Iraq will turn to Iran, Russia, and Syria for military support if the United States does not provide Baghdad with what it needs to face Takfiri militants, says Iraq’s ambassador in Washington.

Lukman Faily said at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington on Tuesday that the Iraqi government has to take any aid available because of the threat from the al-Qaeda splinter Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

“Time is not on our side,” Faily said, adding, “Further delay only benefits the terrorists.”

Washington has announced plans to deliver F-16 fighter jets and Apache helicopters.

Last week, Russia delivered 12 fighter jets to the crisis-hit country.

The crisis in Iraq escalated after the ISIL militants took control of Mosul, in a lightning advance on June 10, which was followed by the fall of Tikrit, located 140 kilometers (87 miles) northwest of the capital Baghdad.

An estimated 1.2 million people have been displaced in Iraq so far this year, according to the United Nations.

The ISIL has vowed to continue its raid towards Baghdad. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has said that the country’s security forces would confront the terrorists, calling the seizure of Mosul a “conspiracy”.

Soldiers of the Iraqi army have been engaged in heavy fighting with the militants on different fronts and have so far been able to push back militants in several areas.

Facebook conducted a psychological experiment on its users by manipulating their emotions without their knowledge, a new study reveals.

Researchers toyed with the feelings of 689,003 randomly selected English-speaking Facebook users by changing the contents of their news feed, according to a paper published in the June edition of the journal ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Scientists’ (PNAS).

During a week-long period in January 2012, researchers staged two parallel experiments, reducing the number of positive or negative updates in each user’s news feed.

“When positive expressions were reduced, people produced fewer positive posts and more negative posts; when negative expressions were reduced, the opposite pattern occurred. These results indicate that emotions expressed by others on Facebook influence our own emotions, constituting experimental evidence for massive-scale contagion via social networks,” said the authors of the paper, who include researchers from Facebook, Cornell University, and the University of California.

“We also observed a withdrawal effect: People who were exposed to fewer emotional posts (of either valence) in their News Feed were less expressive overall on the following days.”

The researchers indicated that the successful study is the first to find that moods expressed via social networks influence the emotions of others.

“These results suggest that the emotions expressed by friends, via online social networks, influence our own moods, constituting, to our knowledge, the first experimental evidence for massive-scale emotional contagion via social networks, and providing support for previously contested claims that emotions spread via contagion through a network.”

The Facebook users were not notified of the experiment. However, according to Facebook’s terms of service (to which every person agrees when they register on the social network), users’ data may be used “for internal operations, including troubleshooting, data analysis, testing, research and service improvement.”

The researchers argue that their experiment was consistent with Facebook’s Data Use Policy.

The paper also stated that the researchers never saw the content of the actual posts; instead, they relied on a computer which counted the occurrence of positive and negative words in more than three million status updates. Those posts contained a total of 122 million words; four million of those were positive (3.6%) and 1.8 million were negative (1.6%).

The significance of the research was reduced to a very small percentage, as the “emotional contagion” was estimated at only 0.1 percent. However, one can argue that with more than 1.3 billion Facebook users worldwide, that small percentage still includes a significant amount of people.

 

American military advisers have been operating secretly in Somalia since around 2007, a revelation that shows the United States has had a presence in the African country for years without acknowledging the situation publicly.

The latest details provided by a Reuters report reveals that the American presence in Somalia stretches all the way back to the administration of George W. Bush, with advisers now stationed in multiple locations throughout the country.

When the United States announced in January that it had sent some advisers to Somalia back in October 2013, it was widely recognized as the first time American troops had been sent to the country since the “Black Hawk Down” operation in 1993. It’s clear now, however, that military officials have been there for several years, and a State Department official told the news service they now believe acknowledging their presence would not endanger their lives.

“In the past, our assessment of the security situation in Somalia informed our decision to err on the side of force protection concerns and not divulge their presence,” the official said. “We do not currently believe that acknowledging the U.S. presence will increase the already high threat to our personnel and citizens operating in Somalia.”

Although one White House official said these advisers are not a part of combat operations, it was revealed that there are up to 120 people currently on the ground. They were previously working primarily with the African Union Mission in Somalia, but last year started working more directly with Somali forces. Ties with the Somali National Army (SNA) are expected to deepen in the next fiscal year (October), as the US mulls providing further assistance in order to combat the Al Qaeda-linked Al Shabaab militant group operating in the country.

Somalia’s battle with Al Shabaab has been ongoing for the last seven years, with the conflict bleeding into neighboring Kenya as a result of that country’s contribution to the African Union forces operating in Somalia. As RT reported last month, at least 50 people were killed during a raid on a coastal Kenyan town in mid-June, which Al Shabaab took responsibility for.

As the bloodshed continues, US officials are looking to increase their presence and become more involved with the SNA itself.

“What you’ll see with this upcoming fiscal year is the beginning of engagement with the SNA proper,” a US defense official told Reuters.

As noted by the Washington Post in January, the US has directed more than $500 million towards the training of African Union forces. Another $170 million has been spent to strengthen the SNA, with mixed results.

So far, the military advisers have offered their expertise in multiple areas, including mission and tactical planning, communications efforts, medical care and human rights. If new funds are authorized, they would allow for “greater military engagement and new funds for training and assistance” for the SNA. The US is also planning to name an ambassador to Somalia for the first time since 1993.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) issued a decision expelling Israel from the IFJ.

14 countries out of 17 voted in favor of the decision with 3 abstaining during the meeting of the IFJ which had taken place in Brussels on 28 and 29 of June.

The move is yet another gesture showing the international organizations’ rejection of the Israeli entity’s practices against the Palestinians and Arabs.

The IFJ in consensus decided also to refuse applications for membership submitted by Syrian self-proclaimed journalists under the name of the “The Syrian Opposition Journalists Federation”.

The IFJ was founded in 1926 and re-founded in 1946 and 1952. It represents more than 600,000 journalists working in 140 countries worldwide.

Alternative Media Spotlight

July 3rd, 2014 by Hugo Turner

While the corporate media has seemingly lost all shame in regards to lies, distortions, and omissions of becoming transparently imperialist propaganda, ordinary people are fighting back by attempting to provide accurate news and analysis. Last time in Alternative Media Spotlight  I mentioned Global Research (www.globalresearch.ca), Pepe Escobar (Asia Times, RT Op-Edge), Eric Draitser (www.stopimperialism.org),  and Andrew Gavin Marshall (www.bolifingfrogspost.com). Now here are some more great people and sites I rely on.

Libya 360°, Syria 360°, and Viva Libya ! 

Libya 360° was founded during the Libyan counter-revolution when NATO and its Al Qaeda  proxy force destroyed the independent government of Libya replacing it with a failed state, combining rule by traitors, technocrats, and various fanatical death squads with the real on the ground power. Since the war, the site has become international in focus with great articles on the situation in Ukraine, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America. Alexandra Valiente who runs the site is great at selecting the best articles and she does a great job of providing local perspectives: What are Venezuelans saying about Venezuela; what do the Russians think about the Ukraine Crisis. Thus, I highly recommend her sites for a more radical perspective on world events and I salute her tireless efforts to resist imperialism and support resistance.

Valiente also runs a great site focusing exclusively on Syria: Syria 360°.

She also has another one on Libya: Viva Libya !

Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

In truth every thing I know about geopolitics I learned from Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya. I first learned of his work when during the Libyan War he went to Libya to report on the war and might have died when he was stuck in the Libyan capital after the fall of Tripoli to the rebel forces. Thankfully he survived because he is the best geo-strategic analyst in the Alternative Media.

Recently with the Iraq civil war his work is finally getting the attention it deserves. Way back in 2006 he was explaining the plans to balkanize Southwestern Asia (the Middle East) Africa, and Eastern Europe. He is not just brilliant on geostrategy, but in explaining the way identity can be weaponized as we see in Iraq today and in Ukraine. The social construction of identities aimed at creating division and war is vital to understanding our world today.

He wrote a great book called The Globalization of NATO. It shows how the so-called North Atlantic Treaty Organization has exceeded its supposed original mandate of protecting Western Europe (actually it was formed before the Warsaw Pact, so its founding was an aggressive move not a defensive act). NATO is now expanding around the world, forming various regional alliances around the globe. All of it is aimed at encircling Russia and China, which has become rather obvious this year. Thus in my first post written well before the Ukraine Crisis had truly heated up I could prophetically declare that the Cold War never ended thanks to reading The Globalization of NATO by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya. The book also acts as a sort of mini-encyclopedia of recent history, where Mahdi provides great accounts of, say, the war in Yugoslavia or the background to events in Somalia or Sudan. It is highly recommended.

After reading the book I was inspired to go back and read all of his old articles using the archive of his articles at Global Research. What an amazing education they provide. He combines first hand knowledge from his world travels, a brilliant sociological analysis with a brilliant insiders understanding of military affairs and geostrategic planning. He was in the Canadian military and it provided him with valuable insight into how the Empire thinks. He qoutes the plans made by men such as Halford J. Mackinder, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Oded Yinon, and Richard Perle that are still shaping our world today. Thus when ISIS invaded Iraq suddenly everyone was quoting Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya who in 2006, before the Syrian war had begun, already was talking about the attempts to balkanize Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Iran, and eventually no doubt all of Eurasia. So if you want to get ahead of the curve, you absolutely must do an in-depth reading of Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya. Also watch his great interviews and lectures on Youtube.

Here is a great recent interview that describes the process of the balkanization of the Middle East: “What the MSM Won’t Tell You About ISIS, Greater Plan To Fragment ME.”

Mahdi’s oldest articles: Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya – Archive.

Mahdi’s most recent articles: Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya – Archive.

Check out this forgotten gem and in-depth interview he did for a podcast: “The War on Mali: ‘The Fragmented Totality’ that characterizes the Imperialist System.

And get an in-depth introduction to geopolitics by watching this lecture he did: “Redrawing the Middle East: Syria in the Context of the ‘New Middle East.’”

And he has also started making documentaries. Here is a great one he did on Ukraine: Welcome to Nulandistan: Propaganda and the Crisis in Ukraine.

Porkins Policy Review

Porkins Policy Review is a wonderful site I recently discovered. Pearse Redmond has done some great podcasts and the show just gets better and better. For example, he did one of the best Keith Harmon Snow interviews of all time providing a great in-depth report on what really happened in Rwanda, which, far from being a simple tale of evil Hutus and their innocent Tutsi victims, involved a US backed covert invasion. It also went into the current war in the Congo where more people have died then in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria combined. So far 10 million have died.

That’s just one example. Redmond did a great interview with Danny Benavides on the surreal drug war in Mexico, which is even stranger in reality than it has been portrayed fictionally on say Breaking Bad. Not only does he do great interviews, but he is a great interview subject as well. In recent interviews on the Corbett Report, he laid out some of the complex events in Africa and also provided some great background on the war in Afghanistan.

He has done great research on the Westgate attacks in Kenya. At the time I knew I wasn’t getting the full story about Westgate, even in the Alternative Media, but I would have to wait until finding his site many months later to get some answers or rather more questions. He is one of the few in the Alternative Media who pay proper attention to Africa, which like Central Asia is one of those vitally important places that few pay enough attention to. He also does some great reports exposing figures like Matthew Van Dyke or Samantha Lewthwaite. Plus he has some more light hearted shows discussing films which provide a welcome recreation from studying the evils of Western imperialism. He’s got great taste. thanks to him I discovered such obscure gems as Wrong is Right, Four Lions, and Computer Chess. So for some great interviews with people like Eric Draitser, Christoph Germann, and James Corbett check out Porkins Policy Review.

Stop NATO

Stop NATO is the best site on the machinations of the sinister US-dominated NATO alliance. Rick Rozoff keeps track of the secret war of intimidation the US and its allies engage in around the world, the endless war games, and military exercises. He also tracks the endless expansion of NATO. In fact, he is one of Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya’s only rivals when it comes to understating geopolitics. His sites also provides some great pieces of anti-war literature from throughout time. Search for interviews with him online as he does some great appearances where he explains what is going on in the world. His site is an invaluable resource for understanding the tensions between the West and Russia and China. You should also sign up for his email list.

The Vineyard of the Saker

The Vineyard of the Saker is a great blog providing a unique perspective currently concentrating on the Ukraine Crisis. It provides the best analysis of what is going on in the Ukraine Crisis. It is a paradoxical mix of cool analysis and  passionate outrage over what is going on in the Ukraine. It provides great insight into things from both a Russian nationalist perspective and from a military perspective. It also has managed to attract a great community of people who help translate materials and provide guest essays. For example, there are the reports by Strelkov who commands a unit of anti-fascist forces and provides daily updates on the fighting and the growing humanitarian crisis which volunteers translate into English. In fact, the whole site has a French version run by volunteers. Plus there are great reports by Juan, an anti-fascist resistance fighter, and Mindfriedo, who does great daily updates summarizing the civil war in Iraq. It also has reports by Auslander who is attempting to help people escape the war zone. Plus daily video Anna news updates with English subtitles. The Vineyard of the Saker is definitely required reading for those interested in the wars in Ukraine and Iraq.

The New Great Game Round-Up 

The New Great Game Round-up is essential weekly reading. Christoph Germann keeps track of what no one else is paying proper attention to in the covert war in Central Asia. It has long been part of strategic doctrine that whoever controls Central Asia can control Eurasia and that whoever controls Eurasia can control the world. When Brzezinski speaks of his Arc of crisis across Eurasia he never mentions that this arc of crisis is the deliberate creation of Western intelligence. Every week Christoph Germann tracks the events of this covert war aimed at destabilizing Central Asian countries most people have never even heard of, like Uzbekistan or Tajikistan, as well as the covert war carried out within China and Russia. Thus, Christoph Germann provides an absolutely vital resource. Every week he sums up the most important events that no one is paying attention too. The endless series of terror attacks carried out with Western sponsorship, as well as the attempts to use NGOs to destabilize the region through future color revolutions. Make sure you check out the New Great Game Round-up every Sunday.

And you should probably check out these interviews with FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds, who began the New Great Game Round-up, as she provides the vital background needed to understand the destabilization of Eurasia and indeed the farce of both the war on terror and the war on drugs: “Sibel Edmonds on Operation Gladio.”

Abiyome Azikwe’s Pan-African News Wire and Keith Harmon Snow

As I mentioned people don’t pay nearly enough attention to Africa. Thus, I’ll recommend two people who focus almost entirely on Africa.

For the latest news on Africa, check out Abiyome Azikwe’s site Pan-African News Wire. Abiyome writes some great articles on the current situation in Africa where there has been more and more US and European military action of late. He provides articles on Africa from the African and international press.

Abiyome Azikwe also has a podcast, Pan-African Journal, which starts with some great music. It plays everything from classic jazz, reggae, and R&B to Latin American and African music. It has news segment followed usually by a segment on black history or culture. Everything from now mostly forgotten revolutionaries, like Robert Williams, to speeches by the more famous Malcolm X or Kwame Nkrumah, as well as biographies of great musicians are covered. He also is active in battling the attempts in Michigan to rob people of their democratic rights in order to push through a pro-corporate agenda.

Keith Harmon Snow is one of the best investigative journalists that I’ve read. His sites are full of information on the corporate genocide in Central Africa. He names the names and has been threatened with lawsuits on numerous occasions. He has documented which corporations, media, NGOs, and intelligence agencies are involved in profiting from the 10 million that have been killed in the Congo and other parts of Africa. Even Hollywood celebrities like Ben Affleck and Angelina Jolie are involved and no one is safe from the wrath of Keith Harmon Snow. He paints a terrifying picture of environmentalists involved in genocide and humanitarian agencies involved in genocide. Your iPad or PlayStation are involved in genocide. Canadian prime ministers, US presidents, and journalists are all involved too.

His reports could call your whole world into question, so beware. He documents everything he says. His detailed articles provide brilliant in-depth documentation of everything he says. He is also an electrifying public speaker; look for his talks on YouTube. I’ve re-watched his epic Profiteering from Genocide in Central Africa three times already, but the interview Pearse Redmond did on Porkins Policy Review is probably the best introduction to his work where he gives a great background on the topic going back to colonial days. The interview is “The Falsification of Genocide with Keith Harmon Snow.”

Keith Harmon Snow has two sites collecting his work:

His new site: Conscious Being Alliance.

And his old one: All Things Pass.

There are many more great sites I could mention, but you will have to wait for a future edition of  alternative media spotlight.

Edited by Global Research

David and Samantha Cameron arrive at the 2013 Conservative Summer Party (Alan Davidson/The Picture Library)

We do not go there to lobby ministers in any form … Apart from shaking a hand I don’t believe I have ever spoken to a minister at any of these events.’ – James Henderson, Bell Pottinger chief executive

Today, the Bureau can reveal the billionaires, lobbyists and foreign interests who attended one of the most important private Conservative party fundraising events.

We have obtained a series of internal Conservative party documents including a seating plan for its Summer Party last year. The documents show that supporters with a combined wealth in excess of £11bn paid up to £12,000 a table to dine with cabinet ministers including the prime minister, home secretary and defence secretary as well as the secretaries of state for health, transport, culture and justice.

As Conservative donors prepare to gather for this year’s event, which will take place on Wednesday at the Hurlingham Club, west London, the Bureau can reveal that at last year’s party there were six billionaires, 15 people with a personal wealth above £100m, 73 financiers and 47 retail and property tycoons among the 449 guests who dined at the private event held at Old Billingsgate Market.

Our investigation shows:

Howard Shore, an investment banker whose firm invests in shale gas and underground coal gasification, hosted tables featuring David and Samantha Cameron and the energy minister Michael Fallon.

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin was seated with shipping and transport magnates.

David Burnside, a lobbyist with a number of well-known Russian clients, hosted a table that ncluded John Whittingdale MP, chair of the British-Ukraine All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG).

An adviser to the government of Bahrain was placed with both defence secretary Philip Hammond and chair of the APPG on Bahrain group, Conor Burns.

Ministerial disclosure rules do not extend to party fundraising events or conferences, so until now those attending the event has remained a secret. Press were banned from the event and helpers were ‘absolutely forbidden’ from leaking details to the media the internal documents show.

Although there is no suggestion that any of the guests discussed policy or commercial issues with politicians, supporters, leading fundraisers and other guests were able to mingle with the prime minister and other senior government figures in a convivial environment.

Tory summer party brochure‘Have a great evening, and let’s keep up the hard work’ – David Cameron’s welcome in the summer party brochure

The proximity of senior cabinet members to powerful business leaders and lobbyists has alarmed transparency campaigners leading to renewed calls for reform around the issues of disclosure.

‘There’s a real problem with big money in British politics,’ said Alexandra Runswick, Unlock Democracy director. ‘Whether it is party donors given seats in the House of Lords or people buying dinner with David Cameron, the public feels our politics is for sale – that politicians listen to donors and lobbyists but not voters.’

Tamasin Cave, director of lobbying campaign group, Spinwatch, said: ‘Buying a seat at a minister’s table provides these bankers, foreign businessmen and lobbyists with an opportunity to discuss their concerns, whether its taxes, regulation or policy. It’s a straight up case of cash-for-access.’

Labour has also been holding a series of business dinners. Last month a dinner hosted by shadow work and pension minister, Chris Bryant in the Grand Connaught Rooms in Covent Garden, London, saw lobbyists and executives from security companies, private healthcare firms and the property industry mix with Harriet Harman, Labour’s deputy leader, Chuka Umunna, shadow business secretary, and Emma Reynolds, shadow housing minister.

Labour’s big ticket fundraising dinner and auction this year takes place on July 9 at The Roundhouse in Camden, London. The £15,000 premier tables only includes a £7,000 donation meaning that under current rules, tickets to the event need not be disclosed.

Earlier this week, Len McCluskey, leader of Unite, confirmed the UK’s biggest union will heavily back Labour with cash in the forthcoming election campaign.

The Conservative summer party, titled, ‘40 [seats] to gain 40 to hold’, placed MPs in constituencies with slim majorities or prospective candidates on many tables.

Shore Capital

The event was sponsored by Shore Capital, an AIM-listed West End-based boutique investment bank run by Howard Shore. Shore and his company have donated £499,330 to the Conservatives since 2006.

Shore and his wife, the chair of the organising committee for the event, hosted David and Samantha Cameron on their table. Shore Capital also sponsored two further tables where energy minister Michael Fallon and home secretary Theresa May were seated. May shared a table with Lord De La Warr, non-executive director of Cluff Natural Resources which is exploring underground coal gasification in Warwickshire.

Asked why Shore Capital sponsored the party, the company said in a statement: ‘Shore Capital supported the event and made a financial contribution as they believe that the Conservative Party, led by the Prime Minister, are the best party to govern the country.’

Russian connection

Among the more surprising guests were a number of business men linked to Russia. These included Alexander Temerko and Andrei Borodin, who were sitting with London Mayor, Boris Johnson.

Also present was Vladimir Putin’s judo partner, Vasily Shestakov who was introduced to the Prime Minister. The Russian president’s key aide had been tasked with improving Russia’s reputation in the UK.

There were also 19 lobbyists and public relations specialists at the party representing Gulf states, fracking firms, oligarchs and banking giants.

Among these high profile PR specialists was Lord Clanwilliam whose firm represents the government of Bahrain. He headed one of the more prominent tables, hosting defence secretary Philip Hammond. Clanwilliam declined to comment on his attendance.

Also attending was James Henderson, chief executive of public affairs firm Bell Pottinger which represents fracking company Cuadrilla. He hosted a table for friends, while his colleague Patsy Baker joined a table with justice secretary Chris Grayling.

‘We do not go there to lobby ministers in any form,’ Henderson said. ‘We go there to support the party. Apart from shaking a hand I don’t believe I have ever spoken to a minister at any of these events.’

Henderson added that his colleague Baker was at the party ‘in a private capacity as the personal guest of her host. She didn’t raise any issues on behalf of Bell Pottinger or her clients.’

The finance sector formed the largest contingent at the event. In total, there were 73 hedge fund tycoons, private equity financiers and wealth managers. Among them were some of Mayfair and Belgravia’s most powerful hedge fund names led by heavyweight party donors Sir Michael Hintze of CQS and Andrew Law of Caxton — both former executives at Goldman Sachs.

Premier tables at last year’s party cost £1,000 per guest. Standard tables were charged at £400 per guest.

There is no precise way of knowing how much was raised from last year’s event. Political donations are only disclosed above a £7,500 threshold. But at fundraisers the value of the meal or prize is deducted. This means many donations may fall below the threshold and so will not be disclosed.

But in the week following the event, Electoral Commission data shows the Conservatives received £1.1m. This is over three times the Conservatives’ average weekly donor income.

Guests at the party and the companies they represent have donated a disclosed £21.9m to the Conservatives since Electoral Commission records began in 2001. This is 10 per cent of the £219.7m of disclosed donations to the party in the same period. (All donations above £500 have to be declared, and any above £7,500 are disclosed on a register kept by the Electoral Commission.)

Since the June 24 event, guests have donated a disclosed £5m to the Conservatives.

On one table was a representatives of the little-known Tory dining club, United and Cecil. Since 2008, its members have donated £909,095 to the party through the club, without being named.

A spokesman for the Conservative Party said: ‘All donations to the Conservative Party are properly and transparently declared to the Electoral Commission, published by them, and comply fully with Electoral Commission rules.’

Spinwatch’s Tamasin Cave, said: ‘Our government has promised to be ‘the most transparent in the world’, yet David Cameron won’t even publish the names of his guests at these events, which is just one of countless donor dinners.’

How we did it

The table plan, auction catalogue and briefing notes for last year’s Conservative Summer Party were passed to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. The event is one of two major fundraising occasions held by the party.

We researched the 449 guests on the list to establish their jobs, industrial sectors and wealth. We also established the political donations they made both as individuals and also through the companies with which they are linked by using disclosures made on the Electoral Commission website.

This allowed us to provide a breakdown of the donations that have been made to the Conservative party by the summer party guests since the Electoral Commission started publishing data. Where we have identified a donor, the infographic included in our coverage shows the value of individual donations and the combined total for individual and corporate donations.

We used Companies House data to establish an individual’s directorships. We then fed their Companies House registration numbers into the Electoral Commission database.

If there was more than one director from the same company present at the Summer Party, we allocated donations to the individual with the most senior standing – for example, the chairman or chief executive – to avoid double counting.

We also included donations which individuals or companies made to ‘members associations’ of the Conservative Party. These are organisations linked to the party and overseen by the Electoral Commission. An example of this is the ‘Conservative Friends of India’, which was established to build links between the party, British Indians and India itself.

Some individuals in the room held senior positions in ‘unincorporated associations’. This includes dinner clubs such as the United & Cecil Club, a prominent Conservative donor. Where a senior member of these groups attended, the donations of these groups were included in ‘corporate donations’ linked to them.

It was not always possible to find information on the sectors in which people worked. In a small number of cases it was impossible to identify a named individual.

To assess wealth, the Bureau used three established datasets of wealthy individuals: the Sunday Times Rich List, Forbes Russia and Slovenia Times. This means our £11bn wealth figure is likely to be a low estimate of the wealth in the room.

The Bureau only published the names of attendees if there was a public interest in so doing.

The Bureau’s reporting team: Nick Mathiason, Melanie Newman, Tom Warren, Sid Ryan, Victoria Parsons, Lucinda Borrell and Gloria Schiavi.

It is now common knowledge that the U.S. economy has in recent years been experiencing extremely uneven developments. While the financial sector has been enjoying enormously high rates of growth, the real sector is mired in stagnation or dismal growth rates. Accordingly, while the financial oligarchy is reaping the lion’s share of this fantastic growth of asset-price inflation, the overwhelming majority of citizens are suffering from the systematically declining standards of living.

For example, a recent report by the Federal Reserve Bank shows that while aggregate national wealth in the U.S. rose by $1.49 trillion during the first quarter of 2014, the real economy (as measured by GDP) actually contracted by 1 percent―according to the Department of Commerce, the decline in GDP was actually 2.9 (not 1) percent. In a similar report, the Financial Times recently noted that household wealth as a whole is up 43 percent since the depths of the economic slump in 2008, despite the slow or nonexistent recovery in the labor market and an actual decline in median household income, down 7.6 percent since 2008 [1].

This obvious and growing gap between the rise of financial wealth in the absence of real growth is, of course, explained by the fantastic asset-price inflation of the past several years―a financial bubble bigger than the one that burst in 2008. Of the $1.49 trillion increase in the national wealth in the first three months of 2014, some $361 billion were due to stock price appreciation while $758 billion were due to real estate inflation. Not only has the stock price bubble largely benefited the wealthy, who disproportionately own the major bulk of stocks, but also “the increased home values were concentrated in the mansions of the super-rich, not the modest homes of working people.” According to figures published by Redfin, a real estate group, from January through April 2014, “sales of the top 1 percent of US homes, those priced at $1.67 million or more, have risen 21 percent, while sales of the remaining 99 percent of homes have fallen 7.6 percent” [1].

The Financial Times, which published the Redfin figures, noted similar trends in consumer sales:

Sales by luxury retailers such as LVMH (Louis Vuitton, Bulgari) and Tiffany rose by 9 percent; sales by retailers with mainly working class customers declined. Walmart was down 5 percent, Sears’ sales fell by 6.8 percent. At the lower end, only cut-rate outlets where more and more Americans must shop to stretch their dollars saw increased sales. Dollar Tree, the largest such retailer, recorded a sales increase of 7.2 percent. . . . The newspaper observed, the gains show the effectiveness of policy in recreating the wealth lost in the recession, but its effect in boosting the economy is limited, because much of the benefit has gone to wealthy households that own stocks and large houses [1].

The simultaneous enrichment of the financial oligarchy, on the one hand, and the impoverishment of the masses of the people, on the other, is akin to the growth of a parasite in the body of a living organism at the expense of life-sustaining blood or nourishment of that organism. What is more, this parasitic transfer of economic blood from the bottom up is not simply the outcome of the workings of the invisible hand of market mechanism, or the blind forces of competition in a capitalist economy. Perhaps more importantly, the transfer is the logical outcome of insidious but carefully crafted economic policies that are designed to entrench neoliberal austerity economics.

Supply-Side Monetary Policy: Asset-Price Inflation as Economic Stimulus

Governments of the core capitalist countries have since the Great Depression of the 1930s applied two major types of economic stimuli: demand-side, or Keynesian, and supply-side, or neoliberal. Demand-side policies aim at boosting the purchasing power of workers and other masses of the people directly: injecting buying power into the economy through large scale investment in infrastructural projects and other employment-generating undertakings. Policy measures of this sort, which lasted from the immediate aftermath of the Great Depression and/or WW II until the late 1970s and early 1980s, served as the cornerstone of New Deal economics in the U.S. and Social-Democratic policies in other major capitalist economies.

Champions of supply-side economics also purport to offer stimulus measures to revive a stagnant economy. However, they do this in an indirect, roundabout or two-step process. The first step aims at further enriching the rich, either through fiscal policies of tax cuts for the wealthy or monetary policies of asset-price inflation, which also largely benefit the wealthy. The second step consists, essentially, of a hope or wish: it is hoped that, following the injection of additional resources into the coffers of the 1% in the first step, the 99% would then benefit from the ensuing trickle-down effects, thereby boosting aggregate demand and economic activity.

Formally, this policy was ushered in when Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980. Initially, the architects of supply-side economics focused on fiscal policy. After successfully carrying through their project of drastic tax breaks for the wealthy, which came to be known as Reagan’s supply-side tax cuts, they then directed their attention to monetary policy as the next major redistributive tool in favor of the 1%.

Starting with Alan Greenspan as chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank to his successors Ben Bernanke and now Janet Yellen, this policy has essentially meant granting unlimited interest-free or nearly interest-free money to major banks and other Wall Street players. Although not discussed publicly, monetary policy makers of Wall Street at the head of the Federal Reserve Bank and the Treasury Department have come to view the bestowing of cheap money upon Wall Street as a monetary stimulus measure that would work through asset-price inflation and the subsequent trickle-down mechanism.

The official rationale for the injection of cheap money into the financial system is still justified, publicly, on the same grounds as the traditional Keynesian monetary stimulus: that such infusions of money into the financial sector would prompt enhanced lending to the real sector, thereby encouraging productive investment, employment and growth. This justification of unwarranted and excessively cheap money supply is, however, premised on three major conditions: that manufacturers face a tight and expensive capital/money market; that manufacturers face or envision a strong demand for what they produce, or would produce; and that there is something akin to a partition between real and financial sectors of the economy, as it was more or less the case when the Glass-Steagall Act was in force (from 1933 to 1998), which strictly stipulated the types and quantities of investments that banks and other financial intermediaries could undertake.

None of these conditions are, however, present in today’s U.S. economy. To begin with, there is no shortage of cash in the real sector; the sector seems to be, indeed, sitting on a mound of cash but not expanding production because of the austerity-generated weak demand.

While at least 25 million Americans are unemployed or working only part-time when they want and need full-time work, corporate America is sitting on a cash hoard of more than $2 trillion, refusing to invest in new production or hiring new workers, and instead engaging in speculation and stock buybacks that are more profitable for the corporate CEOs. Stock buybacks by non-financial corporations occurred at an annual pace of $427 billion in the first quarter, according to the Fed [1].

Secondly, since players in the financial sector are no longer constrained by regulatory restrictions on the types and quantities of their investment, why would they look or wait for borrowers from the real sector (who, as just mentioned, have plenty of cash of their own), instead of investing in the more lucrative field of speculation. Not surprisingly, as the regulatory constraints have been gradually removed in the past several decades, financial bubbles and bursts have become a recurring pattern.

Indeed, not only do Wall Street banks and other beneficiaries of monetary policy use the nearly interest-free money for speculative investment, but also increasingly real sector corporations divert more and more of their profits to speculation instead of production―they seem to have come to think: why bother with the messy business of production when higher returns can be garnered by simply buying and selling titles. lure of speculative profits, greatly facilitated by the extensive deregulation of the financial sector, is obviously strong enough to induce capital to abandon manufacturing in pursuit of higher returns in the financial sector. This steady transfer of money from the real to the financial sector is the exact opposite of what monetary policy-makers―and, indeed, the entire neoclassical/mainstream economic theory―claim or portray to happen: flow of money from financial to the real sector.

Capital flight from the real to the financial sector, and the divergence between corporate profitability and real investment were highlighted in an article by Robin Harding that was published in the Financial Timesof July 24, 2013. Headlined “Corporate Investment: A Mysterious Divergence,” the article revealed that, in the past three decades or so, a “disconnect” has developed between corporate profitability and real investment; indicating that, contrary to previous times, a significant portion of corporate profits is not reinvested for capacity building. It is diverted, instead, to financial investment in pursuit of higher returns to shareholders’ capital. Prior to 1980s, the two moved in tandem―both about 9% of GDP. Since then, and especially in the very recent years, whereas real investment has declined to about 4% of GDP, corporate profits have increased to about 12% of GDP! [2].

Financial big wigs at the helm of monetary policy in the U.S. and other major capitalist countries cannot be unaware of these facts: that most of the generous cash they inject into the financial sector is used for speculative transactions in this sector without any perceptible positive impact on the real sector. So, the question is: why, then, do they keep pumping more money into the financial sector? The answer, as mentioned earlier, is that in place of traditional Keynesian monetary policy, they seem to have now discovered a new (supply-side) monetary stimulus: trickle-down effects of asset-price inflation.

Portraying asset-price inflation as a monetary tool of economic stimulation, policymakers in the United States and other core capitalist countries are no longer averse to creating financial bubbles; as such bubbles are viewed and depicted as fueling the economy through demand enhancement effects of asset-price appreciation. Instead of regulating or containing the disruptive speculative activities of the financial sector, economic policy makers, spearheaded by the Federal Reserve Bank since the days of Alan Greenspan, have been actively promoting asset-price or financial bubbles―in effect, also further enriching the rich and exacerbating inequality.

Aside from issues such as social justice and economic security for the masses of people, the idea of creating asset-price bubbles as vehicles of economic stimulation is also unsustainable―indeed, destructive―in the long run: financial bubbles, no matter how long or how much they may expand, are ultimately bound by the amount of real values that are produced (by human labor) in an economy. Proxies of the financial oligarchy at the helm of economic policy making, however, do not seem to be bothered by this ominous prospect as they have apparently discovered something akin to an insurance protection scheme that would shield the market and major financial players against the risks of financial bubbles.

Insuring Financial Bubbles: Creating a New Bubble to Patch-up a Burst one

Champions of the policy of asset-price bubbles as economic stimuli do not seem to be worried about the destabilizing effects of the bubbles they help create, as they tend to believe (or hope) that the likely disturbances and losses from the potential bursting of one bubble could be offset by creating another bubble. In other words, they seem to believe that they have discovered an insurance policy for bubbles that burst by blowing new ones. Professor Peter Gowan of London Metropolitan University describes this rather perverse strategy in the following words:

Both the Washington regulators and Wall Street evidently believed that together they could manage bursts. This meant that there was no need to prevent such bubbles from occurring: on the contrary, it is patently obvious that both regulators and operators actively generated them, no doubt believing that one of the ways of managing bursts was to blow another dynamic bubble in another sector: after dot-com, the housing bubble; after that, an energy-price or emerging market bubble, and so on [3].

Randall W. Forsyth of Barron’s likewise points out, “always contended that monetary policymakers can . . . clean up the after-effects of the bust―which meant reflating a new bubble, he argued.” It is obvious that this policy of effectively insuring financial bubbles would make financial speculation a win-win proposition, a proposition that is aptly called “moral hazard,” as it encourages risk-taking at the expense of others―in this case of the 99%, since the costs of bailing out the “too-big-to-fail” gamblers are paid by austerity cuts. that “the Fed would bail out the markets after any bust, they went from one excess to another,” Forsyth further points out. “So, the Long-Term Capital Management collapse in 1998 begat the easy credit that led to the dot-com bubble and bust, which in turn led to the extreme ease and the housing bubble” [4].

The policy of protecting major financial speculators against bankruptcy shows, among other things, that the neoliberal financial architects of recent years have jettisoned not only the New Deal–Social Democratic policies of demand management but also the free-market policies of non-intervention, as advocated, for example, by the Austrian school of economics. They tend to be interventionists when the corporate-financial oligarchy needs help, but champions of laissez-faire economics when the working class and other grassroots need help. Prior to the rise of big finance and its control of economic policy, bubble implosions were let to run their course: reckless speculation and mal-investments would go bankrupt; the real economy would be cleansed of the deadweight of the unsustainable debt; and (after a painful but relatively short period of time) the market would reallocate the real capital to productive uses. In the era of big finance and powerful financiers, however, that process of creating a “clean slate” is blocked because the financial entities that play a critical role in the creation of bubbles and bursts also control policy.

 Ismael Hossein-zadeh is Professor Emeritus of Economics (Drake University). He is the author of Beyond Mainstream Explanations of the Financial Crisis (Routledge 2014), The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism (Palgrave–Macmillan 2007), and the Soviet Non-capitalist Development: The Case of Nasser’s Egypt (Praeger Publishers 1989). He is also a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press 2012).

Notes

[1] As cited in Patrick Martin, “Wealth report shows deepening social polarization in US,” <http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/06/07/weal-j07.html>; see also Rob Uri, “Monetary Policy as Class Warfare, Revisited,” < http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/05/23/monetary-policy-as-class-warfare-revisited/>.

[2] Robin Harding, “Corporate investment: A mysterious divergence,” <http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/8177af34-eb21-11e2-bfdb-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2dN45MG7r>.

[3] As cited in Ismael Hossein-zadeh, Beyond Mainstream Explanations of the Financial Crisis(Routledge 2014), p. 16.

[4] Randall W. Forsyth, “Ignoring the Austrians Got Us in This Mess,” <http://online.barrons.com/article/SB123680667244600275.html>.

A report just published by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee on food security in Britain supports Environment Secretary Owen Paterson’s plan to push ahead with growing genetically modified (GM) crops in England. However, it doesn’t mention which crops would actually be grown [1].

The Committee says that the Government should do more to inform the public about “potentially beneficial impacts” of GM crops under development, but, according to Genewatch UK, the report fails to inform the public that the commercial GM crops that would actually be grown commercially are tolerant to companies’ own-brand weedkillers, such as Monsanto’s RoundUp Ready crops.

The “potentially beneficial impacts” of GM crops just don’t stack up. For instance, non-GM farming in Europe has outperformed GM farming in the USA [2] and poisonous pesticides, destructive fertilisers and patented GE seeds can’t even match 1890 or even 1760 AD yields in India [3].

Director of GeneWatch UK, Dr Helen Wallace, says:

“RoundUp Ready GM crops are the crops which could be grown in England perhaps as early as next year. Blanket spraying of these crops with weedkiller would lead to massive loss of habitat for birds and butterflies and a plague of superweeds for farmers. The costs of segregating GM and non-GM would push up food prices for everyone, and non-GM farmers would lose out financially if their conventional or organic crops become contaminated”.

Monsanto’s or Syngenta’s RoundUp Ready GM maize (NK603 and GA21), which are blanket sprayed with the weedkiller glyphosate (brand name RoundUp), are in the commercial pipeline for EU cultivation approvals. Again, some of the “potentially beneficial impacts” of RoundUp Ready GM crops include the growth of herbicide-tolerant superweeds and the loss of habitat for birds and butterflies: leading, for example, to a crash in the population of the Monarch butterfly in the United States [4,5]. Aside from the environmental dangers, there are very strong links between glyphosate and a very wide range of serious human ailments and diseases [6].

In the UK, there are no national measures for co-existence of GM and non-GM crops and for liability for the costs of contamination incidents, which can cost conventional and organic farmers many millions of pounds in lost markets for their products [7]. Contamination seems of little concern to the global biotech sector, though. It has already recklessly contaminated the environment with its poison [8] and, as far as GMOs are concerned, it is more a case of the more contamination, the better [9].

The EU ‘opt out’ proposal adopted by EU ministers in June, which will now go to the European Parliament, could speed up GM crop approvals in England by loosening Europe-wide regulations that are currently in place. Countries opposed to growing would opt out by imposing regional bans on the cultivation of specific crops. Scotland and Wales will opt out from growing GM crops, but the Government wants England to press ahead. This ‘opt out’ proposal is regarded as constituting little more than part of a ‘Monsanto-friendly’ [10] strategy, which is being facilitated by Minister Owen Paterson, who has worked closely with the GMO industry on UK policy, including on a PR strategy which seeks to avoid discussion of RoundUp Ready crops and the multinational companies that sell them [11]. Paterson appears little more than a misinformed puppet of the GMO sector [12] and seems content to be a part of that sector’s multi-pronged political subterfuge to force GMO onto the British public [13]. Such a pity that Paterson and others are content to climb into bed with a company that has such a long history of duplicity and criminality [14].

One positive aspect of the Committee’s report is the recommendation that Government reduces dependence on imported soybean for animal feed, warning that increased demand for protein from emerging economies threatens current supply lines. Much of this imported soya is GM. The Committee also recommends that the UK takes steps to become more self-sufficient in fruit and vegetables, supermarkets shorten their supply chains to support more local food; and better long-term weather prediction for farmers is developed.

In response to this, Helen Wallace states:

“It is a pity that these valuable recommendations on food security are likely to be drowned out by this Committee’s misleading claims on GM crops. Reducing dependency on imported GM soya, used to feed animals in Britain, would be a big step forward in making our food supply more sustainable and secure.”

‘Food security’ and ‘sustainability’ are nice sounding terms. However, acquiescing to big US biotech concerns does not guarantee either. It’s not meant to. Quite the opposite in fact [15,16].

 Notes

[1]    House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee. Food security. Second Report of Session 2014-15.

[2]  Heinemann et al. (2013) Sustainability and innovation in staple crop production in the US Midwest. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability. Published online: 14 Jun 2013.http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14735903.2013.806408#.Ub9AU5zXryU

[3] http://www.globalresearch.ca/india-genetically-modified-seeds-agricultural-productivity-and-political-fraud/5328227

[4] For superweeds see: Benbrook CM (2012) Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the U.S. – the first sixteen years. Environmental Sciences Europe 24(1):24.http://www.enveurope.com/content/24/1/24 ; BBC report 19th September 2012:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-19585341 ; GM crops: Farmer to Farmer:http://gmcropsfarmertofarmer.com/ ; Greenpeace “Growing Doubt” video, October 2012:http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/agriculture/problem/genetic-engineering/Growing-Doubt/ ; more videos of superweeds on: http://www.gmfreeze.org/why-freeze/videos-and-clips/.

[5] For Monarch butterflies see: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/apr/18/tracking-causes-monarch-butterfly-decline ; Pleasants JM, Oberhauser KS (2013) Milkweed loss in agricultural fields because of herbicide use: effect on the monarch butterfly population. Insect Conservation and Diversity 6(2):135-144. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1752-4598.2012.00196.x/abstract

[6] http://www.gmoevidence.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Glyphosate-Destructor-of-Human-Health-and-Biodiversity.pdf

[7] GM Contamination Register: http://www.gmcontaminationregister.org/

[8] http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/roundup-weedkiller-found-75-air-and-rain-samples-gov-study-finds

[9] http://www.globalresearch.ca/contamination-and-bio-pollution-the-criminality-of-the-gm-biotech-iindustry/5371517

[10] http://corporateeurope.org/food-and-agriculture/2014/05/biotech-lobbys-fingerprints-over-new-eu-proposal-allow-national-gmo

[11] GeneWatch UK PR: UK Government and GM industry collusion exposed. Tuesday 6th May 2014. http://www.genewatch.org/article.shtml?als[cid]=492860&als[itemid]=574495

[12] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/tory-mp-says-progm-environment-secretary-owen-paterson-is-industry-puppet-8686133.html

[13] http://www.globalresearch.ca/monsanto-syngenta-and-bayer-cropscience-the-gmo-biotech-sector-cant-win-the-scientific-debate-the-options-are-co-option-deception-and-collusion/5381725

[14] http://www.wakingtimes.com/2014/06/20/complete-history-monsanto-worlds-evil-corporation/

[15] http://www.grain.org/article/entries/4929-hungry-for-land-small-farmers-feed-the-world-with-less-than-a-quarter-of-all-farmland

[16]http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=389×3365735

The Al Qaeda legend and the threat of the “Outside Enemy” is sustained through extensive media and government propaganda.

In the post 9/11 era, the terrorist threat from Al Qaeda constitutes the building block of US-NATO military doctrine. It justifies –under a humanitarian mandate– the conduct of “counter-terrorism operations” Worldwide.

Known and documented, Al Qaeda affiliated entities have been used by US-NATO in numerous conflicts as “intelligence assets” since the heyday of the Soviet-Afghan war. In Syria, the Al Nusrah and ISIS rebels are the foot-soldiers of the Western military alliance, which in turn oversees and controls the recruitment and training of paramilitary forces.

While the US State Department is accusing several countries of “harboring terrorists”, America is the Number One “State Sponsor of Terrorism”: The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) –which operates in both Syria and Iraq– is covertly supported and financed by the US and its allies including Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Moreover, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham’s Sunni caliphate project coincides with a longstanding US agenda to carve up both Iraq and Syria into separate territories: A Sunni Islamist Caliphate, an Arab Shia Republic, a Republic of Kurdistan, among others.

The US-led Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) constitutes the cornerstone of US military doctrine. “Going after Islamic terrorists” is part and parcel of non-conventional warfare. The underlying objective is to justify the conduct of counter-terrorism operations Worldwide, which enables the US and its allies to intervene in the affairs of sovereign countries.

Many progressive writers, including alternative media, while focusing on recent developments in Iraq, fail to understand the logic behind the “Global War on Terrorism.” The Islamic State of Iraq and Al Cham (ISIS) is often considered as an “independent entity” rather than an instrument of the Western military alliance. Moreover, many committed anti-war activists –who oppose the tenets of  the US-NATO military agenda– will nonetheless endorse Washington’s counter-terrorism agenda directed against Al Qaeda:. The Worldwide terrorist threat is  considered to be “real”: “We are against the war, but we support the Global War on Terrorism”.

The Caliphate Project and The US National Intelligence Council Report

A new gush of propaganda has been set in motion. The leader of the now defunct Islamic State of Iraq and Al Cham (ISIS) Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced on June 29, 2014 the creation of an Islamic State:

Fighters loyal to the group’s proclaimed “Caliph Ibrahim ibn Awwad”, or Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as he was known until Sunday’s July 1st announcement, are inspired by the Rashidun caliphate, which succeeded the Prophet Muhammad in the seventh century, and is revered by most Muslims.” (Daily Telegraph, June 30, 2014)

In a bitter irony, the caliphate project as an instrument of propaganda has been on the drawing board of US intelligence for more than ten years.  In December 2004, under the Bush Administration, the National Intelligence Council (NIC) predicted that in the year 2020 a New Caliphate extending from the Western Mediterranean to Central Asia and South East Asia would emerge, threatening Western democracy and Western values.

The “findings” of the National Intelligence Council were published in a 123 page unclassified report entitled “Mapping the Global Future”.

“A New Caliphate provides an example of how a global movement fueled by radical religious identity politics could constitute a challenge to Western norms and values as the foundation of the global system”  (emphasis added)

The NIC 2004 report borders on ridicule; it is devoid of intelligence, let alone historical and geopolitical analysis. Its fake narrative pertaining to the caliphate, nonetheless, bears a canny resemblance to the June 29, 2014 highly publicized PR announcement of the creation of the Caliphate by ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The NIC report presents a so-called “fictional scenario of a letter from a fictional grandson of Bin Ladin to a family relative in 2020.”  It is on this basis that it makes predictions for the year 2020. Based on an invented bin Laden grandson letter narrative rather than on intelligence and empirical analysis, the US intelligence community concludes that the caliphate constitutes a real danger for the Western World and Western civilization.

From a propaganda standpoint, the objective underlying the Caliphate project –as described by the NIC– is to demonize Muslims with a view to justifying a military crusade:

“The fictional scenario portrayed below provides an example of how a global movement fueled by radical religious identity could emerge.

Under this scenario, a new Caliphate is proclaimed and manages to advance a powerful counter ideology that has widespread appeal.

It is depicted in the form of a hypothetical letter from a fictional grandson of Bin Ladin to a family relative in 2020.

He recounts the struggles of the Caliph in trying to wrest control from traditional regimes and the conflict and confusion which ensue both within the Muslim world and outside between Muslims and the United States, Europe, Russia and China. While the Caliph’s success in mobilizing support varies, places far outside the Muslim core in the Middle East—in Africa and Asia—are convulsed as a result of his appeals.

The scenario ends before the Caliph is able to establish both spiritual and temporal authority over a territory— which historically has been the case for previous Caliphates. At the end of the scenario, we identify lessons to be drawn.”(“Mapping the Global Future”.  p. 83)

page 90 of the report

This “authoritative” NIC “Mapping the Global Future” report was not only presented to the White House, the Congress and the Pentagon, it was also dispatched to America’s allies. The “threat emanating from the Muslim World” referred to in the NIC report (including the section on the caliphate project) is firmly entrenched in US-NATO military doctrine.

The NIC document was intended to be read by top officials. Broadly speaking it was part of the “Top official” (TOPOFF) propaganda campaign which targets senior foreign policy and military decision-makers, not to mention scholars, researchers and NGO “activists”. The objective is to ensure that “top officials” continue to believe that Islamic terrorists are threatening the security of the Western World.

The underpinnings of the caliphate scenario is the “Clash of Civilizations”, which provides a justification in the eyes of public opinion for America to intervene Worldwide as part of a global counter- terrorism agenda.

From a geopolitical and geographic standpoint, the caliphate constitutes a broad area in which the US is seeking to extend its economic and strategic influence. In the words of Dick Cheney pertaining to the 2004 NIC’s report: 

“They talk about wanting to re-establish what you could refer to as the Seventh Century Caliphate. This was the world as it was organized 1,200, 1,300 years, in effect, when Islam or Islamic people controlled everything from Portugal and Spain in the West; all through the Mediterranean to North Africa; all of North Africa; the Middle East; up into the Balkans; the Central Asian republics; the southern tip of Russia; a good swath of India; and on around to modern day Indonesia. In one sense from Bali and Jakarta on one end, to Madrid on the other.” Dick Cheney (emphasis added)

What Cheney is describing in today’s context is a broad region extending from the Mediterranean to Central Asia and South East Asia in which the US and its allies are directly involved in a variety of military and intelligence operations.

The stated aim of the NIC report was “to prepare the next Bush administration for challenges that lie ahead by projecting current trends that may pose a threat to US interests”.

The NIC intelligence document was based, lest we forget, on “a hypothetical letter from a fictional grandson of Bin Ladin to a [fictional] family relative in [the year] 2020″. “The Lessons Learnt” as outlined in this “authoritative’ NIC intelligence document are as follows:

  • the caliphate project “constitutes a serious challenge to the international order”.
  • “The IT revolution is likely to amplify the clash between Western and Muslim worlds…”

The document refers to the appeal of the caliphate to Muslims and concludes that:

“the proclamation of the Caliphate would not lessen the likelihood of terrorism and in fomenting more conflict”. [sic]

The NIC’s analysis suggests that the proclamation of a caliphate will generate a new wave of terrorism emanating from Muslim countries thereby justifying an escalation in America’s Global War on Terrorism (GWOT):

the proclamation of the caliphate … could fuel a new generation of terrorists intent on attacking those opposed to the caliphate, whether inside or outside the Muslim World.” (emphasis added)

What the NIC report fails to mention is that US intelligence in liaison with Britain’s MI6 and Israel’s Mossad are covertly involved in supporting both the terrorists and the caliphate project.

In turn, the media has embarked on a new wave of lies and fabrications, focusing on “a new terrorist threat” emanating not only from the Muslim World, but from “home grown Islamist terrorists” in Europe and North America.

Official statistics from the Ministry of Information in Ramallah have revealed that 1,518 Palestinian children were killed by Israel’s occupation forces from the outbreak of the second Intifada in September 2000 up to April 2013. That’s the equivalent of one Palestinian child killed by Israel every 3 days for almost 13 years. The ministry added that the number of children injured by the Israelis since the start of the Second Intifada against Israel’s occupation has now reached 6,000.

“The International Day for the Protection of Children is on June 1,” said a spokesman, “but Palestinian children are still subject to attacks by the Israelis and Jewish settlers on an almost daily basis.”

Noting that 2012 saw an unprecedented rise in the number of children arrested by Israeli forces, the report pointed out that 9,000 Palestinians under 18 years old have been arrested since the end of September 2000. Almost half of the Palestinian population is under 18. Almost two hundred and fifty Palestinian minors are being held in prison by Israel; 47 of them are children under 16 years of age.

Síria : A política do (des)armamento

July 2nd, 2014 by Manlio Dinucci

Um carregamento de armas químicas da Síria será transportado amanhã para Gioia Tauro [1] (na Calábria), do navio dinamarquês Ark Futura, ao navio estadunidense Cape Ray. Esse será o último envio. Com isso então a Síria termina o desarmamento químico posto abaixo do controle da Organização para a Proibição de Armas Químicas. Damasco manteu dessa maneira a sua palavra no quadro do acordo estabelecido com a mediação de Moscou, que em troca obteu de Washington a

promessa de não atacar a Síria. A transferência e a destruição sucessiva das armas químicas sírias declarou Mogherini, ministra dos negócios estrangeiros da Itália, “poderá abrir mais cenários de desarmamento e de não proliferação na região”. Ela se calou aqui quanto ao fato que enquanto a Síria renunciava as armas químicas, Israel ia construindo um sofisticado arsenal químico que continua sendo secreto porque Israel assinou, mas não ratificou, a Convenção sobre armas químicas. Isso sendo da mesma maneira como fez com o seu arsenal nuclear, que também continua sendo secreto porque Israel não assinou o Tratado de não proliferação.

Mogherini calou-se principalmente quanto a maneira pela qual os Estados Unidos contribuem ao “desarmamento” na região : exatamente quando Damasco terminou o seu desarmamento químico, mostrando dessa maneira a sua prontidão para negociações, o presidente Obama requeria do Congresso 500 milhões de dólares para armar e treinar os “membros controláveis da oposição síria”. Entretanto, essa oposição é na sua maioria composta por não-sírios, os quais foram recrutados na Líbia, Afeganistão, Bósnia, Chechenia e outros países. Esse recrutamento foi feito pela CIA, a qual os vem armando e treinando na Turquia e na Jordânia, já a muitos anos, para infiltrá-los na Síria. Entre os recrutados encontram-se então numerosos militantes do Estado Islâmico do Iraque e do Levante (ISIS, ou EIIL) os quais são treinados em bases secretas na Jordânia. Se bem que Damasco tenha realizado o desarmamento químico, e que novas provas tenham sido apresentadas quanto ao fato de terem sido os “rebeldes” que tinham usado armas químicas na Síria, Washington continua a armá-los e treiná-los para derrubar o governo sírio. Emblemático seria a declaração da reunião de cúpula da G7 em Bruxelas, a qual reflete a política de Washington a esse respeito.

Sem dizer uma palavra sobre o desarmamento químico da Síria, o G7 “condena a brutalidade do regime de Assad, que dirige um conflito que já matou mais de 160 mil pessoas deixando 9.3 milhões de pessoas em necessidade de assistência humanitária”. Depois eles qualificam também as eleições presidenciais de 3 de junho como falsificadas, declarando que “não haveria nenhum futuro para Assad na Síria. Isso ao mesmo tempo que elogiavam “o trabalho da Coalizão Nacional e do Exército Livre da Síria para manter o direito internacional”  “deplorando” o fato da Rússia e da China terem bloqueado, no Conselho de Segurança da ONU, uma resolução que exigia uma acusação contra o governo sírio no Tribunal Internacional de Hague.

Os objetivos de Washington mostram-se, entretanto, muito claramente : abater o governo de Damasco, o qual é apoiado principalmente por Moscou, e ao mesmo tempo (por intermédio da ofensiva do Estado Islâmico do Iraque e do Levante – ISIS ou EIIL – o qual é um instrumento da estratégia estadunidense) depor também o governo de Bagdá, que se distanciou dos Estados Unidos, e está se aproximando da China e da Rússia. A alternativa seria aqui « balcanizar » o Iraque, favorecendo então a sua divisão em partes. Com essa intenção Washington enviou ao Iraque, além dos drones que já operam lá vindos de Kuwait, 300 conselheiros militares com a missão de instalar dois “centros de operações conjuntas”, um en Bagdá e o outro no Curdistão. Para conduzir essas operações, assim como outras também, definidas oficialmente como de “contra terrorismo”, a Casa Branca pediu ao Congresso fundos adicionais : 4 bilhões de dólares para o Pentágono (sobretudo para as forças especiais), um bilhão para o Departamento do Estado, e 500 milhões para “situações imprevisíveis”. Na verdade essas “situações imprevisíveis” seriam facilmente previsíveis.

Manlio Dinucci

 

Edição de terça-feira, 1 de julho de 2014 de il manifestohttp://ilmanifesto.info/la-politica-del-disarmo/

Traduzido por Anna Malm, artigospoliticos.wordpress.com, para Mondialisation.ca

 

[1] Le port calabrais de Gioia Tauro (province de Reggio Calabria) est le plus grand port méditerranéen de transfert de chargement (transhipment). NdT.

 

 

 

The U.S. Supreme Court’s concept of corporate “personhood” apparently means that corporate religious rights – corporate gods – trump “the religious or secular beliefs of working people – specifically, working women.”

The U.S. Supreme Court acted with reactionary zeal, this week, to accelerate the march of corporate power into every nook and cranny of American life. The High Court handed down three decisions that most dramatically affect women, but are mainly intended to buttress the rule of the moneyed classes. In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the justices ruled that private corporations owned by religious fundamentalists have the right to eliminate contraceptive services from employee health plans, thus establishing the supremacy of corporate gods over the religious or secular beliefs of working people – specifically, working women. Thanks to the High Court, overwhelmingly female and non-white home health care employees – who have historically been among the country’s most poorly paid and oppressed workers, often laboring long hours with no benefits, no sick leave, and no security – will find it much harder to unionize. And, the Supreme Court decreed that women considering abortions at the dwindling number of clinics that provide such services will have to run the gauntlet of anti-abortion crazies, who can no longer be kept at a physical distance from the targets of their venomous free speech.

With every passing year, the federal courts become more firmly the domain of right-wing lawyers, whose mission is to set in stone the legal basis for a dictatorship of the rich. These judicial political hit men, including some women and lawyers of color, are chiefly organized under the banner of the Federalist Society. Formed in 1982 at the elite law schools at Yale, Harvard and the University of Chicago, the Federalist Society is most zealous in defending the rights of property and corporations. It now boasts 30,000 lawyers and 10,000 law students as members, including four of the nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court: Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, and chief justice John Roberts. That means the Federalist Society, a cabal of corporate conspirators, is always only one vote away from an outright majority on the nation’s highest court.

Money’s Unlimited Right to Speak

They are a devilishly clever crew, who revel in using the Bill of Rights as a weapon against the people. “Freedom of speech” was key to the Supreme Court majority’s arguments in the three recent cases. Justice Alito wrote that freedom of speech means workers cannot be forced to subsidize the speech of unions with whom they disagree. The ruling is a boon to corporate investors who want to corner the home health care market, which is projected to grow by 48 percent in the next eight years. Fewer unionized workers means higher profits. The High Court is super-sensitive to the free speech rights of anti-abortion activists, even as it typically sides with the State in creating vast zones where no free speech is allowed for those who oppose U.S. wars and corporate globalization. And, the Court’s recognition of corporate religious rights is based on the same bogus principle of corporate “personhood” that underlay its decision to allow virtually unlimited corporate contributions to political campaigns as a form of freedom of speech.

The Supreme Court’s legal logic grows clearer every year: The people have no rights that corporations are bound to respect.

The fluoride debate is changing, and fast, as more Americans are becoming aware of the known health risks of water fluoridation. City councils across the country are beginning to give their residents a choice when it comes to fluoridated drinking water, with many adding fluoridation measures to upcoming ballots.

Fortunately, Americans are using their votes to keep this highly toxic fertilizer-industry byproduct out of their drinking water (the fluoride added to municipal water supplies is a toxic byproduct from the fertilizer industry—a rarely discussed fact!).

Dallas is among the latest US cities considering whether or not to renew a three-year, $1.8-million contract that provides their drinking water with fluoride. Set to expire January 1, 2015, if Dallas ends fluoridation, it will become the largest city in the US to stop fluoridating its water.1

Dallas is on the Verge of Ending Water Fluoridation

Earlier this year, in May, there was a shift in attitudes in the Dallas city council meeting regarding water fluoridation. Despite the fact that anti-fluoridation activist Regina Imburgia had spoken to the Dallas city council several times before with no response, at the May meeting three of the 15 council members finally agreed with Imburgia’s message that water fluoridation in the city deserves a closer look.

The media picked up the story with the Dallas Observer covering the issue at length, in both column and blog formats, not only citing a recent concerning study about fluoride health risks (see below) but also calling out Dallas Morning News columnist Jacquielynn Floyd for engaging in unprofessional behavior (like name-calling) against anti-fluoride activists.

Then, on June 11, retired chemistry professor Paul Connett, director of the Fluoride Action Network (FAN) testified before the Dallas council. His 3-minute (plus questions) expert testimony can be seen in the video above (and it’s time well spent if you’re new to the issue of water fluoridation). Dr. Connett said:

“I was impressed by the willingness of the councilors to listen to me and to ask important questions. This augers well because we have to beat this nonsense one open mind at a time.

I was also very impressed by the local organizers. In addition to my testimony, with only a few days notice, they were able to pull together a public meeting, which over 40 people attended including 3 local dentists.

Like many other cities right now the decision to end fluoridation in Dallas may well hinge on events happening elsewhere, like the potential for a legal challenge to fluoridation in Canada as outlined by a leading lawyer in Canada before the Peel regional council in Ontario on June 26 and the ending of mandatory fluoridation in Israel.” 

During his testimony, Dr. Connett made a strong case for why dentistry should be done in the dental office… not via your water supply, and as he stated, water fluoridation is “the height of arrogance”:2

“Organized dentistry, which includes the American Dental Association, the Oral Health Division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state dental directors, is the only health profession that seeks to deliver its services via the public’s water supply.

The practice of artificial water fluoridation is the height of arrogance when one considers the following undisputed facts and scientifically supported arguments.”

12 Reasons Why Water Fluoridation Must Be Challenged

Dr. Connett, who co-authored the book The Case Against Fluoride, is recognized worldwide as a leader in the movement to eliminate fluoride from municipal water supplies, and I’m pleased to be working with him to achieve this goal. He recently compiled a comprehensive and eye-opening list of reasons why water fluoridation must be challenged. Here are some of the highlights:3

Fluoride Added to List of Chemicals That Cause ‘Brain Drain’ (Along with Mercury and Lead)

In 2006, researchers from Harvard School of Public Health and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai did a systematic review and identified five industrial chemicals as developmental neurotoxicants. This included unquestionable poisons like lead, methylmercury, polychlorinated biphenyls, arsenic, and toluene. Since then, they’ve documented six additional developmental neurotoxicants and have added them to the list of what are now 11 known industrial chemicals that harm brain development in human fetuses and infants.4 One of the recently added neurotoxicants is fluoride, and one of the study’s authors has previously said:5

“Fluoride seems to fit in with lead, mercury, and other poisons that cause chemical brain drain… The effect of each toxicant may seem small, but the combined damage on a population scale can be serious, especially because the brain power of the next generation is crucial to all of us.”

The debate over the dangers of fluoride has been ongoing for more than six decades, despite the fact that study after study has confirmed that fluoride is a dangerous, toxic poison that bio-accumulates in your body while being ineffective at preventing dental decay. So what exactly does fluoride do to your brain?

There are 37 human studies linking fairly modest fluoride exposures with reduced intelligence (nine of these studies found lowered IQ at less than 3 ppm in the water) and 12 human studies linking fluoride with neurobehavioral deficits. There are also three human studies linking fluoride exposure with impaired fetal brain development,6 and approximately 100 animal studies linking it to brain damage. This includes such effects as:7

Check Out the Truth: Drinking Fluoride Doesn’t Prevent Cavities

Even if you were willing to overlook the proven fact that fluoride is a poison to the human body, would you still want to drink fluoride if it wouldn’t protect your teeth? The truth is, it won’t. Fluoride advocates often claim that the reduction in tooth decay that’s occurred since the 1950s is a benefit of fluoridated water, but the facts just don’t add up. For example, in 1999 the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) claimed that dental caries declined precipitously during the second half of the 20th Century.

But what they failed to mention is that tooth decay rates “precipitously declined” in ALL Western nations, regardless of whether or not fluoridation was used – and most of those countries did NOT fluoridate!According to World Health Organization (WHO) data, the US, which fluoridates about two-thirds of public water supplies, actually has higher rates of tooth decay than many countries that do not fluoridate their water, including Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Sweden.9 Furthermore, if fluoride were effective in preventing caries, you would expect to see an increase in tooth decay when fluoridation is stopped. Yet, this is not what we see! The following demographic studies and fluoridation trends make it clear that fluoridation has very little to do with whether or not you develop cavities.

  • In Japan, fluoridation has been virtually nonexistent since the 1970s, yet rates of dental caries have declined since that time.10
  • In the town of Tiel in the Netherlands, water fluoridation was discontinued in 1973, and by 1993, rates of dental caries had declined.11
  • In the town of Kuopio, Finland, water fluoridation was stopped after 1992. In 1995 and 1998, dental caries had either decreased or stayed the same.12
  • In two towns in former East Germany, a significant fall in the prevalence of dental caries was seen in the 20 years following cessation of water fluoridation.13
  • In Canada, “the prevalence of caries decreased over time in the fluoridation-ended community while remaining unchanged in the fluoridated community.”14

Fluoride Has Nothing to Do with the Underlying Causes of Tooth Decay

Dental caries are caused by demineralization of your teeth (enamel and dentin) by the acids formed during the bacterial fermentation of dietary sugars. Demineralization is countered by the deposit of minerals from your saliva, or remineralization, which is a slow process. Enthusiasts report that fluoride prevents dental caries by enhancing mineralization. However, dental caries are not caused by a lack of fluoride, just as depression is not caused by a lack of Prozac. Some of the true primary causes of tooth decay cited in the literature include:

  • Consistent use of refined sugar, sugary soft drinks, and processed foods in general
  • Children going to bed with a bottle of sweetened drink in their mouth, or sucking at will from such a bottle during the day
  • Poor dental hygiene and poor access to and utilization of dental health services, usually related to socioeconomic status
  • Mineral deficiencies, like magnesium, which can weaken bones and teeth15
  • More than 600 medications promote tooth decay by inhibiting saliva

It’s often said that fluoride helps to re-mineralize your teeth and make them stronger, but even this must be questioned. A groundbreaking study published in the journal Langmuir uncovered that the fluorapatite layer formed on your teeth from fluoride is a mere six nanometers thick16 — you’d need 10,000 of these layers to get the width of a strand of your hair! Scientists now question whether this ultra-thin layer can actually protect your enamel and provide any discernible benefit, considering the fact that it is quickly eliminated by simple chewing. They wrote: “…it has to be asked whether such narrow… layers really can act as protective layers for the enamel.”

More Than 100 US Communities Have Ditched Water Fluoridation

Since 2009, about 130 communities have stopped water fluoridation. Canada has dropped from about 60 percent of the population drinking fluoridated water down to about 32-33 percent. Victories have also been logged in Australia, Israel, New Zealand, and across the US. The latest fluoride-free victories include:17

  1. Wellington, Florida: After hours of debate and testimony from medical experts and residents, council members voted to end 14 years of fluoridation. A number of pro-fluoride dentists are unfortunately working to overturn the council’s vote, but it’s still a victory for now.
  2. Amherst County, Virginia: The Service Authority Board voted to discontinue fluoridation because of conflicting opinions on what constitutes “optimal” levels of fluoride. According FAN, “Several board supervisors felt that the additive was unnecessary and a waste of resources.”
  3. Wood Village, Oregon: The Woodsville City Council was considering adding fluoride to the city’s drinking water, but after polling residents found that 100% of respondents were against it. They have since ended their fluoridation discussions.
  4. Sebastopol, California: City Councilors voted unanimously against fluoridation in Sonoma County because of concerns the fluoride could leach into their groundwater from surrounding communities, putting residents at risk.
  5. Bantry, Ireland: Town Councilors voted unanimously in favor of a resolution calling for an immediate end to fluoridation throughout Ireland. Two other towns–Skibbereen and Clonakitty–also passed similar resolutions in 2013. Support for this historic vote was provided by the local group West Cork Fluoride Free.
  6. Boyne City, Michigan: In early May 2014, city commissioners voted 3-2 to end more than 40 years of fluoridation for the town’s approximately 4,000 residents. Commissioner Gene Towne summed up the council’s decision, saying: “It comes down to choice. I don’t see how you can control the dosage (of fluoride that people ingest) if it’s in everything. If there’s a chance that it could cause any health problems… this should all come down to your choice.”
  7. Buffalo and Union, Missouri: In May 2014, Alderman voted to end a decade of fluoridation, saying the additive damaged equipment, city trucks, and was not economical. Also in May, councilors in Union, Missouri voted 7-1 to end fluoridation after the city’s public service committee recommended the city not repair fluoride injection equipment destroyed by the corrosive additive. According to the city engineer, “It’s an acid and it eats the pipes. Employees are handling it and they don’t want to be.”

Do you want to add your city to this growing list? Stay tuned, as the Fluoride Action Network has a game plan to END water fluoridation, both in the US and Canada. Clean pure water is a prerequisite to optimal health. Industrial chemicals, drugs, and other toxic additives really have no place in our water supplies. So, please, support the anti-fluoride movement by making a donation to the Fluoride Action Network today. You might also wish to attend FAN’s Fifth Citizen’s Conference on Fluoride to be held in Washington, DC Sept 5-8. I will be speaking at this on Sept 7 (for more details contact [email protected]).

Join the Fight to Get Fluoride Out of Drinking Water

There’s no doubt about it: fluoride should not be ingested. Even scientists from the EPA’s National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory have classified fluoride as a “chemical having substantial evidence of developmental neurotoxicity.” Furthermore, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 41 percent of American adolescents now have dental fluorosis—unattractive discoloration and mottling of the teeth that indicate overexposure to fluoride. Clearly, children are being overexposed, and their health and development put in jeopardy. Why?

At least when it comes to topical application, you have a choice. You can easily buy fluoride-free toothpaste and mouthwash. But you’re stuck with whatever your community puts in the water, and it’s very difficult to filter out of your water once it’s added. Many do not have the resources or the knowledge to do so.

The only real solution is to stop the archaic practice of water fluoridation in the first place. Fortunately, the Fluoride Action Network has a game plan to END water fluoridation, both in the United States and Canada. Clean pure water is a prerequisite to optimal health. Industrial chemicals, drugs and other toxic additives really have no place in our water supplies. So, please, support the anti-fluoride movement by making a donation to the Fluoride Action Network today.

 

1 FluorideAlert.org June 9, 2014

2 Food Consumer May 5, 2014 

3 Food Consumer May 5, 2014 

4 The Lancet Neurology March 2014 

5 Dallas Observer May 8, 2014 

6 Fluoride Action Network, Brain 

7 Fluoridealert.org, Brain Effects 

8 Fluoride Action Network 

9 Fluoride Action Network 

10 Eur J Oral Sci August 1996 

11 Caries Research 1993 

12 Caries Research 2000 

13 Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology October 2000 

14 Fluoride Alert 

15 Weston Price Foundation September 23, 2010 

16 Langmuir. 2010 Dec 21;26(24):18750-9 

17 Fluoride Action Network February 7, 2014

MOUNT VERNON, Maine — Living in the lush, wooded countryside with fresh New England air, Wendy Brennan never imagined her family might be consuming poison every day.

But when she signed up for a research study offering a free T-shirt and a water-quality test, she was stunned to discover that her private well contained arsenic.

“My eldest daughter said … ‘You’re feeding us rat poison.’ I said, ‘Not really,’ but I guess essentially … that is what you’re doing. You’re poisoning your kids,” Brennan lamented in her thick Maine accent. “I felt bad for not knowing it.”

Brennan is not alone. Urine samples collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from volunteers reveal that most Americans regularly consume small amounts of arsenic. It’s not just in water; it’s also in some of the foods we eat and beverages we drink, such as rice, fruit juice, beer and wine.

Under orders from a Republican-controlled Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency in 2001 established a new drinking-water standard to try to limit people’s exposure to arsenic. But a growing body of research since then has raised questions about whether the standard is adequate.

The EPA has been prepared to say since 2008, based on its review of independent science, that arsenic is 17 times more potent as a carcinogen than the agency now reports. Women are especially vulnerable. Agency scientists calculated that if 100,000 women consumed the legal limit of arsenic every day, 730 of them would eventually get bladder or lung cancer from it.

After years of research and delays, the EPA was on the verge of making its findings official by 2012. Once the science was complete, the agency could review the drinking water standard.

But an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity found that one member of Congress effectively blocked the release of the EPA findings and any new regulations for years.

Leading Scientists Tell EPA to Ban Agent Orange GMO Crops

July 2nd, 2014 by Environmental Working Group

Administrator Gina McCarthy
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20460

RE: Dow AgroSciences application to amend their 2,4-D choline salt herbicide for use on 2,4-D tolerant corn and
soybeans. Docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2014-0195

Dear Administrator McCarthy:

We the undersigned scientists, medical professionals, and researchers are writing to urge the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency not to register a double herbicide mix of 2,4-D and glyphosate (the “Enlist DuoTM” weed killer) for farm field spraying in combination with a new breed of genetically engineered corn and soybeans.

This 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) and glyphosate herbicide system developed by Dow AgroSciences, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Dow Chemical Company, would put public health at risk if sprayed on millions of acres of cropland.

Dow Chemical Company promotes 2,4-D-resistant corn and soybeans to be used in conjunction with Enlist DuoTM because the widespread planting of the glyphosate-tolerant Roundup Ready corn and soybeans has resulted in accelerated herbicide resistance in numerous weed species.1 Now, instead of re-evaluating the genetically engineered crop strategy in the United States, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and EPA are close to approving the 2,4-D-resistant corn and soybeans despite the risks that the increased use of 2,4-D would pose to human health and the environment.

2,4-D is a notorious herbicide that has been linked with adverse health effects to the thyroid2 and an increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma3 in human epidemiological studies. Although studies of pesticide exposure among farmers and their families are confounded by exposure to multiple pesticides, there is a large and compelling body of data that demonstrates the link between occupational exposure to herbicides and insecticides and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.4 Studies of farmers who worked with 2,4-D found a link between exposure to this herbicide and suppressed immune function,5 lower sperm count,6 and a greater risk of Parkinson’s disease.7

These findings from human studies, whether small-scale, pilot studies or large cohort studies, point out significant risks from 2,4-D to human health even for the relatively healthy adults who work in agricultural jobs. Such risks would be much higher for young children, especially young children in residential communities, schools, and daycare centers near the 2,4-D-sprayed fields.

Also worrisome is the fact that the manufacturer did not conduct any toxicity tests for simultaneous exposure to the combination of 2,4-D and glyphosate, which could pose a much higher human and environmental toxicity risk than either herbicide alone. EPA acknowledges that, “there could be additional toxicological effects (synergistic or additive) because of the presence of two herbicides.”8 Yet, the Agency disregarded these data gaps and both human and environmental toxicity concerns in its proposal to register the Enlist Duo™ herbicide.

If the EPA were to approve Dow’s application for 2,4-D-glyphosate herbicide to be used on 2,4-D-resistant crops, USDA estimates at least a tripling of use of 2,4-D by 2020 compared to the present amounts used annually for agriculture in the United States.9 The increase in 2,4-D spraying on corn and soybean fields would lead to pollution of food and water and increased drift of 2,4-D from the fields into nearby residential areas. The Dow Chemical Company claims that their 2,4-D choline salt formulation has low volatility and low drift. However, the large-scale, blanket spraying that has become standard practice with genetically engineered crops would make herbicide drift from sprayed fields into nearby residential areas and ecosystem habitats highly likely to occur.

In addition to putting human health at risk, increased 2,4-D spraying would harm the already-vulnerable ecosystems in intensely farmed regions of the United States; affect dozens of endangered species; and potentially contribute to the decline of pollinators and honeybees. EPA itself has identified these likely outcomes of 2,4-D spraying in the agency’s ecological risk assessment for 2,4-D. Such direct and indirect effects of 2,4-D would have significant negative economic consequences.

Finally, increased 2,4-D application is likely to accelerate and exacerbate the evolution of yet more 2,4-D resistant weeds.10 This pattern is known as the “pesticide treadmill” when farmers end up using larger amounts of increasingly toxic chemicals to control herbicide-resistant weeds eventually requiring the use of different pesticides.

Decades of research have continuously demonstrated the risks of using 2,4-D, a notoriously toxic herbicide. Allowing large-scale 2,4-D spraying in combination with 2,4-D-tolerant genetically engineered crops would worsen the problem. We urge the EPA to do the right thing and deny the approval of the new mixtures of 2,4-D and glyphosate in order to protect human and environmental health.

View list of signatories here

 

1 Owen MD. Weed species shifts in glyphosate-resistant crops. Pest Manag Sci. 64(4): 377-87. and Owen MD, Young BG, Shaw DR, Wilson RG, Jordan DL, Dixon PM, Weller SC. 2011. Benchmark study on glyphosate-resistant crop systems in the United States. Part 2: Perspectives. Pest Manag Sci. 67(7): 747-57.

2 Goldner WS, Sandler DP, Yu F, Shostrom V, Hoppin JA, Kamel F, LeVan TD. 2013. Hypothyroidism and pesticide use among male private pesticide applicators in the agricultural health study. J Occup Environ Med. 55(10): 1171-8.

3 Miligi L, Costantini AS, Veraldi A, Benvenuti A; WILL, Vineis P. Cancer and pesticides: an overview and some results of the Italian multicenter case-control study on hematolymphopoietic malignancies. Ann N Y Acad Sci 1076:366-77, 2006.

4 Schinasi L, Leon ME. 2014. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and occupational exposure to agricultural pesticide chemical groups and active ingredients: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Environ Res Public Health 11(4): 4449-527.

5 Faustini A, Settimi L, Pacifici R, Fano V, Zuccaro P, Forastiere F. 1996. Immunological changes among farmers exposed to phenoxy herbicides: preliminary observations. Occup Environ Med. 53(9): 583-5.

6 Lerda D, Rizzi R. 1991. Study of reproductive function in persons occupationally exposed to 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D). Mutat Res. 262(1): 47-50.

7 Tanner C, Ross G, Jewell S, Hauser R, Jankovic J, Factor S, Bressman S, Deligtisch A, Marras C, Lyons K, Bhudhikanok G, Roucoux D, Meng C, Abbot R, Langston W. 2009. Occupation and Risk of Parkinsonism. Arch. Neurol. 66(9): 1106-13.

8 EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). 2013. EFED (Environmental Fate and Effects Division) Environmental Risk Assessment of Proposed Label for Enlist (2,4-D Choline Salt), New Uses on Soybean with DAS 68416-4 (2,4-D Tolerant) and Enlist (2,4-D + Glyphosate Tolerant) Corn and Field Corn. Docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2014-0195.

9 USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture). 2013. Dow AgroSciences Petitions (09-233-01p, 09-349-01p, and 11-234-01p) for Determinations of Nonregulated Status for 2,4-D-Resistant Corn and Soybean Varieties. Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

10 Mortensen, DA, JF Egan, BD Maxwell, MR Ryan, and RG Smith. 2012. Navigating a Critical Juncture for Sustainable Weed Management. BioScience, 62: 75-84.

On July 1st, during a meeting with all Russian ambassadors and permanent representatives, President Vladimir Putin revealed the details of a blatant blackmail against France. The US Administration used its unilateral (and de facto illegal) sanctions against Cuba, Iran and Sudan to punish France and in particular the Banque Nationale de Paris – Paribas. The Bank was blackmailed in to paying $8.97 billion for not submitting to the malicious diktat of the power-drunk but weakening hegemon, even though the sanctions are not a decision agreed to by France.

In a development that has a direct impact on national sovereignty, Senior BNP executive Dominique Remy resigned in mid-May after New York state banking regulator Benjamin Lawsky (read Wall Street) named him as one of the 12 officials who should step down due to their roles in the “scandal”.

Putin revealed publicly something even worse. The case against France’s BNP was set up by Washington in order to blackmail France and force the country to refuse the delivery to Russia of two French-produced Mistral-class helicopter carriers for $1.6billion.

France and Russia, however, did not back down on the Mistral deal: at this very moment 400 Russian sailors are receiving training on the first Mistral in a French port.

Far from representing a demonstration of hegemonic power, the degrading blackmail is strengthening the links between Russia and the main countries of the European Union: namely France, Germany and Italy.

Putin told the Russian ambassadors:

“… What is being done to the French banks can cause nothing but indignation in Europe in general and here as well. We are aware of the pressure our American partners are putting on France to force it not to supply Mistrals to Russia. We even know that they hinted that if France does not deliver the Mistrals, the sanctions will be quietly lifted from their banks, or at least they will be significantly minimised.

What is this if not blackmail? Is this the right way to act on the international arena? Besides, when we speak of sanctions, we always assume that sanctions are applied pursuant to Article 7 of the UN Charter. Otherwise, these are not sanctions in the true legal sense of the word, but something different, some other unilateral policy instrument….” http://eng.kremlin.ru/transcripts/22586

The increasingly irrational and predatory US foreign policy has reached its climax,  characterised by a vast gamma of tools of pressure and intimidation. Now the US bully policy of the “with me or against me” is pushing more and more countries to look at a rational alternative.

Putin’s Russia, contrary to the desperate Wall Street media, is shining as a beacon of rationality and humanity, as the only adult and reliable person in the global saloon in which the drunk US cowboy is shooting his last bullets.

The Ukraine crisis, the creation of the grotesque ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the frantic pressure on Romania, Serbia, Italy and others to denounce the agreement with Russia for the South Stream gas pipeline and prevent Russia from exporting its raw materials – these seems to be the last bullets shot in the air.

Italy, for one, answered with a clear-cut statement by the state secretary for European affairs Sandro Gozi:

”The South Stream project has always been and remains most important for Italy.”

The interview was published on June 30, the day before Italy assumed the presidency of the Council of the European Union.

“As Italy takes over the European Union presidency, we give absolute priority to establishing political and economic integration with Kiev while resuming strategic partnership between the EU and Russia,… Relations with Moscow can be neither broken off nor suspended. On the contrary, we are convinced of the need to strengthen them further.”

One of the first calls Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini made at the beginning of the six month of Italian Presidency was with her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov announcing a visit to Moscow within the month of July.

Serbia itself, after an internal debate to evaluate the strength of the US threats, decided to go ahead with the South Stream. And, of course, so did Austria during the official visit of Putin in Vienna on June 24. As the German agency Deutsche Welle wrote, uncharacteristically allowing itself a hint of polemics:

Austria defies US, EU over South Stream during Putin visit – Austria’s OMV and Russia’s Gazprom have signed a deal for the Austrian section of the controversial South Stream gas pipeline that bypasses Ukraine. Austria’s president, Heinz Fischer, has rejected US and EU criticism.”  http://www.dw.de/austria-defies-us-eu-over-south-stream-during-putin-visit/a-17734602

Germany is happily supplied with Russian gas through the North Stream.

Many in Europe expects now a new line from the European Union, despite the anti European policy the London’s city – controlled Brussels bureaucracy.

Behind the façade, the “Battle for Europe” is raging.

The ferocious and desperate ultimata coming from Washington appears increasingly impotent. And it is more and more clear why US-Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland in her infamous conversation with ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt in preparation for the coup d’etat in Kiev pronounced her immortal: “Fuck the EU!” The bloody destabilization of Ukraine was a means to an end: Keep Europe under control. It’s not working.

Equatorial Guinea was the scene of the latest African Union (AU) Summit convened on June 26-27. This oil-rich nation has become more prominent in recent years for its rhetorical defiance of the West as it relates to both the domestic and foreign policy of the 54-member regional body.

President Teodoro Obiang Nguema opened the AU 23rd Summit warning that the continent could no longer look to the West for economic development or political culture. These words were clearly related to the overall theme of the meeting which prioritized agricultural production and the need for increasing inter-continental and South-South trade.

The host of the gathering said “Africa should not continue to depend on the economies of developed countries. The continent has to seriously consider its relations with the world.”

These are axioms that have been articulated by successive generations of post-colonial African leaders dating back to Dr. Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Ahmed Sekou Toure of Guinea-Conakry and Mwalimu Julius Nyerere of Tanzania. All of them were quite aware of the perils of political independence absent of genuine growth within the fields of heavy and light industry as well as the modernization of farming.

According to Nguema, “Africa now has 50 years of independence, so we do not need to suffer neo-colonialism and perpetuate it. We have adopted measures that have led to the stagnation of parity of our currencies.”

Of course there must be an African path towards the future based upon its own interests and way of thinking. Nkrumah advanced the concept of the “African Personality” where the history and struggle for national liberation and socialism would be imbued in the character of domestic and international relations.

Nguema went on to say that

“Africa cannot be content to continue with the current dependence on the economies of the developed world. Africa is sailing upstream against a dependency that prevents them from moving toward sustainable development. Africa should rethink its relationship with the developed world to reduce as far as possible the gap that prevents access to development.”

AU-China Relations Praised

These sets of values are reflected in the role of the Africa-China partnership and its expansion over the last decade-and-a-half. In 2000, the Forum on Africa-China Cooperation (FOCAC) was formed and since that time and five summits afterwards, Beijing is the largest trading with the AU member-states.

In a press release issued by FOCAC on the occasion of the AU 23rd Summit it said

“On June 25, 2014, the Special Envoy of the Chinese Government and Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Ming, during his attendance at the 23rd Summit of the African Union (AU), met with Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma of African Union Commission (AUC) in Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea. Zhang Ming forwarded to Zuma the message of congratulation from President Xi Jinping on the 23rd Summit of AU.”

Illustrating the importance to Beijing of the China-AU alliance, the current leader of the world’s second largest economy visited several African states briefly after assuming office in 2013. Although the United States government has made unfair criticism of the nature of relations between Africa and China, most informed opinions indicate that it is a partnership that is proving beneficial to both sides.

This same press release from FOCAC also emphasized that

“Zhang Ming said President Xi Jinping in his first visit to Africa in March last year after assuming office and Premier Li Keqiang in his visit to the four African countries and AU headquarters in May this year reached broad consensuses with African leaders on further strengthening China-Africa relations and China-AU relations, and charted the course for the development of bilateral relations. The AU side is willing to continue to intensify cooperation with the Chinese side in such fields as infrastructure, agriculture, human resource development, and peace and security building in Africa, to promote Africa’s industrialization, modernization and integration process, and to achieve mutual benefits and win-win results between Africa and China.”

Other Highlights of the Summit

Revolutionary Cuba has played a tremendous role in the struggle for the national liberation and development of Africa. The politico-military contributions to the people and governments of Algeria, Ghana, Guinea-Conakry, Guinea-Bissau, Angola, Namibia, South Africa, Ethiopia and others remains a treasured part of African history.

Of the AU Summit, the Cuban News Agency reported that

“Cuban vice-president Salvador Valdes, met in Equatorial Guinea with the president (chair) of the Commission of the African Union, Nkosazana Dlamini- Zuma. The Cuban official who is attending the Summit of the African organization in the capital Malabo, conveyed greetings from Revolution leader Fidel Castro and from President Raul Castro and he reiterated Cuba’s permanent commitment to supporting Africa in all aspects, particularly in human development.” (June 27)

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon attended the meeting in Malabo where he stressed the importance of the AU in the quest for sustainable peace and security on the continent. At present the UN is set to deploy a so-called peacekeeping force of some 12,000 military forces in the Central African Republic, (CAR) a mineral-rich state which has been plagued by instability and foreign intervention.

Ban said

“We are committed to your goal of an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena. As you develop and implement Agenda 2063, the United Nations will remain by your side – promoting peace, human rights and sustainable development.” (UN News Center, June 26)

Jewish Delegation Attacks Malabo Summit

Of all of these positive statements and accolades delivered at the AU 23rd Summit, a group of Jewish American observers who attended the deliberations in Malabo came away denouncing the manner in which they were treated by the continental organization. The delegation was representing the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and reportedly prompted protests from members of at least three governments, Egypt, South Africa and Iran.

Although it was not clear under what circumstances or purpose this U.S. Jewish delegation was invited to the Malabo Summit, but the JNS.org press service quoted one prominent American representative, Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the above-mentioned organization, as saying that they were accused of being from the State of Israel and therefore compelled some officials in attendance to object to their presence. Hoenlein said that they were invited as an official delegation and “were initially treated very well” along with meeting many African leaders.

Nonetheless, in a quote from an Israeli-based  organization, it objected to the American Jewish delegation’s treatment in Malabo saying

“If this despicable lack of hospitality was indeed the result of efforts by the Egyptian and Iranian delegations, the former should be disciplined according to the steps available to the African Union under such circumstances, while the latter should be permanently barred from all future summits,”

said Efraim Zuroff, who is the director of the Jerusalem office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.” (Jerusalem Post)

“The positive thing is that this is the first time a Jewish delegation was invited to the AU [summit],” Hoenlein noted. However, if there are AU member-states and partners of the regional organization who categorically oppose the attendance of a pro-Israeli delegation the very existence of such a grouping will continue to be a source of conflict and division.

Imperialist Militarism and Terrorism

One major point of discussion was the threat of terrorism in various African states, with specific reference to the ongoing clashes between the Boko Haram sect and the Nigerian military. This growing problem of bomb attacks, abductions and mass killings have provided a further opening for intelligence and military forces from the U.S., France and the State of Israel.

With the designation of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as having the largest economy in Africa yet the government in Abuja is exposed as being incapable of resolving an insurgency in the northeast of the country, such a situation represents a profound contradiction in continental political development.  The wealth-gap and deepening class divisions within Nigeria and other African states will continue to taint the notions of phenomenal economic growth.

Africa cannot be genuinely independent and sovereign without taking control of its internal security which is essential for developing its infrastructural capacity and the raising of the standard of living for the majority population of workers, farmers and youth. This transformation in the fields of agriculture, science, education and technological advancements cannot be carried out within the realm of the present and historical capitalist divisions of economic power, trade and distribution.

The continent must move toward the socialist organization of the society and economy. This will ensure the equal distribution of resources emanating from the vast mineral, oil and hydro-electric wealth in existence on the continent.

Empowering the majority of workers, farmers and youth will inevitably guarantee internal, regional and continental security. The current involvement of the imperialist states in the economic, intelligence, military and consequently political affairs of Africa has weakened the capacity of state institutions and these realities are in evidence from Egypt to South Africa.

These challenges must be overcome long before the conclusion of the 2063 plan which emerged from the 50 year anniversary AU Summit in Addis Ababa last year. Neo-colonialism is the final stage of imperialism and if the continent is to move forward in seizing its rightful status in world affairs western influence and control must be eradicated.

A lot of people that I talk to these days want to know “when things are going to start happening”. Well, there are certainly some perilous times on the horizon, but all you have to do is open up your eyes and look to see the global economic crisis unfolding. As you will see below, even central bankers are issuing frightening warnings about “dangerous new asset bubbles” and even the World Bank is declaring that “now is the time to prepare” for the next crisis. Most Americans tend to only care about what is happening in the United States, but the truth is that serious economic trouble is erupting in South America, all across Europe and in Asian powerhouses such as China and Japan. And the endless conflicts in the Middle East could erupt into a major regional war at just about any time. We live in a world that is becoming increasingly unstable, and people need to understand that the period of relative stability that we are enjoying right now is extremely vulnerable and will not last long. The following are 18 signs that the global economic crisis is accelerating as we enter the last half of 2014…

#1 The Bank for International Settlements has issued a new report which warns that “dangerous new asset bubbles” are forming which could potentially lead to another major financial crisis. Do the central bankers know something that we don’t, or are they just trying to place the blame on someone else for the giant mess that they have created?

#2 Argentina has missed a $539 million debt payment and is on the verge of its second major debt default in 13 years.

#3 Bulgaria is desperately trying to calm down a massive run on the banks that threatens of spiral out of control.

#4 Last month, household loans in the eurozone declined at the fastest rate ever recorded.  Why are European banks holding on to their money so tightly right now?

#5 The number of unemployed jobseekers in France has just soared to another brand new record high.

#6 Economies all over Europe are either showing no growth or are shrinking.  Just check out what a recent Forbes article had to say about the matter…

Italy’s economy shrank by 0.1% in the first three months of 2014, matching the average of the three previous quarters. After expanding 0.6% in Q2 2013, France recorded zero growth. Portugal shrank 0.7%, following positive numbers in the preceding nine months. While figures weren’t available for Greece and Ireland in Q1, neither country is showing progress. Greek GDP dropped 2.5% in the final three months of last year, and Ireland limped ahead at 0.2%.

#7 A few days ago it was reported that consumer prices in Japan are rising at the fastest pace in 32 years.

#8 Household expenditures in Japan are down 8 percent compared to one year ago.

#9 U.S. companies are drowning in massive amounts of debt, but the corporate debt bubble in China is so bad that the amount of corporate debt in China has actually now surpassed the amount of corporate debt in the United States.

#10 One Chinese auditor is warning that up to 80 billion dollars worth of loans in China are backed by falsified gold transactions. What will that do to the price of gold and the stability of Chinese financial markets as that mess unwinds?

#11 The unemployment rate in Greece is currently sitting at 26.7 percent and the youth unemployment rate is 56.8 percent.

#12 67.5 percent of the people that are unemployed in Greece have been unemployed for over a year.

#13 The unemployment rate in the eurozone as a whole is 11.8 percent – just a little bit shy of the all-time record of 12.0 percent.

#14 The European Central Bank is so desperate to get money moving through the system that it has actually introduced negative interest rates.

#15 The IMF is projecting that there is a 25 percent chance that the eurozone will slip into deflation by the end of next year.

#16 The World Bank is warning that “now is the time to prepare” for the next crisis.

#17 The economic conflict between the United States and Russia continues to deepen. This has caused Russia to make a series of moves away from the U.S. dollar and toward other major currencies. This will have serious ramifications for the global financial system as time rolls along.

#18 Of course the U.S. economy is struggling right now as well. It shrank at a 2.9 percent annual rate during the first quarter of 2014, which was much worse than anyone had anticipated.

But if U.S. economic numbers look a bit better for the second quarter, that doesn’t mean that we are out of the woods.

As I have stressed so many times, the long-term trends and the long-term balance sheet numbers are far, far more important than the short-term economic numbers.

For example, if you went to the mall today and spent a thousand dollars on candy and video games, your short-term “economic activity” would spike dramatically. But your long-term financial health would take a significant turn for the worse.

Well, when we are talking about the health of the U.S. economy or the entire global financial system we need to keep the same kinds of considerations in mind.

As for the United States, whether the level of our debt-fueled short-term economic activity goes up a little bit or down a little bit is not what is truly important.

Rather, the fact that we are nearly 60 trillion dollars in debt as a society is what really matters.

The same thing applies for the globe as a whole. Right now, the citizens of the planet are more than 223 trillion dollars in debt, and “too big to fail” banks around the world have at least 700 trillion dollars of exposure to derivatives.

So it doesn’t really matter too much whether the short-term economic numbers go up a little bit or down a little bit right now. The whole system is an inherently flawed Ponzi scheme that will inevitably collapse under its own weight.

Let us hope that this period of relative stability lasts for a while longer.  It is a good thing to have time to prepare. But you would have to be absolutely insane to think that the biggest debt bubble in the history of the world is never going to burst.

Voters in Canada’s largest and most industrialized province went to the polls on June 5 to choose a provincial government. The choices were limited lesser evils, ‘bad,’ or ‘worse,’ constrained by a lurch to the political right by the union-based Ontario New Democratic Party(ONDP).

This follows elections last year in Nova Scotia and British Columbia that were marked by the drift to the right of the NDP and electoral disappointments similar to what the party suffered in Ontario.

By contrast, in the Quebec election earlier this year, voters had the choice of a left-wing party, Québec solidaire, and the party made modest gains. Though there are political weaknesses in the QS political platform (from a socialist perspective) and like the rest of the country, Quebec voters have no left-wing party to vote for federally, the existence of Québec solidaire provides an important experience in which to debate and apply policy and further develop a left-wing, anti-capitalist platform and direction.

So what was the recent experience in Ontario? What are the prospects for the political left in Canada to break out of the constraints of lesser evilism and forge a new party of the left?

The Election

Sitting on the political right in Ontario is the Conservative Party. Its campaign proposed to revisit the years of slash and burn to social services of former Premier Mike Harris. A key Conservative plank was to slash 100,000 jobs from the provincial civil service. The party proposed further privatization of government and social services.

Less stridently right-wing was the incumbent Liberal Party. Its election program feigned a socially progressive program (more on that later).

The Liberals’ ‘progressive’ ruse was made easier by the default of the New Democratic Party. As I reported at the beginning of the election, ONDP leader Andrea Horwath disappointed much of her party’s base by positioning herself to the right of the Liberals.

David Bush, an editor at Rank and File.ca, described the election outcome this way:

“The provincial election in Ontario was fundamentally about Tim Hudak’s austerity agenda, specifically his plan to cut 100,000 public sector jobs. There were of course local and regionally differences in terms of what motivated voters, but ultimately this election was a referendum on Hudak’s plan.

“And on that front what happened was positive. Ontario voted down the most pro-austerity party, and by and large labour’s campaign to stop Hudak worked. The Tories were thoroughly trounced at the polls.

“However, this anti-Hudak sentiment was translated into a Liberal majority. And it’s hard to celebrate four more years of Bay Street’s favourite party.”

Voter turnout surged by some 540,000 votes compared to the turnout in the 2011 provincial election which saw a record low turnout of 49 per cent. This time, the turnout climbed back to the 2007 level of 52 per cent of registered voters.

By the numbers, the Liberals increased their vote total by 238,000 and the ONDP by 163,000. The Conservative vote dropped by 24,000 votes. The Liberals won a majority government with 39 per cent of those who voted. The ONDP lost three seats in Toronto and gained three in smaller cities, to sit exactly where it was at the outset of the election (which the party triggered by voting against a Liberal budget) – 21 seats in the 107-seat Ontario Legislature.

Lesser Evil Illusions

The lesser-evil appearance of the Liberals is built on illusion. The party’s election platform was anything but progressive. Its key proposal is to create a supplementary pension plan due to federal government refusal to improve the Canada Pension Plan. But it remains a vague promise. Will an Ontario plan be a universal and defined benefit plan like the CPP? Or will it be a version of the defined-contribution investment fund (‘private pooled pension plan’) floated by the federal government some four years ago as a way to dodge pressure for CPP improvements? We do not know.

The Liberals have promised $15-billion to tackle the chronic public transit crisis in the Toronto region. Transit planning in Toronto is grossly in arrears and still there is no consensus on how to proceed. The Liberal transit proposals are modest – build a ‘relief’ subway line to ease subway congestion into the downtown core, expand an existing subway line in the Scarborough suburb, electrify existing suburban regional rail service, and expand regional rail service to several cities in the region.

Many transit experts consider the ‘relief’ subway line proposal to be misguided. They say expansion of suburban train corridors is key to transit improvement. A measure of that challenge is that the replacement of diesel powered trains with electrification alone will cost $2-billion and take more than ten years to realize. In a June 26 op-ed in the Toronto Star, urban affairs writer John Lorinc reminds Premier Kathleen Wynne, a former transportation minister, that the 30-year transit plan of Metrolinx, the regional transit authority in Toronto, is costed at $35-billion.

There is pressure on the Liberals from within for a new Toronto transit authority that would be a combination of privatized service and authoritarian, ‘not-for-profit’ management of the rest (similar to what has happened federally with ports and airports).

The Liberals say they will reduce the government’s $12.5-billion annual budget deficit to zero by 2017-18. That’s bad news for the poorest of society. There was nothing of substance proposed in the election to address the terrible lack of affordable housing in Toronto and other cities in the province or to improve miserly social welfare rates and services.

Before the election call, the Liberals had already frozen the wages and benefits of public sector workers and announced plans to cut pension benefits.

The failures in tackling transportation, housing and other pressing social needs in Toronto have been amplified by three wasted years of the train wreck known as Mayor Rob Ford. His governing clique has been aided and abetted by the highest echelons of the Conservative Party and government in Ottawa, including the man Ford has called his “fishing partner,” Stephen Harper, and the late, long-serving Finance Minister Jim Flaherty who “campaigned hard” for Ford in the 2011 municipal election.

Prior to announcing the election, Premier Wynne responded to pressure for a radical increase to the minimum wage by raising it to $11 per hour. “Not good enough,” says the union-supported ‘$14 Now!’ campaign. It says it will continue its monthly rallies and outreach blitzes that began in March of last year.

The Workers Action Center in Toronto issued a statement on June 6 saying,

“it is more important than ever that we build our power to hold elected officials to their promises and to win fair wages and decent work. Let’s start with a powerful community delegation to remind the new Minister of Labour that over one million workers in Ontario need a raise to $14 now!” [See June 18th event.]

The largest part of the provincial budget – 42 per cent of total spending – is healthcare delivery, $50.1-billion in 2014-15. Hospital budgets were frozen in 2012-13 or 2013-14 and the reelected government says the freeze will remain in place.

Two large parts of that spending are Liberal initiatives in recent years that Toronto Star columnist Martin Regg Cohen calls “unproven and controversial ventures” – Local Health Integration Networks, which decide on the financing of hospitals ($24-billion annually), and Community Care Access Centers (CCACs), which deliver home care (nearly $2-billion annually).

An example of wasteful and abusive health spending are the salaries of CCAC executives. Fifteen top executives who run Ontario home care were paid nearly $4-million in 2012, the most recent year that salary data is available. That’s an average of $266,000 each. The association of registered nurses in the province wants an end to CCACs, calling them an expensive duplication of services.

NDP Shift to the Populist Right

The ONDP election campaign borrowed on right-wing, populist themes. Its slogan – ‘Makes Sense’ – bizarrely harkened to the harsh ‘Common Sense Revolution’ austerity program of the Harris Conservative years of the late 1990s and early 2000s. The party campaign focused almost exclusively on condemning the Liberals for several of their pet projects that wasted billions of dollars – notably the Ornge ambulance transport service the government created, and cancelled construction of several natural gas electricity stations intended to replace coal-fired stations. Because the ONDP chose to focus so much of its attention on scandal, the Liberals appeared more receptive to the big concerns of many voters – jobs and the economy, transit, public spending and debt, etc.

Horwath was silent during the considerable public debate on the minimum wage that preceded the election. She came out in support of $12 late in the election. She opposed Liberal talk of pension improvements, saying these should come from the federal government. But the federal government has been refusing for years to make any improvements to the CPP. Aping its big business supporters, the government calls public pension fees a “payroll tax.” Horwath could have used her election campaign to urge a fight for pension improvements instead of passively giving in.

Like the Liberals, Horwath’s main economic proposal was to financially reward companies that invest in the province. She also threw in some cheap, populist ‘pocketbook’ proposals to reduce selected fees and taxes.

Added to last year’s NDP election losses in Nova Scotia and British Columbia, the Ontario vote spells bad news for prospects for the party in next year’s federal election. The Liberals in Ontario proved able to put on a pretend left face at very little cost to themselves and the wealthy class they represent. A similar performance by the federal Liberals is now more likely than ever.

It won’t take much for them to appear to the left of Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. There is a deepening disaffection by a large majority of the population with the Conservatives. This will create intense pressure on working-class voters to select the ‘lesser evil’ with the best chance to defeat Harper.

In the 2011 federal election, the NDP won a stunning breakthrough in Quebec by winning 59 of the 75 seats there. That catapulted the party into official opposition status in the federal Parliament. The unique circumstances that created that breakthrough in Quebec – the simultaneous discrediting of the Liberal Party and the pro-Quebec sovereignty Bloc québécois – are less acute. Indeed, the rather easy victory of the discredited Quebec Liberals in the Quebec election three months ago is a further indicator of the NDP’s tenuous hold on second-party status in Ottawa.

Left Alternative Needed

After four years of right-wing Conservative government in Ottawa, there will be strong ‘anybody but Conservatives’ (ABC) pressure at play next year on the large majority of adults who do not vote Conservative. Many progressively inclined voters will be inclined or cajoled to choose between the NDP or Liberals, including choosing which among the two is most likely to win each, specific electoral district.

The Liberal Party should be rejected out of principle. It is one of the twin parties of Bay Street. But the NDP is no better than a lesser-evil option. Federal NDP leader Tom Mulcair made a not-so-subtle reminder of this in a recent interview in which he reaffirmed his ideological devotion to the right-wing, social democratic example and legacy of former British prime minister Tony Blair. Mulcair has also affirmed his support for destructive fossil fuel projects that will worsen the climate crisis, including the Energy East and Line 9 pipelines that would bring Alberta tar sands bitumen to eastern Canada for export to foreign markets.

The right drift of all the provincial NDP sections is increasingly pronounced. In British Columbia, the party responded to last year’s harsh electoral loss by choosing a new leader, John Horgan, who is devoted to more, destructive resource extraction projects such as natural gas fracking, clearcut logging and mining. He supports the use of BC ports for expanded coal exports to Asia and does not rule out tar sands pipelines to the BC coast provided they include “environmental safeguards.”

In New Brunswick, the NDP is undergoing a sharp shift to the right in which two sitting members of the provincial legislature from the Conservative and Liberal parties have been approved by the party leader as candidates in the next provincial election. The president of the NDP district association where the Conservative is to run has quit, saying he wants out of the “Un democratic party.” He says, “I’ll be back when the reign of terror is over,” referring to NDP leader Dominic Cardy’s sharp right turn.

So a new, left-wing and anti-capitalist political direction and party is needed. That’s a key lesson to draw from the Ontario election and from the experiences in other provinces. It is needed for evident social and environmental reasons. It’s also a way to sharpen a fight for political accountability in the present political alignment. Extra-Parliamentary protests are vital in fighting for reforms and creating a political alternative. But it’s a big weakness when there are no anti-capitalist voices in the electoral arena. That leaves the pro-capitalist NDP holding a political monopoly on the left. (A similar argument, on a smaller scale, applies in the environmental arena with respect to the pro-private enterprise Green Party.)

Such an alternative, at the ballot box and in the streets, would also address the growing disaffection of young and working-class people from political engagement. While the official voter turnout in this latest Ontario election was 52 per cent, that number does not account for some one million adult-age persons who do not register to vote. That means the real participation rate in the election was in the lower 40 per cent range. A disproportionate number of those not registering to vote are surely young and working-class voters.

The disaffection of young people from the electoral process is a worldwide phenomenon and should be a concern for any serious party or political project. Youth are the hardest hit by rising unemployment, the narrowing access to higher education, the high cost of urban transport, the decline of public healthcare, and so many other manifestations of declining capitalism. They are vulnerable to the consumerism and other false values that capitalism projects so powerfully. They will be especially receptive to a political project that can address their two largest concerns – meaningful jobs and economic stability, and the fate of the Earth and its ecology.

An anti-capitalist party and political platform would also appeal to the great many NDP supporters who are anti-capitalist in their outlook. Here are some proposals that a movement of mass, political mobilization needs to fight for:

  • improving the Canada Pension Plan, restoring cuts to the unemployment insurance program and creating a national child care program
  • increasing social welfare incomes and services, including a vast program to build social housing
  • changing the discredited and deeply discriminatory temporary foreign worker program such that every foreign worker coming to Canada has a path to citizenship
  • preserving postal services, including door to door delivery, and expanding rail service throughout the country
  • investing in the vast societal shift needed to end the reliance on fossil fuels and end all the excess and waste that is driving global warming
  • financing needed social and environmental improvements by raising taxes on the wealthy, drastically cutting the military budget and nationalizing the banks
  • withdrawing Canada from imperialist military alliances such as NATO and from military adventures such as in Ukraine and eastern Europe. Promoting Canadian solidarity with the Non-Aligned Movement, the UN Group of 77 countries + China and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). For Canadian withdrawal from the Organization of American States
  • decentralizing governing institutions in favour of local democracy
  • convening a constituent assembly to rewrite the Canadian constitution, including abolition of the unelected Senate and recognition of self-determination and political sovereignty for Quebec and First Nations

Unity around such a broad platform will be difficult to achieve, but it can be done if the campaigns around which working-class people are organizing simultaneously develop political visions. It’s no coincidence that Québec solidaire has arisen before something comparable in English Canada – the party’s development is propelled by a shared vision of a progressive, sovereign Quebec and a government that can lead a fight to win that. And the results of elections to the European Union in May were very encouraging in a number of countries, including in Greece and Ireland where Syriza and Sinn Fein topped the polls, respectively, and in Spain where the brand new party Podemos (We Can) captured eight per cent.

Socialist society offers to the individual a path to realize his and her full human potential. To get there, we need a revolutionary, democratic government that carries through a transformation of politics and economics one confident step at a time. That’s the appealing prospect around which the socialist and anti-capitalist left should cohere so that we needn’t endure another, dreary election spectacle in which the only meaningful choice is ‘none of the above.’ We owe it to ourselves and to the planet to do better than that.

 

Roger Annis is a writer in Vancouver BC. He publishes a website featuring his writings and those of others at A Socialist in Canada.

At a June 19 speaking event at London’s Chatham House, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen claimed the Russian government is covertly working to discredit hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in the west from afar.

“I have met allies who can report that Russia, as part of their sophisticated information and disinformation operations, engaged actively with so-called non-governmental organisations — environmental organizations working against shale gas — to maintain European dependence on imported Russian gas,”

said Rasmussen, the former Prime Minister of Denmark.

Rasmussen’s comments were relayed to the press by someone in attendance who apparently broke the “Chatham House Rule” by telling outsiders about the content of a Chatham House meeting.

But Rasmussen left out some key context from his presentation, which he said “is my interpretation” and did not further elaborate on his “disinformation operations” comments.

That is, while powerful actors have claimed on multiple occasions that western-based anti-fracking activists are funded by the Kremlin, no one has ever documented such a relationship in the form of a money paper trail.

Meme with Wings

Rasmussen’s allegation that western “fracktivists” are or might be funded by the Kremlin is a meme with wings.

In a June 2010 email revealed by Wikileaks, private intelligence firm Stratfor (shorthand for Strategic Forecasting, Inc.) speculated that Josh Fox, director of “Gasland” and “Gasland: Part II”, might be funded by the Russian government or the coal industry. According to a January 2010 email, Stratfor’s “biggest client” is the American Petroleum Institute.

Stratfor published a white paper titled “Shale Gas Activism,” an analysis of anti-fracking opposition groups and leaders, in December 2009.

Emails show Stratfor sent the white paper to Stanley Sokul, then-ExxonMobil corporate issues senior advisor and now XTO Energy’s manager of public and government affairs. Sokul formerly served as chief of staff and general counsel for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy under President George W. Bush.

Further, in the industry-funded documentary film “FrackNation,” climate change denier James Delingpole also stated that anti-fracking activists are likely funded by the Kremlin (beginning at 2:30 below).

Most recently, climate change skeptic Bjorn Lomborg — whose Copenhagen Consensus Center was recently exposed by DeSmogBlog’s Graham Readfearn — also recently wrote that he concurred with his fellow Dane Rasmussen’s assessment.

“The accusations do not seem too far-fetched. Russia is very keen on dissuading Europe from exploiting its shale reserves,” Lomborg wrote in Forbes. “Moscow’s goal clearly is to keep the EU dependent on Russia.”

Memes Work

While in reality, U.S. oil and gas companies maintain close ties with Russia — including in the fracking sphere — the meme brought to the forefront again by Rasmussen is the one that has caught much more fire.

Originally conceptualized in scholar Richard Dawkins‘ 1976 book “The Selfish Gene,” one conclusion reigns supreme: memes work and can have a major impact.

For example, Occupy Wall Street’s “We are the 99-percent” is a meme. So too is “Global warming is a hoax.”

“In my opinion, the problem is not with the meme concept itself, but with some of the ways in which it has been used, and especially those that undermine the role of agency in [deploying memes],” Limor Shifman — senior lectureer at the Department of Communication and Journalism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and author of the book, “Memes In Digital Culture“ — said in a recent interview on her book.

With loud megaphones and ongoing geopolitical tensions between the U.S. and Russia with no end in sight, one can rest assured Rasmussen will not be the last one to repeat this meme, just as he was not the first.

The remarks below are excerpted from President Putin’s meeting with Russia’s ambassadors on July 1, 2014.

Putin damns Washington’s puppet president of Ukraine, an usurped position resulting from the overthrow of a democratically elected president, for taking “the path of violence which cannot lead to peace.” Putin’s remarks are simultaneous English translations as Putin speaks in Russian. Such translations are seldom good, but are usually adequate to convey the content.

“Unfortunately, Ukrainian President Poroshenko has made the decision to resume military actions, and we – meaning myself and my colleagues in Europe – could not convince him that the way to reliable, firm and long-term peace can’t lie through war. Previously, Petro Poroshenko had no direct relation to orders to take military action. Now he has taken on this responsibility in full. Not only military, but also more importantly, politically.”

“On Monday [June 30], I spoke with France, Germany and Ukraine via telephone. I stressed the need to prolong the ceasefire and the creation of a reliable mechanism for monitoring compliance with the cease fire and that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) should play an active role. I offered that checkpoints on the Russian side of the Ukrainian border could be monitored by representatives of Ukraine and by OSCE to insure joint control of the border.”

“Everything that’s going on in Ukraine is of course the internal business of Ukrainian government, but we are painfully sorry that civilians die. In my opinion, there is a deliberate attempt by Ukraine to eliminate representatives of the press. It concerns both Russian and foreign journalists. The killing of journalists is absolutely unacceptable.”

“I hope pragmatism will prevail, that the West will get rid of its hegemonic ambitions and desire to arrange the world according to its preferences. I hope instead that the West will start building relations based on equal rights, mutual respect and good will toward others and respect for the interests of other countries.”

Putin said that Washington had put pressure on France not to deliver the Mistral-class helicopter ships that the Russian/French contract specified.

“We know about the pressure that our American partners put on the French so that they would not deliver the Mistral ships to Russia. And we know that Washington hinted that if the French don’t deliver Mistral, sanctions on the French bank will be minimized or removed. What is this, if not blackmail?”

Putin said that Russia is willing to be a partner of the US and EU, but the partnership must be based on equality, not on America’s partners following Washington’s orders.

“We are not going to stop our relations with the US. The bilateral relations are not in the best shape, that is true. But this– and I want to emphasize–is not Russia’s fault.”

While preparing this report I checked the BBC online news site. There was no mention of Putin’s remarks. Ditto the online cites for CNN, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times. The Washington Post did mention that Putin condemned the renewed violence in Ukraine at a meeting with Russia’s ambassadors, but the importance of Putin’s meeting with Russia’s ambassadors was not conveyed by the Post’s report.

Given Washington’s arrogance, why does it matter what Putin says? America’s loss to Belgium in the World Soccer Cup is more important to the American Propaganda Ministry than the President of Russia’s attempt to end conflict and the drive toward war.

As I have previously observed, Americans live in The Matrix, not in the real world. One day Americans could wake up stunned by reality, or they could die from weapons of mass destruction and not wake up. Americans are nothing but cannon fodder for the neoconservative drive for Washington’s world hegemony. The media on which Americans rely lies to them and prevents them from knowing any significant truths. Americans can learn that they lost the World Cup, but they cannot learn of their government’s crimes and drive toward war, or of the responses of other powerful countries whose governments are unwilling, unlike England, Germany, and France, to be Washington’s vassals.

Since the assassinations of Jack Kennedy and Martin Luther King (and the Vietnam War that had much to do with both), it has been hard for historically-literate and open-minded Americans to generate much patriotic fervor on the Fourth of July. But they should have been skeptical long before those idealism-shattering events. My own seriously deficient high school education in world and American history has necessitated decades of catch-up reading and research in order to find the truth about the dark underbelly of America.

My high school textbooks totally ignored the real histories of the conquistadores, the genocide of Native Americans and their cultures, and the truth about the actual brutality of the enslavement of Black Africans. My history books glorified America’s wars, and never mentioned America’s use of propaganda or how it was involved in fascist movements world-wide. The cold realities of sexism, militarism, poverty, corporate abuse, the banking system, etc. were glossed over. Sadly, my relative ignorance about the (obviously censored out of our consciousness) painful and unwelcome truths about what really happened in history is probably the norm.

I have tried to do some of the catching-up by reading the relatively hidden alternative literature, starting with books like Howard Zinn’s The People’s History of the United States and also the writings of historically-literate truth-tellers like Martin Luther King, Noam Chomsky and  Chris Hedges.

Anyone who honestly reads those author’s books can’t help but become disillusioned with America’s history and the massive propaganda by which the vast majority of us Americans have been duped into sometimes very sincerely believing that the US is the new shining light of the world, working courageously and endlessly for justice and peace.

The Pseudo-patriotic Propaganda is Getting Thicker

And the flag-waving propaganda is getting thicker and smellier with every move that our nation’s sociopathic mega-corporations, their unelected, over-privileged ruling elites, their well-paid lobbyists, their hordes of cunning, shyster lawyers, their five right-wing bought-and-paid-for Supreme Court justices, their thousands of bribed state and federal legislators, the entrenched bureaucracy, and their corporate-controlled media – all of whom are complicit in the demise of American democracy. Anyone who is paying attention is watching their democracy wither and die while the conscienceless uber-wealthy and their corporations bloat up, heading for the next bust.

The connections between wealth, power, violence and injustice should be obvious. Judge Louis D. Brandeis nailed that concept when he said:

“We can either have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both.”

With regards to American history as Zinn expressed it in his writings and speeches, all one has to do is list a few events that have contributed to the disillusionment and the reason so many find it hard to fake patriotism on Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Veterans Day or Columbus Day (or to pretend that the Christian religious holidays of Christmas or Easter have much to do with the original, pacifist, unconditionally-loving, enemy-loving, compassionate teachings and actions of the original form of Christianity).

Many of the progressive thinkers of my generation were irretrievably disillusioned by the government-backed conspiracies (and the resultant cover-ups) that orchestrated the political murders of the leftist heroes (and perhaps the only hope for the American Dream) JFK, MLK, RFK and Paul Wellstone. And the pain is re-experienced every time one realizes that the real unindicted conspirators behind those assassinations are still at large, and therefore remain unpunished and free to kill again.

(One could say the same thing about the hidden power elites who were behind the planting of the controlled demolitions that so dramatically brought down the three WTC towers on 9/11/01 an event that allowed them to start the homicidal and suicidal wars for oil in the Mideast. And, similarly unpunished and free to exploit again, are the known financial and political elites that caused the Crash and start of the Great Recession of 2008. They not only got bailed out, but were rewarded for their crimes rather than going to jail where they belonged.)

Those folks who have done the necessary catch-up research and reading that revealed what the right-wing censors had taken out of our history books have understandably become disillusioned about America’s status in the history of the world.

A Few Historical Facts to Temper One’s Patriotism

Consider these events that were hailed with mesmerizing flag-waving fervor, just from the last two generations:

1) the crimes against humanity and atrocities that were done in our name in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos;

2) the quasi-fascism of the traitorous, criminal, autocratic Richard Nixon (and his unapologetic resurrection that allowed him to actually receive positive funeral eulogies from prominent US politicians, all of whom ignored his treachery);

3) Ronald Reagan’s bogus trickle-down economics scheme that cunningly camouflaged the disastrous effects of the next six items;

4) the predatory lending schemes from Reagan acolytes that destroyed so many small family farms and businesses in the 1980s, thus enriching the already rich;

5) the predatory corporate privatization schemes that did the same;

6) the granting of huge tax breaks to the ultra-wealthy and their corporations, again starting in the Reagan era;

7) the massive Reagan-era nuclear weapons buildup during the orchestrated Cold War;

8) Reagan’s union-busting agenda, which fostered the impoverishment of America’s middle classes;

9) the unpayable 4 trillion dollars of new debt during the Reagan years (largely thanks to the bloating of the US military (which is still on-going) that some future generation won’t be able to reverse either;

10) the use of torture and killer drones that extra-judicially assassinates people who are only suspected of being enemies of the state;

11) Etc, etc. Add your own nightmarish examples of America’s many anti-democratic and military misadventures.

Many progressive Americans are still working, often with broken hearts, for peace and justice in our nation and in the world, but they are often understandably cynical about – indeed, often disgusted with – America’s wasteful, boastful, morally bankrupt, war-mongering, predatory nature.

Is America Only Partially Fascist – or is it Worse Than That?

It is true that many historically aware, intelligent people around the globe look at our national security apparatus (NSA, CIA, FBI, militarized police/Swat teams that suppress honest, nonviolent dissent) – and they see Gestapo.

Many of these citizens of the world look at the Stars and Stripes – and they see Swastika.

Many of these same people see fascism when they look at the US’s long history of supporting fascist dictators in nations like Iran, South Korea, South Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, Chile, Argentina, Guatemala, El Salvador, Panama, Colombia, etc. Friendly American fascism was institutionalized during the Cheney/Bush-era at Abu Ghraib in the prisoner abuse scandal, in the legalized torture policies at secret CIA sites and in the prolonged torturous imprisonment of “suspects” at Guantanamo who haven’t been charged with a crime and who haven’t been given a chance to prove their innocence in a trial before their peers.

Fascism in America can be understood when one acknowledges that America is ruled by corporations. Recall that Mussolini, the inventor of fascism, said: “Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power”).

Private corporate interests are fostered and protected, not only by the most lethal and costly weapons systems ever, but by the most brutal and efficient killing force in the history of the world – both paid for by the US taxpayer. Hitler’s monster weapons and his Wehrmacht soldiers were pikers in comparison.

True Patriotism is the Willingness to Have a Lover’s Quarrel With Your Country

Not that the disillusioned ones don’t love their country. Many of those dissenting peace-lovers, justice-seekers and, by logical extension, whistle-blowers, think of themselves as loving America so much that they are willing to have a lover’s quarrel with it. That sounds pretty American to me.

I was once a member-supporter of the Democratic Party, even to the point of becoming a delegate to the Minnesota State DFL Convention back during the frightening Reagan era. I was – and still am – a believer in the ideals of the progressive, anti-fascist, anti-corrupt capitalism, pro-environment, anti-racist, anti-militarist wing of the party best exemplified by the politics of Paul Wellstone, the nearly disappeared remnant of the party that appears to have become largely pro-militarist and corporate-controlled (and therefore rightist). The Green Party (read about the 10 Key Values of the Green Party at:: http://www.gp.org/tenkey.php) seems to me to be the true representative of the old values of Democratic Party pro-peace patriots like Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern and Paul Wellstone.

Many true patriots have sadly come to realize that American politics is increasingly meeting the definition of classical European fascism (although the Democratic Party is not as strongly fascist as the more intensely corporate-controlled, NeoConservative, Theocracy-aspiring, Tea Party-tolerating, racist-infiltrated, Young Earth believing, climate change denying, anti-intellectual Republican Party. Being an anti-fascist, I find it hard to support, ethically or monetarily, the agendas of either of these entities.

Most seasoned American peacemakers have seen through the propagandistic pro-war rhetoric that is dutifully repeated as valid by the corporate-controlled media (and, sadly, increasingly so even on NPR and PBS).

War profiteers in the investor classes know that there is no money to be made in a peaceful world without wars or rumors of wars. Therefore publically-traded corporations that are connected to the weapons and other war-related industries do their mercenary duty for the Pentagon’s pro-war and Cold War agendas, both of which are good for business.

The “Greed is Good” Captains of Industry and their Ponzi Scheme dealings on Wall Street have been selling their addictive products to the “hoping-to-get-rich-quick” crowd for as long as the stock market has existed – and the gambling addicts in the investor classes can’t get off the stuff long enough to sober up and see that they are being had.

The Ideals of Lady Liberty

The United States of America stopped being a beacon of light, truth, peace and liberty long ago. It didn’t just happen after JFK’s assassination or 9/11 (which was a cleverly orchestrated event designed to start the Middle East Wars for Oil [see www.ae911truth.org for proof] when the Cheney/Bush administration, squandering the sympathy of the world with a series of blatant lies, led the US public into an illegal and unjust war, showing their willingness to risk igniting World War III, with the full consent of most of the servile congress-persons from each of the two major political parties.

Cynicism about Independence Day (independence from Great Britain) and the ideals behind the Statue of Lady Liberty, was prevalent in America long before France gave America the Statue. That generous gift from an appreciative nation was intended to celebrate the first 100 years of American independence but also represented the fondness that France had for the US and its role in inspiring the French Revolution.

America’s promise to be the beacon to the world has been shattered many times since the Statue was dedicated in 1886. America once deserved its reputation as a refuge to the oppressed people of the world – which is the America that disillusioned activists still naively hope can be revived. There was indeed a time in world history when the inscription on the Statue represented the real aspirations of true patriots – something that is worth fighting and even dying for.

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Many generations of the increasingly despised “tempest tossed” – if they ever made it across the border – found out too late that they were going to be discriminated against, chewed-up, spit out, rendered homeless or exploited by corporate America for their cheap labor. It has taken many of us a long time to understand that our multinational corporations, with the essential help of the brutal tactics of the CIA and hired local mercenary soldiers, were the ones who forced these Central Americans from their land and livelihoods in the first place, in the interest of making room for corporate plantations to raise and export sugar cane, coffee, and bananas. And then, if the unjustly dispossessed ones actually made it to “El Norte” alive, these victims were harassed, abused in America’s for-profit prison system, offered no access to health care, safe living situations, living wages, or real security for the future.

The First Exploitees of American Fascism Were Non-White

The very first victims of American Fascism were the aboriginal people who could have annihilated the usurper Columbus and his sex-starved crew (who abducted and raped young native women ASAP back on board the Santa Maria). Native Americans suffered the indignity and cruelty of the European invaders and ultimately were nearly annihilated themselves via legalized, racist, genocidal policies (“the only good Indian is a dead Indian”) at the hands of the US Army that then “opened up the frontier” to the undocumented and illegal immigrants from war-weary, impoverished, and exploited Europe, all white folks who had over-populated their own homelands.

Next in line for exploitation were the black African victims of the very profitable slave trade that produced a lot of the “wretched refuse”. The eventually freed slaves of the late-1800s were destined to become the easily-lynchable victims of Jim Crow segregation that persists to this very day in most of the quasi-fascist southern states – despite federal legislation that supposedly granted them civil liberties and voting rights. Note that those hard-won voting rights are now being taken away by the afore-mentioned Supreme Court Five – at the request of those southern racists who haven’t yet gotten over the loss of the Civil War.

These oppressed ones “yearning to be free” had often been fooled about the deceptively-labeled “American Dream”. For many it rapidly became the “American Nightmare”. Many of them were destined to be treated as virtual slaves, indentured servants, share-croppers, or otherwise victims of predatory entities that found any number of ways to exploit these “untermenschen”. They became the frequently-unemployed masses who were so desperate for work that they were willing to accept the poverty wages offered by greedy corporations and the wealthy elites, all of whom did everything possible to prevent the unionization of their industries. (It is important to understand the business principle that high unemployment, frightened, desperate-for-work workers, low wages, and union exclusion all help the profit margins and share prices of publicly-traded companies.)

The spirit of Liberty seems to have been strangled, what with the late-lamented Cheney/Bush/Rumsfeld/Rove doctrine of pre-emptive, aggressive and endless wars (which meets the definition of international war crimes and crimes against humanity). (Click on the link below and watch one of these crimes that occurred in Baghdad that was courageously and patriotically leaked by Chelsea Manning at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rXPrfnU3G0).

Now, as an extension of the Cheney/Bush doctrine, America is not only victimizing Middle Eastern women and children, but it is also brutalizing Central Americans whose land was stolen from them by American industry and who only want to find dignified work somewhere in order to better themselves and to support their families.

After thinking about America’s immigration issue, some concerned citizens might actually work for the acceptance of these hard working freedom-loving immigrants and instead deport (or convert) the worst of our American fascists and racists. America might turn out to be more purely American with some variation of that plan.

One person who criticized the annual 4th of July celebrations was the emancipated black intellectual Frederick Douglass. Douglass was the pre-eminent – and obviously very courageous – mid-19th century spokesperson for the abolition of slavery. His speeches and writings remain important today because of the powerful way he articulated the case against racial discrimination.

A couple of years ago I wrote an essay that ended with excerpts from Douglass’s 4th of July speech, which he delivered to a mostly white audience back in 1852, a decade before President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Declaration. His words could have been spoken by First Nations people, Black Africans, Chinese immigrants, Japanese immigrants, Hispanics and many other racial, ethnic and sexual minorities from the dark pages of American history. Due to its length I will only print the link to the speech below.

His speech contains many unwelcome truths that are still pertinent today. Douglass’s words will be simplistically dismissed by some as being unpatriotic, but his statements are irrefutable and his truth-telling makes him a hero to justice-seekers. He warns in his speech that

“I will use the severest language I can command; and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgment is not blinded by prejudice, or who is not at heart a slaveholder, shall not confess to be right and just.”

The speech can be read at: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4h2927t.html

Does Capitalism Inevitably Produce Inequalities?

July 2nd, 2014 by Ann Robertson

In a recent New York Times op-ed article, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz theorized that capitalism does not inevitably produce inequalities in wealth. Instead, he argued, today’s inequalities result from policy decisions made by politicians on all sorts of matters that affect people’s income: the tax structure that favors the rich, the bailout of the banks during the Great Recession, subsidies for rich farmers, cutting of food stamps, etc. In fact, he concluded, today there are no “truly fundamental laws of capitalism.” Thanks to democracy, people can steer the economy in a variety of directions and no single outcome is inevitable.

In their 2010 book, “Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer – and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class,” Yale Professor Jacob Hacker and U.C. Berkeley Professor Paul Pierson would seem to add additional support to Stiglitz’s conclusion. As reported by Bob Herbert in The New York Times, they argued that

“the economic struggles of the middle and working classes in the U.S. since the late-1970s were not primarily the result of globalization and technological changes but rather a long series of policy changes in government that overwhelmingly favored the rich.”

Although there is certainly significant substance to Stiglitz’s argument – policy decisions can have profound impacts on economic outcomes – nevertheless capitalism is far more responsible for economic inequality because of its inherent nature and its extended reach in the area of policy decisions than Stiglitz is willing to concede.

To begin with, in capitalist society it is much easier to make money if you already have money, and much more difficult if you are poor. So, for example, a rich person can buy up a number of foreclosed houses and rent them out to desperate tenants at ridiculously high rates. Then, each time rent is paid, the landlord becomes richer and the tenant becomes poorer, and inequalities in wealth grow.

More importantly, at the very heart of capitalism lies an incentive that leads to the increase of inequalities. Capitalism is based on the principle of competition, and businesses must compete with one another in order to survive. Each company, therefore, strives to maximize its profits in order to achieve a competitive advantage. For example, they can use extra profits to offset lowering the price of their product, undersell their opponents, and push them out of the market.

But in order to maximize profits, businesses must keep productive costs to a minimum. And a major portion of productive costs includes labor. Consequently, as a general rule, in order for a business to survive, it must push labor costs to a minimum. And that is why, of course, so many businesses migrate from the U.S. and relocate in countries like China, Viet Nam, Mexico, and Bangladesh where wages are a mere pittance.

This inherent tendency to maximize profits while minimizing the cost of labor directly results in growing inequalities. Stiglitz himself mentions that C.E.O’s today “enjoy incomes that are on average 295 times that of the typical worker, a much higher ratio than in the past.” In fact, in 1970, the ratio was roughly 40 times. C.E.O.s who succeed in suppressing wages are routinely rewarded for their efforts. Hence, not only is there an incentive to keep wages low for the survival of the business, there is a personal incentive in play as well.

While Stiglitz is correct in arguing that politicians can influence economic outcomes by policy decisions, what he fails to acknowledge is that these policy decisions themselves are heavily influenced by the economic relations established by capitalism. There is no firewall between the economy and politics. Those who have acquired money from the economic sector can then put this money to work in the political sector by lobbying and showering politicians with campaign contributions. Although politicians religiously deny that these contributions have any influence on their decisions, it is inconceivable that businesses – always obsessed with their “bottom line” – would continue these contributions without a “return on their investment.”

Study after study has confirmed the influence of money on political decisions. The San Francisco Chronicle reported, for example:

“In a state with nearly 38 million people, few have more influence than the top 100 donors to California campaigns – a powerful club that has contributed overwhelmingly to Democrats and spent $1.25 billion to influence voters over the past dozen years. These big spenders represent a tiny fraction of the hundreds of thousands of individuals and groups that donated to California campaigns from 2001 through 2011. But they supplied about one-third of the $3.67 billion given to state campaigns during that time, campaign records show. With a few exceptions, these campaign elites have gotten their money’s worth, according to California Watch’s analysis of campaign data from state finance records and the nonpartisan National Institute on Money in State Politics, which tracks the influence of campaign money on state elections.”

Even beyond campaign contributions, political decisions are not crafted in a vacuum, remote from capitalism. Capitalism is a way of life, and for that reason it generates its own peculiar culture and world view that envelopes every other social sphere, a culture that includes competition, individualism, materialism in the form of consumerism, operating in one’s self-interest without consideration for the needs of others, and so on. This culture infects everyone to one degree or another; it is like an ether that all those in its proximity inhale. It encourages people to evaluate one another according to their degree of wealth and power. It rewards those who doggedly pursue their narrow self-interests at the expense of others.

The culture of capitalism, because of its hyper individualism, also produces an extraordinarily narrow vision of the world. Viewing the world from an isolated standpoint, individuals tend to assume that they are self-made persons, not the products of their surrounding culture and social relations. So the rich assume that their wealth has been acquired through their personal talents alone, while they see those mired in poverty as lacking the ambition and willingness to work hard. People are unable to see the complexities underlying human behavior because of the atomization of social life. But the disciplines of psychology, sociology, and anthropology all concur that individuals are overwhelmingly a product of their social environment to their very core.

In 1947, for example, the American Anthropological Association argued in its Statement on Human Rights:

“If we begin, as we must, with the individual, we find that from the moment of his birth not only his behavior, but his very thought, his hopes, aspirations, the moral values which direct his action and justify and give meaning to his life in his own eyes and those of his fellow, are shaped by the body of custom of the group of which he becomes a member.”

It is in this more subtle way that capitalism induces growing income inequalities. Because of their intensely competitive environment, politicians are more vulnerable to this capitalist culture than most. Capitalist culture engenders a mindset among politicians that leads them to craft public policies in favor of the good people, the rich and powerful, and turn their backs on the poor or punish them with mass incarceration.  They think it entirely natural to accept money from the wealthy in order to fund their re-election campaigns. And the more the inequalities in wealth grow, the more this mindset blinds politicians to the destructive implications of these “natural” decisions.

In 2011, Stiglitz wrote a compelling article, “Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%,” in which he argued forcefully that large inequalities in wealth are in no one’s interest. But since then the politicians have continued to accept campaign contributions from the rich, socialize with them, and do their bidding. They ritually denounce the shamelessly low taxes on the 1%, but have done nothing to alter them. The culture of capitalism trumps logical arguments, and thus the inequalities in wealth continue to expand. Capitalism has an iron grip on the political process.

Stiglitz concluded his article with this prophetic statement:

“The top 1 percent have the best houses, the best educations, the best doctors, and the best lifestyles, but there is one thing that money doesn’t seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live. Throughout history, this is something that the top 1 percent eventually do learn. Too late.”

While Stiglitz’s arguments have had no impact on growing inequalities, thanks to the power of capitalism, nevertheless capitalism gets credit for producing the one force that can put a stop to these destructive trends: the working class. As Karl Marx argued, capitalism produces its own “gravediggers.” In the 1930s workers massively organized unions and fought militant battles to defend their right to unionize and their right to fair compensation. These unions, which Stiglitz fails to mention, played a decisive role in reining in inequalities and unleashing a period in which the ranks of “the middle class” grew.

As Marx noted in his “Contribution to a Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right,” “The weapon of criticism cannot, of course, replace criticism of the weapon, material force must be overthrown by material force; but theory also becomes a material force as soon as it has gripped the masses.”

Stiglitz’s criticisms of growing inequality will have little impact on policy decisions until they are embraced by the masses, the working class, those that capitalism cruelly exploits and who are so easily dismissed by politicians and academics. At that point the working class will finally stand up and collectively declare enough is enough.

 Ann Robertson is a Lecturer at San Francisco State University and a member of the California Faculty Association. Bill Leumer is a member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 853 (ret.). Both are writers for Workers Action and may be reached at [email protected].

Vladimir Putin took part in a conference of Russian Federation ambassadors and permanent representatives on protecting Russia’s national interests and strengthening the foundations and principles of international relations.

Also taking part in the conference were the heads of the Government, both chambers of the Federal Assembly, ministries and agencies involved in international activities, and representatives of the national expert and business communities.

President awarded orders to eight Foreign Ministry employees and the honorary title of Honoured Worker of the Diplomatic Service of the Russian Federation to two.

emphasis added by GR

* * *

Beginning of conference of Russian Federation ambassadors and permanent representatives

PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA VLADIMIR PUTIN: Colleagues, friends,

Meetings with the diplomatic corps have become a tradition. We need this direct conversation to make an overall assessment of the situation in the world, to set current and long-term foreign policy objectives and on that basis to more effectively coordinate the work of our missions abroad.

I would like to begin by saying that the Foreign Ministry and our embassies are under a lot of pressure; we see this, we are aware of this, but this pressure will not be reduced. It will only increase, just as the requirement to show efficiency, precision and flexibility in our actions to ensure Russia’s national interests.

You know how dynamic and unpredictable international developments may sometimes be. They seem to be pressed together and unfortunately are not all of a positive nature. The potential for conflict is growing in the world, old contradictions are growing ever more acute and new ones are being provoked. We come across such developments, often unexpectedly, and we observe with regret that international law is not working, the most basic norms of decency are not complied with and the principle of all-permissiveness is gaining the upper hand.

We are observing this in Ukraine as well. We need to understand clearly that the events provoked in Ukraine are the concentrated outcome of the notorious deterrence policy. As you may know, its roots go deep into history and it is clear that unfortunately, this policy did not end with the end of the Cold War.

In Ukraine, as you may have seen, at threat were our compatriots, Russian people and people of other nationalities, their language, history, culture and legal rights, guaranteed, by the way, by European conventions. When I speak of Russians and Russian-speaking citizens I am referring to those people who consider themselves part of the broad Russian community, they may not necessarily be ethnic Russians, but they consider themselves Russian people.

What did our partners expect from us as the developments in Ukraine unfolded? We clearly had no right to abandon the residents of Crimea and Sevastopol to the mercy of nationalist and radical militants; we could not allow our access to the Black Sea to be significantly limited; we could not allow NATO forces to eventually come to the land of Crimea and Sevastopol, the land of Russian military glory, and cardinally change the balance of forces in the Black Sea area. This would mean giving up practically everything that Russia had fought for since the times of Peter the Great, or maybe even earlier – historians should know.

I would like to make it clear to all: this country will continue to actively defend the rights of Russians, our compatriots abroad, using the entire range of available means – from political and economic to operations under international humanitarian law and the right of self-defence.

I would like to stress that what happened in Ukraine was the climax of the negative tendencies in international affairs that had been building up for years. We have long been warning about this, and unfortunately, our predictions came true.

You know about the latest efforts to restore, to maintain peace in Ukraine. Foreign Ministry staff and the Minister himself took an active part in this. You know about the numerous telephone conversations we had on this subject.

Unfortunately, President Poroshenko has resolved to resume military action, and we failed – when I say ‘we’, I mean my colleagues in Europe and myself – we failed to convince him that the road to a secure, stable and inviolable peace cannot lie through war.

So far Mr Poroshenko was not directly linked to the orders to begin military action, and only now did he take full responsibility, and not only military, but political as well, which is much more important.

We also failed to agree to make public the statement approved by the foreign ministers of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine on the need to maintain peace and search for mutually acceptable solutions.

I would like to draw your attention to the fact that after the ceasefire was declared, no substantive, as you say, negotiations on the settlement of the situation ever began. Virtually, a disarmament ultimatum was given. However, even the ceasefire was not bad overall, though not enough to settle the situation on a long-term basis in a way that would be acceptable to all the people living in the country, including those in its southeast.

A constitution was made public, but it was never discussed.  Even within Ukrainian society there is a discussion of whether it is good or bad, but nobody definitely ever discussed it with the east.

Of course, everything that is going on in Ukraine is the internal affair of the Ukrainian state. It pains us to see people dying, especially civilians. As you may know, the number of refugees in the Russian Federation is growing. We will of course provide assistance to all those who need it. However, killing journalists is unacceptable. I reminded the Ukrainian President of this yesterday yet again.

In my view, we are observing a focused effort to liquidate all media representatives. This applies to both Russian and foreign journalists. Who could be afraid of fair reporting? Probably those, who are committing crimes. We strongly hope that the Ukrainian authorities act on their promises to carefully investigate the crimes.

More new hotspots are appearing on the world map. There is a deficit of security in Europe, in the Middle East, South-East Asia, in the Asia-Pacific region and in Africa. The global economic, financial and trade systems are becoming unbalanced, and moral and spiritual values are being washed out.

There is hardly any doubt that the unipolar world order did not come to be. Peoples and countries are raising their voices in favour of self-determination and civilizational and cultural identity, which conflicts with the attempts by certain countries to maintain their domination in the military sphere, in politics, finance, the economy and in ideology.

I know this has no direct bearing on us, however what is being done to the French banks can cause nothing but indignation in Europe in general and here as well. We are aware of the pressure our American partners are putting on France to force it not to supply Mistrals to Russia. We even know that they hinted that if France does not deliver the Mistrals, the sanctions will be quietly lifted from their banks, or at least they will be significantly minimised.

What is this if not blackmail? Is this the right way to act on the international arena? Besides, when we speak of sanctions, we always assume that sanctions are applied pursuant to Article 7 of the UN Charter. Otherwise, these are not sanctions in the true legal sense of the word, but something different, some other unilateral policy instrument.

In the past 20 years, our partners have been trying to convince Russia of their good intentions, their readiness to jointly develop strategic cooperation. However, at the same time they kept expanding NATO, extending the area under their military and political control ever closer to our borders. And when we rightfully asked: “Don’t you find it possible and necessary to discuss this with us?” they said: “No, this is none of your business.” Those who continue insisting on their exclusivity strongly dislike Russia’s independent policy. The events in Ukraine prove this. They also prove that a model of relations full of double standards does not work with Russia.

Nevertheless, I hope pragmatism will eventually prevail. We need to get rid of ambitions, of attempts to establish a ‘world barracks’ and arrange everybody by rank, or to impose single rules of behaviour and life, and to finally begin building relations based on equality, mutual respect and concern for mutual interests. It is time we admit each other’s right to be different, the right of every country to live its own life rather than to be told what to do by someone else.

Colleagues, in its foreign policy Russia has been consistently proceeding from the notion that solutions to global and regional conflicts should be sought not through confrontation, but through cooperation and compromise. We advocate the supremacy of international law while supporting the UN’s leading role.

International law should be mandatory for all and should not be applied selectively to serve the interests of individual select countries or groups of states, and most importantly, it should be interpreted consistently. It is impossible to interpret it in one way today, and in a different way tomorrow to match the political goals of the day.

World development cannot be unified. However, we can look for common issues, see each other as partners rather than competitors, and establish cooperation between states, their associations and integration structures.

These are the principles we were guided by in the past, and they continue to guide us now as we promote integration within the CIS. Strengthening close friendly ties and developing mutually advantageous economic cooperation with our neighbours is the key strategic priority of Russia’s long-term foreign policy.

The driving force behind Eurasian integration is the trio of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. The Agreement on the Eurasian Economic Union, signed in Astana on May 29, symbolises a qualitatively new step in our relations. A powerful centre of economic development that attracts business and investors, a common market is being formed in Eurasia. That is why our CIS partners show a strong interest in this union. I hope that very soon, Armenia will become a full-fledged member of this union. Negotiations with Kyrgyzstan are at an advanced stage. We are open to other Commonwealth states as well.

As we promote the Eurasian integration project, we are in no way trying to separate ourselves from the rest of the world; we are ready to consider prospects for creating free trade zones both with individual states and with regional associations and unions, primarily the European Union, of course.

Europe is our natural and most significant trade and economic partner. We strive to find new opportunities to expand our business cooperation, to open up new prospects for mutual investment and to lift trade barriers. This requires an upgrade of the legal contractual base of our cooperation and the stability and predictability of ties, primarily in such strategically important areas as energy. Stability on the entire territory of Eurasia and sustainable development of the EU economies and Russia depend on well-coordinated cooperation based on consideration for mutual interests.

We have always held high our reputation of a reliable supplier of energy resources and invested in the development of gas infrastructure. Together with European companies, as you may know, we have built a new gas transportation system called Nord Stream under the Baltic Sea. Despite certain difficulties, we will promote the South Stream project, especially since ever more European politicians and businessmen are coming to understand that someone simply wants to use Europe in their own interests, that it is becoming a hostage of someone’s near-sighted ideologised approaches.

If we return to Ukraine, the violation by Ukraine of its commitments regarding the purchase of our natural gas has become a common problem. Kiev refuses to pay on its debt. This is absolutely unacceptable. They have not paid for November-December of last year, though there were no arguments whatsoever then.

Our partners are using blatant blackmail – this is what it is. They demand an ungrounded reduction of prices on our goods, though the agreement was signed in 2009, and the parties complied with it in good faith. Now, as you may know, the court in Kiev has lifted all accusations against Ukraine’s former Prime Minister Tymoshenko, who signed the contract. Thus, the Kiev court authorities admit that they have done everything right not only by international law, but by Ukrainian law as well. But they do not wish to comply, or to pay for the product already received.

As of June 16, as you may know, we have transferred Ukraine to a pre-payment system, so they will get exactly the amount of gas they pay for. Today they do not pay; therefore, they are not getting anything – only in the so-called reverse mode. We know all about this reverse mode: it is a fake; there is no reverse mode. How can you supply gas two ways along the same pipeline? One does not have to be a gas transportation expert to understand that this is impossible. They are playing tricks with some of their partners: in fact, they are getting our gas and paying some western partners in Europe who are not receiving their volume. We are quite aware of this.

We are not taking any action at this point only because we do not want the situation to deteriorate. However, everyone should draw the proper conclusions from the situation. The main thing is that honest gas consumers and suppliers should not suffer from the actions of Ukrainian politicians and bureaucrats.

Generally, all of us – Ukraine, our European partners, and we – should seriously consider how to reduce the probability of any type of political or economic risks or force majeure situations on the continent.

In this connection, I would like to remind you that in August 2015 we will be marking 40 years of the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. This anniversary is a good reason not only to turn to the basic principles of cooperation on the continent that were laid back in 1975, but also to jointly make them work, to help them take root in practical European politics.

We have to work consistently to rule out any unconstitutional coups in Europe, any interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states, the use of blackmail or threats in international relations or the support of radical and neo-Nazi forces.

All of us in Europe need a sort of safety net to make sure that Iraqi, Libyan or Syrian – and unfortunately, I have to say also Ukrainian – precedents do not become contagious. This is especially dangerous for the post-Soviet area, because the states have yet not gained political or economic strength, they do not have a stable political system. It is very important that the constitutions of these states be treated with great care and respect.

Why is this important – and not only on the post-Soviet area, but all over Europe? Because even in those countries of Western and Eastern Europe where things seem to be going fine, there are quite a few hidden ethnic and social contradictions that may become acute any moment, may serve as ground for conflicts and extremism, and may be used by external forces to rock the social and political situation to achieve an illegitimate undemocratic change of power with all the negative consequences.

Firm guarantees of indivisible security, stability, respect for sovereignty and non-interference in each other’s internal affairs should become the basis that we can use to build a common space for economic and humanitarian cooperation that would spread from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean – I already spoke of this as a single space from Lisbon to Vladivostok.

I would like to ask the Foreign Ministry to draft a set of proposals in this respect, with special focus on the inadmissibility of any attempts to influence internal political processes from the outside. The job is to work the traditional principle of non-interference into the modern European realities and initiate a serious international discussion on the subject.

We also need to continue strengthening the eastern vector of our diplomacy, to more intensively use the impressive potential of the Asia-Pacific region in the interests of the further development of our country, primarily, of course, of Siberia and the Far East. We should continue to direct Russia’s policy in Asia and the Pacific at maintaining the security of our eastern borders and at supporting peace and stability in the region. The coming leadership of Russia in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, and the SCO and BRICS summits to be held in Ufa in the summer of 2015 work to support this.

We need to strengthen overall partnership and strategic cooperation with the People’s Republic of China. We can say that a strong Russian-Chinese connection has taken shape on the international arena. It is based on a coincidence of views on both global processes and key regional issues. It is of primary importance that Russian-Chinese friendship is not directed against anyone: we are not creating any military unions. On the contrary, this is an example of equal, respectful and productive cooperation between states in the 21st century.

We intend to further develop our relations with our traditional partners in this area of the world: with India and Vietnam, who are playing an ever-greater role in the world; with Japan and other countries, including the ASEAN states. We intend to further use the potential of the growing markets in Latin America and Africa and the great experience of political and humanitarian relations with the countries there.

Our contacts with the United States of America are of great importance for the whole world. We do not intend to shut down our relations with the USA. True, bilateral relations are not in their best shape, but – I would like to stress this – not through Russia’s fault. We have always tried to be predictable partners and conduct our affairs on the basis of equality. However, in return, our lawful interests were often ignored.

Now over to various types of international meetings. If we are assigned the observer role without a decisive vote on key issues that are of vital importance to us, then such meetings are of little interest to us. We should not sacrifice our vital interests just for the sake of being able to sit and observe. I hope our partners will eventually come to understand this obvious fact. So far, we have been hearing ultimatums or mentoring. Nevertheless, we are ready for dialogue, but I would like to stress that this should be an equal dialogue.

Colleagues, the complicated and unpredictable situation in the world places great demands on Russian diplomats’ professional level. The Foreign Ministry’s staff in Moscow and the Russian embassies abroad worked effectively and in coordinated fashion during the serious situation with Crimea and Ukraine, and I want to thank you for this. I particularly note the work done by the heads and staff of Russia’s representative missions at the UN and other key international organisations.

We must continue working with just such energy and dignity, in a spirit of tact, restraint and sense of measure of course. Our position must be based on clear and unshakeable principles of international law and legal and historical justification, on truth, justice, and the strength of moral superiority.

For my part, I can say that our country’s leadership will continue to do everything necessary to give you good conditions for your professional activity. As you know, I have signed presidential executive orders raising the wages of Foreign Ministry staff. Wages of people working at the central office will increase 1.4-fold on average.

Pensions for diplomatic personnel taking their retirement after January 1, 2014, will increase 3.5-fold on average. Pay for the heads of foreign diplomatic missions will increase four-fold on average in ruble equivalent. Pension top-ups for ambassadors and permanent envoys going into retirement have also increased considerably.

Wages in rubles for personnel at diplomatic missions abroad will be increased a bit later, from January 1, 2016, but this will be a four-fold increase. I hope that these steps will help to boost the Foreign Ministry’s human resources potential and thus make us more effective in carrying out our foreign policy.

I also ask the Government to speed up the decision on providing additional guarantees for personnel from other agencies and administrative and technical personnel working at Russian missions abroad, especially in situations where there are terrorist threats.

The Foreign Ministry has raised the question of giving diplomatic service the official legal status as a special type of civil service in Russia. We will examine this proposal.

This concludes my opening remarks.

I thank the members of the media for the attention they have given our work.

<…>

Ukrainian forces have launched a series of bloody attacks in the eastern regions following the declared end Monday of a ten-day ceasefire by President Petro Poroshenko. The nominal ceasefire was never truly operational.

Heavy fighting and artillery bombardments were reported around the rebel-controlled cities of Slovyansk and Kramatorsk, beginning at 19:30 Monday. Grad rockets were also fired at the city of Karlovka.

Igor Strelkov, the Russian commander of rebels in Slavyansk, said that many civilians had been wounded when government forces shelled several villages around the city.

At least four people were killed and five more wounded after a passenger bus came under fire in Ukraine’s Donetsk region Tuesday morning.

Russia protested the death Monday night of a Russian journalist, Anatoly Klyan, a cameraman for state-owned Channel One, who was shot in the stomach by Ukrainian forces on a bus carrying journalists and soldiers’ mothers.

Yesterday, Ukraine’s parliament speaker, Oleksandr V. Turchynov, declared, “The active phase of the counterterrorism operation resumed in the morning… Our armed forces are striking the bases and strongholds of the terrorists.”

Parliament was prepared to consider a request by Poroshenko for the imposition of a state of emergency in the east after he declared in a televised address midnight that Ukrainian forces would “attack and liberate our land… Termination of ceasefire is our response to terrorists, insurgents, marauders… Armed Forces, the National Guard, the State Border Service, the Security Service received appropriate orders.”

Poroshenko blamed the pro-Russian rebels in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions for failing to honour the ceasefire and denounced the government of Vladimir Putin in Moscow for allegedly failing to rein them in.

Militants had failed to take up a “unique opportunity” to support his peace plan, Poroshenko said, and had violated the ceasefire more than 100 times.

Later, in chilling, fascistic language on his Facebook page, Poroshenko declared that “we must be united, because we are fighting to free our land from dirt and parasites.”

In reply to Poroshenko’s claims, Kostyantyn Knyrik, a spokesman for the Donetsk People’s Republic, told the Interfax news agency that government forces had never adhered to a truce. “After Kiev declared its so-called ceasefire, strikes conducted by Ukrainian servicemen against Slovyansk and Semenivka did not stop for a day,” he said, adding that officials of the self-proclaimed republic had documented 200 violations.

“As a matter of fact, there was no ceasefire there,” he said. “The decision not to extend the ceasefire will not significantly impact military operations.”

Russia has demanded an investigation into claims that chemical and phosphorus weapons have been used by Ukrainian troops. People showing symptoms of chlorine poisoning were admitted to hospital following an alleged attack carried out by Ukrainian Special Forces near Slavyansk, according to separatist forces. Earlier, there were accusations of phosphorus firebombs being dropped on villages in southeastern Ukraine, accompanied by video footage.

Poroshenko’s assertion that Putin had not done enough to prove he was ready to support a ceasefire came despite the Russian parliament’s cancellation of an order allowing him to send troops to Ukraine to defend Russian citizens.

More significant still was the proposal made during teleconference negotiations Monday that included German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande for border checkpoints on the Russian side to be monitored by representatives of the Ukrainian Border Service as well as observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) so as to ensure that no crossing points were being used for illegal purposes.

That day, Hollande’s office announced agreement between Putin and Poroshenko on the proposal, which was a key element of the Ukrainian president’s “peace plan.” The two had also agreed to work on the liberation of more hostages and prisoners and the organisation of “substantial tripartite negotiations,” Hollande’s office said.

Poroshenko then rang US Secretary of State John Kerry, who likely told him the ruse of a ceasefire should no longer be maintained—especially given the reluctance of the European powers to impose new sanctions on Russia.

Putin has now pledged that Russia will “energetically defend the right of ethnic Russians, our compatriots abroad, using the entire arsenal of available means”, including “the right to self-defence.”

Moscow has been taking pains to identify the Obama administration as the major force stirring up tensions in Ukraine and Eastern Europe. This is, in part, an attempt to exploit divisions between Washington and the European powers over the economic and political impact of a full-scale conflict with Russia.

But there is no doubt that the US is prepared to go much further and faster than its European allies.

On Saturday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov gave a televised interview in which he said that “our American colleagues still prefer to push the Ukrainian leadership toward a confrontational path,” and that the chances of settling the crisis would have been better if they depended only on Russia and Europe.

Putin struck a similar note Tuesday. Addressing Russian diplomats in Moscow, he said: “We failed–when I say ‘we,’ I mean my colleagues in Europe and myself–we failed to convince [Poroshenko] that the road to a secure, stable and inviolable peace cannot lie through war.”

He added, “Our relationship with the United States is not the best at the moment. We have always tried to be predictable partners, handle business on an equal basis, but in return our legal interests were partially ignored and are still ignored.”

Russia was obliged to annex Ukraine’s Crimea region in March to prevent NATO forces entering, which would have created “a completely different alignment of forces,” he said. “I would like to stress that what happened in Ukraine was the climax of the negative tendencies in international affairs that had been building up for years.”

On Monday, US Air Force General Philip M. Breedlove, NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe and commander of US European Command, issued another bellicose denunciation of Russia. “Russian irregular forces are very active inside eastern Ukraine and Russian financing is very active inside eastern Ukraine,” Breedlove said.

Offering no evidence, he continued, “We see in training on the [Russian] side of the border is big equipment, tanks, anti-aircraft capability, and now we see those capabilities being used on the [Ukrainian] side of the border.”

Asked how many Russian troops have massed on the Ukraine border, Breedlove responded that there are “seven-plus battalion task groups on the east side of that border,” equivalent to 50,000 troops.

Breedlove’s anti-Russian rhetoric framed his announcement that troops will be dispatched from the US to Europe, starting in October, to buttress forces that have already been moved from Germany, Italy and elsewhere in Europe to mount additional ground and air patrols in the Baltic States of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, as well as in Poland and Romania.

Breedlove urged Congress to reconsider any reductions in the number of troops in Europe and to approve $1 billion in additional military funding, because the US “may need to add additional rotational troops to cover the sustained, persistent presence that we are now envisioning.”

The US is urging all 28 NATO member states to reverse their own defence cuts and honour the military alliance’s commitment to spend a minimum of two percent of gross domestic product on defence—which presently is only met by the US, Britain, Greece and Estonia.

Tens of thousands of people across Israel and internationally assembled yesterday to mourn the three teenagers whose bodies were discovered on Monday in a shallow grave not far from where they disappeared on June 12. Eyal Yifrah, 19, and Naftali Fraenkel and Gilad Shaer, both 16, were kidnapped and murdered as they hitchhiked back from a religious school in Kfar Etzion, one of the illegal Israeli settlements in the Gush Etzion region of the Palestinian West Bank territory.

The Israeli regime of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has seized on the tragic death of the young men as the pretext for escalating its aggression against the Palestinian people and strengthening Israel’s grip on the occupied territories. The Israeli government has declared that the Islamist party Hamas is responsible for the murders, without providing any evidence to substantiate the charge, which is denied by Hamas.

Early Tuesday, the West Bank homes of two Hamas members accused of involvement in the kidnapping were blown up by Israeli troops—the first such punitive demolitions since 2005. In Gaza, Palestinian sources said Israeli jets had carried out many as 40 air strikes since the bodies were found.

On Tuesday, Israeli police released extracts of an emergency call recorded on the day the teenagers disappeared, in which one, believed to be Gilad Shaer, stated, “I was kidnapped.” The New York Times reported that another voice, speaking in Hebrew, shouted “head down” and then, in Arabic, demanded the phone. According to the Times, Israeli journalists who have heard more of the call claim that a gunshot could be heard. Medical examinations have ascertained that the three youth were killed not long after they were abducted.

In Israel, the families held separate services in their home towns before coming together to conduct a joint burial of the three youth at the Modi’in Cemetery.

Among the thousands who attended the funerals was Netanyahu, who delivered a eulogy to the slain teenagers. Within hours, he was fronting the media to issue blood-curdling threats of vengeance against Hamas.

Even the US State Department, which rarely questions any action or statement of the Zionist regime, refused yesterday to endorse the accusation against Hamas. Deputy spokesperson Marie Harf stated: “Hamas may have been involved. I am not at this point saying they were responsible.”

Netanyahu has had no such hesitations. Flanked by his defense minister, Moshe Ya’alon, and military head, Lieutenant General Benny Gantz, he told a press conference a few hours after the funerals: “Hamas is responsible. Hamas is paying and Hamas will continue to pay.” A meeting of the Israeli security cabinet took place on Tuesday night, at which the nature of the Netanyahu government’s response to the murders was being discussed.

Two members of Hamas who live in the town of Hebron, not far from where the teenagers were abducted, have been named as the key suspects in their murder. From the day the youth went missing, Netanyahu’s government has exploited its unsubstantiated accusations against the entire Hamas organisation to unleash massive violence in the West Bank.

Thousands of homes have been raided and up to 600 alleged Hamas members or supporters dragged off and imprisoned. At least six people have been killed and 120 wounded.

The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, which is controlled by Hamas’s rival, Fatah, and headed by President Mahmoud Abbas, has collaborated with Israeli forces while issuing token condemnations of the scale of the repression.

Netanyanu’s immediate aim has been to destroy any prospect of Hamas and Fatah implementing the agreement they reached in April to form a “national unity” government and establish a common administration over both the West Bank and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. The national unity regime is viewed by the Palestinian bourgeois factions as crucial in getting the necessary international support for the recognition of the Palestinian Authority as a nation-state, with a seat in the United Nations.

The Fatah-Hamas agreement followed talks in March between US President Barack Obama and Abbas, during which Obama heaped praise upon the Palestinian Authority for the “strong institutions” that had been built in the West Bank “in preparation for a day in which the Palestinians have their own state.” The so-called Palestinian state formally endorsed by Washington would, were it ever to come into existence, be little more than a holding pen for the Palestinian people, with the Israeli military remaining in control of the borders and Palestinian lands divided and cut off from one another by Israeli-controlled roads and barriers.

Netanyahu’s Likud party, along with much of the Israeli political establishment, formally accepts a so-called “two-state solution,” but is virulently opposed to losing control over the territories that Israel seized and occupied in the 1967 war.

In April, an alarmed Netanyahu seized upon the beginning of talks between Fatah and Hamas to reject any further negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, on the grounds that Hamas was a “terrorist organisation.” The Obama administration, however, signalled that it was prepared to work with the unity government.

The Israeli ruling elite now sees an opportunity to reverse what it feared were moves in Washington toward recognising Palestine. The US and other major powers are focussed on the tensions with Russia over Ukraine and the chaos wracking the Middle East, with the civil wars in Syria and Iraq threatening to draw the neighbouring Arab states and Iran into a regional war.

The disappearance of the three teenagers this month, and now the confirmation that they were murdered, is being used to whip up nationalist and anti-Arab sentiment in Israel and justify yet another barbaric war against the Palestinian people.

There are indications that Netanyahu is preparing a full-scale military onslaught into the Palestinian territories. Last night, following the security cabinet meeting, he outlined his government’s three “objectives” to the media: to find the killers and kidnappers of the youth; to weaken Hamas’s infrastructure and manpower in the West Bank; and to conduct operations against it in Gaza.

In operations last night, a 19-year-old Palestinian, Yousouf Ibrahim, was shot dead by Israeli troops during raids in the Jenin refugee camp, in the north of the West Bank. Israeli authorities stated he had thrown a grenade. Witnesses cited by Al Jazeera denied the allegation, accusing Israeli forces of gunning him down as he and a friend were walking home. He was carrying a box of eggs.

Many more Palestinians and Israelis, young and old, may well lose their lives in the coming days and weeks. Among the measures Netanyahu is reportedly contemplating are wholesale targeted assassinations, the first deployment of Israeli troops into Gaza since early 2009, demands that Abbas repudiate the unity agreement with Hamas, and the announcement of the permanent military occupation of the West Bank.

In a chilling comment to journalists as the cabinet session was underway, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzachi Hanegbi remarked: “I don’t know how many leaders of Hamas will remain alive after tonight.” Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman issued a statement calling for an operation in the West Bank and Gaza on the scale of the 2002 “Defensive Shield” onslaught, during which tens of thousands of Israeli troops rampaged through the occupied territories, destroying the infrastructure of the Palestinian Authority, killing close to 500 people, wounding over 1,400, and detaining at least 7,000.

The most extreme Zionist tendencies in Israel are not waiting for the government to decide on a course of action. A mob rioted in Jerusalem yesterday, attempting to attack Arabs and their property. As they marched, they chanted “Revenge” and “Kahane was right.” Meir Kahane, a right-wing demagogue who was assassinated in 1990, advocated annexing the occupied territories and ethnic cleansing to drive all Arabs out of what he called “Greater Israel.”

The Times of Israel reported that in the Gush Etzion region a group of Zionist settlers exploited the deaths to declare the establishment of yet another illegal Israeli settlement, cynically naming it Givat Oz Ga-on—which in Hebrew characters forms an acronym of Gilad, Eyal and Naftali.

Political responsibility for the tragic death of the teenagers lies first and foremost with Zionism and its representatives such as Netanyahu, as well as US imperialism, which supplies Israel with billions worth of military equipment. The death, dislocation and oppression the Zionist state has inflicted and continues to inflict upon the Palestinian people is the root cause of the sectarian and ethnic hatreds that lie behind the murder of three innocent youth.

Definitive Analysis: War is Bad for the Economy

July 2nd, 2014 by Washington's Blog

Preface: Two weeks ago, well-known economist Tyler Cowen (a professor at George Mason University) arguedin the New York Times that wars – especially “major wars” -  are good for the economy.

Cowen joins extremely influential economists like Paul Krugman and Martin Feldstein – and various talking heads – in promoting this idea.

Also, many congressmen assume that cutting pork-barrel military spending would hurt their constituents’ jobs.

It is vital for policy-makers, economists and the public to have access to a definitive analysis to determine once and for all whether war is good or bad for the economy.

That analysis is below.

Top Economists Say War Is Bad for the Economy

Nobel-prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz says that war is bad for the economy:

Stiglitz wrote in 2003:

War is widely thought to be linked to economic good times. The second world war is often said to have brought the world out of depression, and war has since enhanced its reputation as a spur to economic growth. Some even suggest that capitalism needs wars, that without them, recession would always lurk on the horizon. Today, we know that this is nonsense. The 1990s boom showed that peace is economically far better than war. The Gulf war of 1991 demonstrated that wars can actually be bad for an economy.

Stiglitz has also said that this decade’s Iraq war has been very bad for the economy. See this, this and this.

Former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan also said in that war is bad for the economy. In 1991, Greenspan said that a prolonged conflict in the Middle East would hurt the economy. And he made this point again in 1999:

Societies need to buy as much military insurance as they need, but to spend more than that is to squander money that could go toward improving the productivity of the economy as a whole: with more efficient transportation systems, a better educated citizenry, and so on. This is the point that retiring Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) learned back in 1999 in a House Banking Committee hearing with then-Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. Frank asked what factors were producing our then-strong economic performance. On Greenspan’s list: “The freeing up of resources previously employed to produce military products that was brought about by the end of the Cold War.” Are you saying, Frank asked, “that dollar for dollar, military products are there as insurance … and to the extent you could put those dollars into other areas, maybe education and job trainings, maybe into transportation … that is going to have a good economic effect?” Greenspan agreed.

Economist Dean Baker notes:

It is often believed that wars and military spending increases are good for the economy. In fact, most economic models show that military spending diverts resources from productive uses, such as consumption and investment, and ultimately slows economic growth and reduces employment.

Professor Emeritus of International Relations at the American University Joshua Goldstein notes:

Recurring war has drained wealth, disrupted markets, and depressed economic growth.

***

War generally impedes economic development and undermines prosperity.

And David R. Henderson – associate professor of economics at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California and previously a senior economist with President Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers – writes:

Is military conflict really good for the economy of the country that engages in it? Basic economics answers a resounding “no.”

The Proof Is In the Pudding

Mike Lofgren notes:

Military spending may at one time have been a genuine job creator when weapons were compatible with converted civilian production lines, but the days of Rosie the Riveter are long gone. [Indeed, WWII was different from current wars in many ways, and so its economic effects are not comparable to those of today's wars.] Most weapons projects now require relatively little touch labor. Instead, a disproportionate share is siphoned into high-cost R&D (from which the civilian economy benefits little), exorbitant management expenditures, high overhead, and out-and-out padding, including money that flows back into political campaigns. A dollar appropriated for highway construction, health care, or education will likely create more jobs than a dollar for Pentagon weapons procurement.

***

During the decade of the 2000s, DOD budgets, including funds spent on the war, doubled in our nation’s longest sustained post-World War II defense increase. Yet during the same decade, jobs were created at the slowest rate since the Hoover administration. If defense helped the economy, it is not evident. And just the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan added over $1.4 trillion to deficits, according to the Congressional Research Service. Whether the wars were “worth it” or merely stirred up a hornet’s nest abroad is a policy discussion for another time; what is clear is that whether you are a Keynesian or a deficit hawk, war and associated military spending are no economic panacea.

The Washington Post noted in 2008:

A recent paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research concludes that countries with high military expenditures during World War II showed strong economic growth following the war, but says this growth can be credited more to population growth than war spending. The paper finds that war spending had only minimal effects on per-capita economic activity.

***

A historical survey of the U.S. economy from the U.S. State Department reports the Vietnam War had a mixed economic impact. The first Gulf War typically meets criticism for having pushed the United States toward a 1991 recession.

The Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP) shows that any boost from war is temporary at best. For example, while WWII provided a temporary bump in GDP, GDP then fell back to the baseline trend. After the Korean War, GDP fell below the baseline trend:

IEP notes:

By examining the state of the economy at each of the major conflict periods since World War II, it can be seen that the positive effects of increased military spending were outweighed by longer term unintended negative macroeconomic consequences. While the stimulatory effect of military outlays is evidently associated with boosts in economic growth, adverse effects show up either immediately or soon after, through higher inflation, budget deficits, high taxes and reductions in consumption or investment. Rectifying these effects has required subsequent painful adjustments which are neither efficient nor desirable. When an economy has excess capacity and unemployment, it is possible that increasing military spending can provide an important stimulus. However, if there are budget constraints, as there are in the U.S. currently, then excessive military spending can displace more productive non-military outlays in other areas such as investments in high-tech industries, education, or infrastructure. The crowding-out effects of disproportionate government spending on military functions can affect service delivery or infrastructure development, ultimately affecting long-term growth rates.

***

Analysis of the macroeconomic components of GDP during World War II and in subsequent conflicts show heightened military spending had several adverse macroeconomic effects. These occurred as a direct consequence of the funding requirements of increased military spending. The U.S. has paid for its wars either through debt (World War II, Cold War, Afghanistan/Iraq), taxation (Korean War) or inflation (Vietnam). In each case, taxpayers have been burdened, and private sector consumption and investment have been constrained as a result. Other negative effects include larger budget deficits, higher taxes, and growth above trend leading to inflation pressure. These effects can run concurrent with major conflict or via lagging effects into the future. Regardless of the way a war is financed, the overall macroeconomic effect on the economy tends to be negative. For each of the periods after World War II, we need to ask, what would have happened in economic terms if these wars did not happen? On the specific evidence provided, it can be reasonably said, it is likely taxes would have been lower, inflation would have been lower, there would have been higher consumption and investment and certainly lower budget deficits. Some wars are necessary to fight and the negative effects of not fighting these wars can far outweigh the costs of fighting. However if there are other options, then it is prudent to exhaust them first as once wars do start, the outcome, duration and economic consequences are difficult to predict.

We noted in 2011:

This is a no-brainer, if you think about it. We’ve been in Afghanistan for almost twice as long as World War II. We’ve been in Iraq for years longer than WWII. We’ve been involved in 7 or 8 wars in the last decade. And yet [the economy is still unstable]. If wars really helped the economy, don’t you think things would have improved by now? Indeed, the Iraq war alone could end up costing more than World War II. And given the other wars we’ve been involved in this decade, I believe that the total price tag for the so-called “War on Terror” will definitely support that of the “Greatest War”.

Let’s look at the adverse effects of war in more detail …

War Spending Diverts Stimulus Away from the Real Civilian Economy

IEP notes that – even though the government spending soared – consumption and investment were flat during the Vietnam war:

The New Republic noted in 2009:

Conservative Harvard economist Robert Barro has argued that increased military spending during WWII actually depressed other parts of the economy.

(New Republic also points out that conservative economist Robert Higgs and liberal economists Larry Summers and Brad Delong have all shown that any stimulation to the economy from World War II has been greatly exaggerated.)

How could war actually hurt the economy, when so many say that it stimulates the economy?

Because of what economists call the “broken window fallacy”.

Specifically, if a window in a store is broken, it means that the window-maker gets paid to make a new window, and he, in turn, has money to pay others. However, economists long ago showed that – if the window hadn’t been broken – the shop-owner would have spent that money on other things, such as food, clothing, health care, consumer electronics or recreation, which would have helped the economy as much or more.

If the shop-owner hadn’t had to replace his window, he might have taken his family out to dinner, which would have circulated more money to the restaurant, and from there to other sectors of the economy. Similarly, the money spent on the war effort is money that cannot be spent on other sectors of the economy. Indeed, all of the military spending has just created military jobs, at the expense of the civilian economy.

Professor Henderson writes:

Money not spent on the military could be spent elsewhere.This also applies to human resources. The more than 200,000 U.S. military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan could be doing something valuable at home.

Why is this hard to understand? The first reason is a point 19th-century French economic journalist Frederic Bastiat made in his essay, “What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen.” Everyone can see that soldiers are employed. But we cannot see the jobs and the other creative pursuits they could be engaged in were they not in the military.

The second reason is that when economic times are tough and unemployment is high, it’s easy to assume that other jobs could not exist. But they can. This gets to an argument Bastiat made in discussing demobilization of French soldiers after Napoleon’s downfall. He pointed out that when government cuts the size of the military, it frees up not only manpower but also money. The money that would have gone to pay soldiers can instead be used to hire them as civilian workers. That can happen in three ways, either individually or in combination: (1) a tax cut; (2) a reduction in the deficit; or (3) an increase in other government spending.

***

Most people still believe that World War II ended the Great Depression …. But look deeper.

***

The government-spending component of GNP went for guns, trucks, airplanes, tanks, gasoline, ships, uniforms, parachutes, and labor. What do these things have in common? Almost all of them were destroyed. Not just these goods but also the military’s billions of labor hours were used up without creating value to consumers. Much of the capital and labor used to make the hundreds of thousands of trucks and jeeps and the tens of thousands of tanks and airplanes would otherwise have been producing cars and trucks for the domestic economy. The assembly lines in Detroit, which had churned out 3.6 million cars in 1941, were retooled to produce the vehicles of war. From late 1942 to 1945, production of civilian cars was essentially shut down.

And that’s just one example. Women went without nylon stockings so that factories could produce parachutes. Civilians faced tight rationing of gasoline so that U.S. bombers could fly over Germany. People went without meat so that U.S. soldiers could be fed. And so on.

These resources helped win the war—no small issue. But the war was not a stimulus program, either in its intentions or in its effects, and it was not necessary for pulling the U.S. out of the Great Depression. Had World War II never taken place, millions of cars would have been produced; people would have been able to travel much more widely; and there would have been no rationing. In short, by the standard measures, Americans would have been much more prosperous.

Today, the vast majority of us are richer than even the most affluent people back then. But despite this prosperity, one thing has not changed: war is bad for our economy. The $150 billion that the government spends annually on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (and, increasingly, Pakistan) could instead be used to cut taxes or cut the deficit. By ending its ongoing wars … the U.S. government … would be developing a more prosperous economy.

Austrian economist Ludwig Von Mises points:

That is the essence of so-called war prosperity; it enriches some by what it takes from others. It is not rising wealth but a shifting of wealth and income.

We noted in 2010:

You know about America’s unemployment problem. You may have even heard that the U.S. may very well have suffered a permanent destruction of jobs.

But did you know that the defense employment sector is booming?

[P]ublic sector spending – and mainly defense spending – has accounted for virtually all of the new job creation in the past 10 years:

The U.S. has largely been financing job creation for ten years. Specifically, as the chief economist for BusinessWeek, Michael Mandel, points out, public spending has accounted for virtually all new job creation in the past 1o years:

Private sector job growth was almost non-existent over the past ten years. Take a look at this horrifying chart:

longjobs1 The Military Industrial Complex is Ruining the Economy

Between May 1999 and May 2009, employment in the private sector sector only rose by 1.1%, by far the lowest 10-year increase in the post-depression period.

It’s impossible to overstate how bad this is. Basically speaking, the private sector job machine has almost completely stalled over the past ten years. Take a look at this chart:

longjobs2 The Military Industrial Complex is Ruining the Economy

Over the past 10 years, the private sector has generated roughly 1.1 million additional jobs, or about 100K per year. The public sector created about 2.4 million jobs.

But even that gives the private sector too much credit. Remember that the private sector includes health care, social assistance, and education, all areas which receive a lot of government support.

***

Most of the industries which had positive job growth over the past ten years were in the HealthEdGov sector. In fact, financial job growth was nearly nonexistent once we take out the health insurers.

Let me finish with a final chart.

longjobs4 The Military Industrial Complex is Ruining the Economy

Without a decade of growing government support from rising health and education spending and soaring budget deficits, the labor market would have been flat on its back. [120]

***

So most of the job creation has been by the public sector. But because the job creation has been financed with loans from China and private banks, trillions in unnecessary interest charges have been incurred by the U.S.

And this shows military versus non-military durable goods shipments: us collapse 18 11 The Military Industrial Complex is Ruining the Economy [Click here to view full image.]

So we’re running up our debt (which will eventually decrease economic growth), but the only jobs we’re creating are military and other public sector jobs.

PhD economist Dean Baker points out that America’s massive military spending on unnecessary and unpopular wars lowers economic growth and increases unemployment:

Defense spending means that the government is pulling away resources from the uses determined by the market and instead using them to buy weapons and supplies and to pay for soldiers and other military personnel. In standard economic models, defense spending is a direct drain on the economy, reducing efficiency, slowing growth and costing jobs.

A few years ago, the Center for Economic and Policy Research commissioned Global Insight, one of the leading economic modeling firms, to project the impact of a sustained increase in defense spending equal to 1.0 percentage point of GDP. This was roughly equal to the cost of the Iraq War.

Global Insight’s model projected that after 20 years the economy would be about 0.6 percentage points smaller as a result of the additional defense spending. Slower growth would imply a loss of almost 700,000 jobs compared to a situation in which defense spending had not been increased. Construction and manufacturing were especially big job losers in the projections, losing 210,000 and 90,000 jobs, respectively.

The scenario we asked Global Insight [recognized as the most consistently accurate forecasting company in the world] to model turned out to have vastly underestimated the increase in defense spending associated with current policy. In the most recent quarter, defense spending was equal to 5.6 percent of GDP. By comparison, before the September 11th attacks, the Congressional Budget Office projected that defense spending in 2009 would be equal to just 2.4 percent of GDP. Our post-September 11th build-up was equal to 3.2 percentage points of GDP compared to the pre-attack baseline. This means that the Global Insight projections of job loss are far too low…

The projected job loss from this increase in defense spending would be close to 2 million. In other words, the standard economic models that project job loss from efforts to stem global warming also project that the increase in defense spending since 2000 will cost the economy close to 2 million jobs in the long run.

The Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst has also shown that non-military spending creates more jobs than military spending.

And economics professor Michael Perelman writes:

Military Keynesianism poses another danger: military spending drains resources from productive sectors of the economy, potentially weakening both the domestic economy and military power, which ultimately depends upon the strength of the domestic economy. [A point we've previously made.]

High Military Spending Drains Innovation, Investment and Manufacturing Strength from the Civilian Economy

Chalmers Johnson notes that high military spending diverts innovation and manufacturing capacity from the economy:

By the 1960s it was becoming apparent that turning over the nation’s largest manufacturing enterprises to the Department of Defense and producing goods without any investment or consumption value was starting to crowd out civilian economic activities. The historian Thomas E Woods Jr observes that, during the 1950s and 1960s, between one-third and two-thirds of all US research talent was siphoned off into the military sector. It is, of course, impossible to know what innovations never appeared as a result of this diversion of resources and brainpower into the service of the military, but it was during the 1960s that we first began to notice Japan was outpacing us in the design and quality of a range of consumer goods, including household electronics and automobiles.

***

Woods writes: “According to the US Department of Defense, during the four decades from 1947 through 1987 it used (in 1982 dollars) $7.62 trillion in capital resources. In 1985, the Department of Commerce estimated the value of the nation’s plant and equipment, and infrastructure, at just over $7.29 trillion… The amount spent over that period could have doubled the American capital stock or modernized and replaced its existing stock”.

The fact that we did not modernise or replace our capital assets is one of the main reasons why, by the turn of the 21st century, our manufacturing base had all but evaporated. Machine tools, an industry on which Melman was an authority, are a particularly important symptom. In November 1968, a five-year inventory disclosed “that 64% of the metalworking machine tools used in US industry were 10 years old or older. The age of this industrial equipment (drills, lathes, etc.) marks the United States’ machine tool stock as the oldest among all major industrial nations, and it marks the continuation of a deterioration process that began with the end of the second world war. This deterioration at the base of the industrial system certifies to the continuous debilitating and depleting effect that the military use of capital and research and development talent has had on American industry.”

Economist Robert Higgs makes the same point about World War II:

Yes, officially measured GDP soared during the war. Examination of that increased output shows, however, that it consisted entirely of military goods and services. Real civilian consumption and private investment both fell after 1941, and they did not recover fully until 1946. The privately owned capital stock actually shrank during the war. Some prosperity. (My article in the peer-reviewed Journal of Economic History, March 1992, presents many of the relevant details.)

It is high time that we come to appreciate the distinction between the government spending, especially the war spending, that bulks up official GDP figures and the kinds of production that create genuine economic prosperity. As Ludwig von Mises wrote in the aftermath of World War I, “war prosperity is like the prosperity that an earthquake or a plague brings.”

War Causes Austerity

Economic historian Julian Adorney argues:

Hitler’s rearmament program was military Keynesianism on a vast scale. Hermann Goering, Hitler’s economic administrator, poured every available resource into making planes, tanks, and guns. In 1933 German military spending was 750 million Reichsmarks. By 1938 it had risen to 17 billion with 21 percent of GDP was taken up by military spending. Government spending all told was 35 percent of Germany’s GDP.

***

No-one could say that Hitler’s rearmament program was too small. Economists expected it to create a multiplier effect and jump-start a flagging economy. Instead, it produced military wealth while private citizens starved.

***

The people routinely suffered shortages. Civilian wood and iron were rationed. Small businesses, from artisans to carpenters to cobblers, went under. Citizens could barely buy pork, and buying fat to make a luxury like a cake was impossible. Rationing and long lines at the central supply depots the Nazis installed became the norm.

Nazi Germany proves that curing unemployment should not be an end in itself.

War Causes Inflation … Which Keynes and Bernanke Admit Taxes Consumers

As we noted in 2010, war causes inflation … which hurts consumers:

Liberal economist James Galbraith wrote in 2004:

Inflation applies the law of the jungle to war finance. Prices and profits rise, wages and their purchasing power fall. Thugs, profiteers and the well connected get rich. Working people and the poor make out as they can. Savings erode, through the unseen mechanism of the “inflation tax” — meaning that the government runs a big deficit in nominal terms, but a smaller one when inflation is factored in.

***

There is profiteering. Firms with monopoly power usually keep some in reserve. In wartime, if the climate is permissive, they bring it out and use it. Gas prices can go up when refining capacity becomes short — due partly to too many mergers. More generally, when sales to consumers are slow, businesses ought to cut prices — but many of them don’t. Instead, they raise prices to meet their income targets and hope that the market won’t collapse.

Ron Paul agreed in 2007:

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

The result of this arrangement is inflation. And inflation finances war.

Blanchard Economic Research pointed out in 2001:

War has a profound effect on the economy, our government and its fiscal and monetary policies. These effects have consistently led to high inflation.

***

David Hackett Fischer is a Professor of History and Economic History at Brandeis. [H]is book, The Great Wave, Price Revolutions and the Rhythm of History … finds that … periods of high inflation are caused by, and cause, a breakdown in order and a loss of faith in political institutions. He also finds that war is a triggering influence on inflation, political disorder, social conflict and economic disruption.

***

Other economists agree with Professor Fischer’s link between inflation and war.

James Grant, the respected editor of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer, supplies us with the most timely perspective on the effect of war on inflation in the September 14 issue of his newsletter:

“War is inflationary. It is always wasteful no matter how just the cause. It is cost without income, destruction financed (more often than not) by credit creation. It is the essence of inflation.”

Libertarian economics writer Lew Rockwell noted in 2008:

You can line up 100 professional war historians and political scientists to talk about the 20th century, and not one is likely to mention the role of the Fed in funding US militarism. And yet it is true: the Fed is the institution that has created the money to fund the wars. In this role, it has solved a major problem that the state has confronted for all of human history. A state without money or a state that must tax its citizens to raise money for its wars is necessarily limited in its imperial ambitions. Keep in mind that this is only a problem for the state. It is not a problem for the people. The inability of the state to fund its unlimited ambitions is worth more for the people than every kind of legal check and balance. It is more valuable than all the constitutions every devised.

***

Reflecting on the calamity of this war, Ludwig von Mises wrote in 1919

One can say without exaggeration that inflation is an indispensable means of militarism. Without it, the repercussions of war on welfare become obvious much more quickly and penetratingly; war weariness would set in much earlier.***

In the entire run-up to war, George Bush just assumed as a matter of policy that it was his decision alone whether to invade Iraq. The objections by Ron Paul and some other members of Congress and vast numbers of the American population were reduced to little more than white noise in the background. Imagine if he had to raise the money for the war through taxes. It never would have happened. But he didn’t have to. He knew the money would be there. So despite a $200 billion deficit, a $9 trillion debt, $5 trillion in outstanding debt instruments held by the public, a federal budget of $3 trillion, and falling tax receipts in 2001, Bush contemplated a war that has cost $525 billion dollars — or $4,681 per household. Imagine if he had gone to the American people to request that. What would have happened? I think we know the answer to that question. And those are government figures; the actual cost of this war will be far higher — perhaps $20,000 per household.

***

If the state has the power and is asked to choose between doing good and waging war, what will it choose? Certainly in the American context, the choice has always been for war.

And progressive economics writer Chris Martenson explains as part of his “Crash Course” on economics:

If we look at the entire sweep of history, we can make an utterly obvious claim: All wars are inflationary. Period. No exceptions.

***

So if anybody tries to tell you that you haven’t sacrificed for the war, let them know you sacrificed a large portion of your savings and your paycheck to the effort, thank you very much.

The bottom line is that war always causes inflation, at least when it is funded through money-printing instead of a pay-as-you-go system of taxes and/or bonds. It might be great for a handful of defense contractors, but war is bad for Main Street, stealing wealth from people by making their dollars worth less.

Given that John Maynard Keynes and former Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke both say that inflation is a tax on the American people, war-induced inflation is a theft of our wealth.

IEP gives a graphic example – the Vietnam war helping to push inflation through the roof:

War Causes Runaway Debt


We noted in 2010:

All of the spending on unnecessary wars adds up.

The U.S. is adding trillions to its debt burden to finance its multiple wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, etc.

Indeed, IEP – commenting on the war in Afghanistan and Iraq – notes:

This was also the first time in U.S. history where taxes were cut during a war which then resulted in both wars completely financed by deficit spending. A loose monetary policy was also implemented while interest rates were kept low and banking regulations were relaxed to stimulate the economy. All of these factors have contributed to the U.S. having severe unsustainable structural imbalances in its government finances.

We also pointed out in 2010:

It is ironic that America’s huge military spending is what made us an empire … but our huge military is what is bankrupting us … thus destroying our status as an empire.

Economist Michel Chossudovsky told Washington’s Blog:

War always causes recession. Well, if it is a very short war, then it may stimulate the economy in the short-run. But if there is not a quick victory and it drags on, then wars always put the nation waging war into a recession and hurt its economy.

Indeed, we’ve known for 2,500 years that prolonged war bankrupts an economy (and remember Greenspan’s comment.)

It’s not just civilians saying this …

The former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – Admiral Mullen – agrees:

The Pentagon needs to cut back on spending.

“We’re going to have to do that if it’s going to survive at all,” Mullen said, “and do it in a way that is predictable.”

Indeed, Mullen said:

For industry and adequate defense funding to survive … the two must work together. Otherwise, he added, “this wave of debt” will carry over from year to year, and eventually, the defense budget will be cut just to facilitate the debt.

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates agrees as well. As David Ignatius wrote in the Washington Post in 2010:

After a decade of war and financial crisis, America has run up debts that pose a national security problem, not just an economic one.

***

One of the strongest voices arguing for fiscal responsibility as a national security issue has been Defense Secretary Bob Gates. He gave a landmark speech in Kansas on May 8, invoking President Dwight Eisenhower’s warnings about the dangers of an imbalanced military-industrial state.

“Eisenhower was wary of seeing his beloved republic turn into a muscle-bound, garrison state — militarily strong, but economically stagnant and strategically insolvent,” Gates said. He warned that America was in a “parlous fiscal condition” and that the “gusher” of military spending that followed Sept. 11, 2001, must be capped. “We can’t have a strong military if we have a weak economy,” Gates told reporters who covered the Kansas speech.

On Thursday the defense secretary reiterated his pitch that Congress must stop shoveling money at the military, telling Pentagon reporters: “The defense budget process should no longer be characterized by ‘business as usual’ within this building — or outside of it.”

While war might make a handful in the military-industrial complex and big banks rich, America’s top military leaders and economists say that would be a very bad idea for the American people.

Indeed, military strategists have known for 2,500 years that prolonged wars are disastrous for the nation.

War Increases Terrorism … And Terrorism Hurts the Economy

Security experts – conservative hawks and liberal doves alike – agree that waging war in the Middle East weakens national security and increases terrorism. See this, this, this, this, this, this and this.

Terrorism – in turn – terrorism is bad for the economy. Specifically, a study by Harvard and the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) points out:

From an economic standpoint, terrorism has been described to have four main effects (see, e.g., US Congress, Joint Economic Committee, 2002). First, the capital stock (human and physical) of a country is reduced as a result of terrorist attacks. Second, the terrorist threat induces higher levels of uncertainty. Third, terrorism promotes increases in counter-terrorism expenditures, drawing resources from productive sectors for use in security. Fourth, terrorism is known to affect negatively specific industries such as tourism.

The Harvard/NBER concludes:

In accordance with the predictions of the model, higher levels of terrorist risks are associated with lower levels of net foreign direct investment positions, even after controlling for other types of country risks. On average, a standard deviation increase in the terrorist risk is associated with a fall in the net foreign direct investment position of about 5 percent of GDP.

So the more unnecessary wars American launches and the more innocent civilians we kill, the less foreign investment in America, the more destruction to our capital stock, the higher the level of uncertainty, the more counter-terrorism expenditures and the less expenditures in more productive sectors, and the greater the hit to tourism and some other industries. Moreover:

Terrorism has contributed to a decline in the global economy (for example, European Commission, 2001).

So military adventurism increases terrorism which hurts the world economy. And see this.

Postscript: Attacking a country which controls the flow of oil has special impacts on the economy. For example, well-known economist Nouriel Roubini says that attacking Iran would lead to global recession. The IMF says that Iran cutting off oil supplies could raise crude prices 30%.

War Causes Us to Lose Friends … And Influence

While World War II – the last “good war” – may have gained us friends, launching military aggression is now losing America friends, influence and prosperity.

For example, the U.S. has launched Cold War 2.0 – casting Russia and China as evil empires – and threatening them in numerous way. For example, the U.S. broke its promise not to encircle Russia, and is using Ukraine to threaten Russia; and the U.S. is backing Japan in a hot dispute over remote islands, and backing Vietnam in its confrontations with China.

And U.S. statements that any country that challenge U.S. military – or even economic – hegemony will be attacked are extremely provocative.

This is causing Russia to launch a policy of “de-dollarization”, which China is joining in. This could lead to the collapse of the petrodollar … which would wreck the U.S. economy.

Siria : La politica del (dis)armo

July 1st, 2014 by Manlio Dinucci

Un carico di armi chimiche siriane verrà trasbordato, domani a Gioia Tauro, dalla nave danese Ark Futura a quella statunitense Cap Ray. È l’ultimo invio, con cui la Siria ha completato il disarmo chimico, sotto il controllo dell’Organizzazione per la proibizione delle armi chimiche. Damasco ha così mantenuto l’impegno preso nel quadro dell’accordo raggiunto con la mediazione di Mosca, che aveva ottenuto in cambio da Washington la promessa di non attaccare la Siria. Il trasferimento e la successiva distruzione delle armi chimiche siriane – dichiara la ministra degli esteri Mogherini – «potrebbe aprire scenari ulteriori di disarmo e di non proliferazione nella regione». Tace però sul fatto che, mentre la Siria ha rinunciato alle armi chimiche, Israele ha costruito un sofisticato arsenale chimico, che resta segreto poiché Israele ha firmato ma non ratificato la Convenzione sulle armi chimiche. Lo stesso ha fatto col proprio arsenale nucleare, che resta segreto poiché Israele non ha firmato il Trattato di non-proliferazione. Tace la Mogherini soprattutto su come gli Stati uniti contribuiscono al «disarmo» nella regione: proprio mentre Damasco completa il disarmo chimico, dimostrando propensione al negoziato, il presidente Obama chiede al Congresso 500 milioni di dollari  per armare e addestrare «membri opportunamente scelti dell’opposizione siriana». Tipo quelli in maggioranza non-siriani – reclutati in Libia, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Cecenia e altri paesi – che la Cia ha per anni armato e addestrato in Turchia e Giordania per infiltrarli in Siria. Tra questi, molti militanti dello Stato islamico dell’Iraq e del Levante (Isis), addestrati da istruttori statunitensi in una base segreta in Giordania. Nonostante che Damasco abbia realizzato il disarmo chimico, ed emergano altre prove che ad usare armi chimiche in Siria sono stati i «ribelli», Washington continua ad armarli e addestrarli per rovesciare il governo siriano. Emblematica la dichiarazione del summit G7 a Bruxelles, che riflette la politica di Washington. Senza dire una parola sul disarmo chimico siriano, il G7 «condanna la brutalità del regime di Assad, il quale conduce un conflitto che ha ucciso oltre 160mila persone e lasciato 9,3 milioni in necessità di assistenza umanitaria». E, definendo false le elezioni presidenziali del 3 giugno, sentenzia che «non c’è futuro per Assad in Siria». Loda allo stesso tempo «l’impegno della Coalizione nazionale e dell’Esercito libero siriano di sostenere il diritto internazionale», mentre «deplora» il fatto che Russia e Cina hanno bloccato al Consiglio di sicurezza dell’Onu una risoluzione che chiedeva il deferimento dei governanti siriani alla Corte criminale internazionale. Sono dunque chiari gli obiettivi di Washington: abbattere il governo di Damasco, sostenuto in particolare da Mosca, e allo stesso tempo (anche tramite l’offensiva dell’Isis, funzionale alla strategia Usa), deporre il governo di Baghdad, distanziatosi dagli Usa e avvicinatosi a Cina e Russia. O, in alternativa, «balcanizzare» l’Iraq favorendone la divisione in tre tronconi. A tale scopo Washington invia in Iraq, oltre a droni armati che operano dal Kuwait, 300 consiglieri militari con il compito di costituire due «centri di operazioni congiunte», uno a Baghdad e uno in Kurdistan. Per condurre queste e altre operazioni, definite ufficialmente di «controterrorismo», la Casa bianca chiede al Congresso fondi aggiuntivi: 4 miliardi di dollari per il Pentagono (soprattutto per le sue forze speciali), un miliardo per il Dipartimento di stato, 500 milioni per «situazioni imprevedibili». In realtà facilmente prevedibili.

Manlio Dinucci

If you’ve been reading the financial news lately, you may have noticed that two much-celebrated summits have taken place on either side of the Atlantic. A California conference organized by the Koch brothers was held in the secured enclave of St. Regis Monarch Bay luxury resort. The conference was called, “American Courage: Our Commitment to a Free Society,” featured a half-dozen Congressmen and an overtly political agenda, namely taking Congress for the right and stonewalling another Clinton presidency. One comical session was entitled, “Over-Criminalization: Removing Legal Barriers to Opportunity.”

One doubts this was about the numberless minorities collared in our metastasizing prison system growth industry, and rather about the further decriminalization of white-collar crime of the Wall Street variety. Other panels and breakout sessions included themes on shifting the energy narrative (a tried and true right-wing skill set applied to a topic of planetary import), and defending free speech; i.e., ensuring political donations are legally synonymous with individual oral utterances.

Interesting that the event instituted a no cell-phone policy, such was the delicate nature of the discussions on offer. The Koch brothers correctly understand that public knowledge of their high-level planning sessions would provoke outrage from across the liberal spectrum. Liberals, on the other hand, seem to prefer the spotlight. That’s because their task in the doctrinal system of extreme capitalism is to the convince populations that there are well-intentioned plutocrats willing to defend the little guy against the rabid machinations of the Koch clan. Classic good cop/bad cop. That’s why—when liberals come together to enthuse about empowerment—they do it in the most visible of places.

Their rendezvous was held in London, where the prestigious conference called, “Inclusive Capitalism” included the likes of notable outsiders such as Bill Clinton, the mayor of London, Christine Lagarde of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Prince Charles, and someone called, “Lady de Rothschild.” In other words, this was a conference produced, hosted, and attended by insiders—those who’ve already been included in a global system of dispossession that takes from populations that cannot defend their wealth and gives to small communities of the already-rich who can afford to raid that wealth. Hence the paradigm of the enriched rich and impoverished poor. Marxist geographer David Harvey, among others, calls the process, “accumulation by dispossession.” Others, conditioned to avoid Marx like the plague and unthinkingly accept any adage from Adam Smith, call it “capitalism.”

As Carol Hanisch notes, the “What We Believe” section of the conference agenda states that the group is nobly pursuing ways to, “improve capitalism so that it creates long-term value that sustains human endeavour without harming the stakeholders and broader environment critical to its success.” Herein we see one of the contradictions of capitalism writ small. Stakeholders directly benefit by excluding the majority of people from the club of super-wealth that was generated by that very exclusion. Likewise they prosper from the exploitation of the natural environment free of restrictions on the degree of degradation they can inflict on the environment. One country combines both forms of exploitation in a single vile case study: the Congo. Are the coltan mines of the Congo being responsibly mined or, better yet, responsibly not mined? The entire nation is engulfed in a civil war sustained by the mobile phone market, for which the coltan is essential.

Yet sophists like Clinton and philanthropists like Rothschild would have us believe the system that produces these inequities can be modestly reformed and thereby create a general prosperity open to all. Inclusive of even the Congolese. Yet as Hanisch perfectly put it, “if capitalism (ownership of the means of the production and distribution by the few) were “inclusive” it would be communism (ownership of the means of production and distribution by those who actually do the work of producing and distributing).”

In other words, the inclusion of economically disenfranchised workers in a more equitable marketplace is dependent on the generosity of the capitalists. Hence the conference is little more than a call for greater philanthropy by sympathetic elites. Yet their sympathy has a limit—the threshold at which capitalism itself is challenged. That is a line elite wealth won’t cross. The conference organizers cleverly concede the flaw in the ointment, Milton Freedman’s astonishingly honest admission that the “social responsibility” of business is to grow profits. Business guru Peter Drucker was of much the same mind. Against this embarrassingly unsympathetic view of capital’s role, the attendees thus suggest that, “in light of growing public resentment toward finance and business, many argue that business should actively assume a much broader role in society that addresses the demands of other key stakeholders, alongside their duty to create shareholder value.” This suggests that the shareholder value—created by exploiting externalized populations—can be protected and enhanced even as that exploitation is reduced. How, exactly?

Notably, the solutions are to come from within. The conference examines how, “…companies are tackling the challenge of establishing corporate cultures and good business practices at all levels of their organisations.” This is a typical nod to the discredited notion that corporations can police themselves. Was not the predatory lending and derivative-driven mortgage collapse of 2008 a sufficient case study in the perils of deregulation, of trusting companies to practice self-discipline? It was attendee Bill Clinton whose deregulatory legislation (including the Glass-Steagall Act and the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000, as well as relaxed lending standards for economically disadvantaged communities) helped precipitate the collapse. His henchman and fellow attendee, Lawrence Summers, revealingly delivered a lecture on, “Which type of capitalism” best builds social value. Note, much like the public option was slid under the table during the health care reform debates five years ago, alternatives to capitalism itself are not broached by Summers.

Notice, too, how the conference emphasizes vagaries including “economic value”, “solve economic problems” and “create social value.” The groups appear to stop short of the quick solution—much higher wages—and the long term one—worker owned companies. Probably because that is tantamount to socialism.

The solution is evidently to convince CEOs, investors, and asset managers to ignore short-term profits in favor of long-term profits. In other words, brainwash hedge funds, academic and foundation endowments, mutual funds, pension funds, and other institutional investors to tell their shareholders that they’ll now have to wait a lot longer for their profits. Why? Presumably so that the jobless vagrants increasingly inhabiting our city streets don’t decide to riot.

Again, back to relying on the benevolence of wealthy strangers. Is this the best we can do? It probably is within the capitalist system, barring a massively mobilized and eternally vigilant public—a prospect that appears vanishingly small given the apathy of Americans. But perhaps Europe, where protest movements are stronger, perduring, educated, and radicalized, can lead the way not simply to temporary reforms in capitalism like those of the 1930s which were rolled back over time by the social ancestors of the attendees of this conference, but of alternative economic systems altogether. Comically, and as a fitting coda to the conference’s feckless ambitions, it was sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation, a paragon of philanthropist action, and a group called, “Gatsby” that works to create agricultural markets for the private sector in Third World communities. Perhaps as a result of “Inclusive Capitalism,” the next time Gatsby and Rockefeller clink glasses on New Year’s Eve, you might be happily employed to carry away their empties.

Jason Hirthler is a writer, strategist, and 15-year veteran of the communications industry. He has written for many political communities. He lives and works in New York City. He can be reached at: [email protected].

From American Drone Supremacy to Drone Multipolarity

July 1st, 2014 by Global Research News

So writes Edward Luce in the FT. He points out that there is no treaty governing the use of military drones as for the use of nuclear weapons.

We summarise with added links to Rand Corporation and Stimson Centre.

For almost ten years the Central Intelligence Agency has been able to strike targets with impunity. At the moment, Barack Obama orders drone assassinations without having to admit it, or explain himself to anyone. Hundreds of militants have been killed in Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere. But hundreds more civilians, perhaps thousands, have also been accidentally killed.

However, though America has only deemed the UK fit to buy their UAVs, others, including Iran, whose drones patrol the same Iraqi skies as their US counterparts, have reverse engineered the unmanned aerial vehicle with relative ease.

China is exporting drones. Last month Saudi Arabia became its first big customer. Within five years, many countries, some of them highly unsavoury, will possess military drones, according to the Rand Corporation. Luce continues:

“Imagine if China decided to take out Uighur separatists in Afghanistan or further afield. Like al-Qaeda, China’s Uighur minority poses a threat to the Chinese homeland. Like al-Qaeda they resort to terrorism”.

On what grounds could Washington complain? It would be ill-placed to object.

He reflects that the US emulates the hypocritical parent: do as I say not as I do and that the US would not tolerate another country operating with the same scope and secrecy;

“As set out last week by the Stimson Centre, a security think-tank, China’s president would refuse to acknowledge the strikes on grounds of national security, just like Mr Obama. The same would apply to Vladimir Putin if he ordered drone strikes in eastern Ukraine. And so on. The threat of drone multipolarity is real – and potentially endless. Yet America’s moral suasion would be worthless. Likewise, Washington would have scant legal grounds to object. America’s instinct is to claim a US exception for drones. Much the same argument is used for the International Criminal Court, whose strictures apply to soldiers everywhere except American ones. Because the US is democratic and universal, it alone can be trusted to operate drones responsibility” – not an argument many would accept.

Luce forecasts:

“Before Mr Obama leaves office, he will put drones on a firmer legal footing. As Stimson and others recommend, control over drones is likely to shift from the CIA, which is secretive, to the Pentagon, which is less so. Mr Obama is also likely to set up an independent panel to oversee the US president’s use of drones. He may even promise to acknowledge each strike and publish details about what happened, civilian deaths included. That too, is seen as an important plank in putting drones on a legal footing. Transparency is the order of the day. Whether it will be enough to constrain others is an open question”.

Note his important but casual side reference: “As a weapon against terrorists, drones are no panacea. By engendering impotent fear, they breed the kind of resentment that recruits terrorists”.

Copyright Drone Warfare, 2014

From 1898 to 1931, Smedley Darlington Butler was a member of the U.S. Marine Corps. By the time he retired he had achieved what was then the corps’s highest rank, major general, and by the time he died in 1940, at 58, he had more decorations, including two medals of honor, than any other Marine. During his years in the corps he was sent to the Philippines (at the time of the uprising against the American occupation), China, France (during World War I), Mexico, Central America, and Haiti.

In light of this record Butler presumably shocked a good many people when in 1935 — as a  second world war was looming — he wrote in the magazine Common Sense:

I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism [corporatism]. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.

That same year he published a short book with the now-famous title War Is a Racket, for which he is best known today. Butler opened the book with these words:

War is a racket. It always has been.

It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.

He followed this by noting: “For a great many years, as a soldier, I had a suspicion that war was a racket; not until I retired to civil life did I fully realize it. Now that I see the international war clouds gathering, as they are today, I must face it and speak out.”

Butler went on to describe who bears the costs of war — the men who die or return home with wrecked lives, and the taxpayers — and who profits — the companies that sell goods and services to the military. (The term military-industrial complex would not gain prominence until 1961, when Dwight Eisenhower used it in his presidential farewell address. See Nick Turse’s book The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives.)

Writing in the mid-1930s, Butler foresaw a U.S. war with Japan to protect trade with China and investments in the Philippines, and declared that it would make no sense to the average American:

We would be all stirred up to hate Japan and go to war — a war that might well cost us tens of billions of dollars, hundreds of thousands of lives of Americans, and many more hundreds of thousands of physically maimed and mentally unbalanced men.

Of course, for this loss, there would be a compensating profit — fortunes would be made.  Millions and billions of dollars would be piled up. By a few. Munitions makers. Bankers.  Ship builders. Manufacturers. Meat packers. Speculators. They would fare well.…

But what does it profit the men who are killed? What does it profit their mothers and sisters, their wives and their sweethearts? What does it profit their children?

What does it profit anyone except the very few to whom war means huge profits?

Noting that “until 1898 [and the Spanish-American War] we didn’t own a bit of territory outside the mainland of North America,” he observed that after becoming an expansionist world power, the U.S. government’s debt swelled 25 times and “we forgot George Washington’s warning about ‘entangling alliances.’ We went to war. We acquired outside territory.”

It would have been far cheaper (not to say safer) for the average American who pays the bills to stay out of foreign entanglements. For a very few this racket, like bootlegging and other underworld rackets, brings fancy profits, but the cost of operations is always transferred to the people — who do not profit.

Butler detailed the huge profits of companies that sold goods to the government during past wars and interventions and the banks that made money handling the government’s bonds.

The normal profits of a business concern in the United States are six, eight, ten, and sometimes twelve percent. But war-time profits — ah! that is another matter — twenty, sixty, one hundred, three hundred, and even eighteen hundred per cent — the sky is the limit. All that traffic will bear. Uncle Sam has the money. Let’s get it.

Of course, it isn’t put that crudely in war time. It is dressed into speeches about patriotism, love of country, and ‘we must all put our shoulders to the wheel,’ but the profits jump and leap and skyrocket — and are safely pocketed.

And who provides these returns? “We all pay them — in taxation.… But the soldier pays the biggest part of the bill.”

His description of conditions at veterans’ hospitals reminded me of what we’re hearing today about the dilapidated veterans’ health care system. Butler expressed his outrage at how members of the armed forces are essentially tricked into going to war — at a pitiful wage.

Beautiful ideals were painted for our boys who were sent out to die. This was the “war to end all wars.” This was the “war to make the world safe for democracy.” No one mentioned to them, as they marched away, that their going and their dying would mean huge war profits. No one told these American soldiers that they might be shot down by bullets made by their own brothers here. No one told them that the ships on which they were going to cross might be torpedoed by submarines built with United States patents. They were just told it was to be a “glorious adventure.”

Thus, having stuffed patriotism down their throats, it was decided to make them help pay for the war, too. So, we gave them the large salary of $30 a month.

Butler proposed ways to make war less likely. Unlike others, he had little faith in disarmament conferences and the like. Rather, he suggested three measures: (1) take the profit out of war by conscripting “capital and industry and labor” at $30 a month before soldiers are conscripted; (2) submit the question of entry into a proposed war to a vote only of “those who would be called upon to do the fighting and dying”; (3) “make certain that our military forces are truly forces for defense only.”

It’s unlikely that these measures would ever be adopted by Congress or signed by a president, and of course conscription is morally objectionable, even if the idea of drafting war profiteers has a certain appeal. But Butler’s heart was in the right place. He was aware that his program would not succeed: “I am not a fool as to believe that war is a thing of the past.”

Yet in 1936 he formalized his opposition to war in his proposed constitutional “Amendment for Peace.” It contained three provisions:

  • The removal of the members of the land armed forces from within the continental limits of the United States and the Panama Canal Zone for any cause whatsoever is prohibited.
  • The vessels of the United States Navy, or of the other branches of the armed service, are hereby prohibited from steaming, for any reason whatsoever except on an errand of mercy, more than five hundred miles from our coast.
  • Aircraft of the Army, Navy and Marine Corps is hereby prohibited from flying, for any reason whatsoever, more than seven hundred and fifty miles beyond the coast of the United States.

He elaborated on the amendment and his philosophy of defense in an article in Woman’s Home Companion, September 1936.

It’s a cliche of course to say, “The more things change, the more they stay the same,” but on reading Butler today, who can resist thinking it? As we watch Barack Obama unilaterally and illegally reinsert the U.S. military into the Iraqi disaster it helped cause and sink deeper into the violence in Syria, we might all join in the declaration with which Butler closes his book:

TO HELL WITH WAR!

Postscript: In 1934 Butler publicly claimed he had been approached by a group of businessmen about leading half a million war veterans in a coup against President Franklin D. Roosevelt with the aim of establishing a fascist dictatorship. This is known as the “Business Plot.” A special committee set up by the U.S. House of Representatives, which heard testimony from Butler and others, reportedly issued a document containing some confirmation. The alleged plot is the subject of at least one book, The Plot to Seize the White House, and many articles.

by Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW)

Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) – an organization comprised of individuals who served or continue to serve in the US Military following September 11, 2001 – calls on Congress, the President, and his administration to reject the use of violence and militarism in response to the current outbreak of violence in Iraq.

Many of our members deployed to Iraq during the recent US occupation. Those of us who were there know first hand that US military solutions in Iraq do not serve the interests of the Iraqi people. We advocate for the self-determination of all people, in this case the people of Iraq. Any solution to this crisis must come from them.

When the United States invaded and occupied Iraq, the formerly secular country was destabilized. The United States and the Department of Defense intentionally created and agitated sectarian divisions that would not have otherwise existed. The result of this is what we see today, and Iraqi civilians are paying for it.

Iraqis have been paying with their lives for this war since March 2003. After 10 years of US occupation they were left with little relief. Their economic infrastructure was destroyed and new work to repair it has been awarded to US corporations and contractors, instead of to Iraqis. Iraqi labor unions face frequent retaliation, and an entire generation of children has been born with severe birth defects in places like Hawija. No one has been held to account. No effort has been made to clean the waste left behind.

When it comes to arming “freedom fighters” the US has a tendency to act as a fair-weather friend; today’s freedom fighter becomes tomorrow’s terrorist and justification to pursue an illegal invasion. Instead of creating more chaos, we should be solving the problems that already exist. Instead of installing another puppet president, the United States should be cleaning up environmental contamination, investigating allegations of torture, and allowing democracy to blossom in both government and labor, without US intervention.

A revised map issued over the weekend by ISIS claims territory in Spain and parts of Europe. On Friday we reported on the ISIS five year expansion plan. It shows the Middle East, including Israel, the Arabian Peninsula, North Africa, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia and India.

The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), the terror army supported by Saudi Arabia, the CIA and trained by the Pentagon, has declared a caliphate in the Middle East. It has changed its name to the Islamic State, dispensing with Iraq, Sham and the Levant.

 

The announcement was made on the first day of Ramadan, the Muslim holy day. An ISIS spokesman said Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is the leader of the declared caliphate reaching from Syria into Iraq.

The shadowy al-Baghdadi may actually be several people using the same nom de guerre, according to Lieutenant-General Sir Graeme Lamb, a former British special forces commander. He was reportedly held as a “civilian internee” at Camp Bucca in Iraq and released in December, 2004.

The spokesman, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, said all Muslims worldwide will be required to pay allegiance to al-Baghdadi. “The legality of all emirates, groups, states and organizations becomes null by the expansion of the caliph’s authority and the arrival of its troops to their areas,” explained al-Adnani. “Listen to your caliph and obey him. Support your state, which grows every day.”

He characterized the establishment of the caliphate as “a new era of international jihad.”

It is unlikely members of the world’s second largest religion, totaling 1.6 billion people, will recognize the caliphate and pay allegiance to al-Baghdadi.

More realistically, the move is intended to shore up support in the areas controlled by ISIS, now simply IS, and serve as propaganda for the incremental expansion of the jihadist movement into other areas of the Middle East, most notably Jordan, and Africa.

ISIS propaganda video capture shows plan to move into Jordan.

ISIS propaganda video capture shows plan to move into Jordan.

ABC World News (6/24/14) had a story this week about Al-Qaeda linked militants in Syria and Yemen teaming up “to develop a new generation of bombs” including “explosives-laden toothpaste tubes” that “could be smuggled aboard commercial planes.”

One problem with this story: Far from being a “new generation,” the toothpaste tube bomb has been around for almost four decades. In 1976, Cuban exiles reputedly led by Luis Posada Carriles used plastic explosives disguised in a tube of Colgate toothpaste to bring down Cubana Flight 455, killing all 73 people aboard the civilian Cuban airliner.

Luis Posada Carriles (Wikimedia)

Luis Posada Carriles in training at Fort Benning, Georgia, 1963.Too

Posada, a longtime CIA asset, escaped after being arrested for the bombing in Venezuela, surfacing in El Salvador, where he helped oversee the Reagan administration’s illegal efforts to overthrow the Nicaraguan government. Since 2005, he’s been living in the United States, whichrefuses to extradite him to either Venezuela or Cuba.

Though it remains the deadliest act of air terrorism in the Western Hemisphere, Cubana Flight 455 is rarely brought up as a precedent for threats against air travelers. Perhaps that’s because corporate media like to maintain thefiction that terrorism is always something done by “them” against “us.”

The Internet’s Own Boy (2014, Filmbuff/Participant Media), directed and produced by Brian Knappenberger, is a documentary film about Aaron Swartz (1986-2013), the open Internet activist and web technology prodigy who took his own life after being hounded by a vindictive criminal lawsuit orchestrated by the US federal government.

The film was recently presented at the American Film Institute’s AFI Docs film festival in the Washington, DC suburb of Silver Spring, Maryland. The film was released nationwide June 27.

The Internet’s Own Boy

In 2010, security cameras at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) caught Swartz using a laptop to download thousands of scholarly papers from the Internet subscription site JSTOR by hacking into the building’s computer system. Swartz was intending to make the documents free to all for downloading. This initiated a federal witch-hunt against Swartz, which threatened to send him to prison for nearly 50 years as well as force him to pay fines of up to $1 million for charges of wire fraud, computer fraud, unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer, and recklessly damaging a protected computer.

This vindictive attack on Swartz, for the crime of wishing to make information widely available through the Internet, was most famously captured in a statement by US Attorney Carmen Ortiz, who said that “stealing is stealing whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data, or dollars.”

In the film, one gets a sense of both how truly young Swartz was when he died, as well as how much he could have contributed to the world under different circumstances. Interspersed with footage of Swartz throughout his younger years are interviews with friends, associates and family, portraying the various aspects of his life and personality. Swartz’s ideals were informed by his genuine enthusiasm and preoccupation with the world around him.

At one point a clip is played of Aaron saying, “I think you should always be questioning, I take this very scientific attitude in which everything you’ve learned is just provisional, that it’s always open to recantation, refutation… I think the same thing applies to society.” (The film includes a clip relaying that a potential cure for pancreatic cancer had come about due to JSTOR documents Swartz had downloaded.)

Likewise, some of his personal achievements include co-founding the RSS web feed protocol at age 13, the creation of software company Infogami (which later merged with the link aggregator web site Reddit) before age 20, as well as his work for Condé Nast Publications, the owner of Wired magazine. Swartz would later turn his back on his career in Silicon Valley to pursue ideals closer to his heart. Swartz’s attitude toward corporate America is memorably captured by the commentary of an associate, who suggests that the young man had “climbed a mountain of shit” in order to “pluck a single rose, only to find that he had lost his sense of smell.”

The film turns toward Swartz’s involvement with activism and other social issues. This culminates in his role in organizing the protests against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) bills in 2012. These bills, which sought to implement a framework of legal censorship, were eventually abandoned after numerous companies came out against them on the grounds that they would impose undue financial burdens upon them. This episode is handled somewhat uncritically, portraying this essentially pro-corporate decision as a “victory” for grassroots activism.

Aaron Swartz

The section of the film dealing with the US government’s repression of Swartz is the film’s strongest, as various people recount the brutal persecution meted out by Assistant US Attorney Stephen Heymann, acting on behalf of the Obama administration. After initially being caught at MIT, Swartz and his family were placed under FBI surveillance. At one point, the surveillance became so intrusive that Aaron refused to leave his house. Upon being detained, Swartz was assaulted by police officers, as well as later being strip-searched and having his belt and shoelaces taken from him.

Swartz was initially charged with five felonies and offered a plea bargain, which would have placed him under house arrest and barred him from Internet usage if he admitted criminal guilt. After refusing this deal, eight more dubious felony counts were added to Swartz’s charges under the draconian 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). Meanwhile, the film notes, JSTOR—the corporation that Swartz had allegedly stolen from—had sought to drop the lawsuit.

Robert Swartz, Aaron’s father, tells interviewers that Heymann sought to make a “case of deterrence” out of his son’s case. The elder Swartz contrasts this aggressive behavior to the kid gloves treatment the banks received from federal officials after the 2008 economic meltdown. Swartz’s father goes on to note that famous technology billionaires such as Steve Jobs and Bill Gates achieved initial successes by creating devices that had undermined the profitability of communications companies in the US. “The only difference with Aaron,” his father states, was “he wanted to make the world a better place, not just make money.”

In another scene, Quinn Norton, Swartz’s former girlfriend, breaks down in tears as she details the US attorney’s attempts to make her inform on Aaron. When she pleaded with US federal prosecutors that they were “on the wrong side of history,” she says that the officials simply “looked bored” with her. Something of the shortsightedness and philistinism of the ruling class is captured in these scenes.

Eventually, the constant harassment and struggle to obtain funds for his defense overcame the young activist, who numerous friends and associates stated was tired of feeling like “a burden on those around him.” Swartz was found dead in his Brooklyn apartment from suicide on January 11, 2013. He was 26 years old.

To demonstrate the political nature of the persecution of Aaron Swartz, the film makes note of the historical setting of the prosecution. The film contains clips of both the Egyptian Revolution, which forced a US-backed dictator from office, as well as the Occupy Wall Street protests that swept the globe in that period. The film notes that both these phenomena relied heavily on the networking power of the Internet, of which Swartz was a known expert.

In various aspects of his story, Swartz bears similarity to former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who gave up a highly lucrative career with the spy agency in order to reveal details of government surveillance programs carried out against and behind the backs of the world’s population. To his credit, the film features Swartz speaking out against the unchecked power of the federal government to spy, noting that it is primarily directed at the population itself.

The filmmakers make much of the CFAA, highlighting efforts to have the law repealed, as well as at one point inviting commentary from Democratic politicians—Senator Ronald Wyden of Oregon and Representative Zoe Lofgren of California—to denounce the bill. This narrow focus on the CFAA fails to note the deeply anti-democratic character of the US state itself. This is captured by one commentator who, in describing the SOPA and PIPA bills, correctly calls all legislative matches “just fights between different corporate interests.”

Still, this fairly predictable limitation does not fundamentally undermine the strength of the film, which serves to unmask the hypocrisy of the US federal government, whose functionaries view all creative and egalitarian impulses from the population with distrust and hostility, and are willing to go to criminal lengths to suppress it. For that reason alone, the film deserves a wide viewing.

America’s Paramilitary Police

July 1st, 2014 by Andre Damon

In June, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) published a report, War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing, which provides a chilling account of the role of the US military in arming “paramilitary police” squads throughout the country.

SWAT teams are now routinely deployed for regular police work—including the serving of warrants for nonviolent offenses. Raids by SWAT teams, typically carried out in the dead of night, often involve the use of military stun grenades, the wanton destruction of property, the killing of household pets, and, with increasing regularity, the deaths of “suspects” and their family members, including children. More than one hundred and twenty such raids take place in America every day.

Constitutional protections, including the prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures, are ignored with the now ubiquitous use of “no-knock” warrants.

A series of federal government programs have been set up to encourage the militarization of local police forces. The motto of one Defense Department program, which has transferred more than $4.3 billion in military hardware to police departments, sums up the intent: “From war fighter to crime fighter.” In other words, the tactics of military aggression abroad are being employed for domestic repression.

A shocking amount of military equipment has been recommissioned for use in the United States, without any political discussion or oversight. SWAT teams have been equipped with 500 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, which can withstand roadside bombs and are capable of mounting heavy machine guns and automatic grenade launchers. They have been provisioned with combat uniforms, night-vision goggles, sniper and assault rifles, belt-fed machine guns and military helicopters, including the infamous Black Hawk and Huey.

The militarization of domestic policing is one symptom of a deeply dysfunctional society. While the political establishment never loses the opportunity to declare there is no money for social needs—education, pensions, health care, nutrition—billions of dollars are made available to equip the police with the latest instruments of violence.

In the United States, every social problem is treated as a police matter. The United States imprisons more people than all other developed countries combined. This monstrous system, which sweeps up hundreds of thousands of people every year, is crowned by the continuing practice of capital punishment, which is banned throughout the rest of the developed world.

Police increasingly believe, with good reason, that they can act with impunity. Recent months have seen a spate of police killings. Those that happen to have been caught on video—like the March shooting of a homeless man in Albuquerque, New Mexico—have provoked widespread popular outrage. But such acts are regular occurrences in the United States.

The United States bears more and more the character of a garrison state. The border regions of the country have been turned into de facto military zones, where constitutional rights are a dead letter. Military drones have already made their appearance in American skies, and plans are in place for their much more widespread utilization. There is a concerted effort to accustom the American people to the presence of police and soldiers armed to the teeth—at airports, train stations, schools, sports stadiums, etc.

Militarized police are part of a massive state apparatus that operates largely outside of any legal or democratic supervision and tramples on the population’s constitutional and democratic rights every day. Domestic policing is increasingly integrated with the array of NSA spying programs that monitor the movements, communications and intimate personal details of the population.

The militarization of American society was most graphically revealed in the lockdown of Boston last year in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings—in which the city’s residents were told to “shelter in place” as squads of police in combat fatigues, armed with assault rifles, conducted house-to-house searches. This event—and the subsequent state murder of Ibragim Todashev—have passed without a note of protest from within the political establishment or media.

The buildup of an apparatus of mass repression is bound up with unrestrained military violence and extreme social inequality. Abroad, the American ruling class is in a state of permanent war. The invasion of country after country in the pursuit of the interests of the financial aristocracy cannot but reverberate at home.

The wars are carried out by a gigantic military apparatus—funded to the tune of $1 trillion a year—that has no more respect for the democratic rights of the population of the United States than it does for the populations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya or Syria. And presiding over the entire edifice is a president who is a self-acknowledged killer, having systematically planned and overseen the drone missile murder of at least four American citizens, in addition to thousands of others.

Plunder abroad has been accompanied by plunder at home. While the median household income plunged by 8 percent between 2007 and 2012, the wealth of the super-rich has more than doubled since 2009. The financial oligarchy that dominates American society derives its wealth largely through criminal and semi-criminal activities, including the types of speculation, fraud, and parasitism that led to the 2008 financial meltdown.

The creation of the framework of a police state in the United States reflects a ruling class that lives in perpetual fear over the preservation of its wealth and privilege. It is well aware that its policies— foreign and domestic—are creating mass hostility to its rule.

by Abdulrahman Al-Masri

The water level of the Euphrates Lake has decreased by six metres in the body of the dam, RMC reported.

Criticism of the Turkish government has been voiced by civil society activists in Northern Syria concerning Turkey’s control of the River Euphrates. In recent weeks, the Turks have stopped the flow of water into Syria from the mighty river, which has its source in Turkey’s Taurus Mountains before flowing into Syria and on into Iraq. The Euphrates is the main source of water for the Northern Syrian province of Raqqa.

“This threatens us with a real disaster within the next few days,” said Abu Mohamed, a local activist from Raqqa. He pointed out that half of the villages in the district currently have no water available for residential use or agricultural purposes.

Turkey's control of the Euphrates

The Euphrates has three main dams within Syria: Tishreen, Euphrates and Al-Baath. The Euphrates dam is considered the most important of the three. The water level in the Euphrates Lake (formerly known as Al-Assad Lake) has dropped significantly. It is the largest man-made lake in Syria at 85km long; until recently it held more than 14.2 billion cubic metres of water. The lake and hydro-electric power station on its dam is the source of water and electricity to Raqqa and eastern Aleppo.

Turkey initially cut the flow of water into Syria at the beginning of May for six days. In June, the government decreased the river flow gradually until it was stopped completely by the middle of the month.

According to a news report published by the independent Raqqa Media Centre (RMC), there are currently only three turbines working to generate electricity at the dam, instead of the usual eight, due to the low water level. The RMC also noted that the water level lake has dropped by 1.6 billion cubic metres; the report condemns Turkey for the suffering caused to the people of Raqqa. “Turkey is purposely not allowing the water to enter Syria for political reasons,” claimed the RMC report.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Sham (ISIS), which controls Raqqa province, were also angered by Turkey’s control of the river. It issued a statement criticising the Turkish government for “cutting water to Al-Sham [Levant] prefectures.”

However, according to Abu Mohamed from Raqqa, ISIS has not expressed contempt about the issue, as the group is not concerned with the issues of the Syrian people; rather, it is concerned about maintaining control of the province. “ISIS provides water and electricity through generators for its own people,” he added, emphasising that the negative impact of extremist groups on the people of Raqqa is now compounded by Turkish control of the Euphrates.

A source close to ISIS told the pan-Arab daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi last week that the group called on the Turkish government to open the flow of the Euphrates River as a prerequisite for the release of the kidnapped Turkish consul in Iraq and his colleagues.

The Istanbul-based Syrian National Coalition, which is considered the most important opposition body, has not yet issued a comment on the dispute. “The coalition doesn’t have enough confidence to express an explicit stance on this issue,” said Ali Amin Al-Suwaid, a Syrian political analyst and a member of the General Authority of the Syrian Revolution. He explained that the coalition headquarters is based in Turkey and so it must maintain diplomatic relations with the Turkish government. “What is needed is to urge Turkey to return to the Syrian people the agreed share of the Euphrates,” he demanded.

Turkey’s decision to block the flow of the Euphrates also affects Iraq’s share, said Khaled Abu Al-Waled, a media activist from Raqqa City. “This is a flagrant violation of international water conventions,” he insisted. “No drop of the Euphrates now enters Syrian territory.”

Some villages have no safe drinking water, forcing locals to use water taken directly from the lake, despite the danger of disease.

The pro-opposition Violation Documentation Centre in Syria (VDC) also condemned Turkey’s behaviour, warning that the consequences will be negative. “This is a weird action,” said Bassam Al-Ahmad, the VDC spokesperson. He called on the Turkish government to reverse the decision. “Our demands are clear for the Turkish government to take immediate measures to stop this action.”

Historically, Turkey has been in conflict with Syria and Iraq over the control of the Euphrates. In the past, Turkey denied that the Euphrates is an international river and that Syria and Iraq had any rights over the control of the flow.

In 1994, an agreement between Syria and Turkey was registered at the United Nations to guarantee a minimum share of the water from the Euphrates to Iraq and Syria. “We can say that this measure is serving the interests of Turkey and embarrassing the Assad regime,” added Ali Amin Al-Suwaid.

Copyright Abdulrahman Al-Masri, Middle East Monitor, 2014

This article was published by Global Research on March 30, 2010.

Israel’s Mossad has regularly faked Australian passports for its spies, an ex-agent said on Thursday, as anger grew over the use of foreign travel documents for an alleged assassination.

Former Mossad case officer Victor Ostrovsky told ABC public radio that the spy agency had used Australian passports for previous operations before last month’s assassination of a top Hamas commander in Dubai that has been blamed on Israel.

He said agents had little trouble passing themselves off as Australians as few people in the Middle East have much knowledge about the country.

“Consider the fact that Australians speak English and it’s an easy cover to take, very few people know very much about Australia,” he said.

“You can tell whatever stories you want. It doesn’t take much of an accent to be an Australian or New Zealander, or an Englishman for that matter.

“And I know people had been under Australian cover not once (but) quite a few times. So why not use it (again)?”

Australia summoned the Israeli ambassador and warned that the countries’ friendly ties were at risk after Dubai police named three Australian passport-holders in a list of new suspects in the murder of Mahmud al-Mabhuh.

Britain, Ireland, France and Germany expressed similar outrage after people holding documents from their countries were also linked to the January 20 killing in a luxury Dubai hotel.

Israel has previously dismissed claims from Ostrovsky, who is now an author and has detailed various accusations against the country in his books.

He said Mossad prefers to use ”false flag” passports as Israeli papers frequently invoke suspicion in the Middle East.

“They need passports because you can’t go around with an Israeli passport, not even a forged one, and get away or get involved with people from the Arab world,” he said.

“So most of these (Mossad) operations are carried out on what’s called false flag, which means you pretend to be of another country which is less belligerent to those countries that you’re trying to recruit from.”

Ostrovsky said Mossad had a “very, very expensive research department” dedicated to manufacturing the fake documents which simulates different types of paper and ink.

“If they create a passport at a top level for use of that nature… I don’t think anybody will be able to find the difference,” he said, adding there was no chance any of the people named as suspects were Mossad agents.

“Except for James Bond, who actually pronounces or announces his arrival at the scene by saying, ‘I’m Bond, James Bond’, most people who work in the intelligence field don’t present themselves by their real name,” he said.

The Australian newspaper said Ali Kazak, a former Palestinian representative to Australia, had warned in 2004 that a Mossad agent in Sydney had obtained 25 false Australian passports.

In March 2004, two suspected Mossad agents were arrested in New Zealand and later convicted for fraudulently trying to obtain passports from the country, prompting diplomatic sanctions.

Copyright Middle East Online 2010

The US War Against Russia Is Already Underway

July 1st, 2014 by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

How true is the spreading belief that President Obama has ruined US foreign policy, and how does it actually work? The Voice of Russia is discussing it with Paul Craig Roberts, former assistant secretary of the US Treasury, currently the chairman of The Institute for Political Economy.

VOR: The US media is pointing to a growing dissatisfaction with President Obama’s foreign policy, both among Republicans and Democrats.  Speaking at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s conference in Washington Sen. Ted Cruz said “Abroad, we see our foreign policy collapsing and every region in the world is getting more and more dangerous”. According to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll has registered an increasing lack of faith in the president and his leadership, with 58 per cent of Americans disapproving of the way Obama is handling foreign policy. What is it that makes Americans unhappy? 

Paul Craig Roberts: Well, I think, perhaps, Americans are catching on to all of the lies. There are now other sources of information, other than the English-speaking Western media. And the account that the US gives, for example, of Ukraine is clearly a lie. And it takes a while before people catch on to the lies. I don’t think the majority will ever catch on, but enough will.

And then many Americans who are dissatisfied would be dissatisfied for domestic economic reasons. They would want the resources wasted on wars to be allocated to domestic needs and not used to pay for more wars. For example, the Iraq crisis has come back and there is so much talk about sending troops to the Baltics, eastern Europe in order to guard against the “Russian threat.”

So, this alarms people who’ve had no income growth, who can’t find a job, suffer from heavy debts from borrowed money to attend the universities, cut backs of unemployment compensation, the threats to the social security system, the threats to the public medical system (which is not much of a system, but still some people rely on it). So, most Americans, when they see more trouble abroad involving more wars, understand that the wars mean more economic hardship for them. The US has been in war for 13 years. It’s wasted trillions of dollars and achieved no result. And so, this is probably the main reason that people are dissatisfied, because they are suffering here for the sake of wars in which they no longer believe.

VOR: But what exactly is the rationale behind the never-ending wars?

There are several reasons that are mutually supportive. One is that the neoconservative ideology came to full power with the collapse of the Soviet Union. And this ideology says that history has chosen the US to prevail all over the world, that there is no alternative to the American political and economic system, and that this choice by history gives the US the responsibility to exercise hegemony over the entire world.

So, this is a very powerful ideology, a more powerful ideology than the US has ever before had. And it comes at a time when other ideologies are gone. The communist ideology is gone, the Marxist revolutionary movements are gone. And so, it leaves the US dominating on the ideological level.

Another reason is the military-security complex. It is an amazingly large and powerful private interest group with government elements, such as all the security agencies – the CIA, Homeland Security, FBI, the Pentagon. And it absorbs hundreds of billions of dollars, probably close to one trillion dollars annually.

And this money is very important to this interest group. Some of the taxpayers’ money is recycled, it comes back to Congress, it comes back to presidential candidates, as political campaign contributions, thus ensuring their elections and reelections. So, this is a second very strong force – a material interest that is very much benefited by wars and a threat of wars.

And the third very powerful interest group is the Israel lobby. Most of the neoconservatives are Jewish ethnics. Many of them are Israeli-US citizens. Almost all of them are closely tied to Israel. And so, the neoconservative ideology of American hegemony fits in very well with the 13 years of wars in the ME, because these wars also serve a subsidiary interest of disposing of the Arab states that are not aligned with the US and Israel, and that could serve as a check on Israeli policy or Israeli expansion in the ME.

So, these three come together, they are all mutually supportive and in many ways it is the same people. The neoconservatives are the same as the Israel lobby. The officials in the Pentagon, in the State Department, they are also neoconservatives. So, it is a very strong three-part foundation that holds together.

VOR: So, you are saying that the policy is largely defined by an Israeli lobby. But the US policies in the ME actually endanger Israel.

Yes, this is an unintended consequence of the policy. Some analysts tried to warn the neoconservatives that the borders in the ME are artificial, like the ones in Africa that were drawn up by the European colonists, principally the English and the French.

So, you have countries in which you have Shia majorities and Sunni minorities, and then you have countries in which there is a reverse, Sunni majorities and Shia minorities. And this is like the African boundaries that were drawn bringing into the same country two warring tribes, who traditionally were enemies. So, the boundaries of the states don’t make a lot of sense. The boundaries could only have been drawn by ignorant Westerners.

The Islamic confrontation between the different sects was prevented by very strong secular rulers, such as Saddam Hussein, who had a secular government, and Assad in Syria. These were secular, non-Islamic governments that kept the conflict suppressed. So, when you overthrow those governments , you release the conflict.

So, what we see happening on the part of what they are calling ISIS or ISIL is a reforming of borders. Parts of Syria and Iraq are becoming, if the Islamists succeed, a new state. Now, we don’t know whether they will be successful or not, but you can see that there is an impetus to create a life separate from the artificial one created for them by colonial imperialistic powers.

One of the reasons that the breakup of Iraq and Syria was not seen as a threat to Israel, was the Israeli and the neoconservative strategists, who reasoned – oh, this is good, if we break up these states and they are fighting internally, there won’t be any organized government to get in Israel’s way.

In place of Iraq, there will be these warring factions. In place of Syria – warring factions, just like in Libya today. And a state that has no central government is no threat to Israel. And, therefore, we favor this destruction of the political entities of these countries, because it releases us from any sort of organized government’s opposition to Israel’s theft of Palestine. Iraq no longer has a government, it has warring parties, like in Libya, like Washington is establishing in Syria.

So, this is the way the Israelis and the neoconservatives see it. They do not see the destruction of secular Muslim states as a threat, the fools see it as a destruction of a unified country, which would reduce the ability of that country to employ any sort of opposition to Israeli or American purposes.

VOR: But in that case, wouldn’t the government and governmental institutions be replaced by something like political and paramilitary organizations, which we now term as extremist groups with which we are dealing now? And wouldn’t those entities pose more threat, than individual governments? Or do those people believe that they would be able to control them somehow?

No, I don’t think they think they can control them. And yes, they do pose a threat, because they are not secular. That’s what I said. Some of us warned that this would be the outcome. But we were ignored and primarily ignored because the Israelis and the neoconservatives regarded the breakup of these countries as less threatening.

VOR: When you have been describing that neocon ideology with an idea of a global mission, doesn’t it seem strikingly similar to something like the Marxist ideology, to the communist ideology?

Yes, that’s exactly what it is. The US is chosen by history. In Marxism history chooses the proletariat. In the neoconservative ideology history chose Washington.

VOR: Does that imply that, perhaps, those two ideologies could have a common root?

No, I don’t think they have a common root, but their effect on the world is the same, because it gives the country that expresses that ideology an impetus to run over other countries and to establish itself, because it sees itself as the sole legitimate system. And in that sense, the Marxist and the neoconservative ideologies are the same, but the roots are quite different.

And I think as well, you know, the whole notion of the unipolar world, the American sole superpower, this fits the financial interests very well. I left them out of my three-part foundation that I spoke to you about, but in a way it is a four-part, because of the American financial hegemony that now exists. This financial hegemony is the reason Washington can put sanctions on countries.

If your currency is not the world currency and you don’t operate the world payment system, you can’t impose sanctions. And so, the power to impose sanctions is also a power for your financial institutions to prevail over the institutions of other countries. So, this ideology that I’m talking about also appeals to Wall Street, to the big banks, because it ensures their hegemony as well.

VOR: But in that case, I start wondering – was it an intended implication or, perhaps, unintended, again, that whatever the US has been doing for the past ten years or even more has been strengthening China, which the US seems to be identifying as its primary adversary. Now, you’ve been mentioning the financial system. The Chinese start talking about bringing their own currency into the world market as a new reserve currency. And this has been largely thanks to all those crises, which have been triggered off by the US.

What the US did that gave China its economic beginning, was to offshore the American manufacturing jobs. Industry and American manufacturing was moved offshore by the capitalists under the pressure of Wall Street in order to lower labor costs, in order to achieve higher earnings for shareholders, for Wall Street and for the managers through bonuses. And so, it was a very shortsighted policy from the standpoint of national interests, but it was in the interest of Wall Street and in the individual interests of the chief executive officers of the corporations.

Once China had the American technology and the American business knowhow, it was free of American economic predominance. And now, actually, China has a much more powerful economy, certainly in manufacturing, than the US has.

Another factor that contributed to weakening the American economic system was the rise of the high-speed Internet, because now it is possible for professional service jobs, such as engineering, software engineering, computers, any type of engineering, any type of work that does not have to be done on site, this work can be done anywhere in the world and sent in on the high-speed Internet.

This has given countries like India and China the ability to put their people into jobs that used to be filled by American university graduates. Again, it is a cost saving for the corporations, Wall Street likes it, it increases profits.

And so, this is where China’s rise came from. It was an unintended consequence of globalism. Again, some of us warned, I warned, I’ve been warning for ten or fifteen years, but they don’t listen. They say – oh, it is just free trade, we will benefit. Clearly, they were wrong, it is not free trade and we haven’t benefited.

VOR: But in that sense, does that imply that, perhaps, when we are talking about the interests of large corporations VS national interests, national interests are increasingly losing to the corporate?

In the real sense, there is no longer an American national interest. There is the interest of these powerful interest groups. And we’ve had these recent studies from scholars who have found that the American public has no input whatsoever into government decisions or into policy decisions. The conclusion of the recent study, which looked at thousands of government decisions, was that the American people have zero input into the formation of policy.

So, in terms of anything being done for the benefit of the people or the national interests in that sense, nothing is done. What is done is for the benefit of about 6 powerful interest groups. And I’ve told you about the four, which I think are the most powerful in terms of the foreign policy – the question that you raised.

So, in that sense, the US is sort of making itself vulnerable in many ways. For example, look at the economic policy. For years now, in order to support a handful of large banks the Federal Reserve is creating trillions of dollars, new dollars.

This creation of dollars devalues the existing dollars that are held by people around the world. They look and say – what are my dollar assets going to be worth, when the Federal Reserve is creating so many new dollars every year?

So, this has caused some thought about leaving the dollar as the world reserve system. When the threat to the real value of dollar denominated financial instruments comes on top of the suffering from Washington’s financial bullying of sovereign countries, the momentum grows for finding some other mechanism than the dollar as a way of settling international transactions.

And of course, the Chinese have said that it is time to de-americanize the world. And the Russians said recently that we need to de-dollarize the payment system. And so, we have this agreement with Russia and China on the large energy deal which is going to be outside the dollar payment system.

We see the BRICS, the five countries – India, China, Russia, Brazil and South Africa – and they are talking about settling their trade imbalances in their own currencies. And they are even talking about creating a bank between themselves, like an IMF or a World Bank.

So, those are the developments that come from America’s misuse of the dollar as world reserve currency. Washington uses the dollar to bully, they use it to sanction, they use it give their financial institutions hegemony over others. And over time, all of this creates animosity, worries. And then, when you add, on top of that, all the new dollars that the Federal Reserve has created since 2008, it creates a real financial worry. And so, I think, in that sense, the US has weakened its position.

VOR: But how far do you think the US might be prepared to go to protect the dollar? Or, perhaps, those interest groups are no longer interested to protect that particular currency. Perhaps, they have already taken some kind of precautions.

From the standpoint of Washington’s power, losing the world currency role would be devastating, because that’s the main basis for Washington’s power. That’s why Washington has financial hegemony, that’s why iWashington can impose sanctions on sovereign countries. So, if Washington loses this role, if the dollar ceases to be the world reserve currency, we’ll see a dramatic reduction in Washington’s power.

All of the interest groups that benefit from Washington’s power would find that a disadvantage. Of course, most of these corporations are now global or transnational. And they may have bank balances in many countries.

VOR: But still, how far is Washington prepared to go? Could it afford another war? When Saddam Hussein attempted to challenge the US Dollar back in 2000, he had to pay a price. And we all know what kind of price he did pay. Now, when China and Russia, and other countries are starting to mull the idea, what kind of risk are they running?

They are running a risk. We already know that the US has announced a pivot to Asia, reallocating 60% of the American navy to the South China Sea to control the flow of resources on which China depends. The US is contracting to build a series of new air and naval bases running from the Philippines to Vietnam in order to block China.

We have witnessed this century the US withdraw from the ABM treaty with Russia. We witnessed the US construct an ABM system and began deploying it on Russia’s borders. The purpose of an ABM is to neutralize the strategic deterrent of the other country.

We’ve seen the US change its war doctrine, nuclear weapons are no longer to be used only in retaliation to an attack. They are now a preemptive first-strike force. This is clearly directed at Russia. The Ukraine is directed at Russia. So, the war is already started, it is underway. That’s what the Ukraine is about. It is the war against Russia.

And the war against China is in preparation. The US takes the side of every country that gets into a dispute with China, even over small things that have nothing whatsoever to do with the US.

The US is surrounding both countries with military bases. The US wants to put Georgia, the birthplace of Joseph Stalin that was part of Russia for two or three hundred years, they want to put that into NATO. They are going to put Ukraine into NATO.

Washington broke all the agreements that Reagan and Gorbachev had about not taking NATO into eastern Europe. NATO is now in the Baltics. It is all across eastern Europe. The former members of the Warsaw pact are now members of NATO.

So, the war is already underway, it is clear. The US has been preparing for years. And the Russians, they must be aware of this. If they are not, they are in really deep trouble.

VOR: Can the US afford it?

Of course! Sure! The reserve currency can pay its bills by printing money. And that’s what Washington does. Washington prints the money.

VOR: But like you said, that creates a lot of risks.

Until the reserve currency role is lost, there is no limit. Recently I read that one of the advisors to Putin said that Russia needs to form some kind of alliance with other countries and bring down the dollar as the world reserve currency, that this is the only way to stop Washington’s military aggression. Of course, he is completely right. But the question is – can they organize something that quick enough that succeeds – because Europe is an American puppet state. Those European governments are not independent. They are no more independent than Hungary and Czechoslovakia and Poland were of the Soviet Communist Party. And Japan is a puppet state, it is not an independent country.

So, if you have the euro backing the dollar and you have the yen backing the dollar, that’s a fairly strong position to be in. And so, it is going to be difficult for Russia and China or whoever is interested to make inroads in any sort of a rapid way.

And yet, we can see… look what happened in Ukraine. Russia was focused on the Olympics and the US stole Ukraine. Russia was paying no attention, somehow the Sochi Olympics were more important. So, what happened – Washington reached in, stole Ukraine. Now, this is a tremendous problem for the Russian Government, for Putin, for his leadership.

Putin has asked the Russia Duma to rescind the permission to use the Russian troops in Ukraine. So, clearly, he is acting in a very restrained way. He is trying to avoid conflict. He probably realizes that the conflict will be much more dangerous to everybody than the neoconservatives in Washington think.

But the question is – will Putin be able to avoid conflict? What will Washington think? Will they think – oh, this is a very reasonable man, we can make a deal. Or will they think – look, he is scared, Russia is weak, lets’ push forward.

VOR: It is interesting! I remember that George W. Bush in an interview to the Wall Street Journal towards the end of his second term said something about Putin, which was rather surprising to hear from him. He said that Putin never failed him on any of his promises. So, the assessment was rather positive than negative.

I think that’s true. But you see, Washington’s propaganda has nothing to do with facts. There is no propaganda like Washington propaganda. Washington can control the explanation of anything. Putin can’t. Americans believe that all the trouble in Ukraine was caused by Putin, that he invaded, that he annexed, that he is behind all the trouble in southeastern Ukraine today and that it is all Russia’s fault, and that Russia is a threat, and that we have to arm ourselves against “the Russian threat.” Washington is recreating the Cold War that it had with the Soviet Union.

This is a very profitable way to supply the US military-security complex with the taxpayers’ money. And in some ways it is safer than a war, because the war in Afghanistan didn’t go well, the war in Iraq didn’t go well. But if you can have a Cold War and you don’t actually fight, you can keep it going for years, just like the Cold War with the Soviet Union. And the Cold War built the military-security complex in the US.

So, that’s at least the backup line for Washington. I’m not sure that we can rely on Washington to have the judgment not to push Washington’s takeover of Ukraine into a hot war. It seems preposterous to think that Washington would be in a hot war with China and Russia. These are two large powerful countries. They have nuclear weapons.

But a lot of preposterous things have happened. And governments often fall under the sway of their own propaganda. And clearly, somebody in Washington thinks that a nuclear war can be won, because otherwise, why would they change the war doctrine so that nuclear weapons cease to be a retaliatory force and become a first-strike weapon? Why would they build antiballistic missiles and put them on Russia’s border and on ships in the Black Sea and South China Sea.

It is clear that some people in Washington believe that the US can win a nuclear war. In fact, there was an article published several years ago in Foreign Affairs, which is the principle journal of the Council on Foreign Relations – an influential collection of strategic analysts and former government officials. And they said the US is so far ahead of Russia in nuclear weaponry, that we can very easily attack Russia and suffer no retaliation. So, you have people that think that way.

VOR: But that experiment could cost us a planet.

That’s exactly it! But look at WW I. Look how many empires it cost. It cost the Tsar — Russia and its empire. It cost the Austrian-Hungarians, it destroyed them. It destroyed the German ruling family. The war left Great Britain dependent on US financial support.

VOR: Yes, true. But there were no nuclear weapons at that time.

There is big propaganda that you can actually use nuclear weapons. I’m trying to combat that. I had recently on my site articles by various scientists pointing out that nobody wins.

VOR: I’m absolutely amazed at how the Department of State is handling its own propaganda, there is no real argumentation whatsoever. Why? Is it that they no longer care to look credible?

It is just the power. American foreign policy, how does it work? It is always based on coercion or threats, bribes. If a bribe doesn’t work, you use a threat. I mean, one of the main purposes of the NSA spying on the world is to be able to blackmail all the government leaders. And they do that very effectively. Everybody has got something they don’t want known. So, they use bribes, bags full of money. First of all, Washington buys the foreign leaders. If there is any holdout, they topple them, like Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi. There have been several in South America that they’ve simply just assassinated, because they wouldn’t obey. So, the foreign policy of the US is a policy based on force. It is not based on diplomacy or persuasion. It is based on brutal force.

What does the State Department tell people – do what we say or we will bomb you into the Stone Age. Remember? They told that to the Pakistani leader. Do what we say. Now!

So, if you have that type of attitude, it doesn’t matter whether you tell the truth or tell lies, because you are the ruler, you are the one, you are the Caesar. And what you say goes, true or false. And so, it is not important to you that it is true, because you are not working on a diplomatic level.

This is something that Putin and Lavrov – the Foreign Minister – don’t seem to understand. They keep thinking that they can work something out with Washington, if the Russian government is just reasonable enough and shows enough good will.

This is a Russian delusion. Washington has no good will.

VOR: Are there any unintended consequences to that strategy, the way you see it?

Only if people catch on and see at some point the reality–and this is what Putin is relying on. At some point, what happens in Germany and France? Will they realize and say – hey, look, the Americans are driving us into a mess. What do we gain from the American hegemony over the world? How do we gain from a conflict with Russia or China? Let’s stop this. Let’s pull out.

If some country were to pull out of NATO or pull out of the EU, then the cover up of Washington’s war crimes by “the coalition of the willing” would have dissenters. Washington has actually told the Congress that if the White House has NATO’s backing, the president doesn’t need the permission of Congress to go to war. The old quote – ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely’ is attributed to Lord Acton. It is safe to conclude that Washington has been corrupted by power.

I think one unintended consequence of Washington’s brutal use of power is that it causes the NATO countries to realize that they are being driven towards a conflict by a government that is essentially insane and taking a fantastic risk with everyone’s life and with the planet.

So, perhaps, the realization by others of Washington’s danger to life is what Putin is hoping for. He is hoping that the more Russia is reasonable and not provocative, and doesn’t take provocative actions, the greater the chance that the German Government or the French Government will realize that Washington’s agenda does not serve mankind, and that Europe will take some steps to extract themselves and their countries, and their people from Washington’s control, in which case the American empire falls apart.

So, I think that’s what Putin is betting on. He is not a fool, certainly not, and he realizes the threat of a war, he can see it. And so, this is probably why he’s asked the Russian Duma to rescind the permission to use the Russian forces in Ukraine. He is trying to show the Germans, the French – look, it is not me, it is not us.

I hope he succeeds. The future of the world really depends on whether Putin’s use of diplomacy can prevail over Washington’s use of force.

Global climate change is profoundly reshaping the Arctic region, not only physically but also in international politics. Yet Arctic development is of concern to more than the Circumpolar states. The issues are global, and East Asia is no exception. Japan, South Korea and China in particular have been increasingly deepening their involvement in Arctic affairs. The evolving situation of the Arctic region could also have significant impact on political relations and the regional security architecture in East Asia, providing new opportunities for cooperation and additional sources of conflict. This paper considers security implications of the Arctic thaw to East Asia, where the structure of the regional Cold War confrontation profoundly shapes the geopolitical order to this day.

Unlike Europe, where the Cold War structure of the Yalta System was completely demolished by the early 1990s, the structure of the regional Cold War confrontation remains profoundly embedded in East Asia. It has gone through political “thaws” or détentes and other notable transformations over the years; yet the foundation of the “San Francisco System” laid in the early post-World War II years essentially continues in East Asia even to the present day. Meanwhile, rising temperatures leading to rapid thaw in the Arctic has been reshaping the world both physically and in international politics. Taking the San Francisco System as its conceptual grounding, the paper first traces notable developments of post-World War II regional political and security relations in East Asia, with particular attention to the regional conflicts including territorial disputes, considers possible impacts of the emerging Arctic thaw to the status quo, and concludes with some recommendations for the concerned states to prepare for the consequences of climate change in the security environment involving the East Asian and neighbouring Arctic states.1

THE SAN FRANCISCO SYSTEM IN POST-WORLD WAR II EAST ASIA

The Cold War structure of the post-World War II world order was often attributed to the Yalta System. This system originated from agreements over the construction of the postwar international order made at Yalta in February 1945 by the leaders of the three Allied powers (the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics [USSR]). However, the San Francisco System — the postwar peace treaty between the Allied countries and Japan, signed in September 1951 in San Francisco, along with its associated political and security arrangements — largely determined the postwar regional order in East Asia and the Pacific (Hara 2007). The San Francisco System may be compared to the Euro-Atlantic’s Yalta System, in terms of the three major features of the Cold War: ideology as a fundamental value of social existence, military confrontation including security alliances, and regional conflicts as the frontiers of the Cold War confrontation.

Ideology: Ideologically, in the postwar decolonization movements, Asia was politically divided between “free world” and communist blocs, and economically divided between capitalist and socialist blocs under strong US or Soviet influence. The Cold War in Asia, however, developed somewhat differently than the bipolar Euro-Atlantic system in that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) emerged as another pole of the communist sphere.

Military and Security Alliances: The US-led post-World War II military structure in the region is called the San Francisco Alliance System. In East Asia and the Pacific, with little success in establishing large anti-communist multilateral security alliances like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the United States formed a hub-and-spokes security system of separate arrangements with its regional allies.

Regional Conflicts: Regional conflicts are more characteristic of Asia than of Europe. Whereas Germany was the only divided nation in Europe, competition over spheres of influence created several Cold War frontiers in East Asia. The origin of such regional conflicts is deeply rooted in the postwar territorial dispositions of Japan, particularly the San Francisco Peace Treaty. Vast territories, extending from the Kurile Islands to Antarctica and from Micronesia to the Spratly Islands, were disposed of in the treaty. The treaty, however, specified neither their final devolution (i.e., to which state they belonged) nor their precise limits, thereby sowing the seeds of various “unresolved problems” in the region. The major regional conflicts in this region — including the territorial disputes over the Northern Territories/Southern Kuriles, Dokdo/Takeshima, Senkaku/Diaoyu, and Spratly/Nansha and Paracel/Xisha; the Cross-Taiwan Strait issue; the divided Korean Peninsula; and the so-called “Okinawa problem” — all derived from the postwar territorial dispositions of the former Japanese empire.

Strategic Ambiguity

Close examination of the Allies’ documents, particularly those of the United States (which was primarily responsible for drafting the peace treaty), reveals that some, if not all, of these problems were intentionally created or left unresolved to protect US strategic interests against the backdrop of the intensifying Cold War (Hara, 2007). During the postwar period leading up to the San Francisco Peace Conference of 1951, the United States carefully prepared the Allies’ peace settlement with Japan. Its early drafts were, as a whole, very rigid and punitive toward Japan, reflecting the spirit of the Allies cooperation. Those drafts also provided detailed and clear border demarcations specifically to prevent future territorial conflicts. However, as the Cold War intensified, particularly to the extent that it developed into a “hot” war in Korea, the peace terms changed to reflect new US strategic interests. Specifically, Japan and the Philippines had to be secured for the non-communist West and as pro-US allies in East Asia, whereas the communist states were to be contained. Accordingly, the peace treaty became “generous” and its wording “simple” — but thereby ambiguous, leaving the potential for conflicts to erupt among East Asian states. The peace treaty was the result of careful deliberations and several revisions; issues were deliberately left unresolved.

These regional conflicts — such as those noted earlier — have generally been treated as separate and unrelated issues, yet, they emerged as a result of the Japanese peace treaty, which was prepared when the US leadership seriously feared that both South Korea and Taiwan might be “lost” to, or unified by, their communist counterparts. Neither of the governments of China (PRC or ROC) nor Korea (ROK or DPRK) was invited to the peace conference. The Soviet Union participated in the peace conference but did not sign the treaty. Just as the Northern Territories/Kuriles Islands issue was left between Japan and the Soviet Union as an unresolved by-product of the Cold War, seeds of territorial disputes were left between Japan and its partial and mostly communist neighbours of “Korea” and “China” respectively.2 The San Francisco Peace Treaty also concerned the settlement of other past “history” issues, such as war crimes and reparations. These issues also remained owing to the US policy shift to a generous and ambiguous peace with Japan, or what some might call its “strategic ambiguity.” The unresolved problems, derived from the postwar disposition of Japan, continue to divide countries and people in East Asia even to this day.

COLD WAR “THAWS” AND THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE SAN FRANCISCO SYSTEM

During the 60 years since the San Francisco agreement, East Asia has undergone notable transformations. After alternating periods of East-West tension and the relaxation of tensions, such as the Cold War thaws of the 1950s and the 1970s, the Cold War was widely believed to have ended by the early 1990s. These changes also affected relations among neighbouring countries in East Asia, with important consequences for some lingering regional conflicts.

Cold War Thaw in the 1950s

Movement toward a thaw in East Asia began to be observed soon after Stalin’s death in 1953, with a cease-fire in the Korean War. Watershed events such as the Indochina ceasefire agreement and the US-UK­-France-USSR Geneva Conference in 1954, and the Bandung Conference in 1955 further strengthened this thawing trend. Against the backdrop of warming East-West relations, Japan and the Soviet Union began peace negotiations. In 1956, the two countries restored diplomatic relations and agreed, in a joint declaration, to the transfer of the Shikotan and the Habomai Islands to Japan following the conclusion of a peace treaty between them. However, Japan was pressed by the United States to demand the return of all four of the island groups in its so-called Northern Territories. Indeed, the United States warned that it would not return Okinawa to Japan if its claims to Kunashiri and Etorofu Islands were abandoned.

The US support for the four-island­return formula was made with full knowledge that it would be unacceptable to the Soviet Union, thus preventing Japan from achieving rapprochement with the Soviet and communist blocs. The United States feared the thaw working to the Soviet Union’s strategic advantage, and that a Japan-Soviet peace treaty would lead to the normalization of relations between Japan and communist China. Further, if Japan settled the Northern Territories dispute with the Soviet Union, there would be considerable pressure on the United States to vacate Okinawa, whose importance had significantly increased as a result of the United States’ Cold War strategy in Asia — especially during the Korean War.3

The PRC in the East Asian Cold War

In East Asia, the Cold War developed differently from the Euro-Atlantic bipolar system; rather, a tripolar system, consisting of the United States, the PRC and the USSR, emerged following the Sino-Soviet split. Communist China had been targeted by the US containment strategy since its intervention in the Korean War. With its nuclear development in 1964, China came to occupy the central position in the Asian Cold War.

Conversely, Sino-Soviet confrontations were initially confined to oral and written communications, but escalated into military clashes along the border, especially over ownership of Damansky Island on the Ussuri River in 1969. This frontier problem did not derive, and was therefore different, from those conflicts that emerged out of the postwar disposition of Japan. Nevertheless, it came to symbolize the height of Sino-Soviet tension that defined the Cold War in East Asia, setting the stage for the dramatic structural transformation during the 1970s thaw.

Thaw in the 1970s

The warming of East-West relations in the early 1970s was similar to that of the 1950s, in that peace was not necessarily achieved in an ideological sense and the relative influence of the United States was declining. Exploiting the Sino-Soviet difference, the United States took major initiatives to “break the ice” this time, with the Nixon administration entering office with normalizing relations with communist China as its top diplomatic agenda. During this period of détente, several major US allies, including Japan, opened diplomatic relations with the PRC government, which also replaced the ROC at the United Nations.

In parallel with these moves, the focus of the Sino-Japanese territorial dispute shifted to the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, where resource nationalism was accentuated by the new energy potential discovered in their vicinity. The United States returned Okinawa to Japan in 1972, realizing the previous administration’s promise, but took “no position on sovereignty” over the disputed islands4; it merely returned administrative rights to Japan. Again, the United States adopted a policy of strategic ambiguity. Leaving the dispute unsettled — by not taking sides with any disputant, and keeping the wedges between the neighbouring states — met US interests, helping to retain its military presence, particularly in Okinawa, and political influence in the region. Just as the wedge of the Northern Territories problem was set in place with the four-island-return claim between Japan and the Soviet Union during the thaw of the 1950s, the Senkaku/Diaoyu issue was another wedge left between Japan and China during the 1970s thaw.

Japan and the USSR also moved closer during this period, holding a second summit meeting in Moscow in 1971, 15 years after their first meeting in 1956. The emerging opportunity of the Siberian resource development was one of the biggest factors behind that move. However, before they reached the resolution of the territorial problem or a peace treaty, their relations began to sour, especially in 1978, with the signing of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and the PRC, incorporating an “anti-hegemony” clause directed against the USSR (at China’s insistence), and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The USSR began a buildup of forces in the Far East, including the disputed islands, which alarmed Japan. In the meantime, the unresolved problems that shared a common foundation in the San Francisco Peace Treaty continued to fester. In addition to a divided China, the newly independent countries — (South) Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei — joined the territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

Remaining Regional Cold War Structure

In the global thaw from the late 1980s to the early 1990s, the Cold War was widely believed to have ended. Both US-Soviet and Sino-Soviet rapprochement were achieved, and a remarkable relaxation of tension occurred in East Asia, where expectations soared for a solution to some of the most intractable frontier problems. The Sino­Soviet/Russian border negotiations, ongoing since the late 1980s, finally ended with mutual concessions in the 2000s. None of the regional conflicts that share the foundation of the San Francisco System, however, reached a fundamental settlement. In fact, compared to the Euro-Atlantic region, where the wall dividing East and West completely collapsed, the changes that took place in East Asia left fundamental divisions intact. With the exception of the demise of the Soviet Union, the region’s Cold War structure of confrontation basically continued. Today, more than 20 years later, and 60 years after San Francisco, China and Korea are still divided, with their communist or authoritarian parts still perceived as threats by their neighbours embracing alliance with the US. Accordingly, the US military presence and its associated issues such as the Okinawa military base problem continue. Whereas NATO lost its anti-communist drive when it accepted formerly communist Eastern European countries as members, there are no indications that the remaining San Francisco Alliance System will either dissolve or embrace North Korea or the PRC.

In retrospect, the term Cold War has been used largely in two ways: first to signal that confrontations between superpowers or conflicting systems are highly strained, and secondly to suggest the structure of such confrontations. The generally accepted view of the end of the Cold War in East Asia is based on the first perception. The relaxation of tension may be a necessary condition for ending the Cold War, but it is not sufficient unless accompanied by the demolition of its fundamental structure. To the extent that the fundamental structure of cold-war confrontation remains, the dramatic relaxation seen in East Asia since the late 1980s is more like the periodic thaws than the end of the Cold War per se. As the 1970s thaw rested in part upon the perceived achievement of Soviet military parity with the United States, China’s recent assertiveness in its aspiration to military strength cannot be ignored. The relaxation of tension seen in the Cold War thaws of the 1950s and the 1970s gave way to the deterioration of East-West relations. Similar phenomena have been observed in East Asia, such as US-China conflicts after the Tiananmen incident of 1989, military tensions in the Korean Peninsula and across the Taiwan Strait, the disruption of negotiations between Japan and North Korea to normalize their diplomatic relations, and political tensions involving Japan, China, and their neighbours over territorial disputes.

Deepening Interdependence in Economic and Other Relations

While countries and peoples in East Asia have been divided by politics, history and unsettled borders, they have nevertheless deepened their interdependence in economic, cultural and other relations. The economic recovery and transformation of East Asian countries for the last 60 years from the ruins of war are, in fact, remarkable. Beginning with Japan in the 1950s, followed by the so-called newly industrializing economies (NIES) in the 1970s and 1980s, and now with China’s rise, East Asia (with the exception of North Korea) has become the most expansive centre in the world economy. Economy is indeed the glue connecting the regional states.

Economic-driven multilateral cooperation and institution building developed notably in East Asia with the creation of multiple institutions, especially in the 1990s and the 2000s. This also paved the way for confidence-building measures (CBMs) among neighbouring states. Since the 1990s, progress in CBMs at both governmental and non-governmental levels constitutes a leap beyond the Cold War era, particularly in non-traditional security areas such as the environment, food, energy, terrorism and natural disasters. Nevertheless, in contrast to their deeply intertwined economies, the depth of institutional integration pales compared with that of Europe. While the European Community of the Cold War era has long since evolved into the European Union, even the idea of an “East Asian Community” (not an “East Asian Union”) is still a future aspiration. As yet, the East Asian countries do not have relationships of sufficient mutual trust. Their countries and peoples are strongly connected economically, but they remain divided politically, and are still in dispute over unresolved problems, notably those over territorial sovereignty and borders but also over historical memory issues that have proven similarly intractable (Hara 2012).

THE ARCTIC THAW:

POLITICAL AND SECURITY IMPLICATIONS

In the latter half of the twentieth century, the dramatic changes of the global political and security environment, such as the Cold War and its thaws, did not bypass East Asia. In the twenty-first century, the Arctic thaw is now reshaping the world both physically and in international politics. This section considers emerging and possible impacts of this Arctic thaw to the status quo in East Asia.

The Evolving Situation in the Arctic and East Asia

Global climate change is profoundly reshaping the Arctic region today, generating heated discussions on issues such as new marine transportation routes, resource development, border disputes and the environment. With the emerging new northern sea passages (the Northern Sea Route and the Northwest Passage), the Arctic thaw is opening new opportunities to East Asian states. These northern transportation routes can significantly shorten the shipping distance from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Europe or the east coast of North America to East Asia, making possible reductions in shipping time, fuel costs and CO2 emissions.

Navigational safety could be yet another advantage. The existing maritime transportation route from Europe and the Middle East through the Suez Canal is not always safe, due to uneasy political conditions in the Middle East and piracy en route, especially near Somalia. The northern routes are, therefore, becoming attractive alternatives to East Asian states. Resource development and shipping from the Arctic region to Asia using the passage are becoming realistic as well. With the advancement of technology, resource development in the extremely cold Arctic environment (which used to be impossible) and transporting resources to Asia and other regions are becoming possibilities. Actual production is already underway in some coastal areas (see Figure 1). Melting ice in the Arctic is also an expanding fishing ground.

Figure 1: Resources in the ArcticThe map shows the main sites of gas and oil production, including infrastructure, mining and sea ice extent in the Arctic. Source: Nordregio, 2013. (Designer/Cartographer: Johanna Roto and José Sterling)

 

 

Major East Asian states — particularly the PRC, Japan and South Korea — are becoming increasingly interested in the evolving Arctic region. China is a growing economic giant, now the second largest economic power, surpassing Japan’s GDP in 2011. With the world’s largest population, it is also the world’s largest energy consumer, surpassing the United States. Following the March 2011 Fukushima disaster, Japan is reducing its dependency on nuclear power, expanding imports of oil and gas in the short run while by seeking alternative energy supplies. It is also seeking new transportation routes to boost trade as well as resource access. South Korea, which has a strong shipping industry, is also interested in the evolving Arctic situation. In fact, as non-Arctic states, the PRC, Japan, South Korea, the Taiwan (ROC) and even North Korea, would all potentially benefit quite significantly from shorter shipping routes and possible access to alternative energy sources and new fishing grounds. They also share environmental and scientific concerns in the Arctic region, as well.

New Opportunities for Cooperation and Reconciliation

If the Arctic thaw continues, as many scientists and media reports predict, the region’s geo-economic and strategic importance to East Asia will further increase and might also provide new opportunities for cooperation, competition, and confrontation among East Asian nations and other powers. By opening new shipping routes across the Arctic, marine traffic and trade volume from Europe and North America to East Asia and further down to Southeast Asia would increase. Associated economic effects, such as invigorating shipbuilding and its related industries, hub ports and coastal cities, could also be expected, thus further energizing the East Asian economy. The East Asian seas could then become vital marine passages. While this has a potential to intensify competition and conflict among East Asian states seeking to protect their respective sea lanes, cooperation among the neighbours could become more important and necessary to secure the safe passage of their ships cruising and engaging in commercial activities in this region, and establish stability in regional security environment.

The increased Arctic Passage marine transportation to Asia would also increase marine traffic near the disputed islands (Northern Territories/Southern Kuriles, Dokdo/Takeshima, Senkaku/Diaoyu, and Spratlys and Paracels) located in the sea lanes connecting the Pacific Ocean, the Sea of Okhotsk, the Sea of Japan (East Sea), the East China Sea, and the South China Sea. This might motivate the concerned states to effectively manage and even to reach some settlement in their territorial and maritime border disputes.

Figure 2: Major Sea Lanes Connecting the Arctic and East Asia, and the Disputed Territories

Among the territorial and maritime border problems in East Asia, the evolving situation in the Arctic is likely to result in the largest impact on the Northern Territories/Sothern Kuriles problem between Japan and Russia. In recent years, Russia has successfully negotiated boundary demarcations with many of its neighbours, and Russian President Vladimir Putin has been sending positive signals for resolving the territorial problems with Japan since his first presidency in the 2000s. The evolving situation in the Arctic may provide Japan further incentives to settle this territorial problem.

Japan’s negotiating position with Russia over the territorial issue has been reversed over the past two decades. In the early 1990s, with Russia still facing the economic and financial crisis inherited from the collapsed Soviet Union, Japan’s attitude, as the then second-largest economic power, can be described as rather condescending. Japan assumed that Russia was in desperate need of its economic assistance, and thus linked its economic aid to the territorial dispute, which eventually invited criticism even from its Western allies. One major criticism came from former US President Richard Nixon, who condemned Japan for “conditioning aid on Russia’s return of four tiny northern islands” (Nixon, 1993). Now, however, the inverse is true, as Russia is a resource-rich capitalist country and the world’s foremost oil-producing country. It is the biggest Arctic nation, and is active in resource development and production in the Arctic Circle. While Russia has regained its power and influence with the leverage of its rich resources, Japan has been in decline in its negotiating position since the collapse of the “bubble economy,” followed by the “lost decade” and the Fukushima disaster.

The opening of the Arctic Sea is one factor making Russia a very attractive neighbour to Japan. A report produced by Japan’s Ocean Policy Research Foundation (OPRF) proposes “measures which Japan should take immediately towards sustainable use of the Arctic Ocean,” and states that “Russia is the largest coastal country of the Arctic Ocean, and most of the Arctic-related matters in which Japan has interests involve Russia.” Further, while the report acknowledges that “there is a difficult problem in the Japan-Russia relationship,” it urges the Japanese government to work with Russia to deal with evolving Arctic problems (OPRF 2012). Japan’s present Prime Minister Abe Shinzo’s administration appears to have been positively exploring points of compromise on the territorial issue with Russia. In April 2013, for example, Abe agreed with Putin to revive the island negotiations by increasing government contact, including reciprocal visits by the leaders and their foreign ministers.5 However, as past experience has proven, thaws and the potential for resources may not be enough to resolve the nations’ territorial disputes. In fact, their bilateral negotiations have stagnated in the complex international politics surrounding Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the crisis in Ukraine in 2014.

Japan’s relations with South Korea and China also deteriorated over the island disputes in 2005, and again in 2012-2014. Yet, all of these countries have track records of advancing their relations while shelving the territorial as well as historical memory disputes. As noted earlier, the economy is the glue connecting regional states. Once policy priority shifts to the economy or other common areas of interest, further cooperation and development may be possible in the areas surrounding the disputed islands. Russia has signed a historic 30-year gas supply deal with China in 2014, which may possibly pave its way for more energy cooperation with Korea and Japan as well. Russia and China have in fact been invigorating their cooperative investment and development in various areas, including the Rason Special Economic Zone and its Rajin port facing the Sea of Japan (East Sea) in North Korea since 2011, showing a potential to revive the early 1990s regional cooperation involving North Korea (Sankei News 2012; NNN News 24 2013). This move may be further facilitated by the opening of an operative shipping route in the Arctic.

The situation surrounding the nuclear development of North Korea has been one of the most destabilizing factors in the region. Instead of isolating and driving North Korea into a corner where there is no other option but further developing weapons of mass destruction — which would only serve to heighten military tensions — peaceful coexistence or stability of the region may be sought by engaging it and exploring and expanding areas of cooperation.

Cooperation Framework

Finding ways for East Asian neighbours to work together has the potential to create a genuine win-win situation for the states concerned. Some arrangements or governance cooperation may be possible to establish stable regional order in the areas where disputed islands and other flashpoints are. This could also be connected to development of the 2002 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, where China confronts its neighbours over the Spratlys and Paracel islands.

Most states have defence programs in order to be prepared for the contingency or development of undesirable security situations. The US military presence is indispensable for its regional allies and also contributes to regional security. This situation seems destined to continue for the foreseeable future. Existing security arrangements that can be applied to the areas covering East Asia and the Arctic include the US hub-and-spokes (i.e., San Francisco) alliance system in the Asia-Pacific and NATO in the Euro-Atlantic. While these systems can be collectively seen as security assurance for allied members, they can also serve as containment networks targeting non-members, specifically Russia, China and North Korea. However, there are other multilateral dialogue frameworks, including some or all of those countries, such as the Six-Party Talks, the ASEAN Regional Forum, and the East Asian Summit.

Engagement in Arctic affairs is an emerging common interest among East Asian states and could be a new area of cooperation among them; however, states appear to be in a competing mode, as each country has been independently seeking its own way of engaging in Arctic affairs. Now that the PRC, Japan and South Korea are all Permanent Observers of the Arctic Council (since May 2013), a unified strategy may become their mutual interest. It seems worth investigating the possibility of establishing a new cooperative framework, combining the existing PRC-Japan-South Korea trilateral framework and the neighbouring three Arctic powers of Russia, the United States and Canada, or a similar framework with North Korea (i.e., the existing Six-Party Talks plus Canada). Canada, Russia and the United States have extensive commitments and long histories of engagement in the Arctic. These are the major Arctic nations with gateways to the Pacific, and also have long histories of engagement in East Asia. The combination of their northern responsibilities, geography and engagement in East Asia, and East Asia’s growing interest in the Arctic, make nations of both regions key players in determining the future direction of governance and development in the region.

The vulnerable character of maritime security makes it necessary to establish a practice of following and making common rules. That all the concerned states become signatories of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) will be a very important base to solve disputes. In this sense, the participation of the United States, which has not yet ratified UNCLOS, will be an important step.

From Thaw to the Next Cold War?

Whereas there may be good potential for cooperation among East Asian states in areas such as the development of resource and northern passages, there may also be a danger that tensions among the regional countries may increase, especially in the disputed areas. As seen in the past, similar tensions may rise again from the remaining structures of Cold War confrontation, where relations among neighbours, including their territorial problems, may be involved in a new power game. The Arctic thaw may become a new factor. As noted earlier, during previous periods of warming of East-West relations, the United States did not necessarily facilitate reconciliation or clear settlement of the territorial problems between Japan and its neighbours for reasons of realpolitik. Continued conflicts may still be seen by policymakers in Washington as meeting US interests, as long as they are manageable and do not escalate into a large-scale war. Although an accommodation between Japan and its neighbours is preferable for regional stability, it may not be viewed as beneficial to US interests if it is perceived as likely to reduce or exclude US influence. “Manageable instability” actually helps justify the continued substantial US military presence in the region, not only enabling the United States to maintain its regional influence, but also contributing to operations farther afield, such as in the Middle East and, in the future, possibly the Arctic.

The United States has redirected its strategic focus toward the Asia-Pacific in recent years. It is stepping up its naval presence in the Pacific by shifting the bulk of its naval fleet from the Atlantic as part of the so-called Asia “rebalancing” initiative. On June 2, 2012, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that “By 2020 the Navy will reposture its forces from today’s roughly 50-50 split from the Pacific and Atlantic to a 60-40 split in those oceans” (cited in Neisloss 2012). This includes a troop deployment in Darwin, Australia and military engagement with the Philippines and other ASEAN countries in the South China Sea. Many have explained this shift as counterbalancing China in the Asia-Pacific. However, it may also serve as a possible measure directed to its future defence of the north Pacific and the Arctic. The premise of conventional strategy — that the Arctic Ocean is frozen and the cruise of a naval fleet is impossible — now appears to be collapsing. There is a possibility that the Arctic may serve as a stage of military operation or become an arena of the marine power balance game.

In recent years, Russia has become active in its military activities in the Arctic Ocean, protecting its rights to seabed resources, controlling the Northeast Passage to prevent foreign intervention, and defending the sea lane to East Asia (OPRF 2012). A statement of principles, approved by then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in 2008, regards the Arctic as a strategic resource base of primary importance to Russia. Foreseeing the possible rise of tensions developing into military conflict, the document prescribes “building groupings of conventional forces in the Arctic zone capable of providing military security in different military­political conditions” (Rossiyskaya Gazeta 2009).

Artur Chilingarov, head of Russian expedition to the Arctic-2007, shows picture of Russian flag in the seabed below the North Pole in August 2007.

The Southern Kuriles/Northern Territories, located in the northern limit of the ice-free passage and at an important gateway to the Pacific Ocean, were once considered to have vital strategic importance, especially in the late 1970s and 1980s, when the Sea of Okhotsk became a bastion for Soviet missile firing of nuclear-powered submarines.6 As the southern limit of the ice-free passage moves north due to global warming, these disputed territories might become less important in this sense, but their strategic value might increase in another. For the purpose of basing the coast guard to protect sea lanes, port and military facilities may be strengthened or established. Japan is located in such a way as to block the advance of its neighbouring states—China, Russia and Korea—to the Pacific Ocean. In 1950, then US Secretary of State Dean Acheson announced the US Cold War defence perimeter to confront communism in the western Pacific, running along the Aleutians to Japan and then to the Philippines, which came to be known as “Acheson Line”. Now, China, having successfully demarcated its long northern border with Russia, has shifted the focus of its border defence to its ocean frontiers. It is no coincidence that the “First Island Chain” in the present Chinese defence doctrine overlaps with the Acheson Line.7

According to the OPRF (2012), “If melting ice progresses in the Arctic Ocean and the power game over the naval supremacy of the Arctic Ocean aggravates, along with the US military deployment, operation of the Marine Self Defense Force of Japan would also be affected, e.g. in dealing with the Chinese navy, the Russian Far East fleet near Hokkaido and surrounding ocean area of the Kurile islands.” This could mean that the importance of Japan in the US-Asia strategy, and the strategic importance of the Northern Territories and other disputed territories might increase. Thus, there is a possibility that the new security climate change created by the Arctic thaw may re-intensify the remaining structure of Cold War confrontation. Accordingly, the resolution of territorial problems may become yet more difficult.

CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS

The Cold War thaws provided opportunities for settling territorial problems and political rapprochement among East Asian neighbours. However, those chances were lost and no definitive settlements have been reached. Divisions in East Asia continue, as does the San Francisco System. Although the system has gone through notable transformations, with the structural foundation for its predominance still in place, the United States continues to hold the most important key to future direction of the political and security order in the region.

The Arctic thaw is likely to provide new opportunities for regional and intra-regional cooperation, as well as additional sources of conflict. Whereas the Arctic thaw and the opening of the northern sea routes might further stimulate the regional economy — especially in trade and associated industries in East Asia — they would also pose additional challenges in the security environment, especially in the defence of sea lanes from the Arctic to East Asia. Regional and intra-regional security may become a comprehensive concept covering multi-layered areas including the traditional, non-traditional, economic and energy security. The East Asian states (especially China, Japan and South Korea), the Pacific-Arctic states (the United States, Canada and Russia) are key players capable of contributing to regional and intra-regional security and stability. Although there are differences among them, these states all share broad areas of interests and cooperation.

Just as Cold War thaws did not lead to the collapse of the San Francisco System, the Arctic thaw alone may not be enough to bring fundamental change to the continuing structure of confrontation in East Asia. However, the promotion of CBMs in wide-ranging areas can contribute to expanding common interests and cooperation in regional and inter-regional security, as well as preventing misunderstandings and confrontations. To prepare for the possible changes that climate change may bring to the Arctic’s security environment, there are several measures and adjustments which the concerned states can take:

  • The vulnerable character of maritime security makes it necessary to establish common rules. That all concerned become signatories of the UNCLOS would be a very important base to solve disputes according to rule of law. The United States should ratify the UNCLOS.
  • In order to prevent a dangerous situation, such as an accidental military clash and escalation of conflicts thereafter, the concerned governments should build a system of governance cooperation, which would include arrangements of hotlines, regular diplomatic and defence/strategic dialogues, and joint exercises.
  • In addition to existing bilateral and multilateral frameworks, it is worth investigating a new multilateral framework involving coastal states ranging from the Arctic to East Asia, including Canada, the United States, Russia, Japan, China, South Korea and possibly North Korea.
  • The academic, NGO, and intellectual community can play a useful role in providing knowledge and ideas to concerned governments, businesses, non-governmental organizations and other international organizations. From the viewpoint of contributing to the prosperity and stability of the East Asia-Arctic region, further investigation of the topics covered East Asia-Arctic Relations: Boundary, Security and International Politics, should continue.

This paper, originally presented in March 2013 at a conference in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada, is a slightly revised version of the author’s chapter that appears in a volume entitled East Asia-Arctic Relations: Boundary, Security and International Politics (Kimie Hara and Ken Coates eds., CIGI, 2014).

Kimie Hara(email) is the Director of East Asian Studies at Renison University College, the Renison Research Professor and a management team member of the Japan Futures Initiativeat the University of Waterloo (Canada), and an Asia-Pacific Journal associate. Her books include Northern Territories, Asia-Pacific Regional Conflicts and the Aland Experience: Untying the Kurillian Knot (with Geoffrey Jukes), “Zaigai” nihonjin kenkyusha ga mita nihon gaiko (Japanese Diplomacy through the Eyes of Japanese Scholars Overseas), Cold War Frontiers in the Asia-Pacific: Divided Territories in the San Francisco System and Japanese-Soviet/Russian Relations since 1945: A Difficult Peace.

Recommended citation: Kimie Hara, “From Cold War Thaws to the Arctic Thaw: The Changing Arctic and Its Security Implications for East Asia”, The Asia-Pacific Journal: Vol. 11, Issue 26, No. 3, June 30, 2014.

Related articles

•Lin Man-houng, Taiwan and the Ryukyus (Okinawa) in Asia-Pacific Multilateral Relations – a Long-term Historical Perspective on Territorial Claims and Conflicts

•John W. Dower, The San Francisco System: Past, Present, Future in U.S.-Japan-China Relations

•Yabuki Susumu with an introduction by Mark Selden, The Origins of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Dispute between China, Taiwan and Japan

•Kimie Hara, The San Francisco Peace Treaty and Frontier Problems in the Regional Order in East Asia: A Sixty Year Perspective

•David Spratt, David Spratt, The Big Melt. Lesson From the Arctic Summer of 2007

Works Cited

Hara, Kimie. 2007. Cold War Frontiers in the Asia-Pacific: Divided Territories in the San Francisco System. London: Routledge.

———. 2012. “The San Francisco Peace Treaty and Frontier Problems in the Regional Order in East Asia A Sixty Year Perspective.” The Asia-Pacific Journal 10 (17).

Jukes, Geoffrey. 1993. “Russia’s Military and the Northern Territories Issue.” Strategic & Defence Studies Centre Working Paper No.277.

———. 2009. “Can the Southern Kuriles be Demilitarized?” In Northern Territories, Asia-Pacific Regional Conflicts and the Aland Experience: Untying the Kurillian Knot, edited by Kimie Hara and Geoffrey Jukes. 62–82. London: Routledge.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. 2014. “Japan-Russia Relations.”

Neisloss, Liz. 2012. “U.S. Defense Secretary Announces New Strategy with Asia.” CNN, June 2.

Nixon, Richard. 1993. “Clinton’s Greatest Challenge.” The New York Times, March 5.

NNN News 24. 2013. “Speculation Match of Two Railway Connecting the North Korea and Russia.” [In Japanese.]. November 29.

Nordregio. 2013. “Resources in the Arctic.” OPRF. 2012. “The Measures that Japan Should Take Immediately Towards the Sustainable Use of the Arctic Ocean.” [In Japanese.] March.

Rossiyskaya Gazeta. 2009. “Principles of State Policy of the Russian Federation in the Arctic up to 2020 and Beyond.” [In Russian.] Rossiyskaya Gazeta, March 27.

Sankei News. 2012. Hokkyokukai Kiho (“Seasonal Report of the Arctic Ocean”). [In Japanese.] No.14, June-August.

USA. Congress. Senate. Committee on Foreign Relations, Okinawa Reversion Treaty: Hearings Before the Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate, 92d Congress, 1st Session, on Ex. J.92-1. The Agreement Between the U.S.A. and Japan Concerning the Ryukyn Islands and the Daito Islands. Oc. 27, 28 and 29, 1971, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1971.

Notes

1 This paper builds in part on the author’s earlier research and publication on the San Francisco System, and accordingly contains some overlapping content. See Hara (2007) and (2012).

2 The territorial dispute between Japan and China was originally over Okinawa. Chiang Kai-shek’s Republic of China (ROC) was demanding Okinawa’s “recovery” to China in the early post World War II years.

3 See Hara (2007), particularly chapters 4 and 7.

4 Okinawa Reversion Treaty Hearings, p.91.

5 For recent developments concerning Japan’s relations with Russia, see the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan webpage (2014).

6 For an excellent analysis on Russia’s military and the strategic importance of the disputed territories, see Jukes (1993) and (2009, 62–82).

7 “The Second Island Chain,” running from the Japanese archipelago to the south along the Bonin and Northern Mariana Islands and along the western edge of Micronesia, which used to be called Nanpo Shoto and Nanyo respectively during the period of Japanese control, overlaps with the US defence line of the early post World World II (pre-Cold War) years, i.e. when the US still considered Japan as an enemy, based on which the US postwar defense strategy was being formulated. For details, See Hara (2007), particularly chapter 4

The European Union sees a new deadline on implementing economic sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine crisis expire today, June 30, 2014. But Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is turning the tables on the United States to spur a global ‘de-dollarisation’, writes Professor Stefan Hedlund.

Russia is making a concerted attack on the status of the America’s greenback dollar as a global reserve currency and is in the process of abandoning the ‘petro-dollar’ as its trading unit for oil and gas.

Russian energy companies have been told to ditch the dollar and sign contracts in rubles and the currencies of partner-countries.

The desire to reduce the use of dollars is in line with China’s aim to promote international use of the Chinese yuan. Other emerging market nations would also like to see reduced American hegemony.

An attack by Russia on the US dollar would be devastating and could, in theory, trigger a stock market collapse in the United States. However, the status of the greenback as global reserve currency is not yet under serious threat, for the simple reason that the alternatives are worse. But the Russian attack may prod the global economy to take a further step on the road to a system without a designated reserve currency.

If Central Banks across the world were to sell off their holdings of US government bonds, then the US economy would be flooded with dollars, causing the currency to plummet, inflation to spike and interest rates to skyrocket.

The consequent rise in the cost of financing government debt would be monstrous, and having to return to fiscal balance would force the closure of so many social spending programmes that there would be rioting in the streets.

It is unlikely this will happen, but it does provide a sobering background to the game Russia is playing, and what may eventually happen if Washington persists in refusing to get its own house in order.

Over the past few decades, the world has become so used to viewing the greenback as the ‘natural’ global reserve currency that warnings about a possible end to this way of cheaply financing the US deficit have been routinely shrugged off. Measures to prepare for a declining role of the greenback are not being implemented.

In the aftermath of the subprime mortgage crisis which triggered the recession in 2008, and the humiliating 2011 downgrade of the US sovereign credit rating, warning voices have begun to question how long this can go on. Those who are the biggest holders of US debt, mainly the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), have begun looking for ways to move away from the dollar.

Ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia has been addicted to US dollars. During the turbulent 1990s, the greenback all but replaced the collapsing ruble offering both a means of exchange and a store of value. With the spike in oil prices which began in 2001, the Russian Central Bank has been able to stabilise the currency, and the role of the dollar has receded.

But the Russian economy remains heavily intertwined with dollar circulation, ranging from large holdings of dollars in foreign exchange (forex) reserves, to banks and enterprises indebted in dollars, to substantial offshore holdings in dollars, and above all to energy exports being traded in dollars. When threats of economic sanctions were made by the West, the Kremlin felt truly vulnerable. And it has moved to reduce this vulnerability.

Russian banking and energy experts have discussed with government officials ways to eliminate the dollar from export operations. Economy minister Alexei Ulyukaev, has called on Russian energy companies to be ‘braver in signing contracts in rubles and the currencies of the partner-countries’.

There has been talk of introducing a ‘currency switch executive order’, whereby companies could be compelled to transact a percentage of their operations in, say, Russian rubles or Chinese yuans.

Rosneft has concluded a ‘goods-for-oil’ swap with Iran which provides 500,000 barrels of Iranian oil per day to sell on global markets. And Gazprom’s recent US$400 billion gas deal with China is viewed by both sides as a way of moving away from US dollar domination.

What will save the greenback for some time to come is that the alternatives are not good. A functioning global reserve currency has to be both liquid and ‘deep’, i.e. it must be possible to sell quickly and in large amounts without significant impact on price. Despite the gross mismanagement of the US economy, the US dollar still fits that bill. The euro has fallen far short of initial grand visions, but remains a second best. Neither sterling nor yen come close.

Stefan Hedlund is Professor and Research Director at the Centre for Russian and Eurasian Studies, at Uppsala University, Sweden. He trained as an economist and has specialised in Russian …

Assigning blame for climate change that will happen with or without human activity on Earth constitutes a disingenuous discourse.

The climate changes, and nearly everything on Earth and beyond it effects that change.

From geological processes to biological evolution, to changes in the sun’s output, to yes, even human activity – absolutely everything has an impact on the climate for better or for worse.

The climate has been in a constant, linear state of change, long before human beings evolved, and even throughout the relatively short period of time humans have inhabited the Earth. This continuous change may have within it temporary cycles, but at no two points in Earth’s natural history has the climate been the same.

Image: Global warming in Antarctica, 65 millions years BC.

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65 million years ago, there were no ice caps. CO2 and temperatures were much higher than they are today, and Antarctica was covered with thriving temperate forests inhabited by dinosaurs. In an opposite and more recent extreme, our ancient ancestors struggled through a global ice age. Today, we live on a planet much warmer than inhabited by our cave-dwelling ancestors, but much cooler than anything the dinosaurs experienced.

Climate change happened, and is happening now. And even with the complete negating of all human activity on Earth, it will continue to change. This does not absolve humanity from addressing its impact on the environment. Quite the contrary. However it gives us a crucial imperative currently being ignored by policy makers and activists alike.

All the carbon credits, electric cars, and solar panels in the world will do nothing to prevent potentially hazardous climate change, natural or man-made. Tinkering with the climate through “geoengineering” could result in a catastrophic extinction-event unlike anything experienced in natural history. While human activity negatively impacting the climate should be addressed, measures must be taken to confront climate change that will come no matter what we do within the current false discourse now taking place.What’s Suggested and Why it Won’t Work

At the very center of this false discourse lies the most ridiculous of all suggestions, “carbon credits.” It is the modern equivalent of trying to clean New York City’s 19th century streets of horse manure by taxing it. Horse manure disappeared from New York’s streets when the car was invented. To eliminate the negative health, sociopolitical, and environmental impact of petroleum fueled cars, yet another novel innovation must be invented. Electric cars charged with renewable sources of energy would be a good start. The move to ahydrogen-based economy may be another worthwhile pursuit.

To eliminate CO2 and other emissions from power plants and factories, likewise, innovations must be made.And while these measures are welcomed, even with clean cars and renewable clean energy, climate change driven by other forces, both on Earth and beyond, and many of which are beyond our means to change or safely manipulate, will still continue. Carbon credits is an outright scam. Alternative forms of transportation and energy production are absolute necessities but will not stop natural climate change. But within the current false discourse, even these crucial necessities are not being approached with any serious focus, with schemes like carbon credits, progress-stunting resource rationing, and neo-eugenic population control taking center stage.

What Needs to Be Done 

Mitigating the impact of human activity on the planet, not only in terms of atmospheric conditions and composition, but in all terms including polluting our water and soil, and corrupting the genomes of plant and animal species through the proliferation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), must be addressed not politically but pragmatically. If governments cannot think of a particular technical solution to address each and every way modern society negatively impacts the environment, it should be investing in scientific, technological, and design-oriented education to produce a population of problem solvers that can devise appropriate and pragmatic solutions themselves.

It was the industrial revolution and a population capable of creating, inventing, and innovating during the 19th and 20th century that created solutions to the many health and environmental hazards that existed at the time. Of course, new hazards were created in the process. Why now do people believe that anything other than continued innovation can be used to solve these new problems? Technological progress and investment in all that drives it, should be the top priority of anyone genuinely concerned about climate change.

Image: Future agriculture taking place within an enclosed, protected, optimized environment allows food production to continue no matter what  the climate outside is doing.

However, even with our impact on the environment completely negated through technological innovation, climate change will continue regardless – just as it had long before humanity came into being.For humanity and the species it coinhabits the Earth with to survive inevitable climate change, we must build infrastructure and economies that are independent and immune from the climate no matter what it does.

Our cities, farms, homes, businesses, and even sanctuaries for ecosystems we seek to preserve must be designed and engineered to take whatever is going on outside, and make it work with what we need to survive and thrive on the inside.Urban and rural agriculture that takes place within self-contained systems that can conserve and reuse resources, including water and soil nutrients, as well as control atmospheric conditions for optimal growing environments – immense high-tech greenhouses in other words – could protect our crops from global heating or cooling. Architecture that is modular, flexible, mobile, and adaptable could adjust to sea levels, filling in space where land is exposed, or moved to higher grounds when land disappears. Cities and agricultural systems that float upon the sea would make rising and falling sea levels more or less irrelevant

Image: The ultimate expression of environmental mastery is constructing  ecosystems and civilizations where they naturally could not exist. Humanity has already permanently inhabited orbit in the form of the International Space Station for over a decade, we must simply take the  next step.

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And perhaps the ultimate expression of environmental mastery would be creating habitable ecosystems where none could ever exist naturally – beneath the waves, underground, or even in orbit above Earth. Environmental mastery of this level should be the ultimate goal of governments, organizations, and activists around the world who seek to preserve both our ecosystems and our civilization.

 Such a future is the realm of science fiction, but a future that does not look upward and outward, is not a future worth striving toward.

In the interim, there are already people experimenting and moving forward alternative models of decentralized high-tech agricultural, energy, and architectural solutions that will make weathering climate change more manageable. Perhaps the decentralized but collaborative nature technological progress is taking through local hackerspaces, urban agriculture, and cooperatives could create solutions far quicker and without the political baggage and meddling special interests impeding progress on national and international scales.For those frustrated by the lack of pragmatic solutions for issues such a climate change, genetic pollution, or the poisoning of our air, water, and soil, starting projects at your local hackerspace to create or improve technology to protect your food supply, energy, water, and air could be the beginning of a real environmental movement that actually solves problems rather than perpetually complain and argue about them.

Geoengineering and the “Moonraker Scenario” 

The other option is one of anti-human regression – where faux-environmentalists who harbor misanthropic hatred for humanity demand all progress stop, energy production be reduced, and instead of finding better alternatives to do more with less, demand that all do as little as possible with as little as possible. Such a mentality is at best putting human progress into “sleep mode.” At worst, it threatens our very survival, which has since the dawn of history itself, depended on exploration, innovation, and the ability to conquer adversity rather than surrender to it.Those like White House science adviser, John P. Holdren who suggests the planet be scoured of its populous human inhabitants, now toys with the idea of geoengineering, or extreme global climate manipulation. The likelihood that people like Holdren seek to do so for the continued progress of humanity, rather than to fulfill long desired “depopulation” is slim to none. The chances that people like Holdren seek to “accidentally” plunge the planet into conditions that devastate agriculture and starve hundreds of millions, or even billions to death, are somewhat greater.This would be the “Moonraker scenario” – referencing the 1979  James Bond movie Moonraker.

In the film, a deranged industrialist conspires to wipe out humanity and in the ruins repopulate it with what he perceives to be a “master race.” While a science fiction thriller, the movie reflects the darkest desires of tyrants throughout the ages – to erase what exists and build an empire of their own designs in its place. As human nature itself does not change, neither have the aspects of human nature that drive such dark desires. From the intentional and reckless genetic pollution perpetrated by huge agricultural and biotech monopolies through the proliferation of GMOs, to attempts to surveil, control, and even manipulate public perception, to the sabotaged false discourse regarding climate change itself and the consideration of geoengineering – it appears attempts to overwrite the planet’s climate, population, and culture is already underway, either by design or self-destructive ignorance.By exiting the false discourse on climate change – and other false discourses – and demanding and participating in pragmatic, technological progress, we can protect ourselves as much from the effects of inevitable natural climate change as we can from the delusions and designs of megalomaniacs.

An educated, informed, and technologically literate population has the ability to create a technologically driven future that serves the population’s best interests. Anything less leaves us at the mercy of an unpredictable elite that history has already many times warned us about.

War is Our Business and Business Looks Good

July 1st, 2014 by Edward S. Herman

It is enlightening to see how pugnacious the U.S. establishment, led by the Peace Laureate, has been in dealing with the Ukraine crisis. The crisis arguably began when the Yanukovich government rejected an EU bailout program in favor of one offered by Russia.

The mainstream media (MSM) have virtually suppressed the fact that the EU proposal was not only less generous than the one offered by Russia, but that whereas the Russian plan did not preclude further Ukrainian deals with the EU, the EU plan would have required a cut-off of further Russian arrangements. And whereas the Russian deal had no military clauses, that of the EU required that Ukraine affiliate with NATO. Insofar as the MSM dealt with this set of offers they not only suppressed the exclusionary and militarized character of the EU offer, they tended to view the Russian deal as an improper use of economic leverage, “bludgeoning,” but the EU proposal was “constructive and reasonable” (Ed., NYT, Nov. 20, 2014). Double standards seem to be fully internalized within the U.S. establishment.

The protests that ensued in Ukraine were surely based in part on real grievances against a corrupt government, but they were also pushed along by rightwing groups and by U.S. and allied encouragement and support that increasingly had an anti-Russian and pro-accelerated-regime-change flavor. They also increased in level of violence. The sniper killings of police and protesters in Maidan on February 21, 2014 brought the crisis to a new head. This violence overlapped with and eventually terminated a negotiated settlement of the struggle brokered by EU members that would have ended the violence, created an interim government and required elections by December. The accelerated violence ended this transitional plan, which was replaced by a coup takeover, along with the forced flight of Victor Yanukovich.

There is credible evidence that the sniper shootings of both protesters and police were carried out by a segment of the protesters in a false-flag operation that worked exceedingly well, “government” violence serving as one ground for the ouster of Yanukovich. Most telling was the intercepted phone message between Estonia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Paet and EU Foreign Policy chief Catherine Upton in which Paet regretfully reported compelling evidence that the shots killing both police and protesters came from a segment of the protesters. This account was almost entirely suppressed in the MSM; for example, the New York Times never mentioned it once through the following two months. It is also enlightening that the protesters at Maidan were never called “militants” in the MSM, although a major and effective segment was armed and violent—that term was reserved for protesters in Eastern Ukraine, who were commonly designated “pro-Russian” as well as militants (for details see the tabulation in Herman and Peterson, “The Ukraine Crisis and the Propaganda System in Overdrive,” in Stephen Lendman, ed,, Flashpoint in Ukraine).

There is also every reason to believe that the coup and establishment of a right wing and anti-Russian government were encouraged and actively supported by U.S. officials. Victoria Nuland’s intercepted “fuck the EU” words express her hostility to a group that, while generally compliant and subservient, departed from neocon plans for a proper government in Kiev headed by somebody like “Yats.” So she would surely have been pleased when the EU-supported February compromise plan was ended by the violence and coup. The U.S. support of the coup government has been enthusiastic and unqualified, and whereas Kerry and company delayed recognition of the elected government of Maduro in Venezuela, and have strongly urged him to dialogue and negotiate with the Venezuelan protesters—in fact, threatening him if he doesn’t — Kerry and company have not done the same in Ukraine where the Kiev government forces have slowly escalated their attacks on the Eastern Ukraine, but not on “protesters,” only on “militants!”

The Kiev government’s military is now using jets and helicopters to bomb targets in the East and heavy artillery and mortars in its ground operations. Its targets have included hospitals and schools, and as of June 8 civilian casualties have been in the hundreds. A dramatic massacre of 40 or more pro-Russian protesters in Odessa on May 2 by a well-organized cadre of neo-Nazi supporters, possibly agents of the Kiev government, was an early high point in this pacification campaign. No investigation of this slaughter has been mounted by the Kiev government or “international community” and it has not interfered in the slightest with Western support of Kiev. In parallel the MSM have treated it in very low key. (The New York Timesburied this incident in a back page continuation of a story on “Deadly Clashes Erupt in Ukraine,” May 5, which succeeds in covering up the affiliation of the killers.) Kerry has been silent, though we may imagine his certain frenzy if Maduro’s agents had carried out a similar action in Venezuela. Recall the “Racak massacre,” where the deaths of 40 alleged victims of the Serb military created an international frenzy; but in that case the United States needed a casus belli, whereas in the Odessa case there is a pacification war already in process by a U.S. client, so MSM silence is in order.

It is an interesting feature of media coverage of the Ukraine crisis that there is a regular focus on alleged or possible Russian aid, control of and participation in the actions of the protesters/militants/insurgents in Eastern Ukraine. This was evident in the Times’s gullible acceptance of a claim that photos of insurgents included a Russian pictured in Russia, later acknowledged to be problematic (Andrew Higgins, Michael Gordon and Andrew Kramer, “Photos Link Masked Men in East Ukraine to Russia,” NYT, April 20, 2014); and in another lead article which was almost entirely speculation (Sabrina Tavernise, “In Ukraine Kremlin Leaves No Fingerprints,” NYT, June 1, 2014.). But this interest in foreign intrusion in Ukraine affairs, with the implication of wrong-doing, does not extend to evidence of U.S. and other NATO power aid and control. Visits by Biden, Cain, Nuland and intelligence and Pentagon figures are sometimes mentioned, but the scope and character of aid and advice, of U.S. “fingerprints,” is not discussed and seems to be of little interest. It is, in fact, normalized, so that as with the aid plans in which Russian proposals are “bludgeons” but U.S.-EU plans are “constructive and reasonable” the double standard is in good working order here as well.

Isn’t there a danger that Russia will enter this war on behalf of the pro-Russian majority of the eastern part of Ukraine now under assault? Possibly, but not likely, as Putin is well aware that the Obama-neocon-military-industrial complex crowd would welcome this and would use it, at minimum, as a means of further dividing Russia from the EU powers, further militarizing U.S. clients and allies, and firming up the MIC’s command of the U.S. national budget. Certainly there are important forces in this country that would love to see a war with Russia, and it is notable how common are political comments, criticisms and regrets at Obama’s weak response to Russian “aggression” (e.g., David Sanger, “Obama Policy Is put to Test: Global Crises Challenge a Strategy of Caution,” NYT,. March 17, 2014). But so far Putin refuses to bite.

In response to this pressure from the powerful war-loving and war-making U.S. constituencies, Obama has been furiously denouncing Russia and has hastened to exclude it from the G-8, impose sanctions and penalties on the villain state, increase U.S. troops and press military aid on the near-Russia states allegedly terrified at the Russian threat, carry out training exercises and maneuvers with these allies and clients, assure them of the sacredness of our commitment to their security, and press these states and major allies to increase their military budgets. One thing he hasn’t done is to restrain his Kiev client in dealing with the insurgents in eastern Ukraine. Another is engaging Putin in an attempt at a settlement. Putin has stressed the importance of a constitutional formation of a Ukraine federation in which a still intact Ukraine would allow significant autonomy to the Eastern provinces. There was a Geneva meeting and joint statement on April 17 in which all sides pledged a de-escalation effort, disarming irregulars, and constitutional reform. But it was weak, without enforcement mechanisms, and had no effect. The most important requirement for de-escalation would be the termination of what is clearly a Kiev pacification program for Eastern Ukraine. That is not happening, because Obama doesn’t want it to happen. In fact, he takes the position that it is up to Russia to curb the separatists in East Ukraine, and he has gotten his G-7 puppies to agree to give Russia one month to do this, or face more severe penalties..

This situation calls to mind Gareth Porter’s analysis of the “perils of dominance,” where he argued that the Vietnam war occurred and became a very large one because U.S. officials thought that with their overwhelming military superiority North Vietnam and its allies in the south would surrender and accept U.S. terms—most importantly a U.S. controlled South Vietnam—as military escalation took place and a growing toll was imposed on the Vietnamese (see his Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam). It didn’t work. In the Ukraine context the United States once again has a militarily dominant position. On its own and through its NATO arm it has encircled Russia with satellites established in violation of the 1990 promise of James Baker and Hans-Dietrch Genscher to Mikhail Gorbachev to not move eastward “one inch,” and it has placed anti-missile weapons right on Russia’s borders.

And now it has engineered a coup in Ukraine that empowered a government openly hostile to Russia and threatening both the well-being of Russian-speaking Ukrainians and the control of the major Russian naval base in Crimea. Putin’s action in reincorporating Crimea into Russia was an inevitable defensive reaction to a serious threat to Russian national security. But it may have surprised the Obama team, just as the Vietnamese refusal to accept surrender terms may have surprised the Johnson administration. Continuing to push the Vietnamese by escalation didn’t work, although it did kill and injure millions and ended the Vietnamese alternative way. Continuing and escalating actions against Russia in 2014 may involve a higher risk for the real aggressor and for the world, but there are real spinoff benefits to Lockheed and other members of the MIC.

In recent months, the Obama Administration has been intensifying pressure on South Korea to join its anti-ballistic missile defense system. As the United States expands that system across the Asia-Pacific as one component of its military buildup under the rubric of the Asia Pivot, Seoul is seen as having a key role to play.

The United States has posted anti-ballistic missile defense units in Eastern Europe and Turkey, and NATO membership has been extended to former Warsaw Pact countries, in an effort to tighten the military noose around Russia. The aim of the Asia Pivot is to adopt the same aggressive posture towards China and North Korea.

South Korea is building its own separate anti-missile system, structured for the defense of its own territory. That system is comprised of Patriot PAC-2 batteries, which are slated for replacement by the PAC-3. South Korea also plans to develop its own higher altitude anti-ballistic missiles.

The United States has wider ambitions when it comes to ballistic missile defense in South Korea. The goal is to integrate South Korea into the steadily expanding U.S. missile defense system in the Asia Pacific.

The United States is giving serious consideration to deploying a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery in South Korea, a system that is capable of targeting short to intermediate-range ballistic missiles.

In any conflict with North Korea, the main risk to U.S. forces stationed on the peninsula would come from long-range artillery and cruise missiles. U.S. bases in Korea are scheduled to be relocated farther south by 2016, out of range of North Korean artillery. South Korea’s Patriot batteries are reasonably effective at countering short-range ballistic missiles. The deployment of a THAAD battery would provide an extra layer of defense, as incoming high altitude missiles could be targeted at an earlier point in their descent, with Patriot batteries acting as a backup for any missed targets.

A THAD battery is armed with 24 missiles, so unless the U.S launches a first strike on North Korea, a sizeable enough attack would soon exhaust its arsenal.

None of this matters much, as the primary motivation for installing a THAAD battery in South Korea would be to take advantage of its accompanying AN/TPY-2 X-band radar. Although deployed as part of a THAAD battery, the radar can also operate independently. The most effective approach in countering long-range ballistic missiles is to detect their launch as close to the source as possible. The AN/TPY-2 radar can be integrated into a wider missile defense system, passing tracking information to U.S. and Japanese ships armed with Aegis anti-ballistic missiles and to ground-based anti-ballistic missile systems stationed on U.S. territory.

No radar can see over the earth’s curvature, so to be effective the wider the area in which radar stations are dispersed, the more chance of success in shooting down a ballistic missile. The U.S has ground-based interceptors stationed in Alaska and a THAAD battery in Guam. An X-band radar has been placed in northern Japan, and second radar is scheduled for southern Japan by the end of the year. Another site under consideration is the Philippines. Placement of an AN/TPY-2 radar in South Korea would provide detection capability extending across much of eastern China.

The AN/TPY-2 radar can operate in two modes. In terminal mode, it feeds the THAAD battery, allowing it to target an incoming ballistic missile as it descends towards its target. In forward-based mode, it tracks missiles during their boost phase and feeds tracking information to the wider missile defense system. Those feeds can be linked to anti-missile systems thousands of miles away.

Any anti-missile system can be quickly overwhelmed by a full-scale launch by an enemy. The primary purpose of the system is to provide first-strike capability, in which enemy ballistic missiles could be taken out, and the anti-missile system would counter the response by the relatively few ballistic missiles that managed to survive the attack.

It takes only eight hours to switch from one mode of the AN/TPY-2 radar to the other, and radar stationed in South Korea would grant the United States more strategic flexibility. If the U.S. wanted to confront North Korea, the radar would be set to terminal mode. In seeking confrontation with China, it would be set to forward-based mode.

The U.S. military regards it a high priority to bring a THAAD battery to South Korea, and accordingly, it has already conducted a site survey to identify potential locations. Last October, South Korea and the United States signed an agreement that called for South Korea to “further the interoperability” of its anti-missile system with that of the U.S. The time has come, U.S. officials say, for South Korea to move beyond interoperability to integration.

Given the proximity of North Korea, a THAAD battery would make little sense from the South Korean perspective. As one Korean official explained on condition of anonymity, “In an environment like the Korean Peninsula where firing ranges are so short, the most effective missile defense system is low-altitude defense. We’re not participating in any system for high-altitude defense.”

Nor would a high-altitude ballistic missile be North Korea’s first weapon of choice, when low or medium-altitude missiles would be airborne for a far shorter period, thus making them more difficult to shoot down. A THAAD battery in South Korea, however, would make an inviting target for Chinese missiles in any conflict between the United States and China.

U.S. officials are urging South Korea to purchase a THAAD system, at the cost of nearly one billion dollars. Some American officials have indicated that if South Korea continues to balk, the U.S. could unilaterally move a system there, and once in place, pressure South Korea to purchase it. The Asia Pivot’s cost for militarizing the region is likely to be enormous, and the U.S. is seeking to offload as much of the expense as possible onto the shoulders of nations that have little or nothing to gain from it. In line with that policy, the U.S. has already persuaded South Korea to pay an additional $880 million per year for American bases, an increase of six percent over the amount Seoul had been providing to the U.S.

U.S. officials pressed their case to their South Korean counterparts at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on May 30-June 1. Among the main conference sponsors were Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems, and Airbus Group. The conference is as much about arms sales as it is in pushing U.S. geopolitical goals.

Military contractors accompanied the U.S. government delegation, with an eye to netting new customers. Representatives from Lockheed Martin, contractor for the THAAD, joined U.S. officials in meetings with South Korean representatives.

At the conference, Washington succeeded in winning agreement from South Korea and Japan to share intelligence on North Korean missiles, and American officials regarded this as only the first step toward the integration of the two nations into the U.S. missile defense system. A Pentagon official commented, “That makes sense, you know, for where they sit right now, but the key is to get it interoperable and integrated into one system that is effective as possible.”

Ultimately, it may matter little what South Koreans want. The United States is committed to drawing South Korea into its missile defense system. Pentagon officials claim that the South Korean military is analyzing which high altitude anti-ballistic missile system to adopt. “They’ve made no national decision to this point,” said Peppino DeBiaso, director of missile defense policy at the Pentagon, so the U.S. is “trying to help” the South Koreans “reach a decision about the capabilities they would have.”  It is probable that this “help” is correctly perceived as pressure by those on the receiving end.

General Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of United States Forces Korea, remarked, “There was consideration being taken in order to consider THAAD being deployed here in Korea. It is a U.S. initiative, and in fact, I recommended it as the commander.” Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Pentagon official admitted that a THAAD battery is not necessary for South Korea. “But it would obviously help the defense of the United States. An alliance requires reciprocity.”

The Obama Administration attaches such importance to the issue that it nominated Mark Lippert to be its next ambassador to South Korea. Lippert is currently special assistant to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, and one of his main areas of focus has been the U.S. anti-missile system.

China is South Korea’s top trading partner, so there is a solid basis for Seoul’s disinclination to antagonize the Chinese by binding itself to the U.S. anti-missile system. The United States, though, wields enormous power and has varied means of persuading recalcitrant partners to serve its needs. The U.S. military is not accustomed to being told ‘no’, and pressure on the South Koreans is not likely to relent unless they acquiesce.

Gregory Elich is on the Board of Directors of the Jasenovac Research Institute and on the Advisory Board of the Korea Policy Institute. He was a member of the collective that wrote The Murder of Democracy: CIA and Pentagon Operations in the Post-Soviet Period, published in the Russian language.

This article was first published by Global Research on November 08, 2010.

Private military and security companies (PMSC) are the modern reincarnation of a long lineage of private providers of physical force: corsairs, privateers and mercenaries. Mercenaries, which had practically disappeared during the XIXth and XXth centuries, reappeared in the 1960’s during the decolonization period operating mainly in Africa and Asia. Under the United Nations a convention was adopted which outlaws and criminalizes their activities. Additional Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions also contains a definition of mercenary.

These non-state entities of the XXIst century operate in extremely blurred situations where the frontiers are difficult to separate. The new security industry of private companies moves large quantities of weapons and military equipment. It provides services for military operations recruiting former militaries as civilians to carry out passive or defensive security.

However, these individuals cannot be considered as civilians, given that they often carry and use weapons, interrogate prisoners, load bombs, drive military trucks and fulfill other essential military functions. Those who are armed can easily switch from a passive/defensive to an active/offensive role and can commit human rights violations and even destabilize governments. They cannot be considered soldiers or supporting militias under international humanitarian law either, since they are not part of the army or in the chain of command, and often belong to a large number of different nationalities.

PMSC personnel cannot usually be considered to be mercenaries for the definition of mercenaries as stipulated in the international conventions dealing with this issue does not generally apply to the personnel of PMSCs which are legally operating in foreign countries under contracts of legally registered companies.

Private military and security companies operate in a legal vacuum: they pose a threat to civilians and to international human rights law. The UN Human Rights Council has entrusted the UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries, principally, with the mandate: “To monitor and study the effects of the activities of private companies offering military assistance, consultancy and security services on the international market on the enjoyment of human Rights (…) and to prepare draft international basic principles that encourage respect for human rights on the part of those companies in their activities”.

During the past five years, the Working Group has been studying emerging issues, manifestations and trends regarding private military and security companies.  In our reports we have informed the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly about these issues. Of particular importance are the reports of the Working Group to the last session of the Human Rights Council, held in September 2010, on the Mission to the United States of America  (20 July to 3 August 2009), Document A/HRC/15/25/Add.3; on the Mission to Afghanistan (4-9 April 2009), Document A/HRC/15/25/Add.2, and the general report of the Working Group containing the Draft of a possible Convention on Private Military and Security Companies (PMSCs) for consideration and action by the Human Rights Council, Document A/HRC/15/25.

In the course of our research, since 2006, we have collected ample information which indicate the negative impact of the activities of “private contractors”, “private soldiers” or “guns for hire”, whatever denomination we may choose to name the individuals employed by private military and security companies as civilians but in general heavily armed. In the cluster of human rights violations allegedly perpetrated by employees of these companies, which the Working Group has examined one can find: summary executions, acts of torture, cases of arbitrary detention; of trafficking of persons; serious health damages caused by their activities; as well as attempts against the right of self-determination. It also appears that PMSCs, in their search for profit, neglect security and do not provide their employees with their basic rights, and often put their staff in situations of danger and vulnerability.

Summary executions

On 16 September 2007 in Baghdad, employees of the US-based firm Blackwater[1] were involved in a shooting incident in Nisoor Square in which 17 civilians were killed and more than 20 other persons were wounded including women and children. Local eyewitness accounts indicate the use of arms from vehicles and rocket fire from a helicopter belonging to this company.

There are also concerns over the activities and approach of PMSC personnel, their convoys of armored vehicles and their conduct in traffic, in particular their use of lethal force. This particular incident was not the first of its kind, neither the first involving Blackwater.

According to a congressional report on the behaviour of Xe/Blackwater in Iraq, Xe/Blackwater guards were found to have been involved in nearly 200 escalation-of-force incidents that involved the firing of shots since 2005. Despite the terms of the contracts which provided that the company could engage only in defensive use of force, the company reported that in over 80 per cent of the shooting incidents, its forces fired the first shots.

In Najaf in April 2004 and on several other occasions, employees of this company took part in direct hostilities, as well as in May 2007, where another incident involving the same company reportedly occurred involving guards belonging to the company and forces belonging to the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior allegedly exchanged gunfire in a sector of Baghdad.

Also in central Baghdad the shooting of employees of the PMSC, Unity Resources Group (URG)[2], protecting a convoy, left two Armenian women, Genevia Antranick and Mary Awanis dead on 9 October 2007 when their car came too close to a protected convoy. The family of Genevia Antranick was offered no compensation and has begun court proceedings against URG in the United States.

This company was also involved in the shooting of 72-year-old Australian Kays Juma. Professor Juma was shot in March 2006 as he approached an intersection being blockaded for a convoy URG was protecting. Professor Juma, a 25-year resident of Baghdad who drove through the city every day, allegedly sped up his vehicle as he approached the guards and did not heed warnings to stop, including hand signals, flares, warning shots into the body of his car and floodlights. The incident occurred at 10am[3].

Torture

Two United States-based corporations, CACI and L-3 Services (formerly Titan Corporation), were involved in the torture of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib. CACI and L-3 Services, contracted by the Government of the United States, were responsible for interrogation and translation services, respectively, at Abu Ghraib prison and other facilities in Iraq.

Seventy two Iraqi citizens who were formerly detained at military prisons in Iraq, have sued L-3 Services, Inc. (“L-3”), a military private contractor which provided civilian translators for United States military forces in Iraq and Adel Nakhla, a former employee of L-3 who served as one of its translators there under the Alien Tort Statute. They allege having been tortured and physically and mentally abused during their detention and that they should be held liable in damages for their actions. The plaintiffs assert 20 causes of action, among which: torture; cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment; assault and battery; intentional infliction of emotional distress[4].

Arbitrary detention 

A number of reports indicate that private security guards have played central roles in some of the most sensitive activities of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) such as the arbitrary detention and clandestine raids against alleged insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan[5] and the involvement in CIA rendition flights[6] as well as joint covert operations[7]. Employees of PMSC would have been involved in the taking of detainees, from “pick up points” (such as Tuzla, Islamabad or Skopje) transporting them in rendition flights and delivering them to drop off points (such as Cairo, Rabat, Bucharest, Amman or Guantanamo) as well as in the construction, equipping and staffing of CIA’s “black sites”.

Within this context, the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit in May 2007 against Jeppesen DataPlan Inc. (a subsidiary company of Boeing) on behalf of five persons who were kidnapped by the CIA disappearing in overseas prisons kept by USA secret services. Jeppesen would have participated in the rendition by providing flight planning and logistical support. The five persons were tortured during their arbitrary detention[8].

Health

The 2009 annual report of DynCorp International refers to four lawsuits concerning the spraying of narcotic plant crops along the Colombian border adjacent to Ecuador on behalf of 3 Ecuadorian Providences and 3266 plaintiffs[9].

From 1991, the United States Department of State contracted the private company DynCorp to supply services for this air-spraying program against narcotics in the Andean region. In accordance with the subscribed contract of 30 January 1998, DynCorp provides the essential logistics to the anti-drug Office of activities of Colombia, in conformity with three main objectives: eradication of cultivations of illicit drugs, training of the army and of personnel of the country, and dismantling of illicit drug laboratories and illicit drug-trafficking networks.

An NGO report indicated the consequences of the spraying carried out within the Plan Colombia had on persons living in the frontier region[10].  One third of the 47 women in the study exposed to the spraying showed cells with some genetic damage. The study established the relationship of the air fumigations of the Plan Colombia with damages in the genetic material. The study demonstrates that when the population is subjected to fumigations “the risk of cellular damage can increase and that, once permanent, the cases of cancerous mutations and important embryonic alterations are increased that prompt among other possibilities the rise in abortions in the area.

This example is particularly important given that Plan Colombia has served as the model for the arrangements that the United States would apply later to Iraq and Afghanistan. Plan Colombia provides immunity to the employees of the PMSC contracted (DynCorp) the same as Order 14 of the Coalition Provisional Authority did in Iraq.

Self-determination

The 2004 attempted coup d’état, which was perpetrated in Equatorial Guinea is a clear example of the link between the phenomenon of mercenaries and PMSCs as a means of violating the sovereignty of States. In this particular case, the mercenaries involved were mostly former directors and personnel of Executive Outcomes, a PMSC that had become famous for its operations in Angola and Sierra Leone. The team of mercenaries also included security guards who were still employed by PMSCs as was the case of two employees of the company Meteoric Tactical Systems providing security to diplomats of Western Embassies in Baghdad-among which to the Ambassador of Switzerland. It also included a security guard who had previously worked for the PMSC “Steele Foundation” and had given protection to President Aristide of Haiti and conducted him to the plane who took him to exile[11].

Trafficking in persons

In 2005, 105 Chileans were providing/or undergoing military training in the former army base of Lepaterique in Honduras. The instruction consisted in anti‐guerrilla tactics such as possible ambushes and deactivation of explosives and mortars how to avoid them. The Chileans had entered Honduras as tourists and were illegally in Honduras. They used high‐caliber weapons such as M‐16 rifles or light machine guns. They had been contracted by a subsidiary of Triple Canopy.

They were part of a group, which included also 189 Hondurans recruited and trained in Honduras. Triple Canopy had been awarded a contract by the United States Department of State. The strong contingent left the country by air from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, in several groups with a stopover in Iceland. Then reached the Middle East and were smuggled into Iraq[12].

The majority of the Chileans and Hondurans were engaged as security guards at fixed facilities in Iraq. They had been contracted by Your Solutions Honduras SRL, a local agent of Your Solutions Incorporated, registered in Illinois, United States of America, which in turn had been subcontracted by Triple Canopy, based in Chicago, United States of America. Some of the Chileans are presently working in Baghdad providing security to the Embassy of Australia under a contract by Unity Resources Group (URG).

Human rights violations committed by PMSC to their employees

PMSC often put the contracted private guards in situations of danger and vulnerability, such as the ‘private contractors’ of Blackwater, killed in Fallujah in 2004 allegedly due to the lack of the necessary safety means that Blackwater was supposed to provide in order to carry out the mission.

It should not be forgotten that this incident changed dramatically the course of the war and the occupation by the United States in Iraq. It may be considered as the turning point in the occupation of Iraq. This led to an abortive US operation to recapture control of the city and a successful recapture operation in the city in November 2004, called Operation Phantom Fury, which resulted in the death of over 1,350 insurgent fighters. Approximately 95 America troops were killed, and 560 wounded.

The U.S. military first denied that it has use white phosphorus as an anti-personnel weapon in Fallujah, but later retracted that denial, and admitted to using the incendiary in the city as an offensive weapon. Reports following the events of November 2004 have alleged war crimes, and a massacre by U.S. personnel, including indiscriminate violence against civilians and children.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallujah – cite_note-17 This point of view is presented in the 2005 documentary film, “Fallujah, the Hidden Massacre”. In 2010, the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, a leading medical journal, published a study, which shows that the rates of cancer, infant mortality and leukemia exceed those reported in Hiroshima and Nagasaki[13].

The over 300 000 classified military documents made public by Wikileaks show that the “Use of Contractors Added to War’s Chaos in Iraq”, as has been widely reported by the international media recently.

The United States has relied and continues to rely heavily on private military and security contractors in conducting its military operations. The United States used private security contractors to conduct narcotics intervention operations in Colombia in the 1990s and recently signed a supplemental agreement that authorizes it to deploy troops and contractors in seven Colombian military bases. During the conflict in the Balkans, the United States used a private security contractor to train Croat troops to conduct operations against Serbian troops. Nowadays, it is in the context of its operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in particular that the State is massively contracting out security functions to private firms.

In 2009, the Department of Defense employed 218,000 private contractors (all types) while there were 195,000 uniformed personnel. According to the figures, about 8 per cent of these contractors are armed security contractors, i.e. about 20,000 armed guards. If one includes other theatres of operations, the figure rises to 242,657, with 54,387 United States citizens, 94,260 third country nationals and 94,010 host-country nationals.

The State Department relies on about 2,000 private security contractors to provide United States personnel and facilities with personal protective and guard services in Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel and Pakistan, and aviation services in Iraq. The contracts for protective services were awarded in 2005 to three PMSCs, namely, Triple Canopy, DynCorp International and the U.S. Training Center, part of the Xe (then Blackwater) group of companies. These three companies still hold the State Department protective services contracts today.

Lack of transparency

The information accessible to the public on the scope and type of contracts between the Government of the United States and PMSCs is scarce and opaque. The lack of transparency is particularly significant when companies subcontract to others. Often, the contracts with PMSCs are not disclosed to the public despite extensive freedom of information rules in the United States, either because they contain confidential commercial information or on the argument that non-disclosure is in the interest of national defense or foreign policy. The situation is particularly opaque when United States intelligence agencies contract PMSCs.

Lack of accountability

Despite the fact of their involvement in grave human rights violations, not a single PMSC or employee of these companies has been sanctioned.

In the course of litigation, several recurring legal arguments have been used in the defense of PMSCs and their personnel, including the Government contractor defense, the political question doctrine and derivative immunity arguments. PMSCs are using the Government contractor defense to argue that they were operating under the exclusive control of the Government of the United States when the alleged acts were committed and therefore cannot be held liable for their actions.

It looks as if when the acts are committed by agents of the government they are considered human rights violations but when these same acts are perpetrated by PMSC it is “business as usual”.

The human rights violation perpetrated by private military and security companies are indications of the threat posed to the foundations of democracy itself by the privatization of inherently public functions such as the monopoly of the legitimate use of force. In this connection I cannot help but to refer to the final speech of President Eisenhower.

In 1961, President Eisenhower warned the American public opinion against the growing danger of a military industrial complex stating: “(…) we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defence with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together”.

Fifty years later, on 8 September 2001, Donald Rumsfeld in his speech in the Department of Defence warned the militaries of the Pentagon against “an adversary that poses a threat, a serious threat, to the security of the United States of America (…) Let’s make no mistake: The modernization of the Department of Defense is (…) a matter of life and death, ultimately, every American’s. (…) The adversary. (…) It’s the Pentagon bureaucracy. (…)That’s why we’re here today challenging us all to wage an all-out campaign to shift Pentagon’s resources from bureaucracy to the battlefield, from tail to the tooth. We know the adversary. We know the threat. And with the same firmness of purpose that any effort against a determined adversary demands, we must get at it and stay at it. Some might ask, how in the world could the Secretary of Defense attack the Pentagon in front of its people? To them I reply, I have no desire to attack the Pentagon; I want to liberate it. We need to save it from itself.”

Rumsfeld should have said the shift from the Pentagon’s resources from bureaucracy to the private sector. Indeed, that shift had been accelerated by the Bush Administration: the number of persons employed by contract which had been outsourced (privatized) by the Pentagon was already four times more than at the Department of Defense.

It is not anymore a military industrial complex but as Noam Chomsky has indicated “it’s just the industrial system operating under one or another pretext”.

The articles of the Washington Post “Top Secret America: A hidden world, growing beyond control”, by Dana Priest and William M. Arkin (19 July 2010) show the extent that “The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work”.

The investigation’s findings include that some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States; and that an estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances. A number of private military and security companies are among the security and intelligence agencies mentioned in the report of the Washington Post.

The Working Group received information from several sources that up to 70 per cent of the budget of United States intelligence is spent on contractors. These contracts are classified and very little information is available to the public on the nature of the activities carried out by these contractors.

The privatization of war has created a structural dynamic, which responds to a commercial logic of the industry.

A short look at the careers of the current managers of BAE Systems, as well as on their address-books, confirms we are not any longer dealing with a normal corporation, but with a cartel uniting high tech weaponry (BAE Systems, United Defence Industries, Lockheed Martin), with speculative financiers (Lazard Frères, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank), together with raw material cartels (British Petroleum, Shell Oil) with on the ground, private military and security companies[14].

The majority of the private military and security companies has been created or are managed by former militaries or ex-policemen for whom it is big business. Just to give an example MPRI (Military Professional Resources Incorporation) was created by four former generals of the United States Army when they were due for retirement[15]. The same is true for Blackwater and its affiliate companies or subsidiaries, which employ former directors of the C.I.A.[16]. Social Scientists refer to this phenomenon as the Rotating Door Syndrome.

The use of security contractors is expected to grow as American forces shrink. A July report by the Commission on Wartime Contracting, a panel established by Congress, estimated that the State Department alone would need more than double the number of contractors it had protecting the American Embassy and consulates in Iraq.

“Without contractors: (1) the military engagement would have had to be smaller–a strategically problematic alternative; (2) the United States would have had to deploy its finite number of active personnel for even longer tours of duty -a politically dicey and short-sighted option; (3) the United States would have had to consider a civilian draft or boost retention and recruitment by raising military pay significantly–two politically untenable options; or (4) the need for greater commitments from other nations would have arisen and with it, the United States would have had to make more concessions to build and sustain a truly multinational effort. Thus, the tangible differences in the type of war waged, the effect on military personnel, and the need for coalition partners are greatly magnified when the government has the option to supplement its troops with contractors”[17].

The military cannot do without them. There are more contractors over all than actual members of the military serving in the worsening war in Afghanistan.

CONCLUSIONS OF THE SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE impact of Private Security Contracting on U.S. Goals in Afghanistan[18]

Conclusion I: The proliferation of private security personnel in Afghanistan is inconsistent with the counterinsurgency strategy. In May 2010 the U.S. Central Command’s Armed Contractor Oversight Directorate reported that there were more than 26,000 private security contractor personnel operating in Afghanistan. Many of those private security personnel are associated with armed groups that operate outside government control.

Conclusion 2: Afghan warlords and strongmen operating as force providers to private security contractors have acted against U.S. and Afghan government interests. Warlords and strongmen associated with U.S.-funded security contractors have been linked to anti Coalition activities, murder, bribery, and kidnapping. The Committee’s examination of the U.S. funded security contract with ArmorGroup at Shindand Airbase in Afghanistan revealed that ArmorGroup relied on a series of warlords to provide armed men to act as security, guards at the Airbase.

Open-ended intergovernmental working group established by the HR Council

Because of their impact in the enjoyment of human rights the Working Group on mercenaries in its 2010 reports to the UN Human Rights Council and General Assembly has recommended a legally binding instrument regulating and monitoring their activities at the national and international level.

The motion to create an open ended intergovernmental working group has been the object of lengthy negotiations, in the Human Rights Council, led by South Africa in order to accommodate the concerns of the Western Group, but primarily those of the United States and the United Kingdom and of a lot a pressure exerted in the capitals of African countries supporting the draft resolution. The text of the resolution was weakened in order to pass the resolution by consensus. But even so the position of the Western States has been a “fin de non recevoir”.

The resolution was adopted by a majority of 32 in favour, 12 against and 3 abstentions. Among the supporters of this initiative are four out of the five members of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa) in addition to the African Group, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Arab Group.

The adoption of this resolution opens an interesting process in the UN Human Rights Council where civil society can participate in the elaboration of an international framework on the regulation, monitoring and oversight of the activities of private military and security companies.  The new open ended intergovernmental working group will be the forum for all stakeholders to receive inputs, not only the draft text of a possible convention and the elements elaborated by the UN Working Group on mercenaries but also of other initiatives such as the proposal submitted to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Montreux Document and the international code of conduct being elaborated under the Swiss Initiative.

However, the negative vote of the delegations of the Western Group indicates that the interests of the new staggering security industry – its annual market revenue is estimated to be over USD one hundred billion – have been quite well defended as was the case in a number of other occasions. It also shows that Western governments will be absent from the start in a full in-depth discussion of the issues raised by the activities of PMSC.

We urge all States to support the process initiated by the Council by designating their representatives to the new open-ended intergovernmental working group, which will hold its first session in 2011, and to continue a process of discussions regarding a legally binding instrument.

The participation of the UK and USA main exporters of these activities (it is estimated at 70% the industry of security in these two countries) as well as other Western countries where the new industry is expanding is of particular importance.

The Working Group also urges the United States Government to implement the recommendations we made, in particular, to:

support the Congress Stop Outsourcing Security (SOS) Act, which clearly defines the functions which are inherently governmental and that cannot be outsourced to the private sector;

rescind immunity to contractors carrying out activities in other countries under bilateral agreements;

carry out prompt and effective investigation of human rights violations committed by PMSCs and prosecute alleged perpetrators;

ensure that the oversight of private military and security contractors is not outsourced to PMSCs;
establish a specific system of federal licensing of PMSCs for their activities abroad;

set up a vetting procedure for awarding contracts to PMSCs;

ensure that United States criminal jurisdiction applies to private military and security companies contracted by the Government to carry out activities abroad; and

respond to pending communications from the Working Group.

The United Nations Human Rights Council, under the Universal Periodic Review, initiated a review in November 2010 in Geneva, focussing on the human rights record of the United States. The above article is an edited version of the presentation given by Jose L. Gomez del Prado in Geneva on 3 November 2010 at a parallel meeting at the UN Palais des Nations on that occasion.

Notes

[1] Blackwater Worldwide abandoned its tarnished brand name in order to shake its reputation battered by its criticized work in Iraq, renaming its family of two-dozen businesses under the name Xe’, see Mike Baker, ‘Blackwater dumps tarnished brand name’, AP News Break, 13 February 2009.

[2] URG, an Australian private military and security company, uses a number of ex military Chileans to provide security to the Australian Embassy in Baghdad. Recently one of those “private guards” shot himself, ABC News, reported by La Tercera, Chile, 16 September 2010.

[3]J.Mendes & S Mitchell, “Who is Unity Resources Group?”, ABC News Australia, 16 September 2010.

[4] Case 8:08-cv-01696-PJM, Document 103, Filed 07/29/10. Defendants have filed Motions to Dismiss on a number of grounds. They argue, among others, that the suit must be dismissed in its entirety because they are immune under the laws of war, because the suit raises non-justiciable political questions, and because they possess derivative sovereign immunity. They seek dismissal of the state law claims on the basis of government contractor immunity, premised on the notion that Plaintiffs cannot proceed on state law claims, which arise out of combatant activities of the military. The United States District Court for the district of Maryland Greenbelt Division has decided to proceed with the case against L-3 Services, Inc. It has not accepted the motions to dismiss allowing the case to go forward.

[5] Mission to the United States of America, Report of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries, United Nations document, A/HRC/15/25/Add.3, paragraphs 22.

[6] James Risen and Mark Mazzetti, “Blackwater guards tied to secret C.I.A. raids ”, New York Times, 10 December 2009.

[7] Adam Ciralsky, “Tycoon, contractor, soldier, spy”, Vanity Fair, January 2010. See also Claim No. HQ08X02800 in the High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division, Binyam Mohamed v. Jeppesen UK Ltd, report of James Gavin Simpson, 26 May 2009.

[8]ACLU Press Release, UN Report Underscores Lack of Accountability and Oversight for Military and Security Contractors, New York, 14 September 2010.

[9] The reports also indicates that the Revenues of DynCorp for 2006 were of USD 1 966 993 and for 2009 USD 3 101 093

[10] Mission to Ecuador, Report of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries, United Nations document, A/HRC/4/42/Add.2

[11] A number of the persons involved in the attempted coup were arrested in Zimbabwe, other in Equatorial Guinea itself the place where the coup was intended to take place to overthrow the government and put another in its place in order to get the rich resources in oil. In 2004 and 2008 the trials took place in Equatorial Guinea of those arrested in connection with this coup attempt, including of the British citizen Simon Mann and the South African Nick du Toit. The President of Equatorial Guinea pardoned all foreigners linked to this coup attempt in November 2009 by. A number of reports indicated that trials failed to comply with international human rights standards and that some of the accused had been subjected to torture and ill-treatment. The government of Equatorial Guinea has three ongoing trials in the United Kingdom, Spain and Lebanon against the persons who were behind the attempted coup.

[12] Report of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries, Mission to Honduras, United Nations document A/HRC/4/42/Add.1.

[13] Wikipedia

[14] Mercenaries without borders by Karel Vereycken,  Friday Sep 21st, 2007

[15] Among which General Carl E. Vuono, Chief of the Army during the Gulf War and the invasion of Panama; General Crosbie E. Saint, former Commander in Chief of the  USA Army in Europe and General Ron Griffith. The President of MPRI is General Bantant J. Craddock.

[16] Such as Cofer Black, former Chief of the Counter Terrorism Center; Enrique Prado, former Chief of Operations and Rof Richter, second in command of the Clandestine Services of the Company

[17] Article published in the Spring 2010 issue of the University of Chicago Law Review, titled “Privatization’s Pretensions” by Jon D. Michaels, Acting Professor of Law at the UCLA School of Law

[18] INQUIRY INTO THE ROLE AND OVERSIGHT OF PRIVATE SECURITY CONTRACTORS IN AFGHANISTAN, R E P O R T TOGETHER WITH ADDITIONAL VIEWS OF THE COMMITTEE ON ARMED SERVICES UNITED STATES SENATE, 28 September 2010

The ISIL or DAISH Caliphate in Iraq and Syria is a US Project

July 1st, 2014 by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

Press TV has conducted an interview with Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, author and geopolitical analyst from Montreal, about heavy clashes underway among foreign-backed insurgents in Syria and about the US government’s role in supporting them on June 30, 2014.

The following is an approximate transcript of the Press TV interview.

Press TVHeavy clashes are underway in Syria between a number of militant groups and ISIL terrorists for control of a border crossing with Iraq. That’s according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The clashes are taking place in the town of Boukamal. The ISIL insurgents who control some parts of northeastern Syria took control of Boukamal last week. The terrorist group is notorious for its fear campaign and ruthless crimes in the conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

Mr. Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, author and geopolitical analyst, is with us … from Montreal. First of all, looking at the clashes taking place over control of a border crossing at Iraq – that brings us to the question of the objective of this group. They’ve said they want to create an Islamic State or Caliphate – in their own words – and their intention is to create this state in Iraq and Syria.

First of all tell us about that plan; what it means for the region; and also about those who are saying that Western countries including the US, and specifically the US, should be held to blame for supporting these groups and making them reach the stage that they’re currently in.

Nazemroaya: I think that’s an excellent question and let me be clear about this and very categorical. What is called DAISH [Arabic: Al-Dawlah Al-Islamiyah fe Al-Iraq wa Al-Sham] or the ISIL (the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) is not the manifestation of the failure of US policy that the United States is trying to present; it is actually the manifestation of US policy.

This is the clear manifestation of what the United States and its allies, including Israel to the south of Syria, have been trying to do in this region for over a decade. For many years now, this is a manifestation of that. The ISIL in Syria want to integrate Syria with Iraq and basically the objective is to divide both countries and to create sectarian states that are homogenous and only reserved for Sunnis while other groups, such as Shiites, Christians, Druze, are all expelled.

This is why you have people in the Syrian anti-government forces – the insurgency – for several years now, since the insurgency started in 2011, saying “Alawites to the ground and Christians to Lebanon.” Because what they’re trying to do is and what they’ve been working to do is what some would call ethnic cleansing. I think that term is an oxymoron and actually camouflages genocide.

The Christians in Iraq are almost extinct and that’s because of the United States and Britain. During their occupation the Christians were persecuted.

And now in Syria this fighting is going on because the ISIL wants to integrate this area with Iraq. It calls this an Islamic Caliphate, but I want to be categorical; this has nothing to do with Islam. The idea of an Islamic Emirate now is something that the United States has been pushing. The Islamic Emirate when it was disbanded, the last Caliphate under the Ottomans, wasn’t even the authentic Caliphate. Anybody who talks about that isn’t aware of history or has no understanding of Islam.

And the United States has been pushing this as a camouflage. Many in the West believe the ISIL represents Muslims; it doesn’t represent Muslims or Sunnis at all.

In one of the most significant Fourth Amendment rulings ever handed down by the Supreme Court, all nine justices agreed in an opinion involving two companion cases, Riley v. California [PDF] and United States v. Wurie, that police generally need a warrant before reading data on the cell phone of an arrestee. This decision may well presage how the court will rule on the constitutionality of the National Security Agency (NSA) metadata collection program when that issue inevitably comes before it.

Warrants Needed to Search Cell Phone Data

There has always been a preference for search warrants when the police conduct a Fourth Amendment search or seizure. But, over the years, the court has carved out certain exceptions to the warrant requirement, including the search incident to a lawful arrest. The 1969 case of Chimel v. California defined the parameters of this exception. Upon a lawful arrest, police can search the person of the arrestee and areas within his immediate control from which he could secure a weapon or destroy evidence. Four years later, in United States v. Robinson, the court confirmed that the search incident to a lawful arrest is a bright-line rule. These types of searches will not be analyzed on a case-by-case basis. If the arrest is lawful, a search incident to it needs no further justification. It does not matter whether the officer is concerned in a given case that the arrestee might be armed or destroy evidence.

In Riley/Wurie, the court declined to apply the search incident to a lawful arrest exception to searches of data contained on an arrestee’s cell phone. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court that the dual rationales for applying the exception to the search of physical objects—protecting officers and preventing destruction of evidence—do not apply to the digital content on cell phones: “There are no comparable risks when the search is of digital data.”

Moreover, “[m]odern cell phones, as a category,” Roberts noted, “implicate privacy concerns far beyond those implicated by the search of a cigarette pack, a wallet, or a purse.” Responding to the government’s assertion that a search of cell phone data is “materially indistinguishable” from searches of physical items, Roberts quipped, “That is like saying a ride on horseback is materially indistinguishable from a flight to the moon.” Indeed, Roberts observed, the search of a cell phone would typically provide the government with even more personal information than the search of a home, an area that has traditionally been given the strongest privacy protection. Modern cell phones, Roberts wrote, “are now such a pervasive and insistent part of daily life that the proverbial visitor from Mars might conclude they were an important feature of human anatomy.” Roberts was referring to the ubiquitous presence of cell phones appended to our ears as we walk down the street.

But the court held that while a warrant is usually required to search data on an arrestee’s cell phone, officers could rely on the exigent circumstances exception in appropriate cases. For example, when a suspect is texting an accomplice who is preparing to detonate a bomb, or a child abductor may have information about the child’s location on his cell phone, or circumstances suggest the phone will be the target of an imminent attempt to erase the data on it, police may dispense with a search warrant.

Metadata Collection Implicates Similar Privacy Concerns

The Riley/Wurie opinion provides insights into how the court will decide other digital-era privacy issues. Roberts was concerned that

“[a]n Internet search and browsing history, for example, can be found on an Internet-enabled phone and could reveal an individual’s private interests or concerns—perhaps a search for certain symptoms of disease, coupled with frequent visits to WebMD.”

The Chief Justice could have been describing the NSA metadata collection program, which requires telecommunications companies to produce all of our telephone communications every day. Although the government claims it does not read the content of those communications, it does monitor the identities of the sender and recipient, and the date, time, duration, place and unique identifiers of the communication. As Roberts pointed out in the cell phone case, much can be learned from this data. Calls to a clinic that performs abortions or visits to a gay website can reveal intimate details about a person’s private life. A URL, such as www.webMD.com/depression, can contain significant information, even without examining the content. Whether we access the Internet with our cell phones, or with our computers, the same privacy considerations are implicated.

Roberts quoted Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s concurrence in United States v. Jones [PDF], the case in which the court held that a warrant is generally required before police install and monitor a GPS tracking device on a car. Sotomayor wrote, “GPS monitoring generates a precise, comprehensive record of a person’s public movements that reflects a wealth of detail about her familial, political, professional, religious, and sexual associations.” US District Court Judge Richard J. Leon also cited that concurrence by Sotomayor in his 2013 decision that the metadata collection probably violates the Fourth Amendment (Klayman v. Obama).

And both Roberts and Leon distinguished the cell phone search and metadata collection, respectively, from the 1979 case of Smith v. Maryland, in which the court held that no warrant is required for a telephone company to use a pen register to identify numbers dialed by a particular caller. The Smith Court concluded that a pen register was not a Fourth Amendment “search,” and therefore the police did not need to use a warrant or an exception to the warrant requirement. In order to constitute a “search,” a person must have a reasonable expectation of privacy that is violated. The court said in Smith that a person does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in numbers dialed from a phone since he voluntarily transmits them to a third party—the phone company.

Roberts stated in Riley/Wurie: “There is no dispute here that the officers engaged in a search of Wurie’s cell phone.” Likewise, Leon wrote that the issue of “whether a pen register constitutes a ‘search’ is a far cry from the issue in the [metadata collection] case.” Leon added,

“When do present-day circumstances—the evolution of the government’s surveillance capabilities, citizens’ phone habits, and the relationship between the NSA and the telecom companies—become so thoroughly unlike those considered by the Supreme Court thirty-four years ago that a precedent like Smith simply does not apply? The answer, unfortunately for the Government, is now.”

If the court is consistent in its analysis, it will determine that the collection by the government of all of our electronic records implicates the same privacy concerns as the inspection of the data on our cell phones. It remains to be seen if and when the metadata collection issue comes before the court. But the fact that the cell phone decision was 9-0 is a strong indication that all of the justices, regardless of ideology, are deeply concerned about protecting the privacy of our electronic communications.

Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, and a former president of the National Lawyers Guild. Her next book, “Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues,” will be published in September.

On June 27 Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova signed association agreements with the EU. The move was presented as a decisive turn for democracy and human rights. But some issues related to the decision had been purposefully kept under the radar screen. Media assured the grassroots were not adequately provided information about some crucially important aspects of the step to be taken by their respective governments that have chosen the so-called European choice.

So one day the people of those states may wake up to find themselves facing raw awakening they have never expected. True, the economic transition period from associated status to membership is not going to be a bed of roses. And there is a specific feature here – if there is any social discontent you’d better conceal it and keep mum …or else!

The European Gendarmerie Force (EUROGENFOR) is a multinational initiative of six EU Member States – France, Italy, The Netherlands, Portugal, Romania and Spain – established in 2006 by treaty with the aim to strengthen international crisis management capacities and contribute to the development of the Common Security and Defense Policy.

EUROGENDFOR can be considered as an integrated police tool designed to carry out police missions in different theatres, including destabilized ones, in support of the EU, the UN, the OSCE and NATO, or possible ad hoc coalitions. The main feature of this armed force is flexibility. It can intervene quickly in any high intensity conflict under any military command (formally under the control of civilians), acting jointly with other divisions or in a totally autonomous manner. It may also intervene at any time of the conflict in the initial phase to stabilize or restore the pre-existing order alongside or replacing the local police force. During the transition phase it will be called to serve a purely military mission in coordination with the local authorities, and in the final stage will facilitate the transfer of responsibilities from the military to the civilian chain of command.

The methods of intervention are the following: replacement of the local police forces in certain areas where the conduct of the normal civil activity is in crisis (read – it deprives the country of national sovereignty – author’s note) and building military facilities in an environment characterized by high levels of insecurity and crime due to the lack of an adequate rule of law (a pretext easy to invent – author’s note). There is the possible use during events considered to be particularly at risk such as the annual meetings of the G8 or the like. Once G8 has become G7 – the leading Western nations alone will decide the fate of sovereign states and make them do what they are supposed to.

The unit’s contingent is about 2,500 men able to intervene within thirty days in every corner of the world. Article 29 determined that the staff members of EUROGENFOR will not suffer any proceedings concerning the execution of a judgment against them in the host State, in the receiving State or in a case connected to the fulfillment of their service. (!) Whatever atrocity the operatives commit – no responsibility entails. So you go to Ukraine, for instance, and indiscriminately shoot around, there will be no consequences to face.

According to the Declaration of Intent and the Treaty, EUROGENDFOR is featured as an “Operational, pre-organized, robust and rapidly deployable” force contributing to the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) even when deployed under non-European Union structures.

Non-European Union – that is not full-fledged members, please take notice. Are the people of Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova well informed about it? Are they aware of these facts? Anybody took the pain to inform and explain to them what it all means in practice? Hardly so! A vitally important aspect ignored on purpose! Tricky politics!

The international police presence may be mandated to perform the full range (or just some) of the police functions, thus being entitled to executive police powers, and should therefore be armed.

June 24 is the day the Council of the European Union adopted a decision on the rules and procedures for the implementation of the solidarity clause (Article 222 TFEU). (3) The solidarity clause provides for the Union and its member states to act jointly in assisting another member state being the object of a terrorist attack (Donetsk and Luhansk republics in the east of Ukraine?) or the victim of a natural or man-made disaster. The Union will mobilize all the instruments at its disposal. The Commission and the High Representative, assisted by the European External Action Service, will in particular identify all Union instruments and capabilities that can best contribute to the response to the crisis, and take all the necessary measures under their competence. The June 24 decision also provides for an immediate activation of the Integrated Political Crisis Response arrangements (IPCR), a mechanism approved in June 2013 by the Council. This will allow a rapid involvement of the political authorities across the EU in order for the Council to ensure the strategic direction of the response and to take appropriate action to the benefit of the member state affected.

“On Tuesday, the representatives of the EU Member States in the Council adopted a decision on the so-called ‘solidarity clause’. Were a disaster or a loosely defined crisis to occur, the organs of the European Union would be obliged to assist using all the instruments at their disposal. This includes military resources”,

warned Member of the Bundestag from German Left Party Andrej Hunko. According to him,

“The adoption at the General Affairs Council took place in secret: the point was not mentioned on the agenda of the meeting. The press was not informed. Yet this is one of the most controversial clauses contained in the EU treaties. That is precisely the reason why agreement on the details of the solidarity clause was postponed to a later point at the time of the signature of the Lisbon Treaty”.

According to Andrej Hanko, the clause strengthens the course towards militarization of home-affairs policy, since military personnel can be sent to another Member State on request. “I am concerned that this is about the home-affairs version of the Article 5 clause on mutual defence: it would apply in situations which may have an adverse impact on people, the environment or property”. Even politically motivated blockades in the areas of energy and transport and general strikes are covered.”

Remember Nigel Farage, the leader of UKIP? Somehow the events make recall his warning. On May 15 he said,

“We face the prospect of mass civil unrest, even revolution in Europe

That’s when the situation in Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia comes to mind. It’s an open secret that all these states face a threat of mass discontent on the way to the implementation of the agreement’s provisions.

Will people be happy with the living standards falling?

What if they start thinking and asking questions about where the countries are heading to?

Then EUROGENFOR is there for them.

The staff at GeoResonance are not prone to conspiracy theories, we all deal with facts and science. It appears some of  the authorities involved in the search have not been completely transparent with all of the facts. The MH370 tragedy has created more world interest than any event since 9/11, under those circumstances 100% transparency is a must. There are many unanswered questions.

The families and friends of those on board MH370 are dismayed that Inmarsat admitted the raw data released was only enough to prove their original model. Everyone was expecting all of the raw data to be released which would have allowed alternative models to be created. This could have shown up any errors that may exist in the original model which “assumes” MH370 ended up in the Southern Indian Ocean.

Many people are asking why the Australian over the horizon radar Jindalee Operational Radar Network (JORN) did not see MH370. The map below showing the JORN range is taken from an Australian Air Force fact sheet on JORN (https://www.airforce.gov.au/docs/JORN_Fact_Sheet.pdf):