golpe de Estado (N. de la t.).

4. Hervé Amani http://www.legrandsoir.info/50e-anniversaire-de-l-ua-l-unite-africaine-a-l-epreuve-des-africains.html 29 mai 2013

5. Zhor Hadjam, Transfert illégal de capitaux en Afrique du Nord. L’Algérie talonne l’Egypte, El Watan, 30 05 2013.

6. Aniss Z., Sommet de l’Union africaine à Addis-Abeba des pays veulent une force africaine de réaction rapide, El Watan, 28 05 2013

7. Gaëlle Laleix, http://www.slateafrique.com/2161/tensions-eau-bassin-du-nil 29 05 2011

8. http://www.econostrum.info/Le-Nil-provoque-des-tensions-entre-l-Egypte-et-l Ethiopie_a14783.html

Fuente: http://www.mondialisation.ca/les-huit-plaies-de-lafrique-cinquante-ans-derrance/5337447

Chems Eddine Chitour es ingeniero de la Escuela Politécnica de Argelia. Es autor de varias obras sobre la energía y los retos estratégicos. También trata de explicar en sus obras la historia y las mutaciones del mundo. Así, ha escrito varios ensayos sobre la historia de Argelia, la educación y la cultura, la globalización, los retos del islam y la emigración.

Michael Hastings, the fearless journalist whose reporting brought down the career of General Stanley McChrystal, has died in a car accident in Los Angeles, Rolling Stone has learned. He was 33.

Hastings’ unvarnished 2010 profile of McChrystal in the pages of Rolling Stone, “The Runaway General,” captured the then-supreme commander of the U.S.-led war effort in Afghanistan openly mocking his civilian commanders in the White House. The maelstrom sparked by its publication concluded with President Obama recalling McChrystal to Washington and the general resigning his post. “The conduct represented in the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be met by – set by a commanding general,” Obama said, announcing McChrystal’s departure. “It undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system.”

michael hastingsHastings’ hallmark as reporter was his refusal to cozy up to power. While other embedded reporters were charmed by McChrystal’s bad-boy bravado and might have excused his insubordination as a joke, Hastings was determined to expose the recklessness of a man leading what Hastings believed to be a reckless war. “Runaway General” was a finalist for a National Magazine Award, won the 2010 Polk award for magazine reporting, and was the basis for Hastings’ book, The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan.

Image: Courtesy of Blue Rider Press/Penguin

For Hastings, there was no romance to America’s misbegotten wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He had felt the horror of war first-hand: While covering the Iraq war for Newsweek in early 2007, his then-fianceé, an aide worker, was killed in a Baghdad car bombing. Hastings memorialized that relationship in his first book, I Lost My Love in Baghdad: A Modern War Story.

A contributing editor to Rolling Stone, Hastings leaves behind a remarkable legacy of reporting, including an exposé of America’s drone war, an exclusive interview with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at his hideout in the English countryside, an investigation into the Army’s illicit use of “psychological operations” to influence sitting Senators and a profile of Taliban captive Bowe Bergdahl, “America’s Last Prisoner of War.”

“Great reporters exude a certain kind of electricity,” says Rolling Stone managing editor Will Dana, “the sense that there are stories burning inside them, and that there’s no higher calling or greater way to live life than to be always relentlessly trying to find and tell those stories. I’m sad that I’ll never get to publish all the great stories that he was going to write, and sad that he won’t be stopping by my office for any more short visits which would stretch for two or three completely engrossing hours. He will be missed.”

Hard-charging, unabashedly opinionated, Hastings was original and at times abrasive. He had little patience for flacks and spinmeisters and will be remembered for his enthusiastic breaches of the conventions of access journalism. In a memorable exchange with Hillary Clinton aide Philippe Reines in the aftermath of the Benghazi attacks, Hastings’ aggressive line of questioning angered Reines. “Why do you bother to ask questions you’ve already decided you know the answers to?” Reines asked. “Why don’t you give answers that aren’t bullshit for a change?” Hastings replied.

In addition to his work as a contributing editor for Rolling Stone, Hastings also reported for BuzzFeed. He leaves behind his wife, the writer Elise Jordan.

Matt Farwell is a veteran of the Afghanistan war who worked as a co-reporter with Hastings on some of his recent pieces. He sent this eulogy to Rolling Stone:  ”My friend Michael Hastings died last night in a car crash in Los Angeles. Writing this feels almost ghoulish: I still haven’t processed the fact that he’s gone. Today we all feel that loss: whether we’re friends of Michael’s, or family, or colleagues or readers, the world has gotten a bit smaller. As a journalist, he specialized in speaking truth to power and laying it all out there. He was irascible in his reporting and sometimes/often/always infuriating in his writing: he lit a bright lamp for those who wanted to follow his example.

“Michael was no stranger to trying to make sense this kind of tragedy nor was he unfamiliar the emptiness felt in the wake of a senseless, random death. After all, he’d already learned about it the only way he ever deemed acceptable for a non hack: first-hand. In the course of his reporting he figured this lesson out again and again in Iraq, Afghanistan and in the United States, and part of his passion stemmed from a desire to make everyone else wake the fuck up and realize the value of the life we’re living.

“He did: He always sought out the hard stories, pushed for the truth, let it all hang out on the page. Looking back on the past ten years is tough for anyone, but looking back on Michael’s past ten years and you begin to understand how passionate and dedicated to this work he was, a passion that was only equaled by his dedication to his family and friends, and how much more he lived in thirty-three years than most people live in a lifetime. That’s part of what makes this all so tough: exiting, he leaves us all with little more than questions and a blank sheet of paper. Maybe that’s challenge to continue to use it to write the truth. I hope we can live up to that. He was a great friend and I will miss him terribly.”

Orr plan fails to address roots of municipal crisis, finance capital

Note: The following remarks were delivered at a public meeting in Detroit on June 15, 2013. The event was sponsored by Workers World Party Detroit branch.

Over the last week the struggle has escalated for the Moratorium NOW! Coalition. Moreover, since the May 4 public meeting at Central United Methodist Church downtown more people have been involved in the movement to stave off the greater imposition of austerity in Detroit.

On May 4 the Moratorium NOW! Coalition program was laid out calling for a halt to debt service payments to the banks and its relationship to the housing crisis. Both the demand for a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions is directly linked to the problems of municipal finance. With the flight of jobs and home seizures the city has been devastated through the lack of tax revenue.

One of the most significant developments took place yesterday (June 14) after an eight-day intense escalation of activity surrounding the holding of a purported “public” meeting by the emergency manager at the “no show” fiasco at Greater Grace Temple and Martin Luther King High School to the actual appearance of Orr on Monday, June 10 at the Wayne State University Law School. Yesterday (June 14) Orr floated his plan for the restructuring of city finances.

What jumped right out was the declaration of a moratorium on $2.5 billion in both debt-service and principal amounts of the municipal debt. The first sign of this was the withholding of $39.7 million in debt payments due on June 14. This moratorium has been called for by the Moratorium NOW! Coalition for at least two years.

The demand has been picked-up by various leaders and organizations throughout the city. Yet the political officials and union leadership have refrained from giving more than lip service for the demand.

Yet it is this demand and programmatic approach for its propagation that has sustained us over the last several months. Although we uphold the demand for democratic rights of the workers and oppressed and the inherent right to self-determination for the nationally oppressed, we have often stated that prior to the passage of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and a series of Civil Rights Bills extending from 1866 to 1968, slavery, which was legal inside the U.S., is above-all an economic system.

Capitalism today is an economic system that has run its course in its capacity to adapt to the current realities and necessities for domestic and global conditions. Capitalism in the 21st century cannot provide full-employment, a guaranteed annual income, quality education for all, public services, adequate healthcare, public transportation, food and security to all working people within society.

The history of the Moratorium struggle has taught us many lessons in regard to the degree of heightened consciousness and willingness to take bold actions in addressing the imperatives of the challenges today.

Task of the Mass Work Going Forward

Even though Orr declared a moratorium on some of the city’s illegitimate debt to the financial institutions, he also announced a series of measures that will worsen the conditions for working people. There will be a privatization of trash collection that will impact jobs.

Other aspects of Orr’s plan, a 127-page document issued on June 14, include the privatization as well of the city operations of the water and sewage system, cuts in healthcare benefits for municipal employees and retirees, in addition to the possible lowering of pension payments. Leading up to the June 14 meeting with creditors at the Westin Hotel in the Wayne County Airport’s main terminal, both Standard & Poor and Moody’s performed a super-downgrade of Detroit’s bond rating.

In a follow-up meeting this coming week labor unions will be told of their possible fate in regard to further pay and benefit cuts as well as lay-offs. The plan has been met with criticism by AFSCME leaders but what is required now is a militant program of action and the political will to challenge the banks and their representatives through the personage of Rick Snyder and Kevyn Orr.

The Moratorium NOW! Coalition has been willing and prepared to raise the question of the role of the banks and to take the struggle to the enemy, i.e., international finance capital. Our focus must remain on the banks and the further draconian concessions being forced on the workers and the residents who live in the city.

We are more than willing to back up the municipal workers in any effort to wage a campaign against the proposed restructuring in city operations at the expense of the people. The bankruptcy proceedings in Jefferson County, Alabama, Stockton and San Bernardino, California are being observed intensely by activists in Detroit in order to anticipate possible legal and political initiatives by the banks and their surrogates in government.

We began the moratorium struggle in the ongoing work related to housing. Despite the fact that foreclosures have declined some there has been a sharp rise in home seizures over the last month. Bloomberg Municipal Market reported on June 14 that “Home repossessions in the U.S. jumped 11 percent in May after declining for the previous five months as rising prices and limited inventory for sale across the country spurred banks to complete foreclosures.”

Municipal Market reports also that “Thirty-three states had increases in the number of homes repossessed, RealtyTrac says. A total of 148,054 foreclosure filings, including default, auction and repression notices were sent to U.S. properties last month, an increase of 2 percent from April and down 28 percent from a year earlier…. One in 885 U.S. households got a filing.”

This same article reports “Florida had the highest rate of filing per household in May at one in 302, followed by Nevada, at one in 305 and Ohio at one in 584. Maryland ranked fourth at one in 587; South Carolina was fifth at one in 600.”

Consequently, the transitional demands related to the moratorium are still valid related to the banks, jobs, plant closings and housing. We must of course deepen our mass work to address these realities.

Last weekend at the Left Forum, this writer spoke to the relationship between “Ideology, Organization and the Mass Struggle.” Our struggle is against capital and the capitalist state and our tactics must reflect this. We must be able to swim in a large pond. We can work in a united front and still maintain our political and ideological independence.

Abayomi Azikiwe Editor, Pan-African News Wire

 

Dozens of responsible world leaders oppose Washington’s war on Syria. They do so for good reason. They want peaceful conflict resolution. They’re against greater escalation. Few say so publicly.

On May 15, the UN General Assembly adopted an anti-Assad resolution. It’s non-binding. It was Arab League-led. Washington co-sponsored it. It followed four others since 2011.

It passed 107 – 12. Over 70 nations refused support. They endorse peace, not war. They oppose greater foreign intervention. Russia called the measure “counterproductive and irresponsible.”

Assad expressed views many other leaders share. Few air them publicly. He warned about longterm regional destabilization, saying:

“If the unrest in Syria leads to the partitioning of the country, or if the terrorist forces take control. the situation will inevitably spill over into neighboring countries and create a domino effect throughout the Middle East and beyond.”

Most Americans oppose greater intervention. Most polls consistently say so. Pew Research shows overwhelming Arab street unease. At issue is Syrian violence spreading cross-borders.

High-level Pentagon officials express concerns. Greater Syrian intervention’s much more daunting than Libya. Last March, Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey said “We can do anything” if asked.

At the same time, he repeatedly opposed greater US involvement. He’s against escalated conflict. Endgame consequences worry him most. Before acting, “we have to be prepared for what comes next,” he warns.

Attacking Syria won’t be easy, he added. Russian-supplied air defenses are formidable. They’re located close to major population centers.

 

Syrian opposition is splintered. Many insurgents are known terrorists. Hezbollah supports Syria. So does Iran. Russia may intervene supportively.

“Whether the military effect would produce the kind of outcome I think that not only members of Congress but all of us would desire – which is an end to the violence, some kind of political reconciliation among the parties, and a stable Syria – that’s the reason I’ve been cautious about the application of the military instrument of power…. It’s not clear to me that it would produce that outcome,” he said.

 

On June 17, Al Manar headlined “Russia: We Won’t Allow Imposing a no-Fly Zone in Syria,” saying:

 

Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Ocahevch said:

“We will not permit such scenarios, and these maneuvers on a fly-zone and humanitarian passages in Syria are caused by the lack of respect for the International Law.”

“We have seen how they imposed no-fly zones in Libya, so we will not allow repeating the same scenarios in Syria.”

“The Syrian crisis cannot be settled by double stances – refusing the military track on one hand and arming the militants on the other.”

A same day Al Manar article headlined “Putin: Russia Arming Legitimate Gov’t in Syria, West Arming Organ-Eaters,” saying:

 

“You will not deny that one does not really need to support the people who not only kill their enemies, but open up their bodies, eat their intestines in front of the public and cameras.”

 

“Are these the people you want to support? Is it them who you want to supply with weapons? Then this probably has little relation to humanitarian values that have been preached in Europe for hundreds of years.”

 

He unequivocal on Russian policy. He wants conflict ended. He wants it diplomatically resolved. He wants Syrians alone to decide who’ll govern them. Let them defeat foreign “extremists,” he stresses.

 

On June 17, Lebanon’s Daily Star quoted Assad saying:

 

“If the Europeans deliver weapons, the backyard of Europe will become terrorist and Europe will pay the price for it.”

At issue is exporting “terrorism” to Europe. “Terrorists will gain experience in combat and return with extremist ideologies,” he warned.

On June 16, London’s Telegraph headlined “Boris Johnson: Don’t arm the Syria maniacs,” saying:

 

London’s mayor warned David Cameron. Don’t use Syria for “political point-scoring or muscle-flexing.” Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg echoed similar sentiments.

 

So did former army head Lord Dannatt and Archbishop of York John Sentamu. Johnson urged “total ceasefire….This is the moment (to) end….the madness.”

 

Cameron faces growing internal opposition. Associates warn he faces a no-confidence defeat.

 

Clegg insists Britain won’t arm insurgents. “We’ve taken no decision to provide lethal assistance, so we clearly don’t think it is the right thing to do now, otherwise we would have decided to do it,” he said.

 

Tory MP Julian Lewis spoke for others saying arming insurgents would be “suicidal.” Cameron will “struggle” to get parliamentary approval.

 

Shadow foreign minister Douglas Alexander said MPs from all parties express unease.

“For months Labour has called on the government to answer basic questions about their approach, such as how the prime minister would ensure that weapons supplied did not fall into the wrong hands, and how this step would help to de-escalate the conflict rather than prolong it.”

 

Unnamed US defense officials warn that creating safe or protected areas inside Syria involve enormous complexities.

 

Thousands of US ground forces may be needed to enforce them. Deploying them involves invasion and occupation. A protracted quagmire may follow.

No-fly zone imposition is just as daunting. Justifiable Syrian responses will follow.

On June 14, Foreign Policy‘s Gordon Lubold headlined “Why the Pentagon really, really doesn’t want to get involved in Syria,” saying:

“Top Pentagon brass have been ambivalent in the extreme about getting involved in the Syrian crisis since it began more than two years ago.”

“And now, even as the Obama administration signals its intention to provide direct military aid to opponents of the Syrian regime, there remains deep skepticism across the military that it will work.”

Escalating conflict entails enormous risks. Success is unlikely. “(T)op brass is extremely reluctant to commit assets.”

According to an unnamed senior Pentagon commander:

“There is no way to ensure” that arming insurgents won’t make matters worse. Supplying heavier weapons, no-fly zone protection and safe areas sound good on paper.

Reality suggests otherwise. Failure’s more likely than success. Former head of US European Operation Command and Supreme Allied Commander, Europe General Philip Breedlove sees “no military value in no-fly zone imposition inside northern Syria.

Northern and Southern Watch over Iraq was operationally exhausting and expensive.

Military intervention entails unintended consequences. Afghanistan and Iraq are protracted quagmires. Libya’s a cauldron of violence.

Syria could be worse. Cross-border fallout could be disastrous. Escalated conflict affects Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, and perhaps other regional countries.

On June 14, Politico headlined “DOD brass has long urged caution on Syria,” saying:

Obama’s planned greater involvement reflects what Pentagon brass warned against for months. At issue is another protracted quagmire.

“In hearings, speeches and interviews, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey have been deeply skeptical every time they’ve been asked about potential US involvement in Syria.”

Unintended consequences worry planners most. They’ve seen it all before. They’re loathe to repeat past mistakes. National security/military strategist Micah Zenko said:

“I’ve never spoken to anyone at the (military) O-5 level or above who thinks intervening in Syria is a good idea.”

Hagel warned that military intervention “could embroil the United States in a significant, lengthy, and uncertain military commitment.”

It could have “the unintended consequence of bringing the United States into a broader regional conflict or proxy war.”

“You better be damn sure, as sure as you can be, before you get into something, because once you’re into it, there isn’t any backing out, whether it’s a no-fly zone, safe zone, protect these – whatever it is.”

“Once you’re in, you can’t unwind it. You can’t just say, ‘Well, it’s not going as well as I thought it would go, so we’re going to get out.’ “

Dempsey said supplying insurgents heavier weapons won’t make a difference. “Not in my military judgment,” he stressed. Don’t expect Syria to take escalation lightly, he added.

“I have to assume, as the military member with responsibility for these kind of activities, that the potential adversary isn’t just going to sit back and allow us to impose our will on them, that they could in fact take exception . and act outside of their borders with long-range rockets and missiles and artillery and even asymmetrical threats.”

In other words, be careful what you wish for. Best laid plans often fail. US military history reflects failure. Quagmires more than victories result.

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

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

Syria Is Becoming Obama’s Iraq

June 19th, 2013 by Shamus Cooke

In perfect Bush-like fashion, President Obama has invented a bogus pretense for military intervention in yet another Middle East country. The president’s claim that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons — and thus crossed Obama’s imaginary “red line” — will likely fool very few Americans, who already distrust their president after the massive NSA spying scandal. Obama has officially started down a path that inevitably leads to full-scale war. At this point the Obama administration thinks it has already invested too much military, financial, and diplomatic capital into the Syrian conflict to turn back, and each step forward brings the U.S. closer to a direct military intervention.Much like Obama’s spying program, few Americans knew that the United States was already involved, neck deep, with the mass killings occurring in Syria.

For example, Obama has been directly arming the Syrian rebels for well over a year. The New York Times broke the story that the Obama administration has — through the CIA — been illegally trafficking thousands of tons of guns to the rebels from the dictatorships of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. If not for these Obama-trafficked guns, thousands of deaths would have been prevented and the Syrian conflict over. But even after the gun trafficking story broke, the mainstream media largely ignored it, and continued “reporting” that the U.S. has only been supplying the Syrian rebels with “non-lethal aid,” a meaningless term in a war setting, since all military aid directly assists in the business of killing.

The U.S. media also buried the truth behind the ridiculous chemical weapons claims by the Obama administration, which, like Bush’s WMDs, are based on absolutely no evidence. Having learned nothing from Iraq, the U.S. media again shamelessly regurgitates the “facts” as spoon-fed to them by the government, no questions asked. In reality, however, a number of independent chemical weapons experts have publicly spoken outagainst Obama’s accusations. The U.S. media also refuses to ask: on what authority does the United States have to determine the usage of chemical weapons in other countries? This is the job of the UN. What has the UN said on the matter?

Top UN rights investigator Carla del Ponte said:”According to the testimonies we have gathered, the [Syrian] rebels have used chemical weapons, making use of sarin gas.”

Again, the “rebels” have used chemical weapons, not the Syrian government, according to the UN representative. Many analysts have pointed out the obvious fact that the Syrian government would have zero military or political motive to use chemical weapons, especially when they have access to much more effective conventional weapons. Obama’s Bush-like lies are too familiar to the American public, who overwhelmingly do not support military intervention in Syria, or giving direct military aide to the Syrian rebels.

What has the UN said on giving military aid to the rebels? 
UN chief Ban Ki-moon has called the Obama’s decision “a bad idea” and “not helpful.” This is because pouring arms into any country where there is a conflict only increases the bloodshed and risks turning the conflict into a broader catastrophe.

But like Bush, Obama is ignoring the UN, and there’s a logic to his madness. Obama has invested too much of his foreign policy credibility in Syria. His administration has been the backbone of the Syrian rebels from the beginning, having handpicked a group of rich Syrian exiles and molded them into Obama’s “officially recognized” government of Syria, while pressuring other nations to also recognize these nobodies as the “legitimate Syrian government.” Assad’s iron grip on power is a humiliation to these diplomatic efforts of Obama, and has thus weakened the prestige and power of U.S. foreign policy abroad.

More importantly, Obama’s anti-Syria diplomacy required that diplomatic relations between Syria and its neighbors — like Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey — be destroyed. These nations have peacefully co-existed for decades with Syria, but have now agreed — under immense U.S. pressure — to sever diplomatic relations while helping destroy the Syrian government by funneling guns and foreign fighters into the country, further destabilizing a region not yet recovered from the Iraq war. Obama’s Syria policy has turned an already-fragile region into a smoldering tinderbox.

If Obama were to suddenly tell his anti-Syria coalition that he’s realized his efforts at regime change have failed and that he would instead pursue a peaceful solution, his allies and Middle East lackeys would be less willing in the future to prostitute themselves for the foreign policy of the United States; and the U.S. would thus find it more difficult in the future to pursue “regime change” politics abroad. If Obama doesn’t back up his “Assad must go” demand, the U.S. will be unable to make such threats in the future; and U.S. foreign policy is heavily dependent on this type of political bullying.

Furthermore, Obama’s anti-Syria puppet coalition is taking tremendous political risks when it shamelessly follows in Obama’s footsteps, since the U.S. is terribly unpopular throughout the Arab world. This unpopularity is further proof that the “official” Syrian opposition that is asking for U.S. intervention has zero credibility in Syria, since very few Syrians would like to invite the U.S. military to “liberate” their country, especially after the “successful” liberations of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya.

Obama, too, is worried about domestic politics in his own country over Syria. He knows that Americans are sick of Middle East wars, while the American public is also worried that arming the Syrian rebels would mean giving guns to the very same people that America is supposedly fighting a “war on terror” against.

In response to this concern Obama has said that the U.S. will only give arms to “moderate” rebels. A European Union diplomat mockingly responded:  

“It would be the first conflict where we pretend we could create peace by delivering arms… If you pretend to know where the weapons will end up, then it would be the first war in history where this is possible. We have seen it in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Weapons don’t disappear; they pop up where they are needed.”

In Syria U.S. weapons will thus end up in the hands of the extremists doing the majority of the fighting. These are the people who will be in power if Syria’s government falls, unless a full U.S. invasion and Iraq-style occupation occurs. It’s difficult to decide which outcome would be worse for the Syrian people.

It’s now obvious that President Obama is escalating the Syrian conflict because his prized rebels have been beaten on the battlefield. Obama has thus chosen the military tactic of brinksmanship, a risky strategy that involves intentionally escalating a conflict in the hopes that either your opponent gives in to your demands (regime change), or your opponent gives you an excuse to invade.

Here’s how former U.S. General Wesley Clark explains Obama’s brinkmanship tactic in a New York Times op-ed, which is worth quoting at length:

“President Obama’s decision to supply small arms and ammunition to the rebels is a step, possibly just the first, toward direct American intervention. It raises risks for all parties, and especially for Mr. Assad, who knows that he cannot prevail, even with Russian and Iranian military aid, if the United States becomes fully engaged. We used a similar strategy against the Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic in Kosovo in 1999, where I commanded American forces, and showed that NATO had the resolve to escalate.

“The risk of going beyond lethal aid to establishing a no-fly zone to keep Mr. Assad’s planes grounded or safe zones to protect refugees — options under consideration in Washington — is that we would find it hard to pull back if our side began losing. Given the rebels’ major recent setbacks, can we rule out using air power or sending in ground troops?

“Yet the sum total of risks — higher oil prices, a widening war — also provide Syria (and its patrons, Iran and Russia) a motive to negotiate.” [emphasis added]

Clark’s innocent sounding “no-fly zone” is in fact a clever euphemism for all-out war, since no-fly zones require you destroy the enemy’s air force, surface to air missiles, and other infrastructure.

In Libya Obama swiftly turned a no-fly zone into a full-scale invasion and regime change, in violation of international law. A no-fly zone in Syria would also immediately turn into an invasion and “regime change,” with the possibility that the U.S. or Israel would exploit the “fog of war” to attack Iran.

All of this madness could be stopped immediately if Obama publicly announced that the Syrian rebels have lost the war — since they have — and will be cut off politically, financially, and militarily by the U.S. if they do not immediately proceed to negotiations with the Syrian government.  But this peaceful approach will instead be ignored in favor of untold thousands more dead, millions more made refugees, and a broader regional fracturing of Middle East civilization.

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org). He can be reached at [email protected]

Notes

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/25/world/middleeast/arms-airlift-to-syrian-rebels-expands-with-cia-aid.html?hp&_r=1&

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/06/14/194016/chemical-weapons-experts-still.html#.UbyvDdiyESU

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10039672/UN-accuses-Syrian-rebels-of-chemical-weapons-use.html

http://news.yahoo.com/un-chief-opposes-us-arms-syrian-rebels-164606453.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/divided-europe-imperils-syrian-arms-embargo-8632376.html

http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2013/05/daily-chart-12

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/18/opinion/to-get-a-truce-be-ready-to-escalate.html?_r=0

– Obama é um mentiroso e um terrorista 
– Quem cruzou a “Linha vermelha”? 
– Obama e John Kerry apoiam uma organização terrorista que consta na lista negra do Departamento de Estado

Estará o presidente Obama a preparar o cenário para uma “intervenção humanitária” ao acusar displicentemente o presidente sírio de matar o seu próprio povo?

“Na sequência de uma revisão deliberativa, nossa comunidade de inteligência estima que o regime Assad utilizou armas químicas, incluindo o agente de nervos sarin, em pequena escala contra a oposição múltiplas vezes durante o ano passado”

O vice-conselheiro de segurança nacional da Casa Branca, Ben Rhodes, afirmou numa declaração: “Nossa comunidade de inteligência tem alta confiança naquela estimativa devido a múltiplas e independentes fontes de informação”.

“Obama avisou o presidente Bashar Al Assad das “enormes consequências” de ter cruzado a “linha vermelha” ao alegadamente utilizar armas químicas.

Dinheiro e armas para a Al Qaeda 

A saga das armas de destruição maciça (ADM) no Iraque, com base em provas falsificadas, está a desdobrar-se. Os media ocidentais em coro acusam implacavelmente o governo sírio de assassínio em massa premeditado, conclamando a “comunidade internacional” a vir resgatar o povo sírio.

“A Síria transpõe a “linha vermelha” sobre armas químicas. Como responderá Obama?

A “oposição” síria está clamar junto aos EUA e seus aliado para que implementem uma zona de interdição de voo (no fly zone). 

A Casa Branca por sua vez reconheceu que a linha vermelha “fora cruzada”, enfatizando ao mesmo tempo que os EUA e seus aliados “aumentarão o âmbito e a escala da assistência” aos rebeldes.

O pretexto das armas químicas está a ser utilizado para justificar ainda mais ajuda militar aos rebeldes, os quais em grande parte foram liquidados pelas forças do governo sírio.

Estas forças rebeldes derrotadas – em grande parte compostas pela Al Nusrah, associada à Al Qaeda – são apoiadas pela Turquia, Israel, Qatar e Arábia Saudita.

Os EUA-NATO-Israel perderam a guerra no terreno. Seus combatentes da Frente Al Nusrah, os quais constituem a infantaria da aliança militar ocidental, não podem, sob quaisquer circunstâncias, serem repostos através de um fluxo renovado de ajuda militar dos EUA-NATO.

A administração Obama está num impasse: a sua infantaria foi derrotada. Uma “zona de interdição de voo”, nesta etapa, seria uma proposta arriscada dado o sistema de defesa aérea da Síria, o qual inclui o sistema russo S-300 SAM.

Combatentes da Al Nusra.

Os EUA-NATO estão a treinar rebeldes da “oposição” na utilização de armas químicas 

As acusações de armas químicas são falsificadas. Numa ironia amarga, as provas confirmam amplamente que as armas químicas estão a ser utilizadas não pelas forças do governo sírio mas sim pelos rebeldes da Al Qaeda apoiados pelos EUA. 

Numa lógica enviesada pela qual as realidades são invertidas, o governo sírio está a ser acusado pelas atrocidades cometidas pelos rebeldes associados a Al Qaeda patrocinados pelos EUA.

Os media ocidentais estão a introduzir desinformação nas cadeias de notícias, refutando despreocupadamente as suas próprias reportagens. Como confirmado por várias fontes, incluindo a CNN, a aliança militar ocidental não só disponibilizou armas químicas para a Frente Al Nusrah como também enviou empreiteiros militares (military contractors) e forças especiais para treinar os rebeldes.

O treino [em armas químicas], o qual está a ter lugar na Jordânia e na Turquia, envolve como monitorar e acumular stocks com segurança,além do manuseamento destas armas em sítios em materiais, segundo as fontes. Alguns dos empreiteiros estão sobre o terreno na Síria a trabalhar com os rebeldes para monitorar alguns dos sítios, segundo um dos responsáveis.

A nacionalidade dos treinadores não foi revelada, embora os responsáveis advirtam contra a suposição de que todos eles sejam americanos. CNN , 09/Dezembro/2012, ênfase acrescentada)

Se bem que as notícias e reportagens não confirmem a identidade dos empreiteiros da defesa, as declarações oficiais sugerem um estreito vínculo contratual com o Pentágono.

A decisão estado-unidense de contratar estranhos empreiteiros de defesa para treinar rebeldes sírios a manusearam stocks acumulados de armas químicas parece perigosamente irresponsável ao extremo, especialmente quando se considera quão inepta Washington foi até agora para garantir que apenas rebeldes laicos e confiáveis – na medida em que existam – recebam a sua ajuda e as armas que aliados nos estados do Golfo Árabe têm estado a fornecer.

Isto também corrobora acusações feitas recentemente pelo Ministério das Relações Exteriores sírio de que os EUA estão a trabalhar para compor o quadro de que o regime sírio como tendo utilizado ou preparado a guerra química. 

“O que levanta preocupações acerca desta notícia circulada pelos media é o nosso sério temor de que alguns dos países apoiando o terrorismo e terroristas possam proporcionar armas químicas aos grupos terroristas armados e afirmar que foi o governo sírio que utilizou tais armas” , (John Glaser, Us Defense Contractors Training Syrian Rebels , Antiwar.com, December 10, 2012, ênfase acrescentada).

Não tenhamos ilusões. Isto não é um exercício de treino de rebeldes em não proliferação de armas químicas.

Enquanto o presidente Obama acusa Bashar Al Assad, a aliança militar EUA-NATO está a canalizar armas químicas para a Al Nusrah, uma organização terrorista na lista negra do Departamento de Estado.

Com toda a probabilidade, o treino dos rebeldes da Al Nusrah na utilização de armas químicas ficou a cargo de empreiteiros militares privados.

A Missão Independente das Nações Unidas confirma que forças rebeldes estão na posse do gás de nervos Sarin 

Carla Del Ponte.Enquanto Washington aponta o dedo ao presidente Bashar al Assad, uma comissão de inquérito independente das Nações Unidas em Maio de 2013 confirmou que os rebeldes, ao invés do governo, têm armas químicas na sua posse e estão a utilizar gás de nervos sarin contra a população civil:

Investigadores de direitos humanos da ONU reuniram testemunhos das baixas da guerra civil da Síria e de equipes médicas indicando que forças rebeldes utilizaram o agente de nervos sarin, disse domingo um dos principais investigadores. 

A comissão independente de inquérito das Nações Unidas sobre a Síria ainda não viu provas de que forças governamentais tenham utilizado armas químicas, as quais estão proibidas pelo direito internacional, disse Carla Del Ponte, membro da comissão. (ver imagem)

“Nossos investigadores estiveram em países vizinhos a entrevistas vítimas, médicos e hospitais de campo e, segundo o seu relatório da semana passada que vi, há fortes e concretas suspeitas, mas não ainda prova incontroversa, da utilização do gás sarin, a partir do modo como as vítimas foram tratadas “, disse Del Ponte numa entrevista à televisão suíça-italiana.

“Isto foi utilizado por parte da oposição, os rebeldes, não pelas autoridades governamentais”, acrescentou ela, a falar em italiano. (“ U.N. has testimony that Syrian rebels used sarin gas: investigator ,” Chicago Tribune, May, 5  2013, ênfase acrescentada)

Relatório da polícia turca: Terroristas do Al Nusrah apoiados pelos EUA possuem armas químicas 

Segundo a agência de notícias estatal turca Zaman, o Diretorado Geral Turco de Segurança (Emniyet Genel Müdürlügü):

[A polícia] apreendeu 2 kg de gás sarin na cidade de Adana nas primeiras horas da manhã de ontem. As armas químicas estavam na posse de terroristas do Al Nusra que se acredita terem ido para a Síria.

O gás sarin é incolor, uma substância inodoro que é extremamente difícil de detectar. O gás é proibido pela Convenção das Armas Químicas de 1993.

A EGM [polícia turca] identificou 12 membros da célula terrorista Al Nusra e também apreendeu armas de fogo e equipamento digital. Esta é a segunda confirmação oficial importante da utilização de armas química por terroristas da Al Qaeda na Síria após recentes declarações da inspectora Carla Del Ponte confirmando a utilização de armas químicas pelos terroristas na Síria apoiados pelo Ocidente.

A política turca está actualmente a efectuar novas investigações quanto às operações de grupos ligados à Al Qaeda na Turquia. (Para mais pormenores ver Gearóid Ó Colmáin, Turkish Police find Chemical Weapons in the Possession of Al Nusra Terrorists heading for Syria, Global Research.ca, May 30, 2013 )

Quem cruzou a “Linha vermelha”? Barack Obama e John Kerry estão a apoiar uma organização terrorista na lista do Departamento de Estado. 

O que se está a desenrolar é um cenário diabólico – o qual faz parte integral do planeamento militar dos EUA –, nomeadamente uma situação em que terroristas da oposição da Frente Al Nusrah aconselhados por empreiteiros ocidentais da defesa estão realmente na posse de armas químicas.

O Ocidente afirma que está vindo em resgate do povo sírio, cuja vidas alegadamente são ameaçadas por Bashar Al Assad.

Obama não só “Cruzou a linha vermelha” como está a apoiar a Al Qaeda. Ele é um Mentiroso e um Terrorista.

A verdade proibida, que os media ocidentais não revelam, é que a aliança militar EUA-NATO-Israel não só está a apoiar a Frente Al Nusrah como tambémestá a disponibilizar armas química para forças rebeldes da sua “oposição” proxy. 

A questão mais ampla é: Quem constitui uma ameaça para o povo sírio? O presidente Bashar al Assad da Síria ou o presidente Barack Obama da América, que ordenou o recrutamento e treino de forças terroristas que estão na lista negra do Departamento de Estado dos EUA?

Numa ironia amarga, segundo o Bureau of Counter-terrorism do Departamento do Estado dos EUA, o presidente Obama e o secretário de Estado John Kerry, para não mencionar o senador John McCain, podiam ser considerados responsáveis por “conscientemente proporcionar, ou tentar ou conspirar para isso, apoio material ou recursos para, ou envolver-se em transacções com, a Frente al-Nusrah”.

O Departamento de Estado emendou o Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) e a Executive Order (E.O.) 13224 com as designações da al-Qaida no Iraque (AQI) a fim de incluir os seguintes novos pseudônimos: al-Nusrah Front, Jabhat al-Nusrah, Jabhet al-Nusra, The Victory Front, e Al-Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant. As consequências de acrescentar a Frente al-Nusrah como nova denominação para a Al Qaida incluem uma “proibição contra conscientemente proporcionar, ou tentar ou conspirar para proporcionar, apoio material ou recursos para, ou envolver-se em transacções com a Frente al-Nusrah, e o congelamento de toda propriedade e interesses na propriedade da organização que estão nos Estados Unidos, ou venham a estar dentro dos Estados Unidos ou controle de pessoas dos EUA. (ênfase acrescentada)

O conselho do Departamento de Estado reconhece que de Novembro de 2011 a Dezembro de 2012:

“A Frente Al-Nusrah reivindico aproximadamente 600 ataques – que vão de mais de 40 ataques suicidas a armas pequenas e operações com dispositivos explosivos improvisados – em centros de cidade principais incluindo Damasco, Alepo, Hamah, Dara, Homes, Idlib e Dayr al-Zawr. Durante estes ataques numerosos sírios inocentes foram mortos.

O conselho também confirma que “os Estados Unidos efectuam esta acção [de por a Frente Al Nusrah na lista negra] no contexto do nosso apoio geral ao povo sírio. …

O que se deixa de mencionar é que a administração Obama continua a canalizar dinheiro e armas para a Al Nusrah em desobediência flagrante da legislação contra-terrorismo dos EUA.

O “intermediário” de Washington: O general Salim Idriss 

Gen Salim Idriss.O “intermediário” de Washington é o Chefe do Supremo Conselho Militar da FSA, general de brigada Salem Idriss (v. foto), o qual está em ligação permanente com comandantes militares da Al Nusrah.

O secretário de Estado John Kerry reúne-se com representantes da oposição síria. Responsáveis dos EUA reúnem-se com o general Idriss. Este último, a actuar por conta do Pentágono, canaliza dinheiro e armas para os terroristas. Este modelo de apoio ao Al Nusra é semelhante àquele aplicado no Afeganistão pelo qual o governo militar paquistanês do general Zia Ul Haq canalizou armas para os jihadistas “Combatentes a liberdade” no auge da guerra soviética-afegã.

O apoio dos EUA a terroristas é enviado sempre através de um intermediário de confiança. Segundo um responsável da administração Obama: “Se bem que os Estados Unidos possam ter influência sobre o general Idris, não têm capacidade para controlar alguns jihadistas – como a Frente Nusra, a qual também está a combater forças do governo sírio”. ( New York Times, May 23, 2013 )

John McCain entra na Síria, em mistura com terroristas patrocinados pelos EUA 

Enquanto isso, o senador John McCain “entrou na Síria [no princípio de Junho] a partir da fronteira turca do país e permaneceu ali por várias horas … McCain encontrou-se com líderes reunidos de unidades do Free Syrian Army tanto na Turquia como na Síria”. Ver imagem de John McCain junto com o general Salem Idriss).

John McCain e Salim Idriss.O papel contraditório do Conselho de Segurança das Nações Unidas 

No fim de Maio de 2013 o Conselho de Segurança da ONU acrescentou a Al Nusrah à Lista de sanções da Al Qaida do UNSC. Mas ao mesmo tempo, a decisão do Conselho de Segurança despreocupadamente descartou o facto, amplamente documentado, de que três membros permanentes do Conselho, nomeadamente a Grã-Bretanha, a França e os EUA, continuam a proporcionar ajuda militar à Frente Jabbat Al Nusrah, em desafio ao direito internacional e à Carta das Nações Unidas.

ANEXO 1 
THE TERRORIST DESIGNATION OF AL NUSRAH BY THE US STATE DEPARTMENT
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesperson December 11, 2012
STATEMENT BY VICTORIA NULAND, SPOKESPERSON 

Terrorist Designations of the al-Nusrah Front as an Alias for al-Qa’ida in Iraq 

ANEXO 2 
UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee Amends Entry of One Entity on Its Sanctions List 

ANEXO 3 
TRANSCRIPT OF STATE DEPARTMENT PRESS BRIEFING CONCERNING AL NUSRAH
Senior Administration Officials on Terrorist Designations of the al-Nusrah Front as an Alias for al-Qaida in Iraq
Special Briefing Senior Administration Officials
Via Teleconference
Washington, DC
December 11, 2012 

Ver também:

When Edward Snowden, an employee of Booz Allen Hamilton – a military contractor based in McLean, Virginia - blew the whistle on the extent of U.S. global electronic surveillance, he unexpectedly shone a light on the world of contractors that consume some 70 percent of the $52 billion U.S. intelligence budget.

Some commentators have pounced on Snowden’s disclosures to denounce the role of private contractors in the world of government and national security, arguing that such work is best left to public servants. But their criticism misses the point.

It is no longer possible to determine the difference between employees of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) or the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the employees of companies such as Booz Allen, who have integrated to the extent that they slip from one role in industry to another in government, cross-promoting each other and self-dealing in ways that make the fabled revolving door redundant, if not completely disorienting.

Snowden, who was employed by Booz Allen as a contract systems administrator at the NSA’s Threat Operations Centre in Hawaii for three months, had worked for the CIA andDell before getting his most recent job. But his rather obscure role pales in comparison to those of others.

Pushing for Expanded Surveillance

To best understand this tale, one must first turn to R. James Woolsey, a former director of CIA, who appeared before the U.S. Congress in the summer of 2004 to promote the idea of integrating U.S. domestic and foreign spying efforts to track “terrorists”.

One month later, he appeared on MSNBC television, where he spoke of the urgent need to create a new U.S. intelligence czar to help expand the post-9/11 national surveillance apparatus.

On neither occasion did Woolsey mention that he was employed as senior vice president for global strategic security at Booz Allen, a job he held from 2002 to 2008.

“The source of information about vulnerabilities of and potential attacks on the homeland will not be dominated by foreign intelligence, as was the case in the Cold War. The terrorists understood us well, and so they lived and planned where we did not spy (inside the U.S.),” said Woolsey in prepared remarks before the U.S. House Select Committee on Homeland Security on June 24, 2004.

In a prescient suggestion of what Snowden would later reveal, Woolsey went on to discuss expanding surveillance to cover domestic, as well as foreign sources.

“One source will be our vulnerability assessments, based on our own judgments about weak links in our society’s networks that can be exploited by terrorists,” he said. “A second source will be domestic intelligence. How to deal with such information is an extraordinarily difficult issue in our free society.”

In late July 2004, Woolsey appeared on MSNBC’s “Hardball”, a news-talk show hosted by Chris Matthews, and told Matthews that the federal government needed a new high-level office – a director of national intelligence  – to straddle domestic and foreign intelligence. Until then, the director of the CIA served as the head of the entire U.S. intelligence community.

“The problem is that the intelligence community has grown so much since 1947, when the position of director of central intelligence was created, that it’s (become) impossible to do both jobs, running the CIA and managing the community,” he said.

Both these suggestions would lead to influential jobs and lucrative sources of income for Woolsey’s employer and colleagues.

The Director of National Intelligence

Fast forward to 2007. Vice Admiral Michael McConnell (retired), Booz Allen’s then-senior vice president of policy, transformation, homeland security and intelligence analytics, was hired as the second czar of the new “Office of the Director of National Intelligence” which was coincidentally located just three kilometers from the company’s corporate headquarters.

Upon retiring as DNI, McConnell returned to Booz Allen in 2009, where he serves as vice chairman to this day. In August 2010, Lieutenant General James Clapper (retired),  a former vice president for military intelligence at Booz Allen from 1997 to 1998, was hired as the fourth intelligence czar, a job he has held ever since. Indeed, one-time Booz Allenexecutives have filled the position five of the eight years of its existence.

When these two men took charge of the national-security state, they helped expand and privatize it as never before.

McConnell, for example, asked Congress to alter the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to allow the NSA to spy on foreigners without a warrant if they were using Internet technology that routed through the United States.

“The resulting changes in both law and legal interpretations (… and the) new technologies created a flood of new work for the intelligence agencies – and huge opportunities for companies like Booz Allen,” wrote David Sanger and Nicole Perlroth in a profile of McConnell published in the New York Times this weekend.

Last week, Snowden revealed to the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald that the NSA had created a secret system called “Prism” that allowed the agency to spy on electronic data of ordinary citizens around the world, both within and outside the United States.

Snowden’s job at Booz Allen’s offices in Hawaii was to maintain the NSA’s information technology systems. While he did not specify his precise connection to Prism, he told the South China Morning Post newspaper that the NSA hacked “network backbones – like huge Internet routers, basically – that give us access to the communications of hundreds of thousands of computers without having to hack every single one”.

Indeed Woolsey had argued in favor of such surveillance following the disclosure of the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping by the New York Times in December 2005.

Unlike the Cold War, our intelligence requirements are not just overseas,” he told a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the NSA in February 2006. “Courts are not designed to deal with fast-moving battlefield electronic mapping in which an al Qaeda or a Hezbollah computer might be captured which contains a large number of email addresses and phone numbers which would have to be checked out very promptly.”

Propaganda Puppets

Roger Cressey, a senior vice president for cybersecurity and counter-terrorism at Booz Allen who is also a paid commentator for NBC News, went on air multiple times to explain how the government would pursue the Boston Marathon case in April 2013. “We always need to understand there are priority targets the counter-terrorism community is always looking at,” he told the TV station.

Cressey took a position “on one of the most controversial aspects of the government response to Boston that completely reflects the views of the government agencies – such as the FBI and the CIA – that their companies ultimately serve,” wrote Tim Shorrock, author of Spies for Hire, on Salon. “Their views, in turn, convinces NBC hosts of the wisdom of the policy, a stance which could easily sway an uncertain public about the legitimacy of the new face of state power that has emerged in the post-9/11 period. That is influence, yet it is not fully disclosed by NBC.”

This was not the first time that Cressey had been caught at this when speaking to NBC News. Cressey failed to disclose that his former employer – Good Harbor Consulting – had been paid for advice by the government of Yemen, when he went on air to criticize democracy protests in Yemen in March 2011. (Cressey has just been hired by Booz Allen at the time)

“What is not disclosed about Cressey in this segment where he scaremongers about a post-Saleh Yemen is that he has multiple conflicts of interest with the current regime there,” wrote Zaid Jilani of ThinkProgress at the time.

A Flood of New Contracts

Exactly what Booz Allen does for the NSA’s electronic surveillance system revealed by Snowden is classified, but one can make an educated guess from similar contracts it has in this field – a quarter of the company’s $5.86 billion in annual income comes from intelligence agencies.

The NSA, for example, hired Booz Allen in 2001 in an advisory role on the five-billion-dollar Project Groundbreaker to rebuild and operate the agency’s “nonmission-critical” internal telephone and computer networking systems.

Booz Allen also won a chunk of the Pentagon’s infamous Total Information Awareness contract in 2001 to collect information on potential terrorists in America from phone records, credit card receipts and other databases – a controversial program defunded by Congress in 2003 but whose spirit survived in Prism and other initiatives disclosed by Snowden.

The CIA pays a Booz Allen team led by William Wansley, a former U.S. Army intelligence officer, for “strategic and business planning” for its National Clandestine Service, which conducts covert operations and recruits foreign spies.

The company also provides a 120-person team, headed by a former U.S. Navy cryptology lieutenant commander and Booz Allen senior executive adviser Pamela Lentz, to support the National Reconnaissance Organization, the Pentagon agency that manages the nation’s military spy satellites.

In January, Booz Allen was one of 12 contractors to win a five-year contract with the Defense Intelligence Agency that could be worth up to $5.6 billion to focus on “computer network operations, emerging and disruptive technologies, and exercise and training activity”.

Last month, the U.S. Navy picked Booz Allen as part of a consortium to work on yet another billion-dollar project for “a new generation of intelligence, surveillance and combat operations”.

How does Booz Allen win these contracts? Well, in addition to its connections with the DNI, the company boasts that half of its 25,000 employees are cleared for “top secret-sensitive compartmented intelligence” – one of the highest possible security ratings. (One third of the 1.4 million people with such clearances work for the private sector.)

A key figure at Booz Allen is Ralph Shrader, current chairman, CEO and president, who came to the company in 1974 after working at two telecommunications companies – RCA, where he served in the company’s government communications system division and Western Union, where he was national director of advanced systems planning.

In the 1970s, RCA and Western Union both took part in a secret surveillance program known as Minaret, where they agreed to give the NSA all their clients’ incoming and outgoing U.S. telephone calls and telegrams.

In an interview with the Financial Times in 1998, Shrader noted that the most relevant background for his new position of chief executive at Booz Allen was his experience working for telecommunications clients and doing classified military work for the US government.

Caught for Shoddy Work

How much value for money is the government getting? A review of some of Booz Allen’s public contracts suggests that much of this work has been of poor quality.
In February 2012, the U.S. Air Force suspended Booz Allen from seeking government contracts after it discovered that Joselito Meneses, a former deputy chief of information technology for the air force, had given Booz Allen a hard drive with confidential information about a competitor’s contracting on the first day that he went to work for the company in San Antonio, Texas.

“Booz Allen did not uncover indications and signals of broader systemic ethical issues within the firm,” wrote the U.S. Air Force legal counsel. ”These events caused the Air Force to have serious concerns regarding the responsibility of Booz Allen, specifically, its San Antonio office, including its business integrity and honesty, compliance with government contracting requirements, and the adequacy of its ethics program.”

It should be noted that Booz Allen reacted swiftly to the government investigation of the conflict of interest. In April that year, the Air Force lifted the suspension – but only after Booz Allen had accepted responsibility for the incident and fired Meneses, as well as agreeing to pay the air force $65,000 and reinforce the firm’s ethics policy.

Not everybody was convinced about the new regime. “Unethical behavior brought on by the revolving door created problems for Booz Allen, but now the revolving door may have come to the rescue,” wrote Scott Amey of the Project on Government Oversight, noting that noting that Del Eulberg, vice-president of the Booz Allen’s San Antonio office had served as chief engineer in the Air Force.

“It couldn’t hurt having (former Air Force people). Booz is likely exhaling a sigh of relief as it has received billions of dollars in air force contracts over the years.”

That very month, Booz Allen was hired to build a $10 million “Enhanced Secured Network” (ESN) for the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. An audit of the project released by the U.S. Government Accountability Office this past February showed that it was full of holes.

The ESN “left software and systems put in place misconfigured—even failing to take advantage of all the features of the malware protection the commission had selected, leaving its workstations still vulnerable to attack,” wrote Sean Gallagher, a computer reporter at ArsTechnica.

Booz Allen has also admitted to overbilling the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) “employees at higher job categories than would have been justified by their experience, inflating their monthly hours and submitting excessive billing at their off-site rate.” The company repaid the government $325,000 in May 2009 to settle the charges.

Nor was this the first time Booz Allen had been caught overbilling. In 2006, the company was one of four consulting firms that settled with the U.S. Department of Justice for fiddling expenses on an industrial scale. Booz Allen’s share of the $15 million settlement of a lawsuit under the False Claims Act was more than $3.3 million.

Incidentally, both the NASA and the Air Force incidents were brought to light by a company whistleblower who informed the government.

Investigate Booz Allen, Not Edward Snowden

When Snowden revealed the extent of the U.S. national surveillance program earlier this month, he was denounced immediately by Booz Allen and their former associates who called for an investigation of his leaks.

“For me, it is literally – not figuratively – literally gut-wrenching to see this happen because of the huge, grave damage it does to our intelligence capabilities,” Clapper toldNBC News’s Andrea Mitchell. “This is someone who, for whatever reason, has chosen to violate a sacred trust for this country. I think we all feel profoundly offended by that.”

“News reports that this individual has claimed to have leaked classified information are shocking, and if accurate, this action represents a grave violation of the code of conduct and core values of our firm,” Booz Allen said in a press statement.

Yet instead of shooting the messenger, Edward Snowden, it might be worth investigating Shrader and his company’s core values in the same way that the CIA and NSA were scrutinized for Minaret in the 1970s by the United States Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, chaired by Frank Church of Idaho in 1975.

Congress would also do well to investigate Clapper, Booz Allen’s other famous former employee, for possible perjury when he replied: “No, sir” to Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon in March, when asked: “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”

* Excerpts of this piece appeared on the Guardian’s Comment is Free and Inter Press Service. Jim Lobe contributed research.

Taliban Officially Opening Office in Qatar

June 18th, 2013 by Voltaire Network

The Taliban opened on 18 June 2013 an office in Doha (Qatar).

This is the first official Afghan representation since 2001.

In July 2001, the United States broke off their oil negotiations with the Taliban in Berlin and declared war. One month later, Washington and London relocated their expeditionary forces to the Gulf of Oman. In September, the Tajik leader Massoud was assassinated. Subsequently, President Bush accused the Taliban of harboring those responsible for the attacks that bereaved Americans. In October, the United States and the United Kingdom attacked Afghanistan in “self-defense“.

The opening of this office is the result of negotiations between Pakistan, Afghanistan and Qatar, that concluded on April 2. During these talks, the Taliban were represented by Pakistani clergyman Maulana Fazlur Rehman (photo).

Last week, we reviewed the questions and doubts surrounding claims that the chemical weapon sarin has been used in Syria.

The Obama administration has since claimed that its ‘red line’ has indeed been crossed – it now has firm evidence that Syrian government forces have used chemical weapons. As a result, the US will begin supplying Syrian insurgents with small arms and ammunition. White House foreign policy adviser Benjamin Rhodes gave dates and locations for alleged sarin attacks but no details of the fighting or numbers of people killed.

In a subsequent article for McClatchy Washington Bureau, Matthew Schofield noted that chemical weapons experts remain ‘skeptical of U.S. claim that Syria used sarin’. Jean Pascal Zanders, a leading expert on chemical weapons, until recently a senior research fellow at the European Union’s Institute for Security Studies, commented:

‘It’s not just that we can’t prove a sarin attack; it’s that we’re not seeing what we would expect to see from a sarin attack. In a world where even the secret execution of Saddam Hussein was taped by someone, it doesn’t make sense that we don’t see videos, that we don’t see photos, showing bodies of the dead, and the reddened faces and the bluish extremities of the affected.’

Greg Thielmann, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Arms Control Association, said that ‘my guess is they [US officials] have it right’. But Thielmann noted that the White House statement on the crossing of the ‘red line’ in Syria was ‘carefully and prudentially worded’ and acknowledged the lack of a ‘continuous chain of custody for the physiological samples from those exposed to sarin’.

As we discussed last month, a secure chain of custody is vital for ensuring samples have not been contaminated. Alastair Hay, a toxicologist at the University of Leeds, commented:

‘To make a legal case – whether it’s against the Syrian government or opposition group – you need an ironclad chain of custody.’

Philip Coyle, a senior scientist at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in Washington, said that the lack of hard, public evidence made it difficult for experts to assess the validity of the administration’s claims. What happened ‘doesn’t look like a series of sarin attacks to him’, Schofield reports of Coyle, who also commented: ‘Without blood samples, it’s hard to know. It does not eliminate all doubt in my mind.’

Anthony Cordesman, a security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, argues that ‘the “discovery” that Syria used chemical weapons might be a political ploy… The real reasons [for US intervention] are the broader humanitarian issues involved and far more urgent U.S. strategic interests’.

Yuri Ushakov, Vladimir Putin’s top foreign policy adviser, said:

‘What was presented to us by the Americans does not look convincing. It would be hard to even call them facts.’

The Independent’s Robert Fisk again poured scorn on the claims:

‘Washington’s excuse for its new Middle East adventure – that it must arm Assad’s enemies because the Damascus regime has used sarin gas against them – convinces no-one in the Middle East. Final proof of the use of gas by either side in Syria remains almost as nebulous as President George W. Bush’s claim that Saddam’s Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.’

Despite all of this, a Guardian editorial offered a strikingly different judgement. Noting that Obama had decided to authorise military aid on the basis ‘that Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons against the opposition’, the editors commented:

‘That use is an outrage and is against international agreements. It adds to the charge sheet against the Assad regime.’

These are among the most shocking comments we have ever seen in the Guardian. Despite the indisputable fraudulence of US-UK claims regarding Iraqi WMD, an equally staggering litany of lies on Libya, and despite the existence of gaps and doubts so reminiscent of Iraq 2002-2003, the Guardian is willing to quietly endorse the latest claims on Syria – ‘Assad’ clearly has used chemical weapons and that use should be added to the charge sheet against him.

Once again, when it really matters, the Guardian editors are on-message, on-side and boosting war propaganda.

Unfortunately, the Guardian has form. On January 24, 2003, at a crucial time, leading Guardian reporter Martin Woollacott wrote of Saddam Hussein:

‘Among those knowledgeable about Iraq there are few, if any, who believe he is not hiding such weapons. It is a given.’ (Woollacott, ‘This drive to war is one of the mysteries of our time – We know Saddam is hiding weapons. That isn’t the argument,’ The Guardian, January 24, 2003)

In fact, this was not only false, it was a near-exact reversal of the truth. Hans Blix, former head of UNMOVIC arms inspections in Iraq (November 2002-March 2003), said in June 2003:

‘If anyone had cared… to study what UNSCOM [UN arms inspection team in Iraq, 1991-1998] was saying for quite a number of years, and what we were saying, they should not have assumed that they would stumble on weapons.’ (Miles Pomper and Paul Kerr, ‘An Interview With Hans Blix,’ Arms Control Today, June 16, 2003)

Ironically, in a leading article on the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq disaster, the Guardian later observed:

‘What is already clear from the first week alone is that the decisions, secret or otherwise, that led to war were the product of systemic failure. Intelligence analysts, diplomats, in fact the entire machinery of the British government, proved supine against Washington’s will. Under that pressure, almost everyone buckled.’ (Leading Article: ‘Iraq inquiry: Dancing to American drums,’ The Guardian, November 28, 2009)

The press included!

Supposedly at the other end of the media ‘spectrum’, a leading article in The Times echoed the Guardian’s view:

‘Assad’s chemical attacks are a barbarous form of warfare intended to spread terror. Arming the rebels is a temperate response to try to force a political settlement.’ (Leading article, ‘Syria’s Red Line,’ The Times, June 15, 2013)

Suggested Action

The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for others. If you do write to journalists, we strongly urge you to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone.

Alan Rusbridger, Guardian editor
Email: [email protected]

Chris Elliott, Guardian readers’ editor
Email: [email protected]

Jonathan Marcus, BBC diplomatic editor
Email: [email protected]

El contraproducente modelo minero canadiense

June 18th, 2013 by Jorge Zegarra


Las sociedades mineras del mundo encuentran en Canadá una legislación fiscal y judicial favorable para sus operaciones de explotación en todo el mundo.

Ciudadanos, ecologistas y organizaciones sociales están preocupados por los impactos sociales y medioambientales de la explotación minera que realizan las multinacionales canadienses en América Latina y África.

Las multinacionales encuentran en la Bolsa de Valores de Toronto una plataforma ideal para monitorear proyectos mineros que se realizan alrededor del mundo. Las operaciones mineras canadienses representan el 36 % del capital minero mundial.

La minería es una de las actividades productivas más contaminantes. El 60 % de las empresas mineras de exploración y explotación del planeta están registradas en el mercado financiero canadiense.

Jorge Zegarra, Montreal.

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The Gulf of Guinea. He said it without a hint of irony or embarrassment. This was one of U.S. Africa Command’s big success stories. The Gulf… of Guinea.

Never mind that most Americans couldn’t find it on a map and haven’t heard of the nations on its shores like Gabon, Benin, and Togo. Never mind that just five days before I talked with AFRICOM’s chief spokesman, the Economist had asked if the Gulf of Guinea was on the verge of becoming “another Somalia,” because piracy there had jumped 41% from 2011 to 2012 and was on track to be even worse in 2013.

The Gulf of Guinea was one of the primary areas in Africa where “stability,” the command spokesman assured me, had “improved significantly,” and the U.S. military had played a major role in bringing it about. But what did that say about so many other areas of the continent that, since AFRICOM was set up, had been wracked by coups, insurgencies, violence, and volatility?

A careful examination of the security situation in Africa suggests that it is in the process of becoming Ground Zero for a veritable terror diaspora set in motion in the wake of 9/11 that has only accelerated in the Obama years.  Recent history indicates that as U.S. “stability” operations in Africa have increased, militancy has spread, insurgent groups have proliferated, allies have faltered or committed abuses, terrorism has increased, the number of failed states has risen, and the continent has become more unsettled.

The signal event in this tsunami of blowback was the U.S. participation in a war to fell Libyan autocrat Muammar Qaddafi that helped send neighboring Mali, a U.S.-supported bulwark against regional terrorism, into a downward spiral, prompting the intervention of the French military with U.S. backing.  The situation could still worsen as the U.S. armed forces grow ever more involved.  They are already expanding air operations across the continent, engaging in spy missions for the French military, and utilizing other previously undisclosed sites in Africa.

The Terror Diaspora

In 2000, a report prepared under the auspices of the U.S. Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute examined the “African security environment.”  While it touched on “internal separatist or rebel movements” in “weak states,” as well as non-state actors like militias and “warlord armies,” it made no mention of Islamic extremism or major transnational terrorist threats.  In fact, prior to 2001, the United States did not recognize any terrorist organizations in sub-Saharan Africa.

Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, a senior Pentagon official claimed that the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan might drive “terrorists” out of that country and into African nations.  “Terrorists associated with al Qaeda and indigenous terrorist groups have been and continue to be a presence in this region,” he said. “These terrorists will, of course, threaten U.S. personnel and facilities.”

When pressed about actual transnational dangers, the official pointed to Somali militants but eventually admitted that even the most extreme Islamists there “really have not engaged in acts of terrorism outside Somalia.”  Similarly, when questioned about connections between Osama bin Laden’s core al-Qaeda group and African extremists, he offered only the most tenuous links, like bin Laden’s “salute” to Somali militants who killed U.S. troops during the infamous 1993 “Black Hawk Down” incident.

Despite this, the U.S. dispatched personnel to Africa as part of Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) in 2002.  The next year, CJTF-HOA took up residence at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, where it resides to this day on the only officially avowed U.S. base in Africa.

As CJTF-HOA was starting up, the State Department launched a multi-million-dollar counterterrorism program, known as the Pan-Sahel Initiative, to bolster the militaries of Mali, Niger, Chad, and Mauritania.  In 2004, for example, Special Forces training teams were sent to Mali as part of the effort.  In 2005, the program expanded to include Nigeria, Senegal, Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia and was renamed the Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Partnership.

Writing in the New York Times Magazine, Nicholas Schmidle noted that the program saw year-round deployments of Special Forces personnel “to train local armies at battling insurgencies and rebellions and to prevent bin Laden and his allies from expanding into the region.”  The Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Partnership and its Defense Department companion program, then known as Operation Enduring Freedom-Trans-Sahara, were, in turn, folded into U.S. Africa Command when it took over military responsibility for the continent in 2008.

As Schmidle noted, the effects of U.S. efforts in the region seemed at odds with AFRICOM’s stated goals.  “Al Qaeda established sanctuaries in the Sahel, and in 2006 it acquired a North African franchise [Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb],” he wrote. “Terrorist attacks in the region increased in both number and lethality.”

In fact, a look at the official State Department list of terrorist organizations indicates a steady increase in Islamic radical groups in Africa alongside the growth of U.S. counterterrorism efforts there — with the addition of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group in 2004, Somalia’s al-Shabaab in 2008, and Mali’s Ansar al-Dine in 2013.  In 2012, General Carter Ham, then AFRICOM’s chief, added the Islamist militants of Boko Haram in Nigeria to his own list of extremist threats.

The overthrow of Qaddafi in Libya by an interventionist coalition including the U.S., France, and Britain similarly empowered a host of new militant Islamist groups such as the Omar Abdul Rahman Brigades, which have since carried out multiple attacks on Western interests, and the al-Qaeda-linked Ansar al-Sharia, whose fighters assaulted U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012, killing Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.  In fact, just prior to that attack, according to the New York Times, the CIA was tracking “an array of armed militant groups in and around” that one city alone.

According to Frederic Wehrey, a senior policy analyst with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and an expert on Libya, that country is now “fertile ground” for militants arriving from the Arabian Peninsula and other places in the Middle East as well as elsewhere in Africa to recruit fighters, receive training, and recuperate.  “It’s really become a new hub,” he told me.

Obama’s Scramble for Africa 

The U.S.-backed war in Libya and the CIA’s efforts in its aftermath are just two of the many operations that have proliferated across the continent under President Obama.  These include a multi-pronged military and CIA campaign against militants in Somalia, consisting of intelligence operations, a secret prison, helicopter attacks, drone strikes, and U.S. commando raids; a special ops expeditionary force (bolstered by State Department experts) dispatched to help capture or kill Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) leader Joseph Kony and his top commanders in the jungles of the Central African Republic, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo; a massive influx of funding for counterterrorism operations across East Africa; and, in just the last four years, hundreds of millions of dollars spent arming and training West African troops to serve as American proxies on the continent.  From 2010-2012, AFRICOM itself burned through $836 million as it expanded its reach across the region, primarily via programs to mentor, advise, and tutor African militaries.

In recent years, the U.S. has trained and outfitted soldiers from Uganda, Burundi, and Kenya, among other nations, for missions like the hunt for Kony.  They have also served as a proxy force for the U.S. in Somalia, part of the African Union Mission (AMISOM) protecting the U.S.-supported government in that country’s capital, Mogadishu.  Since 2007, the State Department has anted up about $650 million in logistics support, equipment, and training for AMISOM troops.  The Pentagon has kicked in an extra $100 million since 2011.

The U.S. also continues funding African armies through the Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism Partnership and its Pentagon analog, now known as Operation Juniper Shield, with increased support flowing to Mauritania and Niger in the wake of Mali’s collapse.  In 2012, the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development poured approximately $52 million into the programs, while the Pentagon chipped in another $46 million.

In the Obama years, U.S. Africa Command has also built a sophisticated logistics system officially known as the AFRICOM Surface Distribution Network, but colloquially referred to as the “new spice route.” Its central nodes are in Manda Bay, Garissa, and Mombasa in Kenya; Kampala and Entebbe in Uganda; Bangui and Djema in Central African Republic; Nzara in South Sudan; Dire Dawa in Ethiopia; and the Pentagon’s showpiece African base, Camp Lemonnier.

In addition, the Pentagon has run a regional air campaign using drones and manned aircraft out of airports and bases across the continent including Camp Lemonnier, Arba Minch airport in Ethiopia, Niamey in Niger, and the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean, while private contractor-operated surveillance aircraft have flown missions out of Entebbe, Uganda.  Recently, Foreign Policy reported on the existence of a possible drone base in Lamu, Kenya.

Another critical location is Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, home to a Joint Special Operations Air Detachment and the Trans-Sahara Short Take-Off and Landing Airlift Support initiative that, according to military documents, supports “high risk activities” carried out by elite forces from Joint Special Operations Task Force-Trans Sahara.  Lieutenant Colonel Scott Rawlinson, a spokesman for Special Operations Command Africa, told me that the initiative provides “emergency casualty evacuation support to small team engagements with partner nations throughout the Sahel,” although official documents note that such actions have historically accounted for just 10% of monthly flight hours.

While Rawlinson demurred from discussing the scope of the program, citing operational security concerns, military documents indicate that it is expanding rapidly.  Between March and December of last year, for example, the Trans-Sahara Short Take-Off and Landing Airlift Support initiative flew 233 sorties.  In just the first three months of this year, it carried out 193.

AFRICOM spokesman Benjamin Benson has confirmed to TomDispatch that U.S. air operations conducted from Base Aerienne 101 in Niamey, the capital of Niger, were providing “support for intelligence collection with French forces conducting operations in Mali and with other partners in the region.”  Refusing to go into detail about mission specifics for reasons of “operational security,” he added that, “in partnership with Niger and other countries in the region, we are committed to supporting our allies… this decision allows for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance operations within the region.”

Benson also confirmed that the U.S. military has used Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport in Senegal for refueling stops as well as the “transportation of teams participating in security cooperation activities” like training missions.  He confirmed a similar deal for the use of Addis Ababa Bole International Airport in Ethiopia.  All told, the U.S. military now has agreements to use 29 international airports in Africa as refueling centers.

Benson was more tight-lipped about air operations from Nzara Landing Zone in the Republic of South Sudan, the site of one of several shadowy forward operating posts (including another in Djema in the Central Africa Republic and a third in Dungu in the Democratic Republic of Congo) that have been used by U.S. Special Operations forces.  “We don’t want Kony and his folks to know… what kind of planes to look out for,” he said.  It’s no secret, however, that U.S. air assets over Africa and its coastal waters include Predator, Global Hawk and Scan Eagle drones, MQ-8 unmanned helicopters, EP-3 Orion aircraft, Pilatus planes, and E-8 Joint Stars aircraft.

Last year, in its ever-expanding operations, AFRICOM planned 14 major joint-training exercises on the continent, including in Morocco, Uganda, Botswana, Lesotho, Senegal, and Nigeria.  One of them, an annual event known as Atlas Accord, saw members of the U.S. Special Forces travel to Mali to conduct training with local forces. “The participants were very attentive, and we were able to show them our tactics and see theirs as well,” said Captain Bob Luther, a team leader with the 19th Special Forces Group.

The Collapse of Mali

As the U.S.-backed war in Libya was taking down Qaddafi, nomadic Tuareg fighters in his service looted the regime’s extensive weapons caches, crossed the border into their native Mali, and began to take over the northern part of that country.  Anger within the country’s armed forces over the democratically elected government’s ineffective response to the rebellion resulted in a military coup.  It was led by Amadou Sanogo, an officer who had received extensive training in the U.S. between 2004 and 2010 as part of the Pan-Sahel Initiative.  Having overthrown Malian democracy, he and his fellow officers proved even less effective in dealing with events in the north.

With the country in turmoil, the Tuareg fighters declared an independent state.  Soon, however, heavily-armed Islamist rebels from homegrown Ansar al-Dine as well as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Libya’s Ansar al-Sharia, and Nigeria’s Boko Haram, among others, pushed out the Tuaregs, took over much of the north, instituted a harsh brand of Shariah law, and created a humanitarian crisis that caused widespread suffering, sending refugees streaming from their homes.

These developments raised serious questions about the efficacy of U.S. counterterrorism efforts.  “This spectacular failure reveals that the U.S. probably underestimated the complex socio-cultural peculiarities of the region, and misread the realities of the terrain,” Berny Sèbe, an expert on North and West Africa at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, told me.  “This led them to being grossly manipulated by local interests over which they had, in the end, very limited control.”

Following a further series of Islamist victories and widespread atrocities, the French military intervened at the head of a coalition of Chadian, Nigerian, and other African troops, with support from the U.S. and the British. The foreign-led forces beat back the Islamists, who then shifted from conventional to guerrilla tactics, including suicide bombings.

In April, after such an attack killed three Chadian soldiers, that country’s president announced that his forces, long supported by the U.S. through the Pan-Sahel Initiative, would withdraw from Mali.  “Chad’s army has no ability to face the kind of guerrilla fighting that is emerging,” he said.  In the meantime, the remnants of the U.S.-backed Malian military fighting alongside the French were cited for gross human rights violations in their bid to retake control of their country.

After the French intervention in January, then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said, “There is no consideration of putting any American boots on the ground at this time.”  Not long after, 10 U.S. military personnel were deployed to assist French and African forces, while 12 others were assigned to the embassy in the Malian capital, Bamako.

While he’s quick to point out that Mali’s downward spiral had much to do with its corrupt government, weak military, and rising levels of ethnic discontent, the Carnegie Endowment’s Wehrey notes that the war in Libya was “a seismic event for the Sahel and the Sahara.”  Just back from a fact-finding trip to Libya, he added that the effects of the revolution are already rippling far beyond the porous borders of Mali.

Wehrey cited recent findings by the United Nations Security Council’s Group of Experts, which monitors an arms embargo imposed on Libya in 2011.  “In the past 12 months,” the panel reported, “the proliferation of weapons from Libya has continued at a worrying rate and has spread into new territory: West Africa, the Levant [the Eastern Mediterranean region], and potentially even the Horn of Africa.  Illicit flows [of arms] from the country are fueling existing conflicts in Africa and the Levant and enriching the arsenals of a range of non-state actors, including terrorist groups.”

Growing Instability

The collapse of Mali after a coup by an American-trained officer and Chad’s flight from the fight in that country are just two indicators of how post-9/11 U.S. military efforts in Africa have fared.  “In two of the three other Sahelian states involved in the Pentagon’s pan-Sahelian initiative, Mauritania and Niger, armies trained by the U.S., have also taken power in the past eight years,” observed journalist William Wallis in the Financial Times.  “In the third, Chad, they came close in a 2006 attempt.”  Still another coup plot involving members of the Chadian military was reportedly uncovered earlier this spring.

In March, Major General Patrick Donahue, the commander of U.S. Army Africa, told interviewer Gail McCabe that northwestern Africa was now becoming increasingly “problematic.”  Al-Qaeda, he said, was at work destabilizing Algeria and Tunisia.  Last September, in fact, hundreds of Islamist protesters attacked the U.S. embassy compound in Tunisia, setting it on fire.  More recently, Camille Tawil in the CTC Sentinel, the official publication of the Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, wrote that in Tunisia jihadis are openly recruiting young militants and sending them to training camps in the mountains, especially along Algeria’s borders.”

The U.S.-backed French intervention in Mali also led to a January revenge terror attack on the Amenas gas plant in Algeria.  Carried out by the al-Mulathameen brigade, one of various new al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb-linked militant groups emerging in the region, it led to the deaths of close to 40 hostages, including three Americans.  Planned by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a veteran of the U.S.-backed war against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s, it was only the first in a series of blowback responses to U.S. and Western interventions in Northern Africa that may have far-reaching implications.

Last month, Belmokhtar’s forces also teamed up with fighters from the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa — yet another Islamist militant group of recent vintage — to carry out coordinated attacks on a French-run uranium mine and a nearby military base in Agadez, Niger, that killed at least 25 people.  A recent attack on the French embassy in Libya by local militants is also seen as a reprisal for the French war in Mali.

According to the Carnegie Endowment’s Wehrey, the French military’s push there has had the additional effect of reversing the flow of militants, sending many back into Libya to recuperate and seek additional training.  Nigerian Islamist fighters driven from Mali have returned to their native land with fresh training and innovative tactics as well as heavy weapons from Libya.  Increasingly battle-hardened, extremist Islamist insurgents from two Nigerian groups, Boko Haram and the newer, even more radical Ansaru, have escalated a long simmering conflict in that West African oil giant.

For years, Nigerian forces have been trained and supported by the U.S. through the Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance program.  The country has also been a beneficiary of U.S. Foreign Military Financing, which provides grants and loans to purchase U.S.-produced weaponry and equipment and funds military training.  In recent years, however, brutal responses by Nigerian forces to what had been a fringe Islamist sect have transformed Boko Haram into a regional terrorist force.

The situation has grown so serious that President Goodluck Jonathan recently declared a state of emergency in northern Nigeria.  Last month, Secretary of State John Kerry spoke out about “credible allegations that Nigerian security forces are committing gross human rights violations, which, in turn, only escalate the violence and fuel extremism.”  After a Boko Haram militant killed a soldier in the town of Baga, for example, Nigerian troops attacked the town, destroying more than 2,000 homes and killing an estimated 183 people.

Similarly, according to a recent United Nations report, the Congolese army’s 391st Commando Battalion, formed with U.S. support and trained for eight months by U.S. Special Operations forces, later took part in mass rapes and other atrocities.  Fleeing the advance of a recently formed, brutal (non-Islamic) rebel group known as M23, its troops joined with other Congolese soldiers in raping close to 100 women and more than 30 girls in November 2012.

“This magnificent battalion will set a new mark in this nation’s continuing transformation of an army dedicated and committed to professionalism, accountability, sustainability, and meaningful security,” said Brigadier General Christopher Haas, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command Africa at the time of the battalion’s graduation from training in 2010.

Earlier this year, incoming AFRICOM commander General David Rodriguez told the Senate Armed Services Committee that a review of the unit found its “officers and enlisted soldiers appear motivated, organized, and trained in small unit maneuver and tactics” even if there were “limited metrics to measure the battalion’s combat effectiveness and performance in protecting civilians.”  The U.N. report tells a different story.  For example, it describes “a 14 year old boy… shot dead on 25 November 2012 in the village of Kalungu, Kalehe territory, by a soldier of the 391 Battalion. The boy was returning from the fields when two soldiers tried to steal his goat. As he tried to resist and flee, one of the soldiers shot him.”

Despite years of U.S. military aid to the Democratic Republic of Congo, M23 has dealt its army heavy blows and, according to AFRICOM’s Rodriguez, is now destabilizing the region.  But they haven’t done it alone. According to Rodriguez, M23 “would not be the threat it is today without external support including evidence of support from the Rwandan government.”

For years, the U.S. aided Rwanda through various programs, including the International Military Education and Training initiative and Foreign Military Financing.   Last year, the U.S. cut $200,000 in military assistance to Rwanda — a signal of its disapproval of that government’s support for M23.  Still, as AFRICOM’s Rodriguez admitted to the Senate earlier this year, the U.S. continues to “support Rwanda’s participation in United Nations peacekeeping missions in Africa.”

After years of U.S. assistance, including support from Special Operations forces advisors, the Central African Republic’s military was recently defeated and the country’s president ousted by another newly formed (non-Islamist) rebel group known as Seleka.  In short order, that country’s army chiefs pledged their allegiance to the leader of the coup, while hostility on the part of the rebels forced the U.S. and its allies to suspend their hunt for Joseph Kony.

A strategic partner and bulwark of U.S. counterterrorism efforts, Kenya receives around $1 billion in U.S. aid annually and elements of its military have been trained by U.S. Special Operations forces.  But last September, Foreign Policy’s Jonathan Horowitz reported on allegations of “Kenyan counterterrorism death squads… killing and disappearing people.”  Later, Human Rights Watch drew attention to the Kenyan military’s response to a November attack by an unknown gunman that killed three soldiers in the northern town of Garissa.  The “Kenyan army surrounded the town, preventing anyone from leaving or entering, and started attacking residents and traders,” the group reported. “The witnesses said that the military shot at people, raped women, and assaulted anyone in sight.”

Another longtime recipient of U.S. support, the Ethiopian military, was also involved in abuses last year, following an attack by gunmen on a commercial farm.  In response, according to Human Rights Watch, members of Ethiopia’s army raped, arbitrarily arrested, and assaulted local villagers.

The Ugandan military has been the primary U.S. proxy when it comes to policing Somalia.  Its members were, however, implicated in the beating and even killing of citizens during domestic unrest in 2011.  Burundi has also received significant U.S. military support and high-ranking officers in its army have recently been linked to the illegal mineral trade, according to a report by the environmental watchdog group Global Witness.  Despite years of cooperation with the U.S. military, Senegal now appears more vulnerable to extremism and increasingly unstable, according to a report by the Institute of Security Studies.

And so it goes across the continent.

Success Stories

In addition to the Gulf of Guinea, AFRICOM’s chief spokesman pointed to Somalia as another major U.S. success story on the continent.  And it’s true that Somalia is more stable now than it has been in years, even if a weakened al-Shabaab continues to carry out attacks.  The spokesman even pointed to a recent CNN report about a trickle of tourists entering the war-torn country and the construction of a luxury beach resort in the capital, Mogadishu.

I asked for other AFRICOM success stories, but only those two came to his mind — and no one should be surprised by that.

After all, in 2006, before AFRICOM came into existence, 11 African nations were among the top 20 in the Fund for Peace’s annual Failed States Index.  Last year, that number had risen to 15 (or 16 if you count the new nation of South Sudan).

In 2001, according to the Global Terrorism Database from the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland, there were 119 terrorist incidents in sub-Saharan Africa.  By 2011, the last year for which numbers are available, there were close to 500.  A recent report from the International Center for Terrorism Studies at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies counted 21 terrorist attacks in the Maghreb and Sahel regions of northern Africa in 2001.  During the Obama years, the figures have fluctuated between 144 and 204 annually.

Similarly, an analysis of 65,000 individual incidents of political violence in Africa from 1997 to 2012, assembled by researchers affiliated with the International Peace Research Institute, found that “violent Islamist activity has increased significantly in the past 15 years, with a particular[ly] sharp increase witnessed from 2010 onwards.”  Additionally, according to researcher Caitriona Dowd, “there is also evidence for the geographic spread of violent Islamist activity both south- and east-ward on the continent.”

In fact, the trends appear stark and eerily mirror statements from AFRICOM’s leaders.

In March 2009, after years of training indigenous forces and hundreds of millions of dollars spent on counterterrorism activities, General William Ward, the first leader of U.S. Africa Command, gave its inaugural status report to the Senate Armed Services Committee.  It was bleak.  “Al-Qaeda,” he said, “increased its influence dramatically across north and east Africa over the past three years with the growth of East Africa Al-Qaeda, al Shabaab, and al-Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).”

This February, after four more years of military engagement, security assistance, training of indigenous armies, and hundreds of millions of dollars more in funding, AFRICOM’s incoming commander General David Rodriguez explained the current situation to the Senate in more ominous terms.  “The command’s number one priority is East Africa with particular focus on al-Shabaab and al-Qaeda networks. This is followed by violent extremist [movements] and al-Qaeda in North and West Africa and the Islamic Maghreb. AFRICOM’s third priority is Counter-LRA [Lord’s Resistance Army] operations.”

Rodriguez warned that, “with the increasing threat of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, I see a greater risk of regional instability if we do not engage aggressively.”  In addition to that group, he declared al-Shabaab and Boko Haram major menaces.  He also mentioned the problems posed by the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa and Ansar al-Dine.  Libya, he told them, was threatened by “hundreds of disparate militias,” while M23 was “destabilizing the entire Great Lakes region [of Central Africa].”

In West Africa, he admitted, there was also a major narcotics trafficking problem.  Similarly, East Africa was “experiencing an increase in heroin trafficking across the Indian Ocean from Afghanistan and Pakistan.”  In addition, “in the Sahel region of North Africa, cocaine and hashish trafficking is being facilitated by, and directly benefitting, organizations like al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb leading to increased regional instability.”

In other words, 10 years after Washington began pouring taxpayer dollars into counterterrorism and stability efforts across Africa and its forces first began operating from Camp Lemonnier, the continent has experienced profound changes, just not those the U.S. sought.  The University of Birmingham’s Berny Sèbe ticks off post-revolutionary Libya, the collapse of Mali, the rise of Boko Haram in Nigeria, the coup in the Central African Republic, and violence in Africa’s Great Lakes region as evidence of increasing volatility. “The continent is certainly more unstable today than it was in the early 2000s, when the U.S. started to intervene more directly,” he told me.

As the war in Afghanistan — a conflict born of blowback — winds down, there will be greater incentive and opportunity to project U.S. military power in Africa.  However, even a cursory reading of recent history suggests that this impulse is unlikely to achieve U.S. goals.  While correlation doesn’t equal causation, there is ample evidence to suggest the United States has facilitated a terror diaspora, imperiling nations and endangering peoples across Africa.  In the wake of 9/11, Pentagon officials were hard-pressed to show evidence of a major African terror threat.  Today, the continent is thick with militant groups that are increasingly crossing borders, sowing insecurity, and throwing the limits of U.S. power into broad relief.  After 10 years of U.S. operations to promote stability by military means, the results have been the opposite.  Africa has become blowback central.

Nick Turse is the managing editor of TomDispatch.com and a fellow at the Nation Institute.  An award-winning journalist, his work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Nation, and regularly at TomDispatch. He is the author most recently of the New York Times bestseller Kill Anything that Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam (The American Empire Project, Metropolitan Books).  You can catch his conversation with Bill Moyers about that book by clicking here.  His website is NickTurse.com.  You can follow him on Tumblr and on Facebook.

Some critics from the left and the right characterized my recent article “Syria and the Sham of Humanitarian Intervention” as an unnecessarily harsh indictment of a policy that provides a necessary tool for the international community to protect human rights and save innocent lives.

But the recent decision by the Obama Administration to “up the ante” in Syria with more direct military involvement only confirmed my original thesis that humanitarian intervention has nothing to do with humanitarian concern, and is instead is a propaganda tool that affords “the U.S. State the perfect ideological cover and internal rationalization to continue as the global “gendarme” of the capitalist order.”

Look at the stage-managed drama leading up to the announcement on U.S. policy toward Syria that took place last week in Washington. In a surreal replay of the process leading to the illegal war on Iraq, it became clear that while everyone had been waiting to learn the results of meetings among high level officials of the Obama administration, who, we were told would be debating the next phase of U.S. policy on Syria, we learned instead that the decision to increase its open involvement with the civil war it fomented in Syria had been made weeks earlier. So the meetings last week were just political theater providing the Administration the stage to announce its’ “findings” on the use of Chemical weapons by the government in Syria.  As an official said the chemical weapons findings offered “fresh justification to act.”

Revising the “weapons of mass destruction” deception, the government “confirmed” that Syrian forces used chemical weapons that caused the deaths of over a hundred people out of the over 90,000 estimated to have died in the conflict. With no evidence or independent confirmation, the Administration announced that it is now compelled to involved itself more directly in the conflict to save the Syrian people from their murderous government.

However, in a telling and hopefully positive sign of the times, significant segments of the U.S. public are not falling for this ploy, at least not for now. And perhaps because of the recent revelations of governmental attacks on the press, some U.S. media outlets are not serving as aggressively as mouthpieces for the government in the obsequious manner they did in the run-up to and subsequent attack on Iraq. 

This might also explain why some mainstream media outlets in the U.S. are finally allowing some minimal information and analysis of the conflict in Syria to be presented to the U.S. public from a more critical perspective. This includes information that has been regularly covered throughout the world but barely receives a mention in the U.S. press, like, for example, the fact that the Syrian government still receives majority support, including from significant numbers of Sunni Muslims, who are terrified of the religious fanatics who have poured into their country to “liberate” them. Instead of the continuing framing of the ballooning numbers of people killed in the conflict as the result of genocidal government actions, some outlets have actually presented evidence indicating that Syrian soldiers and pro-government militias make up 43.2% of the deaths.

Another small but significant example of the slight change in the slant of information is a recent opinion piece that was allowed to run in the New York Times that was highly critical of Administration policy in Syria.  In that piece, it was argued that President Obama, lacking a grand strategy for Syria and the Middle East, has become a victim of rhetorical entrapment “from calling on foreign leaders to leave (with no plan to forcibly remove them) to publicly drawing red lines on the use of chemical weapons, and then being obliged to fulfill the threat.” 

However, as important as it is to have a more critical perspective in a major publication, it would be wrong to believe that the Administration lacks a specific strategy for Syria with concrete objectives. The implication that the Administration does not have an agenda in Syria and that misguided but benevolent rhetoric has trapped it into making the decisions it is making is a familiar claim of innocence that liberals often evoke. 

More than rhetorical entrapment, the Obama Administration has consciously and consistently maneuvered from the very beginning of the Syrian crisis to reconfigure the reality on the ground to the advantage of its strategic objective. That objective is to alter the balance of forces in the region against Iran by either subordinating or destroying the Syrian state. 

When the opportunity presented itself, it was this strategic objective, informed by the U.S. National Security strategy position for the Middle East region, that was embraced and executed with devastating effect by the Obama Administration in the form of the manufactured civil war in Syria. What the New York Times opinion piece confused and conflated is “absence of a strategy” with tactical decisions based on shifting conditions, like the decision to openly supply the “rebels.”

The U.S. saw a strategic opportunity to execute its plan for regime change in Syria using the fictions of the so-called Arab Spring, the “successful” Western war on Libya, and the ideological fig leaf of humanitarian intervention.

Unfortunately, anti-war, anti-imperialist and people-centered human rights activists have not developed effective strategies to counter the push for war. So today we confront a situation in which the Obama Administration has not only blown the dust off of what should be a completely discredited playbook from Iraq on how to manipulate the public into supporting war, it has also added the new play of humanitarian intervention to confuse opposition. Instead of the imminent threat argument, used to make the absurd charge that Saddam Hussein might turn over WMDs to Al-Qaeda, with Syria the need for intervention is strictly “altruistic.”

That is why the immediate priority for anti-war, anti-imperialist, human rights activists in the U.S., for countering the government’s effort to normalize war is to strip away the moral pretext of humanitarian intervention and expose its ugly, imperialist reality. No other group has the power and the responsibility other than us to do this. We must boldly point out that while strutting around the globe clothed in the fiction of humanitarian concern, imperialism is actually naked, and the sight is offensive.   

Ajamu Baraka was the founding Director of the US Human Rights Network (USHRN).  Baraka is currently an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and is editing a new book on human rights in the U.S. entitled:  “The Struggle for a People-Centered Human Rights: Voices from the Field.”

He can be reached at Ajamubaraka.com

by Dam-Press. (Translated from the Arabic)

During his recent visit to London and meeting with British Prime Minister Cameron, President Putin passed on a message to the US and France in response to their recent announcement that they will arm the [Al Nusrah] fighters in Syria.

As Russia is a sovereign nation dealing with the sovereign, legitimate government of Syria, some new arms which have never left Russia before [never previously deployed in Syria] will be delivered to the Syrian military.

The Patriot Missiles will be hit and repealed with S 300 SAM [already installed in Syria]. Putin also threatened to deliver the more advanced S400 anti-aircraft missiles (see image below) far superior to the Patriot missiles and ranked as the World’s most advanced air defense system.

He added that Russia will also supply Syria with state-of –the-art 24-Barrell rocket launchers which have a range of 60 km ranked as the most developed artillery weapon of its kind.(see video below)

ТОС-1А Буратино на репетиции парада 4.5.2010.jpg

He added that Russia will supply 400 of these launchers which will be able to destroy all targets around Syria’s borders.

 

Barrel 24 Launchers

A British intelligence report stated that Putin went to London bringing his own Russian cooked food and did not consume anything from Britain including water as he even brought his own water with him reportedly because he had concerns of being poisoned.

The British intelligence site stated that Putin threatened to send other secret Russian made weapons to Syria which would tip the balance of power even further in favour of Syria and re-iterated that these weapons will not be used against Israel on condition that Israel will not participate in the war within Syria and neighbouring countries. {Lebanon, Jordan]

Reportedly, the British PM’s response was very weak in relation to Putin’s threats.

Putin’s response came just over 24 hours after Obama’s statement on Saturday that he was going to arm the Syrian resistance.

Putin clearly stated that the Middle East is going to witness a significant change.  Syria will be armed with weapons that have never been seen before [in the Middle East] including computer guided smart missiles that never miss their target.

He also added that Russia will supply Syria with Skean 5 ground -to-sea missiles that are capable of hitting and sinking any target up to 250 km off the Syrian coast. 

Whistleblower Edward Snowden spoke publicly yesterday for the first time in a week and issued a defiant response to denunciations of his actions by both corporate-controlled parties in the US. He declared, “All I can say right now is the US government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me. Truth is coming and it cannot be stopped.”

Since releasing documents exposing secret spying programs targeting Americans and non-Americans alike, Snowden has been the target of an increasingly vicious campaign in the media and from government officials. The Obama administration is preparing criminal charges, and Democrats and Republicans have denounced him as a “traitor.” Meanwhile, polls show broad public support for the 29-year-old former contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA).

In comments posted Monday on the web site of the British Guardian newspaper, Snowden maintained that he is not deterred by the political establishment’s slanderous campaign or the fact that he could be targeted for assassination by US intelligence agencies.

Snowden issued a stinging response to accusations from former Vice President Dick Cheney and others that he is a “traitor.” He said, “[I]t’s important to bear in mind that I’m being called a traitor by men like former Vice President Dick Cheney. This is a man who gave us the warrantless wiretapping scheme as a kind of atrocity warm-up on the way to deceitfully engineering a conflict that has killed over 4,400 and maimed nearly 32,000 Americans, as well as leaving over 100,000 Iraqis dead.

“Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give an American, and the more panicked talk we hear from people like him, [Democratic Senator Dianne] Feinstein, and [Republican Representative Peter] King, the better off we all are. If they had taught a class on how to be the kind of citizen Dick Cheney worries about, I would have finished high school.”

Denouncing the role of the press, Snowden noted that the “mainstream media now seems far more interested in what I said when I was 17 or what my girlfriend looks like rather than, say, the largest program of suspicionless surveillance in human history.”

Asked whether analysts can listen to the content of calls without a warrant, Snowden refuted the lying denials of administration and intelligence officials and indicated that he has proof to the contrary.

“More detail on how direct NSA’s accesses are is coming, but, in general, the reality is this: if an NSA, FBI, CIA, DIA, etc. analyst has access to query raw SIGINT databases, they can enter and get results for anything they want. Phone number, email, user ID, cell phone handset ID (IMEI), and so on. It’s all the same…

“The reality is that due to the FISA Amendments Act and its section 702 authorities, Americans’ communications are collected and viewed on a daily basis on the certification of an analyst rather than a warrant. They excuse this as ‘incidental’ collection, but at the end of the day, someone at NSA still has the content of your communications.”

He added: “Even in the event of ‘warranted’ intercept, it’s important to understand the intelligence community doesn’t always deal with what you would consider a ‘real’ warrant like a police department would have to. The ‘warrant’ is more of a templated form they fill out and send to a reliable judge with a rubber stamp.”

Snowden sought to refute government attempts to downplay the profound illegality of the spying operation, as exemplified by President Obama’s interview yesterday with the Public Broadcasting System’s Charlie Rose. Obama claimed once again that if US intelligence agencies want to wiretap a phone, they have to “go to the FISA court with probable cause and ask for a warrant.” He made the absurd claim that the program as a whole “is transparent” because “we set up the FISA court”—a secret court that last year approved every surveillance request submitted by the government.

Obama’s dishonest, meandering words cannot diminish the significance of Snowden’s courageous and powerful statements.

The spying operations revealed by Snowden are global in scope, with hundreds of millions of people swept up in an international dragnet that involves the complicity of other intelligence agencies. As Snowden pointed out, the claim that the programs target only non-US persons—a false assertion—is “a distraction from the power and danger of this system.” He added, “Suspicionless surveillance does not become okay simply because it’s only victimizing 95 percent of the world instead of 100 percent. Our founders did not write, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all US persons are created equal.’”

Snowden wrote that with the campaign of denunciations against him, the US government has “immediately and predictably destroyed any possibility of a fair trial at home, openly declaring me guilty of treason, and that the disclosure of secret, criminal and even unconstitutional acts is an unforgivable crime.”

Responding to claims that the leaks had undermined the “war on terror,” Snowden replied: “Bathtub falls and police officers kill more Americans than terrorism…yet we’ve been asked to sacrifice our most sacred rights for fear of falling victim to it.”

Responding to an online question about the timing of the leaks, Snowden explained that he chose to wait to release the information because “Obama’s campaign promises and election gave me faith that he would lead us toward fixing the problems he outlined in his quest for votes.”

He continued: “Many Americans felt similarly. Unfortunately, shortly after assuming power, he closed the door on investigating systemic violations of law, deepened and expanded several abusive programs, and refused to spend the political capital to end the kind of human rights violations like we see in Guantanamo, where men still sit without charge.”

The hysterical lies of the ruling class over the past two weeks reflect its growing nervousness over the prospect of an entire generation of young people forming similar political conclusions.

Edward Snowden has dispensed more truth in a few paragraphs than the corporate media has in decades of twenty-four hour news cycles. His actions and words serve as a powerful refutation of the geyser of mud, endless lies and vacuity of the entire political and media apparatus.

Egyptian President Morsi Raises Concern in Diplomatic Row With Ethiopia

Addis Ababa is seeking to turn around a colonial-era law on the usage of the Nile River

Several African states have rejected statements made by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi which have challenged the right of Ethiopia to utilize water from the Blue Nile in order to construct a hydro-electric dam. Ethiopia says that the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project is necessary to not only provide power for the several contiguous states but to also reverse a British colonial-era law that deliberately divides Egypt from other states through the allocation of water from the Nile.

Foreign ministers from both countries met on June 17 in Addis Ababa. The purpose of the visit was to resolve the diplomatic standoff which has led to war-related rhetoric from the Egyptian government over the plans for the development of this $US4.2 billion undertaking.

Dina Mufti, a spokesperson for the Ethiopian foreign ministry, said of the meeting with their Egyptian counterparts that “I cannot anticipate the outcome of the meeting. But our wish is that they would understand that the construction of the dam is not going to harm them in any way. We have always sought a win-win cooperation and relationship with Egypt.” (Associated Press, June 17)

Egyptian leaders under the Muslim Brotherhood dominated government has responded to the Ethiopian plan with threats of military action including sabotage. President Morsi said of the situation that “We do not want a war, but we are keeping all options open.” (DW, June 14)

The dispute between the two states is rooted in the legacy of British imperialism in North, Northeast and Central Africa during the 20th century. A declaration from 1929 by London granted the bulk of the water of this area of the Nile to Egypt and Sudan.

Another agreement between Egypt and Sudan was signed in 1959 prior to the independence of other Nile River states such as Burundi, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda. Ethiopia, which was heavily-dominated by the United States and other western imperialist states, was not in a position at the time to effectively challenge the moves made by Britain and the-then governments of Sudan and Egypt.

According to Andrew Carlson, “the 1929 colonial document established Egypt’s right to 48 billion cubic meters of water flow, all dry season waters, and veto-power over any upriver water management projects; newly independent Sudan (1956) was accorded rights to 4 billion cubic meters of water. The Ethiopian monarch was not consulted—at least in part because no one understood how much Nile water actually came from Ethiopia. “ (Origins, March 2013)

This same article points out that “The signatories of the 1959 Agreement allocated Egypt 55.5 billion cubic meters of water annually while Sudan was allowed 18.5 billion cubic meters. These 79 billion cubic meters represented 99% of the calculated average annual river flow.

“The treaty also allowed for the construction of the Aswan High Dam (completed in 1971), the Roseires Dam (completed 1966 on the Blue Nile in Sudan), and the Khashm al-Girba Dam (completed in 1964 on the Atbara River in Sudan).”

The Republic of Tanzania’s first President Julius Nyerere spoke to the unjust character of such agreements proclaiming that African states should not be subjected to the colonial-era laws that the people had no impact in drafting and implementing. Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I in 1959 was so offended by the exclusion of His Majesty’s government from the agreement signed by Egypt and Sudan that he broke ties between the Orthodox Christian Church and its counterpart in Alexandria severing a 1600-year relationship.

Ethiopia later commissioned a study to examine the feasibility of constructing dams around the Blue Nile. A report written by the U.S. Department of Reclamation extended for 17 volumes and was published in 1964 entitled “Land and Water Resources of the Blue Nile Basin: Ethiopia.”

Since this time period Ethiopia has sought to develop its hydro-electric power capacity in conjunction with neighboring states. During the 1980s a drought and famine hit Ethiopia and created the conditions for large-scale deaths and displacement.

In Egypt during the same time period the threat of drought and famine also loomed when Aswan Dam turbines nearly shut down raising the prospect of food and water shortages in the country. Nonetheless, by 1987 the governments of Egypt and Ethiopia began to hold serious discussions over the future of the Nile River and its usage by all connected states.

Morsi Accused of Diverting Attention From Domestic Ills

President Morsi’s first year in office has been plagued with controversy, mass demonstrations and rebellions. Many within Egypt are dissatisfied with his leadership and that of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) which is dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood.

In an article published by Tarek El-Tablawy, the writer notes that “By the end of his (Morsi) 11th month in office, 42 percent of respondents to a poll taken by the Egyptian Center for Public Opinion Research, or Baseera, voiced approval for him compared with 46 percent in the prior month. Of the 2,051 people surveyed, 54 percent said they supported early presidential elections, Baseera reported in a poll released on its website.”

This same journalist continues claiming that “Morsi’s critics argue the dam dispute is an example of the government’s inability to steer the country forward or safeguard its interests.” Egypt even under its current government which has maintained the fundamental foreign and domestic policy orientation as the ousted regime of former President Hosni Mubarak, has failed to secure a long-promised $US4 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Recently Morsi broke relations with Syria and pledged support for the counter-revolutionary rebels that are fighting the government of President Bashar al-Assad. The Egyptian leader has also criticized the role of the Islamic Republic of Iran in defending the Syrian government from the western-backed war of aggression and regime-change that has been waged for over two years.

Recently the Republic of South Sudan expressed its support for the building of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam saying that the effort will help both Ethiopians and Egyptians for generations to come. South Sudan, which is newly-independent, has joined the Nile Basin countries and is concerned about its own economic development.

South Sudan Chief Negotiator Pagan Amum said of the present diplomatic row between Addis Ababa and Cairo that “Ethiopia has the right to use the Nile water in terms of generation of electricity, in terms of irrigation, and the way we see this development is that it is not affecting the interest of Sudan or Egypt”. (Sudan Tribune, June 14)

Ethiopian Communications Minister Bereket Simon down played any potential military threat from the government in Cairo. He stressed that “Egypt doesn’t have firm and justified reason to go to war with Ethiopia. Even if they have the willingness the question is do they have the capacity?’’ (Sudan Tribune, June 14)

The African Union (AU) has urged both Cairo and Addis Ababa to resolve the dispute diplomatically. Ethiopia and Egypt represent the second and third largest populated states on the continent with 84 million living in the former and 82 million in the latter.

AU Commission Chair Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said of the dispute that “It would be important to just have discussions that are open, that look at how we can have a win-win situation in a new context, not in the context of the colonial powers, but in the context of pan-Africanism and African renaissance.” (Reuters, June 12)

Catarina Principe and Anton Thun

Thousands of German activists converged on Frankfurt, one of Europe’s most important financial centers on May 31 and June 1. Their slogan “Blockupy Frankfurt!” was the rallying cry for a protest of the German and European Union (EU) governments’ ongoing austerity policies.

Thousands of activists came to Frankfurt for a second annual Blockupy protest (Strassenstriche).

Germany is in a unique position in Europe in that the economic crisis has yet to really hit – most people still don’t feel it, and public awareness of its consequences is relatively low. Statistics like 50 per cent youth unemployment are something people read about in the news about other countries. The crisis is something that we hear about taking place in Greece, Portugal or Italy, but for many Germans, it remains abstract.

This isn’t to say that German workers haven’t also suffered. Austerity policies in Germany, particularly labour market liberalization and balanced budget amendments, have led to an explosion in precarious and temporary employment. But the public doesn’t associate these developments with the economic crisis, and the trade unions have remained passive. Many German workers are simply relieved to have weathered the crisis and don’t see much of a connection between what is happening here and what is happening in the rest of the EU. These are the conditions under which the German left is operating.

Mobilizing Against Austerity

The German left has been trying to mobilize against austerity despite this difficult political climate, starting with a major anti-austerity demonstration in 2009 under the motto “We won’t pay for your crisis!” Though large, this and subsequent demonstrations were ultimately one-off events, isolated and restricted to the radical left.

It wasn’t until last year that a new coalition, inspired by the enthusiasm and militancy of the Occupy movement, attempted to coalesce a broader movement against austerity. Calling itself “Blockupy,” the coalition consists of both reformist and revolutionary currents – its annual protest was the biggest anti-capitalist demonstration of the year. The demonstration seeks to build solidarity with the peoples of southern Europe and channel opposition to Chancellor Angela Merkel and the ruling class she represents.

The Blockupy coalition, larger and broader than previous anti-austerity movements, sought to organize several days of action in Frankfurt, the financial center of Germany and seat of the European Central Bank (ECB). By blockading the bank on Friday, May 31, and organizing a mass international demonstration the next day, the coalition sought to carry anti-capitalism into the “belly of the beast.”

Last year, Frankfurt authorities banned all forms of protest in the city and sought to keep protesters out via coordinated road blocks and police actions. Organizers learned from this and began their preparations much earlier this year.

The actions in Frankfurt were a success. Despite pouring rain, thousands of activists began their march to the Central Bank at 5 a.m. and effectively blocked Frankfurt’s bankers from going to work that day.

After shutting down the bank, protesters streamed into the city to highlight economic exploitation and oppression in various locations. Hundreds organized a demonstration/blockade on Frankfurt’s main shopping street, denouncing the scandalous behavior of the clothing retailer Primark, which is guilty of using child labour and was one of the multinationals connected to the factory collapse in Bangladesh in April. But the protest also called attention to the degradation of workers’ rights in Germany, the downward pressure on wages, and the increase in temporary work, subcontracting companies and so-called “mini-jobs,” where workers work on a contract for as little as 10 hours a week.

The third important action was a demonstration against rising rents and gentrification in Germany’s cities. The question of housing has been a central issue, not only for migrants and local community organizations, but also for young workers and students who were clearly the main component of the Blockupy protests. Though the activists often failed to communicate what their demonstrations were about to passersby – a recurring problem for the German radical left – it was still an important experience for us in actively supporting workers and experimenting with new forms of protest.

Beyond the blockade, dozens of left groups congregated at the Blockupy protest camp, where 4,000-plus activists came together for meetings, debates, film screenings and a livestream of the democracy protests in Istanbul. Regrettably, Die Linke (the Left Party) was the only political party supporting the protests. Most of the trade unions were completely absent, as well as other large organizations of the reformist left. This meant that many of the activities of the Blockupy coalition were dominated by revolutionary and ultra-left groups, giving them a somewhat exclusive character.

Saturday’s demonstration was also a success. More than 15,000 protesters, mostly young people from a spectrum of the broad left, gathered to march to the European Central Bank. Die Linke had a large, active contingent on the demonstration, as did various autonomist groups.

The demonstration was colorful, loud and militant, and certainly one of the best in the last few years. Unfortunately, there was little presence of the organized working-class. The lack of trade union participation and the German radical left’s inexperience in communicating to working people meant that it remained by and large a protest of the organized left.

The big story of the demonstration, however, was not the protest itself, but the police reaction to it. After less than a kilometer, police blocked the march and demanded to check the identification of over 1,000 participants. A few protesters set off fireworks in protest, to which the police responded with pepper spray and swinging batons, resulting in around 300 injuries. Journalists from the mainstream media were attacked by police, and left-wing members of parliament were taken into police custody. The police did not allow the demonstration to finish and turned Frankfurt into a quasi-militarized zone for the rest of the day.

The police repression pushed the political message of Blockupy into the background, but made the movement a national focus in the following week. Dozens of solidarity demonstrations took place around the country, almost all of Germany’s main political parties condemned the police action, and the mainstream media began to take notice of how intolerant of protests the German government has become. To some extent, the German public is beginning to wake up to the increasing authoritarianism that the European ruling class is employing to enforce austerity.

Lessons Learned

Though the Blockupy demonstration was smaller than last year, there are some qualitative changes worth noting.

The actions on May 31 show that the German radical left is moving away from a vague, albeit important, systemic critique of the banks and financial capital to a focus on issues, such as low wages, high rents, etc., that allow a more sustained and organized intervention.

Moreover, these actions try to connect the dots by showing that German economic policies affect not only the countries in southern Europe, but also the population in Germany – and that precarious employment, the question of housing and the crisis are not separate issues, but rather should be seen as part of a broader policy.

The second important qualitative change was the Europe-wide protests on the same day as the Blockupy demonstration (June 1st). Activist coalitions in Portugal and Spain decided to call for a decentralized European day of action under the name “People United Against the Troika” – a reference to the three institutions supervising austerity, the EU, ECB and International Monetary Fund. There were demonstrations in 12 countries and 99 cities around Europe – with a concentration in Portugal and Spain, where geographical and cultural proximity allowed for a more coordinated day of action.

It is important to note that the protests were smaller than the last austerity demonstrations, showing that the necessity of coordinated international resistance is still not clear to many activists. Nevertheless, this is the next phase of coordinated, European protests after the Europe-wide strike call last November – itself a tactical maneuver by the trade unions, brought on by pressure from the social movements.

It is crucial to integrate Germany into a coordinated European fightback. The experience of coordinated international action helps to combat the dominant ruling class arguments about the crisis – namely, that German workers are paying for the economic mistakes of the southern Europeans.

Moreover, it helps to broaden people’s understanding that what is happening in each country in Europe is not a localized experience, but a rapid and brutal neoliberal assault on labour and social rights across all of Europe – and that the economic policies that push down wages in Germany are the same ones that shut down schools in Portugal or hospitals in Greece.

So even if the European demonstrations were smaller, they were a step forward in laying the groundwork for a resistance that is not atomized and national, but international and in solidarity with the workers in all of Europe. To use an expression of Occupy, they help to build the struggles of the 99 per cent against the 1 per cent of Europe.

Next year, Frankfurt will witness the grand opening of the European Central Bank’s new building. The German and European left is already planning major protests for the same day, involving a large European mobilization. This presents the opportunity to take the fight against austerity in Europe to the next level, with a genuinely international demonstration of solidarity between workers of all countries.

There remain two major obstacles to this struggle: Blockupy’s inability so far to mobilize forces to the right of Die Linke and the relative passivity of the German population compared to other countries. The first task is to pressure the unions and the Social Democrats to get involved, as they are able to mobilize a much broader layer of the population than Blockupy has been able to up until now.

Expanding these networks in Germany and bridging the political divide between the German working-class and the rest of Europe will be key for building European resistance. Die Linke has played a positive and constructive role in the movement so far, but will have to do a lot more if we are going to put up a serious fight against Angela Merkel and German capital. •

 Catarina Principe and Anton Thun are members of the socialist student group Die Linke.SDS and supporters of the Marx21 current. This article first published on the Socialist Worker website.

United Nations General Assembly A/67/L.63, adopted by a slim majority on May 15, 2013, is a deliberate and pathological refusal to acknowledge reality, in an attempt to justify wanton militarism and obstruct efforts by both United Nations Representative Lakhdar Brahimi and by John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov to achieve a negotiated settlement ending the civil war between the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad and the motley group of terrorist infested opposition forces.

 On April 27, 2013, Reuters reported: 

“Syria’s Prime Minister survived a bomb attack on his convoy in Damascus on Monday as rebels struck in the heart of President Bashar al-Assad’s capital….As prime Minister, Wael al-Halki wields little power but the attack highlighted the rebel’s growing ability to target symbols of Assad’s authority in a civil war that, according to the United Nations has cost more than 70,000 lives….Assad picked Halki in August just weeks after a bombing killed four of the President’s top security advisers….One man accompanying Halki was killed as well as five passers-by…Mezze is part of a shrinking ‘Square of Security’ in central Damascus, where many government and military institutions are based and where senior officials live…it has been sucked into the destruction ravaging much of the rest of Syria…as rebel forces based to the east of the capital launch mortar attacks and carry out bombings in the center.”

 May 16, 2013:  ABC News, by Alexander Marquardt published the following:

“In recent days, the videos posted online from Syria have highlighted a deepening sectarianism and a brutality never before seen in this conflict…The execution of the three officers of the Syrian government took place in a public square in Raqqa, a northern city controlled by the Sunni, al Qaeda-linked extremist rebel group, Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham.  The slain men were Alawites, the sect of Shia Islam that President Al-Assad and his most loyal forces belong to…The Raqqa public execution clip surfaced just days after another grisly video was posted online of a Sunni rebel commander slicing open the body of a dead government soldier with a knife, removing his lung and biting into it. ‘I swear to God we will eat your hearts and your livers, you soldiers of Bashar the dog,’ the man says to the camera.’Hopefully we will slaughter all of them (Alawites)’  The commander Khalid-al-Hamad, later told Time magazine:  ‘I have another video clip…in the clip I am sawing another shabiba (pro-government militiamen) with a saw.  The saw we use to cut trees.  I sawed him into small pieces and large ones.’”

United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights Navi Pillay stated: 

“Mutilating or desecrating corpses during a conflict is a war crime.  I urge the armed opposition groups in Syria to do everything in their power to halt such gross crimes.”  Pillay called for a probe into other serious violations by the foreign-backed militants in Syria , such as acts of torture, summary execution and extra-judicial killings.

Against this backdrop of barbarous acts committed by the Syrian opposition, openly sabotaging prolonged efforts by UN Representative Lakhdar Brahimi to bring the Syrian government and opposition to the negotiating table, on May 15, 2013 Qatar introduced draft resolution A/67/L.63 to the United Nations General Assembly.  Section 26 of this draft states:

“Welcomes the establishment of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces on 11 November, 2012 in Doha as effective representative interlocutors needed for a political transition…and notes the wide international acknowledgement, notably at the fourth ministerial meeting of the Group of Friends of the Syrian People of the Coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.”

 This schizophrenic resolution was adopted by the UN General Assembly by a small majority of 107 out of the 192 nations holding seats in the General Assembly.  The statements in opposition to the resolution follow:

Ambassador Sacha Sergio Lorenty of Bolivia stated that his position was “not informed by a desire to gain oil or mining concessions, or to find cheap labour… The resolution had been submitted at a strange time, just as the United States and the Russian Federation were jointly proposing a peace conference that offered a negotiated solution as a real prospect.’”  “He said that the resolution did not seek to de-escalate violence, but was an attempt to put out a fire by putting gasoline on it.’  It also was biased and unbalanced, with no responsibility given to the coalition for atrocities committed.  Instead, they had been afforded international legitimacy.  Because the draft’s aims were part of a geostrategic effort to achieve hegemony over the region, its adoption would mean the triumph of interference over sovereignty and of militarism over politics.”

The Representative of Indonesia abstained, and said that “the draft’s implication of who constituted the legitimate representative of the Syrian people did not comply with his country’s beliefs.”

 the Brazilian representative abstained, stating that “only the Syrian people and not the United Nations General Assembly could decide who should represent the Syrian opposition.  She failed to see how the resolution aimed to improve conditions that would enable the parties to negotiate a positive outcome for a possible conference that moved beyond the Geneva Action Group Initiative last year.”

The Ambassador of India stated his abstention, declaring that “Although terrorist groups including Al-Qaeda had entrenched themselves in Syria , posing serious national, regional and international consequences, representation was for the Syrian people to decide, and not the United Nations General Assembly, which ran the risk of appearing as a facilitator of regime change.”

 Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari stated: 

“This text sought to escalate violence by legitimizing the provision of weapons to terrorists in Syria…Al-Qaeda-linked terrorists, due to the involvement of intelligence agencies of well-known States are operating in Syria and committing unprecedented savage crimes….States claiming to work for democracy in Syria are the same ones preventing Syrians from choosing their own representatives and leadership…a certain group created in Doha has been pushed as the Syrian people’s ‘sole representative.’  Even the UN Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi had warned of the risks that such a path posed to dialogue and negotiation.”

 Russian Ambassador Alexander Pankin described the draft resolution as

‘harmful and destructive…the opposition had been reflected in the draft as the only representative of the Syrian people.  That could be seen as encouraging the opposition to continue its armed fight…in spite of obvious facts recognized by the international community, there was not mention of external armed support…The conflict in Syria is a serious internal conflict, with the Government fighting terrorist groups, including Al-Qaeda.  The draft is irresponsible and counterproductive, especially at a time when the United States and Russia held a meeting based on the Geneva Accords.  ‘We don’t need destruction initiatives here at the UN’ he said.”

Obama Supports the Rebels with Weapons

Thursday, June 13, President Obama announced his decision to supply the Syrian rebel forces with weapons, claiming that chemical weapons have been used by Assad’s troops.  According to The New York Times:

“A flurry of high-level meetings in Washington this week…were hastily arranged after Mr. Assad’s troops, joined by thousands of fighters from the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah claimed the strategic city of Qusayr and raised fears in Washington that large parts of the rebellion could be on the verge of collapse.”

Friday morning, June 14, Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the UN, spoke at a Security Council stakeout, repeatedly asserting that “multiple streams of information” confirm that the Assad government had used chemical weapons, causing the deaths of at least 100-150 persons in Syria,” (out of 90,000 deaths), and that this prompted President Obama’s decision to send weapons to the Syrian opposition.

However, the authenticity and veracity of these “multiple streams of information” is dubious, prompting Yuri Ushakov, adviser to Russian President Putin to state:  “Frankly, we thought the American intelligence is not convincing.  We wouldn’t like to invoke references to the famous lab tubes that (former US) Secretary of State Colin Powell showed, but the facts don’t look too convincing in our eyes.”  Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated that the United States ’ information fails to meet the standard of proof required by the independent organization for implementing the 1997 International Chemical Weapons Convention.  The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons requires that samples taken from blood, urine and clothing can be considered reliable evidence only if supervised by Organization experts from the time they are taken up to delivery to a laboratory.

 At a press stake-out that same June 14 morning, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was asked:

Question:  “Mr. Secretary-General, what do you believe is the impact on the peace process of the US decision to send military aid to Syria , and have you made any progress on getting the rebels to the Geneva proposed negotiations?”

Secretary-General:  “The United Nations, and in particular I, have been making it consistently clear that providing arms to either side would not address this current situation.  There is no such military solution.  Only a political solution can address this issue sustainably;  therefore increasing the flow of arms to either side would not be helpful.  We are still working very hard with the concerned parties to facilitate this U.S.-Russia initiative to have a peace conference – the Geneva II conference – in Geneva as soon as possible.  Another tri-lateral meeting will be held, as you know, on 25 June, and we will see; in between, we are continuing to discuss and consult with the parties concerned. “

 Interestingly, according to The New York Times, June 15, Obama’s mentor, Zbigniew Brzezinski stated that he is ‘baffled’ by Mr. Obama’s decision to become more deeply involved.  “What exactly is our objective,” he asked.  “It’s not clear to me that every nondemocratic government in the world has to be removed by force.  The Syria war is a struggle for power, not democracy.  Is that something we should be engaged in?”  Of course, Brzezinski may be concerned about the prospect of the United States being drawn into a proxy war with Iran .  He has his own reasons for wanting to avoid the United States ’ further antagonizing and alienating Iran .

Although Obama’s June 13 decision may well be prelude to escalation of just such a proxy war, a proxy war which could ultimately spiral out of control and ignite a world war in one of the most unstable and combustible areas of the world, there are multiple possible explanations for such brinksmanship.  Although it has been suggested that Obama’s decision has been triggered to divert attention away from the multiple scandals recently besetting his administration, scandals revealing anti-democratic policies in violation of the United States Constitution, there is another possible explanation for the bellicose thrust of this policy.

In the famous mantra of President Clinton’s campaign war room, prior to his election in 1992, it was constantly repeated:  “It’s the economy, stupid!”  And in the current case, as in previous eras, war is a profitable exit from economic crisis, regardless of the enormous number of  human deaths inevitable in war.  The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs recently published the “2013 World Economic Situation and Prospects,” which states:

“The world economy is on the brink of another major downturn.  As foreseen in last year’s issue of this report, the world economy weakened considerably in 2012.  A growing number of developed economies, especially in Europe , have already fallen into a double-dip recession, while those facing sovereign debt distress moved even deeper into recession.  Many developed economies are caught in downward spiralling dynamics from high unemployment, weak aggregate demand compounded by fiscal austerity, high public debt burdens, and financial fragility.  The economic woes of the developed countries are spilling over to developing countries and economies in transition through weaker demand for their exports and heightened volatility in capital flows and commodity prices.”

The US-NATO countries fiercely urging  military action against the Assad government of Syria are precisely those Western capitalist governments currently facing economic crisis and violently repressing their citizens’ resistance to the brutal and anti-democratic austerity measures they are forcing upon the majority of their populations.  The “highest” stage of monopoly capitalism is fascism, which could  account for the trend toward total surveillance and ultimate control over the citizens of the United States ,  recently revealed programs violating the privacy of  US citizens, violating freedom of the press, and potentially crippling most of the institutions of civil society.

As the current crisis of capitalism grips Western Europe (not incidentally dragging down the global economy, as the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ 2013 report describes) nazism is spreading in an ominous reprise of the events spawned by the great depression of the 1930’s.

The New York Times editorial on June 15 is entitled:

“Äfter Arming the Rebels, Then What?” and concludes:  “Like most Americans, we are deeply uneasy about getting pulled into yet another war in the middle east.  Those urging stronger action seemed to have learned nothing from the past decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq , which has sapped the United States and has produced results that are ambiguous at best.”

With all due respect to its wisdom, this New York Times editorial seems to be ignoring the engine which is fuelling the “past decade of war.” 

 “It’s the economy, stupid!”

Top Cop Debunks Claim that Revealing the Program Harms Security

New York is the largest American city.

New York’s Police Commissioner  – Ray Kelly – blasted the secret NSA spying program today.

The New York Post reports:

I don’t think it [the spying program] ever should have been made secret ….

I think the American public can accept the fact if you tell them that every time you pick up the phone it’s going to be recorded and it goes to the government. I think the public can understand that. I see no reason why that program was placed in the secret category.

Secondly, I think if you listen to Snowden, he indicates that there’s some sort of malfeasance, people . . . sitting around and watching the data.  So I think the question is: What sort of oversight is there inside the [National Security Agency] NSA to prevent that abuse, if it’s taking place?

***

I think we can raise people’s comfort level if in fact information comes out as to that we have these controls and these protections inside the NSA ….

[Spying whistleblower Edward Snowden] tried to give the impression, it seems to me, that these system administrators had carte blanche to do what they wanted to do.  I think it’s a problem if that’s in fact what’s happening.

Kelly joins America’s top national security experts in saying that the spying program has gone too far … and that revealing the nature and scope of the spying program does not harm national security.

This essay examines the connections between the foreign intervention crisis in Syria, the vast NSA surveillance program that has recently been exposed, and the sequence of events that begin with NSA program changes in February, 2001 — six months before 9/11.  The connections are illuminating.

In mid June 2013 the Obama administration announced that it will start arming insurgents against the Syrian government because the regime crossed a “red line” by using chemical weapons — which it estimates have killed, over time, an estimated 100-150 rebels.[1]

What we are not being told is the history of President Bashar Assad, nor is he seen speaking in the American media.

 Assad is a medical doctor of mild personality who graduated in Damascus in 1988 and later began a four-year program of ophthalmology in London, England.  When Hafez Assad, President of Syria, his father died in 2000, Bashar was elected President of Syria by a large popular majority, and again in 2007.

We are not given insight by the media into President Bashar Assad, the man.

He is married to British-educated Asma al-Assad, born in London, and a former investment banker. “She received the Gold Medal of the Presidency of The Italian Republic for humanitarian work in 2008 and won an honorary archaeology doctorate from La Sapienza university in Rome.”[2]

 Although seen in interviews by independent journalists to be mild-mannered, respectful, rationally articulate, and fluent in English, Assad is seldom seen speaking in the US mainstream media.  

 Thus it is poignant to watch his 18-minute interview with German reporter Jürgen Todenhöfe  in July 2012, and to hear his under-stated account of the foreign-backed insurgents whose violence has led to the deaths of thousands of Syrian state supporters.[3]

It is illuminating to watch the 5-minute interview Assad gave the Sunday Times, March 3, 2013, saying that as long as Britain arms the insurgents to save Syria from its repressive dictator, “the arsonist cannot be seen as the firefighter.” 

In another recent German TV interview, Assad (whom we know is a medical doctor) discusses the alleged and contradictory use of chemical weapons — defined as “weapons of mass destruction” — in local ground combat.  He goes on to describe external financial support to the insurgents as “stoking the fire.”[4]  

Indeed, Aron Lund, a Swedish observer of the Syrian opposition, has listed about a dozen rebel groups, the largest of which are funded by either the West, the Gulf states, or Turkey. The 80,000-strong Free Syrian Army (also known as the Supreme Military Council), “was created in December 2012 after pressure from Western and Gulf Arab nations, which seek to make it the military wing of Syria’s civilian exile group, the National Coalition.”[5]

To understand why the Western media, under heavy influence from the Pentagon, has demonized Mr. Assad as a vicious and indiscriminate murderer[6] of his own subjects, we can turn to a 2006 interview of  General Wesley Clark, a Rhodes scholar and the Supreme Allied Commander (Europe) of NATO, 1997-2000.

 Speaking on March 2, 2007 to Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, Clark said that about ten days after 9/11 he visited his former staff in the Pentagon. They told him, in astonished tones, that the US was going to go to war with Iraq — which they said had no demonstrated connection to 9/11, and they were at a complete loss to explain why.[7]

A few weeks later Clark went back to the Pentagon and was told that the US was going to “take out” seven Middle East countries in the next five years: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran.  He added, “Had there been no oil there it would be like Africa. Nobody is threatening to intervene in Africa.[8]

 This early agenda for “take out,” said by Clark to have been in place immediately after 9/11, raises questions about the anthrax attacks, which started September 18, 2001.

The letters containing the lethal spores targeted, among others, Democratic Senators Tom Daschle (Senate Majority Leader) and Patrick Leahy. During this period of intense panic in Washington the 342-page Patriot Act was rushed through Congress October 24 and passed the Senate the next day.[9]

It has since been amply demonstrated that the highly weaponized spores contained in the anthrax letters originated from within a US military laboratory, and were too sophisticated to have been produced by a non-state laboratory or by an individual.[10]

Now if we look at the origins of the NSA super-surveillance program, which is generally believed to have begun right after 9/11 as a provision of the Patriot Act, we will see that in fact it began in February, 2001, within weeks after the swearing in of the Bush administration.

Mr. William Binney, a 40-year veteran of the NSA, explains that all communications companies were required at that time to collect data on their customers.  One company, Qwest Communications, refused to do this, and its CEO, Joe Nacchio, is still in prison on false charges of insider trading.[11]

Mr. Binney emphasized that virtually no one in the country was exempt.  Even judges were recorded, so that almost everyone in the United States could potentially be coerced, using selected personal data as leverage.[12] The implications are staggering.  How many elected and bureaucratic officials could be — or have already been — brought to heel in this manner?

 Thus by 9/11 the “deep state” was already armed against its population in a manner that Binney referred to as “J. Edgar Hoover on super steroids.”[13]

Meanwhile, the mainstream media have increasingly accepted the US position that Middle East countries plagued by civil wars caused by repressive dictators must be saved by humanitarian intervention from enlightened Western democracies.

Indeed Reuters correspondent Mark Hosenball reported last August that “President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorizing U.S. support for rebels seeking to depose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his government.”[14]

The Reuters article continued:

“Recent news reports from the region have suggested that the influence and numbers of Islamist militants, some of them connected to al Qaeda or its affiliates, have been growing among Assad’s opponents.”[15]

On June 17, 2013, CNN supported the al Qaeda connection: 

Al Qaeda’s affiliate inside Syria is now the best-equipped arm of the terror group in existence today, according to informal assessments by U.S. and Middle East intelligence agencies, a private sector analyst directly familiar with the information told CNN.”[16]  

In May, 2013, former FBI translator and whistle-blower[17] Sibel Edmonds had reported that “Bin Laden – and his number 2 Al Qaeda lieutenant – Ayman al-Zawahiri – worked with the U.S. government for 3 months after 9/11 to coordinate destablization in the Caucus region.”[18]

In light of the evidence above connecting al Qaeda to the U.S. government, it is imperative to go back to 9/11 — the trigger event for the global war on terror — and take a second look.

In fact this is being done. 

A new source of evidence-based research is being developed by the academic 24-member 9/11 Consensus Panel,[19] which has developed 32 Consensus Points examining the official claims about how events unfolded that day. The Panel uses a standard medical model to evaluate its evidence, which is intended to provide confidence to the media and the public in reconsidering the events of 9/11.

The enormous cost in lives and dollars of the Middle East wars, coupled with the pervasive spying of domestic citizens now in progress, should prompt all those interested in democracy to look carefully at this evidence.

And regarding Syria at this moment, why is it the responsibility of the United States to intervene in the civil war of a sovereign country? 

If humanitarian intervention is indeed desired, why is it not a peace-keeping initiative arranged by the United Nations?

Notes

[1]“Text: US Statement on Syria — Chemical Weapons,” ABC News, June 14, 2013 (http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory/text-us-statement-syria-chemical-weapons-19396269#.Ub9-PJzm-HQ ). To put the priority of this “red line” in perspective, note that 443,000 preventable deaths are caused each year in the USA by smoking, “Tobacco Use: Targeting the Nation’s Leading Killer at a Glance, 2011,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (http://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/aag/osh.htm).

[2]“Asma al-Assad: Syria’s first lady,” ABC News Australia, March 21, 2012 (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-03-20/asma-al-assad-profile/3900816).

[3]“Syria’s President Baschar al Assad gives Interview to German Television” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hEh1VClsnFM).

[4]German television interviews the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad,” February 20, 2013, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nau-VSu25VQ 

[5]“Freedom Fighters? Cannibals? The Truth about Syria’s Rebels, The Independent, June 17, 2013 ( http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/freedom-fighters-cannibals-the-truth-about-syrias-rebels-8662618.html.)  “Mr. Lund is a regular contributor to the Swedish Institute for International Affairs. He is considered one of the best informed observers of the Syrian opposition.”

[6]Google Images shows that so far the West has not managed to capture an angry or unpleasant photograph of Mr. Assad. He is consistently mild and patient.

[7]“General Wesley Clark: Wars Were Planned — Seven Countries In Five Years” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9RC1Mepk_Sw).  

[8] Ibid.

[9] The Patriot Act is downloadable at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-107publ56/pdf/PLAW-107publ56.pdf.

[10] Edward Jay Epstein, “The Anthrax Attacks Remain Unsolved,” The Wall Street Journal, January 24, 2010 (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704541004575011421223515284.html).

[11] William Binney interview:  “Inside the NSA’s Domestic Surveillance Apparatus:  Whistleblower William Binney Speaks Out,” Democracy Now, June 10, 2013 (http://www.democracynow.org/blog/2013/6/10/inside_the_nsas_domestic_surveillance_apparatus_whistleblower_william_binney_speaks_out), and Dave Hodges, “Before Edward Snowden, There Was Joseph Nacchio,” The Common Sense Show, June 13, 2013 (http://www.thecommonsenseshow.com/2013/06/13/before-edward-snowden-there-was-joseph-nacchio/).

[12] Binnie, Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] “Exclusive: Obama authorizes secret U.S. support for Syrian rebels,” Reuters, August 1, 2012 (http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/01/us-usa-syria-obama-order-idUSBRE8701OK20120801).

[15] Ibid.

[16] Barbara Starr, “Analyst: Al Qaeda Affiliate in Syria now Best-Equipped of the Group,” CNN, June 17, 2013 (http://security.blogs.cnn.com/2013/06/17/analyst-al-qaeda-affiliate-in-syria-now-best-equipped-of-the-group/ ).

[17] Edmonds’ credibility was confirmed in a 2002 coalition letter to the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (http://web.archive.org/web/20071031085021/http://www.libertycoalition.net/state-secrets-privelage/coalition-letter-to-the-house-committee-on-oversight-and-government-reform-on-criminal-activities-by-the ).

[18] “Report: U.S. Government and NATO Worked with Bin Laden and His Top Lieutenant 3 Months AFTER 9/11,” Washington’s Blog, May 2, 2013 (http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2013/05/report-u-s-government-worked-with-bin-laden-and-his-top-lieutenant-2-months-after-911.html).

[19] See:  http://www.consensus911.org.  Note the Panel’s methodology, voting members, and honorary members.

 

The US government is a criminal syndicate, openly committing atrocities on a global scale. The rule of law is a memory, buried in the rubble left by the false flag terror attack of 9/11, the manufactured “war on terrorism”, and the monstrosity of the Patriot Act.

 The legacy of the 9/11 crime—the greatest intelligence success in history (not an intelligence “failure”)—is a permanent state of emergency, a criminal military-intelligence-war apparatus (exemplified by the CIA, the NSA) of unimaginable scope and unlimited power, and endless war.

This genuine evil is aided and abetted by the illiterate, willfully ignorant and acquiescent American majority.

The average American is uninformed, uninvolved, and well-conditioned to support wars abroad, and enthusiastically welcome their own oppression. They applaud the security forces that commit atrocities, asking no questions but begging these same forces to be “make them safe”. 

A majority of Americans believe the original 9/11 lie, and enthusiastically approve of police state mobilizations within US borders. The unprecedented lockdown of Boston in the wake of the highly questionable Boston Marathon bombing incident was a dress rehearsal.

A majority of Americans approve of being under surveillance, monitored and tracked, their privacy willingly surrendered.“Big Brother” now openly proudly and promotes a police state. Washington’s leaders bray about the greatness of militant fascism, and win votes for it.

A majority of Americans, their brains addled with us-versus-them science fiction/monster movies and pro-CIA entertainment propaganda,still cling to the fantasy that they are “the good guys”, who are endlessly “under attack”.

So brazen, so certain that the passive US populace does not care, USofficials and the CIA are not even bothering to tell halfway believable lies. They know, based on its success with 9/11, that questions in the wake of any “terror” incident will not be asked by the majority, no matter how many suspicious facts are left hanging.

Today, they can even openly admit their criminality and feel confident that there will be no consequences.

The US government now openly supports and arms Al-Qaeda all over the world. As written by Michel Chossudovsky, “those who lead the ‘Global War on Terrorism’ in the same of ‘Democracy’ are those who are supporting and financing terrorist organization, which they themselves created.

Yet Americans do not care, and scarcely notice, that the official fairy tale has been routinely flipped this way and that, that way and this. The original 9/11 myth is so embedded into the brain synapses that subsequent distortions of the Big Lie, no matter how outrageous or obvious, do not even register.

Washington’s war machine, foaming at the mouth to topple Syria, shipping yet more chemical weapons to Al-Qaeda—is accusing the Syrian government of using chemical weapons, while it rains chemical weapons on Syrian government forces defending their nation from toppling.  And Obama and Netanyahu accuse Syria of “crossing red lines”. This would be a comedy, if not for the apocalyptic realities.

War criminal and former president Bill Clinton is calling Obama a “wuss” and a “total fool”if he does not take “decisive action” in Syria to assist the “rebels”—the Al-Nusra/Al-Qaeda terrorists. The fact that Clinton is calling for the massacre to escalate does not register in the American psyche. The American public loves Bill Clinton, and know little if anything about the large scale war crimes he committed as president.

 Adding to the spectacle, witness those who are running interference for the war/security apparatus, and laying waste to the illusion that there is no bipartisan cooperation on Capitol Hill. 

 Senator Dianne Feinstein, in the most loathsome and truculent fashion, defends the NSA’s domestic spying, pounding the podium and proclaiming “It’s called protecting America”.  She is a liar, and a war monger, and she damned well knows it. Her loyal liberal supporters do not.

Robert Mueller, who was intimately involved with 9/11,has declared that 9/11 itself would have been prevented, had domestic spying been pervasive prior to 9/11/01.

Perhaps the key mastermind of 9/11, Dick Cheney himself,  has repeated the same talking point lies as Mueller: that 9/11 would have been prevented, had the US been a total surveillance state on his watch.

 Mueller and the malignant Cheney damned well know that the only way 9/11 “would have been prevented” is if they, George W. Bush, and their intelligence cut-outs had not planned and executed the operation.

 They know damned well that America was already a total surveillance state well before 9/11, and that today, the spying power of the intelligence apparatus is even greater.

As fully detailed in numerous books authored by James Bamford, the NSA has had overwhelming surveillance power for decades.As Michael C. Ruppert detailed in Crossing the Rubicon, the US government has used its otherworldly technological advantages (PROMIS software, for example) to commit untold crimes. 9/11 simply opened the pandora’s box for even greater applications. 

 The Edward Snowden affair (whether it is genuine whistle blowing, ora set-up designed tofurther manipulate the American populace) is but the tip of this horrifying iceberg.

Surveillance, like war crimes and “terror”, will simply become even more pervasive and all-encompassing. To most Americans, it is like having new Facebook friends listening in.

American ignorance is the intelligence-war machine’s ultimate fuel.

Obama is the ultimate political monster. America continues to approve of him. Under his direct orders, the Bush/Cheney agenda has been expanded exponentially. Now in his second term, even less concerned about re-election or public image, Obama’s barbarity is out of the closet.  He is confident that his cult of personality—those in his huge delusional fan base—cannot see past his dark skin and slick public persona. They will support his every act, no matter how callous or lawless.

And here is the most telling sign of American times: George W. Bush is now a popular figure.  A majority of Americans view him favorably.

His crimes and enduring legacy of destruction and terror, has already been forgotten.Similarly, his father, George H.W. Bush, the CIA godfather and venom-spitting mass murderer, is now viewed by most Americans as a kindly old harmless grandpa. And it will certainly not be long before the Bush crime family takes back (or is handed back) the reins of world criminal power again. Jeb Bush is angling for the presidency. The next generation, George P. Bush,is moving up the ranks in Congress, a nightmarish Bush scion of politically useful Latin descent.

The post-9/11 Bush/Cheney/Obama dystopiais worsening.

These are the fruits of 9/11.

The military-intelligence-security machine marches on.  With hearty American approval.

 

President Bashar al-Assad gave the following interview to the German Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper:

Interviewer: Mr President, how do you view the situation in your country? The Syrian Army has lost control over large parts of Syria, in other words those areas are outside the control of central government. What’s your take on the situation?

President Assad: Your question requires us to put things into their proper context: this is not a conventional war with two armies fighting to control or liberate particular areas or parts of land. What we are in fact dealing with is a form of guerrilla warfare.

As for the Syrian Army, there has not been any instance where our Armed Forces have planned to enter a particular location and have not succeeded. Having said this, the Army is not present – and should not be present – in every corner of Syria. What is more significant than controlling areas of land, is striking terrorists. We are confident that we can successfully fight terrorism in Syria, but the bigger issue is the ensuing damage and its cost. The crisis has already had a heavy toll but our biggest challenges will come once the crisis is over.

 

Foreign element seeks politically and militarily to prolong crisis

Interviewer: In your recent interview with Al-Manar it appeared as though you were preparing the Syrian public for a protracted struggle. Was that your intention?

President Assad: No, this was not specific to Al-Manar. From the early days of the crisis, whenever I was asked, I have stated that this crisis is likely to be prolonged due to foreign interference. Any internal crisis can go in one of two ways: either it is resolved or it escalates into a civil war. Neither has been the case for Syria because of the foreign component, which seeks to extend the duration of the crisis both politically and militarily; I think its fair to say that my predictions were right.

Genuine re-construction is reconstructing mentalities, ideologies and conceptions

Interviewer: Mr President, how do you expect to overcome the large-scale destruction that has been inflicted in Syria?

President Assad: In the same way you, in Germany, overcame the devastation after World War II, and in the same way many other nations have progressed and been rebuilt after their wars. I am confident Syria will follow the same path. As long as we have resilient people, we can rebuild the country. We have done this before and we can do it again, learning from all we have been through.

 In terms of funding, we have been a self-sufficient country for a very long time. Of course we will need to be more productive than before as a result of the situation. Friendly countries have helped us in the past and continue to offer their support, maybe in the form of loans in the future. It may take a long time, but with our determination, our strength and our solidarity, we can rebuild the country.

 However, the more arduous challenge lies in rebuilding, socially and psychologically, those who have been affected by the crisis. It will not be easy to eliminate the social effects of the crisis, especially extremist ideologies. Real reconstruction is about developing minds, ideologies and values. Infrastructure is valuable, but not as valuable as human beings; reconstruction is about perpetuating both.

 20130617-190848.jpg

Re-drawing map of region  will be map of wars in the Middle East

Interviewer: Mr President, during the crisis some areas of the country have become either more self-reliant or more reliant on external support. Do you think this could potentially lead to the re-drawing of borders?

President Assad: Do you mean within Syria or the region in general?

Interviewer: The region – one hundred years after the Sykes-Picot Agreement.

President Assad: One hundred years after Sykes-Picot, when we talk about re-drawing the borders in our region, we can use an analogy from architecture. Syria is like the keystone in the old architectural arches; by removing or tampering with the keystone, the arch will collapse. If we apply this to the region, to the world, – any tampering with the borders of this region will result in re-drawing the maps of distant regions because this will have a domino effect which nobody can control. One of the superpowers may be able to initiate the process, but nobody – including that superpower, will be able to stop it; particularly since there are new social borders in the Middle East today that didn’t exist during Sykes-Picot. These new sectarian, ethnic and political borders make the situation much more complicated. Nobody can know what the Middle East will look like should there be an attempt to re-draw the map of the region. However, most likely that map will be one of multiple wars, which would transcend the Middle East spanning the Atlantic to the Pacific, which nobody can stop.

Interviewer: Mr President, in your opinion what will the region look like in the future?

President Assad: If we rule out the destructive scenario of division in your last question, I can envisage a completely different and more positive future, but it will depend on how we act as nations and societies. This scenario involves a number of challenges, first of which is restoring security and stability; our second challenge is the rebuilding process. However, our biggest and most important challenge lies in facing extremism.

It has become extremely clear that there has been a shift in the societies of our region away from moderation, especially religious moderation. The question is: can we restore these societies to their natural order? Can our diverse societies still coexist together as one natural whole? On this point allow me to clarify certain terms. The words tolerance and coexistence are often used to define our societies. However, the more precise and appropriate definition, of how our societies used to be – and how they should be, is harmonious. Contrary to perception, the issue is neither about tolerance – since there will come a day when you are not tolerant, nor is the issue about coexistence – since you co-exist with your adversaries, but rather it is about harmony. What used to characterize us in the region was our harmony. You cannot say that your hand will coexist with or tolerate your foot because one compliments the other and both are a part of a harmonious whole.

 Another challenge is political reform and the question of which political system would keep our society coherent: be it presidential, semi-presidential or parliamentary, as well as deciding the most appropriate legislation to govern political parties. In Germany, for example, you have the Christian Democratic Party. In Syria we could not have religious parties, neither Christian nor Muslim, because for us religion is for preaching and not for political practice. There are many other details, but the essence is in accepting others. If we cannot accept each other we cannot be democratic, even with the best constitution or the best legislations.

we are a secular state that essentially treats its citizens equally

Interviewer: Mr President, where do you see secularism in the midst of the rising Islamic current in the region?

President Assad: This is a very important question; many in the region do not understand this relationship. The Middle East is a hub of different ideologies. Arab society is primarily based on two pillars: Pan-Arabism and Islam. Other ideologies do exist, such as communism, liberalism, Syrian nationalism, but these are not nearly as popular. Many people understand secularism as synonymous with communism in the past, in that it is against religion. In fact it is the complete opposite; for us in Syria secularism is about the freedom of confession including Christianity, Islam and Judaism, and the multiple diverse sects within these religions. Secularism is crucial to our national unity and sense of belonging. Therefore we have no choice but to strengthen secularism because religion is already strong in our region, and I stress here that this is very healthy. What is not healthy is extremism because it ultimately leads to terrorism; not every extremist is a terrorist, but every terrorist is definitely an extremist.

So in response to your question, we are a secular state that essentially treats its citizens equally, irrespective of religion, sect or ethnicity. All our citizens enjoy equal opportunities regardless of religious belief.

Syria is passing through most difficult circumstances, definitely not a spring

Interviewer: Mr President, how do you view the two-and-a-half years since the so-called ‘Arab Spring?’

This is a misconception. Spring does not include bloodshed, killing, extremism, destroying schools or preventing children from going to their schools, or preventing women from choosing what to wear and what is appropriate for them. Spring is the most beautiful season whilst we are going through the direst circumstances; it is definitely not Spring. Is Spring compatible with what is happening in Syria – the killing, the slaughtering, the beheading, the cannibalism, I leave it to you to decide.

Interviewer: What are the issues that the so-called “Arab Spring” is supposed to resolve?

President Assad: The solution doesn’t lie in the ‘Spring’ or in anything else, the solution lies in us. We are the ones who should provide the solutions, by being proactive instead of reactive. When we address our problems proactively we ensure that we get the right solutions. Solutions imposed reactively by the ‘Spring’ will only lead to deformed results.

Like many countries in the Middle East, we have numerous problems that we are aware of and view objectively. This is how these problems should be solved, in that the solutions are internally manufactured and not externally administered, as the latter would produce a distorted or stillborn solution. It is for this very reason that when we call for dialogue or solutions, they need to be home-grown in order to ensure that they lead to the Syria we aspire to.

what is happening in Iraq now, and in Lebanon previously, are repercussions of the situation in Syria

Interviewer: Mr President, you have rejected any form of foreign intervention and have warned that this would extend the battle to wider areas, have you reached this?

President Assad: Let’s be clear about this, there are two types of foreign intervention: indirect through proxies or agents, and direct intervention through a conventional war. We are experiencing the former. At the beginning of the crisis I warned that intervention in Syria – even indirectly, is similar to tampering with a fault line, it would lead to shockwaves throughout the region. At the time, many people – especially in the media, understood this as President Assad threatening to extend the crisis beyond Syria’s borders. Clearly they did not understand what I meant at the time, but this is exactly what is happening now.

If we look at the reality in front of us, we can see clearly that what is happening in Iraq now, and in Lebanon previously, are repercussions of the situation in Syria, and this will only extend further and further. We are seeing these ramifications and the intervention is still indirect, so imagine the consequences of military intervention? The situation will, of course, be much worse and then we will witness the domino effect of widespread extremism, chaos and fragmentation.

Relations with Russia and Iran are cooperation guaranteed by international law

Interviewer: You criticise countries including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Britain for their interference in the Syria crisis, isn’t it true that Russia and Iran are also involved?

President Assad: There is a significant difference between the co-cooperation of states as opposed to the destabilisation of a certain country and interference in its internal affairs. Cooperation between countries is conceived on the concept of mutual will, in a way that preserves their sovereignty, independence, stability and self-determination. Our relationship with Russia, Iran and other countries that support Syria are cooperative relations certified under international law.

The countries you mentioned, have adopted policies that meddle in Syria’s internal affairs, which is a flagrant violation of international law and our national sovereignty. The difference therefore, is that cooperation between countries is intended to preserve stability and perpetuate the prosperity of these nations, whilst foreign interference seeks to destabilise countries, spread chaos and perpetuate ignorance.

Interviewer: Sir, you have discussed the repercussions of the Syrian crisis on Iraq and Lebanon whose societies are based on what one might call a sectarian system. Do you think that such a system with Sunni and Shiite pillars could be established in Syria?

President Assad: Undoubtedly, sectarian systems in neighbouring countries, sectarian unrest or civil wars – as in Lebanon 30 years ago, will inevitably affect Syria. That is why Syria intervened in Lebanon in 1976 – to protect itself and to safeguard Lebanon. It is for this reason that we are observing carefully the unfolding events in Iraq – they will affect us directly. This was also for this reason that we adamantly opposed the war on Iraq, despite a mixture of American temptations and threats at the time. We rejected losing our stability in return for appeasing the Americans. Sectarian systems are dangerous and that is why we insist on the secular model where all citizens are equal regardless of religion.

Jabhat al-Nusra is a branch of al-Qaeda, they uphold the same ideology

Interviewer: Mr President, you are fighting “Jabhat Al-Nusra.” Can you tell us about it, what is this organization, who supports them, who supplies them with money and weapons?

 President Assad: Jabhat Al-Nusra is an Al-Qaeda affiliated group with an identical ideology whose members live in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan as well as other Arab and Muslim countries; they are very well financed and have plenty of arms. It is difficult to trace their sources due to the fact that their support resides in a covert manner through wealthy individuals and organisations that adopt the same ideology.

Their primary aim is to establish an Islamic State in accordance to their interpretation of Islam. Central to their political thought is the Wahhabi doctrine – comparable to Al-Qaeda’s in Afghanistan. This ideology is administered wherever they are present, especially on women. They claim to be applying Sharia Law and the Islamic Religion; however, in reality their actions are a complete distortion of the real religion of Islam. We have seen examples of their brutality on our satellite channels taken from footage they publish on purpose on YouTube in order to spread their ideology; a recent example was the beheading of an innocent man, which was aired on Belgian TV.

Interviewer: What is the motivation for Saudi Arabia and Qatar to assist and arm the terrorists against you, what do they seek to achieve?

President Assad: Firstly, I believe that this is a question they should be answering. I will respond by raising a few questions. Do they support the armed gangs because of their vehement belief in freedom and democracy as they claim in their media outlets? Do they harbour any form of democracy in their own countries, in order to properly support democracy in Syria. Do they have elected parliaments or constitutions voted on by their people? Have their populations decided at any time during the previous decades on what type of governing system they want – be it monarchy, presidency, principality or any other form? So, things are clear: they should first pay attention to their own nations and then answer your question.

France and Britain look for puppets to carry out their interests

Interviewer: In this quagmire, why do Britain and France delegate leadership to Saudi Arabia and Qatar? What do they hope to achieve?

President Assad: I also cannot answer on behalf of Britain or France, but I can give you the general impression here. I believe that France and Britain have an issue with the ‘annoying’ Syrian role in the region – as they see it. These countries, like the United States, are looking for puppets and dummies to do their bidding and serve their interests without question. We have consistently rejected this; we will always be independent and free. It seems as though France and Britain have not forgotten their colonial history and persist in attempting to manipulate the region albeit through proxies. Indeed, Britain and France can direct Saudi Arabia and Qatar on what they should do, but we must also not forget that the policies and economies of France and Britain are also dependent on petrodollars.

What happened in Syria was an opportunity for all these countries to get rid of Syria – this insubordinate state, and replace the president with a “yes man.” This will never happen neither now nor in the future.

Interviewer: The European Union has not renewed the arms embargo imposed on Syria and yet it has not approved arming the opposition. What is your assessment of this step?

President Assad: Clearly there is a split within the European Union on this issue. I cannot state that the EU is supportive of the Syrian government; there are countries, especially Britain and France, who are particularly hostile to Syria. On the other hand, there are countries – Germany in particular, which are raising logical questions about the future consequences of arming the terrorists. Well firstly, that would perpetuate the destruction in Syria, forcing the Syrian people to pay an even heavier price. Secondly, by supplying arms, they are effectively arming terrorists, and the Europeans are well informed that these are terrorists groups. Some are repeating the American rhetoric of “good fighters and bad fighters,” exactly as they did a few years ago with the “good Taliban and bad Taliban, good Al-Qaeda and bad Al-Qaeda.” Today there is a new term of “good terrorists and bad terrorists” being promoted. Is this logical?

When terrorism prevails, it will spread towards Europe

They are aware that weapons sent to the region will end up in the hands of terrorists, which will have two consequences. First, Europe’s back garden will become a hub for terrorism and chaos, which leads to deprivation and poverty; Europe will pay the price and forfeit an important market. Second, terrorism will not stop here – it will spread to your countries. It will export itself through illegal immigration or through the same terrorists who returned to their original countries after being indoctrinated and trained more potently. These pressing issues in my opinion are creating a considerable split or disagreement within the European Union; they may not like it, but they have no other choice than to cooperate with the Syrian government, even if they disagree with it.

 Interviewer: Your Excellency has stated that if European countries were to send weapons to Syria, they would effectively be arming terrorists. Do you consider all armed militants as terrorists?

 President Assad: As a European or German citizen I will pose the following question: does your country allow you to carry arms, intimidate or kill innocent people, vandalise and loot? Any individual or group excluding the army and police who carries arms, kills people, threatens and intimidates public safety are by definition terrorists, this is a norm in every country. Regardless of their background, be it extremists, criminals or convicted felons, those who are carrying weapons in Syria are essentially committing these acts. Therefore, they are terrorists. We differentiate between terrorists and conventional opposition groups, since the latter is a political entity and has a political agenda. Killing and slaughtering is terrorism and plunges the country back years into regression.

Interviewer: So Mr President, you see the future as being against terrorism?

President Assad: This is the logical conclusion; however in Europe you have many illogical, unrealistic and irresponsible politicians who are applying their negative sentiments instead of their reason. Politics should not be fuelled by love or hatred, but by interests. As a German citizen, you should ask yourself what do you stand to gain from what is happening in our region? Basically, what is happening now is against your national interests, your genuine interest lies in fighting terrorism.

Interviewer: Some view Hezbollah as a terrorist organization; we know that it has fought alongside Syrian troops in al-Quseir. We have also heard that there are fighters from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard fighting with you. Do you really need these forces?

President Assad: The media is trying to portray Hezbollah as the main fighting force on the ground and the Syrian Army as weak and unable to achieve victory. In reality, over the last months we have achieved significant victories on the ground in different parts of Syria; in all of these victories, some of which were more important than al-Quseir, the Syrian army fought alone. None of this is highlighted in the media. One of the reasons for these victories is the National Defence Forces – local citizens fighting alongside the army to defend their communities and regions. Al-Quseir received more international attention because of statements by western officials projecting it as a strategic town, to the extent that even some United Nation’s officials claim to understand the situation in al-Quseir! There was a lot of exaggeration, but there were also a large number of arms and militants. These terrorists started attacking the bordering towns loyal to Hezbollah, which warranted their intervention alongside the Syrian army in order to restore stability.

The Syrian Army is a large army capable of accomplishing its missions across Syria, with the support of the local communities. If we were in need of such assistance, why not use these forces in the rural parts of Damascus, close to the capital? Damascus is certainly more important than al-Quseir, as is Aleppo and all the other major cities; it doesn’t make any sense. But as I said at the beginning, the aim of this frenzy is to reflect an image of Hezbollah as the main fighting force and to provoke Western and International public opinion against Hezbollah.

 Interviewer: How strong and large are the Hezbollah brigades currently in Syria?

President Assad: There are no brigades. They have sent fighters who have aided the Syrian army in cleaning areas on the Lebanese borders that were infiltrated by terrorists. They did not deploy forces into Syria. As you are aware, Hezbollah forces are positioned towards Israel and cannot depart Southern Lebanon. Additionally, if Hezbollah wanted to send fighters into Syria, how many could they send? A few hundred? The Syrian Army has deployed hundreds of thousands of troops across the country. Several hundred would make a difference in one area, but it would not conceivably constitute enough to tip the balance across all of Syria.

 

Interviewer: Mr President, Britain and France claim to have clear evidence that chemical weapons have been used. The White House has stated that it possess information to ascertain this claim, which consequently led to the death of 100 to 150 people in one year, in addition to that you have denied the UN investigators access to areas in Syria except for Aleppo. How do you explain the situation?

President Assad: Let’s begin with the statement from the White House regarding the 150 casualties. Militarily speaking, it is a well-understood notion that during wars, conventional weapons can cause these number of deaths, or even higher, in a single day, not in a year. Weapons of mass destruction generally kill thousands of people at one given time; this high death toll is a primary reason for its use. It is counterintuitive to use chemical weapons to create a death toll that you could potentially reach by using conventional weapons.

 America, France, Britain and some European officials claimed that we have used chemical weapons in a number of areas. Regardless of whether such weapons exist or not, we have never confirmed or denied the possession of these weapons.

Had they obtained a single strand of evidence that we had used chemical weapons, do you not think they would have made a song and dance about it to the whole world?, then where is the chain of custody that led them to a such result?

These allegations are ludicrous. The terrorist groups used chemical weapons in Aleppo; subsequently we sent an official letter to the United Nations requesting a formal investigation into the incident. Britain and France blocked this investigation because it would have proven the chemical attacks were carried out by terrorist groups and hence provided conclusive evidence that they (Britain and France) were lying. We invited them to investigate the incident, but instead they wanted the inspectors to have unconditional access to locations across Syria, parallel to what inspectors did in Iraq and delved into other unrelated issues. We are a sovereign state; we have an army and all matters considered classified will never be accessible neither to the UN, nor Britain, nor France. They will only be allowed access to investigate the incident that occurred in Aleppo.

Therefore, all the claims relating to the use of chemical weapons is an extension of the continuous American and Western fabrication of the actual situation in Syria. Its sole aim is to justify their policies to their public opinion and use the claim as a pretext for more military intervention and bloodshed in Syria.

 Interviewer: The protests started in Syria peacefully before they turned into an armed struggle. Your critics claim that you could have dealt with the protests through political reforms, which makes you partly responsible for the destruction in Syria. What is your take on this?

President Assad: We started the reforms from the first days of the crisis and, perhaps even to your surprise, they were initiated years before the crisis. We issued a number of new legislations, lifted the emergency law and even changed the constitution through a referendum. This is a well-known fact to the West; yet what the West refuses to see is that from the first weeks of the protests we had policemen killed, so how could such protests have been peaceful? How could those who claim that the protests were peaceful explain the death of these policemen in the first week? Could the chants of protesters actually kill a policeman?

From the beginning of the crisis, we have always reiterated that there were armed militants infiltrating protesters and shooting at the police. On other occasions, these armed militants were in areas close to the protests and shot at both protesters and police forces to lead each side into-believing that they were shot at by the other. This was proven through investigations and confessions, which were publicised on a large scale in the media.

 Interviewer: Mr President, it is reported that the Syrian Army has bombarded certain areas. Was there no other option?

President Assad: We are pursuing terrorists who repeatedly infiltrate populated areas. If we take Al-Qseir as an example, there was a western media frenzy claiming that there were 50,000 civilians, which is more than the town’s original population. In fact, when the terrorists entered the area, the inhabitants consequently fled; when we entered we did not find civilians. Usually wherever the terrorists infiltrate, civilians flee and battles occur afterwards. The evidence clearly shows that most of the casualties in Syria are from the armed forces. Civilians mostly die in suicide bombings. They also die when terrorists enter an area, proceed to carry out executions and use them as human shields. The rest of the causalities are either foreign or Syrian terrorists.

 Interviewer: After the momentum you have achieved in Al-Qseir, do you feel it is now time to extend a hand to the opposition and consider reconciliation?

President Assad: From day one we have extended a hand to all those who believe in dialogue; this position has not changed. At the start of the crisis, we held a national dialogue conference whilst simultaneously fighting terrorists. But when we talk about the opposition, we should not put them all into one basket; it is imperative to differentiate between terrorists and politicians. In Germany, you have an opposition but they are not armed. Opposition is a political act, and so when we refer to the opposition, we mean the politicians to whom we are always committed to dialogue, regardless of what happened in Al-Qseir.

As to national reconciliation, I do not think that it can be accurately applied to Syria. It implies a scenario of civil war, as was the case in Lebanon, or the conflict between black and white in South Africa. In our case it is about a national dialogue to determine a way out of the crisis and for the terrorists to put down their weapons. In any case, we are awaiting the Geneva conference, which essentially aims at the same political solution. However there are external impediments; Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, France and Britain, continue to exert all their efforts at sabotaging dialogue in order to prolong the Syrian crisis and prevent a political resolution.

Interviewer: How would you define the legitimate political opposition?

President Assad: Essentially, any opposition party that does not support terrorism, does not carry weapons, and has a clear political agenda. But opposition groups are also linked to elections; their clout will depend on how well they fare in local administration elections and more importantly, in parliamentary elections. We are dealing with many groups who call themselves opposition, their success will be determined by two important questions: what is their popular base? And what is their political manifesto? We will then act accordingly.

 Interviewer: Segments of the opposition claim that you have not taken steps to form a united front with them against foreign intervention. Is this true Mr President?

 President Assad: On the contrary, in the national dialogue conference in 2011, there was an open invitation to all those who considered themselves in the opposition to come forward. Some chose to participate whilst others chose to boycott and blame us for not taking steps towards a solution. But we must ask ourselves, what do they mean by making advances towards them? What should we be offering? Ministerial positions in the government? The opposition in the current government has won hard-fought seats in parliament. When an opposition, made up of hundreds, does not have any seats in parliament how does one ascertain who deserves to be part of the government? We need clear criteria; it should not be haphazard.

 To put it another way, the government is not owned by the President for him to bestow gifts upon others in the form of ministries. It requires national dialogue and a political process through which the electorate can choose among other things their government and the constitution.

Interviewer: What are your set criteria for dialogue between you and the opposition, could this include foreign-based opposition?

President Assad: We have no issues with autonomous opposition groups who serve a national agenda. With regards to the foreign-based opposition, we need to be very clear; its members live abroad and report to western foreign ministries and intelligence agencies. They are based outside their country and are in essence manipulated by the states that provide their flow of finance. They are best described as a “proxy opposition.” As far was we are concerned, genuine Syrian opposition means representing the Syrian people – not foreign countries, it means being based in Syria and sharing the burdens and concerns of the Syrian people. Such an opposition would inevitably be part of any political process.

Interviewer: Fighting terrorism has become the priority now. In reference to your recent interview most probably on Al-Manar television, you stated that if you were to engage in a dialogue, you would rather do so with the master than the slave. To what extent are you prepared for dialogue with these entities in the future once you have effectively fought terrorism?

 President Assad: It is for this precise reason that we will attend the Geneva conference. I used the notion of the master and the slave to explain what we know will happen in reality. Negotiating with those who have no autonomy over their own decisions essentially means that you are in fact negotiating with the decision makers who dictate to them how to act, what to accept and what to reject. You will have seen on television recently footage of the French Ambassador to Syria giving the external opposition orders and insulting them, or the American Ambassador to Syria shouting and insulting them. Therefore in reality, we are negotiating with the United States, Britain, France and their regional instruments, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Those groups who call themselves external opposition are mere employees; hence the masters and the slaves.

We hope that the Geneva conference will push forward the dialogue process in Syria

Interviewer: What are your expectations from the conference? Will it be followed by progress or a continued stalemate?

President Assad: We hope that the Geneva conference will push forward the dialogue process in Syria especially since, earlier this year we presented a vision for a political solution based on the Geneva I communiqué. However, even though we will attend the conference with this understanding, we should be clear on the facts. First, the same countries I mentioned earlier that are supporting the terrorists in Syria have a vested interest in the talks failing. The logical question is: what is the relationship between the Geneva conference and terrorism on the ground? Simply, if the Geneva conference is successful – as is our hope, in preventing the smuggling of weapons and terrorists – there are over 29 different nationalities documented to be in Syria, then this would be a catalyst for resolving the Syrian crisis.

 However if the smuggling of weapons and terrorists continues, there is no value for any political solution. We hope that the Geneva conference will make this its starting point; it is the single most important element in the Geneva talks, which would ultimately determine its success or failure.

 Interviewer: If Geneva II fails, what are the consequences?

President Assad: The countries I mentioned previously would continue to support the terrorists. Failing to solve the Syrian crisis will make it spread to other countries and things will only get worse. Logically speaking therefore, all parties have a vested interest in its success. As to the external opposition, if Geneva succeeds they will lose their funding; if you don’t have money and you don’t have popular support, you end up with nothing.

Interviewer: Could Geneva II propose a government from different political entities?

President Assad: This is what we have suggested in our political initiative. We proposed the formation of an extended government from diverse political entities that would prepare for parliamentary elections; the winners of these elections would have a role in the future. This is an approach that we have been open to from the beginning.

Interviewer: Mr President, some of your critics claim that much blood has been shed in Syria; they blame the leadership and see it as an obstacle standing in the way of Syria’s future. Would you consider stepping down in order to bring about a new Syria?

President Assad: The president has a mandate in accordance with the constitution; my current term ends in 2014. When the country is in a crisis, the president is expected to shoulder the burden of responsibility and resolve the situation, not abandon his duties and leave. I often use the analogy of a captain navigating a ship hit by a storm; just imagine the captain jumping ship and escaping in the lifeboat! If I decide to leave now, I would be committing treason. If on the other hand, the public decided I should step down, that would be another issue. And this can only be determined through elections or a referendum. As an example, in the previous referendum on the constitution, there was a 58% turnout – which is pretty good in the circumstances, and the constitution was approved by 89.4%.

The issue was never about the president, however they tried to project it as such in order to force the president to sell out to those countries backing the opposition, in order to install a puppet president.

Interviewer: Mr President, you live with your family in Damascus. How much public support do you and your family enjoy?

 President Assad: When numerous neighbouring and regional countries as well as the West are all opposing you, you couldn’t possibly continue without popular public support. The Syrian people are highly aware of what is happening and have understood the dynamics of the crisis early on; hence their support for their government and their army.

 Interviewer: Next year there will be presidential elections, how do you see these elections playing out?

 President Assad: They will follow the new constitution, in other words multi-candidate elections. It will be a new experience, which we cannot predict at this point.

 Interviewer: Mr President, what is your vision for Syria in the next five years?

President Assad: I reiterate that our biggest challenge is extremism. If we can fight it, with better education, new ideas and culture, then we can move towards a healthy democratic state. Democracy, as we see it in Syria, is not an objective in itself, but rather a means to an end – to stability and to prosperity. Legislations and constitutions are also only tools, necessary tools to develop and advance societies. However, for democracy to thrive, it needs to become a way of life – a part of our culture, and this cannot happen when so many social taboos are imposed by extremist ideologies.

 In addition to this, there is of course the reconstruction process, reinvigorating our national industries and restoring and opening up our economy. We will continue to be open in Syria, continue to learn and benefit from the lessons of this crisis. One of these lessons is that ignorance is the worst enemy of societies and forms the basis for extremism; we hope that Europe has also learned from these lessons.

Interviewer: Mr President, thank you very much. I have been greatly influenced by your personality and your vision; I hope Europe and the West will benefit from this interview and look at you and your country differently.

President Assad: Thank you very much and welcome again to Syria.

Link to the original interview in German:

Syriens Machthaber Assad im F.A.Z.-Gespräch „Europa wird den Preis für Waffenlieferungen zahlen“

Von Rainer Hermann, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 17 Juni 2013

In the 21st century the two hundred year-old propaganda that the American people control their government has been completely shattered.  Both the Bush and Obama regimes have made it unmistakenly clear that the American people don’t even influence, much less control, the government.  As far as Washington is concerned, the people are nothing but chaff in the wind.

Polls demonstrate that 65% of the US population opposes US intervention in Syria. Despite this clear indication of the people’s will, the Obama regime is ramping up a propaganda case for more arming of Washington’s mercenaries sent to overthrow the secular Syrian government and for a “no-fly zone” over Syria, which, if Libya is the example, means US or NATO aircraft attacking the Syrian army on the ground, thus serving as the air force of Washington’s imported mercenaries, euphemistically called “the Syrian rebels.”

Washington declared some time ago that the “red line” that would bring Syria under Washington’s military attack was the Assad government’s use of chemical weapons of mass destruction against Washington’s mercenaries.  Once this announcement was made, everyone with a brain immediately knew that Washington would fabricate false intelligence that Assad had used chemical weapons, just as Washington presented to the United Nations the intentional lie via Secretary of State Colin Powell that Saddam Hussein in Iraq had dangerous weapons of mass destruction.

Remember National Security Advisor Condi Rice’s image of a “mushroom cloud over American cities?”  Propagandistic lies were Washington’s orders of the day.

And they still are. Now Washington has fabricated the false intelligence, and president obama has announced it with a straight face, that Syria’s Assad has used sarin gas on several occasions and that between 100 and 150 “of his own people,” a euphemism for the US supplied foreign mercenaries, have been killed by the weapon of mass destruction.

Think about that for a minute. As unfortunate as is any death from war, is 100-150 deaths “mass destruction?”  According to low-ball estimates, the US-sponsored foreign mercenary invasion of Syria has cost 93,000 lives, of which 150 deaths amounts to0.0016%.  If we round up, Washington’s 150 deaths comes to two-thousands of one percent.

In other words, 99.998% of the deaths did not cross the “red line.”  But the 0.002 (rounded up) percent did.

Yes, I know.  Washington’s position makes no sense.  But when has it ever made any sense?

Let’s stretch our minds just a tiny bit farther.  Assad knows about Washington’s “red line.”  It has been repeated over and over in order to create in the minds of the distracted American public that there is a real, valid reason for attacking Syria.  Why would Assad use the proscribed weapons of mass destruction in order to kill a measly 100-150 mercenaries when his army is mopping up the US mercenaries without the use of gas and when Assad knows that the use of gas brings in the US military against him?

As the Russian government made clear, Washington’s accusation is not believable. No informed  person could possibly believe it. No doubt, many Americans wearing patriotism on their sleeves will fall for Washington’s latest lie, but no one else in the world will.  Even Washington’s NATO puppets calling for attacking Syria know that the justification for the attack is a lie. For the NATO puppets, Washington’s money overwhelms integrity, for which the rewards are low.

The Russians certainly know that Washington is lying.  The Russian Foreign Minister Larov said:

“The [Assad] government, as the opposition is saying openly, is enjoying military success on the ground. The [Assad] regime isn’t driven to the wall. What sense is there for the regime to use chemical arms–especially in such small amounts.” 

Larov is a relatively civilized person in the role of Russia’s main diplomat.  However, other Russian officials can be more pointed in their dismissal of Washington’s latest blatant lies.  Yury Ushakov, an aide to Russian President Putin said: “The Americans tried to present us with information on the use of chemical weapons by the [Assad] regime, but frankly we thought that it was not convincing. We wouldn’t like to invoke references to [the infamous lies o] Secretary of State Powell [at the UN alleging Iraqi WMD], but the facts don’t look convincing in our eyes.”  Aleksey Pushkov, the chairman of the Russian Duma’s Foreign Affairs Committee, cut to the chase.

“The data about Assad’s use of chemical weapons is fabricated by the same facility that made up the lies about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. Obama is walking George W. Bush’s path.”

Here in America no one will ever hear straight talk like this from the US presstitutes.

Orwellian double-speak is now the language of the United States government. Secretary of State john kerry condemned Assad for harming “peace talks” while the US arms its Syrian mercenaries.  

Washington’s double-speak is now obvious to the world.  Not only Assad, but also the Russians, Chinese, Iranians, and every US puppet state which includes all of NATO and Japan, are fully aware that Washington is again lying through its teeth.  The Russians, Chinese, and Iranians are trying to avoid confrontation with Washington, as war with the modern nuclear weapons would destroy all life on planet earth.  What is striking is that despite 24/7 brainwashing by the presstitutes, a large majority of the American population opposes obama’s war on Syria.

This is good news.  It means more Americans are developing the ability to think independently of the lies Washington feeds to them.

What the neocon nazis, the bush/obama regime, and the presstitute media have made clear is that Washington is going to push its agenda of world hegemony to the point of starting World War III, which, of course, means the end of life on earth.

Russia and China, either one of which can destroy the United States, have learned that the US government is a liar and cannot be trusted. The Libyan “no-fly” policy to which Russia and China agreed turned out to be a NATO air attack on the Libyan army so that the CIA-sponsored mercenaries could prevail.  

Russia and China, having learned their lesson, are protesting Washington’s assault on Syria that Washington pretends is a “civil war.”  If Syria falls, Russia and China know that Iran is next.

Iran is Russia’s underbelly, and for China Iran is 20% of its energy imports. Both Russian and Chinese governments know that after Iran falls, they are next. There is no other explanation for Washington surrounding Russia with missile bases and surrounding China with naval and air bases.

Both Russia and China are now preparing for the war that they see as inevitable.  Washington’s crazed, demented drive for world hegemony is bringing  unsuspecting Americans up against two countries with hydrogen bombs whose combined population is five times the US population.  In such a conflict everyone dies.

Considering the utterly insane government ruling in Washington, if human life exists in 2020, it will be a miracle.  All the worry about future Medicare and Social Security deficits is meaningless. There will be no one here to collect the benefits.

The Palestinian Struggle is a Black Struggle

June 17th, 2013 by Susan Abulhawa

Image: Who are the Palestinians’ natural allies? (Ryan Rodrick Beiler)

One of the pillars of my trip to Gaza with the Palestine Literature Festival turned out to be an ongoing discussion regarding the essential blackness of the Palestinian struggle and the need to form greater ties with our “natural allies” from Africa and South America in particular.

At one event, a man in the audience questioned the usefulness of seeking alliances or help from Africa, where, he said, people are “hungry and poor and in need of help themselves.”

I pointed out that the image he holds of African peoples was planted in his mind by those who also plant the same image of us around the world. We, too, are viewed as helpless, hungry and needy. We, too, are seen as less human somehow, as savages, terrorists. The various layers and tempers of our and their intellectual, cultural, social and historical lives are ignored, or worse, intentionally obscured. Instead, the challenges of our societies are highlighted as all-encompassing truths.

But a better answer came from Ayman, a gentle soul who is trying to start up a film program in Gaza to help children cope with the violent realities of their lives. He said, simply, “So what? What does hunger and poverty have to do with dignity, anyway?”

Sameeha, a brilliant Palestinian writer in Gaza, noted that such reductive stereotypes are precisely the things that hinder badly-needed alliances among oppressed peoples. She, along with Rana, the indefatigable, ever-smiling and warm organizer of PalFest in Gaza, also pointed out that too often, when we speak of engaging “the world,” what we mean is Europe and the US, because someone convinced us somewhere along the line that these were the only places that mattered. That somehow our freedom can only come from the same nations that facilitated and cheered on the destruction of our society.

That, of course, is far from the truth. But understanding this requires that we reorient the Palestinian struggle to align with indigenous struggles — struggles of the marginalized and voiceless — which I consider to be spiritually and politically black because there is no equivalent to the savagery inflicted on the black body over centuries by white supremacy.

To me, blackness is what has been and is the recipient of colonialism and supremacy, with all that this entails in clashing forces of internalization of inferiority, resistance, black power and black empowerment.

Natural allies

In Black Skin, White Masks, Frantz Fanon describes the narcissism of inferiority that results from white colonization and enslavement of blacks. He said: “Black men want to prove to white men, at all costs, the richness of their thought, the equal value of their intellect.” This single sentence describes the Anglocentric nature of Palestinian discourse with “the world.”

The conversation we have with Europe and white America is one in which we are always trying to prove our humanity. One in which we beg for acceptance and solidarity, and one from which we accept the various sympathies of a white man’s burden as if it were true solidarity, or something of a slice of bread that comes with an admonition that we have not behaved well.

This is not to say that true solidarity has not come from white individuals. I would not deny the love and sacrifices of men and women like Rachel CorrieTom Hurndall,Vittorio Arrigoni and many more. I do not deny the kind of solidarity that transcends ethnicity. But there is an undeniable difference in the way peoples of different ethnicities relate to us.

With Africans, including American descendants of those who were enslaved, there is no need to preface our words. There is never a sense that we need to prove our worth or the righteousness of our struggle for liberation. This is what I mean by “natural allies.” They are people who know, viscerally, what it means to be regarded as vermin by most of the world. Those who know what it is to be the “wretched of the earth.”

There are still some Jews who remember that, perhaps. They too are our natural allies. But to continue to knock on European and white American doors, including Israeli doors, begging, “Please help me, please look at me, I am human as you,” is not helpful. It is not helpful to continue to accept conditional handouts that are turning our once proud people into a nation of beggars, willing to dance for butter. It is humiliating, weakening and, more importantly, unnecessary.

That any Palestinian should entertain the notion of “negotiations” with Israel for the basic dignity of freedom and home is a screaming example of the narcissism of learned inferiority. This is the essential blackness of our fight. In this way, our struggle for liberation is spiritually and politically black in nature.

One of the features of this negative narcissism is the aspiration to all that the oppressor entails, while simultaneously hating him. Fanon describes this aspiration to whiteness more eloquently than I ever could. In the Palestinian case, I will add that there is another layer to our condition, which can be described as the narcissism of victimhood.

I remember the first time I heard Edward Said speak in person. It was at an Al-AwdaRight to Return rally, I think the first one we held, in 2000. He said that “we [Palestinians] should remember the solidarity shown to us here and everywhere.”

I think of those words often because I don’t think we do enough to honor the spirit of what he said. We don’t recognize the origin of the solidarity shown to us. We are so immersed in our own pain and suffering — however understandably so — that we regard our victimhood to the exclusion of other suffering, much as (although not quite with the same worship) our oppressors have done.

Black solidarity with Palestine

The fact is that there is a tremendous amount of unsolicited solidarity coming from peoples who are themselves victims of colonization, exploitation, rapacious capitalism and institutional racism.

A few years ago, I had the privilege of being invited to the Federación Democrática Internacional de Mujeres (Women’s International Democratic Federation) in Caracas,Venezuela. This was a gathering of women from all over Latin America, from Mexico to Chile and Argentina and everywhere in between. It was a forum to address the ills facing their societies: sexism, capitalism, ageism, homophobia, racism, land theft, exploitation, environmental destruction, indigenous rights, patriarchy, classism and so on.

They invited only two delegations outside of Latin America. One was a delegation of Palestinian women from Palestine and the other was a delegation of North American women, mostly women of color, including myself, a Palestinian.

Two weeks ago, the Organization of Women Writers of Africa held their a conference in Ghana. With all the ills that Africa — this continent that still reels from the legacies of centuries of white supremacy, exploitation, enslavement and so much more — faces, the conference still thought it important to feature discussions of Palestine.

In South Africa, at Time of the Writer, a literature festival sponsored by the University ofKwazulu-Natal, the only invited non-African writer was Palestinian. It was a profound expression of solidarity with Palestine, born of an inherent comprehension that we and they are of the same fabric. The same pain and the same struggle.

Our most vocal and vociferous champions have been Africans and African Americans, from Desmond Tutu to Angela DavisAlice Walker and Cynthia McKinney. No one would blame Tutu if he focused his fight for justice solely on the economic apartheid that still festers in his country. No one could blame Davis or Walker if they spent their energies combating the great social and economic injustices that are the enduring and bitter legacy of centuries of enslavement in the US.

I could fill pages with examples of solidarity coming to us from communities and individuals who could so easily ignore us and immerse themselves in their own difficult struggles. Rarely will any of these examples be from our Arab brethren, particularly those in oil-rich nations, who have within their power the ability to affect real and significant change.

I know that we, too, do emerge from the yoke of Israeli oppression and ethnic cleansing to show solidarity, whether with tsunami victims, the Rohingyas in Burma, or exploited factory workers in Bangladesh. But I think we can and should do more to give solidarity where it is needed, even if we have nothing to offer but heartfelt words written and broadcast from the ghettos of Bantustans and refugee camps. Because such is an essential beauty of being human.

Because there is a kind of liberation that can only come from being a part of the liberation of others. And because fostering reciprocal human solidarity, is how we break an oppressors imposed isolation, such as the siege of Gaza.

Because the United States and the European Union are not our friends. They have never been our friends.

Susan Abulhawa is the author of the international bestseller Mornings in Jenin and founder of Playgrounds for Palestine.

Many questions remain unanswered about the Boston Marathon Bombings that took place on April 15, 2013. Three people were killed and two hundred and sixty-four others were injured during the tragedy. Originally, the mainstream media reported that an arrest had been made and that «a dark skinned man» (ignorantly assumed by many to be of Arab background) was the suspected perpetrator of the attacks in Boston. John King from the Cable News Network (CNN) would insist that he was personally told that «a dark skinned man» was the one. Then reports that a suspect had been caught and arrested began. Journalists and interested people would gather around Boston’s federal courthouse with the hopes of finding out more and getting a glimpse of the detained suspect. In a case of odd timing, after the media reports about an arrest began, a bomb threat was called into Boston’s federal courthouse and the journalists around the building, as well as most people, were forced to evacuate the area.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) would then release photographs of the Tsarnaev brothers and publicly state that they were the suspects behind the bombings at the Boston Marathon. Soon after, the Tsarnaev brothers would allegedly kill a university policeman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and then carjack a Mercedes sports utility vehicle (SUV). Reports that they robbed a 7-Eleven convenience store would also surface, but be denied by the 7-Eleven franchise as wrong. It would later be reported that a shootout between the two brothers and the pursuing police in the suburb of Watertown, which is part of Greater Boston, would take place.

It was reported that during the fighting a law enforcement officer from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Police would be injured and Tamerlan, the older of the Tsarnaev brothers, would be killed by police fire. Tamerlan’s aunt and family, however, say that this is not true because they identified seeing him «naked, cuffed, clearly alive and [a] well detainee seen in video aired by CNN» to Dan Dicks of Press For Truth. The multiple bullet wounds on Tamerlan’s body have also led to many questions. Furthermore, it would later be reported that Tamerlan Tsarnaev actually died under police custody and not while fighting police.

The police reported that Dzhokhar, the younger of the two brothers, escaped with injuries during the shootout. Hours later, Dzhokhar was found hiding inside a boat without any weapons and taken to the hospital under armed guard. Because he was shot in the throat, he could not talk or disclose anything. It was surprising that the teenager could survive and function normally on his own for such a long length of time after he took a bullet to the throat. Others questioned how he became unconscious (for a period of days) only after police arrested him and how he seemed unaffected in police footage of him inside the boat.  It was also later reported that Dzhokhar shot himself in the throat in a botched suicide attempt during his last stand with the police.

Domestic Firing Squads?

There are many strange twists and turns tied to the Boston Marathon Bombings that give rise to more questions. The strange features in the event include the suspect’s background and the odd chain of happenings after the arrest of the Tsarnaevs. What the parents of the Tsarnaev brothers in Russia, which adamantly say their two sons were framed, have disclosed has also added to suspicions.

Then there is the string of deaths after the arrest of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The FBI’s Special Agent Christopher Lorek and Special Agent Stephen Shaw, who arrested Dzhokhar, were mysteriously killed on May 17, 2013. In a case of strange timing, during what is presented as a freak accident, the two FBI agents where killed during a training mission when they were reported to have fallen out of their helicopter off the Atlantic coast of Virginia. Officially, bad weather was reported to be the cause of their deaths.

The death of the FBI special agents can be compared to the death of the team of US Navy SEALs who allegedly killed Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011. The story of Osama bin Laden’s death is another story full of inconsistencies. The Obama Administration was caught being deceitful about watching the killing live and then there is the case of Osama’s missing body that was supposedly and clumsily justified by the wrong claim that it was dumped into the ocean to respect Muslim customs. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) also released a short interview with a Pakistani resident living near the home saying that the man who was killed was not Osama bin Laden. Nor were any pictures of Osama bin Laden ever provided.

The irregularities did not end there. The group of US Navy SEALs involved with the operation would all end up dying on August 6, 2011 when their helicopter was shot down in NATO-garrisoned Afghanistan. SEAL Team VI, which was the unit’s name, actually had their identities and area of operations in Afghanistan revealed by the Obama Administration while they were serving, which is believed to have made them targets. SEAL Team VI was also oddly put into an old and vulnerable Chinook helicopter on the day that they were killed.  As a result of this, the families of the dead Navy SEAL commandos have blamed the US federal government for their deaths, saying that the shooting of the helicopter was planned by the US government as part of a cover-up for its own lies.

Moving on, the death of the two FBI special agents adds to the suspicion around the death of a friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev named Ibragim Todashev.  Todashev was killed in his own apartment while under police supervision by the FBI in Orlando, Florida. He was killed by police fire after being interrogated for days about the Boston Marathon Bombings. He was also «unarmed» and killed by a shot to the centre of the head, or by a «kill shot.» His friend, Khusen Taramov, said that Todashev was planning on returning to Russia, but voluntarily stayed to cooperate with investigators because the FBI had asked him to stay in Florida.

It was originally claimed by the FBI that Todashev’s death happened when he «flipped out» and attacked the police with a knife during the interview. This, however, contradicts character statements about him and the fact that he was voluntarily cooperating with US authorities. His father, Abdulbaki Todashev, would hold a press conference in Moscow shortly after his shooting to tell the world that his son was shot six times in the torso and once in his head. Todashev’s father would accuse US authorities of executing his son.

The Plot Thickens in Canada and Western Europe

The Boston Marathon Bombings were followed by other peculiar events outside the United States. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in Canada would declare that it had stopped a terrorist attack from taking place on Canadian soil by arresting two men on April 22. The RCMP would keenly point out that the suspects were linked to a branch of Al-Qaeda oddly working inside of Iran of all places. The timing of the arrests, after the Boston Marathon Bombings, was announced in a high-profile RCMP press conference which virtually refused to comment on anything because it said that the investigation was inconclusive and ongoing.

In London, a British soldier from the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers would be hit by a car and publicly lacerated and stabbed to death with knives on the street outside the Royal Artillery Barracks by Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale on May 22. Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron was in France, across the English Channel, during the savage murder. It just so happened that a French soldier was also stabbed at around the same time, but French authorities made statements saying that there seemed to be no connection between the two attacks.

Both the British and French cases have been linked to British and French militarism and foreign policy either directly or indirectly. In the case of Britain the attackers talked about Britain’s roles in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In the case of France, the attack on the French soldier was speculated to be the result of France’s military intervention in Mali. The effects of these attacks, however, merit more attention than the actual causes.

Militarization of the So-Called Democracies?

Because of the Boston Marathon Bombing the city of Boston was placed under martial law and civil liberties were suspended as a manhunt was conducted. This is an important dimension of the dangerous ramifications that the event has had for decisive and unconstitutional domestic security measure being taken inside the United States. It comes at a time when the Department of Homeland Security has been assembling a massive weapons arsenal and all checks and balances on domestic spying have been destroyed.

The Associated Press has reported that Homeland Security has been stockpiling ammunition by buying more than 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition. The same AP report has also said that Homeland Security has already bought a staggering 1.5 billion rounds of ammunition in 2012. This  ammunition amounts to more bullets than the Pentagon has used collectively in all the wars that the US has been involved in the last decade.

Aside from martial law in Boston, the US federal government also considered taking the illegal step of charging Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as an enemy combatant in front of a military tribunal. This quickly scared civil liberties organizations in the United States, because they understood what it could lead towards. Such a move would equate to the suspension of the rights of American citizens and putting them on trial in virtual secrecy. This would set a very dangerous precedent. It should be added that this is part of the same pattern of developments that has seen the US government use killer drones to kill its own citizens overseas illegally without any due process to determine their guilt legally.

When the ridicule of the assertions that Al-Qaeda was working inside Iran was pointed out in Canada, it was posited that it could have been the terrorist group Jundallah that was guiding the perpetrators against the Canadian province of Ontario’s V IA Rail train line going to New York in the United States. Jundallah has been linked to Al-Qaeda and this has been used to explain the inconsistency in the claims that put Iran into the picture. Very importantly, it should be pointed out that Jundallah is a US-supported terrorist organization that has been working to destabilize Iran from the borders of Pakistan and Afghanistan with US assistance. In this context, the trail leads back to the US government itself. Moreover, the Canadian government has opportunistically used the event to harden its policing and surveillance programs, which allow it to violate the civil liberties of Canadians.

In the case of Britain, Michael Adebolajo it would turn out had a connection to the British secret services. Adebolajo had been approached six months earlier to work for MI5, but refused. A friend of his, Abu Nusaybah, wrote the following on his Twitter account: «Did u know­ Woolwich suspect Michael Adebolajo was approached by MI5 Just over 6months [sic.] ago to work as a Spy, He refused?» The BBC would interview Adebolajo’s friend on Newsnight where he would make the same comments about MI5. Abu Nusaybah would then be arrested for revealing that MI5 had been trying to recruit Michael Adebolajo afterwards and charged under the UK’s Terrorism Act. Moreover, the British government has used the event to expand its internal policing and surveillance programs like Canada.

There is a major political context tied to all these events. In both Boston and London we now see that charges of terrorism are being introduced in a way that sidelines civil rights in an Orwellian sense. The crude homemade bomb used in Boston was labeled a weapon of mass destruction (WMD) on par with chemical and nuclear weapons. A disgusting act of murder was labeled as an act of terrorism In the United Kingdom when in reality a charge of homicide should have been pressed. The label of terrorism is now being used to give the US government and its allies a licensee to act outside of their laws and dramatically expand their domestic and overseas screening programs.

Blaming Russia: America Intending to Start a New Fire in the Caucasus?

Indirectly Russia is being blamed for the Boston Marathon Bombings. The Tsarnaev brothers, who are half ethnic Chechen and half ethnic Avar, are being identified with Russia even though they spent a great deal of their lives outside the Russian Federation and are US citizens. Dzhokhar was born in Kyrgyzstan, where he spent his childhood years.

In some ways the string of events following the Boston Marathon Bombings are making Russia and Iran look like countries that cannot control their own borders. Russia has been presented as a breeding ground for terrorists and militants, while Iran has been portrayed as a new base for Al-Qaeda. Neither of these portrayals is accurate. Little is mentioned about the role of the US in destabilizing the border regions of either country.

Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, the mother of the two Tsarnaev brothers, told the world that she believed that her sons were set up by the US government. She has challenged the official narrative about the terrorist attack in Boston. She has let it be known that her family knew that the FBI was always watching them and that her sons were under constant police surveillance.  She even said that the police use to come to their home in the US all the time to talk to them and that her sons were under «police control».

What Zubeidat Tsarnaeva said about her sons being under police surveillance was true. Tamerlan Tsarnaev had been on a US federal government database of potential terrorism suspects. According to US officials, they were twice warned by Russia that he may have been tied to Caucasian militants. In 2011, Russians security officials requested that the US investigate Tamerlan’s activities. The FBI would make a brief investigation and then close the case leading to unsatisfied Russian security officials making the same request four months later in September 2011. Tamerlan was actually being watched by the Russian secret services whenever he visited the Russian Federation.

The possibility exists that Tamerlan Tsarnaev may well have been working for US interests to destabilize Russia and the Caucasus. According to Russian sources he attended an anti-Russian workshop in the Caucasus called the Fund of the Caucasus that was supported by Georgia and the United States. All the small details that have come up about him show that he had been interacting with US authorities and that he was suspected of espionage in Russia.

The arrest of the CIA’s station head, Ryan C. Fogle, in Moscow adds an additional layer to the story. Fogle, the third secretary of the Political Section of the US Embassy in Moscow and a career diplomat, was arrested while he was trying to recruit an agent of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) who worked on the North Caucasus. Fogle’s espionage effort was portrayed in the US as an effort to learn more about the Boston Marathon Bombings. Benjamin Dillon, another third secretary at the US Embassy in Moscow, was expelled for trying to recruit Russian security officials prior to Fogle’s expulsion from Russia as a spy. According to Russia’s FSB, even earlier several other CIA agents were caught doing the same thing, but left voluntarily.

The murder of Russia’s Muslim leaders in the North Caucasus coincides with notions that the United States is planning to destabilize Russia’s North Caucasus. After Syria, in fact, there are strong fears that Russia’s North Caucasus, along with Lebanon and Iraq, will be the next targets of anti-government militants in Syria. Furthermore, there has been a steady campaign to demonize Russia in the US mainstream media as an undemocratic global supporter of authoritarianism and genocide. In the last few years there have been terrorist attacks that have targeted Muslim spiritual leaders in the Caucasus, particularly Dagestan. All these leaders have called for harmony and co-existence among Russia’s Muslim and Christian populations; they have opposed militarism and violence. While the Tsarnaev case may have direct ramifications for civil liberties inside the United States, it is also tied to longstanding US encroachment on the Caucasus that seeks to destabilize the Russian Federation.

Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya is a social scientist, award-winning writer, columnist, and researcher. His works have been carried internationally in a broad series of publications and have been translated into more than twenty languages including German, Arabic, Italian, Russian, Turkish, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Polish, Armenian, Persian, Dutch and Romanian. His work in geopolitical sciences and strategic studies has been used by various academic and defense establishments in their papers and defense colleges for military officers. He is also a frequent guest on international news networks as a geopolitical analyst and expert on the Middle East.

Representatives of the national security apparatus, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, appeared on the Sunday morning news programs to denounce Edward Snowden as a traitor and a Chinese spy.

“I think he’s a traitor,” Dick Cheney said on Fox News Sunday. “I think he has committed crimes, in fact, by violating agreements given the position he had… I think it’s one of the worst occasions in my memory of somebody with access to classified information doing enormous damage to the national security interests of the United States.”

The program host, Chris Wallace, then asked Cheney: “Do you think he was a spy all along for the Chinese? Do you think he’s using this information to try to buy asylum from the Chinese?”

Cheney replied, “I’m deeply suspicious, obviously, because he went to China… So this raises questions whether or not he had that kind of connection before he did this. The other concern I have is whether or not he had help from inside the [National Security] Agency, that is to say, was there somebody else in NSA who had access to a lot of this stuff and passed it to him?”

The liberal wing of the corporate media repeated these baseless claims. On NBC’s “Meet the Press” program, host David Gregory asked Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss, “Is [Snowden] a traitor? Should he be tried as a traitor?”

Chambliss replied, “If he is not a traitor, then he’s pretty darn close to it… He needs to look an American jury in the eye and explain why he has disclosed sources and methods that are going to put American lives in danger. We know now that because of his disclosures, that the terrorists, the bad guys around the world are taking some different tactics. They know a little bit more about how we are gathering the information on them, and I think it’s important that we bring him to justice.”

Earlier in the show, Gregory had posed a similar question to Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. “Edward Snowden, is he a traitor in your mind, and what would you like to see the administration do at this point to get him back to face justice?”

Graham replied: “Bring him to justice, and let a prosecutor make that decision, not a politician. But I think what he did compromised our national security. And I’ve got a very simple view of the world, and you can blame me for being simple in complex times… We need this program, and he’s compromised it, and he should be held accountable.”

The statements of Chambliss, the ranking minority member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Graham, a member of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, are part of a bipartisan campaign to denounce Snowden for “treason,” in his efforts to provide information to the American people about the extent of the antidemocratic and illegal actions of the US government.

The Obama administration is preparing criminal charges against Snowden, and leading Democrats have denounced him for “treason.”

On the same program, “Meet the Press,” co-host Andrea Mitchell took up the task of character assassination of the young whistleblower.

“He had a lot of very provocative, sarcastic, sardonic comments about the PATRIOT Act,” she said disparagingly. “Hard to tell when you’re reading [online] message boards, but you could tell that this was a very edgy guy.”

Former NSA and CIA head Michael Hayden appeared apoplectic. When asked by Gregory if it was problematic that private contractors had access to the surveillance programs, Hayden responded with visible anger: “No. No. That’s not the issue. It’s people of this personality type having access to this issue. So let me point out facts: Snowden is wrong.”

The obsequious role of David Gregory is especially notable. Throughout the show, he made certain that the conversation did not stray from the talking points that were likely provided by the White House.

At one point, the host said, “You know, but it’s very interesting, because as some commentators this week have pointed out, those who are concerned with civil liberties, imagine their reaction if there was another 9/11 style attack. And what the American public would support in quashing civil liberties.”

In an attempt to justify the blatantly unconstitutional surveillance programs, Gregory gave a word-for-word reading of a document that the administration is using to justify laying the foundations of the police state. The document, “Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After 9/11,” is from December 2002.

“Prior to September 11th,” Gregory read as the text appeared in a full-screen graphic, “the Intelligence Community’s ability to produce significant and timely signals intelligence on counterterrorism was limited by NSA’s failure to address modern communications technology aggressively, continuing conflict between Intelligence Community agencies, NSA’s cautious approach to any collection of intelligence relating to activities in the United States, and insufficient collaboration between the NSA and FBI regarding the potential terrorist attacks within the United States.”

“So,” Gregory said, “the NSA after 9/11 was criticized for being too cautious, which is why we got these programs in the first place, isn’t that true, Senator Chambliss?”

Later, during a roundtable discussion, Gregory broke apart a discussion to state categorically, “We are a country where we shouldn’t be comfortable with a 29-year-old disaffected contractor who is personally offended by a program, and takes it upon himself to leak government secrets and compromise what the government in three branches thinks is important.”

There is little doubt that hosts like Gregory, Wallace and their ilk are reading questions and documents from memos provided by the White House and the national security apparatus.

But attempts by these “journalists” and their military and government guests to sway international public opinion against Edward Snowden are falling short.

Despite ubiquitous condemnations from the media and the entire political establishment, a Time Magazine poll found that 54 percent of Americans believe that Snowden did a “good thing” by releasing information about the government surveillance plans, opposed to a mere 30 percent who said the information leak was a “bad thing.”

A poll conducted by British pollster Opinium/Observer found even wider support amongst the population of Great Britain. Forty-three percent of Britons believed that Snowden is “brave and should be heard, not prosecuted.” Only 23 percent disagreed.

Support for Snowden is strongest in Hong Kong. Nearly 50 percent of respondents to a South China Morning Post poll said they oppose or strongly oppose Snowden’s extradition to the United States, with approximately one in six saying they support extradition.

Of additional significance were comments made Sunday morning by author and New York Times columnist James Risen on “Meet the Press.” His comments denote the true purpose behind the Obama administration’s domestic surveillance programs.

“You’ve created something that never existed in American history before, and that is a surveillance state,” Risen said. “The infrastructure, basically using software technology and data mining and eavesdropping, very sophisticated technology, to create an infrastructure that a police state would love, and that is what really should concern Americans, because we haven’t had a full national debate about the creation of a massive surveillance state and surveillance infrastructure, that if we had some radical change in our politics, could lead to a police state ” (emphasis added).

The comment was passed over by program host Gregory and the other roundtable guests, but its meaning is clear: the ruling class is preparing the foundations of the police state in anticipation of widespread opposition to the attack on the living conditions of the working class.

The target of the PRISM, metadata, and other unknown surveillance programs is not Al Qaeda, which is receiving weapons from the CIA in Syria. Rather, the principal objects of surveillance are workers and youth whose hostility to imperialist wars and social counterrevolution makes them a threat to the maintenance of the privileges of the ruling class.

In the run-up to today’s G8 summit in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, which is expected to focus on the Syrian war, US and European officials are calling for an escalation of the imperialist drive for regime-change. With US-backed Sunni Islamist opposition forces facing defeat within the country, Washington is seeking to inflame Sunni-Shiite tensions throughout the region.

British Prime Minister David Cameron met yesterday in London with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the main international backer, together with Iran, of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. He made clear that Washington and its allies would move to attack Syria with or without Russian support—doing an end run around the United Nations to launch a war in open violation of international law.

Cameron admitted that the Syrian opposition included elements “that are deeply unsavory, that are very dangerous, very extremist,” but said Moscow did not have a “veto” against moves to further arm them.

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough pledged yesterday that the “scope and scale” of US involvement would expand. US lawmakers also called for intensified military action, including the imposition of a no-fly-zone, which would entail a massive bombing campaign aimed at destroying Syria’s air defenses.

“We need to create a no-fly-zone. We cannot take air power out of the equation,” said Senator Lindsey Graham (Republican of South Carolina). He also called for arming opposition fighters in Syria with heavy weapons. “The whole region is about to blow up,” he said. “If we don’t do more than add AK-47s into the mix, [Assad] will continue to win. And the King of Jordan will be toast.”

The rapid move towards a full-scale war in Syria is shattering the pretenses that the war is a humanitarian exercise to install a democratic government. Instead, Washington is moving to stoke up a sectarian civil war throughout the Middle East.

It aims to rally right-wing Sunni Islamist regimes throughout the region for a war aimed firstly at the Alawite-led Syrian regime, but aimed ultimately at the destruction of all of Assad’s allies in the region—including the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah and the Shiite regime in Iran.

The US-backed Islamist regime in Egypt announced that it would break off all diplomatic relations with Syria on Saturday. Addressing a “Support for Syria” meeting called by Sunni Islamist clerics in Cairo, Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi also stated that he would back a no-fly zone against Syria. Denouncing Hezbollah, he said Egypt would “materially and morally” support the Syrian opposition, adding that “the Egyptian nation, its leadership and its army will not abandon the Syrian people until it achieves its rights and dignity.”

This week, Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood (MB) echoed calls from Sunni Islamist organizations to join “jihad” in Syria. A Mursi aide stated that the Egyptian government would not stop Egyptians who seek to join the fighting in Syria.

An official Syrian source replied that “Mohammad Morsi, by cutting off all ties with Syria yesterday, had joined the Israel-US-led band of conspirators. It called Egypt’s decisions “irresponsible,” accusing Mursi of fueling sectarian conflict in Syria and throughout the region.

Since Mursi became Egypt’s new president last summer, he has served as a reliable US stooge, working in close consultation with Washington. After supporting the Israeli onslaught against Gaza last autumn, Mursi now seeks to strengthen his ties to Washington by supporting another imperialist war in the Middle East.

On Thursday, a conference of 70 Sunni religious organizations in Cairo issued a statement calling for “jihad with mind, money, weapons—all forms of jihad.” Muslim Brotherhood-linked preacher Youssef al-Qaradawi had already issued appeals for Sunni fighters to travel to fight in Syria.

Over the weekend, US troops were engaged in Eager Lion military exercises in Jordan, near the Syrian border, and left behind F-16 jets and Patriot missiles that will be permanently stationed in Jordan. That country has already been proposed as a base from which Washington could launch ground attacks into Syria. (See: US deploys troops to Jordan, prepares to invade Syria ). Besides the US and its NATO allies, Sunni Islamist regimes including Turkey, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Yemen, Lebanon and Egypt participated in the exercises.

Yesterday, Germany’s Der Spiegel reported that France is helping Saudi Arabia provide portable “Mistral” anti-aircraft missiles to Syrian opposition fighters.

In a recent piece entitled “Syria: The Need for Decisive US Action,” Anthony Cordesman, the leading strategist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) think tank, laid out the imperialist interests driving Washington’s policy of stoking up sectarian conflict in the Middle East.

He began by noting that “the ‘discovery’ that Syria used chemical weapons may well be a political ploy.” He thereby all but acknowledged that US allegations of Syrian chemical weapons use, which are being used as a pretext to escalate the war, are fabrications.

Cordesman nonetheless defended the war as critical to Washington’s strategic interests and necessary to prevent a dramatic erosion of US influence in the Middle East. He wrote: “Our friends in the Arab world—and many in Israel and outside the Middle East—see the United States as having been defeated in Iraq and having to ‘retrograde’ from Afghanistan.”

He continued: “The grim reality is that the Syrian civil war is part of a far broader power struggle that now ties the Levant and the [Persian] Gulf together, can greatly aid Iran, can further divide Islam between Sunnis and minorities like Shiites and Alawites, and affects every US friend and ally in the region. This does not in any way eliminate the risks in supporting and arming the Syrian rebels or guarantee that Assad’s fall will end every aspect of the broader humanitarian crisis in Syria. But this set of worst cases is now far more acceptable than an Assad victory.”

This comment reflects the ruthlessness and consummate cynicism with which US strategists pursue Washington’s imperialist interests in the region. Among themselves, they place no importance on allegations of Syrian chemical weapons use, or the risk of causing hundreds of thousands of Syrian casualties—which they see as a perfectly acceptable method to pursue their policies.

They are also well aware of the bloody consequences of supporting Al Qaeda-linked groups that dominate the Syrian opposition’s armed forces, including the fact that Syria would likely dissolve into sectarian civil war if these forces toppled Assad. Such bloodshed is “far more acceptable” to US imperialism than the blow to its prestige which the Assad regime’s survival would entail.

Elements of the European bourgeoisie are also pressing for an aggressive US policy. On Saturday, Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote that Obama’s current policy “leaves a dramatic impression of weakness. Governments around the world, America’s friends as well as its enemies, will register these weaknesses—with either joy or horror.”

Edward Snowden’s disclosures, the New York Times reported on Sunday, “have renewed a longstanding concern: that young Internet aficionados whose skills the agencies need for counterterrorism and cyberdefense sometimes bring an anti-authority spirit that does not fit the security bureaucracy.”

Agencies like the NSA and CIA — and private contractors like Booz Allen — can’t be sure that all employees will obey the rules without interference from their own idealism. This is a basic dilemma for the warfare/surveillance state, which must hire and retain a huge pool of young talent to service the digital innards of a growing Big Brother.

With private firms scrambling to recruit workers for top-secret government contracts, the current situation was foreshadowed by novelist John Hersey in his 1960 book The Child Buyer. When the vice president of a contractor named United Lymphomilloid, “in charge of materials procurement,” goes shopping for a very bright ten-year-old, he explains that “my duties have an extremely high national-defense rating.” And he adds: “When a commodity that you need falls in short supply, you have to get out and hustle. I buy brains.”

That’s what Booz Allen and similar outfits do. They buy brains. And obedience.

But despite the best efforts of those contractors and government agencies, the brains still belong to people. And, as the Times put it, an “anti-authority spirit” might not fit “the security bureaucracy.”

In the long run, Edward Snowden didn’t fit. Neither did Bradley Manning. They both had brains that seemed useful to authority. But they also had principles and decided to act on them.

Like the NSA and its contractors, the U.S. military is in constant need of personnel. “According to his superiors . . . Manning was not working out as a soldier, and they discussed keeping him back when his unit was deployed to Iraq,” biographer Chase Madar writes in The Passion of Bradley Manning. “However, in the fall of 2009, the occupation was desperate for intelligence analysts with computer skills, and Private Bradley Manning, his superiors hurriedly concluded, showed signs of improvement as a workable soldier. This is how, on October 10, 2009, Private First Class Bradley Manning was deployed . . . to Iraq as an intelligence analyst.”

 

In their own ways, with very different backgrounds and circumstances, Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden have confounded the best-laid plans of the warfare/surveillance state. They worked for “the security bureaucracy,” but as time went on they found a higher calling than just following orders. They leaked information that we all have a right to know.

This month, not only with words but also with actions, Edward Snowden is transcending the moral limits of authority and insisting that we can fully defend the Bill of Rights, emphatically including the Fourth Amendment.

 

What a contrast with New York Times columnists David Brooks, Thomas Friedman and Bill Keller, who have responded to Snowden’s revelations by siding with the violators of civil liberties at the top of the U.S. government.

Brooks denounced Snowden as “a traitor” during a June 14 appearance on the PBS NewsHour, saying indignantly: “He betrayed his oath, which was given to him and which he took implicitly and explicitly. He betrayed his company, the people who gave him a job, the people who trusted him. . . . He betrayed the democratic process. It’s not up to a lone 29-year-old to decide what’s private and public. We have — actually have procedures for that set down in the Constitution and established by tradition.”

Enthralled with lockstep compliance, Brooks preached the conformist gospel: “When you work for an institution, any institution, a company, a faculty, you don’t get to violate the rules of that institution and decide for your own self what you’re going to do in a unilateral way that no one else can reverse. And that’s exactly what he did. So he betrayed the trust of the institution. He betrayed what creates a government, which is being a civil servant, being a servant to a larger cause, and not going off on some unilateral thing because it makes you feel grandiose.”

In sync with such bombast, Tom Friedman and former Times executive editor Bill Keller have promoted a notably gutless argument for embracing the NSA’s newly revealed surveillance programs. Friedman wrote (on June 12) and Keller agreed (June 17) that our government is correct to curtail privacy rights against surveillance — because if we fully retained those rights and then a big terrorist attack happened, the damage to civil liberties would be worse.

What a contrast between big-name journalists craven enough to toss the Fourth Amendment overboard and whistleblowers courageous enough to risk their lives for civil liberties.

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.”

The 2008 shock was certainly violent, but the reactions of the system, countries and central banks with their bailouts on an unprecedented scale, managed to hide the worst consequences: downgrading of the West in general and the United States in particular, a forced cleanup of the economy, a heavy fall from an artificial standard of living, mass unemployment, the beginning of social unrest… have been able to be partly neglected in favour of recovery hopes kept alive by irresponsible policies diverting liquidity to the banking systems and stock exchanges.

Sadly, whilst the world drugged itself, global issues weren’t addressed… five lost years: the building is even less strong than before the crisis; the US “solution” orchestrated by the Fed, that everyone else left it to manage to take the time to dress their own wounds, has been to put out with gasoline the fire which they themselves lit. It’s not surprising then that it is still the US, pillar of the world before, refusing to fall in line, with their faithful Japanese and British floats, which is once again igniting the world situation. And this time, we shouldn’t rely on bankrupt countries to save the situation: they are on their knees following the first shock in 2008.

Therefore, it’s actually a second world crisis which is looming, once again caused by the United States. Ultimately this five-year period will have been nothing other than taking a step back to enter into an even bigger crisis, which we have called “the crisis squared”.

Layout of the full article:

1. A situation which is now out of control
2. A second US crisis
3. The impacts of the second shock
4. Different players’ strategies
5. Failure of international institutions
6. Urgent recommendations

This public announcement contains sections 1 and 2

A situation which is now out of control

The illusions which have still blinded the last remaining optimists are in the process of dissipating. In previous GEAB issues we have already laid out the world economy’s grim picture. Since then the situation has got worse. The Chinese economy confirms its slowdown (1) as well as Australia (2), emerging countries’ currencies are disconnecting (3), bond interest rates are rising, UK salaries are continuing to fall (4), riots are affecting Turkey and even peaceful Sweden (5), the Eurozone is still in recession (6), the news filtering out of the United States is no longer cheerful (7)…Nervousness is now clearly palpable on all financial markets where the question is no longer knowing when the next record will be but succeeding in getting out soon enough before the stampede. The Nikkei has fallen more than 20% in three weeks during which there have been three sessions with losses exceeding 5%. So, the contagion has now reached the “standard” indices such as the stock exchanges, interest rates, and currency exchange rates… the last bastions still controlled by the central banks and, therefore, totally distorted as our team has repeatedly explained.

Nikkei 225 Index, 02/11/2012-13/06/2013. The dizzy rise is due to the BoJ's plan, the dizzy fall to current uncertainties Source : Les Échos.

Nikkei 225 Index, 02/11/2012-13/06/2013. The dizzy rise is due to the BoJ’s plan, the dizzy fall to current uncertainties Source : Les Échos.

In Japan this situation is the result of the over-the-top sized quantitative easing programme undertaken by the central bank. The Yen’s fall has brought about strong inflation in the price of imported goods (particularly oil). The huge swings in the Japanese stock exchange and currency is destabilising the whole of global finance. But the implementation of the Bank of Japan’s programme is so new that its effects are still much less pronounced than those of the Fed’s quantitative easing. It’s primarily the Fed which is responsible for all the current bubbles: real estate in the United States (8), stock exchange record highs, bubbles in and destabilisation of emerging countries (9), etc.It’s also thanks to it, or rather because of it, that the virtual economy has got going again with even greater intensity and that the necessary balancing hasn’t taken place. The same methods are producing the same effects (10), an increased virtualisation of the economy is leading us to a second crisis in five years, for which the United States is once again responsible. The central banks can’t hold the global economy together indefinitely; at the moment they are losing control.

A second US crisis

If the months of April-May, with a great deal of media hype, seem to agree with the US-UK-Japanese method of monetary easing (to put it mildly) against the Euroland method of reasoned austerity, for several weeks now the champions of all-finance have had a little more difficulty in claiming victory. The IMF, terrified by the global impact of the economic slowdown in Europe, doesn’t know what else to come up with to force Europeans to continue spending and make deficits explode again: even empty boutique World must continue to give the impression that it’s still in business, and Europe isn’t playing the game.But the toxic effects of central bank operations in Japan, the United States and the United Kingdom now demolish the argument (or rather propaganda) touting the success of the “other method”, supposed to allow recovery in Japan, the US and the United Kingdom (incidentally, the latter has never even been mentioned).

The currently developing second crisis could have been avoided if the world had taken note that the United States, structurally incapable of reforming itself, was unable to implement other methods than those which had led to the 2008 crisis. Like the irresponsible “too big to fail” banks, the “systemically” irresponsible countries should have been placed under supervision from 2009 as suggested from the GEAB n° 28 (October 2008). Unfortunately the institutions of global governance have proved to be completely ineffective and powerless in managing the crisis. Only regional good sense has been able to put it in place; the international arena producing nothing, everyone began to settle their problems in their part of the world.

The other crucial reform advocated (11) since 2009 by the LEAP/E2020 team focused on taking a completely new look at the international monetary system. In 40 years of US trade imbalances and the volatility of its currency, the dollar as the pillar of the international monetary system has been the carrier of all the United States’ colds to the rest of the world, and this destabilising pillar is now at the heart of the global problem because the United States is no longer suffering from a cold but bubonic plague.

Absent having reformed the international monetary system in 2009, a second crisis is coming. With it comes a new window of opportunity to reform the international monetary system at the G20 in September (12) and one almost hopes that the shock happens by then to force an agreement on this subject, otherwise the summit risks taking place too soon to gain everyone’s support.

Notes:

(1) Source: The New York Times, 08/06/2013.

(2) Source: The Sydney Morning Herald, 05/06/2013. Read also Mish’s Global Economic, 10/06/2013.

(3) Source: CNBC, 12/06/2013.

(4) Source: The Guardian, 12/06/2013.

(5) Read Sweden’s riots, a blazing surprise, The Economist, 01/06/2013.

(6) Source: BBC News, 06/06/2013.

(7) Read Economic dominos falling one by one, MarketWatch, 12/06/2013.

(8) A bubble in current market conditions; normally this would be considered a thrill. Market Oracle, 10/06/2013.

(9) On the consequences of worldwide QE in India: Reuters, 13/06/2013.

(10) The return of financial products at the origin of the 2008 crisis is not insignificant. Source : Le Monde, 11/06/2013.

(11) Cf. GEAB n°29, November 2008.

(12) Source: Ria Novosti, 14/06/2013.

For much of the past two years Israel stood sphinx-like on the sidelines of Syria’s civil war. Did it want Bashar al-Assad’s regime toppled? Did it favour military intervention to help opposition forces? And what did it think of the increasing visibility of Islamist groups in Syria? It was difficult to guess.

In recent weeks, however, Israel has moved from relative inaction to a deepening involvement in Syrian affairs. It launched two air strikes on Syrian positions last month, and at the same time fomented claims that Damascus had used chemical weapons, in what looked suspiciously like an attempt to corner Washington into direct intervention.

Last week, based on renewed accusations of the use of the nerve agent sarin by Syria, the US said it would start giving military aid directly to the opposition.

With suspicions of Israeli meddling growing, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was finally forced last week to deny as ”nonsense” evidence that Israeli forces are operating secretly over the border.

Nonetheless, the aura of inscrutability has hardly lifted, stoked by a series of leaks from Israeli officials. Their statements have tacked wildly between threats to oust Assad one moment and denials that Israel has any interest in his departure the next.

Is Israel sending out contradictory signals to sow confusion, or is it simply confused itself?

The answer can be deduced in the unappealing outcomes before Israel whoever emerges triumphant. Israel stands to lose strategically if either Assad or the opposition wins decisively.

Assad, and before him his father, Hafez, ensured that for decades the so-called separation of forces line between Syria and Israel, after the latter occupied the Golan Heights in 1967, remained the quietest of all Israel’s borders.

A taste of what might happen should the Syrian regime fall was provided in 2011 when more than 1,000 Palestinians massed in the no man’s land next to the Golan, while Assad’s attention was directed to repressing popular demonstrations elsewhere. At least 100 Palestinians crossed into the Heights, with one even reaching Tel Aviv.

Last week, following intensified fighting between the rebels and the Syrian army over Quneitra, a town next to the only crossing between Israel and Syria, UN peacekeepers from Austria started pulling out because of the dangers.

Briefly the opposition forces captured Quneitra, offering a reminder that any void there would likely suck in Palestinian militants and jihadists keen to settle scores with Israel. That point was underlined by one Israeli official, who told the Times of London: “Better the devil we know than the demons we can only imagine if Syria falls into chaos, and the extremists from across the Arab world gain a foothold there.”

For that reason, the Israeli military is reported to considering two responses familiar from Lebanon: invading to establish a security zone on the other side of the demarcation line, or covertly training and arming Syrian proxies inside the same area.

Neither approach turned out well for Israel in Lebanon, but there are indications – despite Netanyahu’s denial – that Israel is already pursuing the second track.

According to the New York Times, Israel is working with Syrian villagers not allied to Assad or the opposition and offering “humanitarian aid” and “maintaining intense intelligence activity”. In an interview with the Argentinian media last month, Assad accused Israel of having gone further, “directly supporting” opposition groups inside Syria with “logistical support”, intelligence on potential targets and plans for attacking them.

If the future looks bleak for Israel with Assad gone, it looks no brighter if he entrenches his rule.

A strong Assad means Syria will continue to play a pivotal role in maintaining a military front opposed to Israeli hegemony in the Middle East. That in turn means a strong Iran and a strong Hizbullah, the Shia militia in Lebanon.

Hizbullah’s formidable record in guerrilla warfare is the main reason Israel no longer occupies south Lebanon. Similarly, Hizbullah’s arsenal of rockets is a genuine restraint on greater Israeli aggression towards not only Lebanon but Syria and Iran too.

Israel’s air strikes in early May appear to have targeted shipments through Syria of more sophisticated weaponry for Hizbullah, probably supplied by Iran. Longer range missiles and anti-aircraft systems are seen as “game-changing” by Israel precisely because they would further limit its room for offensive manoeuvres.

Israel will be equally stymied if Assad stays in power and upgrades his anti-aircraft defences with the S-300 system promised by Russia.

Either way, Israel’s much vaunted ambition to engineer an attack on Iran to prevent what it claims is Tehran’s goal of developing a nuclear bomb – joining Israel in the club of Middle Eastern nuclear-armed states – would probably come at too high a price to be feasible.

So what does Israel consider in its interests if neither Assad’s survival nor his removal is appealing?

According to some well-placed Israeli commentators, the best Israel can hope for is that Assad holds on but only just. That would keep the regime in place, or boxed into its heartland, but sapped of the energy to concern itself with anything other than immediate matters of survival. It would be unable to offer help to Hizbullah, isolating the militia in Lebanon and cutting off its supply line to Iran.

In closed-door discussions, analyst Ben Caspit has noted, the Israeli army has put forward as its “optimal scenario” Syria breaking up into three separate states, with Assad confined to an Alawite canton in Damascus and along the coast.

A long war of attrition between Assad and the opposition has additional benefits for Israel following the decision by Hizbullah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, to draft thousands of fighters to assist the Syrian army. Protacted losses could deplete Hizbullah’s ranks and morale, while fighting is likely to spill over from Syria into Lebanon, tying up the militia on multiple fronts.

But there is a risk here too. If Hizbullah performs well, as it did in defeating the rebels this month at the town of Qusayr, its position in Lebanon could be strengthened rather than weakened. And in that situation Assad’s debt to Hizbullah would only deepen.

Such calculations are doubtless exercising Israeli military minds.

The greatest danger of all is that yet more parties get drawn in, turning the conflict into a regional one. That would be the likely outcome if Israel chooses to increase its interference, or if the US comes good with its recent threats to increase military aid to the opposition or impose a no-fly zone over parts or all of Syria.

Either way, Israel might see the transformation of Syria in to a new mini-cold war theatre as advantageous.

However, the Israeli sphinx isn’t offering any answers quite yet.

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books).  His new website is www.jonathan-cook.net.

A version of this article first appeared in The National, Abu Dhabi

Like Putin’s policy in Russia, Obama’s Syrian policy is being tugged strenuously in Washington, both by hawks and by doves. On June 13, Obama handed two limited but ominous victories to the hawks: a finding of fact that the troops of Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad “have used chemical weapons [i.e. sarin] against rebel forces,” and a consequent decision “to begin supplying the rebels for the first time with small arms and ammunition.”1

Both announcements sound very strange, if not dishonest, to anyone who has been following the Syrian crisis. Deputy National Security Adviser Benjamin Rhodes, one of Obama’s top foreign policy advisers, was quoted by the New York Times as saying that “there was no reason to think that the resistance has access to chemical weapons.” Thus, like most of the mainstream U.S. media, Rhodes simply ignored the reports last May in the British media that “U.N. human rights investigators have gathered testimony from casualties of Syria’s civil war and medical staff indicating that rebel forces have used the nerve agent sarin.”2 Three weeks later there were additional disputed reports that a 2kg cylinder with sarin gas had been seized from Syrian rebel forces in Turkey.3 We thus see another U.S. case, as a decade ago in Iraq, of policy steering intelligence, rather than vice versa.

The second announcement, that the U.S. would “begin supplying the rebels,” is also hard to reconcile with reality. As the Times itself revealed three months ago, the CIA since early 2012 has helped facilitate an airlift of 3500 tons or more of arms to the rebels from Saudi Arabia and Qatar.4


Syrian rebels will receive new infusions of US arms

The role of Saudi Arabia and Qatar as cutouts reprises a pattern seen in Bosnia in 2003 and especially Libya in 2011; and this history tells us that although Washington would prefer that the arms not reach Salafist jihadis, it will be difficult or impossible to stop this from happening.5 What is clear is that the new weapons will add to the slaughter without ending it – a slaughter that is ever more directed against civilians on all sides.6

With these small moves Obama has granted the hawks, like Republican Senator John McCain, far less than they wish. In the same announcement, Benjamin Rhodes “all but ruled out the option of a no-fly zone,” the no-boots-on-the-ground strategy that ousted Gaddafi in Iraq. By ruling out a no-fly zone, Obama may still hope to forestall a Russian move to supply Assad with advanced anti-aircraft missiles, a step almost certain to provoke Israeli involvement and perhaps a further expansion of the conflict into Lebanon and Iraq.

With the support of an Op-Ed in the New York Times,7 U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met in early May with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, and the two agreed to reconvene an international conference by late May to deal with the Syrian crisis (at a time when an EU arms embargo was due to expire). The conference was, however, postponed and is still in doubt, largely because the west’s preferred clients in the uprising, the Free Syrian Army, refuse to participate while they are currently losing.

Kerry and Lavrov met again in Paris in late May, and the outcome this time was more ominous. Russian media still reported, with guarded optimism, about a prospective but delayed conference.8 American media however ignored or downplayed the conference notion. Instead they quoted a State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell, who rebuked Moscow for announcing it would deliver an advanced guided S-300 anti-aircraft missile system to Syria; and he added that America would now support the easing of the EU arms embargo.9

Two features of Obama’s Syrian policy, mutually offsetting, have been visible since he first took office. The first has been his extreme caution, and his refusal to rush into commitments like the one that has America currently bogged down in Afghanistan. The second has been a tendency to justify his delaying tactics by abstract policy statements fit only for headlines, as when in August 2011 he said categorically that Assad must “step aside.” He thus left himself with a policy position that Russia will not agree to, and no policy to make it happen.

Meanwhile, numerous informed American and international analyses of the Syrian crisis warn that the conflict, already a proxy war pitting Turkey and the Arabian peninsula countries against Iran, could become still larger and more dangerous.10 However, these reports tend to ignore the brute petroleum realities which are likely to determine Assad’s downfall, if they are not directly confronted and rebutted.

Syria’s petroleum reserves were estimated in 2010 at 2,500,000,000 barrels. More importantly, Syria is the most obvious land route for any pipelines to export oil and gas from the Persian Gulf, including Iran, to the energy-hungry nations of western Europe. But the Kirkuk–Baniyas crude oil pipeline, from the Kirkuk oil field in Iraq to the Mediterranean, was destroyed by U.S. air strikes in 2003 and never reopened.

In 2009 Qatar and Turkey began negotiating a new natural gas pipeline across Saudi Arabia and Syria to Turkey, to link up with the proposed Nabucco pipeline across Turkey from Azerbaijan.11 A route through Iraq seemed increasingly problematic, however, with the increasing conflicts there. Meanwhile, according to Oilprice.com, Saudi Arabia denied Qatar the use of its territory, leaving a route through southern Iraq and Syria for Qatar to “secure a new source of income. Pipelines are in place already in Turkey to receive the gas. Only Al-Assad is in the way.”12

The Financial Times has since reported that

The tiny gas-rich state of Qatar has spent as much as $3bn over the past two years supporting the rebellion in Syria, far exceeding any other government…. its financial support for the revolution that has turned into a vicious civil war dramatically overshadows western backing for the opposition.13

The informed website ZeroHedge.com has commented that this considerable investment is “as so often happens in the middle east,… once again all about the natural resources.”14

Qatar’s North Dome gas field, in the middle of the Persian Gulf, is one with Iran’s South Pars field, and together they constitute the largest gas field in the world. In 2011 Assad rejected an ultimatum from Qatar and instead agreed with Iran and Iraq to build a new Iran-Syria pipeline which would transfer natural gas to the Mediterranean from Iran’s South Pars natural gas field rather than Qatar’s North Dome.15 (We should recall that similar challenges to American petrodollar hegemony were made by Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi, with fatal consequences to them and their regimes.)16

As Pepe Escobar has commented,

The key (unstated) reason for Qatar to be so obsessed by regime change in Syria is to kill the $10 billion Iran-Iraq-Syria [natural gas] pipeline, which was agreed upon in July 2011. The same applies to Turkey, because this pipeline would bypass Ankara, which always bills itself as the key energy crossroads between East and West.

It’s crucial to remember that the Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline is … anathema to Washington…. The difference is that Washington in this case can count on its allies Qatar and Turkey to sabotage the whole deal.17

One of the great downsides of covert foreign policies is that crucial world-changing decisions are entrusted to gung-ho cowboys with little oversight and still less interest in the long-term consequences of their disruptive actions. We saw this two decades ago when the CIA, overriding the State Department, helped Pakistan’s ISI, in collusion with the Salafist jihadi Hekmatyar, overthrow the relatively moderate Najibullah government in Afghanistan that had been left behind when the Soviets withdrew.18

Former Ambassador Peter Tomsen has written an eloquent memoir, The Wars of Afghanistan, about this under-acknowledged tragedy, out of which grew both 9/11 and a war America is still fighting:

Under Secretary for Political Affairs Robert Kimmitt and I tried to close the gap between the State Department and the CIA’s Directorate of Operations on Afghan policy. I met twice with Deputy CIA Director Richard Kerr to resolve differences. But the agency persisted in backing the ISI’s military attacks on Kabul aimed at replacing Najib[ullah] with Hekmatyar…. Separately, the State Department and the CIA were operating at cross purposes. That was a certain recipe for paralysis and ultimate policy failure.19

Unless there is a significant change, we can anticipate the same tragedy again in Syria — with the CIA, in collusion with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, facilitating arms to similar Sunni jihadis, while the State Department officials seek, with their Russian counterparts, a peaceful resolution to this crisis.

The alternative would be a timely reconvening of an international Geneva Conference, with or without the various rebel factions, and certainly with the participation of Qatar and two other countries excluded from the last such conference: Iran and Saudi Arabia. All these nations are already part of the conflict, and all these nations, like the rest of the world, have legitimate interests that would be better served by peace.20

Peter Dale Scott, a former Canadian diplomat and English Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, is the author of Drugs Oil and War, The Road to 9/11, and The War Conspiracy: JFK, 9/11, and the Deep Politics of War. His most recent book is American War Machine: Deep Politics, the CIA Global Drug Connection and the Road to Afghanistan. His website, which contains a wealth of his writings, is here.

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Notes

1 “U.S. Is Said To Plan To Send Weapons to Syrian Rebels,” New York Times, June 14, 2013.

2U.N. has testimony that Syrian rebels used sarin gas: investigator,” Reuters, May 5, 2013. Cf. BBC, May 6, 2013,. At the time White House spokesman Jay Carney commented that, “We are highly sceptical of any suggestions that the opposition used chemical weapons,” (Guardian [London], May 6. 2013).

3 “Turkey finds sarin gas in homes of suspected Syrian Islamists – reports,” RT, May 30, 2013, http://rt.com/news/sarin-gas-turkey-al-nusra-021/.

4 C.J. Chivers and Eric Schmitt, “Arms Airlift to Syria Rebels Expands, With Aid From C.I.A.,” New York Times, March 24, 2013.

5 Peter Dale Scott, “”Bosnia, Kosovo, and Now Libya: The Human Costs of Washington’s On-Going Collusion with Terrorists,” Asian-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, July 29, 2011. Cf. Jason M. Breslow, “Can the U.S. Keep Its Weapons From Extremists in Syria?” FRONTLINE, PBS, June 14, 2013: “As FRONTLINE reported in The Battle for Syria, rebels in the country have grown increasingly Islamist and extreme, prompting concern within the administration that U.S. weapons could fall into the wrong hands.The challenge ahead will be preventing such a scenario, a task most experts believe will be difficult if not impossible.”

6 Dana El Baltaji, “Syria Rebels Threaten to Wipe Out Shiite, Alawite Towns,” Bloomberg.com, May 21, 2013: “Communities inhabited by Shiite Muslims and President Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite minority will be ‘wiped off the map’ if the strategic city of Al-Qusair in central Syria falls to government troops, rebel forces said. ‘We don’t want this to happen, but it will be a reality imposed on everyone,’ Colonel Abdel-Hamid Zakaria, a spokesman for the Free Syrian Army in Turkey [the faction which Senator McCain met last month], told Al-Arabiya television yesterday. ‘It’s going to be an open, sectarian, bloody war to the end.’”

7 [Former Ambassador] Daniel C. Kurtzer, “Obama Can’t Go It Alone in Syria,” New York Times, May 2, 2013: “Constructing an international coalition of willing states — especially Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Qatar — is the only strategically wise option for the United States. Without such a coalition, intervention won’t work. And without such a coalition, America must reject unilateral military intervention in Syria.”

8 “Take two: Lavrov, Kerry working to broker redo of Syria peace conference,”

RT, May 27, 2013.

9 US supports EU easing of Syria arms embargo,” AFP, May 28, 2013; UPI, May 29, 2013.

10 E.g. David Bromwich, “Stay Out of Syria!New York Review of Books, June 20, 2013. M K Bhadrakumar poses the issue more starkly, with an eye toward U.S.-Russian conflict. “All in all, Obama’s momentous decision on military intervention in Syria, which could well launch a new Cold War, is a desperate diversionary move when his administration is caught up deep in the cesspool over the Snowden controversy.

The entire moral edifice on which Obama built up his presidency and the values he espoused at the core of his “audacity of hope” when he began his long march to the White House five years ago – transparency, accountability, legitimacy, multilateralism, consensus – lie exposed today as a pack of lies.”“Obama’s Monica Moment,” Asia Times June 14, 2013,

11 “Qatar seeks gas pipeline to Turkey,” TheNational.ae, August 26, 2009 Cf. PipelinesInternational.com, March 2010: “Turkey is in negotiations to discuss the development of the Qatar – Turkey pipeline. The pipeline would run from Doha to Istanbul, a distance of approximately 2,500 km. The pipeline would carry Qatari gas to the Mediterranean Sea, crossing Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria, and may link to the proposed Nabucco gas pipeline.”

12 Felix Imonti, “Qatar: Rich and Dangerous,” Oilprice.com, September 17, 2012.

13 Financial Times, May 16, 2013.

14Mystery Sponsor Of Weapons And Money To Syrian Mercenary “Rebels” Revealed,” ZeroHedge.com, May 16, 2013.

15Islamic Pipeline States Meet in Baghdad,” Tehran Times, June 14, 2013.

16 Peter Dale Scott, “The Libyan War, American Power and the Decline of the Petrodollar System,” Asian-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, April 27, 2011.

17 Pepe Escobar, “Iran, Pakistan, Syria, Qatar: Pipelineistan at work,” RT, April 14, 2013.

18 A horror story: see Steve Coll, Ghost Wars, 173-214.

19 Peter Tomsen, The Wars of Afghanistan, 422.

20 Zbigniew Brzezinski has sensibly proposed that other nations with energy interests in the Persian Gulf, notably China and Japan, should also be invited to participate in the conference (PBS News, June 14, 2013).

The New York Times reports that an Israeli diplomat turned U.S. citizen – and now president of the war crimes tribunal at the Hague – has been pressuring the court to acquit officials accused of war crimes.

The Times says that the Israeli-American judge, Theodor Meron, “… has led a push for raising the bar for conviction in such cases, prosecutors say, to the point where a conviction has become nearly impossible.”

Some analysts feel that Meron’s motivation may be to protect Israeli political and military leaders from prosecutions that could place them in legal jeopardy.

International attorney and analyst John Whitbeck comments that both Israel and the United States are “world leaders in the commission of war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes against peace,” and that their officials “would prefer to see the bar for criminal convictions raised to a level which offers them continued impunity.”

Theodor Meron, President of the United National War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague

Theodor Meron, President of the United National War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague

However, Whitbeck points out that the risk to American leaders is relatively insignificant, since the U.S. government would be able to use its UN Security Council veto to protect its leaders.

 

The situation for Israeli officials, on the other hand, is quite different. According to Whitbeck: “The threat of accountability is potentially imminent and urgent for Israel and Israelis.”

 

Before immigrating to the U.S., Meron was a member of the Israeli Foreign Service and served as Israeli Ambassador to Canada and to the United Nations in Geneva. He also served as Legal Counsel to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

 

In 1967 Meron wrote a secret memorandum of law to Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol stating that creating Israeli settlements on occupied territory would be a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, contrary to international law and, hence, a war crime.

 

The Israeli government ignored this memo (which neither the government nor Meron made public), and have been creating illegal settlements ever since. In January a UN panel stated that the settlements “contravened the Fourth Geneva Convention forbidding the transfer of civilian populations into occupied territory and could amount to war crimes that fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC).”

 


Below is the New York Times article about the discomfort felt by Meron’s fellow judges about his actions as head of the international tribunal and their efforts to replace him:

 

Hague Judge Faults Acquittals of Serb and Croat Commanders

 

By MARLISE SIMONS
Published: June 14, 2013

 

PARIS – A judge at the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague has exposed a deep rift at the highest levels of the court in a blistering letter suggesting that the court’s president, an American, pressured other judges into approving the recent acquittals of top Serb and Croat commanders.

 

The letter from the judge, Frederik Harhoff of Denmark, raised serious questions about the credibility of the court, which was created in 1993 to address the atrocities committed in the wars in the former Yugoslavia.

 

Even before Judge Harhoff’s letter was made public Thursday, in the Danish newspaper Berlingske, the recent acquittals had provoked a storm of complaints from international lawyers, human rights groups and other judges at the court, who claimed in private that the rulings had abruptly rewritten legal standards that had been applied in earlier cases.

 

Experts say they see a shift in the court toward protecting the interests of the military. “A decade ago, there was a very strong humanitarian message coming out of the tribunal, very concerned with the protection of civilians,” said William Schabas, who teaches law at Middlesex University in London. “It was not concerned with the prerogatives of the military and the police. This message has now been weakened, there is less protection for civilians and human rights.”

 

Other lawyers agreed that the tribunal, which has pioneered new laws, is sending a new message to other armies: they do not need to be as frightened of international justice as they might have been four or five years ago.

 

But until now, no judge at the tribunal had openly attributed the apparent change to the court’s current president, Theodor Meron, 83, a longtime legal scholar and judge.

 

Judge Harhoff’s letter, dated June 6, was e-mailed to 56 lawyers, friends and associates; the newspaper did not say how it obtained a copy. In his letter, Judge Harhoff, 64, who has been on the tribunal since 2007, said that in two cases Judge Meron, a United States citizen who was formerly an Israeli diplomat, applied “tenacious pressure” on his fellow judges in such a way that it “makes you think he was determined to achieve an acquittal.”

 

“Have any American or Israeli officials ever exerted pressure on the American presiding judge (the presiding judge for the court that is) to ensure a change of direction?” Judge Harhoff asked. “We will probably never know.”

 

A spokesman at the court declined to comment on the letter. Other judges and lawyers were willing to speak, provided that their names were not used.

 

By their accounts, a mini-rebellion has been brewing against Judge Meron, prompting some of the 18 judges of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia to group around an alternative candidate for the scheduled election for tribunal president this fall. Until now, Judge Meron had been expected to be re-elected.

 

“I’d say about half the judges are feeling very uncomfortable and prefer to turn to a different candidate,” said a senior court official. The official said he did not believe that American officials had pressured Judge Meron to rule a certain way in any case, “But I believe he wants to cooperate with his government,” the official said. “He’s putting on a lot of pressure and imposing internal deadlines that do not exist.”

 

The legal dispute that is the focus of Judge Harhoff’s letter and that has led to sharp language in dissents is the degree of responsibility that senior military leaders should bear for war crimes committed by their subordinates.

 

In earlier cases before the tribunal, a number of military or police officers and politicians were convicted of massacres and other war crimes committed by followers or subordinates on the principle that they had been members of a “joint criminal enterprise.”

 

In contrast, three Serbian leaders and two Croatian generals who played key roles during the war were acquitted recently because judges argued that the men had not specifically ordered or approved war crimes committed by subordinates.

 

Judge Meron has led a push for raising the bar for conviction in such cases, prosecutors say, to the point where a conviction has become nearly impossible. Critics say he misjudged the crucial roles played by the high-level accused and has set legal precedents that will protect military commanders in the future.

 

The United Nations Security Council created the tribunal, a costly endeavor, and has been pressing it for years to speed up work and wind down, with the United States and Russia at the forefront of those efforts.

 

By early this year, 68 suspects had been sentenced and 18 had been acquitted. But some of the highest ranking wartime leaders have been judged at a time when the tribunal is short-staffed and under continuing pressure to close down.

 

Today, as the tribunal winds down it work, pressure over time is among the complaints heard from judges’ chambers. Several senior court officials, while declining to discuss individual cases, said judges had been perturbed by unacceptable pressures from Judge Meron to deliver judgments before they were ready.

 

After the only session to deliberate the acquittal that Judge Meron had drafted in the case of the two Croatian generals, one official said, the judge abruptly declined a request by two dissenting judges for further debate.

 

In his letter, Judge Harhoff also said that Judge Michele Picard of France was recently rushed unduly and given only four days to write her dissent against the majority decision to acquit two Serbian police chiefs, Jovica Stanisic and Frank Simatovic.

 

“She was very taken aback by the acquittal and deeply upset about the fast way it had to be handled,” said an official close to the case.

 

Judge Harhoff’s letter, which echoes protests by many international experts, seems likely to add a fresh bruise to the tribunal’s reputation.

 

“The latest judgments here have brought before me a deep professional and moral dilemma not previously faced,” he wrote in conclusion. “The worst is the suspicion that some of my colleagues have been behind a shortsighted political pressure that completely changes the premises of my work in my service to wisdom and the law.”

Hassan Rohani: Iran’s President-Elect

June 17th, 2013 by Stephen Lendman

It’s official. Iran’s Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar announced it. Rohani won 50.7% of 36.7 million votes cast.

Six candidates competed. Principlist Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf finished second. He received one-third of Rohani’s total.
Rohani won decisively. He’ll serve four years. He’s limited to two terms. He’s head of state. On October 24, 1979, Iranians adopted their Constitution. They did so democratically by national referendum.
On December 3, it took effect. On July 28, 1989, it was amended. It’s called a “hybrid (of) theocratic and democratic elements.”
Articles One and Two vest sovereign power in God. Article Six “mandates popular elections for president and parliament (the Majlis). Chapter Eight includes Supreme Leader and Guardian Council powers.
Chapter Nine, Section One explains presidential powers and responsibilities.
He’s Iran’s highest elected official. He’s responsible “for implementing the Constitution and acting as the head of the executive, except in matters directly concerned with (the office of) the Leadership.”
Qualifications for president include “Iranian origin; Iranian nationality; administrative capacity and resourcefulness; a good past-record; trustworthiness and piety; convinced belief in the fundamental principles of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the official religion of the country.”
Elections “must take place no later than one month before the end of the term of the outgoing President.”
Presidents are “responsible to the people, the Leader and the Islamic Consultative Assembly.”
Presidential duties include “authority to sign treaties, protocols, contracts, and agreements concluded by the Iranian government with other governments, as well as agreements pertaining to international organizations, after obtaining the approval of the Islamic Consultative Assembly.”
They’re “responsible for national planning and budget and state employment affairs and may entrust the administration of these to others.”
“In case of death, dismissal, resignation, absence, or illness lasting longer than two months of the President, or when his term in office has ended and a new president has not been elected due to some impediments, or similar other circumstances, his first deputy shall assume, with the approval of the Leader, the powers and functions of the President.”
“The Council, consisting of the Speaker of the Islamic Consultative Assembly, head of the judicial power, and the first deputy of the President, is obliged to arrange for a new President to be elected within a maximum period of fifty days.”
“In case of death of the first deputy to the President, or other matters which prevent him to perform his duties, or when the President does not have a first deputy, the Leader shall appoint another person in his place.”
June 14 was Iran’s 11th presidential election. On August 3, Rohani will be inaugurated. He’s Iran’s seventh president. He faces enormous challenges. More on him below.
US policy remains unchanged. Regime change is prioritized.
Washington demands subservience. Independent governments aren’t tolerated. Rohani’s election won’t change things.
A White House statement stopped short of congratulating him. It’s disrespectful and unprincipled. It reflects longstanding anti-Iranian policy. It’s typically American, saying:
“We have seen the announcement by the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran that Hojjatoleslam Doctor Hassan Rouhani has been declared the winner of Iran’s presidential election.”
“We respect the vote of the Iranian people and congratulate them for their participation in the political process, and their courage in making their voices heard.”
“Yesterday’s election took place against the backdrop of a lack of transparency, censorship of the media, Internet, and text messages, and an intimidating security environment that limited freedom of expression and assembly.”
“However, despite these government obstacles and limitations, the Iranian people were determined to act to shape their future.”
“It is our hope that the Iranian government will heed the will of the Iranian people and make responsible choices that create a better future for all Iranians.”
“The United States remains ready to engage the Iranian government directly in order to reach a diplomatic solution that will fully address the international community’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.”
Fact check
Obama failed to congratulate Rohani. Doing so directly is called for. No personalized public statement was issued. No congratulatory phone call was made. No suggestion of normalizing relations was offered. Business as usual persists.
Iranian elections are open, free and fair. They shame America’s sham process. Iranians choose winners and losers. Their choice is respected. Monied interests have no say.
Iranian media report information people need to know. They do so responsibly. America’s media serve corporate and imperial interests. Managed news misinformation substitutes for truth and full disclosure.
So-called US “responsible choices” mean bowing to Washington’s will. Iranians overwhelmingly reject doing so. They want their sovereignty respected. They deserve that much and more.
Washington demands subservience. It’s the American way. It threatens world peace. It menaces humanity. Rohani faces enormous challenges. US policy won’t change. It’s lawless, unprincipled and unrelenting.
Israel’s no different. It menaces world peace. It reacted as expected. Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said:
“The President elect in Iran had been shortlisted by the Ayatollah Khamenei, who has disqualified and removed candidates who did not conform to his extremist views.”
“After the elections, Iran will continue to be judged by its actions, in the nuclear sphere as well as on the issue of terror.”
“Iran must abide by the demands of the international community to stop its nuclear program and cease the dissemination of terror throughout the world.”
Netanyahu was typically hardline and unprincipled. He urged Western leaders to maintain relentless pressure, saying:
“We won’t fool ourselves, (and) the international community shouldn’t be tempted into wishful thinking and weaken the pressure on Iran regarding their nuclear program.”
“The greater the pressure on Iran the greater the chances of stopping the Iranian nuclear program, which remains the greatest threat to world peace.”
“Iran will be tested by its deeds: If it continues with its nuclear program it must be stopped by any means possible.”
His message leaves no ambiguity. State terrorism is official Israeli policy. Its electoral process mocks legitimacy. Voters have little choice. Ideological extremists run things. Rhetoric alone separates candidates. Policies are hardline.
Hypocrisy substitutes for democracy. Israeli Arabs are enfranchised in name only. They may seek office and serve if elected. They have no policymaking authority. They’re little more than potted plants.
Israel’s government is its most extremist ever. Dominant parties support belligerence, war on humanity, occupation ruthlessness, settlement expansions, and neoliberal harshness. Palestinians and Arab citizens suffer most.
Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei congratulated Iranians. He thanked them for voting en masse. Turnout was 72.7%.
Long queues kept polls open for five extra hours. It was done to accommodate everyone wishing to vote. America shows no such respect. Its electoral process mocks legitimacy.
Iranians vote freely. Their will’s respected. Their message reflects resistance to “hundreds of political, economic and security ploys” meant to undermine public trust in government and the Islamic system, Khamenei said.
“The real winner of (Friday’s) election is the great Iranian nation which…prudently and tactfully confronted the war of nerves launched by the lackeys of (global) hegemony.”
Khamenei called the election a “political epic.”
“The elected president is the president of the entire nation. Everyone must help and sincerely cooperate with the president and his colleagues in the government to accomplish the great causes, which they are responsible to realize.”
Defeated candidates sent Rohani congratulatory messages. They did so respectfully.
Rohani represents the Supreme Leader in the Supreme National Security Council. He’s an Expediency Council and Assembly of Experts member. He’s President of the Expediency Council’s Center for Strategic Research.
At campaign rallies, he pledged to seek “constructive interaction with the world….We won’t let the past eight years be continued,” he said.
With clear reference to Washington and complicit Western allies, he added:
“They brought sanctions for the country. Yet they are proud of it. I’ll pursue a policy of reconciliation and peace. We will also reconcile with the world.”
He campaigned on a platform of unlocking solutions for Iran. He stressed his “government of deliberation and hope.”
As a teenager, he pursued religious studies. He was outspoken against Mohammad Shah Pahlavi repression. He studied law at Tehran University. He completed graduate work at Glasgow University.
Throughout his political and diplomatic career, he’s held numerous high-level positions. In 1980, he won election to parliament. He served five terms for 20 years. He did so in various capacities. He was Speaker during his last two terms.
In terms one and two, he was a member of and then headed Iran’s Supreme Defense Council. He was a High Council for Supporting War member. From 1986 – 1988, he led its Executive Committee.
From 1983 – 1985, he was deputy commander of war. From 1985 – 1988, he served as Khatam-ol-Anbiya Operation Center commander.
From 1986 – 1991, he was Iran Air Defense Force commander. From 1988 – 1991, he served as Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.
At war’s end, he was awarded the second-grade Fath (Victory) Medal. He also received the Nasr Medal.
In terms four and five, he was Foreign Policy Committee chairman. From 1989 – 2005, he was Supreme National Security Council first secretary. Throughout most of the period, he was a national security presidential advisor.
From 1991 to today, he’s been an Expediency Council member. He heads its Political, Defense and Security Committee. In 2000, he was elected Semnan Province Assembly of Experts representative.
From 2006 to today, he served in the same capacity for Tehran Province. He heads the Assembly of Experts Political and Social Committee. He’s a Presiding Board member.
From 2006 – 2008, he headed the Secretariat of the Assembly’s Tehran office. From 2003 – 2005, he was Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator.
Besides political positions, he’s been involved in scientific activities. From 1995 – 1999, he was a Tehran University and North Region board of trustees member. Since 1991, he headed the Center for Strategic Research.
He’s managing editor of three scientific and research quarterlies. They include Rahbord (Strategy), Foreign Relations, and the Iranian Review of Foreign Affairs.
Rohani combines diplomacy, politics and scholarship. He’s known as the “Diplomat Sheikh.” He’s written many books, articles and research papers. They’re published in Farsi, Arabic and English.
They include “Islamic Revolution: Roots and Challenges,” “National Security and Economic System of Iran,” “National Security and Nuclear Diplomacy,” “National Security and Foreign Policy,” “National Security and Environment,” as well as several volumes of personal memoirs and Islamic political thought.
Rohani urges peace and reconciliation. He promised “government of hope and prudence”. He pledged “constructive interaction with the world.” He wants a “civil rights charter” enacted.
Iranians celebrated his victory. His main challenges lie in Washington and Tel Aviv. Pressure will remain unrelenting. It remains to be seen what follows.
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
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.

Police States, Theirs and Ours

June 17th, 2013 by Stephen Gowans

Anyone who’s shocked by NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s revelations that the US state is spying on its citizens shouldn’t be. Liberal democracies have routinely spied on their own citizens, long before Google, Microsoft, Verizon and the iPhone made the job easier. And they’ve done so while denouncing official enemies like the Soviet Union and East Germany—and today Cuba and North Korea—as police states. Indeed, what’s changed isn’t the fact of state surveillance, but its scope and reach.

Writing about Canada, political scientist Reg Whitaker and historians Gregory Kealey and Andrew Parnaby note that “the police showed quite remarkable energy and zeal in spying on large numbers of citizens. (An official) commission (of inquiry) discovered in 1977 that the RCMP security service maintained a name index with 1,300,000 entries, representing 800,000 files on individuals” [1] at a time the country had a population of only 24 million!

Interestingly, Whitaker et al don’t call the RCMP’s security service a “secret police,” or Canada a “police state,” though a secret police force that maintained dossiers on three percent of its country’s population might be termed such by someone not so concerned about stepping lightly around the myth that liberal democracies are bastions of political freedom. (They are bastions of political freedom, but of a certain type: that which leaves private ownership of the economy firmly in place and the owners firmly in charge.)

Among the Canadians that Canada’s police state spied on was Tommy Douglas, a leader of the mildly left-leaning New Democratic Party, who served as the premier of one of Canada’s provinces. Douglas, grandfather of TV spook Kiefer Sutherland, and who is credited with pioneering Canada’s state-run health insurance program, died almost 30 years ago. All the same, the Canadian government refuses to make public its file on the prairie preacher turned social democrat politician.

Disclosure, the Canadian police state insists, may reveal the names of informants, some of whom may still be alive, while deterring others from working with the political police, for fear their names may come to light in the future as informants. [2] Stasi informers who spied on their neighbors, workmates and acquaintances are reviled, but enmity isn’t heaped upon your neighbors, co-workers and acquaintances who are informers for Western police states. At least Stasi informers were defending a more egalitarian and humane society than the one it replaced and that has taken its place. Western secret police informers defend states that preside over growing inequality, intolerably high unemployment, a war on unions and wages, and which pursue predatory wars on foreign countries that refuse to allow the rape of their natural resources, labor and markets by the Western states’ ruling classes.

Canada’s NSA equivalent, the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), has, like its better known counterpart south of the border, been scooping up “billions of bits of information transmitted around the world in cyberspace or on airwaves.” [3] Canada, along with the US, Britain, Australia and New Zealand, is part of a signals intelligence community, called the Five Eyes, which spies on the other partners’ citizens and then shares the data with them to circumvent laws prohibiting domestic spying.

These laws allow the major English-speaking capitalist democracies to back up their rhetoric about political freedom, while the cozy sharing arrangement among their electronic surveillance agencies frees them from the inconvenience of actually having to live up to it. And like the NSA, CSEC collects ‘meta-data,’ information on the date, duration, location and recipients of phone calls, e-mails, and text messages transmitted in Canada. Today, rather than having files on only 800,000 of its citizens, the Canadian police state has the raw material to assemble files on the vast majority of them.

Whitaker et al call state surveillance of citizens in liberal democracies political policing, which seems far more legitimate (legitimizing) than the name used to describe (discredit) the same behaviour in communist countries. When Cuban or North Korean officials place their citizens under surveillance, they’re accused of totalitarianism and police state repression, though it seems very unlikely, in light of the Snowden and other revelations, that either state can match the scope of snooping that liberal democracies can use to police their own citizens’ political behaviour.

The term “political policing” in lieu of “police state repression” sanitizes the practice when it happens in liberal capitalist states, and is sanitized again when it is acknowledged that “policing politics….has been done and continues to be done” in every liberal democracy, but that it “is inherently anomalous in liberal democracies.” [4] This, of course, is an oxymoron. Spying on citizens and disrupting the activities of those who challenge the established order can’t be inherently anomalous in liberal democracies if it is done in every one of them. It must, instead, be an invariable trait of liberal democracies.

But then, so too is political policing an invariable trait of every other kind of state. Whether it’s North Korea or Cuba spying on its own citizens, or the United States, Britain and Canada doing the same, in all cases, political policing serves a conservative function of defending the established order against those who would challenge it. “[T]he political police,” argue Whitker et al, “are always on the side of the political/economic status quo…. [5]

The difference is that political policing in liberal democracies is “an activist conservatism on behalf of capital against its perceived enemies.” [6] Political policing in East Germany, the Soviet Union, or today in Cuba and North Korea, is likewise an active conservatism, though not on behalf of capital, but against it, and on behalf of capital’s enemies.

It’s naive, then, for anyone in a liberal democracy who poses a serious threat to the established order to believe the state is going to let them be, free to exercise political freedoms that exist largely as a rhetorical contrivance. Challenging the established order is like going to war, and anyone who goes to war and is shocked to discover that the enemy fights back is seriously deluded about war, the state, and the nature of the enemy.  All states are police states, including those most attached to rhetoric about political freedom.

In contrast, people who present no serious challenge to the state are typically indifferent to the state panopticon. They reason correctly that since they have nothing to hide, and that they identify with the state and have no inclination to challenge the class that dominates it, that the political police won’t trouble them.

Alternatively, there are people who, while they are not against the state, are in favour of reforms which would restrain the class that dominates the state from pursuing its interests to the fullest. From the perspective of the political police, these people must sometimes be subjected to surveillance to discover whether their quest for reforms is in reality a veiled challenge to the established order, and if not, to provide early warning if it metamorphoses into one. It is these people who are typically the most agitated by political policing, for inasmuch as they conscientiously keep their opposition within legal bounds and are not actively hostile to the state, they believe their privacy should be inviolable. In their view, their activities are “legitimate” (within bounds that do not seriously challenge the established order) and therefore are not fair game for surveillance. Hence, those who seriously threaten the established order know the state will spy on them, and accept surveillance as a reality of war; the apolitical are indifferent, because they know the state has no reason to disrupt their activities; while the reformers are agitated, because they’ve discovered the state isn’t neutral and may indeed disrupt activities they believed to be legitimate and legal.

British Labour MP Chris Mullen’s thought experiment, the novel A Very British Coup, explores the question of whether the British state would allow a leftist government to pursue far-reaching socialist reforms even if the government played by the formal rules. His conclusion: no. The political police, working with the United States, would orchestrate the government’s overthrow. It has typically been the case that left-wing movements that have come to power in liberal democracies either quickly abandon their agenda or actively pursue it and are replaced, as a consequence, by a military dictatorship or fascist coup. Under threat, capital shares none of the reverence for liberal democracy that moderate socialists so ardently display and believe in, to their detriment. Even Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, whose challenge to the established order within his own country was partial at best, was briefly toppled in a coup, and remained menaced throughout his tenure as president by the efforts of the United States and owners of the country’s private productive assets to disrupt his government—a government that scrupulously operated within the boundaries of liberal democracy.

Likewise, it’s naive to think that the state in communist countries will not spy on, and try to disrupt, the activities of those who seriously threaten the established socialist order, and who seek to bring about a return to a society of exploitation, or subordination to foreign tyranny, or both. To object to this practice would be to elevate abstract ideas about political freedom above freedom from exploitation, oppression, hunger, and insecurity; to make the freedom to politically organize for the creation of conditions of exploitation senior to freedom from exploitation. Objecting to the Cuban state spying on citizens who want to return to the days of Batista and US domination is like objecting to the machine-gunning of an advancing Waffen SS column. It may not be pretty, but is necessary to defend something better than the alternative.

To sum up, police state measures—the stock in trade of all states, whether of exploiters or the previously exploited—are neither intrinsically objectionable nor inherently desirable, any more than nuclear technology is. So long as societies are divided by class, there will be states, and so long as there are states, there will be political police. Political policing, like nuclear technology, can be used for good or ill, to protect or destroy, to advance or hold back. We should be for it when it’s used for good and to advance; against it when it’s not. And we should be clear too that as much as the states they revile, liberal democracies are police states, and will always be, so long as the parasitism of capitalist society produces a determined opposition to the parasites.

Notes

1. Reg Whitaker, Gregory S. Kealey and Andrew Parnaby. Secret Service: Political Policing in Canada from the Fenians to Fortress America. University of Toronto Press. 2012. p. 9.
2. Colin Freeze, “CSIS fights to keep Tommy Douglas spying file under wraps,” The Globe and Mail (Toronto), February 10, 2010.
3. Michelle Shephard, “Web snooping vital, spy agency boss says”, The Toronto Star, October 23, 2005.
4. Whitaker et al, p. 10.
5. Whitaker et al, p. 11.
6. Whitaker et al, p. 12.

 

In the wake of having its illegal domestic surveillance dragnet exposed, laying bare (yet again) the utter duplicity and criminality of the U.S. ruling class, Washington is once again digging deep to conjure up a pretext for yet another war of aggression in the Middle East.    

Using the tired menace of weapons of mass destruction, the White House Thursday claimed with “high confidence” that the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons, specifically the nerve agent sarin, against rebel fighters.

Washington’s announcement of “credible evidence” of chemical weapons use by Syrian forces, coming despite a dearth of actual hard evidence revealed, is now being used as the justification for providing direct U.S. military aid to the Syrian rebels.

The decision to wade further into the Syrian morass, however, came well before the supposed crossing of President Obama’s “red line.”

As the Washington Post reported, “the determination to send weapons had been made weeks ago.”  Moreover, it has long been known that the CIA was overseeing the arming of opposition groups inside Syria.  The debate in Washington over Syria has thus really been over the degree and overtness of U.S. military intervention.  And while the typical Republican hawks (John McCain and Lindsey Graham) have used the latest chemical weapons scare to resume the calls for a “no-fly zone,” prominent Democrats continue to come around to supporting a “no-fly zone” as well.  But then again, American politics has long stopped at water’s edge.

With such bipartisan war drums beating louder, it’s little surprise to learn that the Pentagon is working on plans for establishing a “limited no-fly zone” in order to carve out a buffer zone of up to 25 miles along the Jordan-Syria border.

This “no-fly zone,” the Wall Street Journal reports, would “be enforced using aircraft flown from Jordanian bases and flying inside the kingdom.”  And on cue, the Pentagon has confirmed that it will indeed be keeping a contingent of F-16s and Patriot missiles in Jordan following scheduled war games there next week.  (NATO already has Patriot missile batteries stationed along the Turkey-Syria border.)

The very notion of a “limited no-fly zone,” though, stands as but the latest addition to Washington’s growing newspeak.  One may add it to the likes of “collateral damage,” “surgical strikes,” and “protecting civilians.”  Indeed, as former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates remarked prior to the NATO assault on Libya in 2011, “Let’s just call a spade a spade.  A no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya to destroy the air defenses. That’s the way you do a no-fly zone.”  Syria would be no different.

Of course, the latest impetus used for directly arming the Syrian rebels and reviving the talk of bombing the country—the supposed crossing of President Obama’s “red line” on chemical weapons—is on its very face tenuous, at best.

According to Foreign Policy’s “The Cable” blog, despite their “high confidence,” American intelligence officials have still not been able to determine a chain of custody for the blood samples supplied by Syrian rebels that reportedly tested positive for sarin.  That is, they have not been able to establish who exactly handled the principal piece of evidence establishing “proof” of chemical weapons use by the regime.  A rather remarkable admission given that it took two full weeks for the blood samples to reach Western intelligence agencies from rebel hands.

Faced with such flimsy evidence from U.S. officials, Yuri Ushakov, senior foreign policy adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin, commented that, “what was presented to us by the Americans does not look convincing.”

“It would be hard even to call them facts,” Ushakov added.

Indeed, as McClatchy reported, independent chemical weapons experts maintain that “they’ve yet to see the telltale signs of a sarin gas attack, despite months of scrutiny.”

“Ultimately, without more information, we are left with the need to trust the integrity of the U.S. intelligence community in arriving at its ‘high confidence’ judgment,” Greg Thielmann, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Arms Control Association told McClatchy.

And what a leap of faith to place one’s trust in the integrity of the U.S. intelligence community!  After all, that would be the very same intelligence community which claimed it a “slam dunk” that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction; the very same intelligence apparatus now snooping on the communications of virtually every American.

Given such an abundant recent history of brazen illegality from Washington, it’s no wonder the American public simply isn’t buying another war in the Middle East.  In fact, just 15 percent in a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll favor U.S. military intervention into Syria.  Only 11 percent favor arming the opposition.

Yet, in a revealing look into the anti-democratic impulse of the U.S. ruling elite who now cynically champion democracy in Syria, former President Bill Clinton publicly advised President Obama last week to disregard the firm public opposition to U.S. military intervention into Syria.  As Clinton remarked, “any president risks looking like ‘a total fool’ if they listen too closely to opinion polls.”

And thus not wanting to look a fool, President Obama has set the American war machine on the grinding path toward deeper intervention into the Syrian conflict.  The threat of a global confrontation ensnaring the likes of Iran and global powers Russia and China is evidently but the price of saving face.  Or as former Obama State Department official Anne-Marie Slaughter more tactfully put it, it’s but the price of saving “U.S. credibility.”

The American working class, let alone working people globally, have nothing to gain from saving Washington’s credibility and satiating its imperial blood lust.  In fact, those at real risk of looking like fools are those still listening to the deceitful claims of the war-hungry elite.  For amid deepening internal economic and political crises, all the American ruling class has on offer is but further imperial aggression to be sold on little more than a pack of lies.

Ben Schreiner is a freelance writer living in Oregon.  He may be reached via his website or at [email protected].

Say No To Surveillance UAVs and Drone Warfare

June 17th, 2013 by Global Research News

Surveillance Drones at the G-8 Summit in Northern Ireland

For the first time it is reported that a unit of surveillance drones will be used in Northern Ireland during the G-8 summit of world leaders to keep tabs on protest marches and scan the countryside for terrorist threats.
Germany cancels order for drones
The German armed forces, which have one prototype Euro Hawk, which are built by US Northrop Grumman and European aerospace combine EADS, and were considering buying four more, heard that the defence minister had cancelled a €660m contract last month to develop five Euro Hawk reconnaissance drones based on US technology because of a “fundamental misunderstanding” over certification requirements”. He feared aviation authorities in Europe would not certify the controversial aircraft to fly over the continent because it lacks the anti-collision system.The order sparked protests caused by the memory of footage of an out-of-control drone narrowly missing an Afghan passenger plane carrying 100 people, nine years ago.The video, filmed from onboard the unmanned German Luna drone as it flew over Afghanistan, showed it missing the plane by about two metres. The German ‘Luna’ drone was caught in air turbulence created by the Ariana passenger plane, before losing control and crash landing near the Afghan capital, Kabul. German magazine Der Spiegel believe that the drone flew less than two metres away from the Airbus A300, putting 100 lives at risk.

However the money machine grinds on 

Business Week reported yesterday that European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co. is joining forces with Dassault Aviation SA (AM) and Italy’s Finmeccanica SpA (FNC) to urge European states to back a drone effort and end reliance on U.S. and Israeli suppliers.Regulators want to sleep at night – say no to UAVs
The FT reported yesterday, ‘Stephen McKeever, Oklahoma’s secretary of state for science and technology, says the privacy issue has delayed until the end of this year the federal decision over which states will get the coveted right to open slivers of their airspace to test UAVs. Oklahoma is one of those vying for the chance. “The safest way to not have an unmanned aerial vehicle crash with a manned aircraft is not to have UAVs fly at all.

Regulators want to sleep at night and the easiest way to do that is to say no, not yes,” he says.’

When Edward Snowden reached his breaking point, the world saw the truth about the vast extent of spying by the NSA on Americans and people around the world. In an act of conscience, Snowden released secret information, saying “My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.”

Snowden sparked protest, lawsuits, criticism of the administration and US intelligence.  His action shows the power that comes when someone inside the system break ranks and tells the truth. Successful movements depend on people breaking ranks: questioning, demurring, disobeying, defecting and withdrawing support. As Ken Butigan writes in Waging Nonviolence, the impact can start a metamorphosis for all of us:

“the individual conscientious objector, the abstainer, and the resister — the one who, as Gandhi said, pits ‘one’s whole soul against the will of a tyrant.’ Not only do the Edward Snowdens of the world help the rest of us see more clearly the realities we are up against — in this case, the institutionalization of unfettered, massive data collection on and profiling of the population — they can shock us into realizing that part of our job description as human beings is our obligation to withdraw our passive or active consent from such policies.”

What is your breaking point?

This is the question we must all ask ourselves, especially those who have not yet taken action.

As whistleblower Sibel Edmonds wrote this week, the inaction and apathy of people is our greatest enemy: “Apathy is a must ingredient for any police state, authoritarian regime, dictatorship, for abuses of power, for corruption, national atrocities, genocide. . . .”

This week, we read the sad story of Brandon Bryant, the 27 year old who served as a drone operator from 2006 to 2011 at bases in Nevada, New Mexico and Iraq and who helped to kill 1,626 people. He now suffers from PTSD. Bryant told NBC News “I don’t feel like I can really interact with that average, everyday person. I get too frustrated, because A, they don’t realize what’s going on over there. And B, they don’t care.”

Imagine how better off he would be if he had taken action years ago and told the truth about drone killings then.  We hope he will continue to speak out about his experience. He will find that many people do care and may inspire other drone killers to stop what they are doing and help spur an end to US militarism.

One or a few people can make a tremendous difference. Sam Smith, the editor of Progressive Review, reminds us of the unpredictable power of action, recalling: “there was the time in early 1960 when four black college students sat down at a white-only Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, NC. Within two weeks, there were sit-ins in 15 cities in five southern states and within two months they had spread to 54 cities in nine states. By April the leaders of these protests had come together, heard a moving sermon by Martin Luther King Jr. and formed the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. Four students did something and America changed. Even they, however, couldn’t know what the result would be.”

Just as we are seeing in Turkey, it is often the response to an act of conscience that betrays the regime, shows the regime for what it is, and in a reversal, all of the power of the state boomerangs against itself. Prime Minister Erdogan issued threats followed by extreme police violence, but the result has been more people joining the protests.  Yesterday, thousands of lawyers joined the protests and Erdogan issued another threat. And when Erdogan called for parents of children who are protesters to take them home, their mothers formed a human barricade to protect them from the police instead.

Another result has been people joining protests around the world and asking what can I do for Turkey?  In the United States, people crowd sourced the funds for a full-page ad in the New York Times. Photo journalist Jenna Pope tells Acronym TV Turkey is part of a global revolution, “Everything is connected,” Pope says, “people all over the world are fighting against these governments who are only interested in making the very rich even richer.”

We are seeing the same type of solidarity with whistle blowers. Up to a thousand people are expected to protest in support of Snowden in Hong Kong this Saturday, showing that he may have been right in picking Hong Kong.  Protests in support of Snowden and against the NSA’s Internet spying and collection of phone records are also being held in the United States. Scores of civil liberties groups, Internet companies and others (including Popular Resistance) are demanding an end to NSA spying. Sign up at StopWatchingUs.org to get involved.

The ACLU has filed suit against the program. But we need to rely more on our own actions than the security-state friendly courts to stop this attack on democracy. And, Snowden also exposed, once again, how the New York Times and other corporate media report from the perspective of the security state.

Another high profile whistle blower, Bradley Manning, is also garnering support from many people.  His court martial, which Chris Hedges describes as a ‘judicial lynching,’ began with the perfect symbolism: supporters of Manning wearing a shirt that said “Truth” had to hide that dangerous word on the first day of his trial. They were ordered to turn their shirts inside out.

Though the corporate media continues its inadequate reporting, there is lots of citizen’s media writing about the case and you can keep up with details at www.BradleyManning.org.  Many of Bradley’s supporters are veterans who explain their support for exposing the war crimes of US Empire.

Veterans are also among those leading the protests against the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.  Three veterans are on a solidarity hunger strike in support of Guantanamo prisoners being held in indefinite detention without trial.  We are impressed with many Americans who put their lives on the line to challenge militarism, especially nuclear weapons, and those are seeing through the sham of ‘humanitarian war’ in which military attacks kill innocent people and destroy countries.

This week, we continue to report on the escalation actions of front-line environmentalists who are challenging the extraction economy.  The clarity of thought of those on the front lines, compared to the big environmental groups, was evident recently in Illinois. While some applauded the regulation of hydro-fracking, others who are more clear in their thinking said, we need to ban hydro-fracking because it cannot be done safely.

The solidarity of “Fearless Summer” with its epic protests against radical energy extraction is taking shape and promises to help end the silence on dirty energy.  Activists continue to protest at Obama fundraisers. We’ve reported on actions in New York and San Francisco, and now in Los Angeles climate change protesters and immigrants who called for an end to deportation protested Obama.

The reaction of the extraction industry shows their fear of organized militant resistance. TransCanada, the corporation seeking to profit from the tar sands pipeline, is telling the police that protesters should be treated as terrorists.  They are calling Nebraska ranchers aggressive and abusive. And, protest also helps people take actions of conscience, a TransCanada whistle blower has come forward to report on the shoddy pipeline practices describing the company as “organized crime” that is “a “culture of noncompliance” and “coercion,” with “deeply entrenched business practices that ignored legally required regulations and codes” and carries “significant public safety risks.”

Another big area of continuing and escalating activism is around labor.  The week began with the Walmart shareholders meeting where a Bangladesh activist addressed shareholders about unsafe working conditions and Janet Sparks, a Louisiana worker, pointed out “our CEO Mike Duke made over $20 million last year more than one thousand times the average Walmart associate, with all due respect, I have to say, I don’t think that’s right.” Then she quoted Walmart founder Sam Walton: “Listen to the Associates!” Activists say the campaign is working – building consciousness among workers and consumers; and affecting sales at Walmart which have been stagnant. The number two retailer, Costco is seeing rising sales and rising stock values while paying employees good wages. On the contrary, Walmart workers need government services to get by.

Labor struggles are not only at Walmart. Target contract janitors announced they would be going on strike in Minneapolis.  Photographers at the Chicago Sun-Times are picketing the newspaper after it laid them off.  Labor leaders are calling for a boycott of Labatt beer as scabs have been working in place of workers on strike since April at the St. John’s brewery. General Motors workers in Colombia have been striking due to unfair working conditions.  They literally sewed their mouths closed in hunger strikes and occupied in front of the US embassy as well as bringing their concerns to the Detroit shareholders meeting.  More than ever, it is an imperative to rebuild an aggressive labor movement that is independent of the Democrats and stands for working people.  In Europe labor unions are rallying on Juneteenth against austerity and for tax justice.

Like many cities, Baltimore has a problem with abandoned homes.  In Baltimore, MD there are 40,000 of them.  An activist group, Slum Lord Watch, is using an interesting tactic, artwork.  They teamed up with an artist, Nether, to beautify the buildings and call out the owners in what they are calling the Wall Hunters: the Slumlord Project.  They have 15 murals so far and each includes a QR Code which links people to information about the owner of the vacant building.

Another protest people may want to emulate is the Carnival Against Capitalism.  This event began with the WTO protests in 1999, and is being used this year in the run-up to the G8 meeting in London.  Activists worked in several sections of the city including taking over an abandoned police station.

More and more people are becoming active. What holds others back?  Perhaps their breaking point has not been reached or they do not have the time or resources to understand what is going on. One of our jobs in building a mass movement is to educate people in several areas. We can start by listening and bringing facts to explain their feelings about how bad our situation has become.

Right now an issue that is driving some people is their concern about the security state. Conor Friedersdorf’s article explains that Presidents Bush and Obama have put in place all the infrastructure that a tyrant would need.  The author says that his article “is an attempt to grab America by the shoulders, give it a good shake, and say: Yes, it could happen here.”

It also helps to show people that protest and campaigns of resistance work.  There are so many examples throughout history.  Harvey Wasserman provides a recent example, showing how the anti-nuclear movement worked to stop nuclear power plants and how the recent closure of San Onofre is part of an ongoing movement in the United States and around the world.  And Bill Moyer wrote about the eight stages of a successful social movement.

Finally, we have to show people that we have a strategy that can win.  There are now 100 years of history of civil resistance, so we know what is more likely to work and what is less likely. This week we wrote an article laying out this history and describing a strategy to create a mass movement that can succeed, including what groups in the power structure we need to divide and pull to the movement to build our strength and weaken the status quo.

Carl Gibson, founder of US Uncut, recently spoke to Dennis Trainor, Jr. about the uprising in Iceland as a model for a mass movement in the US. Many of the ingredients are in place in the US such as growing wealth inequality and a government corrupted by big finance. Though it seems we are up against a powerful opponent, we have the information and tools we need to create the society in which we want to live.

Sam Smith reminds us that “The key to both a better future and our own continuous faith in one is the constant, conscious exercise of choice even in the face of absurdity, uncertainty and daunting odds.” He tells us that change starts with action, that each of us has a way to contribute, and that when “we will have thrown every inch and ounce of our being into what we are meant to be doing which is to decide what we are meant to be doing. And then to walk cheerfully over the face of the earth doing it.”

This article is produced in partnership with AlterNet and is based on the weekly newsletter of PopularResistance.org. You can sign up to receive the newsletter here.

 Kevin Zeese, JD and Margaret Flowers, MD co-host  Clearing the FOG on We Act Radio 1480 AM Washington, DC, co-direct  Its Our Economy  and are organizers of thePopularResistance.org

NSA Building Big Brother “Pre-Crime” Artificial Intelligence Program

NSA spying whistleblower Edward Snowden’s statements have been verified.    Reporter Glenn Greenwald has promised numerous additional disclosures from Snowden.

What’s next?

We reported in 2008:

A new article by investigative reporter Christopher Ketcham reveals, a governmental unit operating in secret and with no oversight whatsoever is gathering massive amounts of data on every American and running artificial intelligence software to predict each American’s behavior, including “what the target will do, where the target will go, who it will turn to for help”.

The same governmental unit is responsible for suspending the Constitution and implementing martial law in the event that anything is deemed by the White House in its sole discretion to constitute a threat to the United States. (this is formally known as implementing “Continuity of Government” plans).

As Ketcham’s article makes clear, these same folks and their predecessors have been been busy dreaming up plans to imprison countless “trouble-making” Americans without trial in case of any real or imagined emergency.  [Background here.] What kind of Americans? Ketcham describes it this way:

“Dissidents and activists of various stripes, political and tax protestors, lawyers and professors, publishers and journalists, gun owners, illegal aliens, foreign nationals, and a great many other harmless, average people.”

Do we want the same small group of folks who have the power to suspend the Constitution, implement martial law, and imprison normal citizens to also be gathering information on all Americans and running AI programs to be able to predict where American citizens will go for help and what they will do in case of an emergency? Don’t we want the government to — um, I don’t know — help us in case of an emergency?

Bear in mind that the Pentagon is also running an AI program to see how people will react to propaganda and to government-inflicted terror. The program is called Sentient World Simulation:

“U.S defense, intel and homeland security officials are constructing a parallel world, on a computer, which the agencies will use to test propaganda messages and military strategies.Called the Sentient World Simulation, the program uses AI routines based upon the psychological theories of Marty Seligman, among others. (Seligman introduced the theory of ‘learned helplessness’ in the 1960s, after shocking beagles until they cowered, urinating, on the bottom of their cages.)

Yank a country’s water supply. Stage a military coup. SWS will tell you what happens next.

The sim will feature an AR avatar for each person in the real world, based upon data collected about us from government records and the internet.”

The continuity of government folks’ AI program and the Pentagon’s AI program may or may not be linked, but they both indicate massive spying and artificial intelligence in order to manipulate the American public, to concentrate power, to take away the liberties and freedoms of average Americans, and — worst of all — to induce chaos in order to achieve these ends.

PBS Nova reported in 2009:

The National Security Agency (NSA) is developing a tool that George Orwell’s Thought Police might have found useful: an artificial intelligence system designed to gain insight into what people are thinking.

With the entire Internet and thousands of databases for a brain, the device will be able to respond almost instantaneously to complex questions posed by intelligence analysts. As more and more data is collected—through phone calls, credit card receipts, social networks like Facebook and MySpace, GPS tracks, cell phone geolocation, Internet searches, Amazon book purchases, even E-Z Pass toll records—it may one day be possible to know not just where people are and what they are doing, but what and how they think.

The system is so potentially intrusive that at least one researcher has quit, citing concerns over the dangers in placing such a powerful weapon in the hands of a top-secret agency with little accountability.

Known as Aquaint, which stands for “Advanced QUestion Answering for INTelligence” [which is run by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA)], part of the new M Square Research Park in College Park, Maryland. A mammoth two million-square-foot, 128-acre complex, it is operated in collaboration with the University of Maryland. “Their budget is classified, but I understand it’s very well funded,” said Brian Darmody, the University of Maryland’s assistant vice president of research and economic development, referring to IARPA. “They’ll be in their own building here, and they’re going to grow. Their mission is expanding.”

***

In a 2004 pilot project, a mass of data was gathered from news stories taken from the New York Times, the AP news wire, and the English portion of the Chinese Xinhua news wire covering 1998 to 2000. Then, 13 U.S. military intelligence analysts searched the data and came up with a number of scenarios based on the material. Finally, using those scenarios, an NSA analyst developed 50 topics, and in each of those topics created a series of questions for Aquaint’s computerized brain to answer. “Will the Japanese use force to defend the Senkakus?” was one. “What types of disputes or conflict between the PLA [People's Liberation Army] and Hong Kong residents have been reported?” was another. And “Who were the participants in this spy ring, and how are they related to each other?” was a third. Since then, the NSA has attempted to build both on the complexity of the system—more essay-like answers rather than yes or no—and on attacking greater volumes of data.

“The technology behaves like a robot, understanding and answering complex questions,” said a former Aquaint researcher. “Think of 2001: A Space Odyssey and the most memorable character, HAL 9000, having a conversation with David. We are essentially building this system. We are building HAL.” A naturalized U.S. citizen who received her Ph.D. from Columbia, the researcher worked on the program for several years but eventually left due to moral concerns. “The system can answer the question, ‘What does X think about Y?’” she said. “Working for the government is great, but I don’t like looking into other people’s secrets.

A supersmart search engine, capable of answering complex questions such as “What were the major issues in the last 10 presidential elections?” would be very useful for the public. But that same capability in the hands of an agency like the NSA—absolutely secret, often above the law, resistant to oversight, and with access to petabytes of private information about Americans—could be a privacy and civil liberties nightmare. “We must not forget that the ultimate goal is to transfer research results into operational use,” said Aquaint project leader John Prange, in charge of information exploitation for IARPA.

Once up and running, the database of old newspapers could quickly be expanded to include an inland sea of personal information scooped up by the agency’s warrantless data suction hoses. Unregulated, they could ask it to determine which Americans might likely pose a security risk—or have sympathies toward a particular cause, such as the antiwar movement, as was done during the 1960s and 1970s. The Aquaint robospy might then base its decision on the type of books a person purchased online, or chat room talk, or websites visited—or a similar combination of data. Such a system would have an enormous chilling effect on everyone’s everyday activities—what will the Aquaint computer think if I buy this book, or go to that website, or make this comment? Will I be suspected of being a terrorist or a spy or a subversive?

World Net Daily’s Aaron Klein reported earlier this month:

In February, the Sydney Morning Herald reported the Massachusetts-based multinational corporation, Raytheon – the world’s fifth largest defense contractor – had developed a “Google for Spies” operation.

Herald reporter Ryan Gallagher wrote that Raytheon had “secretly developed software capable of tracking people’s movements and predicting future behavior by mining data from social networking websites” like Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare.

The software is called RIOT, or Rapid Information Overlay Technology.

Raytheon told the Herald it has not sold RIOT to any clients but admitted that, in 2010, it had shared the program’s software technology with the U.S. government as part of a “joint research and development effort … to help build a national security system capable of analyzing ‘trillions of entities’ from cyberspace.”

In April, RIOT was reportedly showcased at a U.S. government and industry national security conference for secretive, classified innovations, where it was listed under the category “big data – analytics, algorithms.”

Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst for the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, argued …  that among the many problems with government large-scale analytics of social network information “is the prospect that government agencies will blunderingly use these techniques to tag, target and watchlist people coughed up by programs such as RIOT, or to target them for further invasions of privacy based on incorrect inferences.”

“The chilling effects of such activities,” he concluded, “while perhaps gradual, would be tremendous.”

Ginger McCall, attorney and director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center’s Open Government program, told NBC in February, “This sort of software allows the government to surveil everyone.

“It scoops up a bunch of information about totally innocent people. There seems to be no legitimate reason to get this, other than that they can.”

As for RIOT’s ability to help catch terrorists, McCall called it “a lot of white noise.”  [True ... Big data doesn't work to keep us safe.]

The London Guardian further obtained a four-minute video that shows how the RIOT software uses photographs on social networks. The images, sometimes containing latitude and longitude details, are “automatically embedded by smartphones within so-called ‘exif header data.’

RIOT pulls out this information, analyzing not only the photographs posted by individuals, but also the location where these images were taken,” the Guardian reported.
Such sweeping data collection and analysis to predict future activity may further explain some of what the government is doing with the phone records of millions of Verizon customers. [Background here.]

***

“In the increasingly popular language of network theory, individuals are “nodes,” and relationships and interactions form the “links” binding them together; by mapping those connections, network scientists try to expose patterns that might not otherwise be apparent,” reported the Times.  [Background here.]

In February 2006, more than a year after Obama was sworn as a U.S. senator, it was revealed the “supposedly defunct” Total Information Awareness data-mining and profiling program had been acquired by the NSA.

The Total Information Awareness program was first announced in 2002 as an early effort to mine large volumes of data for hidden connections.

Aaron Klein reported last week that Snowden might have worked at the NSA’s artificial intelligence unit at the University of Maryland:

Edward Snowden, the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations, told the London Guardian newspaper that he previously worked as a security guard for what the publication carefully described as “one of the agency’s covert facilities at the University of Maryland.”

***

Brian Ullmann, the university’s assistant vice president for marketing and communications, was asked for comment. He would not address the query, posed twice to his department by KleinOnline, about whether the NSA operates covert facilities in conjunction with the university.

Ullmann’s only comment was to affirm that Snowden was employed as a security guard at the university’s Center for the Advanced Study of Languages in 2005.

Gezi Park Evacuated, Istanbul and Turkey Explode

June 16th, 2013 by Sungur Savran

After days of hesitation and negotiation, the government has finally decided to evacuate the Taksim Commune, where thousands camped in Gezi Park and which tens of thousands visited every night.

Police attacked Gezi Park yesterday evening (June 15) and after evacuating it using tear gas and, as a novelty, water cannon apparently supplemented with a special kind of chemical since it burnt the skin of everyone it touched, razed the tents, the infirmary, the kitchens and the library established there to the ground.

One focus of resistance crushed meant a thousand flourished. Immediately, in a series of neighbourhoods of Istanbul and in many cities around the country, people came out in their thousands and sometimes in their tens of thousands spontaneously and started to chant the common slogans of the already fifteen-day old rebellion.

Protests in TurkeyThe most relevant to the occasion was, of course, the widely chanted “Everywhere’s Taksim, everywhere resistance!” Other significant ones were “Shoulder to shoulder against fascism!” (Turkish left-wing tradition calls all kinds of repressive regimes “fascist”) and “Government resign!” Moving from working-class neighbourhoods, tens of thousands occupied circular roads in opposite edges of Istanbul on the Asian and European sides. A group close to one thousand marchers crossed the main bridge over the Bosphorus that connects Asia and Europe. Istanbul has now become an arc of struggle and resistance that extends over 80 kilometres in a city of an estimated population that is 14 million-strong. In the centre of the city, even very posh quarters were the scene of cacerolazos (pots and pans concerts) and marches.

Hotly Contested Spaces

The strategy of the police was simply to protect Taksim and the environs. They made this a question of honour and saved face by not admitting the protesters near this square, which has been hotly contested over the last fortnight. That is why they poured tonnes of pepper gas on those crowds that, like the one we were part of, were several kilometres near the square and were forcing the police barricade, while they were not able to even touch those huge groups that cut the circulation of traffic on major arteries and throughways and marched until sunrise. But even near Taksim there were at times huge crowds. For instance, the one we were part of reached up to the tens of thousands at a certain point. But the choking effect of incessantly thrown tear gas and the bite from the chemically enhanced water played their part and over the hours many people left.

There was, though, at a certain moment an event of utmost significance. Gezi Park has been at the centre of the attention of the  whole world throughout these two weeks, with its enjoyment of an atmosphere of freedom and shared life. Rightly so, since this experience implied that tens of thousands of youth were introduced for the first time to the beauties of sharing a common life. But in the process, the world, and many in Turkey as well, ignored that the ignoble line of the Turkish police in handling mass demonstrations was being continued elsewhere. An outstanding example was the Gazi neighbourhood of Istanbul, a working-class district with an Alevi majority (the Alevis are a religious minority that number in the tens of millions, though the exact figure is a mystery). The irony was even embedded in the names of the two places, Gezi and Gazi. The almost ticklish event occurred at the moment when last night our thinning crowd received the support of a crowd of people arriving from Gazi, chanting “Hold tight Taksim, Gazi is coming!” Gazi finally met Gezi in the same vortex of violence!

Elsewhere in Turkey the masses poured out onto the streets as soon as they found out about what had happened at Gezi Park. In Ankara, the capital city, Izmir, the third biggest city on the Aegean coast facing Greece, Adana and Bursa, respectively the centres of the textile and metal industries, and Antalya, the major summer resort centre on the Mediterranean, all saw huge crowds gather on their major squares. Nonetheless, the attitude of law enforcement was very diverse, ranging from total abstention from violence in Izmir and Antalya for example to extreme use of force in Adana.

Soul-Searching in Ruling Circles

There is no doubt that people in high places are meeting frantically in offices in Ankara. The government, the heads of the intelligence and law enforcement bodies and top brass are in all probability weighing the merits of martial law or a state of emergency. Parallel to these official consultations, there is little doubt that the fissures in the ruling class are finding their way into the apex of power. An anti-Erdogan coalition has emerged in the alliance between Abdullah Gul, the president of the republic with roots in the AKP, Bulent Arinc, the deputy prime minister, another heavyweight of the same party, and Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the self-appointed social democracy of Turkey, which is also the major Kemalist, i.e. secular-nationalist party. This party, a darling of many sectors of the left, is trying to let the steam out of the movement although it claims hypocritically to be siding with it.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has probably made the biggest mistake of his life. His hubris again pushed him toward making a rash decision. The leadership of the organizations that were handpicked by the government as representatives of the revolt were ready to liquidate the movement. But they had to proceed cautiously lest the rank and file rebelled against their capitulation openly. They only needed one day to size down the whole Taksim Commune and at most a week to dissolve it. But Erdogan had scheduled a rally in Istanbul for Sunday the 16 June, where he wanted to put on a show as a victor. That is probably the major factor behind the timing of the police raid on Gezi Park.

The attitude of sections of the left regarding the continuation or the dissolution of the Gezi Park Commune is instructive. Only a week ago the hand-picked representatives of the movement had put forth a list of demands, many of them incredibly minimal formulations of otherwise legitimate grievances. One example should suffice. Faced with the brutality of the methods of the police forces, including the use of troops without uniforms wielding nailed wooden bats, pretty much in the same vein as the Shabiha of Bashar Assad (in Syria) or the Baltadjis of Hosni Mubarak (In Egypt), the representatives only demanded the removal of some provincial governors, as if it were not the home minister that was responsible for these brutal and shameful policies.

Yet despite the shortcomings of those original seven demands, these proved to be extremely precious when compared with what the representatives agreed to in the end. Erdogan simply proposed a referendum on the future of Gezi Park and an internal investigation of excesses by the police. Given the track record of the Turkish police and armed forces in investigating their own crimes (fully one and a half years after the Uludere/Roboski massacre, where 34 Kurdish peasants were bombarded to death by the Turkish air force, not one single person has been prosecuted), the promise of an internal investigation is a joke! And yet the representatives accepted it and decided to unpack. This was truly incredible, given the fact that not one of their original demands had been granted and the additional fact that the movement had not lost any of its vibrancy.

Taksim Commune

However, in forum after forum held at Gezi Park, the independent youth that formed the backbone of the Taksim Commune characterized the concessions of the government as ludicrous and refused to budge. This led the leadership to opt for a devious method of liquidating the movement. Caught as they were between the devil and the deep blue sea, the leadership manoeuvred and declared they were holding fast, whereas they were simply trying to lay the commune on its deathbed. Even this much of rhetoric proved too rebellious for Erdogan’s taste. War ensued.

The revolt is unprecedented by the breadth of its influence, the depth of the rage out of which it was born, and the self-confidence and courage of the ordinary masses of people, many with scant political experience in the past. If last night’s affluence and combativity continue, not only Erdogan’s but also the whole regime’s future would be put in jeopardy.

A factor of immense importance is the fact that DISK, the most progressive industrial workers’ confederation, and KESK, the most leftward leaning among the public employee confederations, have jointly declared a general strike and appealed to their rank and file to go out on the street and protest. This is a novelty and of critical importance, but we will have to wait and see to what extent this promise will be kept once we get to Monday, which is when any kind of strike would be meaningful.

All in all, the Turkish revolt is entering a new stage in which the struggle may, under certain conditions, bear much more distinctively the stamp of class struggle. It may erupt into a revolution any moment. It may, however, also dwindle into a simple protest movement and gradually die out some time in the coming period.

Even if that is the case, subsequent repercussions on Turkish politics, on the working-class movement and on the left promise to be considerable. •

Sungur Savran is based in Istanbul and is one of the editors of the newspaper Gercek (Truth) and the theoretical journal Devrimci Marksizm (Revolutionary Marxism), both published in Turkish, and of the web site RedMed.

Introduction

            The exposure of the Obama regime’s use of the National Security Agency to secretly spy on the communications of hundreds of millions of US and overseas citizens has provoked world-wide denunciations.  In the United States , despite widespread mass media coverage and the opposition of civil liberties organizations, there has not been any mass protest.   Congressional leaders from both the Republican and Democratic Parties, as well as top judges, approved of the unprecedented domestic spy program..  Even worse, when the pervasive spy operations were revealed, top Senate and Congressional leaders repeated their endorsement of each and every intrusion into all electronic and written communication involving American citizens.  President Obama and his Attorney General Holder openly and forcefully defended the NSA’s  the universal spy operations.

            The issues raised by this vast secret police apparatus and its penetration into and control over civil society, infringing on the citizens freedom of expression, go far beyond mere ‘violations of privacy’, as raised by many legal experts.

            Most civil libertarians focus on the violations of individual rights, constitutional guarantees and the citizen’s privacy rights.  These are important legal issues and the critics are right in raising them.   However, these constitutional–legal critiques do not go far enough; they fail to raise even more fundamental issues; they avoid basic political questions.            

            Why has such a massive police-state apparatus and universal spying become so central to the ruling regime?  Why has the entire executive, legislative and judicial leadership come out in public for such a blatant repudiation of all constitutional guarantees?  Why do elected leaders defend universal political espionage against the citizenry?  What kind of politics requires a police state?  What kind of long-term, large scale domestic and foreign policies are illegal and unconstitutional as to require the building of a vast network of domestic spies and a hundred billion dollar corporate-state techno-espionage infrastructure in a time of budget ‘austerity’ with the slashing of social programs?

            The second set of questions arises from the use of the espionage data.  So far most critics have questioned the existence of massive state espionage but have avoided the vital issue of what measures are taken by the spymasters once they target individuals, groups, movements?  The essential question is:  What reprisals and sanctions follow from the ‘information’ that is collected, classified and made operational by these massive domestic spy networks?  Now that the ‘secret’ of all-encompassing, state political spying has entered public discussion, the next step should be to reveal the secret operations that follow against those targeted by the spymasters as a ‘risk to national security’.

The Politics behind the Police State

            The fundamental reason for the conversion of the state into a gigantic spy apparatus is the nature of deeply destructive domestic and foreign policies which the government has so forcefully pursued.  The vast expansion of the police state apparatus is not a response to the terror attack of 9/11.  The geometrical growth of spies, secret police budgets, and the vast intrusion into all citizen communications coincides with the wars across the globe.  The decisions to militarize US global policy requires vast budgetary re-allocation , slashing social spending to fund empire-building; shredding public health and social security to bailout  Wall Street.  These are policies which greatly enhance profits for bankers and corporations while imposing regressive taxes on wage and salaried workers

            Prolonged and extended wars abroad have been funded at the expense of citizens’ welfare at home.  This policy had led to declining living standards for many tens of millions of citizens and rising dissatisfaction.  The potential of social resistance as evidenced by the brief “ Occupy Wall Street ” movement which was endorsed by over 80% of the population, .The positive response alarmed the state and led to an escalation of police state measures.  Mass spying is designed to identify the citizens who oppose both imperial wars and the destruction of domestic welfare; labeling them as ‘security threats’ is a means of controlling them through the use of arbitrary police powers.  The expansion of the President’s war powers has been accompanied by the growth and scope of the state spy apparatus:  the more the President orders overseas drone attacks, the greater the number of his military interventions, the greater the need for the political elite surrounding the President to increase its policing of citizens in anticipation of a popular backlash.  In this context, the policy of mass spying is taken as ‘pre-emptive action’.  The greater the police state operations, the greater the fear and insecurity among dissident citizens and activists.

            The assault on the living standards of working and middle class Americans in order to fund the endless series of wars, and not the so-called ‘war on terror’, is the reason  the state has developed massive cyber warfare against the US citizenry.  The issue is not only a question of a violation of individual privacy: it is fundamentally an issue of state infringement of the collective rights of organized citizens to freely engage in public opposition to regressive socio-economic policies and question the empire.  The proliferation of permanent bureaucratic institutions, with over a million security ‘data collectors’, is accompanied by tens of thousands of ‘field operators’, analysts  and inquisitors acting arbitrarily to designate dissident citizens as ‘security risks’ and imposing reprisals according to the political needs of their ruling political bosses.  The police state apparatus has its own rules of self-protection and self-perpetuation; it has its own linkages and may occasionally compete with the Pentagon.  The police state links up with and protects the masters of Wall Street and the propagandists of the mass media – even as it (must) spy on them!

            The police state is an instrument of the Executive Branch acting as a vehicle for its arbitrary prerogative powers.  However on administrative matters, it possesses a degree of ‘autonomy’ to target dissident behavior.  What is clear is the high degree of cohesion, vertical discipline and mutual defense, up and down the hierarchy.  The fact that one whistle-blower, Edward Snowden, emerged from the hundreds of thousands of citizen spies is the exception, the lone whistle blower, which proves the rule:  There are fewer defectors to be found among the million-member US spy network than in all the Mafia families in Europe and North America.

            The domestic spy apparatus operates with impunity because of its network of powerful domestic and overseas allies.  The entire bi-partisan Congressional leadership is privy to and complicit with its operations. Related branches of government, like the Internal Revenue Service, cooperate in providing information and pursuing targeted political groups and individuals.  Israel is a key overseas ally of the National Security Agency, as has been documented in the Israeli press (Haaretz, June 8, 2013).  Two Israeli high tech firms (Verint and Narus) with ties to the Israeli secret police (MOSSAD), have provided the spy software for the  NSA and this, of course, has opened a window for Israeli spying in the US against Americans opposed to the Zionist state.  The writer and critic, Steve Lendman points out that Israeli spymasters via their software “front companies” have long had the ability to ‘steal proprietary commercial and industrial data” with impunity .  And because of the power and influence of the Presidents of the 52 Major American Jewish organizations, Justice Department officials have ordered dozens of Israeli espionage cases to be dropped. The tight Israeli ties to the US spy apparatus serves to prevent deeper scrutiny into its operation and political goals – at a very high price in terms of the security of US citizens.  In recent years two incidents stand out:  Israeli security ‘experts’ were contracted to advise the Pennsylvania Department of Homeland Security in their investigation and  ‘Stasi-like’ repression of government critics and environmental activists (compared to ‘al Queda terrorists’ by the Israelis) – the discovery of which forced the resignation of OHS Director James Powers in 2010.    In 2003, New Jersey governor, Jim McGreevy appointed his lover, an Israeli government operative and former IDF officer, to head that state’s ‘Homeland Security Department and later resigned, denouncing the Israeli, Golan Cipel, for blackmail in late 2004.  These examples are a small sample illustrating the depth and scope of Israeli police state tactics intersecting in US domestic repression.

The Political and Economic Consequences of the Spy State

            The denunciations of the mass spy operations are a positive step, as far as they go.  But equally important is the question of what follows from the act of spying?  We now know that hundreds of millions of Americans are being spied on by the state.  We know that mass spying is official policy of the Executive and is approved by Congressional leaders.  But we have only fragmented information on the repressive measures resulting from the investigations of “suspect individuals”.  We can assume that there is a division of labor among data collectors, data analysts and field operatives following up “risky individuals and groups”, based on the internal criteria known only to the secret police.  The key spy operatives are those who devise and apply the criteria for designating someone as a “security risk”.  Individuals and groups who express critical views of domestic and foreign policy are “a risk”; those who act to protest are a “higher risk”;  those who travel to conflict regions are presumed to be in the “highest risk” category, even if they have violated no law.  The question of the lawfulness of a citizen’s views and actions does not enter into the spymasters’ equation; nor do any questions regarding the lawfulness of the acts committed by the spies against citizens.  The criteria defining a security risk supersede any constitutional considerations and safeguards.

            We know from a large number of published cases that lawful critics, illegally spied upon  , have subsequently been arrested,  tried and jailed – their lives and those of their friends and family members shattered.  We know that hundreds of homes, workplaces and offices of suspects have been raided in ‘fishing expeditions’.  We know that family members, associates, neighbors, clients, and employers of “suspects” have been interrogated, pressured and intimidated.  Above all, we know that tens of millions of law abiding citizens, critical of domestic economic and overseas war policies, have been censored by the very real fear of the massive operations carried out by the police state. In this atmosphere of intimidation, any critical conversation or word spoken in any context or relayed via the media can be interpreted by nameless, faceless spies as a “security threat” – and one’s name can enter into the ever growing secret lists of “potential terrorists”.  The very presence and dimensions of the police state is intimidating.  While there are citizens who would claim that the police state is necessary to protect them from terrorists – But how many others  feel compelled to embrace their state terrorists just to fend off any suspicion, hoping to stay off the growing lists?  How many critical-minded Americans now fear the state and will never voice in public what they whisper at home? 

The bigger the secret police, the greater its operations.  The more regressive  domestic economic policy,  the greater the fear and loathing of the political elite.

            Even as President Obama and his Democratic and Republican partners boast and bluster about their police state and its effective “security function”, the vast majority of Americans are becoming aware that fear instilled at home serves the interest of waging imperial wars abroad; that cowardice in the face of police state threats only encourages further cuts in their living standards.   When will they learn that exposing spying is only the beginning of a solution? When will they recognize that ending the police state is essential to dismantling the costly empire and creating a safe, secure and prosperous America ?

 

@KBZeese

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Cuba, Estados Unidos e a luta contra o terrorismo

June 16th, 2013 by Salim Lamrani

Desde 1982, Cuba faz parte da lista das nações que patrocinam o terrorismo internacional, estabelecida pelo Departamento de Estado dos EUA, com a aplicação de sanções como consequência. A administração republicana de Ronald Reagan decidiu incluir a ilha pelo apoio que dava aos movimentos revolucionários da América Latina, em particular em El Salvador. Naquela época, o governo conservador tinha decidido abandonar a política de aproximação a Havana que seu predecessor James Carter havia estabelecido, quando se estava a ponto de normalizar as relações com Cuba.

Em seu último relatório, publicado no dia 30 de maio de 2013, Washington justifica a manutenção de Havana no grupo que inclui Irã, Síria e Sudão, sublinhando que “no passado, alguns membros das FARC (Forças Armadas Revolucionárias da Colômbia) estiveram autorizados a se refugiar em Cuba”. O relatório enfatiza também que “o governo cubano segue protegendo fugitivos procurados nos Estados Unidos. O governo cubano também dá apoio através de casas, bônus alimentares e atenção médica a esses indivíduos”. Por fim, o documento faz alusão à presença de separatistas bascos em Cuba (1).

Ainda assim, Washington deixa de ressaltar vários elementos fundamentais que acabariam com as distintas acusações. Quanto às FARC, Havana acolheu efetivamente alguns de seus elementos no passado. Mas foi porque o governo da Colômbia solicitou ao governo cubano que isso acontecesse, no marco das negociações destinadas a desembocar em um acordo de paz.  Assim, desde novembro de 2012, Cuba é a sede das negociações entre os representantes das FARC e do governo colombiano. O relatório do Departamento de Estado admite que Cuba “abriga um diálogo de paz” entre a guerrilha e o Estado colombiano, e assinala que não há “nenhum indício de que o governo cubano proporcione armas ou treinamento paramilitar para grupos terroristas” (2).

Wayne S. Smith, antigo embaixador estadunidense em Cuba, fez conhecer sua incompreensão depois da publicação do relatório: “O governo colombiano, longe de acusar Cuba de abrigar guerrilheiros, cumprimentou várias vezes Havana por sua contribuição no processo de paz (3)”.

Carlos Latuff

Quando aos membros do ETA, Washington deixa de pontuar também que Havana somente respondeu a uma petição do governo espanhol de Felipe González de acolher alguns dirigentes no marco de negociações de paz com a organização separatista basca.

Jim McGovern, representante republicano do Estado de Massachusetts, também expressou seu desacordo com a decisão do Departamento do Estado. “Não há nenhuma prova de que Cuba dê apoio a grupos terroristas”, apontou, lembrando que a Colômbia tinha cumprimentando amiúde “o papel construtivo” da ilha na busca de um acordo de paz (4).

Anthony Quainton, embaixador da origem da inclusão de Cuba na lista de países terroristas em 1982, também expressou sua desaprovação: “Chegou o tempo de tirar Cuba dessa lista, por nossos interesses mútuos”.

Do mesmo modo, Patrick Ryan, antigo embaixador estadunidense, autor dos informes sobre o terrorismo entre 2007 e 2009, fez um pedido a Washington para por fim à estigmatização de Havana:

“Como antigo diplomata norte-americano, autor dos relatórios sobre o terrorismo entre 2007 e 2009 [...], visitei Cuba várias vezes no marco do meu trabalho. Estou convencido de que manter Cuba na lista de países que patrocinam o terrorismo é absurdo e altamente político, particularmente levando em conta as evidentes omissões. Onde está a Coreia do Norte, que lançou ataques contra o sul nos últimos anos – e que ameaçou recentemente lançar um ataque nuclear contra os Estados Unidos? [...] Nenhuma fonte crível de informação afirma que Cuba representa atualmente uma ameaça à nossa segurança.

Faz tempo demais que uma pequena minoria de políticos cubano-americanos dita a política exterior dos Estados Unidos para com um dos nossos vizinhos geograficamente mais próximos, e tem utilizado essa lista de países terroristas altamente questionável para justificar a manutenção de um embargo que data da Guerra Fria.

Curiosamente, esses membros do Congresso apoiam a liberdade dos cubanos de viajar aos Estados Unidos, mas não a liberdade dos norte-americanos viajarem a Cuba, e utilizam a justificativa do terrorismo para isso.

Agência Efe (05/06)

Presidente do Parlamento cubano, Ricardo Alarcón (esq.), participa de vídeoconferência com René González (dir.), um dos cinco agentes cubanos, liberto em 2011 sob condicional

O feito de que alguns membros do grupo separatista basco ETA se encontrem na ilha com a benção do governo espanhol, que os membros das FARC se encontrem em Cuba durante as negociações de paz apoiadas pelo governo colombiano e que vários fugitivos da justiça norte-americana – se bem que nenhum deles foi acusado de terrorismo – tenham vivido ali exilados desde os anos 1979, não são argumentos críveis para manter a acusação [....].

É tempo de adotar um novo enfoque porque nossa política atual anacrônica tem fracassado estrepitosamente há mais de meio século”.

Por sua vez, o governo de Havana condenou a instrumentalização da guerra contra o terrorismo para fins políticos. Em uma longa declaração, o Ministério de Relações Exteriores respondeu a Washington:

“Novamente, esta decisão vergonhosa tem sido tomada faltando de maneira deliberada com a verdade e ignorando o amplo consenso e a objeção explícita de numerosos setores da sociedade estadunidense e da comunidade internacional para que se ponha fim a essa injustiça.

O único propósito desde exercício desprestigiado contra Cuba é tentar justificar a manutenção do bloqueio, uma política fracassada que o mundo inteiro condena.

O governo dos Estados Unidos insiste em manter esse desígnio arbitrário e unilateral, apesar do total absurdo das acusações ridículas e dos argumentos inconsistentes que tradicionalmente tem utilizado nos últimos anos como desculpas para isso […].

O território de Cuba nunca foi e nunca será utilizado para abrigar terroristas de origem nenhuma, nem para organizar, financiar ou perpetuar atos de terrorismo contra nenhum país do mundo, incluindo os Estados Unidos. O governo cubano rejeita e condena inequivocamente todo ato de terrorismo em qualquer lugar, sob qualquer circunstância e quaisquer que sejam as motivações alegadas.

Por sua vez, o governo dos Estados Unidos emprega o terrorismo de Estado como uma arma contra países que desafiem seus interesses, provocando mortes da população civil. Usou aviões não tripulados para perpetrar execuções extrajudiciais de supostos terroristas, incluindo estadunidenses, o que resultou na morte de centenas de civis inocentes”. (5)

O governo cubano também acusa Washington de abrigar terroristas de origem cubana responsáveis por  várias centenas de assassinatos, algo que os Estados Unidos não negam. Desde 1959, o terrorismo procedente dos Estados Unidos custou a vida de 3.748 cubanos e 2.099 incapacitados. O caso mais emblemático é de Luis Posada Carriles (foto). Antigo policial sob o regime ditatorial de Fulgencio Batista, Posada foi recrutado pela CIA em 1961 e se transformou em um especialista em explosivos. É responsável por mais de uma centena de assassinatos, entre eles o atentado de 6 de outubro de 1976 que provocou a explosão em pleno voo de um avião civil em Barbados, causando a morte de 73 pessoas, entre elas toda e equipe juvenil de esgrima que tinha acabado de vencer os Jogos Pan-Americanos. Também é autor da onda de atentados terroristas que golpeou a indústria turística cubana entre abril e setembro de 1997 que custou a vida do cidadão italiano Fabio di Celmo e que fez dezenas de vítimas (6).

Não há duvidas sobre a culpa de Luis Posada Carriles. De fato, os relatórios do FBI e da CIA são explícitos a respeito: “Posada e Bosch orquestraram o atentado contra o avião” (7). Do mesmo modo, em sua autobiografia Los caminhos del guerrero, ele reivindica abertamente sua trajetória terrorista. Além disso, em 12 de junho de 1998, Posada Carriles concedeu uma entrevista ao New York Times na qual se vangloriava de ser a pessoa que mais atentados realizou contra Cuba, reivindicando a paternidade intelectual dos atentados de 1997. Segundo ele, o turista italiano “estava no lugar errado na hora errada (8)”.

Frente ao aumento dos atentados nos anos 1990, Cuba infiltrou vários agentes na Flórida para impedir a realização dos projetos terroristas de pequenos grupos de extrema direita de origem cubana. Depois de reunir um voluminoso relatório sobre 64 pessoas envolvidas em atos violentos contra a ilha, Havana transmitiu a informação ao FBI. Em vez de mandar prender os indivíduos que pertenciam a organizações criminosas, Washington prendeu os cinco agentes infiltrados no exílio cubano e os condenou a penas que vão de 15 anos de prisão à prisão perpétua, durante um julgamento que foi denunciado pela Anistia Internacional, pelas Nações Unidas e nada por menos que dez Prêmios Nobel (9).

A instrumentalização para fins políticos de um tema tão grave como o terrorismo prejudica a credibilidade do Departamento de Estado, acusado de calculista e hipócrita.  Por um lado, Washington afirma que está levando a cabo uma guerra contra o terrorismo, e por outro oferece proteção a criminosos como Luis Posada Carriles e sanciona cinco agentes cubanos cujo papel era impedir a realização de atentados contra Cuba. Em nome da guerra econômica e ideológica que Washington leva contra Havana há mais de meio século, os Estados Unidos não vacilam em colocar na lista de países terroristas uma nação cuja principal característica é ser vítima do terrorismo há cinquenta anos.

(1) Unites States Department of State, «Country Reports on Terrorism 2013», maio de 2013. http://www.state. gov/documents/ organization/ 210204.pdf (sitio consultado el 2 de junho de 2013).
(2) Ibid
(3) Latin American Herald Tribune, «U.S. Urged to Drop Cuba from Terror List», 8 de março de 2013.
(4) Ibid
(5) Ministério de Relaciones Exteriores da República de  Cuba, «Cuba no reconoce al Gobierno de EEUU la más mínima autoridad moral para juzgalo», Cubadebate, 30 de naio de 2013.
(6) Salim Lamrani, Cuba, ce que les médias ne vous diront jamais, Paris, Estrella, 2009, p. 135-154.
(7) Federal Bureau of Investigation, «Suspected Bombing of Cubana Airlines DC-8 Near barbados, West Indies, October 6, 1976», 7 de octubre de 1976, Luis Posada Carriles, the Declassified Record, The National Security Archive, George Washington University. http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB153/19761008.pdf (sitio consultado el 3 de junho de 2013).
(8) Ann Louise Bardach & Larry Rohter, «Key Cuba Foe Claims Exiles’ Backing», New York Times,12 de julio de 1998.
(9) Salim Lamrani, op. cit.

(*) Doutor en Estudos Ibéricos e Latino-americanos da Universidade Paris Sorbonne-Paris IV, Salim Lamrani é professor-titular da Universidade de la Reunión e jornalista, especialista nas relaciones entre Cuba e Estados Unidos. Seu último livro se chama The Economic War Against Cuba. A Historical and Legal Perspective on the U.S. Blockade, New York, Monthly Review Press, 2013, com prólogo de Wayne S. Smith e prefácio  de Paul Estrade. Contato: [email protected] ; [email protected] 
Página no Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SalimLamraniOfficiel 


 

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has spoken at length with RT about the world’s burning issues, including war-torn Syria, Iran, US surveillance and terrorism. He exclusively answered questions from RT journalists while paying a visit to the channel.

Margarita Simonyan: Mr. Putin, thanks again for visiting us.

Vladimir Putin: Thanks for inviting me.

Margarita Simonyan: According to the Russian tradition, as hospitable hosts we are always happy to have such guests.

Vladimir Putin: I have to say, it was somewhat unexpected for me that our talk would be on air, not to mention it being live. But I was happy when Margarita just told me about it. I knew that we were having a meeting with journalists but I had no idea that you’d arranged such an ambush as live broadcast of it. Well, it’s all yours.

Margarita Simonyan: Well, we have nothing to hide.

Vladimir Putin: There’s nothing to hide, indeed.

Vladimir Putin: There’s nothing to hide, indeed.

Margarita Simonyan: My first question is a bit immodest – about our channel. What are your impressions of it?

Vladimir Putin: I have good impressions.

When we designed this project back in 2005 we intended introducing another strong player on the world’s scene, a player that wouldn’t just provide an unbiased coverage of the events in Russia but also try, let me stress, I mean – try to break the Anglo-Saxon monopoly on the global information streams. And it seems to me that you’re succeeding in this job.

 

RT photo / Semyon Khorunzhy

RT photo / Semyon Khorunzhy

I’d like to emphasize something of the key importance. We never expected this to be a news agency or a channel which would defend the position of the Russian political line. We wanted to bring an absolutely independent news channel to the news arena.

Certainly the channel is funded by the government, so it cannot help but reflect the Russian government’s official position on the events in our country and in the rest of the world one way or another. But I’d like to underline again that we never intended this channel, RT, as any kind of apologetics for the Russian political line, whether domestic or foreign.

Margarita Simonyan: One issue that at least our viewers are generally excited about today is the Snowden case. A man who is now being dubbed ‘a second Assange’ has exposed total surveillance practices employed by the American government. There are two sides to this story: on the one hand, that was classified information, which makes this man a traitor. But on the other hand, the information he has leaked is of crucial importance, primarily for the American public, and for the world in general. What do you think of that?

Vladimir Putin: He told us nothing we didn’t know before. I think everybody has long been aware that signals intelligence is about surveillance of individuals and organizations. It is becoming a global phenomenon in the context of combatting international terrorism, and such methods are generally practicable. The question is how well those security agencies are controlled by the public. I can tell you that, at least in Russia, you cannot just go and tap into someone’s phone conversation without a warrant issued by court. That’s more or less the way a civilized society should go about fighting terrorism with modern-day technology. As long as it is exercised within the boundaries of the law that regulates intelligence activities, it’s alright. But if it’s unlawful, then it’s bad.

Margarita Simonyan: Mr. Obama said, rather gaudily, that you cannot have hundred-percent security while maintaining hundred-percent privacy…

Vladimir Putin: Yes you can. I’d like to reiterate: you do have to obtain a warrant for specific policing activities domestically, so why shouldn’t this requirement be valid for intelligence agencies as well? It can, and it should.

Margarita Simonyan: As you probably know, it isn’t Snowden, or Syria, or Turkey that’s been top news in Russia this week. It’s your divorce everybody has been talking about. Both yourself and Ms. Lyudmila Putina explained it at length when you spoke to the press after a ballet performance, but a few questions still remain. I wonder about the religious aspects of your divorce, and this is something many people are questioning at the moment.

Vladimir Putin: First of all, I can tell you that Lyudmila and myself agree that it’s much more appropriate to be outspoken about our actual state of relations rather than try to keep it secret.

 

RT photo / Semyon Khorunzhy

RT photo / Semyon Khorunzhy

Margarita Simonyan: That’s what they say in the press, too, regardless of political affiliation.

Vladimir Putin: Well, thanks for that much. As for the religious aspect of our marriage, there is none, because we never wed in church.

Margarita Simonyan: You didn’t wed?

Vladimir Putin:  No.

Margarita Simonyan: Thank you. The next question will be from Maria Finoshina, who’s sitting right next to you. She is a war correspondent on RT English. She has spent 56 days in a row in war-time Syria recently, isn’t that right?

Maria Finoshina: Almost. It was 54 days.

Margarita Simonyan: She went on air every day without fail.

Vladimir Putin:  As RT’s CEO, you should know that this isn’t right.

Maria Finoshina: It was my own initiative, Mr President.

Vladimir Putin:  No, I’m serious here. Some friends of mine, including your colleagues from European countries, professionals who dedicated their life to journalism, believe that. One of them told me that you cannot keep a reporter in a warzone for that long. The reason for that is because people…

Maria Finoshina: Start to lose touch with reality.

Vladimir Putin: Exactly, lose touch with reality and lose the sense of danger.

Maria Finoshina: That’s very true.

Vladimir Putin: You have to pull reporters out.

 

RT photo / Semyon Khorunzhy

RT photo / Semyon Khorunzhy

Margarita Simonyan: I’ve called you so many times and told you to come back! Honestly.

Maria Finoshina: But I’ve already lost my sense of danger…

Margarita Simonyan: I started calling her on day 20, telling her, “Masha, how are you doing over there? Get back!”, but she said no, she had more stories to shoot.

Vladimir Putin: This is very risky, it’s no joke.

Margarita Simonyan: Of course. Most of us have been to hot spots at some point, and it’s very dangerous. Maria, the floor is yours.

Maria Finoshina: Thank you very much, Margarita. Hello, Mr Putin, we are very happy to see you here, in our new home. Something seemed to be missing here at first, but now it’s become much cozier.

I was introduced as a war correspondent. Some people believe that all correspondents are, in a way, invisible soldiers, so to say. Over the last two years we had to work in warzones, where the war was very real. I’ve spent a lot of time in Syria – 54 days just recently – we travelled across the country, visited practically every town and village. We also went to neighbouring countries, which in majority of cases did not support al-Assad’s regime. The thing that struck me most was that over time more and more people were becoming involved in the conflict. We’ve talked to a huge number of completely different people. Now, two years later, there is no single person standing on the sidelines. One way or another, the conflict affected everyone. The people we talked to were very different, I mean, we talked to, for example, widows of military officers of the Syrian Army and their children, who would maybe prefer not to be involved, but it’s impossible. Their fathers have been killed, and they must seek revenge. Perhaps they don’t want to, but they must – it’s a matter of honour. We also talked to rebels, both Syrian and non-Syrian, who were living in Syria and other places, for example, in Europe, Turkey, and Jordan. They were in very high spirits at first, very optimistic, but then they started complaining that the West had forgotten and betrayed them. They wanted more money and more weapons. As you’ve highlighted yourself, Bashar al-Assad is no angel, and we met with people who openly hated him. I remember seeing this old man in a hotel in Damascus where the UN observers were staying. He was a shoe polisher, and he kept doing his job, mechanically going through the familiar motions, and the only thing he was thinking about is when the happy news that Bashar al-Assad is gone – either dead or no longer president – would reach it. He has been hating al-Assad vigorously ever since 1982, for what his father did to the city of Hama.

In Lebanon we managed to contact arms dealers who ship weaponry into Syria. They told us that they didn’t care in the slightest who got those guns and who got killed as a result. They said, “We are businessmen, we care only about money”. We talked to young boys, about 11-12 years old, who were given these guns – maybe they even came from Lebanon – put in front of cameras in their scarves and made to read aloud the words that someone else wrote. Nasty business. Well, you know, children are being used in this conflict.

 

RT photo / Semyon Khorunzhy

RT photo / Semyon Khorunzhy

We have seen so much, and during our time there we became part of it. The horrifying part is that it doesn’t matter where any of these people were in March 2011, when it all began. Now it feels like they’ve crossed a critical line of sorts, losing hope and faith – in themselves and other people, perhaps even humankind as a whole, in kindness and justice. And they’ve become angry, really angry at everyone. So, coming to my question – there are people who are really angry at Russia. Some people feel that way because they think Russia is doing nothing in order to stop the bloodshed. Others are angry at Russia for supporting al-Assad and supplying weapons. And everyone’s expecting something from Russia, hoping for something. And it’s not limited to the Syrian conflict, it happens every time – in Serbia, in Kosovo; everyone’s asking where Russia is. The same is true for Iran, where we’ve been just recently, and even in Mali they ask about Russia. So, as the president of this country, I would like to ask you a question on behalf of these people.

Vladimir Putin: You mean me as the president or you as the president?

Maria Finoshina:  No, no (laughter). I meant to say I wanted to ask you, as the president.

Vladimir Putin: Who are these people? (laughter)

Maria Finoshina: What should I tell these people?

Vladimir Putin: That was such a long question, so I’ll try to be concise. First of all, you mentioned I once said that Bashar al-Assad was no angel. I said no such thing, as I try to be very careful about the way I put things. What I did say, however, is that the country was obviously ripe for some kind of change, drastic change. The country’s leadership should have realised this and started implementing the necessary reforms. It’s obvious that had they done that, what we see now in Syria wouldn’t have happened. That was my first point. Secondly, I said that we’re not advocates of the current Syrian government or the country’s current president, Bashar al-Assad. And one more thing – what we wouldn’t want to do is get involved in the conflict among various denominations of Islam, between Sunni and Shia. This is their internal issue. We have very good relations with the Arab world, and we have good relations with Iran and other countries.

So I will tell you what we are concerned about and why we assumed our current stance. Look at the region as a whole. There’s still unrest in Egypt. There’s no stability in Iraq, and there’s no certainty that it will stay united within its current borders in the future. There’s no stability in Yemen, and Tunisia is far from peaceful. Libya is suffering from clashes between various ethnic and tribal groups. So the region as a whole finds itself in a state of, at the very least, uncertainty and conflicts. And now Syria joined the rest.

In my opinion, this is happening because some people from the outside believe that if the region were to be brought in compliance with a certain idea – an idea that some calls democracy – then peace and stability would ensue. That’s not how it works. You can’t ignore this region’s history, traditions and religious beliefs, and you can’t just interfere. Look at what happened in Libya. Whether the regime was good or bad, the living standards in the country were the highest in the region. And what do we have now? There’s fighting over resources, incessant clashes between tribes, and no one knows where that might lead.

We are very concerned that if we try the same thing with Syria, the result will be similar. Is the pocket of uncertainty between Afghanistan and Pakistan not enough? No one is controlling that territory, except militants who set up their bases there. Is that what we want? It’s very close to our borders. So this is our primary concern.

Secondly, we are concerned over the future of all ethnic and religious groups living in Syria. We want this country to have lasting peace and security, with the people’s interests and rights guaranteed. So we believe that first of all the Syrian people are to be given an opportunity to decide how their state should be organized, how their lawful rights, interests and security should be ensured. When there is consensus on these issues, systemic change should take place, not vice versa, when you eliminate some forces and try to establish order, and chaos engulfs the country instead.

There’s a question our Western counterparts fail to answer. One of the main armed opposition groups – specialists in Arab countries will correct me if I’m wrong – is called the Al-Nusra Front. The US State Department dubbed it a terrorist organization connected with Al-Qaeda. The Al-Nusra itself doesn’t make a secret out of it. So these are the people what will make up Syria’s future government? Our Western counterparts say that it will not happen. “How will you get rid of them, then? Chase them away like flies?” I ask. “No,” they say. So what is going to happen? They say they don’t know.

 

 

RT photo / Semyon Khorunzhy

RT photo / Semyon Khorunzhy

This is no joke, though, this is very serious. I’ll give you another example. On the one hand, some Western countries support some organizations that are at war with Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, but these same Western countries fight these same organisations in Mali. They’re not even the same organisations – they are the same people. Some have left Syria and come to Mali. The West is fighting them in Mali, but once they cross the border into Syria, they get support from the West. What is the logic in all of this? Where will it take us? You need to understand, this is not just rhetoric.

I very much hope that the current initiatives, such as the one put forward by the Egyptian president – we have recently met in Sochi, and he proposed the countries of the region take a more active part in resolving the conflict – and by the British Prime Minister, who believes the permanent members of the UN Security Council need to be more involved, and the joint initiative of Russia and the United States, that the Russian Foreign Ministry and the US State Department have been working on together, I hope that this will enable us to resolve the Syrian conflict.

Margarita Simonyan: Irina Galushko is a correspondent of RT English, too. She has travelled a lot, and became one of the first in Japan to cover the Fukushima disaster.

Irina Galushko: My question will not be dealing with Fukushima. Recently we have spent a lot of time in Europe, covering all kinds of demonstrations. There are a lot of protests in Europe, and we can say that there are mostly young people on the streets. They take part in demonstrations because they have nothing to do –  the have got an education or they are still students, but they can’t find a job. They don’t have any prospects for the future at all, let alone a promising one. So of course they are dissatisfied – they take to the streets and voice their protest against what is going on in their countries. Meanwhile the governments of those European states believe that the only solution is austerity measures – they tighten the screws, especially in terms of the social obligations. They tell those young people to wait for some ten or fifteen years, promising that maybe after that period the situation will probably get better. Do you think this the right approach? If no – then, does Russia have a recipe how to deal with this?

Vladimir Putin: It is a correct approach for them.

Irina Galushko: And what about Russia?

Vladimir Putin: It is incorrect for us – we have got different economies. Russia is a developing economy and a developing market, while Europe mostly consists of well-developed, advanced economies, the state of which is different in each country. The Russian economy is rather healthy, and, I must say, it is unburdened by an external debt the way it is in Europe or the USA.

The average national debt across Europe is about 90 per cent, and the USA is well over 100 per cent. They have a high unemployment rate. All of the budgets are deficit-ridden. So not only do they have a huge national debt, but also a massive budget deficit. Russia’s external debt is 2.5 per cent, our overall debt is 10 per cent. Russia is deficit free, our unemployment rate is 5.6 per cent, whereas in some European countries it reaches 25-26 per cent, and among young people it is up to 40 or sometimes even 60 per cent. It is a disaster. So we are in different situations. Obviously, Russia can use the so-called oil-money and rely on oil and gas exports. But I’d like to note that we don’t use monetary mission – we don’t print more money in reserve currencies the way they do in the Western countries. So it’s not just about Russia having oil and gas reserves, but it’s rather about Russia restricting its spending. The Central Bank of Russia is often criticized for high interest rates – I guess it is about 8 or 8.5 per cent at the moment, or maybe 8.25 per cent. It doesn’t matter – it is still high, while in the USA, for instance, it is 0.25 per cent, if I’m not mistaken. Europe has similar rates, too. Some say Russia should have the same numbers as well, but the Central Bank is keeping its rates this high in order to avoid financial bubbles. Of course, we could provide cheap loans, low-interest credits, which would be used by manufacturers to produce some goods that would not be much in demand later on. So you have a bubble that is about to erupt. The highest performance is finding balance between having a more liberal monetary policy and toughening spending cuts, in a way that would ensure maximum growth. I don’t think we are there yet. I believe we are not that efficient in everything we do as a government. I do hope that following our repeated meetings Russian government will make an effort and come up with some additional proposals to stimulate the economic growth and business activity in Russia.

Speaking of which, one of such measures is something we use constantly, for which we get criticized by our counterparts – liberal economists: that is active support of growth in real income of the population. Last year it was about 4.5-4.6 per cent, and beginning February through April this year it has gone up to over 5 per cent. That is the growth of actual income of the population, which implies an increase in domestic demand. So the conditions we find ourselves in are different. Generally, I do share the viewpoint of some of our European colleagues who suggest we should consolidate budgets and bring discipline to the economy to get out of the crisis. Still, everything has its boundaries, and we can’t shift the entire burden to the shoulders of the population.

 

RT photo / Semyon Khorunzhy

RT photo / Semyon Khorunzhy

 

Margarita Simonyan: Daniel Bushell, the presenter of one of our shows in English. Western media such as Foreign Policy and New Statesman often comment that he is too critical of the mainstream view on the world. I think it’s really so. Daniel, the floor is yours.

Daniel Bushell: Mr. Putin, I’d like to hear your opinion on multiculturalism. Not long ago, the leaders of the European Union admitted reluctantly that their experiment with multiculturalism failed. When I lived and studied in England, and then worked in France and Belgium as an RT reporter it was evident that the local residents and immigrants had little in common. Over the last years Russia’s been facing the same issue of mass immigration. I’d like to ask, how can Russia avoid the same mistakes that the EU has made in the issue of immigration?

Vladimir Putin: We have different starting positions with the West. In the Western Europe and, by the way, partially in the United States all these migration problems are, in my view, more severe; they are more explicit and more dangerous. As we know, Western Europe and the United States have to deal with people who come from different countries and who find it difficult to assimilate in their new homeland. They fail to learn the local language, they fail to speak it, and they fail to find their way in the labour market.

One of my Western European counterparts once told me that immigrants from, say, North Africa would live in a new country for ten years and still fail to speak the local language. In that instance he was referring to Spanish. And what about Russian immigrants? I guess they’re doing better now, but those who immigrated to the United States back in 1980s and 1990s… Someone I know once was visiting an area where Russian immigrants have been settling…

Comment: Brighton Beach.

Vladimir Putin: Exactly. So there was an old lady who’s lived there for 15 years, and didn’t speak English. She was telling her guests that tomorrow she would go shopping in New York. She didn’t even realize she was living in New York.

So it is a general problem which is related primarily to the economy and to the need to attract a cheap labour force. Actually the same thing is happening in Russia. But in our country, despite how acute this problem is, it’s still not as severe and dangerous as it is in Europe and in the States. Why?

If we speak about immigrants, i.e. citizens of other countries in Russia, most migrants come here from different parts of the former Soviet Union. This new generation might not be speaking good Russian but their families do one way or another. We still do share a common mentality, a common historic memory. Some of them or perhaps their relatives may have lived in the regions of Russia. These factors make it much easier for these people to integrate in the lives of those ethnic groups where they are resettling for permanent residence.

Nonetheless, even in Russia we should make more efforts in preparing those people who are willing to come and live to Russia. As we’ve said, we should set up Russian language and history classes in those former republics, in those new states – so far we haven’t done a very good job at it. This way we would help people understand each other better from the start.

And of course we need to educate our citizens or those aspiring to become Russian citizens in a sense of responsibility. We have to help them realize that they are in a different country now and so they have to observe our traditions and our laws; they have to respect our culture and our history.

This is an entire separate field of work. It used to be ignored in the past but now we need to pay attention to this matter, and we need to contribute more centralized efforts to it.

As for the domestic migration, it also is a complicated issue. Back in the Soviet Union, there used to be a domicile registration (propiska). Those who violated it were thrown in jail or banished beyond 101 km from large urban centers.

 

RIA Novosti / Sergey Guneev

RIA Novosti / Sergey Guneev

This situation is much more complicated now. The Russian Constitution delegitimizes propiska, so we need more modern mechanisms to regulate this matter. But let me repeat that we do have an advantage in our country that we are a multiethnic people, and we are an integrated civilization as a whole.   

Margarita Simonyan: Speaking of immigrants… We have an immigrant in our midst – Jelena Milincic. She works on RT Spanish, but she is actually from Serbia.

Jelena Milincic: Yes, I am from Serbia, and I have lived in Russia for 11 years. I can say that Russia has become my second home, but I still don’t have Russian citizenship. And if I file for citizenship now, the process will take at least 5 or 6 years.

But in order to do that, I need to own an apartment, for example. In order to get an apartment, I have to take out mortgage, but I have to be a Russian citizen for that. It is a vicious cycle. So seems that in the West, where this is a more serious issue, like you said…

Vladimir Putin: It’s easier to get citizenship, than in Russia

Jelena Milincic:  That’s why it’s a more serious issue, because it’s easier to get citizenship. Will anything change in Russia in this respect?

Vladimir Putin: We have to be very careful here, making sure we protect the interests of the majority. Our country is Russia, and 85% of our citizens consider themselves Russians. Other people groups living on our territories are closer to us than those living outside Russia. These are our indigenous people. And there are over 120 ethnicities indigenous to Russia. You’ve lived here for 11 years? But it takes 5-6 years to get citizenship you said. You should’ve filed already.

Jelena Milincic: I have to have residence registration for that.

Vladimir Putin: You could’ve bought some basic housing…

Jelena Milincic: But how can I take out mortgage?

Vladimir Putin: I think if you really wanted to become a citizen, you could’ve bought a room in an apartment outside Moscow, just to meet necessary requirements to file for citizenship and observe the formalities.

Jelena Milincic:  Isn’t the fact that I have’s lived and worked here for 11 years enough?

Vladimir Putin: It is. I think you are right. We do have to adjust our immigration policies in some cases.
We have to welcome professionals like you. You are a young and beautiful woman. I am sorry, but it is true that you are a woman of childbearing age. Your boss here sets a good example, by the way… Some countries, Canada, for example, have special programs to attract certain categories of people from other countries. Unfortunately, our system is very outdated in this respect. There have been some developments in this area. There are initiatives to make the citizenship procedure easier for certain categories of people from the former Soviet Union. But as a whole, our immigration policy lacks flexibility. It has to protect interests of Russian citizens, but it also needs to allow for an inflow of specialists that our country needs. So you are absolutely right, and like I said, the government is working on that.

 

Margarita Simonyan (L) and Sophie Shevardnadze (RT photo / Semyon Khorunzhy)

Margarita Simonyan (L) and Sophie Shevardnadze (RT photo / Semyon Khorunzhy)

Margarita Simonyan: Sophie Shevardnadze, presenter and show host on RT English, has Russian citizenship. Authorities were more flexible in her case.

Sophie Shevardnadze:
It didn’t happen right away though.

Margarita Simonyan: Yes, she had to jump through hoops first. Sophie, our presenter and show host.

Sophie Shevardnadze: I have lived here for 8 years. Mr. Putin, I work in Moscow, but I was born in Tbilisi and grew up in Georgia. I wouldn’t be honest if I said that I wasn’t concerned about the relations between Russia and Georgia. This is something that I care about on a deep personal level.

Do you think there is a chance that these relations will return to normal in the near future? As we know, Georgian athletes will come to the Sochi Olympics, and Tbilisi is even ready to help with security issues during the Olympics.

Vladimir Putin:  I have talked about this on many occasions, voicing Russia’s opinion. I think that President Saakashvili made a big mistake. We have discussed it with him several times, so I don’t think he would deny this. I used to tell him, “Mr. Saakashvilli, whatever you do, please make sure there is no bloodshed.” To which he would always respond, “Of course not! We will be patient and try to work things out with Abkhazia and South Ossetia.” Unfortunately, it all ended up in a war.

Many of your colleagues, especially in Europe, the US, and Georgia itself, often blame Russia. But I think any unbiased observer would agree that Russia had nothing to do with this. This ethnic conflict has been going on for decades or even centuries. And people in Georgia are well aware of this. They know about what happened in 1919, in 1921. They know about relationships between people groups.

They had to have patience and political wisdom if they wanted to build relations with South Ossetia and Abkhazia as part of one state. Unfortunately, they failed. Russia reacted to what was going on at the time, and eventually this response led us to recognizing independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. I can’t imagine how this could be reversed, it’s simply impossible.

But this is also the red line that Georgia cannot cross. Because for Tbilisi this is a strife to restore its territorial integrity. This is a complicated issue that has to be dealt with very carefully. And it requires not just a competent solution, but there must be a will to solve this issue on the basis of respect towards interests of all people who live on those territories.

Here is what I think. If interests of all people living on those territories are considered and respected, and this respect becomes a basis for solutions, this might become a long-term fix. But it can only be done by people living there, no decision should be imposed from the outside.

As for the new government of Georgia deciding to participate in the Olympics and make other reconciliation steps, it’s not lost on us. We appreciate those steps and respond in the same manner, as you have probably noticed.

Sophie Shevardnadze: Would you be willing to accept the help they offer? I mean security assistance…

Vladimir Putin: Of course, we are ready to work with Georgia. We want to restore relations with Georgia, we like Georgia. We have close ties with Georgians. You live here, you have Russian citizenship. And how many Georgians live in Russia? We are proud of their contribution, we see them as our own people.

Margarita Simonyan: Many.

Vladimir Putin: I won’t go back as far as the War of 1812, we all know which war general I am talking about. Georgians did great things for Russia back then, during the Soviet period, and they are still doing them now… So we are very close culturally and otherwise. Not to mention the religious aspect. I have met with the Catholics…

Sophie Shevardnadze: Ilia II.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, he is a very kind person and a true Georgian. The whole time he kept talking about the interests of Georgians. But there was so much wisdom in what he had to say, and his tone was very gentle and calm.

As you know, we have decided to allow Georgian products back on the Russian market. We understand that this may not be the key issue, but it is still a very important step that will help Georgia’s economy. We will continue developing our relations, but the most important and complicated issues have to be solved by people living there through a dialogue and without any external pressure.

Sophie Shevardnadze: Can I ask a simpler question? It’s about visas. A couple of years ago I asked Dmitry Medvedev this same question. And he basically said that while Saakashvili was in office, there was not going to be any progress in this area.

What needs to happen, so that my relatives, my close ones can freely visit me in Moscow, just like my Russian friends go to Georgia without any visas?

 

RT photo / Semyon Khorunzhy

RT photo / Semyon Khorunzhy

Vladimir Putin: If we work together fighting crime and terror, it will become possible. I don’t think I will reveal a big secret by saying that terrorists often get to Russia’s Caucasus region from Georgia.

When 6-7 years ago we had to attack Georgian territories, those were not just strikes on Georgia, we targeted militant groups that came very close to Sochi – they were only 30 km away. Do you realize how serious the situation was?

Margarita Simonyan: You mean the Kodori Gorge?

Vladimir Putin: No, the Kodori Gorge was a different situation. In any case, Georgian police vehicles were transporting the militants to the Russian border. So we had to take some pre-emptive measures. And I informed the president about this. We don’t want to see this ever happen again. We want to work with Georgia, want to restore relations. Again, if we begin to work with law enforcement and security agencies, this would be the first step towards cancelling visas.

Margarita Simonyan: Thank you. Salam Adil is Deputy Editor-in-Chief with RT Arabic. Salam, you have the microphone.

Salam Adil: Thank you, Margarita. Actually, I have only occupied my present position for a week. Before that, I spent twenty years working as a reporter. I’ve travelled practically all over the world, including many conflict areas. I haven’t lost my sense of danger in the process, and that’s why I’m still alive.

Vladimir Putin: Thank God.

Salam Adil: Yes, thank God.

Vladimir Putin: God bless you.

Salam Adil: Thank you very much. And my question concerns conflicts, too. I mean to ask you about drones.

Margarita Simonyan: Unmanned aerial vehicles.

Salam Adil: As you know, America employs drones to deliver airstrikes, almost on a daily basis. This happens especially often in Pakistan and a few other countries – you have already mentioned the explosive situation we are seeing at the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Drones are arguably a very convenient means of warfare: there is no direct engagement, and no risk for your rank and file. It’s all remote controlled, like a computer game. However, and this is something we see in the news almost every day, this kind of warfare is fraught with massive casualties among civilians. So, on the one hand, drones are efficient in combat, but on the other hand, we are all aware of collateral damage. The public in many countries have found this shocking, and there has already been a motion for imposing an international ban on using drones. I would like to ask you about Russia’s attitude on this issue. Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Gunpowder was originally invented in China, and no one has managed to keep it from spreading ever since. Then came nuclear arms, and they also started to spread. Modern means of warfare keep evolving, and they always will. I doubt if it’s possible to simply ban it all. But you certainly can – and should – introduce certain rules and exercise control. I’m sure the United States does not target civilians on purpose. And the drone operators you’ve mentioned are people, too, and I think they understand all those things. But you still need to combat terrorism. I know they are currently debating this issue in the United States, and a notion is being advocated increasingly often within the UN framework that you need to put drones under control, you need to lay out certain rules of engagement in order to prevent or minimize collateral casualties. It is extremely important. I don’t know whether our [Western] counterparts will choose this option, but I would suggest it would be in their best interest. However, there are other threats, too. For example, they are presently debating the option of using non-nuclear ballistic missiles in the United States. Can you imagine how potentially dangerous that is? What if such a missile were to launch from somewhere in the middle of an ocean, and get spotted by a nuclear power’s early warning system? How should that nuclear power react to a missile coming its way? How are they supposed to know whether that missile comes with a nuclear warhead or not? What if the missile impacts right next to its border, or inside its territory? Do you realize how perilous that can be? Or take the notion of low-yield nuclear weapons – do you realize how badly it can blur the very notion of using nuclear arms, or how low it might bring down the threshold for authorizing such a strike? Can you imagine the possible implications? Where are the limits for lowering that threshold, and who is setting them? There are many threats in the world of today, and there is only one way to address them efficiently: that is, working together within the boundaries of international law.

 

RT photo / Semyon Khorunzhy

RT photo / Semyon Khorunzhy

Margarita Simonyan: And now I would like to give the floor to Peter Lavelle, who is the presenter of one of our most popular shows CrossTalk. Peter has worked with RT since its very beginning. He will be speaking in English and I will translate the question for you.

Peter Lavelle: Thank you.

Margarita Simonyan: Shall I translate it for you?

Vladimir Putin: No. Well, every opposition can prove useful. You just mentioned Occupy Wall Street. At a certain point we saw the police cracking down on the Occupy Wall Street activists. I won’t call the actions of police appropriate or inappropriate. My point is that every opposition movement is good and useful if they act within law. If they don’t like the law, they should use democratic ways to change those laws. They should win voters on their side, they should get elected into legislatures so that they have a chance to influence the laws. This is the way to change things on the ground. If there are people who act outside the law, then the state must use legal means to impose law in the interests of majority. That’s the way it’s done in the US, and that’s the way it’s done in Russia.

Truth be told, we are grilled for that, but when the same thing happens in the US, it is considered to be normal. Never mind, these are double standards and we have got accustomed and pay little attention to it.

Margarita Simonyan: When it happens in the US, RT grills America.

Vladimir Putin: Way to go! Everyone must be treated in the same fashion. Because these situations are identical. The only difference is that our diplomatic missions don’t actively cooperate with

Occupy Wall Street, and your diplomatic mission works together and directly supports Russian opposition. I think this is wrong because diplomatic missions must forge ties between states and not meddle with their domestic politics.

Getting back to popular movements. Reckless behavior is not appreciated by people. If these activists are breaking the law, then it’s illegal. If they express their will by legal means, without breaking the law then they are fully entitled to do that. Then it would be beneficial to any state because it’s a way to provide grassroots feedback on state policies – social, domestic or foreign ones.

As for Mr Kudrin, he is my long-standing associate. We see eye-to-eye on many vital issues of Russia’s development. But that’s for an obvious reason – we’ve known each other for a long time now. We worked together back in St. Petersburg, and then he became a member of the cabinet and proved to be one of the most efficient ministers. I have always backed him on key decisions. If I didn’t he wouldn’t have been able to work, to implement those ideas and principles that he promoted. So to a certain extent that was our joint policy. He has his own view on certain things. It so happened that they had a disagreement with Mr Medvedev on a number of issues and since Mr Medvedev was president, he had the right to take the decision that he eventually took.

Today Alexey Kudrin says that he is ready to re-join the executive branch if the authorities were more decisive. But he is quite reluctant to specify what he means by being more decisive when I ask him to. Why? Because ‘more decisive’ means ‘taking tougher steps’, for example, in terms of the pension reform, in terms of raising the retirement age. No-one, including the opposition, wants to speak about to the public. They think it’s the right way but they don’t want to talk loudly about the issue.

Also, taking tougher steps on other issues, like slashing budget expenditures, and social spending, first of all. Many of our liberal economists think that our social expenditures are too high, that we raise salaries and pensions and social benefits too fast. They point out that the growth in real disposable income is unjustified – last year we had a 4.2 percent increase, and it’s been up 5.9 percent during the four months of this year already. They argue that salaries are growing faster that labour efficiency, which is bad and dangerous for the economy. There’s no denying it, and they are absolutely right. But maybe it’s best not to decrease real disposable incomes but rather to improve our labour efficiency? Russians often say that the goal is not to expand the amount of the wealthy people but rather to reduce the amount of the poor. That’s a very hard thing, but the best part of the opposition has admitted that in private and professional meetings with us. But publicly they are afraid to speak about it. And this is wrong. I have told them many times now. If you stick to some idea, you have to be straightforward about it. Don’t be afraid that some part of the nation won’t like it. If we are to rally a bigger support for your ideas, you have to stick to your principles to expand your electoral base. Look at today’s Western Europe. They brought their countries on the precipice of bankruptcy, but whenever they talk of lower salaries, people are up in arms. So it would have made more sense to increase your social spending and debt more gradually. Also, it would have been great for the authorities if there had been someone who could have told them about it. I don’t think our social spending is too high, I don’t think that we increase pensions, salaries and social benefits too much. But generally, Mr Kudrin and the likes of him have a point to make, and we need to listen to them. It’s a very useful thing. So I believe that an opposition that has national interest at heart will be in demand.

 

RT photo / Semyon Khorunzhy

RT photo / Semyon Khorunzhy

Margarita Simonyan: Next question is from Oksana Boyko, the presenter of our new show. She moved into presenting after several years of reporting for RT, she, too, went to many war zones.

Oksana Boyko: My question is a follow-up to your previous reply, concerning principles and a principled position. I would like, however, to apply these notions to the Iranian issue. Iran will be holding a presidential election soon. I know that Russia doesn’t like to meddle with domestic politics of other countries that’s why my question would be as general as possible. It’s more of a philosophical kind. To me, Iran is a great example of how you can create extreme tension in mutual relations by blowing out of proportion some insignificant differences. The Iranian nuclear issue that everyone’s been talking about for the last decade basically relies only on some vague suspicions which, year after year, have been dismissed even by Americans themselves. But that rhetoric has ignored the fact that Iran has been compliant with the nonproliferation regime by 99 or even 100 percent. The mainstream focus is on suspicions, but at the core, as I see it, is the relationship between the US and Iran. Tehran is partially to blame for the tension buildup, but the root of the problem is the stance of Washington, their signature foreign policy principle – friend and foe divide, meaning that if you are not their ally, you are their enemy. And it seems that the level of tolerance to dissent is quite low, and when it drops too much, we see threats of war based on groundless suspicions, as is the case with Iran, or assistance to war, as is the case with Syria.

Russia has a good record of avoiding tension in relations with other countries. Your public statements indicate that you know the cost of enmity or, rather, open confrontation. However, I believe that Russia and the US have ideological, fundamental differences, on the use of force in particular, that no private meetings can resolve. It all stems from the national idea of the US. They believe they have a higher responsibility, which is actually just a bigger right. So where is this line for you between avoiding an all-out confrontation that could have an impact on Russian security and maintaining our principled position, which could, too, be critical to our security?

Vladimir Putin: I didn’t quite get – was it a punch at the US or Iran?

Margarita Simonyan: She’s our tough guy.

Vladimir Putin: A response to your question could take hours. It’s so complex. I will try to be as concise as possible. First, I have repeatedly voiced Russia’s official stance – Iran has the right for a peaceful nuclear program and it cannot be singled out for discrimination. Second, we need to be aware that Iran is located in a very challenging region. I have told our Iranian partners about that. That’s why Iranian threats made towards neigbouring countries, in particular Israel, threats that Israel can be destroyed, are absolutely unacceptable. This is counterproductive.

Oksana Boyko:  This is not a proper quote of the Iranian president.

Vladimir Putin: It doesn’t quite matter whether it’s a proper quote or not. It means it’s best to avoid a wording that could be improperly quoted or could be interpreted differently. That’s why the focus on Iran does have a reason behind it. I have no doubts that Iran is compliant with the rules, simply because there is no proof of the opposite. According to the latest IAEA report, Iran has been abiding by the commitments it has taken up. True, there are some outstanding issues but with due patience and friendly attitudes, they can be resolved.

I have a great respect to Iran and a great interest in it. This is a great country indeed. You don’t often hear this attribute mentioned in relation to Iran but this is true. This is a country with a great culture, a great history and a great nation. They are very proud of their country, they have their own understanding of their place both in the region and in the world, and that’s something you have to respect. You have grasped the core of the problems. Iranians are very smart and cunning politicians. To a certain degree, they have exploited this confrontation with the United States.

 

RT photo / Semyon Khorunzhy

RT photo / Semyon Khorunzhy

Oksana Boyko: They are not the only ones. 

Vladimir Putin: They are extremely crafty in this, and they do it to tackle their domestic political issues. When there is an external enemy, it united the nation. But I guess the United States have been employing the same technique. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, there have been no external threats that would allow Washington to dominate in the West. There must be a threat so that the US can protect their allies from it. This position yields political and economic benefits. If everyone relies on one country for protection, then this country is entitled to some preferences. So it’s very important to possess this status of a global defender to be able to resolve issues even beyond the realm of foreign policy and security issues. I think the US has been using Iran for this very purpose, that is to unite their allies in the face of a real or fake threat.

It’s quite a complicated issue but it’s not an issue for Russia. We have been complying with our international commitments, including on Iran’s peaceful nuclear program. As you know, Russia built the Bushehr power plant in Iran, we have completed this project and are prepared for further cooperation. Yet when we proposed to enrich uranium on the Russian territory, our Iranian partners refused, for reasons unknown to us. They argue that they will enrich uranium on their own in line with existing international regulations. And, as I said earlier, if they don’t break any rules, they are fully entitled to do that. We will endorse this right but we will also remain aware of the concerns that other states and the international community has concerning full compliance with these rules.

Oksana Boyko: Can I clarify something? The thing is, I was asking you not only about the US-Iranian relations but also about the US-Russian relations. Would you agree that we have fundamental ideological differences on key issues of international law?

Vladimir Putin: So right on the eve of my meeting with Barack Obama, you are pushing me to make some serious statements…

Oksana Boyko: It is a very important issue. If the country thinks it has more rights that others…

Vladimir Putin: I thought you wouldn’t notice my deviation. But you did. Indeed, you are very persistent. To date, we don’t have any significant ideological differences. But we do have fundamental cultural differences. Individualism lies at the core of the American identity while Russia has been a country of collectivism. One student of Pushkin legacy has formulated this difference very aptly. Take Scarlett O’Hara from ‘Gone with the Wind’  for instance. She says ‘I’ll never be hungry again’. This is the most important thing for her. Russians have different, far loftier ambitions, more of a spiritual kind, it’s more about your relationship with God. We have different visions of life. That’s why it is very difficult to understand each other but it is still possible.

Oksana Boyko: That’s why there is international law to create a level playing field for everyone.

Vladimir Putin: The US is a democratic state, there’s no doubt about that, and it has originally developed as a democratic state. When the first settlers set their foot on this continent, life forced them to forge a relationship and maintain a dialogue with each other to survive. That’s why America was initially conceived as a fundamental democracy. With that in mind, we should not forget that America’s development began with a large-scale ethnic cleansing, unprecedented in human history. I wouldn’t like to delve so deeply into it, but you are forcing me to do it.

When Europeans arrived in America, that was the first thing they did. And you have to be honest about it. There are not so many stories like that in human history. Take the destruction of Carthage by the Roman Empire. The legend has it that Romans plowed over and sowed the city with salt so that nothing will ever grow there. Europeans didn’t use the salt because they used the land for agriculture but they wiped out the indigenous population. Then there was slavery, and that’s something that is deeply ingrained in America. In his memoirs, US Secretary of State Colin Powell revealed how hard it was for him as a black man to grow his way up, how hard it was to live with other people staring at you. It means this mentality has taken root in the hearts and minds of the people, and is likely to be still there.

Now take the Soviet Union. We know a lot about Stalin now. We know him as a dictator and a tyrant. But still I don’t think that in the spring of 1945 Stalin would have used a nuclear bomb against Germany, if he had had one. He could have done it in 1941 or 1942 when it was a matter of life or death. But I really doubt that he would have done it in 1945 when the enemy had almost given up and had absolutely no chance to reverse the trend. I don’t think he would. Now look at the US. They dropped the bomb on Japan, a country that was a non-nuclear state and was very close to defeat.
So there are big differences between us. But it’s quite natural that people with such differences are determined to finding ways to understand each other better. I don’t think there is an alternative. Moreover, it’s not by chance that Russia and the US forged an alliance in the most critical moments of modern history – that was the case in WW1 and WW2. Even if there was fierce confrontation, our countries united in the face of a common threat, which means there is something that unites us. There must be some fundamental interests that bring us together. That’s something we need to focus on first. We need to be aware of our differences but focus on a positive agenda that can improve our cooperation.

Margarita Simonyan: America and Russia’s relations with the US are important issues for our network, largely because Americans make up most of our audience. That explains why you wouldn’t get that many questions about America from any other channel, particularly any Russian channel. If you simply look at our website’s hit statistics, you’ll see that most of our audience comes from America, so anything related to the US is a key topic for us. And here is Anastasia Churkina, who has specially come over from New York for this meeting. She works at our US-based channel, RT America, which caters to an American audience and focuses specifically on American issues. Is that right, Anastasia?

 

RT photo / Semyon Khorunzhy

RT photo / Semyon Khorunzhy

Anastasia Churkina: Yes, thank you. I’ve lived in New York for the past five years. You have mentioned the fundamental differences as well as the common features that Russia shares with the United States. I would like to go back to our diplomatic relations and the present issues of international law. When I meet American politicians and Russia experts these days, I often hear them acknowledge off-record that the Magnitsky Act has effectively come to replace the Jackson-Vanik amendment, which demonstrates the same outdated approach towards Russia. As we know, when Barack Obama met with Mr. Medvedev during the summit in Seoul last year, he made some hints, saying he would have more flexibility after re-election…

Oksana Boyko: I see you guys just won’t get off their backs, will you?

Peter Lavelle: This always happens.

Anastasia Churkina: This is the last question, I promise. Obama hinted that it would be easier for him to cooperate with Russia. However, that is not what we are seeing today. We’ve already touched upon many of our remaining issues with the US. Why do you think the reset has not worked? And can it ever take place in the first place as an equal, reciprocal process? Or is it that Russia is always expected to sacrifice its national interest?

Vladimir Putin: Any state pursues its national interests, and the US is no exception. What’s unique here is that the collapse of the Soviet Union left America as the world’s single leader. But there was a catch associated with it in that it began to view itself as an empire. But an empire is not only about foreign policy, it’s also about domestic policies. An empire cannot afford to display weakness, and any attempt to strike an agreement on equitable terms is often seen domestically as weakness. But the leadership cannot afford to display weakness due to domestic policy considerations. I think that the current administration realizes that it cannot solve the world’s major issues on its own. But first, they still want to do it, and second, they can only take steps that are fit for an empire. Domestic policy considerations play a huge role. Otherwise you would be accused of weakness. In order to act otherwise you either have to win overwhelming support or there must be a chance in mentality, when people will understand that it’s much more beneficial to look for compromises that to impose your will on everyone. But it certainly takes time to change those patterns of thinking in any country, in this case it’s the US. First and foremost, this change should take place in the minds of the ruling elite in the broad sense of this phrase. I don’t think that it’s impossible. I this we’ve almost come to that point. I very much hope we will reach it soon.

Margarita Simonyan: Thank you very much, Mr. Putin. The issues we have just discussed are the headlines on our air. It is not a classic interview – we wanted to talk to you on those problems that we talk about daily to our audience. Those are very much different from what you can hear in the Russian media – since they have a different audience – and from the interpretation of the Western media as well. We are different – we have different values and views on both Russia’s domestic issues and the world’s system on the whole. But I think it would be right to say that we share one view: there shouldn’t be one leader in the world that is running the show, and it applies to the media, too. And when all the TV channels say with one accord that the main headline of the day is that a NATO drone is shot down in Libya – there should be some other channel that will tell the world about a NATO shell that on the same day killed a family of 13 people there. We actually had such a story, when our coverage was completely different from the coverage of our colleagues. We do that and we are happy to have this opportunity, as that is what we believe in, given all the differences. That’s exactly what we tried to show you today – how and where we do it. Thank you very much for paying a visit.

Vladimir Putin:Thank you for the invitation. I would like to wish you all the best of luck. Thank you very much. Goodbye.

 

“We have a lot of evidence, which incriminates the US-NATO-Israeli backed al-Qaeda affiliated rebel forces, namely al-Nusrah, which is on the US State Department list of terrorist organizations.”

Press TV has conducted an interview with Michel Chossudovsky, Center for Research on Globalization, Montreal, on Barack Obama’s hypocritical statement claim that Syria uses chemical weapons on its people when US Special Forces train Syrian militants in CW use.

 

http://youtu.be/_IAC9G8oqtI

The following is an approximate transcript of the interview.

Press TV: How do you react to this announcement by Obama’s administration that they are now ready to arm these militants?

Chossudovsky: The US president is accusing Syria, namely the government of Bashar al-Assad, of having crossed the red line. But we have to ask ourselves, who has crossed the red line?

Barak Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are supporting a terrorist organization, which is on the US State Department list of terrorist organizations.

Following this announcement, the White House spokesman stated that it was the intelligence community, which assessed that the Assad regime was using chemical weapons.

This is a nonsensical statement because all the evidence that we have to date points to the fact that the rebels, namely al-Nusra, which is a terrorist organization, has chemical weapons in its possession.

And I’m referring to several reports: First of all, several months back there was a report, it was on CNN, to the effect that Western military or Special Forces were actually training opposition rebels in the use of chemical weapons in Jordan and Turkey. This was a report on CNN.

Subsequently, and that’s very recent, we had a United Nations Independent Commission, which actually accused the rebels of using chemical weapons.

They said that there was no evidence to the effect that the Syrian government was using chemical weapons against the civilian population, but there was evidence to be confirmed that the rebels had chemical weapons and that they were using them against civilians.

Then you had another statement by the Turkish general directorate of security, namely the Turkish police, and this is nearly a month ago, to the effect that police seized Sarin gas in the possession of al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists who were believed to be heading for Syria.

So we have a lot of evidence which incriminates the US-NATO-Israeli backed al-Qaeda affiliated rebel forces, namely al-Nusra, which is also on the US State Department list of terrorist organizations.

Press TV: Do you find it interesting that all of this is happening when the Syrian army is actually making significant gains in the country?

Chossudovsky: Precisely. In fact, the rebels, which are largely integrated by al-Qaeda affiliated forces, literally have been decimated and the last stronghold of the rebels in the border city with Lebanon, al-Qusayr, have been defeated and these so-called rebel strongholds have been taken back by Syrian forces.

I think that it would be highly unproductive at this stage to channel weapons to a defeated rebel army.

I should mention that much of this channeling of weapons and money to al-Qaeda in Syria goes through a rather notorious individual, the FSA (Free Syrian Army) Supreme Military Commander General Salim Idris.

The War Comes To Syria

June 16th, 2013 by Devon DB

It has recently been announced that the Obama administration has decided to go ahead and arm the Syrian rebels on the grounds that they have “obtained proof the Syrian government used chemical weapons against fighters trying to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.”[1]  Interestingly enough, up until this time, it has been noted by the UN that there is no clear evidence that either side had used chemical weapons.[2]

While it may seem that the Obama administration is doing this to aid the rebellion, there may also be other factors at play.

It first needs to be noted that this announcement is only new in that the US government is actually admitting that they are arming the Syrian rebels. It has been known for quite some time that the US and its allies have been arming the Syrian rebels, mainly indirectly on the part of the US[3], but there has been direct aid on the part of America’s allies. In February of last year, International Business Times reported that “Syrian rebel forces are already being armed and supplied by Western powers” and that

Syrian National Council member Bassma Kodmani said unidentified countries were already providing communications equipment, body armor and night-vision goggles to the Free Syrian Army, a move previously denied by Western governments.

According to the paper, Kodmani refused to reveal which countries were helping, but [s]he hinted that allies were also sending more lethal weapons such as rifles. 

Defensive and light equipment are what they are doing on the ground, she told the Telegraph. [4] (emphasis added)

Thus, the West has been arming the rebels for quite some time. Yet, at this moment the mainstream media is mainly discussing the admission that the US will openly be arming the Syrian rebels and stating that it is due to the “proof” the Obama administration has that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons.  While it is possible that the Assad regime did in fact use chemical weapons, we need to remain skeptical as the US has launched media wars before on governments that it opposed, such as the Gaddafi government, with the West stating that Gaddafi had bombed his own civilians and gave Viagra for his troops to rape women; when the conflict ended, it was found that Amnesty International “failed to find evidence for these human rights violations and in many cases has discredited or cast doubt on them. It also found indications that on several occasions the rebels in Benghazi appeared to have knowingly made false claims or manufactured evidence.”[5] (emphasis added) Thus, we should withhold judgment until the ‘proof’ is presented (if at all).

This sudden change in policy may have to do with much more than just the alleged use of chemical weapons. The change may have been “prompted by the realization that Syrian President Bashar Assad was on the cusp of gaining a permanent advantage over rebel groups and the fear of imminent sectarian bloodshed further spilling into neighboring Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon.”[6] It is quite evident that Assad may be gaining the upper hand in the conflict as Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (Federal Intelligence Agency in English), drastically changed its assessment of the Syrian conflict and they now believe that “the Syrian military of autocrat Bashar Assad is more stable than it has been in a long time and is capable of undertaking successful operations against rebel units at will.”[7]  The BND chief even stated that “Each new battle weakens the militias further.”[8] (emphasis added) The addition of Hezbollah is only enforcing this idea as it was reported just last week that the Syrian military and its allies in Hezbollah not only retook the key city of Qusair, but were still pushing northward.

Yet, there was also a question of perception of the US as what Obama’s aides were most concerned with “was the perception that world’s sole superpower was standing by while European allies shouldered the burden of trying to stop a dictator from murdering thousands of his own people.”[9] So it seems that partially the Obama administration was more concerned with PR rather than the Syrian people, whom they claim to care so much about.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t seem as if this will do any good for the Syrians as the rebels are extremely dependent upon radical Islamist groups[10] and both the rebels and the Assad government have been accused of committing war crimes.[11] The US arming the rebels will only lengthen the conflict and make it much deadlier and if the Assad regime does fall, it looks like the new one will be about the same.

The war has come to Syria and the people will continue to suffer.

Notes

1: Reuters, U.S. considers no-fly zone after Syria crosses nerve gas “red line”, http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/06/14/us-syria-crisis-idUSBRE95C16L20130614 (June 14, 2013)
2: Al Jazeera, UN: No clear proof of Syria chemical arms use, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2013/05/201356135529534687.html (May 6, 2013)
3: Erich Schmitt, “C.I.A. Said to Aid in Steering Arms to Syrian Opposition,” New York Times, June 21, 2012 (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/21/world/middleeast/cia-said-to-aid-in-steering-arms-to-syrian-rebels.html?pagewanted=all) 4: Oliver Tree, “Western Allies Arming Rebels in Syria, Opposition Claims, as Red Cross Reach Besieged Homs,” International Business Times, February 24, 2012 (http://www.ibtimes.com/western-allies-arming-rebels-syria-opposition-claims-red-cross-reach-besieged-homs-415842
5: Patrick Cockburn, “Amnesty questions claim that Gaddafi ordered rape as weapon of war,” The Independent, June 24, 2011 (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/amnesty-questions-claim-that-gaddafi-ordered-rape-as-weapon-of-war-2302037.html
6: Reid J. Epstein and Glenn Thrush, “Syria chemical weapons: President Obama’s forced hand,” Politico, June 13, 2013 (http://www.politico.com/story/2013/06/president-obama-syria-chemical-weapons-92782.html?hp=t1_s
7: Matthias Gebauer, “Syrian Rebels in Trouble: German Intelligence Sees Assad Regaining Hold,” Der Spiegel, May 22, 2013 (http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/german-intelligence-believes-assad-regime-regaining-lost-power-a-901188.html
8: Ibid
9: CBS, Assad’s troops in Syria, backed by Hezbollah, push rebels further north, http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-202_162-57588210/assads-troops-in-syria-backed-by-hezbollah-push-rebels-further-north/ (June 7, 2013)
10: Politico, June 13, 2013
11: David Enders, “Al Qaida-linked group Syria rebels once denied now key to anti-Assad victories,” McClatchy DC, December 2, 2012 (http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2012/12/02/176123/al-qaida-linked-group-syria-rebels.html#.UbtmbFSMKJD)
12: Zeina Karam, “Both Assad and rebels committing war crimes, atrocities a ‘daily reality’ in Syrian civil war: UN,” National Post, June 4, 2013 (http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/06/04/both-assad-and-rebels-committing-war-crimes-atrocities-a-daily-reality-in-syrian-civil-war-un/)

Devon DB is a 21 year old independent writer and researcher. He is currently the Politics/Government Department Chair at the Hampton Institute. He can be contacted at devondb[at]mail[dot]com.

On the basis of secret government directives, Canada’s national security apparatus is conducting mass surveillance of Canadians parallel to, if not directly patterned after, the domestic spying operations of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).

Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), the NSA’s Canadian counterpart and longstanding partner, has been scrutinizing the metadata of Canadians’ electronic communications since at least 2005.

Moreover, the NSA routinely provides Canada’s security agencies with intelligence on Canadians and CSEC reciprocates by providing U.S. intelligence officials with information about people living in the U.S. This arrangement allows both agencies to circumvent legal bans on warrantless surveillance of their own citizenry’s communications.

It was “common” for NSA “to pass on information about Canadians,” Wayne Easter, Canada’s Solicitor-General in 2002-3, told the Toronto Star this week. As Solicitor-General, Easter was responsible for overseeing the operations of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

The extent and scope of CSEC’s spying and who is being targeted and why are all zealously guarded state secrets. The CSEC functions under secret directives issued by the Minister of Defence—directives whose very existence is unknown to parliamentarians, let alone the public at large.

The Conservative government has responded to this week’s slight and very partial lifting of the veil on CSEC activities with a campaign of disinformation, dissembling and lies. This campaign has been facilitated by the opposition parties, especially the ostensibly leftwing New Democratic Party, and the corporate media; they have made no more than tepid calls for greater transparency about the CSCE’s spying.

On Monday, the Globe and Mail reported that in November 2011, Defence Minister Peter MacKay signed a secret directive authorizing the CSEC to continue its “mining” of the metadata of Canadians’ telephone and internet communications. The Globe said the program had been first authorized by Bill Graham, Defence Minister in Paul Martin’s Liberal government, in 2005, that is six years earlier.

MacKay, like U.S. President Barack Obama, responded to this revelation of massive state spying by flatly denying that CSEC is “targeting” Canadians or violating constitutional prohibitions on warrantless surveillance of their communications. This lie is predicated on the drawing of a spurious distinction between the metadata created by any electronic communication and the rest of the communication and on the transparently false claim that such information is innocuous.

According to the Globe, a briefing prepared for MacKay in 2011, presumably by CSEC or lawyers within his department, declared, “Metadata is information associated with a telecommunication … And not a communication.”

In fact metadata—which includes such information as the source, destination and duration of a telephone call—is intrinsic to any electronic communication. By systematically gathering and analyzing such metadata, the U.S. and Canadian national-security apparatuses can rapidly build up detailed profiles of targeted individuals and groups, including identifying everything from their associates, to where they work, bank, and shop, and what websites they visit.

In the course of his efforts to cover-up the scope and purpose of CSEC’s metadata mining, MacKay did make one revealing admission. In response to a question about the mass surveillance of Canadians’ communications, MacKay told Parliament, “I have a heads-up for the member … This is something that has been happening for years.”

Government sources, many of them unnamed, sought, meanwhile, to refute the Globe ’s claim that there had been serious questions within the state apparatus about the constitutionality of the CSEC’s “metadata” mining of Canadians’ communications. In its Monday report, the Globe said that in 2008 the then CSEC Commissioner—that is the head of the government-appointed “watchdog” charged with ensuring the agency does not go beyond its legal mandate—had cautioned that the program could be violating Canadians constitutional rights and, because of his concerns, the metadata mining program was suspended for more than a year.

Sources from within the government and CSEC dispute this. They say that the questions raised by Charles Gonthier—a former, now deceased former Supreme Court Justice—concerned only a small part of a much larger program, that only this part of the metadata mining program was ever suspended, and then only very briefly.

The current CSEC Commissioner has publicly defended the mass surveillance and claimed that his predecessor likewise believed that the CSEC has every right to spy on Canadian’s electronic communications. In an e-mail statement to the Toronto Star, Ryan Foreman, a spokesman for CSEC Commissioner Robert Decary, said, “The commissioner never questioned the legality of CSEC’s metadata activities.”

MacKay and the government have also sought to shield CSEC’s actions form public scrutiny by insisting that it is solely devoted to gathering foreign intelligence and, as MacKay told Parliament last Monday, “is specifically prohibited from looking at the information of Canadians.” This is an obvious falsehood and not just because warrantless metadata mining is a form of spying.

CSEC’s government mandate stipulates—as MacKay well knows since he has been the minister responsible for overseeing its work for the past seven years—that it “provide technical and operational assistance” to CSIS, the RCMP and other domestic security-intelligence and law enforcement agencies “in the performance of their lawful duties.” Furthermore CSEC can seek authorization from the Defence Minister to capture and read the communications of Canadians who are in some way connected to its foreign intelligence targets. As the Toronto Star ’s Thomas Walkom has observed, “In 2011-12, the last year for which figures are available, eight such ministerial authorizations—all of unknown size and scope—were in play.”

While vigorously defending CSEC’s metadata spying, the government has been anxious to put on a record that CSEC does not have access to the NSA’s PRISM Program and has not been using it as a means of monitoring Canadians’ communications. Under PRISM, NSA agents are able to directly access the servers of the most important U.S. based internet companies, including Microsoft, Apple, Google, and Facebook.

The government’s claims concerning the CSEC and PRISM are not credible. The CSEC has been a close partner of the NSA, sharing intelligence information with it on a daily basis, for more than six decades.

Britain, which like Canada, is part of the “Five Eyes”—a consortium formed in the late 1940s by the NSA, CSEC, and the signals communications agencies of Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand to jointly monitor global communications—has already said that it obtained intelligence about Britons through PRISM.

The NSA and CSEC, as the spurious distinction they have made between electronic communications’ metadata and rest of the communications illustrates, can and do create pretexts and mechanisms to illegally circumvent constitutional prohibitions.

Last but not least, whatever the validity of MacKay’s denial about spying on Canadians though PRISM, it only concerned CSEC. As Easter’s comments cited above demonstrate, Canada’s security agencies have long been the recipients of intelligence on Canadians from the NSA as part of longstanding Canada-U.S. intelligence-sharing agreements and partnerships.

The CSEC is part of a growing state within the state whose operations are hidden from the public. Till this week most Canadians had never heard of the CSEC and even now they knew very little about its activities. When Defence Minister MacKay renewed by secret ministerial order CSEC’s authorization to spy on Canadians’ electronic communications in November 2011 he issued six other secret ministerial directives to CSEC—none of whose subject let alone contents has been publicly revealed.

As in the United States, Canada’s elite has used the so-called war on terror to justify Canada’s participation in a series of imperialist wars, massively expand the national-security apparatus, and adopt laws that attack core democratic rights.

The US Government is claiming it has definitive ‘evidence’ to prove the Assad Government has used chemical weapons (CW) “against its own people”. Chemical weapons are abhorrent, indiscriminate and cause massive human suffering. But what, if any, is the strategic gain from the Syrian Arab Army using CW against disparate rebel groups encamped inside densely built civilian areas?

1.) Chemical weapons have a terrible track record as an effective weapon against any type of enemy targeting and deployment is crude and effectiveness is largely determined by the weather, if the wind blows the wrong way, they are useless. CW are also easily negated through simple countermeasures such as gas masks. During the Iran/Iraq war, thousands of chemical shells were used indiscriminately, the effective death rate to enemy combatants was miniscule in comparison to the amount and cost of chemicals used, against other conventional forms of warfare, (which the Syrian Army have in abundance) chemical weapons are ineffective and costly.

2.) The Syrian Government and Armed Forces know from previous US aggression in the region, and since Obama made his infamous “red-line” dictate, that any use of CW would result in an overt US ‘intervention’. (NB: US has been covertly ‘intervening’ in Syria from day one.) Why would the Government or members of the SAA decide to use Sarin at this stage? Particularly considering the SAA has been on the front foot for months, the SAA has routed rebel strong-holds and vital land and highway routes. If anything, Assad’s popularity inside Syria has only increased as the SAA has expanded its territorial gains.

3.) Using CW would undoubtedly alienate the SAA and the Government from the population. Assad is winning ‘hearts and minds’ in Syria. why would he risk it by allowing such recklessness when the Army is winning its chosen battles and gaining public support?

4.) To use CW on such a small-scale, there is absolutely no strategic benefit gained to the SAA. It has far more devastating and terrorising weapons in its arsenal, an SAA Commander relayed this fact to Robert Fisk the last time CW agitprop was being doled out: “why would we use CW when we have Mig fighter jets?”. The US claims 100 -150 people have been killed by Sarin use, (while also claiming it has ‘evidence’ from only two victims.) Yet the UN claims upwards of 90,000 people have been killed in the conflict. (NB: at least half of which are SAA soldiers according to SOHR.) So why risk overt US intervention for the sake of killing 100 people in such small operations?

The Obama administration clearly states that they have no evidence to suggest ‘rebels’ have used CW. Yet many reports, including former UN Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte have pointed the finger directly at them, whilst admonishing any Syrian Government culpability. The US Government seems to think it knows better than the UN, and it must also think it has proof of chain of command, which undoubtedly it cannot obtain. Obama also clearly stated in previous remarks on CW in Syria that “intelligence assessments are not enough”. Yet now “intelligence assessments” seem to be all the US is basing its claims upon, as National Security advisor Ben Rhodes said in a White House statement: “Our intelligence community accesses that the Assad regime has used weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, on a small-scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year.”

Recently, in both Iraq and Turkey, Al Qaeda cells were found in possession of Sarin and the equipment made to use it, it is no secret the ‘rebels’ just across the border are heavily affiliated with Al Qaeda ideologues and have poured into Syria through Turkey and Iraq. These reports have been almost whitewashed from Western press. After earlier rebel claims of CW use, several reports suggested rebels were in possession of Sarin or a similar agent and had used it in Aleppo on an attack on Syrian Government forces, in which an estimated 15 soldiers died. The Syrian Government immediately reported this incident to the UN and asked for an investigation. Under US pressure, the UN replied that it would only conduct a nation-wide investigation and again, the reports were marginalised, obfuscated and forgotten about.

Obviously, to anyone with half a brain, it is clear that the SAA willingly using chemical weapons is suicide. And offers the SAA no short-term, or long-term strategic benefit. This brings us to who directly benefits from false claims of the SAA using CW? The rebels would obviously benefit a great deal from Obama enforcing a No-Fly Zone, and providing direct US military aid. It is well within the rebels interest to frame the Syrian Government to build a pretext for overt US intervention. The timing of these revelations is also highly indicative as to their purpose.

As mentioned above, the rebels are losing in a big way inside Syria, supply lines have been cut off, key towns and transit routes have been retaken by the SAA. Rebel numbers and sanctuary are dwindling, if the ‘balance’ were to remain the same, the insurgency would soon be over; permitting Syria could secure its borders to a reasonable extent. The brutal war ending is not what the US and its allies want in Syria. This war has never been about the safety, self-determination or will of the Syrian people. This war has always been about regime change, by any means necessary.

Now that US and Gulf proxies are desperately losing, the ‘WMD’ Casus Belli must be utilised once again. Regardless of a lack of public evidence or willingness to believe these outlandish, and tainted claims, the US will persevere and is no doubt already increasing its military supplies to Salafist ‘rebels’, these falsehoods just offer further retrospective legal cover for the illegal proxy-war the United States has waged against Syria. The US Government and Military Industrial Complex cannot be seen to back down in the International Community.

When Obama declared “Assad Must Go” he did not envision the Syrian people and state (and, to an extent, their international allies) to stand up and defeat the US led subversive proxy war. Two years later and the insurgency is being crushed, the administration is perplexed, its Gulf clients could not pull off the ‘regime change’ the US military and intelligence community are usually so adept at achieving. Obama administration is lost and has no face-saving policy with which to proceed in removing Assad, so it must pursue the WMD card, knowing that when it is all over, the CW will be in Syria. (unlike Iraq) Whether the Syrian Government actually used them or not will be yesterdays news, who cares, Assad was a “bad man” who “killed his own people” (including tens of thousands of his own soldiers??) and look at all these Chemical Weapons we found!!

The ‘media’ and Western leaders again bang the drums for this criminality and ‘intervention’. Will it take another ten years before we are mocked with vapid mea culpa’s and skewed death tolls? Russian MP’s are already stating the ‘evidence’ of CW use is fabricated, we should listen to their advice. We were fooled by Western governmental criminals into aggression and genocide ten years ago, the same is happening now.

Phil Greaves is a UK based writer/analyst, focusing on UK/US Foreign Policy and conflict analysis in the Middle East post WWII. http://notthemsmdotcom.wordpress.com/

Subject: SYRIA: FAO ATTORNEY GENERAL, FOREIGN SECRETARY, HOME SECRETARY & COMMISSIONER OF POLICE

Date: Sun, 16 Jun 2013 13:06:30 +0100

The former French Minister of Foreign Affairs has publicly made a statement that the British Government intended to overthrow the Syrian government for political reasons, long before there was civil unrest (fomented by the British) in Syria.

“…Britain had been preparing gunmen to invade Syria two years before the crisis there flared up in 2011…”

I attach the video of his public statement.

Clearly his statement has very grave and serious legal implications.

We would like written confirmation that the U.K government will make a Full statement in the House of Commons over why the UK government has clearly misled the U.K people and the International Community.

We expect that statement would include an announcement of a public inquiry.

http://youtu.be/JrzZ3mXd8BI

We would also expect the U.K government to publicly provide a written assurance that the U.K government will under no circumstances, now supply, to anyone, any weapons that could be used in Syria.

In addition following a public inquiry it is expected that the U.K will need to provide substantial reparations for the serious harm already caused to Syrian people, by the U.K government.

The written response by email, of the U.K government, is required as a matter of urgency.

Babs Tucker

Parliament Square Peace Campaign

www.brianhaw.tv

Whistleblower Claims Validated … and Then Some

The government is attacking whistleblower Edward Snowden by claiming that he was lying about the scope of the NSA’s spying on Americans.

However, CNET reports today:

The National Security Agency has acknowledged in a new classified briefing that it does not need court authorization to listen to domestic phone calls.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, disclosed this week that during a secret briefing to members of Congress, he was told that the contents of a phone call could be accessed “simply based on an analyst deciding that.”

If the NSA wants “to listen to the phone,” an analyst’s decision is sufficient, without any other legal authorization required, Nadler said he learned. “I was rather startled,” said Nadler, an attorney and congressman who serves on the House Judiciary committee.

Not only does this disclosure shed more light on how the NSA’s formidable eavesdropping apparatus works domestically, it also suggests the Justice Department has secretly interpreted federal surveillance law to permit thousands of low-ranking analysts to eavesdrop on phone calls.

Because the same legal standards that apply to phone calls also apply to e-mail messages, text messages, and instant messages, Nadler’s disclosure indicates the NSA analysts could also access the contents of Internet communications without going before a court and seeking approval.

The disclosure appears to confirm some of the allegations made by Edward Snowden, a former NSA infrastructure analyst who leaked classified documents to the Guardian. Snowden said in a video interview that, while not all NSA analysts had this ability, he could from Hawaii “wiretap anyone from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president.”

***

Earlier reports have indicated that the NSA has the ability to record nearly all domestic and international phone calls — in case an analyst needed to access the recordings in the future. A Wired magazine article last year disclosed that the NSA has established “listening posts” that allow the agency to collect and sift through billions of phone calls through a massive new data center in Utah, “whether they originate within the country or overseas.” That includes not just metadata, but also the contents of the communications.

***

A requirement of the 2008 law is that the NSA “may not intentionally target any person known at the time of acquisition to be located in the United States.” A possible interpretation of that language, some legal experts said, is that the agency may vacuum up everything it can domestically — on the theory that indiscriminate data acquisition was not intended to “target” a specific American citizen.

***

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the head of the Senate Intelligence committee, separately acknowledged this week that the agency’s analysts have the ability to access the “content of a call.”

Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell indicated during a House Intelligence hearing in 2007 that the NSA’s surveillance process involves “billions” of bulk communications being intercepted, analyzed, and incorporated into a database.

***

Former FBI counterterrorism agent Tim Clemente told CNN last month that, in national security investigations, the bureau can access records of a previously made telephone call. “All of that stuff is being captured as we speak whether we know it or like it or not,” he said. Clemente added in an appearance the next day that, thanks to the “intelligence community” — an apparent reference to the NSA — “there’s a way to look at digital communications in the past.”

Remember that Snowden also revealed that the NSA is tapping into the servers of 9 big internet companies. Two government officials have admitted that as many as 50 American companies are now feeding the NSA with real-time user data. And we’ve documented that the NSA gives information gained through spying to large corporations.

Bloomberg reports:

Thousands of technology, finance and manufacturing companies are working closely with U.S. national security agencies, providing sensitive information and in return receiving benefits that include access to classified intelligence, four people familiar with the process said. [We documented Tuesday that the government is illegally spying on all Americans ... and then giving the info to giant corporations.]

These programs, whose participants are known as trusted partners, extend far beyond what was revealed by Edward Snowden ….

Makers of hardware and software, banks, Internet security providers, satellite telecommunications companies and many other companies also participate in the government programs. In some cases, the information gathered may be used not just to defend the nation but to help infiltrate computers of its adversaries.

Along with the NSA, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and branches of the U.S. military have agreements with such companies to gather data that might seem innocuous but could be highly useful in the hands of U.S. intelligence or cyber warfare units, according to the people, who have either worked for the government or are in companies that have these accords.

***

Microsoft and other software or Internet security companies have been aware that this type of early alert allowed the U.S. to exploit vulnerabilities in software sold to foreign governments, according to two U.S. officials. Microsoft doesn’t ask and can’t be told how the government uses such tip-offs, said the officials, who asked not to be identified because the matter is confidential.

***

Some U.S. telecommunications companies willingly provide intelligence agencies with access to facilities and data offshore that would require a judge’s order if it were done in the U.S.

***

Most of the arrangements are so sensitive that only a handful of people in a company know of them, and they are sometimes brokered directly between chief executive officers and the heads of the U.S.’s major spy agencies, the people familiar with those programs said.

Michael Hayden, who formerly directed the National Security Agency and the CIA, described the attention paid to important company partners: “If I were the director and had a relationship with a company who was doing things that were not just directed by law but were also valuable to the defense of the Republic, I would go out of my way to thank them and give them a sense as to why this is necessary and useful.”

***

Intel’s McAfee unit, which makes Internet security software, regularly cooperates with the NSA, FBI and the CIA, for example ….

***

In exchange, leaders of companies are showered with attention and information by the agencies to help maintain the relationship, the person said.

***

Following an attack on his company by Chinese hackers in 2010, Sergey Brin, Google’s co-founder, was provided with highly sensitive government intelligence linking the attack to a specific unit of the People’s Liberation Army, China’s military, according to one of the people, who is familiar with the government’s investigation. Brin was given a temporary classified clearance to sit in on the briefing, the person said.

According to information provided by Snowden, Google, owner of the world’s most popular search engine, had at that point been a Prism participant for more than a year.

***

The information provided by Snowden also exposed a secret NSA program known as Blarney. As the program was described in the Washington Post (WPO), the agency gathers metadata on computers and devices that are used to send e-mails or browse the Internet through principal data routes, known as a backbone.

That metadata includes which version of the operating system, browser and Java software are being used on millions of devices around the world, information that U.S. spy agencies could use to infiltrate those computers or phones and spy on their users.

It’s highly offensive information,” said Glenn Chisholm, the former chief information officer for Telstra Corp (TLS)., one of Australia’s largest telecommunications companies, contrasting it to defensive information used to protect computers rather than infiltrate them.

According to Snowden’s information, Blarney’s purpose is “to gain access and exploit foreign intelligence,” the Post said.

***

Lawmakers who oversee U.S. intelligence agencies may not understand the significance of some of the metadata being collected, said Jacob Olcott, a former cybersecurity assistant for Senator John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee.

“That’s what makes this issue of oversight so challenging,” said Olcott, now a principal at Good Harbor Security Risk Management in Washington. “You have a situation where the technology and technical policy is far outpacing the background and expertise of most elected members of Congress or their staffs.”

While companies are offered powerful inducements to cooperate with U.S. intelligence, many executives are motivated by patriotism or a sense they are defending national security, the people familiar with the trusted partner programs said.

 

Indeed, former top NSA executives Thomas Drake and William Binney, Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez – a member of the Committee on Homeland Security and the Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities – and others say that Snowden’s revelations are only “the tip of the iceberg”.

 

AP reports:

 

Interviews with more than a dozen current and former government and technology officials and outside experts show that, while Prism has attracted the recent attention, the program actually is a relatively small part of a much more expansive and intrusive eavesdropping effort.

Americans who disapprove of the government reading their emails have more to worry about from a different and larger NSA effort that snatches data as it passes through the fiber optic cables that make up the Internet’s backbone. That program … copies Internet traffic as it enters and leaves the United States, then routes it to the NSA for analysis.

***

Deep in the oceans, hundreds of cables carry much of the world’s phone and Internet traffic. Since at least the early 1970s, the NSA has been tapping foreign cables. It doesn’t need permission. That’s its job.

But Internet data doesn’t care about borders. Send an email from Pakistan to Afghanistan and it might pass through a mail server in the United States, the same computer that handles messages to and from Americans. The NSA is prohibited from spying on Americans or anyone inside the United States. That’s the FBI’s job and it requires a warrant.

Despite that prohibition, shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, President George W. Bush secretly authorized the NSA to plug into the fiber optic cables that enter and leave the United States, knowing it would give the government unprecedented, warrantless access to Americans’ private conversations.

Tapping into those cables allows the NSA access to monitor emails, telephone calls, video chats, websites, bank transactions and more. It takes powerful computers to decrypt, store and analyze all this information, but the information is all there, zipping by at the speed of light.

You have to assume EVERYTHING is being collected,” said Bruce Schneier, who has been studying and writing about cryptography and computer security for two decades.

***

The New York Times disclosed the existence of this effort in 2005. In 2006, former AT&T technician Mark Klein revealed that the company had allowed the NSA to install a computer at its San Francisco switching center, a spot where fiber optic cables enter the U.S.

***

Americans’ personal emails can live in government computers, but analysts can’t access, read or listen to them unless the emails become relevant to a national security investigation.

The government doesn’t automatically delete the data, officials said, because an email or phone conversation that seems innocuous today might be significant a year from now.

***

Two decades from now, the government could have a trove of American emails and phone records it can tap to investigative whatever Congress declares a threat to national security.

***

In slide made public by the newspapers, NSA analysts were encouraged to use data coming from both Prism and from the fiber-optic cables.

Prism, as its name suggests, helps narrow and focus the stream. If eavesdroppers spot a suspicious email among the torrent of data pouring into the United States, analysts can use information from Internet companies to pinpoint the user.

With Prism, the government gets a user’s entire email inbox. Every email, including contacts with American citizens, becomes government property.

Once the NSA has an inbox, it can search its huge archives for information about everyone with whom the target communicated. All those people can be investigated, too.

That’s one example of how emails belonging to Americans can become swept up in the hunt.

In that way, Prism helps justify specific, potentially personal searches. But it’s the broader operation on the Internet fiber optics cables that actually captures the data, experts agree.

“I’m much more frightened and concerned about real-time monitoring on the Internet backbone,” said Wolf Ruzicka, CEO of EastBanc Technologies, a Washington software company. “I cannot think of anything, outside of a face-to-face conversation, that they could not have access to.”

***

Schneier, the author and security expert, said it doesn’t really matter how Prism works, technically. Just assume the government collects everything, he said.

He said it doesn’t matter what the government and the companies say, either …. “No one is telling the truth.”

The Syria Chemical Weapons Hoax

June 16th, 2013 by Stephen Lendman

Greater US intervention in Syria looms. Manufactured threats facilitate doing so. Replacing Assad with puppet leadership is planned. Independent governments aren’t tolerated.

Fact: Washington bears full responsibility for Middle East/North Africa/Central Asian wars. Resource control is prioritized. So is imperial dominance to Russian and Chinese borders.

Fact: State terrorism is official US policy. Obama’s waging multiple direct and proxy wars. He’s doing so lawlessly. He’s ravaging humanity in the process.

Washington, its allies, and proxies use chemical and other illegal weapons. Permanent wars reflect longstanding US policy. Americans are deceived and lied to. Truth is verboten.

Unchallenged global dominance is sought. Washington demands total subservience. What we say goes is policy. All independent governments are targeted.

Plans call for installing subservient puppet regimes. Direct intervention in Syria looms. War on Iran is planned. Lebanon is targeted. So are other countries.

America and Israel are imperial partners. Both countries wage war on Syria. They actively arm Al Qaeda and Al Nusra fighters. Both groups are designated terrorist organizations.

They’re supplied chemical and other lethal weapons. They’re trained in their use. Pentagon contractors and US special forces are involved. So are CIA operatives. Training occurs in Turkey and Jordan. Perhaps in Israel.

Israeli forces are mobilized near Syria’s border. Libya 2.0 looms. Regional conflict is possible. So is WW III.

Fact: Alleging Syrian chemical weapons use replicates fabricated claims about Saddam’s nonexistent WMDs. It’s similar to false charges against all US enemies.

Big Lies launch wars. They’re pretexts for planned aggression. Repetition gets people to believe them. Manipulative deception is standard practice. False flags are commonly used.

Fact: No verifiable evidence shows Syrian forces used chemical weapons against anyone at any time throughout the ongoing conflict. Claiming otherwise is willful, malicious lying.

Fact: Clear evidence proves so-called “rebels” used sarin and other chemical weapons multiple times.

UN investigators confirmed insurgent sarin use. They did so before equivocating on their initial statement. Waffling followed heavy Western pressure.

In March, credible evidence showed insurgents used chemical weapons. Home-made rockets fired contained CL 17.

It’s a form of chlorine. It induces vomiting, fainting, suffocation and seizures. People nearby were affected.

Civilians are harmed most. So-called “rebels” target them. Assad loyalists are most vulnerable.

Fact: A no longer accessible January 29, 2013 UK Daily Mail report headlined “US ‘backed plan to launch chemical weapon attack on Syria and blame it on Assad’s regime,’ ” saying:

“Leaked emails have allegedly proved that the White House gave the green light to a chemical weapons attack in Syria that could be blamed on Assad’s regime and in turn, spur international military action in the devastated country.”

“A report released on Monday contains an email exchange between two senior officials at British-based contractor Britam Defence where a scheme ‘approved by Washington’ is outlined explaining that Qatar would fund rebel forces in Syria to use chemical weapons.”

Fact: In late May, Turkish police arrested 12 suspected Al Nusra fighters. They were seized in southern Turkey. They were caught red-handed with a two gm cylinder of sarin nerve gas.

Initial Turkish media reports said four and a half pounds of sarin were seized. Handguns, grenades, bullets and various documents were found.

Fact: In early December, a Syrian insurgent video surfaced. It showed them testing chemical weapons on lab rabbits. Threats to use them against Assad loyalists followed.

Lab equipment and chemical containers were shown. Some bore the Turkish chemical company Tekkim name.

An Arabic text wall poster read, “The Almighty Wind Brigade (Kateebat A Reeh Al Sarsar).”

A man was shown mixing chemicals in a beaker. It emits gas. Rabbits in a glass box have convulsions, collapse and die. The audio states:

“You saw what happened. This will be your fate, you infidel Alawites. I swear by Allah to make you die like these rabbits, one minute after you inhale the gas.”

Fact: Obama’s waging war on humanity. He’s doing so abroad and at home. He exceeds the worst of George Bush. He can’t wait to kill again.

He threatens America with full-blown tyranny. It’s already unsafe to live in. Everyone’s watched all the time everywhere. Freedom is a four-letter word. Constitutional law no longer matters. Rule by diktat is policy.

Wars rage out-of-control. New ones loom. At stake is humanity’s survival. It may not survive Obama’s second term. Today is the most perilous time in world history. Thermonuclear war is possible.

America’s military apparatus operates unchecked. It does so globally. Post-9/11 congressionally approved Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) threatens world peace.

War on terror lawlessness advances America’s imperium. Unchallenged dominance matters most. Institutionalized lawlessness is policy. Bipartisan complicity enforces it.

On September 11, 2001, a state of emergency was declared. In part, it states:

“A national emergency exists by reason of the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, New York, New York, and the Pentagon, and the continuing and immediate threat of further attacks on the United States.”

“NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, I hereby declare that the national emergency has existed since September 11, 2001.”

Under Obama, it continues unchecked. No emergency exists. Terrorist threats are claimed for political and imperial reasons. They heighten fear. They do so unjustifiably.

They chill freedom. They facilitate lawlessness. National security becomes a be all and end all. So does unchecked power.

Constitutional law can be suspended. Martial law can be declared. Presidents can usurp unchecked powers. In times of war, they’re virtual dictators.

They have life and death powers over everyone. On March 16, 2012, Obama quietly issued EO 16303: National Defense Resources Preparedness.

It addresses defense policies and programs under the 1950 Defense Production Act (DPA), as amended. It was enacted in response to the Korean War. Waging it was lawless US aggression.

DPA was part of a broad civil defense and war mobilization effort. It contained sweeping unconstitutional powers. In March 2012, Obama reinstituted them.

Section 201 covers “Priorities and Allocations Authorities. (a) The authority of the President conferred by section 101 of the Act, 50 USC App. 2071, to require acceptance and priority performance of contracts or orders (other than contracts of employment) to promote the national defense over performance of any other contracts or orders, and to allocate materials, services, and facilities as deemed necessary or appropriate to promote the national defense, is delegated to the following agency heads:

(1) the Secretary of Agriculture with respect to food resources, food resource facilities, livestock resources, veterinary resources, plant health resources, and the domestic distribution of farm equipment and commercial fertilizer;

(2) the Secretary of Energy with respect to all forms of energy;

(3) the Secretary of Health and Human Services with respect to health resources;

(4) the Secretary of Transportation with respect to all forms of civil transportation;

(5) the Secretary of Defense with respect to water resources; and

(6) the Secretary of Commerce with respect to all other materials, services, and facilities, including construction materials.”

Rule of law principles no longer matter. Diktat power rules. Government agencies enforce it. Alleged national defense priorities subvert all others.

At times of economic crisis and/or political scandals, diverting attention abroad is commonplace. Fear is heightened. Enemies are created. Public sentiment is manipulated. It’s done to prioritize addressing them. Wars follow.

Rallying round the flag works. In 1917, propaganda turned pacifist Americans into raging German haters. In December 1941, isolationist Americans supported war on Japan.

Post-9/11, waging war on Afghanistan got wide backing. So did eliminating nonexistent Saddam and Gaddafi threats. Most Americans oppose war on Syria.

Polls show interesting findings. Results depend on questions asked. Wording is important.

When asked if Washington should intervene in Syria, Americans oppose doing so decisively. Only 26% approve. Another 64% oppose.

When asked whether to intervene in response to alleged Assad chemical weapons use, results change dramatically. Only 30% oppose. Another 58% express support.

Mind manipulation works. Waging wars require selling them. Doing so is prelude for what’s planned. Obama’s heading for greater Syrian intervention.

He’s got much more than that in mind. It bears repeating. The road to Tehran runs through Damascus. All independent governments are targeted.

Vassal state replacements are sought. A permanent state of war exists. It rages against humanity. Good endings aren’t likely.

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.

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