Following intense pressure from the Obama administration and top intelligence officials, the US House of Representatives defeated an amendment that would have placed constraints on the National Security Agency’s powers to spy on the American people.

The amendment to the Department of Defense Appropriations Act would have blocked funding for the NSA to collect phone “metadata” that is not related to a specific investigation. Among the programs exposed by whistle-blower Edward Snowden is one in which the government obtains and stores the records on nearly every phone call placed in the United States. This allows the state to construct a detailed social and political profile of every individual swept up in the program.

The House voted 217-205 Wednesday evening to reject the amendment, which was introduced by Michigan Republican Justin Amash. The vote was an opportunity for congressmen to posture as critics of the unpopular and illegal spying programs, with the votes pro and con carefully calibrated to ensure that the measure was defeated.

The Obama administration intervened extremely aggressively to block the amendment in its early stages. Even if it had passed in the House, it would still have had to be passed by the Senate and signed by President Obama to become law.

As the amendment was brought forward, the White House rushed to issue a statement on Tuesday evening. “We oppose the current effort in the House to hastily dismantle one of our intelligence community’s counterterrorism tools,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said. “This blunt approach is not the product of an informed, open or deliberative process.”

Carney’s statement followed an extraordinary closed door meeting convened by NSA head General Keith Alexander with members of the House of Representatives, urging them to vote against the restriction on NSA surveillance authority. House members were warned that the content of the meeting was “top secret.”

The powers targeted by the Amash amendment relate only to one in a whole series of programs aimed at gathering data on the population of the United States and the entire world. This was indicated by Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, a critic of the NSA, who said on Tuesday that the NSA is “an always expanding, omnipresent surveillance state.”

Wyden referred to multiple “secret surveillance programs.” He accused the Obama administration of “actively” misleading the public about surveillance on Americans, and said that the government is “merging the ability to conduct surveillance that reveals every aspect of a person’s life with the ability to conjure up the legal authority to execute that surveillance.”

What Wyden describes is illegal and unconstitutional activity, for which administration officials and leaders of the military-intelligence apparatus should be impeached and tried in a court of law. The crimes go far beyond those of the Nixon administration.

These programs, however, have been implemented with the complicity of the entire state apparatus, including Congress and the courts.

Top lawmakers from both parties, including House Speaker John Boehner (Republican); Representative Mike Rogers, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee (Republican); House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Republican); House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Democrat); and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Democrat), staunchly opposed the amendment.

“Any amendments to defund the program on appropriations bills would be unwise,” Senators Dianne Feinstein (Democrat) and Saxby Chambliss (Republican), the chairwoman and vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a joint statement Tuesday, referring to the NSA’s blanket data gathering activities.

Dutch Ruppersberger, representative from Maryland and the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, celebrated the outcome of the vote, claiming that the amendment would have “eliminated a crucial counterterrorism tool.”

As usual, defenders of the surveillance program argued that it was necessary because the government was “at war with terrorism.”

These statements are made even as the US prepares to more directly arm the opposition in Syria, which is dominated by Islamist forces associated with Al Qaeda. They follow, moreover, revelations that the US is spying on governments all over the world, including those of nominal allies such as Germany and France.

The “war on terror” has for more than a decade served as a pretext for wars abroad and the abrogation of core democratic rights within the United States.

The real target of the surveillance is the American and international working class, a fact that is made clear by the nature of the programs. The Big Brother spying is part of the preparation of the American ruling class for mass social opposition.

The Defense Appropriations Act allocates massive resources for war while paving the way for further attacks on the social conditions of the working class. The bill includes $512.5 billion for the Pentagon and an additional $85.8 billion in “Overseas Contingency Operations” war funding.

The White House has argued that the bill’s shortfall of $5.1 billion below current defense spending will force the administration to make new cuts to domestic spending, including health and education.

Recently in June the American activist organisation ‘Campaign for Peace and Democracy’ (CPD) issued a ‘Statement On Syria’ supporting the so-called “Syrian revolution”. If the CPD had issued a similar statement two years ago it would have been somewhat understandable given the fog of war at the time.

However by now it should be obvious to all ostensible peace and anti-war activists that there is nothing progressive or worth championing about the imperialist sponsored proxy war currently being waged against the Syrian government of President Dr. Bashar al-Assad; a war fuelled by foreign powers who have outsourced their attack on the Syrian nation to the worst elements in the region, namely the self-styled “Takfiris” and “Salafis” whose intolerant rhetoric and nightmarish vision for Syria should have been met with condemnation by the CPD, and not the naïve enthusiasm so shamelessly embodied in their Statement.

This article aims to counter many of the CPD’s claims while also providing some important information regarding Syria’s history and the nature of this conflict.

How It Began In Daraa

The CPD’s portrayal of the conflict as one that began with peaceful demonstrations for democracy that were met with the brutal state violence betrays the true chronology of events. That the initial protests on the 17–18th of March 2011 in Daraa resulted in the deaths of four protesters and seven police officers, as well as the burning down of the Baath party headquarters and a courthouse is evidence there were armed elements among the ranks of the opposition from the very beginning (1). It’s clear the armed elements used the cover of peaceful protests to launch their attacks, which then initiated a rather predictable response from state forces; eventually resulting in the distorted propaganda line parroted by the mainstream media that state forces attacked peaceful protestors. This modus operandi isn’t new, as it closely resembles the government crackdown of the Muslim Brotherhood uprising in 1982 (covered later), which also began in a similar manner. Given that over two years have passed since these events in Daraa, the CPD has no excuse for being completely oblivious to this side of the story.

The Numbers Game: Myth and Reality

The CPD argues that although “the rebels have also committed atrocities”, that the “Assad regime” has been “the greatest perpetrator of violent outrages” even going so far as to imply that the “90,000 deaths and the displacement of some four million Syrians” is almost entirely the fault of the Syrian government. Did it ever occur to the CPD that in war, total casualties include civilians and combatants?

Here’s the breakdown of war casualties provided by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) (2) which cannot be accused of pro-government bias, as they are a pro-rebel and pro-NATO mouthpiece:

Syrian Arab Army (SAA): 24,617 (25.53%)
Pro Government Militias (NDF): 17,031 (17.66%)
Hezbollah Soldiers: 145 (0.15%)
Opposition Fighters: 16,699 (17.32%)
Civilian Non Combatants: 35,479 (36.79%)
Unaccounted Deaths: 2460 (2.55%)
Total Casualties: 96,431 (100%)

The CPD should ask itself, if the relatively more mechanised government army holds the military advantage against irregular guerrilla forces, why according to the SOHR have more soldiers on the government’s side (SAA & NDF) been killed than opposition fighters? There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, as the footage taken in the aftermath of the Hatlah massacre (7) indicates, there’s a tendency for rebel fighters to refer to the civilians they’ve massacred as “shabiha” (a pejorative term widely used by rebels to refer to pro-government militias), as such it’s quite possible that rebel fighters would report to the SOHR that the civilians they’ve massacred were “pro-government militia”. Secondly, as journalist Nir Rosen points out, when rebel fighters are killed they’re often listed as civilians:

“Every day the opposition gives a death toll, usually without any explanation of the cause of the deaths. Many of those reported killed are in fact dead opposition fighters, but the cause of their death is hidden and they are described in reports as innocent civilians killed by security forces, as if they were all merely protesting or sitting in their homes.” (3)

This ‘accounting trick’ has also been noted by Musa al-Gharbi:

“For instance, when it is stated that the majority of the victims of the conflict have been civilians, this number is achieved
by conflating the dead non-military rebel fighters with non-combatants. While militiamen technically are civilians (simply by virtue of being non-military), the connotation of civilian is “non-combatant;” i.e., a victim of the conflict who was not actively taking part in it. In fact, this connotation is cynically exploited in delivering the statistic to people in order to make the regime seem as though they are “indiscriminately slaughtering their own people.” (4)

As a heuristic device for analysing counter-insurgencies, i.e. wars fought between regular armies and guerrillas, one can rationally expect the deaths of two rebels for every government soldier killed (4). This would imply, based on the figures provided by the SOHR, that at least 51% of total casualties have been rebel fighters. That would take casualties of armed combatants to 77% of total casualties, which doesn’t include the deaths of pro-government militia, the figure for which, as we’ve established earlier, is potentially unreliable owing to the SOHR’s dubious accounting methods. Furthermore, the sectarian hatred and violence directed at Alawis by rebel forces, as seen in dozens of online videos, helps explain why, according to these rebel accountants themselves, 42% of total casualties are listed as Alawis (2) making them overrepresented as casualties by a factor of four.

In short, a critical reading of the opposition’s own figures, which are themselves heavily biased for the reasons mentioned earlier, would imply that the rebels, whose cause the CPD champions, are responsible for more mass death than any other party in this conflict.If the Syrian Army were as indiscriminate as the CPD implies they are, they wouldn’t have bothered negotiating with the rebels in Qusayr to evacuate civilians, nor would they have allowed the rebels safe passage to leave the city on the condition they left their weapons behind (5).

As expected, those most vehemently opposed to saving civilian lives in Qusayr were the rebels themselves for whom evacuating civilians amounted to sacrificing an important bargaining chip. In the words of one of the mediators Ali Zaayter, “the fighters in Qusayr felt that if they let all the civilians go, then this might encourage the government to kill them” (6). There’s another major difference between the two sides that the CPD ignores. Even in cases of alleged killings by state forces, at least attempts are made by the government to deny or downplay them as its considered shameful, whereas the rebels actually post videos online in which they carry out gruesome beheadings, brag about their atrocities, and encourage their target audience to engage in sectarian massacres themselves (7).Although the figures provided by the SOHR are unreliable for the reasons mentioned earlier, they do constitute an implied admission by a widely cited FSA-aligned source that a) a significant proportion of total casualties are combatants, not civilians; and (b) a significant proportion of civilian casualties are likely to be government sympathisers.

To fully explore these important considerations, readers should consult the Middle East Policy journal article Syria Contextualized: The Numbers Game by Musa al-Gharbi. That the CPD hasn’t bothered consulting any academic sources, and have instead irresponsibly and without evidence placed all the blame on the Syrian government implies they’re either ignorant of basic facts or consciously misleading the public. Which one is it?

Whose “Revolution” Is It Anyway?

The CPD writes, “we strongly oppose any diplomatic, not to mention military, intervention by outside powers that tries to dictate the shape of a future Syria”. In other words it seems the CPD are supportive of foreign states effectively outsourcing this proxy war of theirs by financing the steady supply of foreign fighters, weapons and cash, but then feign moral indignation at the prospect of these states intervening directly with their own soldiers? More importantly it’s entirely hypocritical for the CPD to “condemn the attempts by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the other Gulf states to manipulate the Syrian revolution” when it’s glaringly obvious that the rebels depend on their foreign benefactors to sustain their insurgency. So far Qatar has spent $3 billion financing the rebellion (8) and now find themselves in a minor competition with Saudi Arabia for influence among the rebels. Qatari aid has included offering $50,000 to defectors (8), which amounts to effectively bribing Syrians to abandon their government, and paying the salaries of the FSA thus making them the de facto employees of the Qatari royal family.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s influence over the insurgency cannot be stressed enough since the funding it receives from Qatar in particular “results in the Brotherhood’s monopolization of council finances and resources” (5). This helps explain why the Brotherhood, which officially holds only a minority of seats in the Syrian National Coalition, has managed to control two-thirds of the Supreme Military Council’s (SMC) leadership positions (9).

Indeed the SMC’s Chief of Staff General Salim Idris has already indicated a willingness to work with Islamists thus implying there’s no ideological inconsistency between the goals of the various rebel factions. Idris also admitted that 50 percent of the rebels are Islamists (9), which is likely a gross underestimate since prior attempts to sideline the al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra as the bad rebels were met with a united declaration by 29 FSA groups who declared “we are all al-Nusra!” (10), thus demonstrating the popularity of the “extremists” and their ideology. After all according to the New York Times “nowhere in rebel-controlled Syria is there a secular fighting force to speak of” (11).

Turkey has been hosting up to ten thousand FSA fighters from as early as October 2011 (12), and has from the early days of the conflict been using its Hatay province as a base of operations for fighters and weapons entering Syria. More recently it has been reported that between April 2012 and March this year, 70 cargo planes of weapons have been shipped from Qatar to Turkey to be distributed among rebel groups (8). Meanwhile Israel has made it clear that overthrowing the Syrian government would serve their interests, with the former Defense Minister Ehud Barak (13), and Senior Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad (14) both making it clear that overthrowing the Syrian government would isolate Iran and strategically benefit Israel. To this end Israel has directly attacked Syria twice, and allowed rebels to operate from within the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights (33).

Although Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia have done most of the heavy lifting in funding the insurgency, there is much to suggest U.S. policy makers planned this proxy war for at least a decade prior. Look at the course of events. In 2002 Syria was included in the second tier ‘Axis of Evil’ or ‘Beyond the Axis of Evil’ as it was described by then Undersecretary of State John Bolton. In 2004 the United States imposed sanctions on Syria to restrict American exports, followed by financial sanctions in 2006 (15). Also, according to retired U.S. General Wesley Clark, in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, there were plans at the highest levels in Washington that involved overthrowing the governments of a number of countries including Syria (16).

Over the course of the war, and despite sections of the U.S. political establishment warning against fuelling the conflict, the U.S. has consistently offered significant diplomatic, financial and material support for the insurgency (17)(18)(19)(20)(21). In addition to this, that the European Union lifted the oil embargo on Syria, thereby allowing the rebels to sell Syrian oil from the areas they control, effectively amounts to financing the rebels via the theft of Syria’s natural resources (22).

Given the evidence suggesting the U.S. proxy war was planned years in advance; given the United States’ historic and continual hostility to Damascus; given the sheer scale of foreign interference in Syria’s internal affairs; and given all the evidence suggesting this insurgency needed foreign assistance from the very beginning; it’s monumentally naïve for the CPD to imply that these foreign states merely jumped on the bandwagon of an already “democratic movement” to manipulate it when all evidence suggests the “uprising” was an outcome of their meddling designs in the first place. Also, supposing this “uprising” is genuinely popular, why is it failing despite being so well financed?

Why Syria Is Being Targeted

The proxy war against Syria follows a consistent policy by the United States to dominate the energy rich middle east, especially since the ability of the U.S. to apply pressure on oil producing states to sell in U.S. dollars thus bolstering their currency, greatly depends on their ability to project military power, as evidenced by the heavy concentration of military bases in the region. As a means to these ends, governments like Iran and Syria that refuse to cooperate with U.S. designs by allowing the installation of U.S. military bases on their territory, can expect to be threatened, sanctioned, destabilised, or even invaded.

However the U.S. doesn’t always achieve its desired objectives, a prime example being the invasion Iraq, which was supposed to regain control over an important oil producer, but since Saddam Hussein’s enemies were the natural allies of Iran, Iraq has for many years been shifting towards the Iranian sphere of influence (23). Toppling the Syrian government, often referred to as Iran’s closest ally, appears to be the primary motivation for the United States whose regional allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar also have their own competitive rationale for wanting to weaken Iran.

Although Syria is not a major oil producer, one explanation in particular that deserves careful consideration as to why Syria is being targeted relates to the discovery in 2007 of the world’s largest known natural gas reserves in the Persian Gulf, which was subsequently shared between Iran and Qatar. Iran then launched the PARS Pipeline project, which involved building a pipeline from the Persian Gulf, through Iraq, and ending on Syria’s Mediterranean coast.

So far the pipeline has reached the outskirts of Damascus and is expected to be completed by next year. Meanwhile over the past few years the EU has been anxious to diversify its energy sources, and to this end started the Nambucco pipeline project in 2009, which would have sourced natural gas from the Caspian Sea through the Caucuses, Turkey, and the Balkans thereby reducing the EU’s dependence on Russian gas. However the Nambucco project fell through a month ago owing to various disputes, while the rival Russian South-Stream pipeline that traverses the Black Sea on its route to Europe has been a success (24).

Once both these projects are fully operational it will mean that the EU, which at present receives a quarter of its natural gas from Russia, will in the foreseeable future depend on Iran and Russia for up to 50 percent of its natural gas supplies. As a result Qatar, with its portion of the Persian Gulf’s natural gas, finds itself losing the competition for directly supplying the EU. This constitutes a major motivation explaining Qatar’s specific interest in overthrowing the Syrian government as a means of sabotaging the PARS pipeline.

The Myth of the “Democratic Rebels”

It should be clear to all informed readers the CPD are attempting to insulate themselves from being criticised for supporting the “extremist Islamist militias” (their words) who dominate and control the armed insurgency, by inventing imaginary friends in the “democratic rebels” and “democratic opponents” who according to them supposedly constitute the essential core of the “revolution” and represent the Syrian masses.

Of course propagating this baseless assertion requires ignoring all evidence indicating that the majority of Syrians actually support their government. Indeed in November 2012, Time Magazine highlighted the unpopularity of the rebels in Syria’s largest city Aleppo quoting rebel commander Abu Saadek (his nom de guerre) as saying “the Aleppans here, all of them, are loyal to the criminal Bashar, they inform on us, they tell the regime where we are, where we go, what we do, even now” (25).

More recently, according to data published this May by NATO, who also cannot be accused of pro-government bias, 70 percent of Syrians support President Assad, while only 10 percent support the rebels, the rest being undecided (26).

To be sure, the Syrian people do have legitimate grievances against their government, however to omit the obvious reality that President Bashar al-Assad still commands popular support, let alone imply the opposite, is entirely dishonest.It seems that in order to justify supporting this imperialist proxy war against Syria, many “Left” organisations including the CPD have peddled the myth of the “democratic revolution” that has only recently been undermined “by the growing strength of anti-democratic elements within the Syrian rebel forces”.

The CPD dedicates several paragraphs highlighting the dangers “extremist Islamists” who could “hijack the revolution” as if this didn’t happen two years ago when the Free Syrian Army was founded. However surely many of the CPD’s followers would be genuinely curious to know why they haven’t mentioned any pro-democratic elements? Surely if this were an uprising worth supporting, these “anti-democratic elements” would be in the minority, right? Perhaps the CPD can tell us more about these “democratic rebels”, their brigades, commanders, capabilities, funding sources, ideological motivations, and areas of operation? Of course they probably shouldn’t waste their time because these “democratic rebels” are more a figment of their imagination than they are actual actors in this conflict.

The Muslim Brotherhood: A History of Bloody Reaction

The one-size-fits-all approach adopted by much of the Left towards the so-called Arab Spring tends to reduce the unique historical experiences and complex political divisions of these different nations into a superficial dichotomy between authoritarian dictatorships on the one hand, and the people demanding democracy and freedom on the other. Syria is different in the sense that the current conflict can most accurately be understood as the latest in a series of Muslim Brotherhood led insurgencies that have regularly punctuated the Arab Republic’s post-independence history; and in every such instance, the armed opponents fighting to seize state power always clashed with the state for entirely reactionary reasons.

This should come as no surprise to those aware of the Brotherhood’s history as a party founded on the historic alliance between the Sunni religious establishment, and the Sunni bourgeoisie, landlords, and urban elites (27, p. 38); a party whose underlying class interests clashed with the land reforms, nationalizations, and generally redistributive economic policies of the Baath; a party with a long tradition of framing their struggle as one of the Alawi regime suppressing the Sunni majority (27, p. 103, 137); and like all bourgeois movements needing to conceal their real task of defending wealth and privilege, a party that resorts to sectarian identity politics to divide the masses against each other.

Consider the Brotherhood’s record. After the 1966 coup that brought Salah Jadid’s faction of the Baath party to power, the Brotherhood intensified its opposition to the government, not on principled political grounds, but because they resented the seizure of power by Alawis who they considered infidels unfit for executive office on the grounds that the Syrian constitution stipulated that the President must be a Muslim (29, p. 6). When this religious qualification was briefly omitted in 1973, the Brotherhood responded with violent protests (29, p. 6).

The Brotherhood’s special hatred for Alawis is all the more reactionary and elitist given that prior to the Baathist coup, and especially during Syria’s long history under Ottoman rule, Alawis were the poorest and most ostacised community in the region, often overrepresented among the ranks of the exploited peasant underclass, who toiled the fields of wealthy landlords for a pittance (28).

Upon seizing power, the Baath proceeded to break the stranglehold of the landlords over the peasantry thus enabling the latter to achieve major social advances, while the former, enraged by the shifting balance of power, rallied around the Brotherhood in the hopes of restoring their power and privilege.The 1982 crackdown against the Brotherhood in the city of Hama is often invoked by the Left as an example of the Syrian government’s ruthlessness without considering the context, namely that in the three years prior to the crackdown, the Brotherhood had unleashed a campaign of open terrorism, beginning in 1979 with the Artillery School massacre (29, p. 5), followed by numerous massacres of government officials, Baath party members and their families, and those they deemed infidels (29, p. 6)(30, p. 332)(31, p. 182). Much like the Brotherhood backed “revolution” today, then President Hafez al-Assad claimed the events at Hama had been a large-scale foreign conspiracy, a view later vindicated since the Brotherhood had indeed received support from King Hussayn of Jordan, the Israeli-backed Lebanese Maronite militia the Guardians of the Cedars, and from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq; another important similarity to the current conflict being that these benefactors were all U.S. allies at the time (30, p. 336-7).

Syrian Self Determination and Foreign Weapons To Syria

There’s a popular obsession by many on the Left with morally equating the flow of arms to both sides of this conflict, that is to argue the acquisition of weapons by the Syrian government is morally on par with the supply of weapons to the rebels. However the CPD takes it a step further by condemning the acquisition of weapons by the Syrian government, while supporting the acquisition of weapons by the rebels. Consider the following section:

“The fate of Syria must not be decided by foreign powers or forces, all with their own self-interested agendas. We condemn the support given to Assad by Russia, Iran, China and Hezbollah. Equally, we condemn the attempts by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the other Gulf states to manipulate the Syrian revolution by promoting reactionary Islamist forces within its ranks.”

If according to the CPD, Russian, Chinese, and Iranian support for the Syrian government constitutes a violation of their principle that “the fate of Syria must not be decided by foreign powers or forces”, why haven’t they applied the same standards to the rebels’ benefactors? Instead they’ve merely criticised these Gulf states for “manipulating the Syrian revolution by promoting reactionary Islamist forces” as if the CPD would support Saudi and Qatari gun-running so long as their weapons ended up in the hands of the CPD’s imaginary friends the “democratic rebels” with no strings attached.It’s also hypocritical to argue that “the democratic opponents of the Assad dictatorship have the right to get guns where they can” while opposing the right of the Syrian government to acquire weapons.

Also the CPD shouldn’t use the term “right” so loosely since it’s a legal term that shouldn’t be superficially employed to give the pretence of objectivity to cover up their own biases. However since the CPD seem so concerned with rights, they’d be interested to know that according to International Law (32) it’s the flow of arms fuelling the Syrian insurgency that’s illegal, whereas the Syrian government has every right to acquire foreign weaponry.Finally this position, which morally equates the flow of arms to both sides, sets a dangerous precedent as far as imperialist-backed proxy wars are concerned since most nations, especially post-colonial nations like Syria, import nearly ALL their military equipment.

Does this mean post-colonial nations don’t deserve to be defended when faced with an imperialist backed destabilisation campaign because they get their weapons from another country? By this logic, hypothetically, the CPD would find it impossible to oppose ANY imperialist proxy war against ANY post-colonial state since the influx of foreign weaponry to fuel an insurgency would be treated as morally on par with the imported weaponry of the nation’s army.

Conclusion

In summary, the CPD makes it seem like the government is mowing down civilians en masse when all the actual evidence suggests that the majority of casualties are armed combatants; that government forces are conducting this war with caution; and that the rebels are responsible for the worst atrocities.

The CPD then peddles the myth of the “democratic rebels” most likely to divert attention away from the actual rebels, that is the ones who actually massacre Syrians on a sectarian basis, actually execute workers and throw their bodies off rooftops, actually bomb hospitals, and actually loot factories leaving tens of thousands without work. The CPD can feign concern all they like about “extremist Islamist militias” (i.e. the entire rebel camp) but these caveats appear entirely tokenistic and meaningless if the CPD are just going to support the “revolution” anyway.

The CPD claim to stand for “full democracy” despite cheering on reactionaries whose extremist designs stand opposed to the inclusive and secular identity globally recognised as emblematic of modern Syria. Perhaps as a ploy to encourage working class support for this proxy war, the CPD claims to stand for “an independent labor movement” without once considering what kind of revolution attracts the enthusiastic patronage of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, that is of nations where low paid workers are barred from forming unions and treated like slaves. Finally, the CPD claims to stand for the “complete equality for women, sexual minorities, religions and ethnic groups”, but if they had even the most basic knowledge about Syria, they’d understand these are precisely the sections of Syrian society that are most terrified at the prospect of a rebel victory, and unlike the CPD, I wouldn’t advise them to commit collective suicide by giving quarter to the reactionary rebels hell bent on destroying their nation.One can’t help but invoke the term ‘Orwellian’ to describe the CPD, because far from campaigning for “peace and democracy”, their position on Syria places them objectively on the same side as U.S. imperialism and their reactionary regional allies. The actual task of progressives, especially those based in the United States, should be to campaign against their government’s imperialist designs, not encourage them.

Jay Tharappel is a Masters student in Political Economy at the University of Sydney, Australia.

Notes

(1) Chossudovsky, M. 2011, SYRIA: Who is Behind The Protest Movement? Fabricating a Pretext for a US-NATO “Humanitarian Intervention”, Global Research, http://www.globalresearch.ca/syria-who-is-behind-the-protest-movement-fabricating-a-pretext-for-a-us-nato-humanitarian-intervention/24591

(2) Enders, D. 2013, Assad backers reportedly make up 43 percent of dead in Syria, McClatchy, http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/06/03/192881/assad-backers-reportedly-make.html#.Udtx6VNhtsZ

(3) Rosen, N. 2012, Q&A: Nir Rosen on Syria’s armed opposition, Al Jazeera, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2012/02/201221315020166516.html

(4) Al Gharbi, M. 2013, Syria Contextualized: The Numbers Game, Middle East Policy, 20: 56–67. doi: 10.1111/mepo.12003

(5) O’Bagy, E. 2013, The Fall of Qusayr, Institute for the Study of War, http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/syria-update-fall-al-qusayr

(6) Shams, D. 2013, Syria: The Man Behind Qusayr’s Mediation Efforts, Al Akhbar, http://english.al-akhbar.com/node/15854

(7) Hatlah, 2013, Hatlah Massacre Terrorists Video Bragging – English Subtitles, online video, 12/06/2013, viewed 13/06/2013, http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=87e_1371027252

(8) Khalaf, R. & Smith F.A. 2013, Qatar bankrolls Syrian revolt with cash and arms, Financial Times, http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/86e3f28e-be3a-11e2-bb35-00144feab7de.html#axzz2YbKrRpTK

(9) Greenfield, D. 2013, Obama to Rely on Syrian Leader Who Claims Al Qaeda Aren’t Terrorists to Keep Weapons Out of Al Qaeda’s Hands, Frontpage Magazine, http://frontpagemag.com/2013/dgreenfield/obama-to-rely-on-syrian-leader-who-claims-al-qaeda-arent-terrorists-to-keep-our-weapons-out-of-al-qaedas-hands/

(10) Live Leak, 2013, The Syrian “Revolution”, “Swedish” Jihadist with firecracker, Al Qaeda and friends “evac” and Hafez Al Assad speech about Islamofacists, Live Leak, http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=d2a_1357277420

(11) Hubbard, B. 2013, Islamist Rebels Create Dilemma on Syria Policy, New York Times, 27/04/2013, viewed 10/06/2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/28/world/middleeast/islamist-rebels-gains-in-syria-create-dilemma-for-us.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

(12) Stack, L. 2011, In Slap at Syria, Turkey Shelters Anti-Assad Fighters, New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/28/world/europe/turkey-is-sheltering-antigovernment-syrian-militia.html?pagewanted=2&_r=0

(13) Barak, E. 2013, Israeli FM Barak supports FSA to Break Syria Iran Ties, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6OwcfpNQkyc (Preview)
(14) Bicom, 2013, Amos Gilad: Al-Qaeda threat not as serious as Syria-Iran-Hezbollah axis, Britain & Israel Communications and Research Centre, http://www.bicom.org.uk/news-article/13169/

(15) U.S. Trade and Financial Sanctions Against Syria, Embassy of the United States – Damascus Syria, http://damascus.usembassy.gov/sanctions-syr.html

(16) Clark, W. 2011, Plans to overthrow 7 nations only 9 days after 9/11. Gen Clark, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ho0NTgChWE (Preview)
(17) Schmitt, E. 2012, C.I.A Said to Aid in Steering Arms to Syrian Opposition, New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/21/world/middleeast/cia-said-to-aid-in-steering-arms-to-syrian-rebels.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

(18) Rozen, L. 2012, US Authorizes Financial Support – For the Free Syrian Army, Al-Monitor, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2012/al-monitor/us-authorizes-financial-support.html

(19) Borger, J. & Hopkins, N. 2013, West training Syrian rebels in Jordan, The Guardian, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/mar/08/west-training-syrian-rebels-jordan

(20) Madhani, A. Michaels, J. Vanden Brook, T. 2013, Source: Obama approves arming Syrian rebels, USA TODAY, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2013/06/13/us-confirms-chemical-weapons-syria/2420763/

(21) Brunnstrom, D. 2013, Kerry says doubling U.S. non-lethal aid to Syrian opposition, Reuters, http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/04/21/us-syria-crisis-conference-kerry-idUSBRE93K00220130421

(22) BBC, 2013, EU Eases Syria Oil Embargo To Help Opposition, BBC NEws Middle East, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-22254996

(23) Maloney, S. 2008, How the Iraq War Has Empowered Iran, Brookings Institute, http://www.brookings.edu/research/opinions/2008/03/21-iraq-maloney

(24) Lehman, C. 2013, Scramble for Foreign Political Influence over Egypt, Between Gulf – Iran – USA/EU, IMF and BRICS, NSNBC International, http://nsnbc.me/2013/07/12/scramble-for-foreign-political-influence-over-egypt-between-gulf-i/

(25) Abouzeid, R. 2012, Aleppo’s Deadly Stalemate: A Visit to Syria’s Divided Metropolis, TIME Magazine, 14/11/2012, viewed 10/06/2013, http://world.time.com/2012/11/14/aleppos-deadly-stalemate-a-visit-to-syrias-divided-metropolis/

(26) World Tribune, 2013, NATO Data: Assad winning the war for Syrians’ hearts and minds, 31/05/2013, viewed 10/06/2013, http://www.worldtribune.com/2013/05/31/nato-data-assad-winning-the-war-for-syrians-hearts-and-minds/

(27) Perthes, V. 1995, The Political Economy of Syria Under Asad, I.B. Taurus & Co, London

(28) Pipes, D. 1989, The Alawi Capture of Power in Syria, Middle Eastern Studies, http://www.danielpipes.org/191/the-alawi-capture-of-power-in-syria

(29) Defence Intelligence Agency, 1982, Syria: Muslim Brotherhood Pressure Intensifies, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/files/fp_uploaded_documents/DIA-Syria-MuslimBrotherhoodPressureIntensifies.pdf

(30) Seale, P. 1988, Asad of Syria: The Struggle for the Middle East, University of California Press

(31) Fisk, R. 1992, Pity a Nation: Lebanon at War, Oxford University Press

(32) UN, 1981, Resolution adopted by the General Assembly: 36/103. Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention and Interference in the Internal Affairs of States, United Nations, http://www.un-documents.net/a36r103.htm

(33) Zion, I.B. & Rafaeli, A. We have no beef with Israel, Syrian Islamist rebel group says, Times of Israel, http://www.timesofisrael.com/we-have-no-beef-with-israel-syrian-islamist-rebel-group-says/

The Militarization of America

July 25th, 2013 by Bill Van Auken

This week’s deployment of Blackhawk helicopters in Chicago is only the latest in a series of “urban warfare training” exercises that have become a familiar feature of American life.

As elsewhere, this exercise was sprung unannounced on a startled civilian population. Conducted in secrecy, apparently with the collusion of local police agencies and elected officials, Democrats and Republicans alike, the ostensible purpose of these exercises is to give US troops experience in what Pentagon doctrine refers to as “Military Operations on Urban Terrain.”

Such operations are unquestionably of central importance to the US military. Over the past decade, its primary mission, as evidenced in Afghanistan and Iraq, has been the invasion and occupation of relatively powerless countries and the subjugation of their resisting populations, often in house-to-house fighting in urban centers.

The Army operates a 1,000 acre Urban Training Center in south-central Indiana that boasts over 1,500 “training structures” designed to simulate houses, schools, hospitals and factories. The center’s web site states that it “can be tailored to replicate both foreign and domestic scenarios.”

What does flying Blackhawks low over Chicago apartment buildings or rolling armored military convoys through the streets of St. Louis accomplish that cannot be achieved through the sprawling training center’s simulations? Last year alone, there were at least seven such exercises, including in Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Tampa, St. Louis, Minneapolis and Creeds, Virginia.

The most obvious answer is that these exercises accustom troops to operating in US cities, while desensitizing the American people to the domestic deployment of US military might.

Preparations for such deployments are already far advanced. Over the past decade, under the pretext of prosecuting a “global war on terror,” Washington has enacted a raft of repressive legislation and created a vast new bureaucracy of state control under the Department of Homeland Security. Under the Obama administration, the White House has claimed the power to throw enemies of the state into indefinite military detention or even assassinate them on US soil by means of drone strikes, while radically expanding electronic spying on the American population.

Part of this process has been the ceaseless growth of the power of the US military and its increasing intervention into domestic affairs. In 2002, the creation of the US Northern Command for the first time dedicated a military command to operations within the US itself.

Just last May, the Pentagon announced the implementation of new rules of engagement for US military forces operating on American soil to provide “support” to “civilian law enforcement authorities, including responses to civil disturbances.”

The document declares sweeping and unprecedented military powers under a section entitled “Emergency Authority.” It asserts the authority of a “federal military commander” in “extraordinary emergency circumstances where prior authorization by the president is impossible and duly constituted local authorities are unable to control the situation, to engage temporarily in activities that are necessary to quell large-scale, unexpected civil disturbances.” In other words, the Pentagon brass claims the unilateral authority to impose martial law.

These powers are not being asserted for the purpose of defending the US population against terrorism or to counter some hypothetical emergency. The US military command is quite conscious of where the danger lies.

In a recent article, a senior instructor at the Fort Leavenworth Command and General Staff College and former director of the Army’s School of Advanced Military Studies laid out a telling scenario for a situation in which the military could intervene.

“The Great Recession of the early twenty-first century lasts far longer than anyone anticipated. After a change in control of the White House and Congress in 2012, the governing party cuts off all funding that had been dedicated to boosting the economy or toward relief. The United States economy has flatlined, much like Japan’s in the 1990s, for the better part of a decade. By 2016, the economy shows signs of reawakening, but the middle and lower-middle classes have yet to experience much in the way of job growth or pay raises. Unemployment continues to hover perilously close to double digits …”

In other words, the Pentagon sees these conditions—which differ little from what exists in the US today—producing social upheavals that can be quelled only by means of military force.

What is being upended, behind the scenes and with virtually no media coverage, much less public debate, are constitutional principles dating back centuries that bar the use of the military in civilian law enforcement. In the Declaration of Independence itself, the indictment justifying revolution against King George included the charge that he had “affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.”

Side by side with the rising domestic power of the military, the supposedly civilian police have been militarized. An article published by the Wall Street Journal last weekend entitled “The Rise of the Warrior Cop” graphically described this process:

“Driven by martial rhetoric and the availability of military-style equipment—from bayonets and M-16 rifles to armored personnel carriers—American police forces have often adopted a mind-set previously reserved for the battlefield. The war on drugs and, more recently, post-9/11 antiterrorism efforts have created a new figure on the US scene: the warrior cop—armed to the teeth, ready to deal harshly with targeted wrongdoers, and a growing threat to familiar American liberties.”

The article describes the vast proliferation of SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) units to virtually every town in America, fueled by some $35 billion in grants from the Department of Homeland Security, “with much of the money going to purchase military gear such as armored personnel carriers.”

This armed force was on full display in April when what amounted to a state of siege was imposed on the city of Boston, ostensibly to capture one teenage suspect. The entire population of a major American city was locked in their homes as combat-equipped police, virtually indistinguishable from troops, occupied the streets and conducted warrantless house-to-house searches.

Underlying this unprecedented militarization of US society are two parallel processes. The immense widening of the social chasm separating the billionaires and multi-millionaires who control economic and political life from American working people, the great majority of the population, is fundamentally incompatible with democracy and requires other forms of rule. At the same time, the turn to militarism as the principal instrument of US foreign policy has vastly increased the power of the military within the US state apparatus.

Both America’s ruling oligarchy and the Pentagon command recognize that profound social polarization and deepening economic crisis must give rise to social upheavals. They are preparing accordingly.

The working class must draw the appropriate conclusions and make its own political preparations for the inevitable confrontations to come.

Amitai Etzioni has raised an important question: “Who authorized preparations for war with China?”  http://yalejournal.org/2013/06/12/who-authorized-preparations-for-war-with-china/  Etzioni says that the war plan is not the sort of contingency plan that might be on hand for an improbable event.  Etzioni also reports that the Pentagon’s war plan was not ordered by, and has not been reviewed by, US civilian authorities. We are confronted with a neoconized US military out of control endangering Americans and the rest of the world.
Etzioni is correct that this is a momentous decision made by a neoconized military. China is obviously aware that Washington is preparing for war with China. If the Yale Journal knows it, China knows it. If the Chinese government is realistic, the government is aware that Washington is planning a pre-emptive nuclear attack against China.  No other kind of war makes any sense from Washington’s standpoint. The “superpower” was never able to occupy Baghdad, and after 11 years of war has been defeated in Afghanistan by a few thousand lightly armed Taliban.  It would be curtains for Washington to get into a conventional war with China.
When China was a primitive third world country, it fought the US military to a stalemate in Korea.  Today China has the world’s second largest economy and is rapidly overtaking the failing US economy destroyed by jobs offshoring, bankster fraud, and corporate and congressional treason.
The Pentagon’s war plan for China is called “AirSea Battle.” The plan describes itself as “interoperable air and naval forces that can execute networked, integrated attacks-in-depth to disrupt, destroy, and defeat enemy anti-access area denial capabilities.”
Yes, what does that mean?  It means many billions of dollars of more profits for the military/security complex while the 99 percent are ground under the boot. It is also clear that this nonsensical jargon cannot defeat a Chinese army.  But this kind of saber-rattling can lead to war, and if the Washington morons get a war going, the only way Washington can prevail is with nuclear weapons. The radiation, of course, will kill Americans as well.
Nuclear war is on Washington’s agenda. The rise of the Neocon Nazis has negated the nuclear disarmament agreements that Reagan and Gorbachev made.  The extraordinary, mainly truthful 2012 book, The Untold History of the United States by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick, describes the post-Reagan breakout of preemptive nuclear attack as Washington’s first option.
During the Cold War nuclear weapons had a defensive purpose. The purpose was to prevent nuclear war by the US and USSR each having sufficient retaliatory power to ensure “mutually assured destruction.” MAD, as it was known, meant that nuclear weapons had no offensive advantage for either side.
The Soviet collapse and China’s focus on its economy instead of its military have resulted in Washington’s advantage in nuclear weaponry that, according to two US Dr. Strangeglove characters, Keir Lieber and Daryl Press, gives Washington first-strike capability. Lieber and Press write that the “precipitous decline of Russia’s arsenal, and the glacial pace of modernization of China’s nuclear forces,” have created a situation in which neither Russia nor China could retaliate to Washington’s first strike. 
The Pentagon’s “AirSea Battle” and Lieber and Press’ article in Foreign Affairs have informed China and Russia that Washington is contemplating pre-emptive nuclear attack on both countries. To ensure Russia’s inability to retaliate, Washington is placing anti-ballistic missiles on Russia’s borders in violation of the US-USSR agreement.
Because the American press is a corrupt government propaganda ministry, the American people have no idea that neoconized Washington is planning nuclear war. Americans are no more aware of this than they are of former President Jimmy Carter’s recent statement, reported only in Germany, that the United States no longer has a functioning democracy.
The possibility that the United States would initiate nuclear war was given reality eleven years ago when President George W. Bush, at the urging of Dick Cheney and the neocons that dominated his regime, signed off on the 2002 Nuclear Posture Review.
This neocon document, signed off on by America’s most moronic president, resulted in consternation and condemnation from the rest of the world and launched a new arms race. Russian President Putin immediately announced that Russia would spend all necessary sums to maintain Russia’s retaliatory nuclear capability. The Chinese displayed their prowess by knocking a satellite out of space with a missile. The mayor of  Hiroshima, recipient city of a vast American war crime, stated: “The nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the central international agreement guiding the elimination of nuclear weapons, is on the verge of collapse. The chief cause is US nuclear policy that, by openly declaring the possibility of a pre-emptive nuclear first strike and calling for resumed research into mini-nukes and other so-called ‘useable nuclear weapons,’ appears to worship nuclear weapons as God.”
Polls from all over the world consistently show that Israel and the US are regarded as the two greatest threats to peace and to life on earth. Yet, these two utterly lawless governments prance around pretending to be the “world’s greatest democracies.”  Neither government accepts any accountability whatsoever to international law, to human rights, to the Geneva Conventions, or to their own statutory law. The US and Israel are rogue governments, throwbacks to the Hitler and Stalin era. 
The post World War II wars originate in Washington and Israel.  No other country has imperial expansionary ambitions. The Chinese government has not seized Taiwan, which China could do at will. The Russian government has not seized former constituent parts of Russia, such as Georgia, which, provoked by Washington to launch an attack, was instantly overwhelmed by the Russian Army.  Putin could have hung Washington’s Georgian puppet and reincorporated Georgia into Russia, where it resided for several centuries and where many believe it belongs.
For the past 68 years, most military aggression can be sourced to the US and Israel. 
Yet, these two originators of wars pretend to be the victims of aggression. It is Israel that has a nuclear arsenal that is illegal, unacknowledged, and unaccountable. It is Washington that has drafted a war plan based on nuclear first strike.  The rest of the world is correct to view these two rogue unaccountable governments as direct threats to life on earth.

 

 

 

 

“Understand that … people are dying who could be saved, that generations more will die or live poor butchered half-lives if you fail to act.”. George L. Jackson, former Black Panther activist – shot to death by prison wardens on August 21, 1971.

 

 

The mass hunger strike by prisoners in California’s jails has run into its third week. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR ) has refused to negotiate or address the strikers’ five main demands. Prison officials have shown no interest in negotiating an end to the mass hunger strike despite the obvious dangers to the prisoners health.

 

“This is a clear attack against a non-violent protest,” says Anne Weills, attorney for several hunger strikers. “It is pathetic that in response to prisoners’ calls for basic human and civil rights, the CDCR responds by violating those rights.”

 

 

Instead, prison officials have tried to break the mass hunger strike by moving prisoners’ representatives from Secure Housing Units at Pelican Bay State Prison to Administrative Segregation, blasting cold air into cells leaving some of the men sick and freezing and confiscating legal documents from hunger strikers. The callous inhumanity of prison officials has led them to deny hunger strikers medical attention and banning lawyers such as Marilyn McMahon from visiting the hunger strikers.

 

“This is a matter of life and death for both the strikers and their families,” said mediator Barbara Becnel.“We object in the strongest possible terms to the complacency of the CDCR.”

 

 

Jeffrey Beard Secretary of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has refused to meet with mediators working on behalf of the hunger strikers. Meanwhile California Governor Jerry Brown refuses to intervene in the unfolding crisis and is off touring Europe. Ironically enough one of his tour dates is a visit to the Concentration camp at Dachau in Germany where thousands where tortured by Nazi prison authorities.

 

Not surprisingly, families and loved ones of the hunger strikers are outraged by this callous indifference to the fate of thousands of men.

 

The hunger strikers at Pelican Bay State Prison who have been placed in Administrative Segregation are reportedly in high spirits and showing great resolve in the face of attempts to break them. On Day 17 of the mass hunger strike they released the following statement:

 

”Greetings of solidarity and respect to all of our supporters, all people of conscience around the world, and all similarly situated prisoners. You should know that once again our peaceful protest is making history, bringing international attention to our collective efforts to bring an end, once and for all, to the inhumane conditions and torture of indefinite solitary confinement.

We are being tortured each day by state officials (Governor Brown, his appointee CDCR Secretary Beard, and all his underlings). Increased retaliation has been perpetuated upon defenceless and starving prisoners who only seek what any human being strives for—humane treatment, dignity, equality, and justice for our families, loved ones, and ourselves. These are the fundamental rights of all people, including those incarcerated by the state. We are doing all we can, together with our outside supporters, to bring about a positive changes. Gov. Brown is not above the will of the people of California, and if he refuses to recognize the legitimacy of our human and civil rights struggle against the practices of this prison system, then it is the responsibility of the federal government and President Obama to use their powers to stop the harm being done to thousands of prisoners being held in solitary confinement.

CDCR officials are attempting to undermine the voluntary actions of prisoners who truly want better treatment and living conditions by wrongfully accusing us of forcing tens-of-thousands of prisoners across California, along with our supporters in the free world, to participate in our protest. Prisoners across the state are participating because of the inhumane conditions they are being subjected to. As HUMAN BEINGS prisoners are collectively resisting such treatment, and they are doing so peacefully. The attempted repression of our protest has not broken our spirits. In fact it has only helped to strengthen each of us—individually and collectively. Despite CDCR’s retaliations and propaganda, we remain steadfast in our commitment. We will see our peaceful hunger strike through to victory, even if this requires us to endure the torture of force-feeding. We believe at this point in our struggle we are prepared to do what is necessary in order for Gov. Brown and the CDCR to realize how serious we are, and how far and long we are willing to go to have our reasonable demands implemented.

We are hopeful that all those brave men and women across the state who are participating in this strike—all who are able health-wise—will be encouraged to issue public statements of their own, via media outlets across the country, letting the world know why they have taken part in this historic, collective struggle.

In closing, we want to inform the world that this hunger strike is far from over. We are in it for the long haul. Thus, we strongly urge Gov. Brown to return from his “get-away” vacation overseas and deal urgently with this crisis before more prisoners suffer serious health damage or death. If any deaths do occur, the responsibility for them will fall squarely on Brown and the CDCR in their callousness and inaction.

We believe that we will prevail.

 

In Solidarity,
PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Representatives
- Todd Asher, C-58191, PBSP-SHU, D4-121
- Arturo Castellanos, C-17275, PBSP-SHU, D1-121
- Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry), C-35671, PBSP-SHU,D1-117
- Antonio Guillen, P-81948, PBSP-SHU, D2-106

 

 

Ordinary people across the world can help stop the torture by telling the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to return the 14 prisoner representatives at Pelican Bay State Prison to their cells and return their confiscated legal documents and lift the ban on their lawyer Marilyn McMahon, so that she can visit her clients.

 

American capitalism spends tens of billions of dollars locking up its poorest citizens. Nearly 2 million Americans are incarcerated in prison as part of an attempt to divide the population and prevent young people in particular from fighting back against massive social and economic inequality. This historic mass hunger strike shows how resistance to a barbaric and inhumane society is possible against overwhelming odds.

 

You can support the hunger strikers by signing the petition to Governor Jerry Brown

 

http://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/51040/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=11455

 

or visit the website of the Prison Hunger Strike Solidarity Campaign.

The Threat of Nuclear War, North Korea or the United States?

July 25th, 2013 by Prof Michel Chossudovsky

While the Western media portrays North Korea’s nuclear weapons program as a threat to Global Security, it fails to acknowledge that the US has being threatening North Korea with a nuclear attack for more than half a century.

On July 27, 2013, Armistice Day, Koreans in the North and the South will be commemorating the end of the Korean war (1950-53). Unknown to the broader public, the US had envisaged the use of nuclear weapons against North Korea at the very outset of the Korean War in 1950. In the immediate wake of the war, the US deployed nuclear weapons in South Korea for use on a pre-emptive basis against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in violation of the July 1953 Armistice Agreement. 


  Michel Chossudovsky’s keynote address at the 60th anniversary commemoration of the end of the Korean war, Seoul, South Korea, July 26, 2013 

“The Hiroshima Doctrine” applied to North Korea

US nuclear doctrine pertaining to Korea was established following the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, which were largely directed against civilians.

The strategic objective of a nuclear attack under the “Hiroshima doctrine” was to trigger a “massive casualty producing event” resulting in tens of thousands of deaths. The objective was to terrorize an entire nation, as a means of military conquest. Military targets were not the main objective: the notion of “collateral damage” was used as a justification for the mass killing of civilians, under the official pretence that Hiroshima was “a military base” and that civilians were not the target.

In the words of President Harry Truman:

“We have discovered the most terrible bomb in the history of the world. … This weapon is to be used against Japan … [We] will use it so that military objectives and soldiers and sailors are the target and not women and children. Even if the Japs are savages, ruthless, merciless and fanatic, we as the leader of the world for the common welfare cannot drop that terrible bomb on the old capital or the new. …  The target will be a purely military one… It seems to be the most terrible thing ever discovered, but it can be made the most useful.” (President Harry S. Truman, Diary, July 25, 1945)

“The World will note that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima a military base. That was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, insofar as possible, the killing of civilians..” (President Harry S. Truman in a radio speech to the Nation, August 9, 1945). 

[Note: the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945; the Second on Nagasaki, on August 9, on the same day as Truman's radio speech to the Nation]

Nobody within the upper echelons of the US government and military believed that Hiroshima was a military base, Truman was lying to himself and to the American public. To this day the use of nuclear weapons against Japan is justified as a necessary cost for bringing the war to an end and ultimately “saving lives”. 

US Nuclear Weapons Stockpiled and Deployed in South Korea

Barely a few years after the end of the Korean War, the US initiated its deployment of nuclear warheads in South Korea. This deployment in Uijongbu and Anyang-Ni had been envisaged as early as 1956.

It is worth noting that the US decision to bring nuclear warheads to South Korea was in blatant violation of  Paragraph 13(d) of the Armistice Agreement which prohibited the warring factions from introducing new weapons into Korea.

The actual deployment of nuclear warheads started in January 1958, four and a half years after the end of the Korean War, “with the introduction of five nuclear weapon systems: the Honest John surface-to-surface missile, the Matador cruise missile, the Atomic-Demolition Munition (ADM) nuclear landmine, and the 280-mm gun and 8-inch (203mm) howitzer.” (See The nuclear information project: US Nuclear Weapons in Korea)

The Davy Crockett projectile was deployed in South Korea between July 1962 and June 1968. The warhead had selective yields up to 0.25 kilotons. The projectile weighed only 34.5 kg (76 lbs). Nuclear bombs for fighter bombers arrived in March 1958, followed by three surface-to-surface missile systems (Lacrosse, Davy Crockett, and Sergeant) between July 1960 and September 1963. The dual-mission Nike Hercules anti-air and surface-to-surface missile arrived in January 1961, and finally the 155-mm Howitzer arrived in October 1964. At the peak of this build-up, nearly 950 warheads were deployed in South Korea.

Four of the weapon types only remained deployed for a few years, while the others stayed for decades. The 8-inch Howitzer stayed until late 1991, the only weapon to be deployed throughout the entire 33-year period of U.S. nuclear weapons deployment to South Korea. The other weapons that stayed till the end were the air delivered bombs (several different bomb types were deployed over the years, ending with the B61) and the 155-mm Howitzer nuclear artillery. (Ibid)

Officially the US deployment of nuclear weapons in South Korea lasted for 33 years. The deployment was targeted against North Korea as well as China and the Soviet Union.

This composite image shows the LGM-30G Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) (L) and the LG-118A Peacekeeper missile(R). (AFP Photo/US DoD)

This composite image shows the LGM-30G Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) (L) and the LG-118A Peacekeeper missile(R). (AFP Photo/US DoD)

South Korea’s Nuclear Weapons Program

Concurrent and in coordination with the US deployment of nuclear warheads in South Korea, the ROK had initiated its own nuclear weapons program in the early 1970s. The official story is that the US exerted pressure on Seoul to abandon their nuclear weapons program and “sign the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in April 1975 before it had produced any fissile material.” (Daniel A. Pinkston, “South Korea’s Nuclear Experiments,” CNS Research Story, 9 November 2004, http://cns.miis.edu.]

The ROK’s nuclear initiative was from the outset in the early 1970s under the supervision of the US and was developed as a component part of the US deployment of nuclear weapons, with a view to threatening North Korea.

Moreover, while this program was officially ended in 1978, the US promoted scientific expertise as well as training of the ROK military in the use of nuclear weapons. And bear in mind: under the ROK-US CFC agreement, all operational units of the ROK are under joint command headed by a US General. This means that all the military facilities and bases established by the Korean military are de facto joint facilities. There are a total of 27 US military facilities in the ROK (See List of United States Army installations in South Korea – Wikipedia)

The Planning of Nuclear Attacks against North Korea from the Continental US and from Strategic US Submarines

According to military sources, the removal of US nuclear weapons from South Korea was initiated in the mid 1970s. It was completed in 1991: 

The nuclear weapons storage site at Osan Air base was deactivated in late 1977. This reduction continued over the following years and resulted in the number of nuclear weapons in South Korea dropping from some 540 in 1976 to approximately 150 artillery shells and bombs in 1985. By the time of the Presidential Nuclear Initiative in 1991, roughly 100 warheads remained, all of which had been withdrawn by December 1991. (The nuclear information project: withdrawal of US nuclear weapons from South Korea)

According to official statements, the US withdrew its nuclear weapons from South Korea in December 1991.

This withdrawal from Korea did not in any way modify the US threat of nuclear war directed against the DPRK. On the contrary: it was tied to changes in US military strategy with regard to the deployment of nuclear warheads. Major North Korean cities were to be targeted with nuclear warheads from US continental locations and from US strategic submarines (SSBN)  rather than military facilities in South Korea:

After the withdrawal of [US] nuclear weapons from South Korea in December 1991, the 4th Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base has been tasked with nuclear strike planning against North Korea. Since then, strike planning against North Korea with non-strategic nuclear weapons has been the responsibility of fighter wings based in the continental United States. One of these is the 4th Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina. …

“We simulated fighting a war in Korea, using a Korean scenario. … The scenario…simulated a decision by the National Command Authority about considering using nuclear weapons….We identified aircraft, crews, and [weapon] loaders to load up tactical nuclear weapons onto our aircraft….

With a capability to strike targets in less than 15 minutes, the Trident D5 sea-launched ballistic missile is a “mission critical system” for U.S. Forces Korea. Ballistic Missile Submarines and Long-Range Bombers

In addition to non-strategic air delivered bombs, sea-launched ballistic missiles onboard strategic Ohio-class submarines (SSBNs) patrolling in the Pacific appear also to have a mission against North Korea. A DOD General Inspector report from 1998 listed the Trident system as a “mission critical system” identified by U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. Forces Korea as “being of particular importance to them.”

Although the primary mission of the Trident system is directed against targets in Russia and China, a D5 missile launched in a low-trajectory flight provides a unique very short notice (12-13 minutes) strike capability against time-critical targets in North Korea. No other U.S. nuclear weapon system can get a warhead on target that fast. Two-three SSBNs are on “hard alert” in the Pacific at any given time, holding Russian, Chinese and North Korean targets at risk from designated patrol areas.

Long-range strategic bombers may also be assigned a nuclear strike role against North Korea although little specific is known. An Air Force map (see below) suggests a B-2 strike role against North Korea. As the designated carrier of the B61-11 earth penetrating nuclear bomb, the B-2 is a strong candidate for potential nuclear strike missions against North Korean deeply buried underground facilities.

As the designated carrier of the B61-11 earth penetrating nuclear bomb [with an explosive capacity between one third and six times a Hiroshima bomb] and a possible future Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, the B-2 stealth bomber could have an important role against targets in North Korea. Recent upgrades enable planning of a new B-2 nuclear strike mission in less than 8 hours. (Ibid)

“Although the South Korean government at the time confirmed the withdrawal, U.S. affirmations were not as clear. As a result, rumors persisted for a long time — particularly in North and South Korea — that nuclear weapons remained in South Korea. Yet the withdrawal was confirmed by Pacific Command in 1998 in a declassified portion of the CINCPAC Command History for 1991.” (The nuclear information project: withdrawal of US nuclear weapons from South Korea, emphasis added))

The Bush Administration’s 2001 Nuclear Posture Review: Pre-emptive Nuclear War

The Bush administration in its 2001 Nuclear Posture Review established the contours of a new post 9/11 “pre-emptive” nuclear war doctrine, namely that nuclear weapons could be used as an instrument of “self-defense” against non-nuclear states

“Requirements for U.S. nuclear strike capabilities” directed against North Korea were established as part of  a Global Strike mission under the helm of  US Strategic Command Headquarters in Omaha Nebraska, the so-called CONPLAN 8022, which was directed against a number of “rogue states” including North Korea as well as China and Russia.

On November 18, 2005, the new Space and Global Strike command became operational at STRATCOM after passing testing in a nuclear war exercise involving North Korea.

Current U.S. Nuclear strike planning against North Korea appears to serve three roles: The first is a vaguely defined traditional deterrence role intended to influence North Korean behavior prior to hostilities.

This role was broadened somewhat by the 2001 Nuclear Posture Review to not only deter but also dissuade North Korea from pursuing weapons of mass destruction.

Why, after five decades of confronting North Korea with nuclear weapons, the Bush administration believes that additional nuclear capabilities will somehow dissuade North Korea from pursuing weapons of mass destruction [nuclear weapons program] is a mystery. (Ibid, emphasis added)

Who is the Threat? North Korea or the United States?

The asymmetry of nuclear weapons capabilities between the US and the DPRK must be emphasised. According to ArmsControl.org (April 2013) the United States: 

“possesses 5,113 nuclear warheads, including tactical, strategic, and non-deployed weapons.”

According to the latest official New START declaration, out of more than 5113 nuclear weapons,

“the US deploys 1,654 strategic nuclear warheads on 792 deployed ICBMs, SLBMs, and strategic bombers…” ArmsControl.org (April 2013). 

Moreover, according to The Federation of American Scientists the U.S. possesses 500 tactical nuclear warheads. (ArmsControl.org April 2013)

In contrast  the DPRK, according to the same source: 

 “has separated enough plutonium for roughly 4-8 nuclear warheads. North Korea unveiled a centrifuge facility in 2010, buts ability to produce highly-enriched uranium for weapons remains unclear.”

According to expert opinion:

“there is no evidence that North Korea has the means to lob a nuclear-armed missile at the United States or anyone else. So far, it has produced several atomic bombs and tested them, but it lacks the fuel and the technology to miniaturize a nuke and place it on a missile” ( North Korea: What’s really happening – Salon.com April 5, 2013) 

According to Siegfried Hecker, one of America’s pre-eminent nuclear scientists:

“Despite its recent threats, North Korea does not yet have much of a nuclear arsenal because it lacks fissile materials and has limited nuclear testing experience,” (Ibid)

The threat of nuclear war does not emanate from the DPRK but from the US and its allies.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the unspoken victim of US military aggression, has been incessantly portrayed as a war mongering nation, a menace to the American Homeland and a  “threat to World peace”. These stylized accusations have become part of a media consensus.

Meanwhile, Washington is now implementing a $32 billion refurbishing of strategic nuclear weapons as well as a revamping of its tactical nuclear weapons, which according to a 2002 Senate decision “are harmless to the surrounding civilian population.”

These continuous threats and actions of latent aggression directed against the DPRK should also be understood as part of the broader US military agenda in East Asia, directed against China and Russia.

It is important that people across the land, in the US, Western countries, come to realize that the United States rather than North Korea or Iran is a threat to global security.

Armageddon at a City Near You

July 25th, 2013 by Global Research News

A new interactive map lets users nuke any location in the world with a nuclear bomb of their choosing.

The Nukemap 3D uses Google Earth images to simulate the nuclear attack and bases the animations on how mushroom clouds have behaved using information from various nuclear tests since the 1940s.

Users can select a location, choose their weapon and their viewing location, and see the bomb drop and the cloud develop. The altitude of the cloud, how far it spreads and the number of casualties is also shown.

Click the map below to nuke a city

How does nukemap 3D work?

The Nukemap 3D uses Google Earth images to simulate the nuclear attack and bases the animations on how mushroom clouds have behaved during various tests since the 1940s.

Users can select a location, choose their weapon and their viewing location, and see the bomb drop and the cloud develop real-time.

The altitude of the cloud, how far it spreads and the number of casualties is also shown.

Casualty numbers are based on how many people live in that region and their various distances from ground zero.

Nukemap 3D is the third in a series of nuclear bombing simulators created by historian Alex Wellerstein from the American Institute of Physics in Mayland.

According to Wellerstein, the map was designed to provide a visual and accurate simulation of what would happen if a nuclear bomb was dropped on any city in the world.

It was also created to give people a better understanding of how it would affect their hometowns or places they are familiar with.

And the map can highlight the varying levels of nuclear bombs and their respective threat.

Wellerstein said on his blog: ‘We live in a world where nuclear weapons issues are on the front pages of our newspapers on a regular basis, yet most people still have a very bad sense of what an exploding nuclear weapon can actually do.’

Casualty numbers quoted on Nukemap are based on how many people live in that region and their various distances from ground zero.

This image shows the cloud from a 10 kiloton blast on Manhattan, as seen from New York harbour. This image shows the cloud from a 10 kiloton blast on Manhattan, as seen from New York harbour. The Nukemap 3D lets you change location, the size of the bomb and the viewing location

This population information was bought by the Centre for History of Physics at the American Institute of Physics.

The behaviour of the clouds is based on equations by E. Royce Fletcher, Ray W. Albright, Robert F.D. Perret, Mary E. Franklin, I. Gerald Bowen, and Clayton S. White, as well as U.S. Atomic Energy Commission Civil Effects Test Operations, written in February 1953, and Samuel Glasstone and Philip J. Dolan’s The Effects of Nuclear Weapons, 1964 edition.

The bombs Nukemap users can choose from include a North Korean bomb tested in October 2006 as well as the ‘Little Boy’ Hiroshima bomb and the ‘Ivy King’ – the largest known pure fission weapon ever tested.

If a 20kt nuclear bomb was dropped on Oxford, pictured, the cloud altitude could reach 7,210m.If a 20kt nuclear bomb was dropped on Oxford, pictured, the cloud altitude could reach 7,210m. It could cause 11,950 deaths and 42,750 injuries

Each bomb is shown with its relative yield in tonnes or kilotonnes, which determines the size and impact of the nuke.

Wellerstein adds that all of the information used to create the Nukemap 3D is publicly available and doesn’t provide any secret data.

He defends the map against critics who claim the site could be used by terrorists by saying: ‘ If we get to the point where a terrorist group is asking, ‘where should I set off my nuclear weapon that I have?’ then we’ve already gone past the point of no return. There’s no way to avert a catastrophe at that point.’

Because the Nukemap 3D uses Google Earth images, users must have the Google Earth plug-in installed on their browser to use the map.

One of the major conflicts of the era that is not often highlighted for public debate is whether we want an economy that privatizes government services and public resources and continues to concentrate wealth; or whether we want to develop an economic democracy that invests in the public interest and creates shared prosperity.

Journalist Ted Koppel summarized the privatization trend: “We are privatizing ourselves into one disaster after another…. We’ve privatized a lot of what our military is doing. We’ve privatized a lot of what our intelligence agencies are doing. We’ve privatized our very prison system in many parts of the country. We’re privatizing the health system within those prisons. And it’s not working well.”

The alternative, also growing rapidly albeit more quietly without corporate media coverage, is economic democracy.  This is based on new models that give people greater control over their economic lives, share wealth in an egalitarian way and allow people to have more influence over the direction of the economy.

Privatization vs. Public Ownership

Privatization versus public ownership of services and resources is one aspect of this debate, but there are also a host of other issues that beg discussion. We will delve into many of these in detail in the Economic Democracy Conference of the Democracy Convention in Madison, WI from August 7 to August 11. Presenters who are deeply involved in their subjects will speak about big picture topics such as what money is, ending debt and creating a new economy to more hands-on topics such as creating socially-responsible businesses, alternative currencies, affordable housing, public banks, saving the post office, local investment, cooperatives and publicly-owned renewable energy. We encourage you to attend the conference (the price is low to make it possible for many to attend) and will provide reports and videos from the conference on It’s Our Economy for those who cannot make it.

The United States is moving on an aggressive, disastrous path of privatization of government services. Some recent examples include the Air Force considering the privatization of Cape Canaveral, NOAA privatizing satellite weather services and schools across the country privatizing education. Everything is on the table to be given over to private industry – airports, roads, health services and water.

Just think how capitalist profiteers’ mouths must be watering at these opportunities.  The taxpayer spends hundreds of billions developing Cape Canaveral and space exploration or weather satellite technology, and then big business buys-in cheap and gets long-term profits.

The bamboozling of the American public from corporate-funded politicians speaking through the corporate mass media is hard to believe. At its root, privatization is about profit for a few at the expense of the many – the workers and people who need the services.  How do they sell this scheme to the public?

One key is self-created money scarcity – which should not even be an issue.  We say that money scarcity should not be an issue because Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) demonstrates that government has the power to create money. This video interview of economist Warren Mosler describes MMT and how countries do not ever face a risk of being unable to pay their debts but can use money in a functional way to meet the economic needs of their country. Money scarcity is a driving force, as a chairman of a major finance company said at a privatization conference, “Desperate government is our best customer. There will be a lot of desperate governments out there.”

An example of how scarce resources are pushing toward privatization is this health clinic in Chicago.  The clinic lost federal funding of a grant that paid for free mammograms for Chicago women. To replace the funding they are seeking to privatize the clinic. Will privatized clinics that seek profit provide these free services? Another is the selling off of post offices across the country.

How do profiteers make money from providing government services? Some keys are job reduction, lower wages and fewer benefits for workers. These are consistently part of privatization, so the process further concentrates wealth at the top and weakens the middle class.  In Louisiana where four LSU hospitals were privatized, thousands of good paying middle class jobs were lost.  Hundreds lost their jobs permanently and those rehired were paid less with reduced benefits.  While an examination of health services has not been reported on yet, profiteering often requires cutting costs that result in lower access to services.

For these reasons, unions should fight privatization wherever they see it. In Washington, DC the union that represents transit workers is fighting plans to privatize bus service in the nation’s capital.  The contract, which includes a new trolley system in DC, would cost $1.5 billion over 30 years. The union warns it would result in 200 bus drivers losing their jobs and less bus routes for passengers. He summarized the reality of privatization of public services:

“We must keep public transportation public,” said Local 689 President Jackie Jeter. “When you start privatizing routes, you lose your say. This is about giving the public their say.”

In fact, as has been seen in the growth of private prisons, governments need to be wary. Cut backs on food and services have led to prison riots in some states. As an editorial in the Toledo Blade noted “Audits in several states, including Ohio, have found that the vendor, the Philadelphia-based catering giant Aramark, has charged for meals not served, changed recipes to use cheaper ingredients, and skimped on portions. A 2001 audit by then-Ohio Auditor Jim Petro found that the state’s prison system paid Aramark for serving nearly 4.5 million meals, instead of the 2.8 million meals it actually delivered, adding more than $2 million to contract costs. On-site visits also found inexcusable sanitation conditions, a lack of training, and “a near riot” at breakfast over Aramark’s strict adherence to portion sizes.” When profit is the goal – workers and services will be reduced to increase profit.

Underfunding of the transportation system is one area that is providing great opportunities for privateers.  For years the American Society of Civil Engineers has been warning that the US infrastructure is crumbling. As Business Week warned in 2007 “[i]nfrastructure is ultra-low-risk because competition is limited by a host of forces that make it difficult to build, say, a rival toll road. With captive customers, the cash flows are virtually guaranteed.” Who is going to build a rival road? Where will the commuters go when tolls rise?

When transportation is privatized, corporations control the transportation infrastructure which is a life blood of the economy. Control is ceded to private equity firms, out-of-state investment banks, global construction companies and the shareholders of these corporations.  The big Wall Street banks – Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Citigroup – are major players in roads for profit schemes. Profit becomes the overriding concern, not the needs of the public.

One important example in the news this week was the potential bankruptcy in Detroit.  Many cities face cash shortfalls as cities have been underfunded for decades by state and federal governments and have very little ability to raise money.  In Detroit, the mayor has been replaced by an unelected city manager, Kevyn Orr, and the governor announced the bankruptcy of the city. Many see this as an opportunity for profiteers to buy city property at desperate-sale prices (prices, set by an unelected city manager) – a feeding frenzy for privatizers.

Labor unions, city workers and workers’ pensions will be hit hard. Frank Hammer, a labor organizer in Detroit tells Real News “There have been a lot of conversations under the emergency manager, and certainly now under bankruptcy, about all the city assets that can be put up in a fire sale to help the city, supposedly to help the city pay off their debts. So they’re talking about, for example, selling what’s a very cherished public park in the middle of the Detroit River called the Belle Isle. They’re talking about selling that. They’re talking about selling the art collection that’s housed in the Detroit Institute of Art, which is apparently worth millions, and so that they’re going to just have a feeding frenzy privatizing what previously were understood to be public assets.” Michigan radio reports that everything is on the table, water, sewage treatment, art work, parks – the privatizing profiteers are waiting to see what Orr offers.

Robert Reich points to Detroit as an example of the bankruptcy of America’s social contract.  Racial and economic divides have resulted in many urban areas losing their financial base as wealthy whites moved to the suburbs.  While Detroit is one of the poorest areas of the country, the Detroit Metro area “is among the nation’s top five financial centers, the top four centers of high-technology employment, and the second-biggest source of engineering and architectural talent.”  In Birmingham, Michigan, just across the border from Detroit, $94,000 was the median income last year; and in nearby Bloomfield Hills the median was more than $150,000. In Detroit, 1 out of 3 residents are in poverty, and the median income is $26,000. Writers from New Economic Perspectives point out that the real solution to all the Detroits in the country is for the government to serve as employer of last resort and create a full employment economy.

If government policy treated the Detroit region as all one, there would be no bankruptcy and there would be enough resources to allow the area to take care of itself.  To Reich it is like big banks selling off their bad assets and writing off the loss.  The difference, of course, is that when you talk about a city you are talking about people – hundreds of thousands of people. Detroit exemplifies the wealth divide in America, and the destruction of the social contract that included social services, decent jobs and a more fair economy.

Some Corporate Functions Should Be Made Public Services

In fact, if the goal of the United States was a stronger economy for all, better services and a fair economy, we would be discussing turning some private functions into public services, accountable to the voters.  For example, The Roosevelt Institute reported this week that the United States ranks poorly in Internet services. In the US, the internet is more costly and slower than the rest of the developed world.  Why? Because government has allowed the Internet to be controlled by a series of monopolies like Verizon, Comcast, Time-Warner and AT&T that do not compete with each other. This allows Internet providers to charge whatever they want and provide whatever services they like. Of course, the corporate media is putting out a different message as revealed by two-New York Times OpEds cited in the report by corporate interests that were published in one week.

Roosevelt points out that while Europe and Asia are upgrading, the US has no plans to do so.  Right now, “the U.S. is behind South Korea, the UAE, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Portugal, Iceland, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, and Norway. Very few Americans have the option to buy fiber to the home connections at reasonable prices.”

Shouldn’t communication, like transportation, be a government service?  It is essential infrastructure for the economy and if it were run as a public service that put the needs of the people and the economy before profit for shareholders, we could create a plan to upgrade and expand Internet with lower costs.

This week showed us another area where privatization and inadequate regulation needs to be reconsidered – big Wall Street financial institutions. Many Americans see the big Wall Street banks as getting away with fraud, racketeering and money laundering and others go further and recognize the obscenities of capitalism.  Bank profits are up in a big way – even though unemployment is stuck at high levels, wages are shrinking and more employees have part-time or temporary jobs. Why? For banks, there is no money scarcity. They have easy funding of low-interest money from the Federal Reserve; and they are protected if their investments go bad by the federal government (i.e. the taxpayers). For example, Simon Johnson reports that JPMorgan has $200 billion in equity but a balance sheet of $2.5 trillion (under US accounting standards) and $4 trillion (under international standards).

This highlights a problem with Modern Monetary Theory as it applies to the US – in the US, the Federal Reserve creates money and provides it to banks at low interest or banks create money through highly leveraged loans.  Real MMT would have the government creating money and using it to fund projects that serve the public interest, e.g. infrastructure, teachers, nurses, social workers, mass transit and greening of the economy – not going into the balance sheets of banks and bonuses and big salaries of their executives.

More people are seeing that the Dodd-Frank financial reforms were insufficient and are calling for more.  Economic writer William Grieder points out “When Barack Obama boasted that his administration had put an end to ‘too big to fail’ banks, it was probably the biggest fib of his presidency. The legislation known as Dodd-Frank did no such thing but its passage effectively closed the subject.” But, now he sees a new season of reform, pointing to a proposal by Democrat Elizabeth Warren, Republican John McCain and Independent Angus King for a 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act to separate risky investment finance from traditional banking. The proposal would require a five-year transition period for banks to downsize and undo their maze of risky connections to shadow banking.

That is not the only reform proposed. Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican David Vitter seek to increase capital requirements on the biggest banks up to 15%. While their bill did not get a hearing, the Federal Reserve has increased requirements for the biggest 8 banks to 6%, up from the 3% agreed upon by international regulators, i.e. banks must have $6 to lend $100.

Others are talking about alternative regulations if Dodd-Frank fails, including greater regulation of derivatives, providing greater competition to risky investments through prominent offerings of safe investments, postal banks providing limited consumer financial products and re-making of the regulatory structure to create a single mega-regulator to prevent race-to-the-bottom regulations.

This week, a new scam of Goldman-Sachs was revealed, a scheme which raised aluminum prices costing consumers $5 billion over the last three years.  Goldman bought an aluminum storage company three years ago, since then the average wait time at the storage facility has gone up more than 20-fold, from six weeks to 16 months, resulting in more revenues for storing the aluminum. This means everything that uses aluminum, including the cost of beer, has increased. This was caused by the government loosening regulation so that banks that invest in commodities can also own operations like delivery, storage and inventory. During her final days in office, SEC Chair, Mary Schapiro approved a plan that would allow JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs and BlackRock, a large money management firm, to buy 80 percent of the copper available on the market on behalf of investors and hold it in warehouses. What do you think will be the impact on copper prices? The Fed can end all this if it declines to extend the exemptions that allowed Goldman and Morgan Stanley to make major investments in nonfinancial businesses, but pressure will be needed to make that happen.

Pressure Building From Below

That pressure is building. There are many positive signs. Occupy and its offshoots are taking action to both oppose policies that go against the public interest and to build new systems that protect people and the planet. The newest project is the Occupy Money card that can be used as a debit card without financing the big banks. Another is to stop the transnational corporate power grab, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, through www.FlushTheTPP.org.

People are taking action to solve the still problematic housing market. An investment fund, Boston Capital, is buying distressed houses and then selling them back to homeowners at a reduced cost of 40%’. The city of Richmond, California is seizing underwater houses threatened with foreclosure through eminent domain and selling them back to homeowners at an affordable rate.

More broadly, this week Delaware, among the most pro-corporate states and the home of one million corporations, became the 19th state to enact laws permitting “Benefit Corporations.”  These corporations allow companies to put people before profit. Their charter mission includes serving the public interest, not just making profit. Whether B corporations will be akin to “green washing” or real change toward public benefit remains to be seen.

Likewise, there are businesses that do take corporate social responsibility seriously, as Mohamed Yunus describes. He also states that “most of those companies don’t believe in CSR; they do it because it has become a cost of doing business. We can’t argue with good actions, no matter what motive drives them. But at heart such corporations are still the same soulless, profit-driven entities.” Time will tell whether CSR is beneficial overall or hides the harmful practices of some large corporations.

We do know that we are in a time of transition, an era that will define the next economy.  The effects of the neo-liberal economic agenda of privatization simultaneous with de-funding of public assets and services are becoming more obvious. People are fighting back in a number of ways. And greater awareness of economic democracy and modern monetary theory is growing. One thing is clear: it is going to take action from below to create an economy that puts people and the planet before profits.

Kevin Zeese, JD and Margaret Flowers, MD are participants in PopularResistance.org; they co-direct  It’s Our Economy  and co-host  Clearing the FOG  shown on UStream TV and heard on radio. Their twitters are @KBZeese and MFlowers8.

 

Syria, Iraq and Depleted Uranium

July 25th, 2013 by John Bart Gerald

As the U.S.considers expanding its war on Syria to overt military aggression, Iraq provides some warning of the human cost of accepting the policies of madmen. In Iraq military action starting with “Desert Storm” in 1991, caused the near total destruction of Iraq’s society, culture, environment and eventual losses of millions of innocent people. Health and mortality information risks heavy suppression and manipulation since it provides evidence concerning a crime. In Spain, the Brussells Tribunal‘s cogent case attempting to prosecute George Bush, Tony Blair and others for genocide inIraq was rejected by the court. Lack of legal recourse for the people of Iraq before a non-partisan international court marks the International Criminal Court’s failure to bend the major powers from illegal wars of aggression.

Primary alleged crimes of the U.S. and NATO coalition’s war on Iraq remain unaddressed:

1. aggression and the betrayal ofIraq’s sovereignty.

2. massive military bombardment of civilian areas.

3. intentional destruction of the civilian infrastructure and water supply.

4. use of depleted uranium weaponry to cause the slow death of civilian populations and render portions of the land unable to sustain health and life in the future.

While these points are neglected by the media, current information concerning use of depleted uranium is so notably missing there may be an attempt to remove the issue from the public’s awareness (1 and 2). While depleted uranium is a lethal radiological weapon, relevant public information is suppressed, excised, falsely countered and ignored.

Serbian sources claim that a UNEP 1999 Environmental Law report revealing the permanent damage to Yugoslavia was entirely suppressed, but with a portion leaked to an American journalist. In North America where the weapons are made, it’s not a welcome issue. Depleted uranium use indicates the intention of genocide against a people, their ability to reproduce, the health of their children, and continuation as a people.

A year after its slated release date, a report by the United Nations World Health Organization on congenital birth defects in areas ofIraqsubjected to depleted uranium

weaponry, hasn’t appeared though it was completed in October 2012. This oversight is  brought to the public’s attention in articles by Mozhgan Savabieasfahani in Aljazeera, and  Sudeshna Chowdhury in Inter Press Service. The withholding of the WHO report suggests extreme pressure on the World Health Organization by nations which have something terrible to hide. It would be difficult for the report to sidestep epidemic rates of cancer in Iraq regions where depleted uranium was used. Chowdhury’s article, “WHO’s Iraq Birth Defect Study Omits Causation,” indicates the WHO report purposefully avoids considering the causes of the overwhelming birth defects, disease, and death rates. The report relies in part on Iraq’s Ministry of Health for information. The Health Ministry is part of a government set up under occupation by the United States. If the WHO report is allowed to appear, it may cover, dissimulate, mask, and avoid blaming the major powers.

The issue of depleted uranium’s effects however, will exist as long as there are Iraqis, Yugoslavs or Afghans, – and U.S. and Coalition veterans. And because of their knowledge, victim peoples are further endangered. The proof of the damage resulting from unjust wars of aggression stays in the memories of the victim parents, the lives of the children who survive despite deformities, in the statistics for deaths by cancer which don’t begin to translate the burden of suffering for entire families.

Not only in Iraq, but Yugoslavia,Kosovo,Afghanistan,Libya, the people are finding they do not have the value of sparrows, and their lives and their children’s lives are taken from them without cause, by policies and military planners who have set themselves apart from humanity. At its inception the Convention on Genocide foresaw complicity of those in power to cover each other’s crimes and so is applicable without statute of limitations. To hide crimes of power, the present is hidden from us. For the future then, whatever the WHO report reveals or hides about the deformed children of Fallujah for example, there are studies (several are alluded to in Ms. Chowdhury’s article) that address effects of depleted uranium from the perspective of people who care about people more than politics:

“Depleted Uranium Radioactive Contamination In Iraq: An Overview,” Prof. Souad N. Al-Azzawi, Aug. 2006, Brussells Tribunal.

“The perpetual death from America,” Mohammed Daud Miraki, 2002, reprinted, nightslantern.ca.

“The silent genocide from America,” Miraki,  2003, reprinted nightslantern.ca.

“In a state of uncertainty,” IKV Pax Christi, January 2013, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“Crimes of the Century: Occupation & Contaminating Iraq with Depleted Uranium,”  Al-Azzawi, June 24, 2005, Brussells Tribunal.

“Innocent New Lives are Still Dying and Suffering,” Fact Finding Mission on congenital birth defects in Fallujah Iraqin 2013, April 2013, Human Rights Now.

“Uranium and other contaminants in hair from the parents of children with congenital anomalies in Fallujah, Iraq,” Samira Alaani, Muhammed Tafash, Christopher Busby, Malak Hamdan, Eleanore Blaurock-Busch, Sept. 2, 2011, Cell & Bioscience.

The people of Syria are already plunged into disaster with UN assessment of the number of refugees the largest since the Rwandan genocide. AsU.S.and NATO threats of direct military action against Syria continue, North Americans proceed with their lives as if there’s nothing wrong. As if the big lies reflect the common good. As if the murder of hundreds of thousands of distant people for the profits of a few, is somehow moral, legal, necessary, or safe to cooperate with the obvious terrible crimes of imperialism. It isn’t.

Partial sources online: “What’s delaying the WHO report on Iraqi birth defects?” Dr. Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, June 6, 2013,  Aljazeera; “UN health agency, Iraq studying birth defects,” AFP, Oct. 5, 2010, Google News; “Serbia: NATO’s Uranium Embrace,” Anna Filimonova, Jan. 29, 2013, Strategic Culture Foundation; “Depleted uranium ‘threatens Balkan cancer epidemic’ ,” Alex Kirby, July 30, 1999, BBC News; “The Responsibility of the US in Contaminating Iraq with Depleted Uranium,” Prof. Souad N. Al-Azzawi, Nov. 9, 2009 (presented at the Kuala Lumpur International Conference to Criminalise War, October 2009), uruknet.info;  “WHO’s Iraq Birth Defect Study Omits Causation,” Sudeshna Chowdhury, July 17, 2013, IPS; “Iraqi  cities ‘hot’ with depleted uranium,” Sara Flounders, August 2003, International Action Center; “‘Merciful angel’ still killing,” March 6, 2013, International Radio Serbia; “‘Fallujan Babies’ and Depleted Uranium — America’s Toxic Legacy in Iraq,” Dahr Jamail, March 18, 2013, Al Jazeera; “The Balkan DU Cover-up: Washington is Pressuring NATO and the UN to Keep the Lid on Investigations,” Robert James Parsons, March 22, 2001, The Nation.

 

Inside Syria: Britain Violates Own Anti-Terrorist Legislation

July 24th, 2013 by Prof Michel Chossudovsky

Since the onset of the Syrian crisis, Martin Chulov of the Guardian has continuously been one of the most prominent “journalists” whose coverage, to put kindly, has been skewed beyond any recognition of objective journalism. His narratives have systematically relied on sectarian overtones and cherry picked “activist” quotes from such bastions of objectivity as the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Chulov has gone to great to lengths to portray the conflict in simplistic and sectarian terms: “Assad the Alawite, versus the Sunni majority.”

The large part of Syrian society that ardently support their president has gone largely unmentioned in his coverage. The larger still part of Syrian society that simply want the war to end, and the militants to leave their towns and villages so they can attempt to rebuild their lives have been callously brushed aside by war-profiteers such as Chulov; who willingly ignore the much larger sections of Syrian society that don’t abide his bias narrative. Chulov perniciously attempts to lead the reader to believe the whole Syrian public is fighting against a regime and its security infrastructure. The simple fact that the majority of men fighting the Salafi/Jihadi dominated rebels within the Syrian Army itself are Sunni Syrians belies his whole false sectarian narrative.

Chulov’s latest article is no exception. The sectarian melodrama is set in the title: “Sunnis fear Assad wants to ethnically cleanse Alawhite heartland”, in usual fashion, Chulov plays on manufactured sectarian fear and a growing western narrative that Assad is planning on building an “Alawite enclave” in the western provinces of Syria reaching to the Mediterranean coast, the heartland of Assad’s Alawite sect.

The sub-title, illuminates Chulovs simplistic rendering and the basis for his “Alawite enclave” theory:

“Homs land registry fire and handing out of arms to villagers fuel concerns that an Alawite-Shia enclave is being formed in Syria.”

Chulov lays the foundations of his theory with these basic facts, Assad is arming “farmers and villagers”, ie: Syrian men of military age, that are willing to fight the extremist dominated insurgency Chulov has propagated and promoted for the best part of two years. Yet Chulov is eager to portray these farmers and villagers (Syrians) as “evil Shabiha” intent on sectarian cleansing.

And, lo and behold, the land registry in Homs has burnt down! It seems Chulov has forgotten Homs has been a conflict zone for quite some time, constantly under bombardment from either rebels, or the SAA attempting to remove them. This includes a massive air and artillery campaign on the SAA’s part. Again, it is beyond Chulov’s wildest imaginations that this particular building may well be under government auspices, therefore a prime target for his beloved rebels. Indeed, since the very first week of the crisis in Daraa, militants attacked Government buildings and offices – often setting them ablaze. In Chulovs investigative mind, there is only one explanation: “the “Shabiha” set the land registry ablaze to remove proof of land-ownership, his anonymous source, in an almost Sherlock-Watson moment of journalistic drama confirms Chulovs suspicions: (my emphasis)

“What else could be going on?” asked one resident who refused to be identified. “This is the most secure area of the city and it is the only building that has been burned. A conspiracy is underway.”

Once more Chulov relies on anonymous sources and vague rhetoric to underline that the fire was undoubtedly set by “regime forces”. Chulov tells us “eyewitnesses” (no names of course) and “employees” (employees of who exactly he is not clear) recall seeing flames in the upper floors of the ministry and regime forces in the floors below. The regime forces couldn’t possibly have been stationed there, inside a government building, or maybe even attempting to put the flames out. No, the only plausible explanation is that regime forces set the blaze then dutifully stood around in the floors below waiting for the ceiling to collapse, in public view of everyone, even “employees”!

Chulov takes us on his sectarian fantasy of Homs, he leads us to believe that regime controlled areas are no longer multi-ethnic towns under the auspice of government, (as they have been for decades) these towns have morphed into “Alawhite only” areas. Chulov fails to even mention that since the ontset of the crisis it has been predominantly the “rebels” he that have ethnically cleansed virtually every town or village they have entered, the examples are long and numerous. On the odd occasion rebel “liberated” towns and villages havent been completely emptied of civilian residents, the rebels have quickly laid sectarian demands upon Christian and Shi’a communities; engaged in summary executions, torture, imprisonment, and forced displacement, all on the basis of sect.

The oft-referenced town of Qusair is possibly the prime example of the duplicity inherent in reports from western “journalists” such as Chulov. He failed to show an ounce of “concern” back in 2012 when rebels entered Qusair and immediately forcibly removed all Christians living there (the vast majority of residents left at the same time, as has been the case in most rebel “liberated” areas). Indeed, he failed to even report on the rebel cleansing of Qusair. Chulov would find it extremely difficult to find a single town or village “liberated” by the extremist dominated rebels that hasn’t seen some form of ethnic cleansing, but these uncomfortable truths do not fit with his skewed narrative.

In fairness Chulov does attempt to offer some “balance” in his article, one whole sentence alludes to the mass exodus of Alawite’s from rebel held areas in the north of Syria (he doesn’t mention the thousands of Christians that have also been ethnically cleansed, nor the thousands of Sunnis that have left rebel-held areas due to the fundamentalist doctrine of the Salafi/Jihadi rebels forced upon them). Chulov explains this minimal episode of ethnic cleansing as a result of northern Syria being dominated by jihadists, giving the reader the false impression that rebels in other regions are not the jihadi type.

Literally every piece of information Chulov uses to bolster his “Alawite enclave” narrative is a secondary source form a rebel leader/militant, an activist, or an anonymous source. He again tells us that the whole of the North of Homs has been “emptied of Sunni’s” and replaced with Alawites, the empirical evidence he provides? “Local leaders claim”. Leaders of what and whom Chulov fails to reveal. The sectarian narrative Chulov has relied upon bears fruit once more, and again in the form of  an “activist” account: (my emphasis)

“There have been obvious examples of denominational cleansing in different areas in Homs,” said local activist, Abu Rami. “It is denominational cleansing; part of a major Iranian Shia plan, which is obvious through the involvement of Hezbollah and Iranian militias. And it’s also part of Assad’s personal Alawite state project.”

One must seriously take this man for his word, obviously an “activist” (a common euphemism for armed opposition rebel in western media) is in a prime position to understand the workings of “Iranian Shia plans” and Assads “personal projects”. Maybe the Syrian Observatory told him, just after Assad and Ayatollah Khamenei relayed their plans to the man in Coventry. Chulov once again offers zero empirical evidence to back these claims and is quite literally engaging in opposition stenography. (a favourite pastime of Chulov’s going by his work on Syria for the past two years.)

Chulov spends the remainder of the article theorising and speculating on the regimes alleged sectarian motives, all on the basis of his vague and anonymous “sources”. He tells us, quite incredibly and with no shame in the lack of journalistic integrity that “diplomatic sources in the region” – presumably the same “diplomatic sources” that have erroneously declared such falsehood as “Assads days are numbered”, which Chulov has dutifully repeated in his articles ad nauseam – have relayed that Assad is not only planning an “Alawite rump state” in the west of Syria, but the first countries Assad is making overtures toward to secure this “rump state” are his biggest enemies: (my emphasis)

Over the past six months, diplomats in the region have claimed that contingency planning for a rump state to protect Syrian Alawites has involved diplomatic contact being made by senior Syrian officials with enemy states. A mediator – a well-known diplomatic figure – is understood to have been asked by Assad to approach the former Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, late last year with a request that Israel not stand in the way of attempts to form an Alawite state, which could have meant moving some displaced communities into the Golan Heights area.

It seems Chulov is unwilling to acknowledge, or realise, that Israel is the only regional state that has overtly and opportunistically attacked Syria since the crisis erupted. It makes absolutely no sense for Assad to make overtures and relay plans to one of his biggest threats, and a state that actively conspires with the jihadi dominated opposition. Chulov also conveniently omits the fact that the “plan” he so eagerly propagates Assad is intent upon is the exact “optimal scenario” Israeli military leaders have put forward for their ideal outcome of the Syrian crisis.

How very convenient that the “optimal scenario” for Israel (and its allies in their attack on the Syrian state) just happens to be the precise narrative Chulov and others are going to great lengths to propagate. Let me be clear, Western/Israeli media is propagating the idea that Assad is attempting to build an “Alawite enclave”, because that is the exact scenario the west and its allies who are attacking Syria are intent upon. If Assad cannot be removed – which is becoming more and more unlikely without overt western intervention – then the US, Israel and their Gulf allies will attempt to “Balkanise” the Syrian state.the Syrian state.

In a July 22 article by Chris Carroll , The US military online news site Stars and Stripes provides a review of US war plans against Syria as outlined in a letter by Chief of Staff General Martin Dempsey addressed  to the US Congress.

Dempsey outlined five options for U.S. military action in the Syrian conflict:

* The least involved – a train, advise and assist mission – would require no U.S. troops to be directly involved with fighting as they delivered supplies and training to opposition fighters, Dempsey said.

* A second option, limited stand-off strikes, would target “high-value regime air defense, air, ground, missile, and naval forces as well as the supporting military facilities and command nodes,” with strikes launched from beyond Syrian borders. “Depending on duration, the costs would be in the billions,” Dempsey wrote.

* A third option, establishing a no-fly zone, would go further, taking out Syrian air-defenses to control the skies throughout the country. Because U.S. aircraft would be required to fly over Syrian airspace, the risk to U.S. troops would be higher, Dempsey said.

* The U.S. military could also establish buffer zones to protect Turkey’s or Jordan’s borders, or to protect Syrian civilians, Dempsey wrote. Doing would require partial no-fly zones and carry many of the same risks and costs.

* The fifth and most complex option Dempsey outlined, controlling chemical weapons, would require a no-fly zone, air and missile strikes, and thousands of troops on the ground.

Dempsey’s response, released on Monday, focused on Syria, stressing that the decision on military action is not his to make.

“The decision over whether to introduce military force is a political one that our Nation entrusts to its civilian leaders,” he wrote. “I also understand that you deserve my best military advice on how military force could be used in order to decide whether it should be used. “

And, Dempsey warned, the U.S. should be prepared to deal with the aftermath of any military action.

“Once we take action, we should be prepared for what comes next,” he said. “Deeper involvement is hard to avoid.” (Star and Stripes, July 22, 2013)

The broader consequences of US military action are not addressed by General Dempsey.

Military observers have emphasized that at least four of these options including a limited no fly zone could lead to a war with Iran as well as confrontation with Russia, which is supporting Syria’s air defense system.  Direct U.S.-NATO military intervention in Syria could potentially lead to a regional war which has been on the drawing board of the Pentagon since 2003.

Michel Chossudovsky contributed to this report

Gaza will remain a matter of national security for Egypt .

And regardless of who is in charge in Gaza , Egypt will also remain a strategic asset for Gaza , a lifeline for its people, and a mainstay of its peace and stability.

These are the irreversible facts of the ties between Egypt and Gaza . In other words, when Egypt sneezes, Gaza catches a cold.

Now some people are trying to drive a wedge between Gaza and Egypt , but they will fail. Even at the lowest point of relations between Gaza and the ousted regime of Hosni Mubarak, few challenged the fact that Gaza and Egypt care for one another.

Today, we hear analysts in the West Bank and Israel predicting the end of Hamas rule in Gaza , just because the Muslim Brotherhood was ousted from power in Egypt .

To those, I wish to say that Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood never hid their ties, were proud of their connections, and made no secret of their cooperation. But the political adversaries of both Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt would have us believe that anything that befalls the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt will befall Hamas in Gaza , which is a massive exaggeration.

It is true that the recent events in Egypt have put an end to the high hopes Hamas had of strategic cooperation between Gaza and Egypt . It is also true that the image of Hamas as a resistance movement has been shaken. But let’s not believe everything the political adversaries of Hamas say. Let’s not believe their lies, for their only aim is to undermine the Palestinian resistance.

It has to be said, however, that Hamas was optimistic about the Arab Spring and was pleased to see like-minded governments take over in some Arab countries. It is also true that Hamas, perhaps too hastily, assumed that an alliance with Egypt ’s Muslim Brotherhood and its backers in Qatar would make up for the loss of its allies in Syria and Iran . Still, we must not forget that Hamas is a resistance movement first and foremost. Its connections with the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt don’t change this fact.

Hemmed in by the Israelis, Hamas was always hoping for Egypt to come to its rescue. But even during Mohamed Morsi’s presidency, relations between Egypt and Hamas were not free from tensions and differences. Hamas also had problems with Qatar ’s view of the Arab peace plan.

Now the adversaries of Hamas would have us think that just as Egyptians brought down the Muslim Brotherhood, the Palestinians in Gaza should expel Hamas from government. It is quite telling that Mahmoud Abbas was one of the first Arab presidents to congratulate the Egyptian army on appointing Adli Mansour as president.

Now Hamas stands accused of interfering in Egypt ’s domestic affairs. This accusation was made when Morsi was in power and after he was removed from power. Hamas denied time and again that it interfered in Egypt or in any other Arab countries. And the Palestinian ambassador to Cairo , Barakat Al-Farra, said that no such accusation was ever made by Egyptian officials.

Those who make such allegations not only harm the Palestinians, but also may cause lasting damage to ties between Gaza and Egypt .

I recently heard someone claiming that the Muslim Brotherhood’s fall from grace in Egypt will weaken Hamas to the point that makes it more amenable to Palestinian reconciliation. This is nonsense. For one thing, the Palestinian schism predates the Muslim Brotherhood’s accession to power in Egypt , and it has nothing to do with Hamas-Muslim Brotherhood ties. In fact, the real reason for the delay in reconciliation is that Mahmoud Abbas is still hoping that US Secretary of State John Kerry will succeed in restarting peace talks with Israel .

Also, the Palestinian presidency continues to oppose any acts of resistance in which Hamas and other Palestinian factions living in Gaza choose to engage.

Implicating the Palestinians in Egypt ’s currently divisive scene is neither to the benefit of Palestinians nor Egyptians. But it is good news for Israel .

This article was first published and translated from Arabic by the Al-Ahram Weekly.

Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Bir Zeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. [email protected]

With the latest revelations of NSA spying on Chinese citizens and the recent meeting of Obama and Xi Jinping, US / China relations are once again in the spotlight.

From his vantage point at Peking University, Dr. Thorsten Pattberg breaks down the latest developments and what they mean for global geopolitics.

Find out more in this week’s GRTV Feature Interview with Dr. Thorsten Pattberg.


Tune into Global Research TV for the latest video updates from Global Research!

 

 

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With back-to-back chairmanships, it gives both countries an opportunity to increase cooperation on initiatives that could enhance the development of a shared North American vision for the Arctic. The U.S. has significant geopolitical and economic interests in the high north and have released a new national strategy which seeks to advance their Arctic ambitions. While the region has thus far been peaceful, stable and free of conflict, there is a danger of the militarization of the Arctic. It has the potential to become a front whereby the U.S. and other NATO members are pitted against Russia or even China. In an effort to prevent any misunderstandings, there are calls for the Arctic Council to move beyond environmental issues and become a forum to address defense and security matters.

In May, Canada assumed the chairmanship of the Arctic Council where they will push for responsible resource development, safe shipping and sustainable circumpolar communities. The Arctic Council is the leading multilateral forum in the region and also includes the U.S., Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Russia. During the recent meetings, members signed an Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Arctic which seeks to improve coordination and planning to better cope with any such accidents. In addition, China, India, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, along with Italy were granted permanent observer status in the Arctic Council. With the move, China has gained more influence in the region. The potential for new trade routes that could open up would significantly reduce the time needed to transport goods between Europe and Asia. The Arctic is an important part of China’s global vision, as a place for economic activity and a possible future mission for its navy. In order to better reflect the realities of politics in the high north, there are calls to expand the Arctic Council’s mandate to also include security and military issues. 

Writing for the National Post, Rob Huebert of the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute explained that, “One issue that has not received much attention is the need to discuss the growing militarization of the Arctic. While the Arctic Council is formally forbidden from discussing military security in the Arctic, the time has arrived to rethink this policy.” He went on to say, “The militaries of most Arctic states are taking on new and expanded roles in the region that go beyond their traditional responsibilities, which may create friction in the region.” Huebert also stressed that, “These new developments need to be discussed to ensure that all Arctic Council member states understand why they are occurring, and increase the confidence of members that these new developments are not about a conflict in the Arctic, but about the defence of core strategic interests.” He further added, “It is easy to see how both the Americans and Russians will become increasingly concerned about the security steps that the other is taking. But now is the time for all to openly discuss these developments so that old suspicions and distrusts do not resurface.”

As part of efforts to strengthen Arctic security cooperation, in June, the Northern Chiefs of Defence Meeting was held in Greenland. It brought together representatives from the U.S., Canada, Denmark, Russia, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland. Gen. Charles Jacoby, Commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) also attended the event. The second annual gathering was used as an, “opportunity for direct multilateral and bilateral discussions focused on Northern issues. Topics discussed included the sharing of knowledge and expertise about regional operational challenges; responsible stewardship of the North; and the role Northern militaries can play in support of their respective civil authorities.” The Northern Chiefs of Defence meeting has become an essential forum to address common Arctic safety and security concerns.

Ahead of Secretary of State John Kerry’s trip to attend the Arctic Council Ministerial Session in May, the White House unveiled a National Strategy for the Arctic Region. It outlined strategic priorities including advancing U.S. security interests, pursuing responsible stewardship and strengthening international cooperation. The document acknowledged competing environmental and economic goals, but in the end sets an aggressive agenda for the exploitation of Arctic oil, gas and mineral reserves. In addition, the strategy recommended enhancing national defense, law enforcement, navigation systems, environmental response, as well as search-and-rescue capabilities in the Arctic. It also builds off of National Security Presidential Directive-66 issued by the Bush administration in 2009. In coordination with the new plan, the U.S. Coast Guard has released their Vision for Operating in the Arctic Regionwhich will work towards improving awareness, modernizing governance and broadening partnerships. According toJames Holmes, professor of strategy at the U.S. Naval War College, the Coast Guard and Air Force could become the military’s odd couple in defending America’s Arctic front.

Several months back, Congressman Don Young testified in front of Armed Services Committee in support of Alaska national defense priorities. He proclaimed, “We must be able to project power into the Arctic environment and extensive Arctic training is needed to do that.” Some have pointed out that the true nature surrounding U.S. plans to shift additional missile interceptors to Alaska is not to protect against a North Korean threat, but is instead aimed at control over Arctic resources. Meanwhile, there have also been renewed discussions about Canadian participation in the U.S. anti-ballistic missile shield, a move that could damage relations with Russia and China. In order to enhance its presence and security in the Arctic, the U.S. is increasing cooperation with Canada. This includes expanding joint military exercises and intelligence gathering operations in the region. Professor Michel Chossudovsky of Global Research has described Washington’s militarization of the Arctic as part of the process of North American integration.

In December 2012, the U.S. and Canada signed the Tri-Command Framework for Arctic Cooperation which is part of efforts to further merge USNORTHCOM, Canadian Joint Operations Command (CJOC) and NORAD. A press release explained that the framework is designed to, “promote enhanced military cooperation in the Arctic and identify specific areas of potential Tri-Command cooperation in the preparation for and conduct of safety, security and defense operations.” USNORTHCOM, CJOC and NORAD have also pledged to work closer together with regards to planning, domain awareness, information-sharing, training and exercises, capability development, as well as in the field of science and technology. In the coming years, the Arctic will become an even more important part of North American perimeter security.

While the Arctic remains a region of strategic interest to the alliance, Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen recently rejected a direct NATO presence. For a number of years, Norway has been pushing for NATO to increase its focus in the Arctic and have called for more joint northern exercises. Even though NATO has yet to truly define its role in the area, Arctic member countries are stepping up military and naval operations in the high north. In the future, NATO’s mandate could include economic infrastructure and maritime security. It could also serve as a forum for discussing Arctic military issues. Expanding NATO activity in the region might signal the militarization of the Arctic which could raise tensions with both Russia and China.

There are fears that the Arctic could become an arena for political and military competition. With potential new shipping routes and countries further staking their claims to the vast untapped natural resources, defending strategic and economic interests may lead to rivalries in the region. There is also the possibility that conflicts which originate in other parts of the world could spillover and affect the stability of the Arctic.

FED’s Propaganda On Deflation, Inflation & Bubbles

July 24th, 2013 by Matthias Chang

Every day, I read dozens of articles on finance and economics and I am amazed that the mainstream media continue to publish articles written by the so-called financial experts and Nobel Laureates such as Paul Krugman which are essentially mumbo-jumbo and nonsensical FED speak especially issues relating to deflation and inflation and financial bubbles!

Let me explain in simple common sense language.

Step One

But, before proceeding further, please do the following:

Get a balloon. The usual size is about 1½ inches in diameter and about 3 inches long. Now blow into the balloon until its diameter is about 8 inches. When you do this, you are inflating air into the balloon.

Next, release the air slowly and observe how the balloon shrinks in size. You are deflating the air out of the balloon.

When the air is completely released, the rubber balloon returns to its normal pre-inflated size.

If and when you continue to inflate the balloon beyond a certain diameter (normally 9 inches), it will explode because the rubber balloon has been stretched beyond its limits of sustaining a given volume of air that it can hold. The bursting of the balloon is inevitable.

Step Two

The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines:

Inflation, v.t.: distend with air or gas; puff up; (finance) resort to inflation of the currency; raise (price) artificially. So inflation n. – undue increase in the quantity of money in relation to goods available for purchase.

Deflation, v.t.: Let inflating air etc. out; (finance) reduce the inflation of (State’s currency).

So, what is so difficult about understanding inflation and deflation?

But, the FED via “Greenspan-speak” and “Bernanke-speak” comes out with all kinds of mumbo-jumbo and nonsense and this is repeated and analysed by the so-called experts and Nobel Laureates just to confuse Main Street and Joe Six-Packs.

Step Three

Common sense tells us that when we go shopping for food, clothes etc. we seek out the cheapest price – e.g. why pay US$10 for a face towel when you can have the same for US$1? When the price of a product goes down, we are happy and relish the fact that the dollar in our pockets would buy more of the same product. Therefore, deflation is good!

Common sense tells us that when a product sells for US$1 but, over a period of time (e.g. six months or more) goes up to US$2, something is not right. We invariably complain that things have become more expensive and the dollar in our pockets would purchase much less of the same product. Therefore, inflation is bad!

This is commonly referred to as price deflation and price inflation.

FED’s & Experts’ Mumbo-Jumbo Speak

Have you ever wondered why the FED, central banks et al consider deflation as dangerous and they must do everything to avoid / prevent deflation?

Have you also wondered why the FED, central banks et al set targets for higher inflation?

In “FED-speak” this is commonly referred to as asset deflation and asset inflation (See Steps Four and Five below).

To answer the above two questions, please read Steps One to Three again and ponder.

Let me explain again in simple common sense language.

Step Four

If you have the correct perspective and understanding as to the primary beneficiaries of FED’s and other central banks’ policies, then it is simple to understand why FED considers deflation must be avoided and or prevented at all costs and inflation to be jacked-up and tolerated to a specific target / level.

In essence, deflation and inflation has to do with “credit money” and debts and the collaterals that support such debts.

It follows from the above statement, that the primary beneficiaries of the FED’s and other central banks’ policies are the Too Big To Fail Banks (TBTFs) and the Too Big To Jail Banks (TBTJs), the hedge funds, the speculators, the global derivative casino etc.

Step Five

A simple debt transaction will illustrate why to the FED, deflation is a scourge.

Assuming you have an asset – a property or shares quoted in the stock exchange.

When you borrow money from a bank, you need to provide security / collateral for the loan. Normally, for a property mortgage, the bank would extend up to 80 per cent of the value of the property. Thus, if your house is worth US$100,000 you may get a loan of US$80,000.

In the case of public quoted shares e.g. General Electric, Microsoft etc. the bank usually extends a loan not exceeding 60 per cent of the value of the said shares. Thus, if the value of the share is US$100 per share, a loan of US$60 per share multiplied by the number of shares pledged may be extended.

Therefore, it serves the interests of the financial elites to have the value of such assets to be inflated because this would enable you to borrow more money from the same asset.

So, if the value of the house or the shares were to double, you may be able to apply for a second mortgage on the house and or the limit on your share trading account may be extended.

Therefore, bubbles are created to serve one purpose and one purpose only – to enrich the financial elites. And it matters not to them when the bubble bursts (i.e. in the boom and bust cycles) as in either event the elites will benefit.

Step Six

When the bubble bursts (the price of assets plummets) there is deflation and because of this the financial elites are in financial danger. Deflation in this sense has nothing to do with the drop in price of necessities etc. as explained in Step Three above.

What are the immediate consequences of asset deflation when the bubble burst (as it must do so, and as explained in Step One above)?

If the share price plummets from US$100 per share to US$20 and the house price is down to US$60,000, then and in such event, the collateral / mortgage supporting the loan would be less than the loan extended. So, if and when the borrower defaults, there is not enough value in the collateral to cover the loan and the bank would suffer substantial losses.

The entire financial system would suffer trillions of dollars in losses.

However, in such a catastrophe, no one bothers to ask who is to be blamed for this disaster. It is the financial elites that started the boom (inflating the financial

balloon) so as to earn obscene financial profits and to corral the entire Main Street into debt slavery.

The book value of the loans of the entire financial system which was once worth US$ Trillions is now worth a small fraction, a few hundred US$ Billion. As a result, a fraud must be perpetrated – to hide and falsely declare the true value of the mortgage / collateral. Instead of marking-to-present depressed market values, the banks are allowed by the FED and other central banks to treat such mortgages and collaterals as having its original values at the time when it was secured to the TBTF and TBTJ banks.

And when this fraud was exposed, the FED and other central banks came to the rescue by buying from these TBTF and TBTJ banks these depressed assets (which have become toxic / junk, and some were rated AAA when in fact junk).

Additionally, the FED and the other central banks began inflating digitally the money supply and pump these virtual monies (created by a click of the computer mouse) into the financial system. This takes the form of a book entry in the central banks’ computerised ledgers!

Therefore, deflation, specifically asset deflation is bad for the financial elites and must be avoided and prevented at all costs, even though they are the culprits that created this catastrophe.

But, inflation, specifically asset inflation (creating a post crisis bubble by artificially raising the price of the deflated assets) by digitally printing more money and pumping into the system is good, because such monetary policies help the banks to escape the punishment of bankruptcy!

Step Seven

By claiming that deflation is bad and inflation is good (as explained above), the FED and the other central banks have pulled a con on Main Street and turned the true meaning of deflation and inflation as commonly understood by Main Street on its head.

When there is a boom (artificially created by central bankers), the TBTF and TBTJ banks reap exorbitant and obscene profits at the expense of Main Street. The owners of public-listed companies (and all the insiders) likewise reaped huge profits when they unloaded the shares and it is the retail investors (suckers) who invariably bought at the high end of the market cycle that suffer the massive losses when the bubble burst.

When the bubble burst and the market crashed, the retail investors (suckers) suffer massive losses with the added injury and insult that they were left high and dry whilst the TBTF and TBTJ bankers were bailed out and “bailed-in” and paid hefty bonuses totalling in the hundreds of US$ billions!

Conclusion

It is about time that Main Street wise up to the fact that they have been conned time after time by “FED-speak” and financial nonsense.

For a start, stop listening to and stop reading the financial / economic dogmas spewed out by the so-called financial experts and Nobel Laureates.

Use common sense and approach to understand such basic issues not by reading books filled with technical jargons and mathematical models that do not reflect reality, but reading from a simple dictionary and talk to your mother, grandmother i.e. home makers who in their daily lives confront the harsh realities of seeking bargains to add more onto the table and avoiding pricey goods so as to save more for the future.

Finally, confront your representatives in Congress, Parliament, State Assemblies etc. and demand from them, why they are promoting policies that sustain the myth that deflation is bad and inflation is good, when in reality, we at Main Street want cheaper goods and services and low inflation.

Millions from Main Street have made paper profits over the years and some were able to cash-in some of the profits, but most suffered horrendous losses (when told to hold for the long term) when the crash came suddenly. It was sudden to them because they chose to ignore all the signs that a financial bubble (like a balloon inflated to a point that cannot be sustained) would inevitably burst!

Boom-and-bust cycles were created by the financial elites and justified by economists to fool Main Street so as to enable the 1% to plunder and transfer enormous wealth from Main Street to their off-shore havens.

I would like to end by inviting you to read and study carefully David Stockman’s insightful analysis as reflected in the following passages which is extracted from his book, The Great Deformation:

Ironically, the most spectacular case of bull market mania was Microsoft. Undoubtedly one of the greatest capitalist enterprises of all time, it dominated the ecosystem of an entire industry – the personal computer – like never before in history and had the financial results to prove it. During the last twenty years its sales have risen from $2 billion to $70 billion, and its current net income of $25 billion per year represents 17 per cent compound rate of annual growth since the mid-1990s.

But, the Greenspan bull market carried Microsoft’s market cap into the realm of sheer lunacy. Valued at about thirty times its very promising earnings in 1990s, its market cap of $6 billion then traced a parabolic upward curve, rising a hundredfold to$600 billion by January 2000.

Yet, this represented a wholly untenable and unsustainable windfall. Microsoft’s $600 billion market cap represented 64x its current year (FY2000) net income,

and under the circumstances was nothing less than delusional. By that point in time, Microsoft had grown to $24 billion in annual sales and recorded $10 billion of net income.

Even at an implicit PEG ratio of 2.0x, its market multiple at the bubble peak implied that within a decade, that is, by fiscal 2010, Microsoft’s net income would have grown at 30 per cent annually and reached $150 billion. The implied figure, alas, was larger than the global sales of the entire personal computer industry at that time.

Needless to say, Microsoft’s income grew by 6 per cent per year, not 30 per cent over the next decade to $18.5 billion; that is, its net income grew by about 2x rather than by 15x gain that had been implicit in its valuation at the tech bubble peak. Today, Microsoft is still valued at only about $200 billion, meaning that at the peak of the mania in 2000 there has been about $400 billion of bottled air in its share price.

The FED might have been better advised to dissect the bubble’s deflation, not promote a new one. It would have found that the Greenspan stock market mania had led millions of investors to embrace the instant riches of stock market gambling, when the very paragons of that mania – the dozen high-flyers – produced only 2.5 per cent compound price appreciation over the last sixteen years.

Yet, instead of coming clean and embracing sound money policies which would have induced the American middle class to revert to frugal living and saving for retirement, the thrust of FED policy since the dot-com crash has been to perpetuate the lie. Accordingly, the massive baby boom generation that desperately needed to save has remained enthralled to the financial delusions that the Greenspan FED foisted on the public.

Unfortunately, this wrong-headed policy has not only made the Federal Reserve a hostage of Wall Street, but it also has warped and deformed the very foundation of the nation’s economy. Having fostered a bull market culture of stock gamblers during the 1990s, the FED simply broadened the casino’s offerings after 2001 to include housing, real estate, and derivatives.

By so doing, it kept the party going for a spell, but in the process implanted the most pernicious possible error in the workings of the American economy; namely, the belief that savings out of current income is unnecessary and even counterproductive because higher savings would allegedly reduce consumption expenditures and the rate of GDP growth.

Under the Fed’s new prosperity management regime, by contrast, the build-up of wealth did not require sacrifice or deferred consumption. Instead, it would be obtained from a perpetual windfall of capital gains arising from the financial casinos. In this manner, the historic laws of sound finance were mocked by the nation’s central bank: households would grow steadily richer, even as they enjoyed the luxury of borrowing and consuming at rates far higher than the sustainable capacity of their incomes. The bull market culture had now totally deformed the free market.

Andrew Watt ended his article with the post-mortem examination being carried out by Dr Nicholas Hunt on the evening the body was found 18 July 2003.  It was the penetrating smell of Lysol, lights and stainless steel in the mortuary of the John Radcliffe Infirmary Oxford, as well as the remains of a fit husband and father.   Nine police officers were in attendance, the most senior being Detective Chief Inspector Alan Young who was in charge of the investigation.  He was at the scene on Harrowdown Hill where the unidentified body was found by Louise Holmes.  In spite of his lead position in the inquiry into a missing person, and then a suspicious death, he was neither called to the Hutton Inquiry which started sitting 13 days later, nor did he submit a statement to it (1).  There is no obvious explanation for the presence of nine police officers at this very morbid autopsy given that the police had sprayed the word ‘suicide’ about earlier that day.  The size of the squad would surely have fitted better if murder was foremost in the minds of the investigating authorities.

The examination finished just after midnight.  Dr Hunt wrote up his report of his findings at the scene and of his post mortem examination the next day, the 19th of July.  He would have come to preliminary conclusions as to the cause of death and been helped in that by the early findings of Dr Allan the toxicologist.  That first report has never been published; it was not referred to by Dr Hunt when he gave evidence at the Hutton Inquiry (2)  The only report, and that is entitled Final Post Mortem Report – 25th July 2003, was published in October 2010, by the Ministry of Justice.  The only original copy of this in existence is a very poor ‘scan’.  An OCR and tidied version of this is here (3).  That the findings in the first report have never been made public was one among three  important concerns brought by this author to the General Medical Council in 2011, established by the Medical Act of 1858. (4)  This will be discussed later but suffice to say they were dismissed.

Dr Nicholas Gardiner, HM Coroner for Oxfordshire, opened an inquest as the law demands for all violent, unnatural or unexplained deaths on the 21st July.  It is surprising that transcripts of coronial hearings are seldom made.  The hearing would have been attended by Dr Hunt, the coroner’s officer and the police.  It would have been adjourned until more evidence had flowed in.  However, it can be inferred that the cause of death had been given by Dr Hunt. (5 )

Whilst this mouse of an inquest moved ever so quietly, an elephant had been trampling the undergrowth for the three previous days, starting at Harrowdown Hill.  Within three hours of the body being found, my Lord Hutton had been engaged to chair an ad hoc inquiry, by my Lord Falconer as Dr Watt has already described.  Miles Goslett recently reported in the Mail that Hutton had confirmed in a letter to Norman Baker MP that he had been asked to meet Lord Chancellor Falconer in his Lord’s office around noon of the 18th July and that he agreed to serve.(6)  At that point the subject, David Christopher Kelly CMG DSc had not been identified and no cause of death had been established.  This fixer was a friend of Blair’s when they were in chambers studying law!  He had assisted his friend the PM in bolstering the claim that there was a legal basis for a massive bombardment and invasion of Iraq rather than it being a supreme war crime as defined at Nuremberg.

It is salutary to consider that it took six and half years for the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq ‘War’ to be set up in which over one million Iraqi humans died, at least two million were maimed by customary calculation and four million were made refugees in Syria and Jordan.  It took the New Labour high command, the sofa cabinet, just three hours after the death of just one man to set up Hutton with the clear intention of containing the inquiry and ensuring safe conclusions.  The instruction given to Hutton was to ‘…urgently to conduct an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr Kelly’.  ‘Urgently’ can be interpreted as ‘nail this promptly’, ‘consider’ as ‘without especial accuracy’ and ‘circumstances’ as equalling the ‘media furore’ which obviously drove Kelly to an inevitable suicide.  It was not who the deceased was, and how, when and where he died which are the plain duties of a coroner.  It was the ‘circumstances’; and if anything showed the mind and the motives of this most evil cabal, that word is the nub.

The words of the two conversations (6) between Falconer in Westminster and his pal Blair on wing to Tokyo in the hour after noon that day have not, of course, been revealed.  That it was to do with an awkward corpse in a wood it is fair to assume.  After all, it was a central topic at the press conference in Tokyo where blood, or other medium, drained from Blair’s face with ‘Have you got blood on your hands Mr Blair’ from a Daily Mail journalist.  The obvious answer was that he had the blood of thousands upon thousands of people on his hands whereas the European only had one white man in mind at that moment.

Correspondence by Ms Albon of Falconer’s other office (he was also the Secretary of State in the Department of Constitutional Affairs – Mikado style) with the Oxfordshire coroner has a dictatorial ring to it.  It was recognised he had to reconvene his inquest in law but this mouse then had to be silent until the elephant had trumpeted the findings.  All this was engineered by the mechanism of Section 17a of the 1988 Coroner’s Act.  It had been applied for multiple deaths of common cause – Shipman, the Ladbroke rail crash and the sinking of the trawler Gaul.  It had at its root – efficiency in investigation, thoughtfulness towards loved ones and verdict as to the common cause.  There was no justification for invocation of Section 17a on top of this ad hoc inquiry other than to shackle the coroner and thus to subvert due process.  With a few ‘phone calls Falconer had made certain with this ad hoc ‘judicial’ inquiry that there would be no evidence under oath, no ability to subpoena  witnesses, no cross examination and no ability to call a jury.  The last thing he wanted was twelve good women/men and true.

The coup de grace for the mouse was this Section 17a.  There was a further hearing on the 14th of August at which an extraordinary death certificate was conjured up and registered four days later. The hearing was not publicised and again there was no transcript or reportage.  This officer of the Crown whose authority and duties stretched back to the 13th Century had been made into a small creature by power and cunning.   “The use of these powers to oust the Coroner’s jurisdiction …” is how Frances Swaine of Leigh Day & Co put it an excellent memorandum to the Attorney General in October 2010. (7)  (Leigh Day were initially instructed by Dr Frost; they did a large amount of excellent work without charge.)

A letter that Mr Gardiner wrote 6th of August to Ms Albon includes “The preliminary cause of death given at the opening of the inquest no longer represents the view of the Pathologist and evidence from him would need to be given to correct and update the evidence already received.”

(5 – section ONE).  This was brushed aside in a letter from lawyers acting for Dr Hunt who were reacting to this long letter from the author to the GMC listing his concerns about Dr Hunt’s performance.(5)  Whether his opinion had been changed or not, there was an absolute professional and legal requirement on him to reveal his initial report with its conclusions and his train of thought.

This principle has been tested in the case of Dr Kenneth Shorrock who is currently suspended for unknown reason from the Home Office list of forensic pathologists which was last updated 15th May 2013.   This extract from (5 – section ONE) -  “He was charged with serious professional misconduct by the General Medical Council on eight counts I believe.  He had produced a second post-mortem report on a hospital patient which was indicative of negligence by the surgeon without any reference to his first report which had exonerated the surgeon.’

The surgeon was charged with manslaughter but was cleared.  He complained to the Home Office whose Scientific Standards Committee of the Policy Advisory Board opined that he had not ‘maintained the standards required’ and simply issued advice, its interest ending in July 2004.  The surgeon then complained to the General Medical Council.  Mr Vernon Coaker, Minister of State at the Home Office, said in a letter to the author 22 November 2008 “The GMC had been considering the complaint for, I believe, many months (prior to July 2005) and had, similarly, taken no steps to restrict Dr Shorrock’s practice.”

Of the greatest importance is the fact that he was called from Sheffield to examine the remains of Jean Charles de Menezes who had been shot with six hollow point bullets in the head as he sat in a ‘tube’ carriage 22nd July 2005.  Sheffield is 150 miles from London which has at least 8 forensic pathologists available.  The call to attend a headless Jean Charles was in spite of the fact that a charge of serious professional misconduct was hanging over him; the first hearing by the GMC Fitness to Practice Panel was only six weeks after the killing of Jean Charles.  There had been several adjournments of the GMC hearings of this charge which was first heard 5th of September 2005.  The nine page summary of the final hearing 19 February 2007 found him guilty of serious professional misconduct. (8 -HALPIN website)

This author wrote to five relevant authorities before the 22nd September 2008 inquest at the Oval, Kennington about this most improper instruction given to Dr Shorrock to take this case in the summer of 2005. There were no replies from any one of the five; this included the Public Solicitor to the inquiry and Justice4Jean.  Dr Shorrock’s evidence would be central at this inquest and would include the position and identity of each bullet prior to ballistic studies, and would thus indicate which weapon and which agent had injured Jean Charles beyond recognition IF the evidence had not been contaminated.  The Independent Police Complaints Commission does not have a reputation for being just but it did not take possession of the scene until 48 hours had elapsed.

The final hearing of five altogether took place on the 5th of February 2007.  The  GMC panel found him guilty of the charge of serious professional misconduct.  It found his actions “unprofessional, inconsistent, unreasonable, not based upon the medical and pathological information and likely to bring the medical profession into disrepute”.

Two professors of forensic pathology advised the panel:-

Vanezis – ‘He further stated that if a pathologist had reason to change his conclusions or opinion, an explanation should be given as to why he has deemed this necessary.’

Pounder – ‘ Dr Shorrock had a duty to make reference to the existence of the first report. In addition, the second report should have given the reasons for his change of view.

Many had written in support of Dr Kenneth Shorrock.  He was simply issued with a reprimand.

The reader has two forensic pathologists in examine.

One was lecturing at the Police Staff College, Bramshill, Hampshire when he was called to a corpse on Harrowdown Hill which was all about a supreme war crime.

The other was called from Sheffield to a most high profile unlawful killing at Southwell Tube Station, London.

Should the second have been on gardening leave until the GMC had considered the serious charge against him?  Or did Jean Charles not deserve the best within our law?

Should the first not have fully revealed the first post mortem report he wrote up on Dr Kelly on the 19th of July?  It is certain there was a FIRST report and Lord Hutton referred to it in his introduction.  Were the opinions as to the causes of death different in important ways between the 19th of July and the FINAL Post Mortem Report of the 25th of July.  It is clear the Coroner thought so.  That this gross defect slipped through is typical of much that happened at Hutton.  His professional and legal duty was made completely clear later in the case of Dr Shorrock.

We move on next to the Hutton Inquiry and its many defects.

Notes 

  1. http://chilcotscheatingus.blogspot.co.uk/2010/11/death-of-david-kelly-operation-mason.html
  2. http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20090128221550/http://www.the-hutton-inquiry.org.uk/content/transcripts/hearing-trans33.htm
  3. http://wikispooks.com/wiki/Document:David_Kelly_Post-Mortem_Report
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Medical_Council
  5. http://dhalpin.infoaction.org.uk/23-articles/dr-david-kelly/144-letter-to-ms-c-f-floyd-investigation-officer-general-medical-council
  6. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2362659/Revealed-How-Blair-fixer-picked-judge-David-Kelly-Inquiry-just-hours-weapons-inspectors-suicide.html
  7. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1337661/David-Kelly-report.html
  8. http://dhalpin.infoaction.org.uk/23-articles/dr-david-kelly/146-shorrock-gmc

Appalling Israeli Gulag Prison Conditions

July 24th, 2013 by Stephen Lendman

Israel’s gulag is one of the world’s worst. On July 9, 16 human rights organizations headlined ”RE: European Parliament Fact-Finding Mission on Palestinian Political Prisoners.” They include:

Addameer Prisoners’ Support and Human Rights Association

Aldameer Association for Human Rights

Al Haq

Al Mezan Center for Human Rights

Arab Association for Human Rights

Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minorities in Israel

Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights

Defence for Children International – Palestine Section

Ensan Center for Human Rights and Democracy

Hurryyat – Centre for Defense of Liberties and Civil Rights

Jerusalem Center for Legal Aid and Human Rights

Ramallah Center for Human Rights Studies

Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling

Palestinian Society Prisoner’s Club

Physicians for Human Rights Israel

The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel

The way Israel treats detained children explains its contempt for human rights. Previous articles explained. Israel’s secret prisoner policy tells more.

A previous article discussed Ben Zygier. He was called Prisoner X. Disappearing him says much about Israel’s dark side.

He was denied all rights. Israel imprisoned him secretly with no name or identity. He was completely isolated from the outside world.

Information leaked. Media reports followed. Australian-Israeli Mossad agent Ben Zygier was Prisoner X. His Australian passport identified him as Ben Allen.

Disappearing him was a state secret. He became a nonperson.

He was secretly indicted, tried and imprisoned. He died in December 2010. Israel said nothing. Did he kill himself or was he murdered?

Targeted killing is longstanding Mossad policy. It prefers burying its secrets. Dead men tell no tales.

Did he blow his cover? Was he selling state secrets? Did he expose or endanger other agents? Did he commit other treasonous acts?

Israel won’t say. Everything about his case remains classified. Nothing’s revealed publicly.

Mordechai Vanunu spent 18 years in Israel’s gulag. At least 11 were in solitary confinement. Israel wants him disappeared.

He was incarcerated for exposing dirty secrets. Israel’s nuclear weapons program is now well known.

Israel violates fundamental rule of law principles repeatedly. It does so unaccountably. Information on another Prisoner X came out. How many more remain unknown.

On July 9, Reuters headlined “Israel secretly holds ‘Prisoner X2′ for security reasons: lawyer.”

According to a “prominent Israeli lawyer,” Israel imprisoned a security security services member. It did so for “a grave offence.”

Avigdor Feldman specializes in national security cases. He called Prison X 2′s situation “riveting and sensational.” He’s male, Jewish, an Israeli citizen, and a secret services employee. He explained little more.

He called charges against him far more serious than Zygier’s. They’re “(m)uch more sensational. Much more amazing. Much more riveting.”

He added that Zygier and Prisoner X2 may be the tip of the iceberg. They operated covertly. X2 held Israel’s highest level security clearance. He betrayed a secret Mossad operation. According to Feldman:

“We’re speaking of a criminal act which was a serious breach of the walls of security and secrecy of the secret apparatus.”

“Not just endangering the security of the State but the heads of those (security) organizations who would be fired.”

On July 10, Haaretz headlined “Israel Prison Service sources: ‘Second Prisoner X’ held for years in total isolation.”

He’s in one of Israel’s most secure prisons. It’s where Zygier was held. It’s “well guarded with no windows. He has no contact with other prisoners or guards.”

No one knows his identity or why he’s there. Except for brief walks, he hasn’t left his cell for years. He’s surrounded by “a high stone fence covered with heavy iron.”

He’s monitored 24-hours a day. Information about him was discovered in an appendix to discussions and decisions on Zygier. He worked for Mossad. Israel’s second Prisoner X likely did so also.

Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch lied. He claimed “(t)here are no disappeared prisoners in Israel whose families don’t know of their incarceration.”

He also said “sometimes there are files whose existence cannot be released to the public, in order to present damage to state security. In these cases, a court gag order is imposed.”

“There are also cases in which it is necessary to keep an inmate’s name concealed to prevent damage to state security.”

“Even in these cases, the prisoners’ rights are meticulously protected, and these prisoners are certainly not ‘hidden’ from the courts.”

Meretz Leader Zehava Gal On commented earlier on Zygier. “In a democracy, there cannot be secret prisoners, with no outside supervision of where and under what conditions they are held,” she said.

Holding prisoners secretly and lying about it “befit(s) a totalitarian state,” she added. Holding more secret prisoners compounds an unconscionable problem.

Labor MK Nachman Shai called for a state comptroller investigation.

“The thought that additional prisoners are being held in such conditions is frightening and disturbing. Only the state comptroller has the tools to investigate,” he said.

According to Meretz MK Esawi Frej, “we are on the fast track to becoming a dark police state.”

Israel’s that much and more.

Elmar Brok’s a German European Parliament member (MEP). He’s been one since 1980. He chairs its Committee on Foreign Affairs. The above listed human rights groups (called HRGs below) addressed him.

They urged his committee to “immediately dispatch a parliamentary fact-finding mission to assess the current situation with regard to the detention conditions of Palestinian prisoners, including women and children, and the use of administrative detention.”

On March 13, an EP resolution addressed deplorable conditions in Israeli prisons and Arafat Jaradat.

Shin Bet interrogators tortured him to death. Autopsy evidence confirmed it. He wasn’t the first political prisoner killed in prison. He won’t be the last. Israel remains unaccountable.

HRGs urged EP Committee on Foreign Affairs members “to take a lead role in ensuring that Israel complies with its international humanitarian and human rights law obligations.”

Thousands of political prisoners languish in Israel’s gulag. They include 238 children, 16 women, 14 Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) members, and 156 uncharged administrative detainees.

Most Palestinian inmates are in 17 prisons, four interrogation centers and four detention centers. All but one are in Israel.

Incarcerating them there violates Fourth Geneva’s Article 76. It states:

“Protected persons accused of offences shall be detained in the occupied country, and if convicted they shall serve their sentences therein.”

Holding them in Israel prevents family visits. Hard to get permit permission is required.

Article 76 also states:

“They shall, if possible, be separated from other detainees and shall enjoy conditions of food and hygiene which will be sufficient to keep them in good health, and which will be at least equal to those obtaining in prisons in the occupied country.

They shall receive the medical attention required by their state of health.

They shall also have the right to receive any spiritual assistance which they may require.

Women shall be confined in separate quarters and shall be under the direct supervision of women.

Proper regard shall be paid to the special treatment due to minors.

Protected persons who are detained shall have the right to be visited by delegates of the Protecting Power and of the International Committee of the Red Cross, in accordance with the provisions of Article 143.

Such persons shall have the right to receive at least one relief parcel monthly.”

Israel systematically violates all of the above. Palestinian prisoner rights are denied. Prison conditions are deplorable.

Facilities are overcrowded. They lack basic amenities. Prisoners endure “poor hygiene, a significant lack of fresh air and inadequate living space.”

They’re “currently allotted about 2.9 square meters of living space.”

“(E)xisting windows in prison cells are often covered by iron sheets, thus reducing the availability of natural sunlight.”

“All amenities such as television, clothing, blankets, and books are considered ‘privileges.’ ” They “can be revoked at any time” for any reason or none at all.

On May 14, 2012, Egypt brokered a deal with Israel’s Prison Service. Doing so ended a mass hunger strike. Israel agreed to prisoners’ demands.

It’s agreements aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. Agreed on terms were systematically violated. Nothing substantive changed.

“In fact,” said HRGs, “the agreement has lead to an escalation in individual hunger strikes, in which currently 12 prisoners/detainees are engaged.”

“These prisoners/detainees are protesting for various reasons, including their continued administrative detention, denial of family visits and prison conditions.”

“Israeli authorities regularly neglect their duties to provide medical care for Palestinian prisoners, as required by the Geneva Conventions.”

“Treatment is often inadequate and considerably delayed. In 2013 alone two Palestinians have died as a result of medical neglect.”

According to Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, Richard Falk:

“(T)here have been at least 54 cases of clear medical neglect that have resulted in the deaths of Palestinians in Israeli prisons.”

Prison medical staff numbers are woefully inadequate. Personnel are poorly trained. Israeli Prison Service (IPS) authorities control them. Serving them involves violating fundamental medical ethics.

“Since 1967, 73 Palestinians have been tortured to death” during interrogation.

“Methods of interrogation and torture that Palestinian detainees are subjected to include beatings, tying prisoners in ‘stress positions,’ interrogation sessions that last up to 12 consecutive hours, depriving prisoners of sleep and other sensory deprivation, isolation and solitary confinement, and threats against the lives of their relatives.”

Beatings and other type abuses are commonplace. Released prisoners relate horror stories. Intolerable treatment persists.

Detaining and imprisoning Palestinian children is “extremely alarming.” According to UNICEF,”ill-treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized.”

“(I)n the last ten years, an estimated 7,000 children have been detained, interrogated, prosecuted and/or imprisoned within the Israeli military justice system.”

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child urged Israel to “guarantee that juvenile justice standards apply to all children without discrimination and that trials are conducted in a prompt and impartial manner, in accordance with minimum fair trial standards”, while also urging Israel “to dismantle the institutionalized system of detention and use of torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian children at all stages of the judicial procedure.”

Israel ignores all reasonable demands. It does so with impunity. HRGs want EP members to intervene responsibly.

They want them to visit Israeli prisons, detention centers and interrogation ones. They want them to meet prisoners face-to-face. They want them to learn firsthand what they endure.

“(I)n case Israel denies (them) access,” they want them to “include a visit to an Israeli military court; meet with former prisoners; prisoner’s families; Palestinian and Israeli organizations that deal specifically with prisoners; the Palestinian Ministry of Detainees and Ex-detainees; and Israeli Military Judges, the Military Prosecution Office and the Israeli Prison Service.”

They want them to take direct action to end gulag prison conditions. They want Israel held accountable for its actions.

A Final Comment

On July 13, Haaretz headlined “Former military intelligence chief: Israel held a ‘Prisoner X’ in the 1970s,” saying:

From 1974 – 1979, Major General (res.) Shlomo Gazit headed the IDF’s intelligence unit. “Roughly 36 years ago,” he said, “as director of Military Intelligence, I allowed the detention of a prisoner X in total solitary confinement.”

“I did it with a clean conscience, and I knew full well the national and security-related ramifications or making that information public.”

“My superiors of course knew of the secret, and authorized my decision.”

“The subject was brought to the attention of the justice system, which dealt with the matter with complete discretion.”

“The whole affair ended long ago – and I’m glad to say without any leaks.”

“Moreover, even though decades have passed since then, if information on the affair came out it could still cause a great deal of damage, even today.”

Gavit stopped short of saying who was detained or why. Yitzhak Rabin was prime minister. Shimon Peres was defense minister.

Yigal Alon was foreign minister. These officials and other top ones likely authorized what happened.

Haaretz explained what presumably was involved. It failed to condemn harsh imprisonment without due process and judicial fairness.

Regardless of what offense was allegedly committed, rule of law principles matter most. Israel spurns them with impunity. It’s standard Israeli practice.

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

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

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com

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

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

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http://www.dailycensored.com/appalling-israeli-gulag-prison-conditions/

In a precedent-setting ruling with national and international implications, Superior Court of Ontario Justice Carole Brown has ruled that Canadian company Hudbay Minerals can potentially be held legally responsible in Canada for rapes and murder at a mining project formerly owned by Hudbay’s subsidiary in Guatemala. As a result of Justice Brown’s ruling, the claims of 13 Mayan Guatemalans will proceed to trial in Canadian courts.

“As a result of this ruling, Canadian mining corporations can no longer hide behind their legal corporate structure to abdicate responsibility for human rights abuses that take place at foreign mines under their control at various locations throughout the world,” said Murray Klippenstein, lawyer for the 13 indigenous Mayans. “There will now be a trial regarding the abuses that were committed in Guatemala, and this trial will be in a courtroom in Canada, a few blocks from Hudbay’s headquarters, exactly where it belongs. We would never tolerate these abuses in Canada, and Canadian companies should not be able to take advantage of broken-down or extremely weak legal systems in other countries to get away with them there.”

Hudbay argued in court that corporate head offices could never be held responsible for harms at their subsidiaries, no matter how involved they were in on-the-ground operations. Justice Brown disagreed and concluded that “the actions as against Hudbay and HMI should not be dismissed.”

“Today is a great day for me and all others who brought this lawsuit,” said Angelica Choc, a plaintiff and widow of Adolfo Ich. “It means everything to us that we can now stand up to Hudbay in Canadian courts to seek justice for what happened to us.” “This judgment should be a wake-up call for Canadian mining companies,” said Cory Wanless, co-counsel for the Mayans along with Mr. Klippenstein. “It is the first time that a Canadian court has ruled that a claim can be made against a Canadian parent corporation for negligently failing to prevent human rights abuses at its foreign mining project. We fully expect that more claims like this one will be brought against Canadian mining companies until these kinds of abuses stop.”

This is the second significant legal victory for the Mayan plaintiffs this year. In February, Hudbay abruptly dropped its argument that the lawsuit against it should be heard in Guatemala, not Canada, after fighting tooth and nail over this issue for over a year, forcing survivors of rape to travel to Toronto to endure extensive cross-examination and the legal team to spend countless hours compiling stacks of evidence, expert reports, and witness testimony.

For more information about the claims, see www.chocversusHudbay.com.

 

Syria’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Bashar al-Jaafari warned that the Israeli occupation of the Arab territories has reached dangerous stages in light of the international inability to force Israel to end its occupation in implementation of the relevant international legitimacy resolutions.

During an open UN Security Council session held Tuesday to discuss the item titled “The Situation in the Middle East”, al-Jaafari criticized the attempts by some delegations to divert the deliberations from the main aim for which this item was made to try to marginalize the issue of the Israeli occupation and focus on other irrelevant issues like the situation in Syria, Egypt, Lebanon…etc.

He wondered at the UN Secretary General’s representative’s attempt to drop the accurate legal designation of Golan recognized by the UN as “the occupied Syrian Golan” and say only the “Golan”, slamming him for ignoring any mention of the need to bring the Israeli occupation of the Golan to an end.

He also lashed out at the allegations brought forth against Syria by the delegations of the very same countries which have been providing support, shelter and arms to the terrorists and thriving to foil any peaceful solution to the crisis, citing Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and some Western countries.

“The Israeli occupation of the Arab territories and its repercussions on the overall security and stability of the region has reached very dangerous stages in light of the international inability to compel Israel to end its occupation,” said al-Jaafari.

He denounced the international community’s incapability to put an end to Israel’s grave violations of the international charters, on top being Geneva Convention of 1949, and force it to stop its settlement activities and expulsion of Arab inhabitants form their lands.

He also warned of the gravity of the current Israeli effort to approve the so-called Prawer Law which practically aims to confiscate 800,000 dunams of lands and destroy 36 villages in Negev to be replaced by settlements, in addition to displacing 45,000 Palestinian inhabitants.

Al-Jaafari highlighted the continuous suffering of the Syrian citizens under the Israeli occupation in the occupied Syrian Golan in light of the absence of an international will to end this occupation according to the relevant UN resolutions, particularly the Security Council resolution no. 497 for 1981.

He wondered at the fake zeal of some countries regarding the rights of peoples and the preservation of the civilian’s lives, while such zeal is absent when it comes to the Israeli violations of the rights of the Arab people in occupied Palestine and the occupied Syrian Golan and the barbaric practices against them.

“It has been 46 years since Israel occupied the Golan…yet we haven’t heard anybody calling for holding meetings to defend the Syrians under the occupation and those displaced… or for organizing conferences to collect humanitarian donations to help them,” said al-Jaafari.

“Moreover, some sides’ zeal to send fact-finding committees has vanished when it comes to the occupied Syrian Golan,” he added.

The Syrian Representative stressed that the international silence on the Israeli practices led Israel to launch an aggression on the Syrian territories on May 5th, 2013 and to continue making threats of carrying out other offensives.

“Israel’s continued aggressive practices have raised tension in the region to unprecedented levels portending a large-scale regional war that would definitely endanger the international peace and security,” al-Jaafari warned.

He slammed the UN Secretary General’s representative for ignoring the ongoing cooperation taking place between Israel on the one hand and the armed terrorist groups on the other at the Disengagement Zone.

Al-Jaafari clarified that the Israeli occupation forces have been providing aid to the armed terrorist groups in the Disengagement Zone in the Golan through admitting the injured terrorists to the Israeli hospitals to be treated and then allowing them back into Syria to resume their terrorist acts.

He condemned the Israeli assistance to the terrorists in Syria as not only being a flagrant violation of the Disengagement Agreement and the mandate of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) and the international law, but also in that it endangers the lives of the UN forces working there and undermines their work.

H. Zain/ H. Said

US Military Plans Direct Intervention in Syria

July 24th, 2013 by Alex Lantier

The Pentagon is planning a major escalation of the US-led war against Syria, involving direct US military involvement to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

In a letter to Democratic Senator Carl Levin, the head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gen. Martin Dempsey spelled out proposals and cost estimates for various potential US interventions in Syria. His plans include training opposition militias in Syria; missile strikes against Syrian targets; setting up a “no-fly zone” to ground or destroy Syria’s air force; seizing “buffer zones” of Syrian territory near Jordan or Turkey; and Special Forces raids to seize chemical weapons.

Pentagon plans include large-scale operations, costing at least tens of billions of dollars per year. Dempsey said Special Forces strikes would cost over $1 billion a month, and missile strikes—requiring “hundreds of aircraft, ships, submarines, and other enablers”—would cost “in the billions.”

Dempsey’s letter followed a vote last week by the US House and Senate intelligence panels to directly arm opposition forces in Syria. Until now, they had been funded and armed by US-allied oil sheikdoms such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and not directly by the US. This allowed Washington to cynically claim the opposition was not on its payroll, even as the CIA coordinated the flow of arms and money.

The Obama administration lobbied intensively for the votes to arm the opposition in Syria. Vice President Joe Biden, CIA Director John Brennan, and Secretary of State John Kerry all called or briefed members of Congress.

The original justification for the Syrian war—that it was a humanitarian struggle to defend a democratic uprising of the Syrian people—is so nakedly exposed that the US and its European allies barely bother to repeat it. They recklessly armed Al Qaeda-linked forces like the Al Nusra Front and promoted a “moderate” stable of CIA assets and regime turncoats, hoping to topple Assad. While the Syrian people faced an onslaught of US-backed gangs and militias, the media and bourgeois “left” praised these forces as revolutionary fighters for democracy.

This criminal policy is now in shambles. This opposition faces defeat due to its lack of popular support and the international spread of the war. In recent months, select Iranian forces and fighters from the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah helped Assad turn the tide of battle against Sunni Islamist-dominated opposition militias.

Washington’s response is to prepare for an even greater bloodbath. Powerful sections of the ruling class are pushing for a broad US war to oust Assad and forcibly assert US imperialist hegemony over the Middle East. Anthony Cordesman, an influential strategist from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), made his case for such a war in a Washington Post column yesterday titled “Syria’s Ripple Effect.”

He wrote, “If Assad succeeds in crushing the opposition or otherwise maintains control over most of Syria, Iran will have a massive new degree of influence over Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon in a polarized Middle East divided between Sunni and Shiite …This would present serious risks for Israel, weaken Jordan and Turkey, and, most important, give Iran far more influence in the Persian Gulf, an area home to 48 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves.”

Cordesman outlined a spectrum of US actions, from providing anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles to the Western-backed militias to imposing a no-fly zone to permit direct US intervention: “US officials could make clear that either the rebels will succeed with such weapons—leading to a negotiated departure of Assad’s government and the installation of a new national government—or the United States will join with allies in creating a no-fly zone.”

Cordesman’s proposal amounts to a call for the Pentagon and its allies to prepare for broad regional or even global wars with mass casualties and devastating effects on the world economy. It could involve the US in a war not only with Syria, but also with Hezbollah forces and the Assad regime’s international backers—Iran, upon which the US imposed further sanctions last week, or even Russia and China.

Layers within the US military have cautioned against a rapid, all-out war, primarily because they are not sure that they are prepared for how such a war would escalate. Thus, in his letter to Levin, Dempsey reportedly wrote: “Once we take action, we should be prepared for what comes next. Deeper involvement is hard to avoid.”

Sections of the ruling class propose to strengthen the opposition and wage a long-term proxy war in Syria to carry out a neocolonial partition of the country. Citing White House Press Secretary Jay Carney’s comment that Assad “will never rule all of Syria again,” the New York Times wrote yesterday that Washington is preparing “the long-term reality of a divided Syria,” of which Assad would only control a “rump portion.”

All these plans to escalate imperialist intervention in the Middle East reflect the crisis and breakdown of American democracy. Ten years after the disastrous and unpopular US invasion of Iraq, imperialist strategists are formulating plans for another ruinous war, with contempt for the views of the population. Fully 61 percent of the population opposes US involvement in the Syrian war, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll.

The ruling elite’s ability to press forward with plans for war underscores the deeply reactionary role of the media and the petty-bourgeois “left” in suppressing any overt expression of popular opposition. In particular, the role of pseudo-left groups like the International Socialist Organization (ISO) in the US, Die Linke in Germany, or the New Anti-capitalist Party (NPA) in France is clear. They have worked continuously to market filthy imperialist wars to left-liberal sections of the middle class as “revolutions.”

These parties have not only supported the wars in their publications, but also played a direct role in the intelligence operations necessary to organize the war. Early in the Syrian war, the NPA’s Gilbert Achcar attended a covert October 2011 conference of the CIA-backed Syrian National Council (SNC) opposition group to advise it on the mechanics of foreign intervention.

These parties have functioned as mouthpieces for various sections of the intelligence community who favor an imperialist overthrow of Assad in alliance with the Islamist opposition.

Thus, a recent article by the NPA’s main writer on Syria, Gayath Naïssé, titled “Self-organization in the Syrian people’s revolution,” praises the opposition militias that control the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor, writing that “a democratic dream has been realized in Deir ez-Zor.” He enthuses that “a free electoral process “was organized for the first time in forty years” as it was described by Khadr, a member of the local council of the opposition which was elected on Sunday by the inhabitants of the “liberated’ areas.”

This is a blatant falsification of the political record of far-right, Al Qaeda-linked militias that have seized various Syrian cities with US support, imposing a reign of terror on the population. In Deir ez-Zor itself, they operate death squads that have recorded widely-publicized videos of themselves murdering inhabitants opposed to their policies. More broadly, Islamist opposition militias have become notorious for looting areas that they control—most notably destroying factories in Aleppo, in order to fund their arms purchases from the United States’ allies.

The ISO’s latest statement on Syria—a piece by Michael Karadjis first posted on the Australian pseudo-left site Links —attacks any opposition to US intervention to back the Syrian opposition. Denouncing “lazy talk of the trickle of light weapons from abroad representing some great ‘war on Syria,’” it attacks opponents of the US intervention as people “terribly frightened about the prospect of a trickle of arms reaching the rebels from the wrong people.”

The statement adds, “It is not up to socialists within imperialist countries to demand our governments not provide arms just because we understand our government’s aims are different to ours and such arming demands a political price from the rebels … If the US or other imperialist states did decide for their own reasons to provide some arms, we should also not protest against it, robotic-style.”

This passage underscores how the ISO functions as a conscious defender of imperialism and war. While acknowledging that the Syrian opposition consists of forces armed by the US government and that therefore act as its stooges, it demands that these pro-US stooges in Syria be armed to the teeth, and that no opposition to such a proxy war be organized.

Such forces are accomplices in the devastation of Syria and ongoing preparations for even broader and bloodier imperialist wars.

Leaked emails show that as far back as January, there were backroom discussions being held between Detroit and Lansing public officials and corporate law firm Jones Day suggesting that the best course for Detroit would be to send it through Chapter 9 bankruptcy.

The revelations expose the charade by Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr who claimed he only made the“tough decision to file bankruptcy reluctantly after thorough negotiations with creditors, pension trustees and public sector unions. In fact, all along Orr, Republican Governor Snyder, Detroit’s Democratic mayor and the powerful financial interests behind them, were determined to use federal bankruptcy laws to circumvent legal obstacles, including the state constitution and the city charter, for the gutting of city worker pensions and sale of public assets.

The emails were obtained by Robert Davis, a figure in the local political establishment tied closely to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 25. The Detroit unions have complained that Orr’s bankruptcy filing halted their efforts to reach a “good faith” deal with the emergency manager to impose his demands on their members.

Davis is involved in an ongoing lawsuit over whether Michigan Governor Rick Snyder violated Michigan’s open meeting laws by ultimately appointing Orr not by the interview process through the Emergency Financial Assistance Loan Board (ELB), but through closed door discussions.

One of the emails dated January 31, from Dan Moss, an associate at Jones Day who worked with Orr on the Chrysler bankruptcy and restructuring, told Orr the “ideal scenario” would be for Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and Snyder to “go through an orderly Chapter 9.” Moss then stated his own reservations about whether an emergency manager would be useful in a city where his powers would be questioned at every turn, versus bankruptcy, where a federal judge simply dictates to the city what to sacrifice. Others involved in the discussions include Jones Day Managing Partner Stephen Brogan, Jones Day Partner Corinne Ball and Rick Snyder’s Transformation Manager Richard Baird.

As last week’s events showed an emergency manager can declare bankruptcy anyway. As Orr himself once said, “I have a very powerful statute. I have a more powerful Chapter 9.” From the perspective of the local and national ruling elites—who consider Detroit a test case for cities around the country—they got the best of both worlds: an emergency manager essentially unchallenged from the Detroit establishment and a Chapter 9 bankruptcy to expedite the gutting of the city.

Davis previously revealed secret correspondence between Governor Snyder and Mayor Bing over the selection of Orr as emergency manager long before any public vetting process began. Orr was part of a Jones Day team, which pitched its services to the governor last January. The governor selected Orr because of his role as a bankruptcy attorney for Chrysler during the 2009 restructuring, where he shut down hundreds of dealerships, wiping out thousands of jobs. Moreover, as an African American and Democrat, Orr, would give the Republican governor some political cover in an overwhelmingly black population, officials thought.

The emails expose the anti-democratic nature of the emergency manager law itself. Voters last year rejected Public Act 4 overturning the emergency manager law passed in 2011. In response, Governor Snyder declared that an old law, Public Act 72, was back in force, allowing the state to appoint an “emergency financial manager.” Then, against the will of the public, the governor essentially changed the name of Public Act 4 to Public Act 436—the current EM law—and forced it through with bipartisan support in a lame duck Congress. PA 436, which gives even greater dictatorial powers to an “emergency manager” than PA 72, went into effect just after Orr was installed under the old law, and then was automatically upgraded three days later.

In his emails to his law partners at Jones Day, Orr expressed concern over the voter’s defeat of the previous law, noting, “So although the new law provides the thin veneer of a revision it is essentially a redo of the prior rejected law and appears to merely adopt the conditions necessary for a chapter 9 filing. The news reports state that opponents of the prior law are already lining up to challenge this law.”

Corinne Ball from Jones Day seems to have been a sounding board for Orr as to whether he would accept the position. An email sent by Orr from January 31 thanks her for showing him “alternative ways to skin this cat.” Such comments also show that Orr was being scouted by Snyder well before his appointment was officially announced or he was even interviewed, illegal under even PA 436, much less other Michigan laws.

It should come as little surprise that the decision to bankrupt Detroit was made long before the imposition of the emergency manager. The Obama administration used the same cynical ploy during the restructuring of GM and Chrysler in 2009, first claiming it wanted to avoid bankruptcy and then using the courts and the collaboration of the UAW to carry out a “managed bankruptcy.” The result was the shutdown of a dozen plants, the destruction of tens of thousands of jobs and the halving of wages for new workers.

Last year’s consent agreement with Detroit, where city workers had their wages and benefits cut by 10 percent, was the first step in this process. Emergency management and bankruptcy were the next logical steps, providing Wall Street free access to loot not just workers’ wages and benefits, but legally protected pensions and public assets. The latter includes the city’s lighting and water systems and even the masterpieces of the Detroit Institute of Art.

All the talk about the tragic, “tough choice” to declare bankruptcy was a lie. There was even discussion of how to present it, so that local politicians would take as little heat as possible. One email from Jones Day lawyer Dan Moss to Orr notes, “Making this [bankruptcy] a national issue is not a bad idea. It provides political cover for the state politicians.” The same email also notes that a successful Detroit bankruptcy, and the requisite destruction of living standards, will open up further patronage jobs for Snyder and Bing—“Cabinet, Senate or Corporate”—once their terms are ended.

Jones Day was involved in the discussions on Detroit’s bankruptcy, and knew it was the end goal. As such, they positioned themselves to be hired by the city as its “restructuring consultant” to a tune of millions of dollars, and now stand to make even more. One estimate placed the legal costs for Detroit’s bankruptcy at around $100 million, of which Jones Day now will most likely make a significant fraction.

Even the late July 18 filing was carried out on a conspiratorial basis. Orr and Snyder rushed the bankruptcy filing to preempt lawsuits filed by pension trustees and public-sector unions seeking to block bankruptcy on the grounds that it would lead to unconstitutional pension cuts. Attorneys for Snyder reportedly asked the lawyers representing the pension funds for a five-minute delay before they sought a temporary restraining order to block the bankruptcy filing. During those five minutes, Orr’s attorneys filed the bankruptcy petition in Detroit.

The destruction of basic democratic forms in Detroit is part of the broader assault on democracy nationally and internationally. The financial aristocracy realizes it cannot impose deeply unpopular measures on the population through democratic means and is therefore increasingly adopting authoritarian methods.

Entrevista realizada por Monique Van Dieren y Claudia Benedetto y publicada en la revista Contrastes, N° Verano 2013 |1|.

La crisis de la zona euro demuestra que hay claramente una Europa de dos velocidades, no la de la UE 17 (zona euro) y la UE 27 (estados miembros), sino la de los países ricos y sólidos de una parte y la de los países pobres y frágiles de otra. ¿Qué ha provocado ese foso?

La Unión Europea y la zona euro fueron creadas aplicando principios que favorecen únicamente al capital: libertad total de movimientos de capitales, libertad de circulación de las mercancías y servicios, promoción a cualquier precio de la competencia, puesta en cuestión del planteamiento del principio de los servicios públicos… Se le da toda la libertad al capital con el objetivo de hacer un máximo de ganancias, considerando equivocadamente que si se favorece una iniciativa privada, todo va a funcionar muy bien.

Poniendo en pie ese principio y reduciendo al máximo la intervención de los estados en términos de reglamentaciones, de presupuestos, nos encontramos con una Europa en la que el presupuesto representa menos del 1% de su PIB ¡cuando generalmente, el presupuesto de los estados más industrializados está alrededor del 40%-50% del PIB! Nos encontramos con un presupuesto famélico, cerca de cuya mitad va a la Política Agrícola Común. La consecuencia es que Europa no está dotada de un medio que le permita reducir las disparidades entre las economías más fuertes y las más débiles de la Unión. Cuando se pone en una misma estructura en competencia economías completamente diferentes, se refuerzan las disparidades.

¿Hay otros puntos de fractura?

No solo hay una oposición por una parte entre países como Grecia, Portugal, Irlanda, España y los países del Este y por otra los más fuertes de la UE. ¡También se da en el interior mismo de cada uno de esos países! Se han aumentado, por medio de las reformas del mercado de trabajo, las disparidades salariales.

Las políticas llevadas a cabo en el interior de los estados de la UE han contribuido a las desigualdades. Un ejemplo emblemático, Alemania. Se han puesto en pie contrarreformas que intentan aumentar enormemente las diferencias de estatus entre los trabajadores, lo que hace que hoy haya ¡7 millones de asalariados a tiempo completo que ganan 400 euros por mes!

Se sabe que la fiscalidad es uno de los nudos del problema europeo y del endeudamiento de los estados. ¿Cómo explicar el hecho de que la mayor parte de los países europeos continúen desarrollando la competencia interna?

Se ha rechazado una armonización fiscal en Europa. Hay sistemas fiscales totalmente diferentes. En Chipre el impuesto sobre las sociedades es del 10%. Lo que debería cambiar con la crisis que se conoce hoy. En Irlanda, el ISOC es del 12,5% y en Bélgica del 39,99%. Esta disparidad permite a las empresas declarar sus rentas donde les resulta más barato. La política europea actual protege el fraude fiscal. Los paraísos fiscales existen en el seno de la la UE y de la zona euro. En particular, la City de Londres en el caso de la UE, el Gran Ducado de Luxemburgo en la zona euro.

A nivel nacional, es completamente posible adoptar medidas de justicia fiscal. La idea según la cual “estamos en la zona euro y por tanto no se pueden tomar medidas importantes en el plano fiscal” es falsa. Se hace creer a la gente que no hay otra salida. Quienes invocan ese discurso intentan proteger a los defraudadores. Se ve claramente que con el “tema” de Chipre, se quieren dar a luz soluciones que anteriormente eran consideradas como imposibles: se va a poner impuestos a las personas que tienen más de 100.000 euros en los bancos, instaurar un control sobre los movimientos de capitales. Rechazo el plan impuesto por la Troika en Chipre pues el objetivo perseguido es imponer una política global antisocial pero ciertas disposiciones tomadas muestran que es posible controlar los movimientos de capitales y poner fuertes impuestos por encima de un cierto nivel de patrimonio.

A pesar de las reglas impuestas por la UE, es completamente posible que algunos países se opongan a la política de la Comisión y fuercen con su actitud a una renegociación a nivel europeo. Hay que reconstruir Europa democráticamente. Mientras tanto, es necesario que gobiernos de izquierda rompan la disciplina. Si François Hollande hubiera respetado lo que hizo que los franceses le eligieran, habría pedido una renegociación del pacto fiscal europeo con Angela Merkel y en el caso en que ésta se hubiera negado, se habría pronunciado en contra a la hora de la votación. Ello hubiera podido impedir la adopción de ese tratado.

La crisis del euro traduce de forma evidente una ausencia de gobernanza política sólida (ausencia de política económica, presupuestaria, fiscal y social coherente). La falta de apoyo europeo en relación a la deuda griega es reveladora de la fragilidad de una unión si no está fundada en la solidaridad. ¿Esta crisis del euro anuncia el fin definitivo de la solidaridad europea? ¿Está definitivamente enterrado el sueño del federalismo europeo?

La solidaridad europea no ha existido jamás en el marco de la UE tal como existe. O se podría decir que si hay solidaridad, es con las grandes empresas europeas. Los gobiernos europeos han tomado de forma sistemática medidas para ayudar a los bancos europeos y a las grandes empresas europeas. Pero cuando se trata de ayudar a los pueblos y a las economías más débiles, no hay solidaridad. Se podría más bien decir que hay un cierto tipo de solidaridad: una solidaridad de clase, una solidaridad entre capitalistas.

El federalismo es posible pero debe resultar de una constituyente de los pueblos. Guy Verhofstadt y Daniel Cohn-Bendit defienden un federalismo por arriba… Necesitamos un federalismo planteado por la base, por el pueblo.

El federalismo es posible y necesario, pero implica una salida a partir de abajo a la crisis europea. Esto no quiere decir un repliegue sobre sí sino una solidaridad entre los pueblos europeos y una Constitución europea decidida por los propios pueblos.

¿Qué habría que hacer para que las instituciones europeas fueran más democráticas?

¡Hay que deconstruir las instituciones no democráticas y construir nuevas y esto a partir de una constituyente de los pueblos! El poder legislativo (el parlamento europeo) es extremadamente débil, demasiado sometido al ejecutivo.

A falta de receta milagrosa, ¿tiene vd. una idea concreta para reconciliar al ciudadano con Europa?

En el marco de las fronteras nacionales, hay que tomar iniciativas para que los movimientos sociales y las organizaciones de izquierda coherentes definan un proyecto común. A nivel europeo, vía el movimiento Altersummit, se intenta promover una convergencia entre un máximo de movimientos ciudadanos, de movimientos sociales y de sindicatos europeos |2|. No es fácil, hasta ahora es demasiado lento, pero no obstante es preciso construir una coalición de los movimientos sociales europeos. Es preciso también contribuir a relanzar si es posible el movimiento de los indignados, apoyar Blockupy en Francfort contra el BCE |3|. Hay también que apoyar las acciones y las actividades de las feministas contra la austeridad en Europa |4|. Igualmente, hay que reforzar otras iniciativas europeas: la red europea y mediterránea de las auditorías ciudadanas (ICAN) |5|, la red europea contra la privatización de la salud |6|, y los esfuerzos para la creación de un movimiento antifascista europeo |7|, así como la iniciativa “Los pueblos europeos contra la Troika” que ha dado lugar a acciones en decenas de ciudades europeas el 1 de junio de 2013 |8|.

Europa tiene su razón de ser porque…

Porque es necesaria una solidaridad entre los pueblos europeos. Solidaridad que es completamente posible.

Europa tiene su razón de ser a condición de que…

El proceso se haga “por abajo”. Es necesaria una constituyente de los pueblos europeos y por tanto una refundación de Europa.

Hay que dar la espalda a la política realizada hasta ahora. Hay varios escenarios posibles para salir de la crisis. El que es aplicado hoy (austeridad) profundiza y agrava la crisis. Estamos en el camino de al menos 10 a 15 años de crisis, de crecimiento muy reducido. Salvo si movilizaciones sociales logran reformas estructurales radicales como: la socialización de los bancos, el refuerzo de los servicios públicos, la reconstrucción de una Europa basada en una constituyente de los pueblos; una Europa solidaria de las demás partes del mundo. Es necesario también obtener la anulación/repudio de la deuda pública ilegítima y en esta perspectiva desarrollar las iniciativas de auditoría ciudadana de la deuda como ocurre en el Estado español, en Francia, en Portugal, en Bélgica,… hoy |9| . Esta solución implicaría que los movimientos sociales y la izquierda radical fueran capaces de ofrecer una verdadera alternativa, un programa coherente y no se limitaran a un programa neokeynesiano. Sería lamentable que esta crisis del capitalismo no lograra al final más que un poco más de disciplina… El capitalismo verde regulado no permitirá solucionar el problema fundamental del cambio climático. Hay que salir del sistema capitalista.

Traducido por Alberto Nadal

Notas

|1| La versión original de esta entrevista está disponible en la página web de los Equipes populaires que editan la revista Contrastes. http://www.equipespopulaires.b/sites/

La presente versión ha sido revisada especialmente para la página www.cadtm.org Vease:http://cadtm.org/Eric-Toussaint-La-…

|2| Ver http://www.altersummit.eu/

|3| Ver http://cadtm.org/Francfort-ein-zwei…

|4| Ver http://cadtm.org/Femmes-d-Europe-en… y http://cadtm.org/Une-tres-prometteu…

|5| Ver http://cadtm.org/Des-efforts-coordo… y http://www.citizen-audit.net/

|6| Ver http://reseau-europeen-droit-sante…. y http://www.sante-solidarite.be/acti…

|7| Ver http://cadtm.org/Por-un-movimiento-…

|8| Ver http://cadtm.org/Pueblos-Unidos-con…

|9| Ver http://cadtm.org/Declaration-pour-l…

 This article was first published August 2, 2010

“It isn’t just conspiracy theorists who are concerned about HAARP. The European Union called the project a global concern and passed a resolution calling for more information on its health and environmental risks. Despite those concerns, officials at HAARP insist the project is nothing more sinister than a radio science research facility.”
– Quote from a TV documentary on HAARP by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).

HAARP (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program) is a little-known, yet critically important U.S. military defense program which has generated quite a bit of controversy over the years in certain circles. Though denied by HAARP officials, some respected researchers allege that secret electromagnetic warfare capabilities of HAARP are designed to forward the US military’s stated goal of achieving full-spectrum dominance by the year 2020. Others go so far as to claim that HAARP can and has been used for weather modification, to cause earthquakes and tsunamis, to disrupt global communications systems, and more.

Major aspects of the program are kept secret for alleged reasons of “national security.” Yet there is no doubt that HAARP and electromagnetic weapons capable of being used in warfare do exist. According to the official HAARP website, “HAARP is a scientific endeavor aimed at studying the properties and behavior of the ionosphere, with particular emphasis on being able to understand and use it to enhance communications and surveillance systems for both civilian and defense purposes.” The ionosphere is the delicate upper layer of our atmosphere which ranges from about 30 miles (50 km) to 600 miles (1,000 km) above the surface of the Earth.

The HAARP website acknowledges that experiments are conducted which use electromagnetic frequencies to fire pulsed, directed energy beams in order to “temporarily excite a limited area of the ionosphere.” Some scientists state that purposefully disturbing this sensitive layer could have major and even disastrous consequences. Concerned HAARP researchers like Dr. Michel Chossudovsky of the University of Ottawa and Alaska’s Dr. Nick Begich (son of a US Congressman) present evidence suggesting that these disturbances can even cause tsunamis and earthquakes.

Two key major media documentaries, one by Canada’s public broadcasting network CBC and the other by the History Channel, reveal the inner workings of HAARP in a most powerful way. The very well researched CBC documentary includes this key quote:

“It isn’t just conspiracy theorists who are concerned about HAARP. In January of 1999, the European Union called the project a global concern and passed a resolution calling for more information on its health and environmental risks. Despite those concerns, officials at HAARP insist the project is nothing more sinister than a radio science research facility.”

To view the European Union (EU) document which brings HAARP and similar electromagnetic weapons into question, click here. The actual wording at bullet point 24 in this telling document states that the EU “considers HAARP by virtue of its far-reaching impact on the environment to be a global concern and calls for its legal, ecological and ethical implications to be examined by an international independent body before any further research and testing.” This reveling document further states that the EU regrets the repeated refusal of the U.S. government to send anyone to give evidence on HAARP.

To watch this engaging 15-minute CBC documentary online, click here. For an even more detailed and revealing 45-minute History Channel documentary on HAARP and other secret weapons used for electromagnetic warfare, click here. Below are two quotes from the History Channel documentary:

“Electromagnetic weapons … pack an invisible wallop hundreds of times more powerful than the electrical current in a lightning bolt. One can blast enemy missiles out of the sky, another could be used to blind soldiers on the battlefield, still another to control an unruly crowd by burning the surface of their skin. If detonated over a large city, an electromagnetic weapon could destroy all electronics in seconds. They all use directed energy to create a powerful electromagnetic pulse.”

“Directed energy is such a powerful technology it could be used to heat the ionosphere to turn weather into a weapon of war. Imagine using a flood to destroy a city or tornadoes to decimate an approaching army in the desert. The military has spent a huge amount of time on weather modification as a concept for battle environments. If an electromagnetic pulse went off over a city, basically all the electronic things in your home would wink and go out, and they would be permanently destroyed.”

For those who still doubt that such devastating secret weapons have been developed, here is an intriguing quote from an article in New Zealand’s leading newspaper, the New Zealand Herald:

“Top-secret wartime experiments were conducted off the coast of Auckland to perfect a tidal wave bomb, declassified files reveal. United States defence chiefs said that if the project had been completed before the end of the war, it could have played a role as effective as that of the atom bomb. Details of the tsunami bomb, known as Project Seal, are contained in 53-year-old documents released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.”

If the military secretly developed a weapon which could cause a tsunami over half a century ago, what kind of advanced deadly weapons might be available now? And why is it that the general public still doesn’t know about secret weapons developed over 50 years ago? To understand why the media isn’t covering these highly critical issues, click here. Clearly the military has the capability to cause a tsunami and likely to cause earthquakes and hurricanes, as well. It’s time for us to take action to spread the word on this vital topic.

Having interpreted to for top generals in my work as a language interpreter with the US Department of State, I learned that military planners are always interested in developing the most devastating weapons possible. Yet these weapons are kept secret as long as possible, allegedly for reasons of national security. The many layers of intense secrecy both in the military and government result in very few people being aware of the gruesome capabilities for death and destruction that have been developed over the years. There are many examples of major defense projects kept successfully out of the public’s eyes for years and even decades.

The massive Manhattan Project (development of the first atomic bomb) is one such example. The building of an entire city to support the project in Oak Ridge, Tennessee was successfully kept secret even from the state’s governor. The stealth bomber was kept top secret for many years, and the public still has no way of knowing it’s full capabilities. It is through the use of the highly organized military and intelligence services that the power elite of our world, working in cooperation with key allies in government and corporate ownership of the media, are able to carry out major cover-ups and secret operations like those involved with HAARP.

Some researchers have raised questions about the possible involvement of HAARP in major disasters like the earthquake in Haiti, Indonesian tsunami, and hurricane Katrina. Could these have been HAARP experiments gone awry? Might they even have been caused by rogue elements which gained control of this devastating technology. Of course disasters like this happen regularly on a natural basis, yet if you begin to research, there is some high strangeness around some of these disasters. The evidence is inconclusive, yet with the known and unknown major destructive capabilities of this weapon, serious questions remain.

Jesse Ventura, the former Navy Seal who turned pro wrestler only to then become governor of Minnesota, has also done a special on HAARP that is a bit sensationalized, yet contains useful information. You can watch this special on YouTube at this link.

Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye, who United States President Barack Obama had been keeping in prison, has been released.

Shaye was apparently given a presidential pardonthat requires him to remain in Sanaa for two years. This means he would be prohibited from traveling to many of the areas where US drone strikes have taken place while he was in prison or where they will take place over the next two years.

Journalist Iona Craig, a Times of Londoncorrespondent in Yemen who had covered Shaye’s case for two years, reacted, “Delighted to say, after two years of covering his case, jailed journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye is free. I can’t quite believe it.”

Craig acknowledged that Yemen President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi deserved credit for keeping his word and releasing Shaye. She also praised the organization, Index on Censorship, in the United Kingdom for calling attention to “Shaye’s long-running story” and the threat his imprisonment posed to freedom of expression.

Farea al-Muslimi, a Yemeni youth activist and writer who testified before Congress this year on the impact of US drone operations in his country,reacted, “After FOUR years of jailing him by order from Barack Obama, Yemeni government releases journalist Abdulelah Shaea.” He also said, “Only Barack Obama can compete with Yemen’s dictators (throughout history) in jailing journalists and killing civilians in Yemen,” and, “What a great Iftar Shaea’s kids might be having today; having their father back with them after 4 years in prison.”

The story of Shaye is told in detail by Jeremy Scahill in his book, Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield. Shaye went to the site of a US cruise missile attack in al Majalah where at least 21 children and 14 women were killed. He also tracked down US-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki to interview him on how he could support the US Army medical officer Nidal Hasan, who went on a shooting rampage at Fort Hood and why he believed Umar Farouk Abdulumutallab, the Christmas Day underwear bomber, was justified to have targeted a “civilian airliner.”

His reporting made him a target the United States wanted to neutralize. According to his lawyer, Abdulrahman Barman, whom I interviewed in May 2012:

[Shaye] is one of those who got all of the information quickly and put it out there for the public. His work actually impacted the Yemeni government and US government in ways where they didn’t want to see it. The Yemeni intelligence were trying to actually recruit Shaye and have him work in the intelligence but he refused. So, after the attack on al-Majalah where so many civilians including women and children were murdered, Abdulelah was beaten up and kidnapped [in June 2010] by the national security agency and he was asked to shut up and be silent and not to talk about these kind of issues.

This did not stop Shaye from practicing journalism.

After he was abducted in July 2010 by Yemeni intelligence agents and went on television to share what had happened to him, US government officials, according to Scahill, began “privately telling major US media outlets that were working with Shaye that they should discontinue their relationships with him. The government alleged he was “using his paychecks to support al Qaeda.”

In  August 2010, Barman told Firedoglake Shaye was kidnapped by national security agency people. He was beaten and dragged to “national security cars.” He was held for thirty-five days incommunicado while activists protested his detention in front of intelligence services and judicial system buildings. These agencies claimed they had not detained him, but he discovered his location through a released prisoner, who had seen him one of the cells. This led to the national security agencies transferring him to another location.

Barman eventually was able to be with him during interrogation and he said there was no evidence against him for the terrorism-related charges he faced.

Shaye was held in solitary confinement for a period, denied access to his lawyer, and subjected to psychological torture and abuse and appeared in a cage before a special tribunal on September 22, 2010. The judge read the charges he faced, which included “being the ‘media man’ for al Qaeda, recruiting new operatives for the group and providing al Qaeda with photos of Yemeni bases and foreign embassies for potential targeting.

According to Scahill, when Shaye heard the charges, he reacted, “When they hid murderers of children and women in Abyan, when I revealed the locations and camps of nomads and civilians in Abyan, Shabwah and Arhab when they were going to be hit by cruise missiles, it was on that day they decided to arrest me…You notice in the court how they have turned all of my journalistic contributions into accusations. All of my journalist constributions and quotations to international reporters and news channels have been turned into accusations.” And, as he was dragged off by security, he shouted, “Yemen, this is a place where, when a young journalist becomes successful, he is viewed with suspicion.”

In January 2011, he was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison and two years of house arrest in his hometown.

Shaye went on hunger strike in November 2011 and support for his release increased. Yemeni activists protested in front of the US embassy and, finally, Ali Abdullah Saleh, the president of Yemen at the time, was willing to release him. But he received a phone call from President Obama who opposed his release.

In May of this year, Craig reported that Hadi had confirmed there was “an order from the president to release” Shaye “soon.” However, no details were given on when he would be released.

Craig recounted how the US Ambassador to Sanaa, Gerald Feierstein, had told her, “Haidar Shaye is in jail because he was facilitating al-Qaeda and its planning for attacks on Americans and therefore we have a very direct interest in his case and his imprisonment,” despite the fact that no evidence confirming this allegation had ever been presented.

She highlighted the effect of his imprisonment on Yemeni journalists:

Yemeni journalists have repeatedly expressed their lingering fear over America’s meddling in Shaye’s case. Many became afraid to report on air strikes. One Yemeni journalist, like Shaye a specialist on al-Qaeda, renamed himself an “analyst of Islamic groups” and refused to do TV interviews especially with Al Jazeera after what happened to Shaye.

It had been said by Scahill that Shaye was “rotting away losing his mind in a Yemeni prison.”

What effect his imprisonment will have on him as he resumes life obviously remains to be seen, but one hopes he has not lost his spirit and commitment to journalism and, despite restrictions on traveling outside of Sanaa, will eventually return to doing what he was doing before he was unjustly imprisoned at the behest of the Obama administration.

It takes courage to do what Shaye was doing before he was imprisoned in Yemen. Sadly, when he wound up in prison, US media outlets virtually abandoned him. He had contributed to outlets such as theWashington Post and ABC News but they apparently did not ever find it appropriate to raise their voices to get answers from the administration on why a journalist was being kept in prison.

In solidarity, it is good to see Shaye be freed. Obama owes Shaye an apology and reparations of some kind for depriving him of the years of his life that he spent in prison and could not be with his family or out in the field doing journalism. Unfortunately, as much as the administration may claim to support press freedom, it is pretty much a certainty that there will not be a peep from the Obama administration where they acknowledge it was wrong to keep Shaye jailed.

¡Desde Turquía con amor! ¿Otro ataque israelí a Siria?

July 23rd, 2013 by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

El primer ministro Erdogan y su gobierno del Partido de la Justicia y el Desarrollo (AKP) tienen un historial de engaños, especialmente respecto a Israel y Siria.

Nadie debería sorprenderse al oír que Israel y Turquía están colaborando contra los sirios. Con el objetivo de reforzar el frente contra Siria, el presidente Obama incluso viajó a Israel en marzo de 2013 para mediar directamente a favor de un rápido acercamiento entre los gobiernos de Israel y Turquía. Después de un suave codazo público del gobierno de Obama, Israel y Turquía anunciaron que su altercado diplomático había terminado solo dos días después del aviso de la OTAN del 20 de marzo de 2013 de que había formulado planes de contingencia para operaciones en Siria. Incluso cuando las relaciones parecían públicamente agrias entre Ankara y Tel Aviv, los dos países mantuvieron vínculos militares y comerciales.

A pesar de que el primer ministro Erdogan criticó a Tel Aviv por atacar a Siria, los primeros frutos de la colaboración israelí y turca fueron visibles en mayo de 2013 cuando aviones de guerra israelíes atacaron una instalación de investigación militar siria en la ciudad de Jamraya con la aprobación de EE.UU. como admitió el presidente Obama en Telemundo. Inmediatamente después de los ataques israelíes los militares turcos e israelíes emprendieron ejercicios simultáneos en sus respectivas fronteras con Siria. Aunque las operaciones militares se presentaron como eventos no coordinados, Ankara y Tel Aviv se coordinaron en una postura militar contra Siria. Las acciones israelíes y turcas en sus fronteras con Siria apuntaban probablemente a impedir que Siria respondiera mediante intimidación. El gobierno turco también aplicó presión adicional a los sirios al culparlos por un ataque terrorista en la ciudad fronteriza turca de Reyhanli, que el grupo turco de hackers denominado “Redhack” reveló que era conocido previamente por la Inteligencia de la Gendarmería de Turquía.

¿Qué pasó en Latakia?

Precisamente cuando comenzó a ser evidente que EE.UU. y sus aliados se enfrentaban a serios reveses regionales en Medio Oriente y en el Norte de África, comenzaron a circular informes de una explosión en Latakia. Informes no verificados, originados en fuentes anónimas en Israel a principios de julio de 2013, comenzaron a afirmar que Tel Aviv había lanzado un ataque al puerto sirio de Latakia causando una explosión masiva. A medida que los rumores comenzaron a circular en los medios, se afirmó dudosamente que los ataques israelíes se lanzaron contra embarques de sistemas de defensa aérea S-300 fabricados en Rusia, que estaban siendo entregados a Siria por el Kremlin. Funcionarios estadounidenses entraron en escena filtrando deliberadamente más información sobre lo sucedido en Latakia al afirmar que Israel utilizó su fuerza aérea para bombardear el puerto y destruir un depósito militar repleto de misiles tierra-mar Yakhont fabricados en Rusia.

Entonces, el 15 de julio, Paula Slier de RT informó desde Tel Aviv de que Israel había atacado Latakia utilizando una base militar turca. Esto molestó al gobierno turco, que lo desmintió y dijo que cualquiera que hiciera las afirmaciones participaba en un “acto de traición”. Como respuesta al informe ruso, los funcionarios turcos aumentaron las apuestas al afirmar que los misiles tierra-mar rusos del puerto sirio estaban destinados a Hizbulá en el Líbano y que EE.UU. e Israel habían coordinado los ataques realizando reuniones en Turquía con las milicias antigubernamentales que operan en Siria. Uzi Mahnaimi complicó el asunto al informar a través de la prensa británica de que los ataques israelíes fueron lanzados desde el mar por un Dolphin construido en Alemania, lo que esencialmente vindicó a Turquía al refutar la afirmación de que los israelíes habían utilizado una base turca.

Hay que comprender que países como Turquía y Arabia Saudí ocultan su colaboración con Tel Aviv debido a la fuerte oposición de sus respectivas sociedades a la ocupación israelí de Palestina. También es importante señalar que un jet turco fue abatido en 2012 por Siria cuando seguía una ruta utilizada por jets israelíes cerca de la frontera siria-turca. El uso de esa ruta aérea por parte de Tel Aviv nunca fue realmente cuestionado por Turquía. También forma parte de un importante modelo que muestra cuán cercanas son las tácticas utilizadas por Israel y Turquía contra Siria.

¡De Turquía con amor! (Por primera vez)

El 22 de junio de 2012 un cazabombardero Phantom F-4 turco de Malatya en Turquía fue derribado en el espacio aéreo sirio. Hubo informes conflictivos sobre la suerte de los pilotos. Los medios turcos informaron de que fueron rescatados, mientras fuentes sirias afirmaban que habían sido capturados. No obstante, se informó de que los hallaron muertos atrapados bajo los restos del jet casi dos semanas después.

Tal vez fue una sorpresa para muchos que los gobiernos sirio y turco realizaran una búsqueda conjunta y esfuerzos de rescate para encontrar los restos del avión y a los dos pilotos. Damasco incluso permitió que las unidades turcas de rescate entraran en las aguas territoriales turcas y propuso que se formara un comité militar conjunto sirio-turco para investigar lo que realmente ocurrió. Siria incluso estuvo dispuesta a disculparse ante Turquía y argumentar que sus tropas pensaron que el avión de guerra turco era un jet israelí que estaba violando el espacio aéreo sirio.

Inicialmente fue obvio que el gobierno turco no sabía cómo reaccionar e hizo varias declaraciones contradictorias. Erdogan incluso llegó a decir que no sabía si los sirios habían derribado el avión y que estaba esperando información precisa sobre el incidente. Finalmente, Ankara afirmó que el jet turco fue derribado por los militares sirios sin ninguna advertencia en el espacio aéreo internacional sobre el mar Mediterráneo. Más adelante, la red Al-Arabiya de propiedad saudí –la Fox News del mundo árabe– afirmó que los dos pilotos turcos fueron ejecutados por los sirios y que sus cuerpos fueron colocados bajo los escombros por instrucciones del gobierno ruso, que también ordenó a Damasco que se disculpara y luego trató de controlar todo el evento.

Lo que tomó por sorpresa a los turcos, y a la OTAN, fue el hecho de que los sirios habían detectado el caza bombardero F-4. En realidad el jet turco estaba espiando a Siria en una misión de inteligencia, realizando trabajo de reconocimiento a baja altitud y probando los sistemas de defensa aérea de Siria. Por eso el gobierno turco cambió rápidamente su posición varias veces. Esperando que le descubrieran primero pretendió que no estaba involucrado. Al principio los funcionarios turcos hablaron del accidente como si hubiera sido un error. Incluso admitieron que el avión turco había cruzado al espacio aéreo sirio, pero dijeron que había sido un simple accidente durante una misión de entrenamiento. Sin embargo, cuando Damasco no dijo nada, Erdogan y su gobierno comenzaron a culpar duramente a los sirios de una agresión injustificada.

Los sirios respondieron a las mentiras de Ankara basándose en hechos técnicos. Desde un punto de vista técnico la historia del gobierno turco de que el jet de Ankara había sido derribado por los militares sirios mientras volaba fuera del espacio aéreo sirio sobre el mar Mediterráneo era imposible. La razón era que el avión de guerra turco fue derribado por una ametralladora de la artillería antiaérea, que con un alcance máximo de 2,5 kilómetros solo puede operar desde tierra y opera sobre la base de confirmación visual. Habría sido imposible que los sirios utilizaran la ametralladora antiaérea para atacar al jet turco si hubiera estado en el espacio aéreo internacional, porque estaba fuera de alcance. En su lugar los sirios hubieran tenido que utilizar misiles tierra-aire. Además Siria incluso advirtió a la OTAN en su conjunto, después de que Turquía convocase una reunión consultiva de la OTAN según el Artículo 4 del Tratado de Washington, de que ni pensara en violar el espacio aéreo, las aguas territoriales o las fronteras del país.

Muchas de las tácticas que fueron utilizadas contra los libios por Turquía y la OTAN se han reciclado contra los sirios. La misión espía turca fracasada de la OTAN en 2012 fue en realidad una repetición de lo que sucedió en Libia en 2011. Un piloto sirio había desertado volando con su jet desde Al-Dumayr, al noreste de Damasco, a la Base Aérea Rey Hussein de Jordania en Mafraq el 21 de junio de 2012. El piloto sirio, el coronel Al-Hamadeh, incluso envió su familia de Siria a Turquía antes de desertar. Desde Jordania sus códigos de vuelo del jet sirio fueron entregados a la OTAN para disfrazar u ocultar sus unidades aéreas como sirias. Los militares turcos y la OTAN habían tratado de disfrazar el cazabombardero Phantom F-4 turco como un jet sirio utilizando los códigos robados. Los sirios, sin embargo, sabían lo que había sucedido antes en Libia cuando dos aviones de guerra libios desertaron a Malta y entregaron sus códigos de vuelo militares a la OTAN, que los utilizó meses más tarde cuando atacó a Libia como un medio de evitar su sistema de defensa aérea.

Las manos sucias del AKP

El AKP tiene manos sucias y ha tratado de ocultar muchas de sus actividades a sus propios ciudadanos. Cuando algunos miembros de los medios turcos informaron en 2012 de que un jet militar turco podría haber estado involucrado en operaciones contra Siria, el gobierno del AKP inició una campaña muy agresiva para censurarlos. El gobierno turco comenzó a preparar nuevas leyes para los medios con el fin de impedir las críticas al gobierno turco y Erdogan calificó de “traidores” y “enemigos del Estado” al periódico turco Cumhuriyet y a cualquiera que se atreviera a cuestionar la narrativa oficial suministrada por su gobierno.

No se puede culpar a los escépticos por pensar que la historia del ataque militar israelí en Latakia se amañó para disfrazar el miserable fracaso del proyecto de Washington del cambio de régimen sirio, los crecientes temores por el ambiente regional y la decadencia regional de la Hermandad Musulmana. A pesar de los desmentidos de Ankara, la revelación de la participación turca en los eventos que tuvieron que ver con Latakia lleva a los diferentes protagonistas involucrados a hablar más. Hay que recordar que el primer ministro Erdogan y el gobierno del AKP en Turquía tienen un historial de engaños, especialmente con respecto a la cooperación de Turquía con Israel y la agresión de su gobierno a los sirios. En este contexto, la noticia de que Israel utilizó una base turca contra Siria para evitar que le detectaran tampoco debería constituir una sorpresa. Los militares israelíes y turcos incluso usaron los mismos enfoques tácticos respecto a la entrada en el espacio aéreo sirio desde la costa noroccidental de la República Árabe Siria.

Las cosas se aclararán cuando más gobiernos, si lo hacen, empiecen a hablar abiertamente de los eventos ocurridos en Latakia. Solo entonces podrá aparecer un cuadro claro de lo que sucedió realmente. No obstante, no debe haber ninguna confusión sobre el hecho de que en realidad la alianza israelí-turca nunca terminó y que Israel y Turquía son compañeros de lucha contra los sirios.

 

Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya es sociólogo e investigador asociado del Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), con sede en Montreal. Está especializado en temas de Oriente Próximo y Asia Central. Ha sido colaborador e invitado en las discusiones sobre Oriente Medio en numerosos programas y redes internacionales como Al Jazeera, Press TV y Russia Today. Permaneció en Libia durante la campaña de bombardeos de la OTAN, informando desde allí para varias cadenas de noticias. También es corresponsal especial de Flashpoints, un programa con sede en Berkeley, California. Sus artículos se han publicado en más de diez idiomas. Escribe también para la Strategic Culture Foundation de Moscú.

Traducido para Rebelión por Germán Leyen.

Este artículo se publicó originalmente en RT Op-Edge.

The Fallout from Nuclear Secrecy: Newly Declassified Documents

July 23rd, 2013 by Beverly Deepe Keever

Picture: A U.S. government photograph of Operation Redwing’s Apache nuclear explosion on July 9, 1956.

During the Cold War’s early years, the U.S. government detonated dozens of nuclear explosions on Pacific atolls, spreading nuclear fallout around the globe and making some areas uninhabitable, a grim legacy captured in secret documents finally being shared with the Marshall Islands’ government.

More than a half century after U.S. nuclear tests shattered the tranquility of Pacific Ocean atolls — rendering parts of them uninhabitable – the U.S. government has quietly released secret fallout results from 49 Pacific hydrogen-bomb blasts with an explosive force equal to 3,200 Hiroshima-size bombs.

The U.S. government turned over to the Republic of the Marshall Islands 650-plus pages of newly declassified documents that include four reports detailing fallout results of 49 tests it conducted in Operation Redwing in 1956 and Operation Hardtack in 1958 at Bikini and Enewetak atolls, according to a three-paragraph press release posted on the web site of the U.S. Embassy in the capital city of Majuro on June 12.

U.S. Ambassador Thomas Armbruster presented the previously classified nuclear documents detailing fallout results to the President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), Christopher  Loeak, and his Cabinet, The Marshall Islands Journal reportedThe Journal also indicated that RMI officials are now reviewing these documents, which they had requested. Several documents listed in the press release had been extracted and declassified in the 1980s though they received little public notice.

Before the nuclear tests, the U.S. government removed all atoll inhabitants; some are still exiled from their radioactive ancestral homelands. All 49 hydrogen-bomb tests were laced with plutonium, one of the deadliest elements known to humankind with a radioactive existence of half a million years.

From 1946 to 1958, the U.S. government conducted 66 nuclear weapons tests from and near the two atolls of Bikini and Enewetak, when the U.S. administered the Marshall Islands under a U.N.-sanctioned trust arrangement. The reports provide technical and scientific data on results of these second and third most destructive nuclear-weapons operations the U.S. ever conducted and the last ones it exploded in the Marshall Islands and the surrounding waters.

The reports detail instruments and procedures used to capture and measure fallout from experiments conducted on the atolls, underwater or in the atmosphere. Included are diagrams of flight patterns flown to capture fallout in the clouds, tables listing each detonation, maps showing blast locations plus graphs and charts detailing measurements of old and new radioactive products that were collected by using technical instruments such as spectrometers, aerial radiation detectors or telemeters.

Not until 1993 did the U.S. declassify information on the explosive force or magnitude of 44 of the 66 nuclear weapons tests conducted at Bikini and Enewetak atolls so as to inform Marshallese and U.S. test personnel. Now, the newly declassified U.S reports give Marshallese and others more fallout results of those explosions.

The fallout from the 49 explosions in Redwing and Hardtack is hard to comprehend. In 1994, when the U.S. government released details about its 1,054 nuclear tests worldwide from 1945 to its last one in 1992, the data showed the yield – the explosive force – of Operations Redwing and Hardtack at more than 48,846 kilotons, or the equivalent of about 3,200 Hiroshima-size bombs.

Operation Redwing included tests to assess military effects. Hardtack centered on developing missile warheads and high-yield strategic hydrogen bombs. The next-to-last test in the Redwing series, codenamed Tewa, was launched from a reef at Bikini and packed a yield of 5,000 kilotons — which equates to 333 Hiroshima-size bombs.

“Tewa was so powerful it lit up the sky in Hawaii,” a U.S. serviceman identified as Carl Duncan is quoted as saying in  describing that blast 2,500 miles from Honolulu. Tewa’s fallout was about 30 percent of its total yield of 5,000 kilotons and contaminated 43,500 nautical miles of ocean, according to “Operation Redwing: Fallout Location and Delineation by Aerial Surveys,” as first declassified in 1988. The U.S. gave a newly declassified version of this report to RMI officials.

“Eniwetak was hit by very heavy fallout that lasted for days,” Michael Harris, a 22-year-old Army draftee who experienced 12 of the 17 Redwing blasts, wrote, in adding italics on days. “And Carl and Berko (and the rest of the men) were exposed to seven and a half times more radiation than they received from all the other” blasts. (The spelling of Eniwetak has since been changed.)

The Tewa fallout on the Enewetak base camp did lead to dusting servicemen there with fallout exceeding the maximum permissible exposure, according to a 454-page report titled “Operation Redwing,” dated 1956 and declassified in 1982. However, that report indicated, “The highest exposures were recorded by Air Force flight officers whose aircraft penetrated the nuclear clouds.” The U.S. gave to RMI officials a report focusing on U.S. Air Force operations to collect fallout data titled “Final Report of the Commander Task Group 7.4 Operation Redwing.”

“Eniwetak was still receiving heavy fallout from the Tewa cloud,” when the next blast, codenamed Huron (each blast was named after a Native American tribe), was detonated the following day, Harris recounted. The Huron blast of 250 kilotons equates to 16 Hiroshima-size bombs. In contrast, the Eisenhower administration at the time disclosed that the Redwing series had powdered Enewetak with only “light” radioactive fallout.

When a Soviet diplomat delegated to the U.N. Trusteeship Council asked whether these islands must be “lost forever,” the U.S. official in 1956 replied that Bikini and Enewetak might be uninhabitable for at least two generations. Today Bikini and parts of Enewetak are still too radioactive to be safely inhabited.

As the Redwing tests continued, radiation badges were handed out, which Harris described as “small rectangular plastic discs three inches by an inch and a half.” Even with these, Harris wondered about the future impact of the radiation: “Had our genetic code been compromised? Would we get leukemia or some other form of cancer?”

His answer came decades later. Those present at Operations Redwing or Hardtack or for six months afterward who succumb to one of 19 primary cancers are eligible for $75,000 compensation made available by Congress.

At the time of Operation Redwing in 1956, the U.S. government under President Dwight Eisenhower released very little information. This secrecy was politically significant because it kept voters in the dark during the presidential election campaign in which Democratic candidate Adlai Stevenson advocated stopping the H-bomb tests being conducted by the Eisenhower administration.

During the election year, U.S. officials announced only two of the 17 blasts in the Redwing series. This virtual blackout hid from U.S. voters over 77 summertime days during the presidential election campaign Redwing’s 20,820 kilotons of explosive force — or the equivalent of 1,388 Hiroshima-size bombs. That tonnage is the equivalent of 18 Hiroshima-size bombs per day over 77 days.

Seven Redwing tests received no public notice and the remaining eight blasts were disclosed by Japanese scientists in news articles datelined Tokyo. Thus the fastest and most accurate information about U.S. Redwing testing was disclosed from Tokyo by Japanese, an immense irony given that only a decade earlier, U.S. atomic bombs had contributed to Japan’s surrender by destroying two of its cities. Eisenhower handily won re-election.

The more powerful 32 detonations in Operation Hardtack were launched in 1958 as the U.S. and the Soviets raced toward declaring a moratorium on such experiments and the U.S. accelerated testing missile warheads. Washington disclosed only nine of the 32 blasts that produced a total yield of 28,026 kilotons, or the equivalent of 1,868 Hiroshima-size bombs – an average of 35 per week in 1958 or five per day. That was the lowest disclosure rate of any U.S. Pacific testing operation.

Even more ironic than the Japanese disclosures in 1956 were the Soviet ones about the 1958 Hardtack detonations. The Soviets charged that the U.S. had concealed most of the tests being conducted, which even U.S. officials deemed accurate.

In doing so, the Soviets made huge propaganda gains as they announced their initiative of stopping their nuclear testing that year. Surprisingly, New York Times columnist James Reston wrote that “the United States, which pamphleteered its way to independence and elevated advertising and other arts of persuasion into a national cult, should be unable to hold its own in the battle for the headlines of the world.”

Samples made during several Hardtack tests showed that fractions of the radioactive elements of strontium and cesium were dispersed over distances of more than 4,000 miles, according to a report titled “Operation Hardtack: Fallout Measurements by Aircraft and Rocket Sampling” dated 1961 and declassified in 1985. The U.S. gave a newly declassified version of this report to RMI officials.

That 4,000-miles range means the radioactive elements could have descended on San Francisco and other West Coast areas.  Both radioactive elements pose serious health problems.

The decades-long delay in receiving a full accounting of these fallout results helps to substantiate the contention of the RMI that its negotiators were denied vital information when they agreed in 1986 with President Ronald Reagan to form an independent nation, thus ending the American administration of the U.N.-sanctioned trust territory established in 1947.

Kept in the dark about the fallout results, the Marshallese agreed to terms so insufficient that a U.S.-financed $150 million nuclear-claims trust fund is now penniless, unable to compensate fully Marshallese for health and property damages presumed to have resulted from the tests. RMI’s appeals to Congress, the U.S. courts and the Bush administration have been turned back and the Obama administration has yet to help them.

Last September, Special Rapporteur Calin Georgescu of the United Nations reported to its Human Rights Council that the U.S. government should:

–Remedy and compensate Marshall Islanders for its nuclear weapons testing that has caused “immediate and lasting effects” on their human rights,

–Open up still-secret information and records regarding the environmental and human health effects of past and current U.S. military use of the islands,

–Grant Marshallese full access to their  medical and other records, and

–Consider issuing a presidential acknowledgment and apology to victims adversely affected by the 66 weapons tests it conducted when it administered the Marshall Islands as a U.N. strategic trust territory.

Over the decades, the Marshallese have not been alone in wanting more information about the nuclear tests. In 1954, the Association of State Health Officials voted to ask the federal government to give health officials with security clearances access to classified atomic energy information so as to prevent health hazards.

From 1945 to 1992, the United States carried out 1,054 nuclear tests worldwide.

Beverly Deepe Keever is the author of News Zero: The New York Times and The Bomb and the newly released Death Zones and Darling Spies: Seven Years of Vietnam War Reporting.

Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to name Martin Indyk as the U.S. Representative to the Israel-Palestinian peace negotiation. Indyk has been around this peace talk track before.

He belongs to a small group of Jewish diplomats who have specialized in Middle East negotiations. The same names come up with every new effort to reconcile Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

This time the key player is Indyk. Who is he?

Indyk (shown above at right with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert) began his Washington career as an AIPAC staffer, served as executive director of an AIPAC think tank offshoot, the Washington Institute of Near East Policy, and then served two short terms as the first foreign-born U.S. Ambassador to Israel.

Indyk was born to a Jewish family in London, England. The family moved to Australia where Indyk grew up in the Sydney suburb of Castlecrag. He graduated from the University of Sydney in 1972. He received his PhD in international relations from the Australian National University in 1977. Indyk imigrated to the United States and later gained American citizenship in 1993.

Indyk’s pro-Israel credentials are spelled out by Phillip Weiss, writing in Mondoweiss:

He wrote (in the book Innocent Abroad 4 years ago) that: “I was first drawn to the Middle East through my Jewish identity and connection to Israel.” Indyk now works at Brookings for a man he calls his “godfather,” Haim Saban. Saban has said that his “greatest concern… is to protect Israel.”

Indyk was described in 1992 by a former AIPAC president as AIPAC’s political asset in the Clinton campaign. After the spectacular failure of Camp David negotiations that he helped conduct in 2000, Indyk was characterized by former Palestinian negotiator Mohammed Dahlan as having a pro-Israel bias and “advanced negative attitudes toward Palestinians.”

While former Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath said that Indyk was “partial, biased, pro-Israel” and defended Israeli settlements more than Israelis.

And this is the man in whom we are to place our trust as Kerry’s point man for peace?

When Kerry was engaged in his recent travels to the region, he tried to make the case that this set of negotiations would be the final opportunity to bring the two opposing sides together.  Now the news from Palestine is that President Mahmoud Abbas is satisfied that Kerry and Indyk will be fair in reaching an agreement.

How could Abbas possibly reach such a conclusion?  There is nothing emanating from the Israeli side that would suggest that Benjamin Netanyahu can bring his right-wing government to accept a peace agreement anywhere near any reasonable position of fairness.

Is the Palestinian Authority president placing his trust in the upcoming negotiations because of specific promises? Word from Israel is that it is prepared to release some longtime Palestinian political prisoners, many of whom Israel classifies as “heavyweights”, whatever that could possibly mean.

Kerry has also dropped hints of financial incentives to the PA from outside investors who are eager to invest in the Palestinian economy.

That is the old “investment not divestment” trope which has been a part of Protestant church discussions in recent years.  It sounds nice but where is the meat? Where are the roadblocks opening up; where are the tough decisions on Israel’s illegal settlements?

Richard Silverstein is skeptical of the usual Israeli ploy to release Palestinian prisoners as a sign of good will. He writes:

They’ll supposedly be getting 100 freed Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails for decades. The Israel Broadcasting Authority says the prisoner release would happen in four stages and the first one would only happen during the second month of negotiations. A lot can happen in that time.

And I’d say a guarantee of this happening is pretty thin. Further, the Palestinians seem willing to overlook that Israel, after past prisoner exchanges, promptly rearrested whoever it still wants behind bars.

Another issue the Palestinians would apparently give up is their efforts to win international recognition in bodies like the United Nations. That’s giving up a whole lot in return for very little. The Guardian quotes a former PA official on the illusions that underpin the talks about starting talks:

Ghassan Khatib, former director of communications for the Palestinian Authority. “The thing that bothers me is that it seems that the resumption of negotiations is seen as an objective in itself. But the problem was never the lack of negotiations, direct or indirect. It is the huge gap between Israel’s stated position and its practices, and the lack of willingness by the US to put pressure on them.”

In these negotiation promises, there is not a single sign that oppression will be eased. Psalm 146:3 comes to mind: “Do not put your trust in princes” (NIV).  It would be wrong to believe that this new round of talks brings with them the slightest hope of success, if our only hope rests with U.S. political leaders who have thus far forfeited their leadership to the Zionist Lobby.

Which is why the real effort on the part of progressives in and out of religious communities, must be to persuade the American public that our only hope for peace in the region is in our ability to put pressure on U.S. political decision makers, from the White House to the Congress and out to the media.

unified-command_world-map-smallWhich is why this could be the right moment to enlist retired military leaders in the cause of peace.

These are the front line leaders who are strongly in favor of negotiations that really succeed. The military generals who must work in the US Central Command are closer to the situation on the ground than diplomats visiting from outside.

This map of the different U.S. Central Commands show the Central Command stretching from Afghanistan into north Africa.

Max Blumenthal reported on a recent Aspen Institute conference in which:

Recently retired US Central Commander General James Mattis warned .  .  .   that if Secretary of State John Kerry’s attempts to broker a deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority failed, Israel would be exposed as an apartheid state. Mattis pointed at the settlement enterprise as the source of Israel’s diplomatic crisis, declaring that “the protagonists” – Israel and the Palestinian Authority – might not be as interested in a deal as Kerry is.

Mattis’ warning follows an earlier warning issued by Israeli negotiator Tzipi Livni,who warned that Israel is in danger of a worldwide boycott if current negotiations fail.

General James Mattis spoke at the Aspen Institute’s annual Security Forum, in Colorado. He was far more direct than political leaders dare to be.

Mattis said that as a result of Israeli intransigence and the US special relationship with Israel, he and his troops have “paid a military security price.” His comments echoed those of his predecessor, General David Petraeus, who told the Senate Armed Service Committee in 2010 that “enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors” had damaged US interests in the region. Petraeus was hammered by pro-Israel forces for his remarks – Abe Foxman called him “dangerous” — and wound up walking them back.

Mattis, a 45-year military veteran, ended his assignment at CENTCOM on June 1. He appears to be speaking without much concern for domestic political pressure. The Abe Foxmans of U.S. domestic politics do not seem to trouble him.

We no longer have a significant and progressive ally on the media front at a time when a second term Obama administration shows signs of fatigue and what is worse, an unwillingness to defy Israeli demands.

Progressives worldwide are mourning the death of longtime journalist Helen Thomas, who died July 20 at age 92, in Washington. She threw hard questions at every president from John F. Kennedy to Barack Obama.

The Washington Post reporting on her death, wrote:

Thomas routinely questioned White House officials over U.S. policies toward Israel and the Middle East, which led some to complain she was too sympathetic to Palestinian and Arab viewpoints. Bush spokesman Tony Snow once famously answered one of her questions with, “Thank you for the Hezbollah view”.

She was a pioneer in breaking barriers for women. The Guardian reported:

At a time when US news media confined most female journalists to writing about cookery, fashion and “women’s interests”, Helen Thomas was one of the doughtiest warriors to storm the absurd barricade. Thomas, who has died aged 92, became a national icon as the senior correspondent at the White House for United Press International (UPI), with the privilege of saying to US leaders from John F Kennedy onwards, “Thank you, Mr President”, signalling that the press (and the television audience) had heard quite enough.

She was so hard on George W. Bush that he shut her out of his press conferences, refusing for three years to call on her for a question. When Barack Obama became president, he called on her during his first White House press conference, acknowledging that it was a risk.  He was not disappointed.

After three years of enforced silence, Thomas asked the new president about Israel’s nuclear arsenal, a topic which by tacit agreement is off limits to media and politicians. The policy of “deliberate ambiguity”  is followed, allowing Israel to keep their nukes a company secret.  Meanwhile, Israel continues to make demands on other Middle East countries to reveal all regarding their efforts to build their own nuclear arsenal.

Obama dodged the nuke question.

The Post headline was descriptive: “Helen Thomas, feisty scourge of presidents,  dies at 92″.

She died just as the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are launched with little chance of success. We need more “feisty scourges” like Helen Thomas in the White House press room.

Drip and drip again. It’s a walk through Triplicane. It’s a walk through the Triplicane and Royapettah areas of Chennai in July. It’s hot here. It’s always hot here. Watch your back. Watch your front. And, by the way, watch your side as well. Those mopeds, those scooters, those autos, those guided missiles from all directions. Around here, you walk in the road. Around here, city planners didn’t plan for much.

A rush past half a dozen dimly lit pharmacy shops stacked to the rafters with boxes, bottles and more boxes. A rush past a dozen tiny one room eateries, non-veg, veg, wooden benches, plastic chairs, metal jugs of water on tables and metal mug waiting to be filled. A rush past street side shrines – tridents, Shivas, Nandis, Ganeshes, lingams. Smell the incense, feel the burn, sense the back streets of Triplicane.

It’s dusk. It’s dusk when each minutiae of life, each nuance, becomes more pronounced, more noticeable, in the neon-polluted haze. When traffic roars and darkness gathers. When anticipation prevails. When the aroma of freshly cooked food hangs in the air and women shop and cows munch. When dhabas bustle and chai shops steam. When firecrackers explode and a thousand vehicle horns blast. And through the choking traffic fumes, seated at the roadside, women sell bright yellow marigolds and sweet smelling jasmine.

A sharp left and off into the narrow lanes. Boys play cricket, children fly kites from rooftops. And dogs come to life after a hard day’s sleep in the shade. Intricately drawn kolams on the floor at the entrances to homes fade in the dark. Where art meets ritual, where community meets tradition, where the women who drew them assert their presence. Both young and old stop to offer a prayer at a small shrine, and a child says “hi” and continues with his game.

Look from a distance and see the cityscape. The occasional high rise jostles for space among a million concrete box buildings that spill across the landscape. Triplicane and Royapettah. Splashes in the spill.

The subtle shades of the night, the garish billboards advertising the latest blockbuster. The moustachioed handsome hero of the Tamil movie variety towers tall above the traffic. The hero, who dishes out and is sometimes the recipient of a form of slapstick violence that never really bruises, never really cuts and never really hurts. In make-believe movie-land, the pain is always dulled. Opium for the masses.   

And on the corner, by the cracked concrete entrances to the subways that traverse Anna Salai, the main thoroughfare, a bunch of cycle carts parked up. And a bunch of street stalls beckon. Frying, cooking, heating in the roasting night. A quick bite of dosa held in hand, a mouthful of rice shovelled with fingers. Street food served on the street, fast food eaten fast. It’s the India of roadside stoves, pots and pans. It’s the neighbourhood India of the common man, for the common man. It’s community.

It’s the type of small-scale enterprise India that many a politician would readily wrench from neighbourhoods in return for a pocket full of Walmart gold. India’s education system, healthcare system, infrastructure and welfare system has already been sacrificed for many a burgeoning Swiss bank account. Why not the rest of India too? It’s called accumulation by dispossession. It’s called stolen wealth. And the process has accelerated since the opening up of the economy in ’91 (1). The impact is stark, but it’s not unique to India. A cheap con-trick sold to the masses on the road to some bogus notion of the ‘promised land’, some idiotic secular theology of neo-liberal fast track ‘development’.

A promised land of fortune, mansions and lavish living that the tricksters attained years ago – by cartels, force and duplicity masquerading as ‘neo-liberalism’, masquerading as the ‘free’ market. A global market rigged, bought and paid for courtesy of the Rothschilds, Rockefellers, Warburgs or various other billionaire fraudsters before India’s local mom and pop stores were but a twinkle in their parents’ eyes. No, it’s not unique to India. It’s global. Like some of the pesticide-ridden/engineered crops in the fields, or the protruding bellies of the malnourished, it’s not genuine growth, but abnormal swelling. Like the soil sucked dry, people are left to wilt on the vine. 

The poverty alleviation rate in India is the same as it was 20 years back. Every second child is underweight and stunted (2). Eight of India’s states account for more poor people than in the 26 poorest African countries combined (3). Shopping and consumerism have become the concerns and priorities of India’s misinformed and misled creamy layer. Misinformed by news outlets that pass off infotainment as news. Misinformed by a government that cosies up to western multi-nationals with secretive ‘Memorandums of Understanding’ and then proceeds to target some of the poorest people in the country who resist as ‘the enemy within’ (4).

It’s all a bit of a mad dash this. An insane one. A corrupt one. We need to move to a different beat, to travel in a different direction, to make peace with our future (5).

Notes

1)      http://www.gfintegrity.org/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=347

2)      http://www.unicef.org/india/nutrition.html

3)      http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2010-07-13/news/27570255_1_madhya-pradesh-mpi-oxford-poverty

4)      http://www.infochangeindia.org/human-rights/no-mans-land/caught-between-the-maoists-and-the-salwa-judum.html

5)      http://www.deccanherald.com/content/346394/making-peace-our-future.html

Brazil: Extractive Capitalism and the Great Leap Backward

July 23rd, 2013 by Prof. James Petras

 Introduction

                Brazil has witnessed one of the world’s most striking socio-economic reversals in modern history:  from a dynamic nationalist industrializing to a primary export economy.  Between the mid 1930’s to the mid 1980’s, Brazil averaged nearly 10% growth in its manufacturing sector largely based on state interventionist policies, subsidizing, protecting and regulating the growth of national public and private enterprises.  Changes in the ‘balance’ between national and foreign (imperial) capital began to take place following the military coup of 1964 and accelerated after the return of electoral politics in the mid-1980’s.  The election of neo-liberal politicians, especially with the election of the Cardoso regime in the mid-1990’s, had a devastating impact on the strategic sectors of the national economy:  wholesale privatization was accompanied by the denationalization of the commanding heights of the economy and the deregulation of capital markets.[1]  Cardoso’s regime set the stage for the massive flow of foreign capital into the agro-mineral, finance, insurance and real estate sectors.  The rise in interest rates as demanded by the IMF and World Bank and the speculative market in real estate raised the costs of industrial production.  Cardoso’s lowered tariffs ended industrial subsidies and opened the door to industrial imports.  These neo-liberal policies led to the relative and absolute decline of industrial production.[2]

                The Presidential victory of the self-styled “Workers Party” in 2002 deepened and expanded the ‘great reversal’ promoted by its neo-liberal predecessors.  Brazil reverted to becoming a primary commodity exporter, as soya, cattle, iron and metals exports multiplied and textile, transport and manufacturing exports declined.[3]  Brazil became one of the leading extractive commodity exporters in the world.  Brazil ’s dependence on commodity exports was aided and abated by the massive entry and penetration of imperial multi-national corporations and financial flows by overseas banks.  Overseas markets and foreign banks became the driving force of extractive growth and industrial demise.

                To gain a better understanding of Brazil’s ‘great reversion’ from a dynamic nationalist-industrializing to a vulnerable imperial driven agro-mineral extractive dependency, we need to briefly review the political-economy of Brazil over the past fifty years to identify the decisive ‘turning points’ and the centrality of political and class struggle.

Military Model:  Modernization from Above

                Under the military dictatorships (1964-1984) economic policy was based on a hybrid strategy emphasizing a triple alliance of state, foreign and national private capital[4] focused primarily on industrial exports and secondarily on agriculture commodities (especially traditional products like coffee).

                The military discarded the nationalist-populist model based on state industries and peasant cooperatives of the ousted leftist President Goulart and put in place an alliance of industrial capitalists and agribusiness.  Riding a wave of expanding global markets and benefiting from the repression of labor, the compression of wages and salaries, comprehensive subsidies and protectionist policies , the economy grew by double digits from the late 1960’s to the mid 1970’s, the so-called “Brazilian Miracle”[5].  The military while ending any threats of nationalizations, put in place a number of ‘national content’ rules on the foreign multi-nationals which expanded Brazil ’s industrial base and enlarged the size and scope of the urban working class especially in the automotive industry.  This led to the growth of the metal workers union and later the Workers’ Party.  The ‘export model’ based on light and heavy industry, foreign and domestic producers, was regionally based (southeast).  The military modernization strategy heightened inequalities and integrated the local ‘national’ capitalists to imperial MNCs.  This laid the groundwork for the onset of the anti-dictatorial struggles and the return of democracy.  Neo-liberal parties gained hegemony with the turn to electoral politics.

Electoral Politics , the Rise of Neo-Liberalism and the Ascendancy of Extractive Capitalism

The electoral opposition which succeeded the military regimes was initially polarized between a liberal, free market, agro-mineral elite allied with imperial MNC and on the other hand a worker, peasant, rural worker and lower middle class nationalist bloc, intent on promoting public ownership, social welfare, the redistribution of income and agrarian reform.  Militant labor formed the CUT; landless peasants formed the MST and both joined the middle class to form the PT[6]

The first decade of electoral politics 1984-94, was characterized by the tug and pull between the residual statist capitalism inherited from the previous military regime and the emerging liberal ‘free market’ bourgeoisie.  The debt crises, hyper-inflation, massive systemic corruption, the impeachment of President Collor and economic stagnation severely weakened the statist capitalist sectors and led to ascendancy of an alliance of agro-mineral and finance capital, both foreign and local capitalists, linked to overseas markets.  This retrograde coalition found their political leader and road to power with the election of Fernando Henrique Cardoso, a former leftist academic turned free market zealot.

The election of Cardoso led to a decisive break with the national statist policies of the previous sixty years.  Cardoso’s policies gave a decisive push toward the denationalization and privatization of the economy, essential elements in the reconfiguration of Brazil ’s economy and the ascendancy of extractive capital[7].  By almost all indicators Cardoso’s ultra neo-liberal policies led to a precipitous great leap backward, concentrating income and land, and increasing foreign ownership of strategic sectors.  Cardoso’s “reform” of the economy at the expense of industrial labor, public ownership, landless rural workers provoked widespread strikes and land occupations[8].  The ‘extractive economy’ especially the opening of lucrative sectors in agriculture, mining and energy took place at the expense of the productive forces:  the relative position of manufacturing, technology and high end services declined.  In particular labor earnings as a whole declined as a percentage of GNP[9].

The average growth rate of industry declined to a paltry 1.4%.  Employment in the industrial sector fell by 26%, unemployment rose to over 18.4%, the ‘informal sector’ rose from 52.5% in 1980 to 56.1% in 1995[10].

Privatization of public enterprises like the giant and lucrative telecommunication firm Telebras led to the massive firing of workers and subcontracting of labor at lower wages and without social benefits.  Under Cardoso , Brazil had the highest rates of inequality (Gini coefficient) in the world – bar one country.

Cardoso used state subsidies to promote foreign capital especially in the agrarian export and mining sectors while the small and medium size farmers were starved for credit.  His program of financial deregulation led to currency speculation, massive windfall profits for Wall Street banks as the regime raised interest rates by over 50%[11].  Bankruptcy of farmers led to their dispossession by agro-export capitalists.              Concentration of land took a decisive turn as .7% of large landowners owning farms over 2,000 hectares increased their acreage from 39.5% to 43% of Brazilian farmland[12].

During Cardoso’s eight years in office, (1994-2002) there was a tsunami of foreign investment:  over $50 billion flowed in just the first 5 years – ten times the total of the previous 15 years[13].  Foreign owned agro-mineral companies among the top foreign owned companies (as of 1997) numbered over one-third and growing.  Between 1996-1998 foreign MNC acquired eight major food, mining and metal production firms[14].

Cardoso’s neo-liberal policies opened the door wide open for foreign capital takeover of critical industrial and banking sectors.  Nevertheless, it was the subsequent “Workers Party” presidents Da Silva and Rousseff who completed the Brazilian economy’s Great Leap Backward by decisively turning to extractive capital as the driving force of the economy.

From Neoliberalism to Extractive Capital

Cardoso’s privatizations were sustained and deepened by the Lula regime.  Cardoso’s outrageous privatization of the Vale do Doce iron mine at a fraction of its value was defended by Lula; the same was the case with Cardoso’s defacto privatization of the state oil company Petrobras.  Lula embraced the restrictive monetary policies, budget surplus agreements with the IMF and followed the budgetary prescriptions of the IMF directors[15].

The Lula regime (2003-2011) took Cardoso’s neo-liberal policies as a guide to further reconfigure Brazil ’s economy to the benefit of foreign and domestic capital located now in the primary, raw material export sector.  In 2005 Brazil exported $55.3 billion dollars in raw materials and $44.2 billion in manufacturing goods; in 2011 Brazil tripled its raw material exports to $162.2 billion while its manufacturing exports increased to a mere $60.3 billion[16].

In other words the difference between the value of raw material and manufacturing exports increased from $13 billion to over $100 billion in the last 5 years of Lula’s regime.  The relative de-industrialization of the economy, the growing imbalance between the dominant extractive and manufacturing sector illustrates the reversion of Brazil to its ‘colonial style of development’.

Agro-Mining Capitalism, the State and the People

Brazil ’s export sector benefited enormously from the rise in commodity prices.  The prime beneficiary was its primary agro-mineral sector.  But the cost to industry, public transport, living conditions, research and development and education was enormous.  Agro-mineral exports provided great revenues to the state but also extracted great subsidies, tax benefits and profits.

Brazil ’s industrial economy was adversely affected by the commodity boom because of the rise in the value of its currency, the real by 40% between 2010 – 2012 which increased the price of manufacturing exports and decreased the competitiveness of manufacturing products[17].  The “free market” policies also facilitated the entrance of lower priced manufactured goods from Asia, particularly from China .  While Brazil, primary exports to China boomed, its manufacturing sector, particularly consumer goods like textiles and footwear, declined from 2005-2010 by over 10%[18].

Under the Lula-Rousseff regimes, the extreme dependence on a limited number of commodities led to a sharp decline in the productive forces, measured by investments in technological innovations, especially those related to industry[19].  Moreover, Brazil became more dependent than ever on a single market.  From 2000 to 2010 Chinese imports of soy – the major agro export – represented 40% of Brazil ’s exports; Chinese imports of iron – the key mining export – constitute over a third of the total exports of that sector.  China also imports about 10% of Brazil ’s exports of petrol, meat, pulp and paper[20].    Under the Lula and Rousseff regimes, Brazil has reverted to a quasi-mono-cultural economy dependent on a very   limited market.  As a result the slowdown of China ’s economy has predictably led to a decline in Brazil ’s growth to fewer than 2% from 2011 to 2013[21].

 

Brazil:   Finance Capital’s Economic Paradise

                Under the Workers Party free market policies, finance capital has flooded into Brazil , as never before. Foreign direct investment jumped from about $16 billion in 2002 during the last year of the Cardoso regime to over $48 billion in the last year of Lula’s rule[22].  Portfolio investment – the most speculative sort – rose from a negative $5 billion in 2002 to $67 billion in 2010.  Net inflows of FDI and portfolio investments totaled $400 billion during 2007 – 2011 compared to $79 billion during the previous 5 year period[23].  Portfolio investments in high interest bonds, securities returned between 8% – 15% ,triple and quadruple the rates in North America and Europe .  Lula and Dilma are poster presidents of Wall Street.

                By most important economic indicators the policies of the Lula-Dilma regimes have been the most lucrative for  overseas financial capital and the investors in the primary agro-mineral sectors in the recent history of Brazil .

Agro-Mineral Model and the Environment

                Despite their political rhetoric in favor of family farming, the Lula-Dilma regimes have been among the biggest promoters of agro-business in recent Brazilian political history.  The largest share of state resources allocated to agriculture, finances agribusiness and large landowners.  According to one study, in 2008/2009 small holders received about $6.35 billion ( US ), while agribusiness and large landholders received $31.9 billion ( US ) in funding and credit[24].  Less than 4% of government resources and research was directed to family farming and agro-ecological farms.

                Under Lula the destruction of the rain forests occurred at a rapid pace.  Between 2002 and 2008 the Cerrado region’s vegetation was reduced by 7.5% or over 8.5 million hectares, mostly by agro-business corporations[25].  The Brazilian Cerrado is one of the world’s most biologically rich savannah regions concentrated in the center-east region of the country.  According to one study 69% of all the land owned by foreign corporations is concentrated in Brazil ’s Cerrado[26].  Between 1995 – 2005 the share of foreign capital in Brazil ’s agro-industrial grain sector jumped from 16% to 57%.  Foreign capital has capitalized on the neo-liberal policies under Cardoso, Lula and Dilma to move into agro-fuel (ethanol) sector, controlling about 22% of Brazilian sugar cane and ethanol companies[27] – and rapidly encroaching on the Amazon forest.

Between May 2000 and August 2005, thanks to the expansion of the export sector, Brazil lost 132,000 square kilometers of forest due to the expansion of large landowners and multinationals engaged in cattle raising, soya and forestry[28].  Between 2003 – 2012 over 137 square kilometers have been deforested, aided and abetted by multi-billion dollar government infrastructure investments, tax incentives and subsidies.

In 2008 damage to the Amazon rain forest surged 67% .Under pressure from indigenous, peasant and landless rural workers’ and ecology movements the government took action to curtail deforestation.  It declined from a peak of 27,772 square kilometers in 2004 (second only to the highest ever under Cardoso in 1995, 29,059 square kilometers) to 4,656 sq. km in 2012[29].

Cattle ranching is the leading cause of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon.  Estimates attribute over 40% to big capitalist and MNC meat processing corporations[30].  The Lula-Dilma regimes’ major infrastructure investments, especially roads, opened previously inaccessible forest lands to corporate cattle firms.  Under Lula and Dilma, commercial agriculture, especially soya beans became the second biggest contributor to deforestation of the Amazon.

Accompanying the degradation of the natural environment, the expansion of agro-business has been accompanied by dispossession, assassination and enslavement of indigenous peoples.  The Christian, Pastoral Land Commission reported that landlord violence reached its highest level in at least 20 years in 2004 – Lula’s second year in office.  Conflicts rose to 1,801 in 2004 from 1,690 in 2003 and 925 in 2002[31].

According to the government, cattle and soy corporations exploit at least 25,000 Brazilians (mostly dispossessed Indians and peasants) under “conditions analogous to slavery”.   Leading NGOs claim the true figure could be ten times that number.  Over 183 farms were raided in 2005 freeing 4,133 slaves[32].

Mining:  The Vale Rip-off as “Privatization” and the Number One Polluter

Nearly 25% of Brazil ’s exports are composed of mineral products – highlighting the growing centrality of extractive capital in the economy.  Iron ore is the mineral of greatest importance, representing 78% of total mining exports. In 2008, iron ore accounted for $16.5 of a $22.5 billion of the industry’s earnings[33].  The vast majority of iron exports are dependent on a single market – China . As China ’s growth slows, demand declines and increases Brazil ’s economic vulnerability.

One firm, privatized during the Cardoso presidency, Vale, through acquisitions and mergers controls almost 100% of Brazil ’s productive iron mines[34].  In 1997 Vale was sold by the neoliberal state for $3.14 billion, a small fraction of its value.  Over the following decade it concentrated its investments in mining, establishing a global network of mines in over a dozen countries in North and South America , Australia , Africa and Asia .  The Lula – Dilma regime played a major role in facilitating Vale’s dominance of the mining sector and the exponential growth of its value:  Vale’s net worth today is over $100 billion but it pays one of the lowest tax rates in the world, despite being the second largest mining company in the world, the largest producer of iron ore and the second largest of nickel.  Maximum royalties on mineral wealth rose from 2% to 4% in 2013[35]; in other words during the decade of the “progressive” government of Lula and Dilma, the tax rate was one-sixth that of conservative Australia with a rate of 12%.

Vale has used its enormous profits to diversify its mining operations and related activities.  It sold off businesses such as steel and wood pulp, for $2.9 billion – nearly the price paid for the entire mineral complex. Instead it concentrated on buying up the iron mines of competitors and literally monopolizing production.  Vale expanded into manganese, nickel, copper, coal, potash, kaolin, bauxite; it has bought out railroads, ports, container terminals, ships and at least eight hydroelectric plants; two-thirds of its hydro-electrical plants were built during the Lula regime[36].

In sum, monopoly capitalism flourished during the Lula regime with record profits in the extractive sector, extreme damage to the environment and massive displacement of indigenous peoples and small scale producers.  The Vale mining experience underlines the powerful structural continuities between the neo-liberal Cardoso and Lula regimes:  the former privatized Vale at a “fire sale” price; the latter promoted Vale as the dominant monopoly producer and exporter of iron, totally ignoring the concentration of wealth, profits and powers of extractive capital.

In comparison to the geometrical growth of monopoly profits for the extractive sector, Lula and Dilma’s paltry two dollars a day subsidy to reduce poverty hardly warrants calling the regime “progressive” or “center-left”.

While Lula and Dilma were enraptured with the growth of Brazil ’s “mining champion” (Vale), others were not.  Into 2002 Public Eye a leading human rights and environmental group gave Vale an “award” as the worst corporation in the world:  “The Vale Corporation acts with the most contempt for the environment and human rights in the world”[37].  The critics cited Vale’s construction of the Belo Monte dam in the middle of the Amazon rain forest as having “devastating consequences for the regions unique biodiversity and indigenous tribes”[38].

The mining sector is capital intensive, generates few jobs and adds little value to its exports.  It has degraded water, land and air; adversely affected local communities, dispossessed Indian communities and created a boom and bust economy.

With the marked slowdown of the Chinese economy, especially its manufacturing sector in 2012-14, iron, copper prices have fallen.  Brazil ’s export revenues have declined, undermining overall growth.  Especially important, channeling resources into infrastructures for the agro-mineral sectors has resulted in the depletion of funds for hospitals, schools and urban transport – which are run down and provide poor service to millions of urban workers.

  The End of the Extractive “Mega Cycle” and the Rise of Mass Protests

Brazil ’s extractive led model entered a period of decline and stagnation in 2012-2013 as world market demand – especially Asia – declined especially in China[39].  Growth hovered  around 2% ,barely keeping up with population growth.  The class based growth model, especially the narrow stratum of foreign portfolio investors, monopoly mining and big agro-business corporations which controls and reaped most of the revenues and profits, limited the “trickle down effects” which the Lula-Dilma regimes promoted as their “social transformation”.  While some innovative programs were initiated, the follow-up and quality of services actually deteriorated.

In-patient hospital beds have declined from 3.3 beds per 1,000 Brazilians in 1993, to 1.9 in 2009, the second lowest in the OECD[40].  Hospital admissions financed by the public sector have fallen and long waits and low quality is endemic.

Federal spending on the health system has fallen since 2003, when adjusted for inflation according to the OECD study. Public spending on health is low:  41% compared to the UK at 82% and the US , 45.5%[41].  The class polarization embedded in the agro-mineral extractive model extends to government spending, taxes, transport and infrastructure:  massive financing for highways, dams, hydro-electric power stations for extractive capital versus inadequate public transport and declining spending for public health education and transport.

The deeper roots of the mass upheavals of 2013 are located in the class politics of a corporate state.  The Cardoso, Lula-Dilma regimes, over the past two decades, have pursued a conservative elitist agenda, cushioned by clientelistic and paternatistic politics which neutralized mass opposition for an extended period of time, before the mass rebellion and nationwide protests unmasked the “progressive” facade.

Leftist publicists and conservative pundits who claimed Lula as a “pragmatic progressive” overlooked the fact that during his first term, state support for the agro-business elite was seven times  that offered to the family farmers who represented nearly 90% of the rural labor force and provide the bulk of food for local consumption.  During Lula’s second term, the Ministry of Agriculture’s financial support for agro-business during the 2008-09 harvest was six times larger than the funds allocated for Lula’s poverty reduction program, the highly publicized “Bolsa Familia” program[42].  Economic orthodoxy and populist demagogy is no substitute for substantive structural changes, involving a comprehensive agrarian reform embracing 4 million landless rural workers, and a re-nationalization of strategic extractive enterprises like Vale in order to finance sustainable agriculture and preserve the rainforest.

Instead Lula and Dilma jumped full force into the ethanol boom:  “sugar, sugar everywhere” but never asking, “Whose pocket does it fill?”  Brazil ’s growing structural rigidity, its transformation into an extractive capitalist economy, has enhanced and enlarged the scope for corruption.  Competition for mining contracts, land grants and giant infrastructure projects encourages agro-mineral business elites to pay-off the “party in power” to secure competitive advantages.  This was particularly the case for the “Workers Party” who’s executive and party leadership (devoid of workers) was composed of upwardly mobile professionals, aspiring to elite class positions who looked toward business payoffs for their ‘initial capital’, a kind of ‘initial accumulation through corruption’.

The commodity boom, for almost a decade, papered over the class contradictions and the extreme vulnerability of an extractive economy dependent on primary goods exports to limited markets.  The neo-liberal policies adapted to further commodity exports led to the influx of manufactured goods and weakened the position of the industrial sector.  As a result the efforts of Dilma to revive the productive economy to compensate for the decline of commodity revenues has not worked:  stagflation, declining budget surpluses and weakening trade balances plague her administration precisely when the mass of workers and the middle class are demanding a large scale reallocation of resources from subsidies to the private sector to investments in public services.

Rousseff’s and her mentor, Lula’s entire political fortunes were built on the fragile foundations of the extractive model.  They have failed to recognize the limits of their model, let alone formulated an alternative strategy.  Patchwork proposals, political reforms, anti-corruption rhetoric in the face of million person protests spanning all the major and minor cities of the country do not address the basic problem of challenging the concentration of wealth, property and class power of the agro-mineral and financial elite. Their MNC allies control the levers of political power, with and without corruption and block any meaningful reforms.

Lula’s era of “Wall Street Populism” is over. The idea that high revenues from extractive industries can buy popular loyalties via consumerism, funded by easy credit ,has passed.  Wall Street investors are no longer praising the BRICs as a new dynamic market.  As is predictable they are shifting their investments to more lucrative activity in new regions.  As portfolio investments decline, and the economy stagnates, extractive capital intensifies its push into the Amazon and with it the terrible toll on the indigenous population and the rain forest.

The year 2012 was one of the worst years for the indigenous peoples.  According to the Indigenous Missionary Council, affiliated with the Catholic Church, the number of violent incidents against the Indian communities increased 237%[43].  The Rousseff regime has given Indians the least number of legal title (homologado) to land of any president since the return of democracy (seven titles).  At this rate the Brazilian state will take a century to title land requests of the Indian communities.  At the same time in 2012, 62 Indian territories were invaded by landowners, miners and loggers, 47% more than in 2011[44].  The biggest threat of dispossession is from mega dam projects in Belo Monte and giant hydro-electric projects being promoted by the Rousseff regime. As the agro-mineral economy falters the Indian communities are being squeezed (“silent genocide”) to intensify agro-mineral growth.

The biggest beneficiaries of Brazil ’s extractive economy are the world’s top commodity traders who, worldwide, pocketed $250 billion over the 2003-2013 period, surpassing the profits of the biggest Wall Street firms and five of the biggest auto companies.  During the mid-2000’s, some traders enjoyed returns of 50 – 60 percent. Even as late as 2013 they were averaging 20 – 30% (Financial Times 4/15/13, p. 1).  Commodity speculators earned more than 10 times what was spent on the poor.  These speculators profit from price fluctuations between locations, from the arbitrage opportunities offered by an abundance of price discrepancies between regions.  Monopoly traders eliminated competitors and low taxes (5-15%) have added to their mega wealth.  The biggest beneficiaries of the Lula-Dilma extractive model, surpassing even the agro-mineral giants are the twenty biggest commodity traders-speculators.

Extractive Capital, Internal Colonialism and the Decline of the Class Struggle

The class struggle, especially its expression via strikes led by trade unions and by rural workers located in campsites (campamentos) who launch land occupations has declined precipitously over the past quarter of a century.  Brazil during the period following the military dictatorship (1989) was a world leader in strikes with 4,000 in 1989.  With the return of electoral politics and the incorporation and legalization of the trade unions especially in tripartite collective bargaining framework, strikes declined to an average of 500 during the 1990’s.  With the advent of the Lula regime (2003-2010) strikes declined further from 300-400 a year[45].  The two major trade unions CUT and Forca Sindical allied with the Lula regime became virtual adjuncts of the Ministry of Labor:  trade unionists secured positions in government and the organizations received major subsidies from the state, ostensibly for ‘job’ training and worker education.  With the commodity boom and the rise in state revenues and export earnings, the governments formulated a trickle down strategy, increasing the minimum wage and launching new anti-poverty programs.  In the countryside, the MST continued to demand an agrarian reform and engaged in land occupations but its position of critically supporting the Workers Party in exchange for social subsidies led to a sharp decline in campsites (campamentos) from which to launch land occupations.  At the start of Lula’s presidency (2003) the MST had 285 campamentos, in 2012 it had 13[46].

The decline of class struggle and the co-optation of the established mass movements coincided with the intensification of extractive capitalist exploitation of the interior of the country and the violent dispossession of the indigenous communities.  In other words, the heightened exploitation of the ‘interior’ by agro-mineral capital facilitated the concentration of wealth in the large urban centers and the established rural areas, leading to co-optation of trade unions and rural movements.  Hence despite some declaratory statements and symbolic protests, agro-mineral capital encountered little organized solidarity between urban labor and the dispossessed Indians and enslaved rural workers in the ‘cleared’ Amazon.  Lula and Dilma played a key role in neutralizing any national united front against the depredations of agro-mineral capital.

The degeneration of the major labor confederations is visible not only in their presence in government and in the absence of strikes but also in the organization of the annual May 1 workers meetings.  The recent events have included virtually no political content.  There are music spectacles, spiced with lotteries offering automobiles and other forms of consumerist entertainment, financed and sponsored by major private banks and multi-nationals[47]. In effect this relation between city and Amazon resembles a kind of internal colonialism, in which extractive capital has bought off a labor aristocracy as a complicit ally to its plunder of the interior communities.

Conclusion Mass Movements The Extractive Model under Siege            

If the CUT and Forca Sindical are co-opted, the MST is weakened and the low income classes received monetary raises how and why did unprecedented mass movements emerge in close to a hundred major and minor cities throughout the country?

The contrast between the new mass movements and the trade unions was evident in their capacity to mobilize support during the June/July(2013) days of protest: the former mobilized 2 million ,the latter 100,000

What needs to be clarified is the difference between the small student and local groups (Movemiento Passe Livre-MPL)which detonated  the mass movements over a raise in bus fares  and the pharaonic state expenditure on the World Cup (soccer championship) and Olympics and the spontaneous mass movements which questioned the state’s budgetary policies and priorities in their entirety.

Many publicists for the Lula-Dilma regimes accept at face value, the budgetary allocations destined for social and infrastructure projects, when in fact only a fraction is actually spent as much is stolen by corrupt officials. For example between 2008-12

R$6.5 billion was designated for public transport in the principal cities but only 17% was actually spent.(Veja ano 46,no29 7/17/2013)According to the NGO “Contas Abertas”(Open Accounts)over a ten year period Brazil spent over R$160 billion in public works which are unfinished , never left the drawing board or were stolen by corrupt officials. One of the most egregious cases of corruption and mismanagement is the construction of a 12 kilometer subway in Salvador, with the provision that it would be completed in 40 months at the cost ofR$307 million. Thirteen years later (2000-13) expenditures increased to nearly1 billion reales and barely 6 kilometers have been completed. Six locomotors and 24 wagons purchased for 100 million reales have broken down and the manufacturers warranty has expired(Veja ano 46.no 29 7/17/13).The project has been paralyzed by claims of corrupt  overcharging (sobrefacturacion)involving federal, state and municipal officials. Meanwhile 200,000 passengers are forced daily to travel on dilapidated buses.

The deep corruption which infects the entire Lula-Dilma administration has driven a deep wedge between the achievements claimed by the regime and the deteriorating everyday experience of the great majority of the Brazilian people. The same gap exists regarding expenditures to preserve the Amazon rain forest, the Indian lands, and to fund the anti-poverty programs: corrupt PT officials siphon funds to finance their election campaigns rather then reduce environmental destruction and reduce poverty.

If the wealth from the boom in the agro-mineral extractive model “percolated” into the rest of the economy and raised wages, it did so in a very uneven, unequal and distorted fashion.  The great wealth concentrated at the top found expression in a kind of new caste-class system in which private transport – helicopters and heliports – private clinics, private schools, private recreation areas, private security armies for the rich and affluent was funded by state promoted subsidies.  In contrast the masses experienced a sharp relative and absolute decline in public services in the same essential life experiences.  The raise in minimum wage did not compensate for 10 hour waits in crowded public emergency rooms, irregular and crowded public transport, daily personal threats and insecurity (50,000 homicides).Parents, receiving the anti-poverty dole sent their children to decaying schools where poorly paid teachers rushed from one school to another barely meeting their classes and providing meager learning experiences.  The greatest indignity to those receiving subsistence handouts was to be told that, in this class-caste society, they were “middle class”; that they were part of an immense social transformation that lifted 40 million out of poverty, as they crawled home from hours in traffic, back from jobs whose monthly salary paid for one tennis match at an upscale country club.  The agro-mineral extractive economy, accentuated all Brazil ’s socio-economic inequalities and the Lula-Dilma regime accentuated these difference by raising expectations, claiming their fulfillment and then ignoring the real social impacts on everyday life. The government’s large scale budgetary allocations for public transport and promises of projects for new subway and train lines have been delayed for decades by large scale, long term corruption. Billions spent over the years have yielded minimum results-a few kilometers completed. The result is that the gap between the regime’s optimistic projections and mass frustration has vastly increased.  The gap between the populist promise and the deepening cleavage between classes could not be papered over by trade union lotteries and VIP lunches. Especially for an entire generation of young workers who are not attached to the ancient memories of Lula the “metal worker” a quarter century earlier.  The CUT, the FS, the Workers’ Party are irrelevant or are perceived to be part of the system of corruption, social stagnation and privilege.  The most striking feature of the new wave of class protest is the generational and organizational split:  older metal workers are absent, young unorganized service workers are present.  Local, spontaneous organizations replace the co-opted trade unions.

The point of confrontation is the street – not the workplace.   The demands transcend monetary wages and salaries – the issues are the social wage, living standards, national budgets .Ultimately the new social movements raise the issue of national class priorities.  The regime is dispossessing hundreds of thousands of residents of favelas – a social purge – to build sports complexes and luxury accommodations. Social issues inform the mass movements. Their organizational independence and autonomy underline the deeper challenge to the entire neo-liberal extractive model; even though no national organizations or leadership of these mass movements has emerged to elaborate an alternative. Yet the struggle continues. The traditional mechanisms of co-optation fail because there are no identifiable leaders to buy off.  The regime, facing the decline of export markets and commodity prices, and deeply committed to multi-billion dollar non-productive investments in the Games has few options. The PT long ago lost its anti-systemic cutting edge.  Its politicos are linked with and funded by the banks and agro-mining elites.  The trade union leaders protect their fiefdoms, automatic dues deductions and stipends. The mass movements of the cities like the Indian communities of the Amazon will have to find  new political instruments .But having taken the path of “direct action” they have taken a big first step.


[1] James Petras and Henry Veltmeyer Cardoso’s Brazil :  A land for Sale ( Lanham , Maryland :  Rowman and Littlefield 2003/Chapter 2.

[2] ibid Chapter 1.

[3] James Petras, Brasil e Lula – Ano Zero ( Blumenau : EdiFurb 2005) Chapter 1.

[4] Peter Evans, Dependent Development:  The Alliance of Multinational State and Local Capital in Brazil ( Princeton NJ : Princeton University Press 1979.

[5] Jose Serra “The Brazilian Economic Miracle” in James Petras Latin America from Dependence to Revolution (New York:  John Wiley 1973) pp. 100 – 140.

[6] Brasil e Lula op cit. Ch. 1

[7] Cardoso’s Brazil   Ch. 5

[8] ibid, Ch.3 and 6

[9] ibid, Table A.12, p. 126

[10]iIbid, Ch. 3.

[11] ibid, Ch. 1, 2.

[12] ibid, Ch. 5

[13] ibid, Ch. 2.

[14] ibid, Table A. 6.

[15] Brasil e Lula, Ch. 1.

[16] Brazil Exports by Product Section (USD) http:\\www.INDEXMUNDI.com/trade/exports/Brazil

[17] Peter Kingstone “ Brazil ’s Reliance on Commodity Exports threatens its Medium and Long Term Growth Prospects” http://www.americasquarterly.or/icingstone.

[18] Brazil Exports op cit.

[19] Kingstone op cit.

[20] Kingstone op cit. World Bank Yearbook 2011.

[21] Financial Times 3/26/13, p. 7.

[22] Brazil’s Surging Foreign Investment:  A Blessing or Curse?  VSITC Executive Briefing on Trade Oct. 2012.

[23] ibid

[24] http://rainforests:mongabay.com/amazon_destruction

[25] Ibid.

[26] Bernard Mancano Fernandes and Elizabeth Alice Clements “Land Grabbing, Agribusiness and the Peasantry in Brazil and Mozambique ” Agrarian South (April 2013).

[27] Rainforests op cit.

[28] Rainforests op cit.

[29] Rainforests op cit.

[30] ibid

[31] Jose Manual Rambla “La agonia de los pueblos indigenas, buera de la agenda reivindicativa de Brasil” rebellion.org/notice, 5/7/13.

[32] Rainforests ibid p. 8

[34] Wikipedia Vale http://en.wilkipedia.org/wiki/vale_miningcompany.

[35] The Economist, June 2, 2013.

[36] Wikipedia, p. 9.

[37] Guardian, Jan. 27, 2012.

[38] ibid

 

 

FISA Court Renews NSA Spying Program

July 23rd, 2013 by Tom Carter

On Friday, the Obama administration announced that it had sought—and the secret FISA court had granted—a renewed authorization for the NSA spying program that compels US telecommunications companies to turn over their telephone records in bulk.

“Consistent with his prior declassification decision and in light of the significant and continuing public interest in the telephony metadata collection program, the DNI [Director of National Intelligence] has decided to declassify and disclose publicly that the Government filed an application with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court seeking renewal of the authority to collect telephony metadata in bulk, and that the Court renewed that authority,” the Obama administration press release stated.

In other words, the Obama administration is disclosing the reauthorization this time, but it reserves for itself the power to conceal the program’s continued existence from the public in the future at its own discretion. The particular NSA program that was the subject of Friday’s press release apparently requires “renewal” every 90 days in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), also known as the FISA court after the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that created it.

Contrary to the press release’s characterization of recent events, the Obama administration did not voluntarily “declassify” the NSA program’s existence. Instead, the administration made at best a number of preemptive disclosures designed to soften the impact of ongoing revelations by NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden. Meanwhile, notwithstanding the “public interest,” the United States is presently waging a desperate international campaign to capture or silence the 30-year-old former employee of Booz Allen Hamilton.

Snowden’s disclosures, among many other things, have highlighted the extent to which in recent years the FISA court has quietly assumed a vastly more significant role in the state apparatus. Within this shadow judiciary, a body of secret law is being promulgated, including secret interpretations of the Constitution, pursuant to which secret rulings are issued purportedly granting legal authority for an array of secret programs and activities. (See “Secret laws, secret government”)

Orders and decisions issued by this secret court purport to authorize the Obama administration to gather up and store the private data of hundreds of millions of individuals around the globe, including telephone calls, SMS messages, internet browsing activity, emails, Facebook activity, photos, videos, and more.

The FISA court is a “court” in name only. A person targeted for surveillance has no right to appear in the courtroom and contest the government’s allegations. The court’s proceedings are kept entirely secret and its records are considered “classified.” There is no right to appeal or to challenge the court’s rulings—except for the government.

The FISA court’s secret proceedings are always ex parte, meaning that only one side—the government side—is represented. The targeted person’s position is argued by an empty chair.

The FISA court issues warrants without any notice or public record of its rulings. Targeted individuals have no way of knowing that they have been targeted. It is authorized to issue “gag orders” against individuals who accidentally become aware that that they have been targeted. These orders prohibit a targeted person from telling anyone else about the activities of the intelligence agencies or of the FISA court.

According to recent statistics, the FISA court has issued 33,942 warrants since the court began operating in 1979. It has denied the government’s request only 11 times. In other words, the government’s requests in this court are granted approximately 99.997 percent of the time and denied 0.003 percent of the time.

Although constituted as a “court,” the FISA court was actually physically located for many years in the federal Department of Justice building, which houses part of the executive branch.

The FISA court was established following the Senate Church Commission hearings in the late 1970s. These hearings uncovered a vast array of criminal activities on the part of the US intelligence agencies, including warrantless spying and murder. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 created the FISA court as an ostensible judicial check on the future activities of the intelligence agencies.

The court consists of 11 judges appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Over recent decades, it has been stacked with former prosecutors and other figures closely aligned with the federal law enforcement and intelligence apparatus.

As early as June 2000, the Bush administration began conducting surveillance without even bothering to request authorization from the FISA court. This brazenly illegal spying was the subject of a New York Timesexposure in December 2005. In 2008, by a bipartisan majority, Congress passed the “FISA Amendments Act of 2008.” These amendments, which emerged from secret closed-door meetings, retroactively approved the Bush administration’s illegal wiretaps and vastly expanded the government’s surveillance powers.

Other expansions of the surveillance powers of the government and of the FISA court were included in the PATRIOT Act of 2001 and the Protect America Act of 2007.

As constituted in 1978, and in its vastly expanded form today, the secret FISA court is entirely unconstitutional. The Fourth Amendment to the Bill of Rights asserts, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

The requirement that the government obtain a warrant before conducting a search and seizure—and the requirement that the warrant be specific—reflected overwhelming hostility at the time of the American Revolution to the colonial authorities’ practice of issuing “general warrants.” General warrants were blank checks for colonial officers to invade homes and carry out arbitrary searches and arrests.

The 1776 Virginia Declaration of Rights, expressly prohibits general warrants: “That general warrants, whereby any officer or messenger may be commanded to search suspected places without evidence of a fact committed, or to seize any person or persons not named, or whose offense is not particularly described and supported by evidence, are grievous and oppressive and ought not to be granted.”

In the recent period the FISA court has shifted from issuing specific surveillance warrants to issuing general authorizations for entire surveillance programs. In other words, instead of issuing a warrant for the government to spy on a particular person for a particular period of time in a particular way, the FISA court is granting general authorizations for the government, for example, to access wholesale the records of telecommunications companies.

Retired U.S. District Judge James Robertson testified before a federal oversight board that, under the 2008 FISA amendments, the court “has turned into something like an administrative agency,” referring to the authorizations the court hands down for entire spying programs. “What FISA does is not adjudication, but approval,” Robertson said.

The FISA court now functions as a pseudo-legal mechanism pursuant to which the government can circumvent the entire system of constitutional and democratic rights and legal precedents established over a period of the last two and a half centuries. It exists as a separate, shadow judicial branch—one commentator described it as a “parallel Supreme Court”—with a key role in the framework of an emerging American police state.

In light of recent revelations regarding the FISA court, it is worth recalling that the New York Times and sections of the political establishment have repeatedly called for the establishment of a FISA-type court that would have the power to authorize assassinations.

In one such article, dated May 3, 2011, the New York Times argued “that a decision to kill an American citizen should have judicial review, perhaps by a special court like the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which authorizes eavesdropping on Americans’ communications.”

In other words, the Times is in favor of the establishment of secret courts with the power to issue death warrants. In these secret death courts, as in the FISA court, all of the basic legal protections in the Bill of Rights and later Civil War amendments would be ignored. There would be no due process, no equal protection of the law, no right to an attorney, no opportunity to present a defense, no right to confront one’s accusers, no jury, no presumption of innocence, no proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and no right even to know about the charges. The death warrants could be directed against individual citizens or perhaps against entire organizations or political parties.

The secret FISA court system constitutes a menace of major proportions to the American and world public. Its trajectory further demonstrates the impossibility of imposing any reforms on the American military-intelligence complex.

Terrified of the possible emergence of mass opposition to its policies of plunder, war, and austerity, the capitalist class is deliberately building a police state. This regime cannot be reformed. It can be abolished and democratic rights secured only through the independent political intervention of the working class.

US Expands Global Drone Warfare

July 23rd, 2013 by Thomas Gaist

In what the Washington Post describes as the “next phase of drone warfare,” the Obama administration is set to “extend the Pentagon’s robust surveillance networks far beyond traditional, declared combat zones.” According to thePost, Washington is set to deploy the drone fleet to new areas across the globe, where it will be used to monitor drug runners, pirates and “other targets that worry US officials.”

A Defense Department spokeswoman said the military is “committed to increasing” drone activities throughout Asia and the Pacific. The Post also cites Colombia as a war theater that will likely see increased use of American drones, although US drones have already been engaged in operations against “narco-terrorists” in collaboration with the Colombian military.

“Surveillance drones could really help us out and really take the heat and wear and tear off of some of our manned aviation assets,” Marine Gen. John F. Kelly, head of the US Southern Command, said in March.

While Obama has claimed that “the tide of war is receding,” actually the US government is intensifying military operations worldwide. During the past decade, the Pentagon has assembled a fleet of hundreds of high-altitude, “unmanned aerial vehicles” (UAVs), which now carry out missions on a daily basis in service of the strategic aims of US imperialism. The “Predator” drone series alone has carried out at least 80,000 sorties in conflict areas including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bosnia, Serbia, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Somalia.

In their 2013 article, “How Many Wars Is the US Fighting Today?” Linda Bilmes of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and Michael Intriligator of the University of California, Los Angeles argue that the US is engaged in at least five “unannounced and undeclared” wars fought to a large extent with robotic weapons systems.

As the paper points out, these conflicts are part of a long “tradition of many previous covert US military incursions,” including those in Chile, Cuba, Nicaragua and many other countries. Advanced military technologies have facilitated a massive extension of such covert military incursions, the authors argue, writing that “the emergence of robotic warfare is enabling the US to become involved in more conflicts worldwide.”

The paper states: “Today US military operations are involved in scores of countries across all the five continents. The US military is the world’s largest landlord, with significant military facilities in nations around the world, and with a significant presence in Bahrain, Djibouti, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Kyrgyzstan, in addition to long-established bases in Germany, Japan, South Korea, Italy, and the UK.”

Additionally, the US has “some kind of military presence” in Colombia, Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Oman, Pakistan, the Philippines, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, UAE and Yemen.

Bilmes and Intriligator assert that “the invention of precise, remotely controlled robotic aircraft has enabled the US to expand dramatically the number of covert, unofficial attacks it carries out without providing information to the public about where it operates, how it selects targets, or how many people it has killed, including innocent civilian bystanders.”

Statistics from the New America Foundation show that drone strikes have escalated at an exponential rate. Pakistan was hit by only nine drone strikes from 2004 to 2007, increasing to 118 by 2010.

Many smaller US military operations in Africa and the Middle East are increasingly utilizing drones. Former US Africa Command (AFRICOM) commander General Carter Ham stated in February that his forces required a 15-fold increase in surveillance and reconnaissance capacities for the continent. US Air Force drones have already been flying sorties across North Africa, and the US already operates drone bases in Djibouti, Ethiopia and the Seychelles.

As part of “Operation Nomad Shadow,” a secret US military surveillance program, the US military is currently launching drones from the Incirlik air base in Turkey to provide surveillance for the Turkish military in its campaign against the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The drones fly into northern Iraq to gather data, which is then transmitted to a “fusion cell” in Ankara for analysis.

The drone operations are arousing popular hostility in Turkey. Protests erupted in 2012 in response to an airstrike by Turkish pilots, directed by a US drone, which killed 34 civilians. The US drone incorrectly identified the convoying civilians as PKK guerrillas. A study released on Thursday by the Pew Research Center found that 82 percent of Turks oppose the Obama’s administration’s global drone war.

Simultaneous with its operations abroad, the Obama administration is ramping up drone flights in the US. The Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS), for instance, has purchased Puma drones used by the Navy, which are slated for deployment off the coast of Los Angeles.

ONMS is currently preparing to expand drone flights in other states, including Hawaii, Florida, and Washington. A new $100 million drone hangar is currently planned for Fort Riley, Kansas, along with a new hangar and airfield at Fort Hood, Texas.

The drone war is taking a heavy toll of civilian lives. Last year, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) published information about deliberate targeting of rescuers, mourners, funeral processions, and those who return to the scene of drone strikes after the initial explosions, a tactic known as the “double tap.” So-called signature drone strikes are frequently launched based on analysis of “patterns of behavior,” with individuals engaging in supposedly suspicious gatherings and movements selected for targeting.

According to the BIJ, US drone strikes have been responsible for at least 3,500 deaths, including American citizens, who have been personally selected for assassination by President Obama. The BIJ maintains that at least 555 of the dead are confirmed civilians, in opposition to Senator Dianne Feinstein’s claim that civilian casualties have been in the “single digits.”

Pakistani government estimates featured in a recently leaked internal document, “Details of Attacks by NATO Forces/Predators in FATA,” show that at least 147 of 746 people killed by US drones between 2006 and 2009 were civilians, and 94 of them children. A report issued by Stanford and NYU law schools last year found that 50 civilians are killed for every confirmed “insurgent” who is eliminated by the strikes.

The Obama administration, as the Post observed, has “imposed a broad cone of silence on its drone programs worldwide,” operating on the basis of secrecy and issuing secret laws and fiats to institutionalize worldwide targeted assassination.

In May, Obama gave a speech in staunch defense of his use of drone strikes, and announced the codification of his administrations drone policies in a new “Presidential Policy Guidance” document. Obama said, “For the same human progress that gives us the technology to strike half a world away also demands the discipline to constrain that power—or risk abusing it. That’s why, over the last four years, my administration has worked vigorously to establish a framework that governs our use of force against terrorists—insisting upon clear guidelines, oversight and accountability that is now codified in Presidential Policy Guidance that I signed yesterday.”

The Presidential Policy Guidance (PPG) document is one of more than 20 secret Presidential Policy Directives (PPD) promulgated by the Obama administration and withheld from public view. According to www.allgov.com, a PPD is a “statement by the President directed to the Executive Branch” which “becomes part of the particular legal framework that grows up around any statute or program.”

The PPG institutionalizes and provides a false veneer of legality to the worldwide campaign of targeted killings. What Obama presents as a constraint on power is, in reality, a measure that strips every person on the planet of their right not to be killed arbitrarily on the say-so of US state officials.

The global drone war is a primary instrument of US foreign policy. It is waged, under the fraudulent mantle of the “Global War on Terrorism,” not to defend the US against terrorists, but as part of an expansive militarist agenda aimed at shoring up American imperialism’s eroding position of strategic dominance.

America and Germany: Longstanding Espionage Partners

July 23rd, 2013 by Stephen Lendman

A previous article discussed Stasi. It was East Germany’s secret police. It was one of the most repressive state apparatuses in modern times.

Its infamous reputation speaks for itself. It’s reincarnated in new form. Given today’s state-of-the-art technology. It’s worse now than then. The previous article said the following:

On July 7, Der Spiegel headlined “Snowden claims: NSA Ties Put German Intelligence in Tight Spot.”

“They’re in bed together,” said Snowden. NSA partners with foreign intelligence in other countries. Its “Foreign Affairs Directorate (BND)” does so.

It’s done in ways to “insulate their political leaders from the backlash.” It’s precautionary in case people learn “how grievously they’re violating global privacy.”

BND/NSA cooperation is far greater than previously known. At issue are serious violations of Germany’s privacy laws. According to Der Spiegel, NSA provides “analysis tools.”

They’re for “BND’s signals monitoring of foreign data streams that travel through Germany.”

Besides other areas, BND focuses on “the Middle East route through which data packets from crisis regions travel.”

Der Spiegel said “BND pulls data from five different nodes that are then analyzed at the foreign intelligence service’s headquarters in Pullach near Munich.”

Gerhard Schindler heads it. He “confirmed the partnership during a meeting with members of the German parliament’s control committee for intelligence issues.”

Snowden told Der Spiegel that German outrage over NSA spying was pretense. Both countries work closely together. Relations are longstanding.

Current operations far exceed Stasi’s. They’re conducted with technological ease. Decades earlier spying was crude compared to today’s.

Modern methods operate in unprecedented ways. Virtually everyone can be monitored everywhere at all times. Nearly everything about targets is known.

Almost nothing’s too secret to escape scrutiny. There’s no way to hide. There’s no place to do it.

On July 20, Der Spiegel headlined ” ‘Prolific Partner:’ German Intelligence Used NSA Spying Program,” saying:

Chancellor Merkel lied. It didn’t surprise. She does it repeatedly. She “and her ministers claim they first learned about the US government’s comprehensive spying programs from press reports.”

“But SPIEGEL has learned that German intelligence services themselves use one of the NSA’s most valuable tools.”

BND and its Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) intelligence agency collaborated with NSA. Secret documents reveal it.

They show BfV “was equipped with a program called XKeyScore intended to ‘expand their ability to support NSA as we jointly prosecute CT (counterterrorism) targets.’ ”

“The BND is tasked with instructing the domestic intelligence agency on how to use the program, the documents say.”

It’s a “productive espionage tool.” It’s able to “retroactively reveal any terms” targeted persons type into search engines.

It’s able to receive “full take unfiltered data including” communications content. It can do so over a period of days.

Documents show up to “500 million (monthly) data connections from Germany accessed by the NSA.” XKeyScore collects much of it.

German/NSA cooperation “recently intensified.” BND’s Schindler expressed an “eagerness and desire” to do so. According to NSA:

“The BND has been working to influence the German government to relax interpretation of the privacy laws to provide greater opportunities of intelligence sharing.”

In 2012, Germany showed a “willingness to take risks and to pursue new opportunities for cooperation with the US.”

In Afghanistan, BND was NSA’s “most prolific partner.” The relationship is longstanding. It’s hard-wired. Merkel lied. Anger expressed over US spying was fake.

She knows what’s going on. She’s involved. On September 22, German federal elections are scheduled. Voters will choose Bundestag representatives.

Merkel’s coalition needs up to 300 or more seats to retain power. Until NSA spying and Germany’s involvement were revealed, easy reelection was expected.

She’s seeking a third term. Perhaps she won’t get it. Earlier polls showed her ahead. Voters may have second thoughts. They’ll  decide if she’s a spent force. In weeks we’ll know.

In the meantime, expect more revelations. On July 19, Der Spiegel headlined “Greenwald: ‘Explosive’ NSA Spying Reports Are Imminent,” saying:

Expect them in a few days. They’ll be the next shoe to drop. They’ll be “more explosive in Germany” than previous reports.

They’ll tell more about BND/NSA cooperation. Greenwald said he’s got around 9,000 to 10,000 top secret documents. He’s had them for weeks.

He’s been analyzing them. Some documents are “extremely complicated.” He’s living in Rio de Janeiro. CIA has a “robust” presence there.

He’s worried about his safety. He feels “threatened in the sense that there are very prominent American politicians and even American journalists who have called for (his) arrest, who have called (him) a criminal.”

Possession of top secret US documents jeopardizes his safety. He’s got multiple copies. He maintains regular contact with Snowden. They use “encrypted chat technologies.”

German/NSA cooperation isn’t at the same level as Britain, Australia, Canada or New Zealand. It’s the “next tier where they exchange information all the time.”

It’s intensifying. BND’s Schindler’s eager to do so. Perhaps Germany’s heading for joint NSA cooperation matching any other country.

A Final Comment

On July 18, the Electronic Frontier Foundation headlined “House Judiciary Committee Rails Against Domestic Spying,” saying:

House Judiciary Committee members “grilled” government witnesses. It was more show than tell. Obama officials “hid behind secrecy.”

Grilling belies congressional sincerity. Congress, the courts, Obama, and administration officials are co-conspirators. It shows in legislation enacted.

It shows in court decisions. It shows America’s current state. Washington’s criminal class is bipartisan. It includes High Court justices.

Police state lawlessness replaced constitutional law. Full-blown tyranny’s a hair’s breadth away. America’s no longer safe to live in. Universal monitoring persists.

It’s official policy. Corporate bosses are complicit. Democracy’s a convenient illusion. So is freedom. It’s on the chopping block for elimination. It’s practically gone already.

Doing the right thing is criminalized. Press freedom’s up for grabs. On July 19, The New York Times headlined “Court Tells Reporter to Testify in Case of Leaked CIA Data,” saying:

The US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Times writer James Risen must do so. It said First Amendment protections don’t cover “unauthorized leaks.”

Federal District court Judge Leonie Brinkema held otherwise. She got it right. She supported press freedom. She called it First Amendment “reporter’s privilege.” Obama’s DOJ claims it doesn’t exist.

Appeals Court Chief Judge William Byrd Traxler wrote the majority (two/one) ruling, saying:

“Clearly, Risen’s direct, firsthand account of the criminal conduct indicted by the grand jury cannot be obtained by alternative means, as Risen is without dispute the only witness who can offer this critical testimony.”

“There is no First Amendment testimonial privilege, absolute or qualified, that protects a reporter from being compelled to testify by the prosecution or the defense in criminal proceedings about criminal conduct that the reporter personally witnessed or participated in, absent a showing of bad faith, harassment, or other such non-legitimate motive, even though the reporter promised confidentiality to his source.”

Risen vowed to go to prison rather than testify. He may end up there. He’ll appeal to the Supreme Court. Odds of winning are slim.

The Court’s stacked with right wing extremists. They’re largely comfortable with police state lawlessness. It shows in their rulings.

Risen may first ask for a full Fourth Circuit ruling. His lawyer Joel Kurtzberg said:

“We are disappointed by and disagree with the court’s decision. We are currently evaluating our next steps.”

Fourth Circuit’s Judge Roger Gregory “vigorous(ly) dissent(ed).” He called the ruling a threat to investigative journalism, saying:

“Under the majority’s articulation of the reporter’s privilege, or lack thereof, absent a showing of bad faith by the government, a reporter can always be compelled against her will to reveal her confidential sources in a criminal trial.”

“Whatever the limits of who may claim reporter’s privilege, it is clear that Risen – a full-time reporter for a national news publication, The New York Times – falls into the category of people who should be eligible to invoke the privilege.”

“The majority exalts the interests of the government while unduly trampling those of the press, and in doing so, severely impinges on the press and the free flow of information in our society.”

Friday’s ruling set a precedent. It applies only to the Fourth Circuit. It’s important. It includes Maryland and Virginia. It’s Pentagon, CIA and NSA headquarters.

Risen’s case pertains to information in his 2006 book, “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration.” It’s about Bush era CIA tactics. Clinton also.

It involves “trick(ing) Iranian scientists by having a Russian defector give them blueprints for a nuclear triggering device that had been altered with an error.”

It “portrays the operation as reckless and botched in a way that could have helped the Iranians gain accurate information.”

In December 2010, former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling was called Risen’s source. He was indicted on Espionage Act charges.

According to Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, since 1984, 17 journalists were jailed for refusing to testify or disclose sources.

Police states operate this way. America’s by far the worst. For sure it’s the most reckless, outlandish and dangerous.

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

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

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com

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

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

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

http://www.dailycensored.com/america-and-germany-longstanding-e/

One man’s collateral damage is another man’s son.” (Political cartoonist, Jeff Danziger, August 2nd 2006.)

The words of Nasser al-Aulaqi, have a measured, dignified determination, shadowed by bewilderment and the betrayal by a country for which he had had respect, happy memories and which had provided aspects of the basis for his considerable achievements.

Nasser al-Aulaqi is the father of  Anwar al-Aulaqi and the grandfather of sixteen year old Abdulrahman al-Aulaqi, both killed in American drone strikes in the Yemen, within two weeks of each other, in September and October 2011, respectively. Both were American citizens.

He writes: “A country that believes it does not even need to answer for killing its own is not the America I once knew.

“From 1966 to 1977, I fulfilled a childhood dream and studied in the United States as a Fulbright scholar, earning my Doctorate and then working as a researcher and assistant Professor at universities in New Mexico, Nebraska and Minnesota.

“I have fond memories of those years. When I first came to the United States as a student, my host family took me camping by the ocean, on road trips to places like Yosemite National Park, Disneyland and New York – it was wonderful.

“After returning to Yemen, I used my American education and skills to help my country …” (i) He ultimately became Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries between 1988 and 1990, President of the capitol city’s Sana’a University, and in 1996, founded what has become a leading institute of learning, Ibb University.

Ironically, in 2011, the year of the assassination of his son and grandson, targeted killings, which, it is alleged, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate President of America personally makes the decisions on a weekly basis (ii) Tawakel Karman, a graduate in Political Science from Sana’a University was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the first Yemeni and Arab woman so honoured.

Abdelrahman was born in Denver, Colorado, returning to Yemen when he was seven: “My grandson was killed by his own government.”

His grandfather describes a: “ … typical teenager”, who watched “The Simpsons”, listened to rapper Snoop Dogg, had a multi-friended Facebook page and: “A mop of curly hair and glasses, like me.”

In September 2011, the sixteen year old had left the home in Sana’a, where he lived with his mother and grandfather, in the early morning. He left a note for his mother saying he was going to look for his father, who he had not seen for some years, who he missed. He asked her forgiveness for leaving without permission, says Nasser al-Aulaqi. A journey mirrored by countless young people across the globe, where family break ups and separations have left often long hidden scars on the young.

Two days after Abdelrahman left, his mother and grandfather heard from relatives in southern Yemen, from where the family originated, that he was safely there with them and his cousins.

On September 30th, his father was executed by drone,  far away in the north of the country, killed with twenty eight year old Samir Khan, also an American citizen, and three other people.

Samir Khan edited Inspire magazine, cited as aiming to radicalize young Muslims against the West and in which Anwar al-Aulaqi has been said to have been deeply involved.

When Samir  was growing up in Queen’s, then Westbury, New York and later in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he attended Central Piedmont Community College, he is said by classmates to have refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and to have blamed the 11th September attacks on America.

He is hardly alone in the latter looking at the ever expanding experts, academics, legal brains in the 9/11 Truth Movement (iii) – and given the murderous contempt with which his family’s country, Pakistan, is treated by the US, he could hardly be blamed for not wanting to pledge allegiance to his family’s homeland’s tormentors.

According to Nasser al-Aulaqi, in 2010, the Obama Administration put Anwar : “ … on CIA and Pentagon ‘kill lists’ of suspected terrorists, targeted for death (but) never charged him with a crime. No Court ever reviewed the government’s claims, nor was any evidence of criminal wrongdoing ever presented to a Court.”

He was simply: “deprived of his constitutional rights as an American citizen” as was Samir Khan. The three others assassinated were, presumably, “collateral damage.”

After his father’s death Abdulrahman called saying he was making plans to return home: “That was the last time I heard his voice.”

Exactly two weeks later he was killed whilst eating dinner in an open air restaurant, with his teenage cousin, on a tropical Yemen evening. Five others were also killed.

In the interests of balance, whatever about Inspire magazine, to target the staff of Denmark’s Jyllands-Posten which published the hate-inciting cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed, leading to riots and attacks on Western embassies, or to drone to death those responsible for the appalling  “Innocence of Muslims” which depicts the Prophet as womanizer and madman – and may have contributed to the death of US arms-running Ambassador Christopher Stevens and colleagues, in Benghazi, Libya on 11th September 2012 – would be unthinkable. In the starkest of double standards, these shameful provocations have been justified as legitimate rights of freedom of speech and expression.

Nasser al-Aulaqi learned that his grandson: “has been killed by an American drone strike from news reports the morning after he had died.”

He: “visited the site later, once I was able to bear the pain of seeing where he sat in his final moments. Local residents told me his body was blown to pieces. They showed me the grave where they buried his remains. I stood over it, asking why my grandchild was dead.

“Nearly two years later, I still have no answers. The United States government has refused to explain why Abdulrahman was killed:

“It was not until May of this year that the Obama administration, in a supposed effort to be more transparent, publicly acknowledged what the world already knew – that it was responsible for his death.

“The attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., said only that Abdulrahman was not ‘specifically targeted’ raising more questions than he answered.

“My grandson was killed by his own government. The Obama administration must answer for its actions and be held accountable.”

In a complex series of legal initiatives, stretching over a year, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) on behalf of Mr al-Aulaqi and Sarah Khan, mother of Samir Khan, are challenging the Obama Administration’s right to be Judge, jury and executioner, to: “claim it could kill anyone it deemed an enemy of the State.” The latest hearing began in Washington, last Friday, 19th July. (iv)

The defendants are Defense Secretary and former CIA Director, Leon C. Panetta; Commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command, William H. McRaven; Commander of the Joint Special Operations Command Joseph Votel; and former CIA Director David Petraeus.

CCR’s Senior Staff Attorney Pardiss Kebriaei, argues that: “The government’s position is unprecedented and extraordinary. It claims the most consequential power a government can exercise against its own citizens – the power to take life without due process – and asserts that the Courts should have no role at all in reviewing its actions, even after the fact, even when the killings are off any battlefield.

“The Court should exercise its constitutionally mandated role and review our clients’ fundamental claims. It is for the court to determine the legality of the government’s actions, not for the government simply to assert it.”

Nasser al-Aulaqi had not just been a grandfather to Abdelrahmen, he had been a father. The teenager was: “born and lived in Denver until he was seven, then he came to live with me in Yemen. He used to tell me he wanted to follow in my footsteps and go back to America to study. I can’t bear to think of those conversations now.”

CCR’s Pardiss Kebriaei and Hina Shamsi, from the ACLU’s constitutional challenge to the government’s claim that it can take the life of its own citizens without due process and that the Courts should have no role in reviewing these actions, elicited an interesting response from the Judge to the U.S. Justice Department lawyer:

“The Executive is not an effective check on the Executive when it comes to a person’s constitutional rights. You cannot ask the Court to say okay the Executive will check itself.”

“What I’m not sure of is where does this stop? What is the limit? The limit is the courthouse door. But you are saying there is no courthouse door.”

“You are saying they have constitutional rights but can’t assert them anywhere.” (v)

The ruling is awaited.

Writing this two thoughts came to mind. One was the endless rhetoric from the US and UK governments about ruthless despots who “kill their own people.”

The other, especially in the light of what is now known of tracking every move, of any citizen, anywhere on earth, it seems, by their mobile ‘phone or computer was, did the distressed call of a sixteen year old – who had just lost the father for whom he was searching – to his grandfather and acting father, activate the ability to track him and murder him?

You can add your name to the call for an end to unlawful targeted killings at:

http://bit.ly/ObamaEndUnlawfulKillings

Notes

i. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/18/opinion/the-drone-that-killed-my-grandson.html

ii. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/29/world/obamas-leadership-in-war-on-al-qaeda.html?pagewanted=all

iii. http://www.911truth.org

iv. http://ccrjustice.org/ourcases/current-cases/al-aulaqi-v.-panetta

v. http://www.ccrjustice.org/newsroom/press-releases/court-hearing-friday-lawsuit-challenging-u.s.-drone-killings-of-three-americans

Rather than expanding the money supply, quantitative easing (QE) has actually caused it to shrink by sucking up the collateral needed by the shadow banking system to create credit. The “failure” of QE has prompted the Bank for International Settlements to urge the Fed to shirk its mandate to pursue full employment, but the sort of QE that could fulfill that mandate has not yet been tried.

Ben Bernanke’s May 29th speech signaling the beginning of the end of QE3 provoked a “taper tantrum” that wiped about $3 trillion from global equity markets – this from the mere suggestion that the Fed would moderate its pace of asset purchases, and that if the economy continues to improve, it might stop QE3 altogether by mid-2014. The Fed is currently buying $85 billion in US Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities per month.

The Fed Chairman then went into damage control mode, assuring investors that the central bank would “continue to implement highly accommodative monetary policy” (meaning interest rates would not change) and that tapering was contingent on conditions that look unlikely this year. The only thing now likely to be tapered in 2013is the Fed’s growth forecast.

It is a neoliberal maxim that “the market is always right,” but as former World Bank chief economist Joseph Stiglitz demonstrated, the maxim only holds when the market has perfect information. The market may be misinformed about QE, what it achieves, and what harm it can do. Getting more purchasing power into the economy could work; but QE as currently practiced may be having the opposite effect.

Unintended Consequences

The popular perception is that QE stimulates the economy by increasing bank reserves, which increase the money supply through a multiplier effect.  But as shown earlier here, QE is just an asset swap – assets for cash reserves that never leave bank balance sheets. As University of Chicago Professor John Cochrane put it in a May 23rd blog:

QE is just a huge open market operation. The Fed buys Treasury securities and issues bank reserves instead. Why does this do anything? Why isn’t this like trading some red M&Ms for some green M&Ms and expecting it to affect your weight? . . .

[W]e have $3 trillion or so [in] bank reserves. Bank reserves can only be used by banks, so they don’t do much good for the rest of us. While the reserves may not do much for the economy, the Treasuries they remove from it are in high demand.

Cochrane discusses a May 23rd Wall Street Journal article by Andy Kessler titled “The Fed Squeezes the Shadow-Banking System,” in which Kessler argued that QE3 has backfired. Rather than stimulating the economy by expanding the money supply, it has contracted the money supply by removing the collateral needed by the shadow banking system. The shadow system creates about half the credit available to the economy but remains unregulated because it does not involve traditional bank deposits. It includes hedge funds, money market funds, structured investment vehicles, investment banks, and even commercial banks, to the extent that they engage in non-deposit-based credit creation. Kessler wrote:

[T]he Federal Reserve’s policy—to stimulate lending and the economy by buying Treasurys—is creating a shortage of safe collateral, the very thing needed to create credit in the shadow banking system for the private economy. The quantitative easing policy appears self-defeating, perversely keeping economic growth slower and jobs scarcer.

That explains what he calls the great economic paradox of our time:

Despite the Federal Reserve’s vast, 4½-year program of quantitative easing, the economy is still weak, with unemployment still high and labor-force participation down. And with all the money pumped into the economy, why is there no runaway inflation? . . . The explanation lies in the distortion that Federal Reserve policy has inflicted on something most Americans have never heard of: “repos,” or repurchase agreements, which are part of the equally mysterious but vital “shadow banking system.” The way money and credit are created in the economy has changed over the past 30 years. Throw away your textbook.

Fractional Reserve Lending Without the Reserves

The post-textbook form of money creation to which Kessler refers was explained in a July 2012 article by IMF researcher Manmohan Singh titled “The (Other) Deleveraging: What Economists Need to Know About the Modern Money Creation Process.” He wrote:

In the simple textbook view, savers deposit their money with banks and banks make loans to investors . . . . The textbook view, however, is no longer a sufficient description of the credit creation process. A great deal of credit is created through so-called “collateral chains.” We start from two principles: credit creation is money creation, and short-term credit is generally extended by private agents against collateral. Money creation and collateral are thus joined at the hip, so to speak. In the traditional money creation process, collateral consists of central bank reserves; in the modern private money creation process, collateral is in the eye of the beholder.

Like the reserves in conventional fractional reserve lending, collateral can be re-used (or rehypothecated) several times over. Singh gives the example of a US Treasury bond used by a hedge fund to get financing from Goldman Sachs. The same collateral is used by Goldman to pay Credit Suisse on a derivative position. Then Credit Suisse passes the US Treasury bond to a money market fund that will hold it for a short time or until maturity. Singh states that at the end of 2007, about $3.4 trillion in “primary source” collateral was turned into about $10 trillion in pledged collateral – a multiplier of about three. By comparison, the US M2 money supply (the credit-money created by banks via fractional reserve lending) was only about $7 trillion in 2007.  Thus credit-creation-via-collateral-chains is a major source of credit in today’s financial system.

Exiting Without Panicking the Markets

The shadow banking system is controversial. It funds derivatives and other speculative ventures that may harm the real, producing economy or put it at greater risk. But the shadow system is also a source of credit for many businesses that would otherwise be priced out of the credit market, and for such things as credit cards that we have come to rely on. And whether we approve of the shadow system or not, depriving it of collateral could create mayhem in the markets. According to the Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee of the Securities and Financial Markets Association, the shadow system could be short as much as $11.2 trillion in collateralunder stressed market conditions. That means that if every collateral claimant tried to grab its collateral in a Lehman-like run, the whole fragile Ponzi scheme could collapse. That alone is reason for the Fed to prevent “taper tantrums” and keep the market pacified. But the Fed is under pressure from the Swiss-based Bank for International Settlements, which has been admonishing central banks to back off from their asset-buying ventures.

An Excuse to Abandon the Fed’s Mandate of Full Employment?

 The BIS said in its annual report in June:

Six years have passed since the eruption of the global financial crisis, yet robust, self-sustaining, well balanced growth still eludes the global economy. . . . Central banks cannot do more without compounding the risks they have already created. . . . [They must] encourage needed adjustments rather than retard them with near-zero interest rates and purchases of ever-larger quantities of government securities. . . . Delivering further extraordinary monetary stimulus is becoming increasingly perilous, as the balance between its benefits and costs is shifting. Monetary stimulus alone cannot provide the answer because the roots of the problem are not monetary. Hence, central banks must manage a return to their stabilization role, allowing others to do the hard but essential work of adjustment.

For “adjustment,” read “structural adjustment” – imposing austerity measures on the people in order to balance federal budgets and pay off national debts. The Fed has a dual mandate to achieve full employment and price stability. QE was supposed to encourage employment by getting money into the economy, stimulating demand and productivity. But that approach is now to be abandoned, because “the roots of the problem are not monetary.” So concludes the BIS, but the failure may not be in the theory but the execution of QE. Businesses still need demand before they can hire, which means they need customers with money to spend. QE has not gotten new money into the real economy but has trapped it on bank balance sheets. A true Bernanke-style helicopter drop, raining money down on the people, has not yet been tried.

How Monetary Policy Could Stimulate Employment

The Fed could avoid collateral damage to the shadow banking system without curtailing its quantitative easing program by taking the novel approach of directing its QE fire hose into the real market. One possibility would be to buy up $1 trillion in student debt and refinance it at 0.75%, the interest rate the Fed gives to banks. A proposal along those lines is Elizabeth Warren’s student loan bill, which has received a groundswell of support including from many colleges and universities. Another alternative might be to make loans to state and local governments at 0.75%, something that might have prevented the recent bankruptcy of Detroit, once the nation’s fourth-largest city. Yet another alternative might be to pour QE money into an infrastructure bank that funds New Deal-style rebuilding. The Federal Reserve Act might have to be modified, but that which Congress has wrought it can change.  The possibilities are limited only by the imaginations and courage of our congressional representatives.

Ellen Brown is an attorney, president of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books including Web of Debt and its recently-published sequel The Public Bank Solution. Her websites are http://WebofDebt.comhttp://PublicBankSolution.com, and http://PublicBankingInstitute.org.

Der NSA wurde in Deutschland freie Hand gelassen

July 22nd, 2013 by Peter Schwarz

Ein Interview mit dem Historiker Josef Foschepoth, das in der online Ausgabe der Süddeutschen Zeitung veröffentlicht wurde, zeigt deutlich, dass des NSA bei ihren Operationen in Deutschland freie Hand gelassen wird – und das mit dem Wissen und dem Segen der deutschen  Bundesregierung.

Foschepoth ist Professor für Geschichte an der Universität Freiburg; er ist Experte für die Geschichte der Geheimdienste der Alliierten im Nachkriegsdeutschland. 2012 veröffentlichte er ein Buch mit dem Titel „Überwachtes Deutschland“.

Der Historiker betrachtet die Empörung der Bundesregierung über die, von Edward Snowden aufgedeckten,  Spionageaktivitäten der amerikanischen und britischen Regierung als pure Heuchelei.

„Die NSA kann In Deutschland alles tun,“ erklärt Foschepoth. „Nicht nur wegen der der rechtlichen Lage, sondern vor allem wegen der intensiven Zusammenarbeit zwischen den Geheimdiensten, die von den Regierungen immer gewollt und akzeptiert wurde.“

Foschepoth zu Folge entstand die rechtliche Grundlage für die Geheimdienstaktivitäten westlicher Geheimdienste in Deutschland auf das Jahr 1963 zurück. Damals beschlossen Deutschland und die Alliierten in einem Zusatzvertrag  zum Nato-Truppenstatut1 eine enge Zusammenarbeit der Geheimdienste. Dieser Vertrag wurde geheim verhandelt und war streng geheim.

Im Jahre 1968 übergaben die Alliierten die Verantwortung für die Geheimdienstarbeit offiziell an die Bundesrepublik. Doch durch ein rechtswirksame, geheime internationale Abmachung blieb den Alliierten das Recht auf Überwachungsmaßnahmen zum Schutz ihr eigenen Truppen erhalten. Zur selben Zeit wurde der Artikel 10 des Grundrechts so grundlegend eingeschränkt, „dass es seither keinen grundlegenden Schutz des Post- und Fernmeldegeheimnisses mehr gab.“

„Es war der größte Bluff des Jahres 1968,“ sagte Foschepoth. „Das Nato-Truppenstatut, Verwaltungsabkommen und geheime Absprachen überlebten die deutsche Wiedervereinigung und sind noch heute in Kraft.“

Bundeskanzler Konrad Adenauer (CDU) und Willy Brandt (SPD) akzeptierten die Sonderrechte der westlichen Geheimdienste, da sie Deutschlands Souveränität anstrebten. Ähnlich wie Helmut Kohl, der die deutsche Wiedervereinigung nicht gefährden wollte. Auch die Schröder-Fischer Regierung (SPD und Grüne), sowie die Regierung Merkel (CDU) rührten die bestehenden Regelungen nicht an. „Sie sitzen alle im selben Boot, denn sie profitieren von den Informationen der Amerikaner.“

Glaubt man den Recherchen der Süddeutschen Zeitung, so hat die NSA momentan mindestens 3 Dienststellen in Deutschland – in Darmstadt, Wiesbaden und Stuttgart. Was die NSA dort tut ist streng geheim. Aber es ist anzunehmen, „dass die NSA Mitarbeiter in Deutschland an Spionageprogrammen wie PRISM beteiligt sind.“

„US-Agenten gehen ein und aus in Berlin, Köln und Pullach, wo der deutsche Geheimdienst BND beheimatet ist,“ schreibt die Süddeutsche. Die Zeitung vermutet, dass dies umgekehrt ebenso der Fall ist, womit sie auf den lebhaften Austausch der Geheimdienste dieser Staaten anspielt.

Für die Bundesregierung war es vor allem Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger von der FDP, lange Zeit das liberale Sprachrohr einer rechten Politik, die die Empörung der Öffentlichkeit über die NSA-Affäre zum Thema machte. Doch als Justizministerin muss sie von den öffentlichen und geheimen Abkommen gewusst haben, die es der NSA erlaubten unbehelligt in Deutschland zu spionieren.

In einem Gastbeitrag für die Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung sprach der SPD-Parteivorsitzende Sigmar Gabriel von der Empörung „über den verrat an unseren Grundwerten“ und forderte zu einem Kampf gegen den „Datensammlerkapitalismus“ auf. Tatsächlich war es sein Parteifreund Otto Schily, der als Innenminister der Schröder-Regierung den Überwachungsapparat des Staates massiv ausgebaut hatte, und ein „Grundrecht auf Sicherheit“ forderte, das es in der deutschen Verfassung nicht gibt.

Während Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger so tut, als wüsste sie von nichts, wirft Gabriel mit radikalen Phrasen um sich. Andere versuchen die Empörung über die Spionageprogramme der NSA für ihre nationalistischen zwecke zu missbrauchen. Am ehrlichsten ist in dieser Beziehung Jakob Augsteins Kolumne auf Spiegel Online, die zynischer weise „Im Zweifel links“ heißt.

„Wollen sich die Deutschen dem Joch dieser Macht mit stiller Lust beugen, wie Heinrich Manns „Untertan“ sie empfand?….Oder wollen sie dieser Macht eine Gegenmacht entgegensetzen?“ fragt Augstein, während er auf einen Spiegel Artikel mit dem Titel „Warum dieses Land endlich seine Rolle als eine der mächtigsten Nationen der Welt annehmen muss“ verweist.

Die Antwort auf die Spionage ausländischer Geheimdienste lautet hier also: die Stärkung des deutschen Staates. In Anbetracht der Geschichte des autoritären preußischen Staates, der nationalsozialistischen Diktatur und der inkonsequenten Eingliederung dieser Kader in die Westdeutsche Justiz und in den Geheimdienst, kann nur ein kleingeistiger Journalist mit geschichtlicher Amnesie wie Jakob Augstein eine solche Idee haben.

Das tatsächliche Ziel der Abhöraktionen der NSA  und des deutschen Geheimdienstes, die beide eng zusammenarbeiten, ist die Bevölkerung. Die einzige „Gegenmacht“, die dem widerstehen kann, ist die arbeitende Klasse auf beiden Seiten des Atlantiks.

Übersetzung Samoebius Grandy, Episteme-online.de 

Am 11.7.2013 schrieb Peter Schwarz auf World Socialist Web Site (Originalartikel hier): The NSA Given a Free Hand to Operate in Germany

1. Episteme-Notiz: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/NATO-Truppenstatut

Steht Washington hinter der Machtübernahme in Ägypten?

July 22nd, 2013 by Prof Michel Chossudovsky

[US-Verteidigungsminister] Hagel und [US-Generalstabschef] Dempsey bewegten sich auf einem schmalen Grat … während sie Bedenken äußerten und gleichzeitig versuchten, den Eindruck zu vermieden, dass die USA die Geschehenisse im Hintergrund manipulierte.“ (Military.com 3.7.2013)

Die Proteste sind gegen die USA und ihre Stellvertreterregierung unter der Muslim-Bruderschaft gerichtet.

Die Muslim-Bruderschaft wurden mit Unterstützung aus Washington eher als „Ersatz“ denn als „Alternative“ zu Hosni Mubarak in die Regierung gebracht. Dieser hatte seit Anbeginn seiner Präsidentschaft die Befehle aus Washington gewissenhaft ausgeführt.

Während die bewaffneten Streitkräfte die Muslim-Bruderschaft zu Fall gebracht haben, ist der Machtwechsel in letzter Instanz dazu da, die Protestbewegung in eine Richtung hin zu lenken, die das Entstehen einer „echten Volksregierung“ verhindert. Der Sturz von Präsident Mohamed Mursi wurde nicht entgegen US-amerikanischen Interessen ausgeführt, er war initiiert, um die „Kontinuität“ zugunsten Washingtons zu garantieren.

„Die Demonstranten trugen handgemachte Poster mit sich, die Obama und seine zur Muslim-Bruderschaft positiv eingestellte Botschafterin in Kairo, Anne Patterson, denunzierten.“ (F. William Engdahl, Global Research, 4.7.2013)

Die Muslim-Bruderschaft und die CIA

Westliche Geheimdienste haben eine lange gemeinsame Geschichte mit der Bruderschaft. Großbritaniens Unterstützung der Bruderschaft durch den britischen Secret Service reicht bis in die 1940er Jahre zurück. Seit 1950er Jahren floss dem ehemaligen Geheimdienstbeamten William Bear zufolge „von der CIA Unterstützung zur Muslim-Bruderschaft“, undzwar „aufgrund ihrer lobenswerten Fähigkeit, Nasser zu stürzen.“ (1954-1970: CIA und die Muslim-Bruderschaft verbünden sich, um sich dem ägyptischen Präsidenten Nasser entgegenzustellen)

Diese verdeckten Verbindungen zur CIA wurden während Hosni Mubaraks Regierung aufrechterhalten.

Seit dem Beginn des „arabischen Frühlings“ war es das Ziel der Obama-Regierung,  sekulare Regierungen im Nahen Osten und Nordafrika zu unterminieren und „islamische Staaten“ zu installieren, die den geopolitischen und wirtschaftlichen Interessen der USA dienen sollen.

„Bittere ökonomische Medizin“

Die Protestbewegung gegen Mubarak Anfang 2011 war eine Antwort auf die zerstörerischen Folgen der IWF-Reformen. Auf der Höhe des Golkrieges Anfang 1991 initiiert haben diese Reformen – die sich über eine Periode von über 20 Jahren erstrecken – dazu gedient, das ägyptische Volk zu verarmen und die ägyptische Wirtschaft „dem Einstrom ausländischer Investoren zu öffnen“.

Das Niltal, über 3000 Jahre lang die Kornkammer Ägyptens, wurde zerstört, um Nahrungsimporte aus den USA und der Europäischen Union zu stärken.

Die resultierende Deregulation von Nahrungspreisen und massenhafte Privatisierung sowie Austeritätsmaßnahmenhaben zu Armut und Massenarbeitslosigkeit geführt. Im Gegenzug kollabierten Sozialprogramme, Ägyptens Wirtschafts- und Finanzsystem wurde destabilisiert.

Kontinuität im Sinne neoliberaler ökonomischer Reformen ist ein zentraler Punkt des US-gesponserten Regimewechsels. Mursis Zugang zur Präsidentschaft war an die Einwilligung in die „ökonomische Medizin“ des IWF geknüpft.

Im August 2012 sagte die IWF-Geschäftsleiterin Christine Lagarde offen: „Der IWF wird Ägypten bei dieser herausfordernden Reise begleiten … Es ist eine ägyptische Reise und der IWF ist ein Partner auf dieser Reise.“

„Wir sind von der Strategie, die Präsident Mursi und Premierminister Kandil bei unserem heutigen Meeting vorgeschlagen haben, beeindruckt“, sagte Lagarde bei einer Pressekonferenz mit Kandil. (IWF, 22.8.2012)

Ein neues IWF-Paket voller (tödlicher) makroökonomischer Reformen wurde mit dem Ausblick darauf, „Ägyptens politischen und ökonomischen Übergang zu bewältigen“, erlassen. Der daraus resultierende IWF-gesponserte „Übergang“, von Ägyptens äußeren Kreditgebern aufgenötigt, hat die ökonomische und soziale Krise verschlimmert anstatt sie abzuschwächen.

Die soziale Lage hat sich seit dem Ende Hosni Mubaraks drastisch verschlechtert. Die Massenproteste gegen Mursi war zu großen Teilen dadurch motiviert, dass die von Washington und der Wall Street aufgezwungenen makroökonomischen Reformen aus der Mubarak-Ära unter ihm weiterliefen und sich der Prozess der Verarmung weiter zuspitzte.

Die Rolle der bewaffneten Streitkräfte: „Grünes Licht“ vom Pentagon?

In den Medien wurden die ägyptischen Streitkräfte als „Unterstützer“ der Proteste dargestellt, ohne dass ihre enge Verbindung zwischen den Anführern des Militärputsches und ihren US-amerikanischen Partnern erwähnt worden wäre.

Die Tatsache, dass Teile der Massenbewegung danach riefen, das Militär solle eine „unterstützende Rolle“ einnehmen, ist ein offensichtlicher Trick:

„Das ist die Nachricht, die das Militär aus dem ganzen städtischen Ägypten, den Städten und den Dörfern, erhielt; Es nahm die Einladung wahr, verstand ihre Intention, akzeptierte ihre Notwendigkeit und näherte sich der nationalen Szenerie, sich an alle Grenzen der Pflicht, der Verantwortung und der Ehrlichkeit haltend.“

Bekanntermaßen und dokumentierterweise wurde die Massenbewegung infiltriert. Teile der Mursi-Opposition sind von NED (National Endowment for Democracy) und Freedom House unterstützt (Episteme-Notiz: NED ist eine Nicht-Regierungs-Organisation, die auf der ganzen Welt unter dem Deckmantel, Demokratie zu fördern, US-amerikanische Interessen durchsetzt. Weitere Infos findest du hier). Die Kifaya-Bewegung für Zivilgesellschaft ist vom in den USA ansässigen International Center for Non-Violent Conflict gefördert.

Die Rolle der Streitkräfte ist es nicht, eine Graswurzelbewegung zu schützen. Ganz im Gegenteil: Das Ziel ist es, den Aufstand zu manipulieren und Ablehnung gegenüber Washington zu unterdrücken.

Ziel des Militärputsches ist es, zu versichern, dass der Fall der Muslim-Bruderschafts-Regierung nicht in einem politischen Übergang resultiert, der die Kontrolle der USA über den ägyptischen Staat und dessen Militär unterminiert.

Lasst uns alle Illusionen ablegen. Während es nennenswerte Konflikte und Entzweiungen innerhalb des Militärs gibt, nimmt die oberste Führungsschicht ihre Befehle vom Pentagon entgegen.

Verteidigungsminister Abdul Fatah Al-Sisi (auf der Linken), der die Machtübernahme gegen Mursi geführt hat, hat seinen Abschluss auf dem US-Kriegscollege in Carlisle, Pennsylvania gemacht.

General Al Sisi stand seit Anbeginn der Proteste in ständigem telefonischem Kontakt mit US-Verteidigungsminister Chuck Hagel (auf der rechten zusammen mit Al Sisi). Presseberichte bestätigen, dass er ihn in den Tagen vor der Machtübernahme mehrere Male konsultierte. Es ist unwahrscheinlich, dass General Al Sisi ohne „grünes Licht“ aus dem Pentagon gehandelt hätte.

„Hagel rief Al-Sisi letzten Donnerstag (30.6.2013) an, als die Proteste einen zunehmend anti-amerikanischen Ton annahmen und sprach am Dienstag (2.7.2013) noch einmal mit ihm, nachdem Al-Sisi ein Ultimatum gestellt hatte und davor warnte, dass das Militär handeln würde, wenn Mursi keine Zugeständnisse macht.“ (Military.com)

Im Gegenzug war General Martin Dempsey, Vorsitzender des Generalstab, in ständigem Kontakt mit General Sedki Sobhi, Stabschef des Obersten Gremiums der Streitkräfte (SCAF):

„Pentagon-Mitarbeiter lehnten es ab, spezifische Informationen über die Konversationen zwischen Hagel und Al-Sisi, aber Hauptpressesprecher des Pentagon George Little sagte, dass ‚US-Mitarbeiter auf allen Ebenen des Militärs haben klar gemacht, dass wir den demokratischen Prozess in Ägypten unterstützen und dass wir hoffen, diese Periode der Spannung kann in einer friedlichen Weise aufgelöst werden und dass Gewalt verhindert werden kann.‘ (Military.com)

Military.com zufolge bewegten sich Hagel und Dempsey „auf einem schmalen Grat“ … „während sie Bedenken äußerten und gleichzeitig versuchten, den Eindruck zu vermieden, dass die USA die Geschehenisse im Hintergrund manipulierte.“

Ägypten ist der größte Rezipient von US-Militärhilfen hinter Israel.

Das ägyptische Militär ist vom Pentagon kontrolliert.

In den Worten von General Anthony Zinni, ehemaliger Kommandant des US Central Command (CENTCOM):

„Ägypten ist das wichtigste Land in meinem Zuständigkeitsbereich undzwar wegen des Zugangs, den es mir zur Region gibt.“

Am 4. Juli veröffentlichte Michel Chossudovsky auf globalresearch.ca (Originalartikel Was Washington Behind Egypt’s Coup d’Etat?)

Israel to Sign Guns for Refugees Deal With African States

July 22nd, 2013 by Richard Silverstein

Writing this blog as long as I have, I’ve seen some pretty low blows from the Israeli government.  But this one ranks right up there.  Those of you old enough remember Ronald Reagan’s arms for hostages deal with the Iranians–now, Israel proposes an arms for refugees exchange.  And it stinks to high heaven.

Ynet reports that the government is close to inking a deal with three African states (who are likely Ethiopia, South Sudan, and Uganda) who will take “tens of thousands” of ‘undesirable’ African refugees from Israel in return to Israeli weapons and training.  Isn’t that neat and tidy!?  Israel gets rids of what MK Miri Regev called a “cancer in its midst” and contributes to the rising tide of mayhem and violence in countries like South Sudan and Eritrea, already beset by instability and civil war.

There was a time back in the 1960s when Israel actually offered aid that was constructive to newly independent African states.  Of course, this aid wasn’t done for purely altruistic reasons.  Israel also wanted to cozy up to these states because they insulated it from the charge that Israel was oppressing similar types of states in the Middle East.  Africa also offered a rich field for Israel’s intelligence operations and satisfied some of its need for raw materials for its military-industrial complex.

This story should be linked to another important one reported yesterday.  The Israeli government revealed there are 7,000 registered arms merchants plying Israeli weapons to precisely these sorts of unstable states, making Israel the sixth largest arms merchant in the world.  What the government refused to do in response to a court case, was reveal the names of these merchants of death.  It claimed that doing so would endanger them and expose them to potential terrorist attacks.

While this possibility is remote, it’s much more likely that these arms dealers would be exposed to the shame and obloquy of the world community.  And they should have to face such exposure.  Israel and the nations where they ply their trade have the right to know who these people are.  While the U.S. goes after the Victor Bout’s of the world, it does little or nothing to reduce the proliferation of Israel’s stable of sophisticated, lethal weaponry.  These 7,000 go scott free because Israel is an ally, which Russia isn’t.

On the Death of Helen Thomas

July 22nd, 2013 by Prof. Lawrence Davidson

In her long career, Helen Thomas walked a tightrope. She was part of Washington’s journalistic club yet an outsider who asked unwelcome questions. When she was tossed out of the club in 2010 over a careless remark about Israel, she said she cried for days – and had few defenders. But one was Lawrence Davidson.

Helen Thomas, who died on July 20 at the age of 92, was the first woman journalist to cover the White House and did so for an unprecedented 50 years. She lasted in that job despite always asking the tough questions. It was a glorious run besmirched only late in her career by opportunistic attacks by Zionist American ideologues.

When that happened, as described below, I wrote a piece in her defense on June 23, 2010, which is included here in an updated form:

Helen Thomas was the most respected of the White House press corps. However, she made a mistake the other day of wearing her feelings on her sleeve, so to speak, on a topic of deadly political sensitivity. She said out loud that the Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine” and return to Europe. Palestine is “not German, it’s not Polish” she added.

Unfortunately, the whole thing ended up on a YouTube video. Predictably, the American Zionists jumped all over her. Several former White House operatives, who may have resented Thomas’s hard questioning of their bosses, were at the front of this charge.

Lanny Davis, former Clinton White House counsel, immediately announced that Thomas should be “stripped of her honors for having crossed the line of freedom of speech.” The attempt by supporters of Israel to exempt criticism of the Zionist state from the protections of the First Amendment of the Constitution has been ongoing. Davis added that Thomas “has shown herself to be an anti-Semtic bigot.”

Another former White House press secretary, Ari Fleischer, said Thomas should be fired from her post and her White House press credentials revoked. He also called her an anti-Semitic bigot. B’nai B’rith’s International President Dennis Glick and Vice President Daniel Mariaschin accused Thomas of being an ally of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and being part of a cabal seeking to “delegitimize Israel.”

The way the Israelis behave they have no need of Helen Thomas to “delegitimize” their country. They are doing a fine job of that on their own. Thomas’s remarks came in the aftermath of a piratical attack on the Gaza Aid Flotilla, during which Israeli commandos murdered nine aid activists on the Mavi Marmara.

Acting as they do, the Zionists really have little legitimate cause to get angry at other people’s anger. Thomas’s remarks were obviously made in a mood of anger and frustration. We all make statements during fits of anger most of which, thankfully, do not end up on YouTube.

But we also know that most of the time these statements do not reflect our otherwise realistic and level-headed point of view.

I once heard a respected Middle East historian, delivering a talk at an annual conference of the Middle East Studies Association, say that the world would be a better place if Israel broke off from its geographical position and slid to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea. Was this man a bigot? No he was not. He was Jewish. And he was not a “self-hater.” However, he was angry.

Thomas offered an apology stating that she regrets the “comments I made last week regarding Israelis and the Palestinians.” There is no doubt that she really does regret it, considering the hot water it put her in. She goes on and says that “they do not reflect my heart-felt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance. May that day come soon.”

Given her 50-plus years of honest and penetrating reporting there is no reason to doubt that this last statement represents the sober Helen Thomas – when not confronted with horrific Israeli behavior. The accusations of bigotry and the calls for the ruination of her career are way out of proportion and, when coming from Zionists such as Fleischer, Glick and Mariaschin, they are undoubtedly opportunistic.

Zionist Bigotry

Now, since we are on the topic of bigotry, let’s consider the behavior of the Zionists in this regard. After all if one labels their critics as bigots, one should take a look at the basis for their criticism.

The bitter truth is that Israeli Jews have spent the last 65 years systematically discriminating against Israeli Arabs and, as far as the Palestinians of the Occupied Territories go, they have set up a system of control that smacks of apartheid.

recent survey of Israeli Jews shows that a good number of them do not want Palestinians as neighbors or allowed to live in the same apartment blocks as they do. Israel’s school textbooks have purposely eradicated the Palestinian history of the place they now call the Jewish state.

This discriminatory environment is promoted by the Israeli government. This is how the Israeli journalist Mya Guarnieridescribes the situation: “The continued maltreatment of Palestinians puts every Israeli’s freedom at risk on a daily basis. If your government disregards the rule of law, disenfranchises your neighbor and tramples his most basic human rights, how can you expect that your own freedoms will remain intact?”

But freedom in Israel is too often seen as a strictly ethnocentric privilege. This is not to say there are not fair-minded and humane Israeli Jews who know that there is something seriously wrong with the society they live in. There are. They are just a too small minority.

In other words, Israel, as now constituted and operated, is a state of active or passive bigots. That conclusion is based on evidence (evidence backed up by most of the world’s human rights organizations, including those in Israel).

That being the case, I assert that Israel today is a racist place and should be transformed from a “Jewish state” to a democratic secular state, a state where all its citizens have equal rights. That does not require all of Israel’s Jews to go back to Europe, or to be drowned in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. It just requires the destruction of the ideology of Zionism.

If the folks at B’nai B’rith get hold of this I will bet dollars to donuts that they would have conniptions and call me an anti-Semitic bigot. That seems to be the way it goes in our world of double standards.

Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National InterestAmerica’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism.

Global Geopolitics: Chinese Internet vs. U.S. Internet

July 22nd, 2013 by Dr. Thorsten Pattberg

Greenpeace se movilizó en Quebec para denunciar los graves peligros medioambientales que provocarían los proyectos de explotación petrolera en el Ártico.

La celebración del matrimonio entre el Primer Ministro de Canadá y la multinacional British Petroleum fue la acción artística que realizó Greenpeace para sensibilizar y dar a conocer los impactos negativos de la explotación petrolera en el Ártico.

British Petroleum fue responsable del derrame de petróleo en el Golfo de México en 2010. Este derrame petrolífero de 6500 km2 de extensión producido por la explosión y hundimiento de una plataforma petrolífera causó daños irreparables en el medioambiente.

El Ártico cumple un papel crucial en el clima global. Hasta el día de hoy ninguna compañía demostró tener la capacidad para detener un derrame de petróleo en el Ártico.

 

A recently uncovered government document confirms that Ottawa has delivered millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinian Authority in a bid to advance Israel’s interests. The internal memorandum also sheds light on Canada’s efforts to build a security apparatus to protect the Palestinian Authority from popular disgust over its compliance in the face of ongoing Israeli settlement building.

Last week Postmedia’s Lee Berthiaume reported on a Canadian International Development Agency note outlining Israel’s desire for Canada to continue its $300 million five-year “aid” program to the Palestinians, which the Conservatives threatened to severe after the PA pursued UN statehood last fall.

“There have been increasing references in the past months during high-level bilateral meetings with the Israelis about the importance and value they place on Canada’s assistance to the Palestinian Authority, most notably in security/justice reform,” reads the November 2nd 2012 note signed by CIDA president Margaret Biggs. “The Israelis have noted the importance of Canada’s contribution to the relative stability achieved through extensive security co-operation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”

The heavily censored note suggests the goal of the Canadian “aid” is to protect a corrupt PA from popular backlash. Biggs explains that “the emergence of popular protests on the Palestinian street against the Palestinian Authority is worrying and the Israelis have been imploring the international donor community to continue to support the Palestinian Authority.”

These recent revelations from CIDA confirm the highly politicized nature of Canadian aid to the Palestinians. After Hamas won legislative elections in January 2006 the Conservatives made Canada the first country (after Israel) to cut off funding to the PA.

When Hamas officials were ousted from the Palestinian unity government in June 2007, the Conservatives immediately contributed $8 million “in direct support to the new government.” Then in December 2007 the Conservatives announced a five-year $300 million aid program to the Palestinians, which was largely designed to serve Israel’s interests.
As a Saint John Telegraph-Journal headline explained at the time: “Canada’s aid to Palestine benefits Israel, foreign affairs minister says.”

In January 2008 Maxime Bernier, then Canada’s foreign minister, said: “We are doing that [providing aid to the PA] because we want Israel to be able to live in peace and security with its neighbors.”

Most of the Canadian aid money has gone to building up a Palestinian security force overseen by a US general. The immediate impetus of the Canadian aid was to create a Palestinian security force “to ensure that the PA maintains control of the West Bank against Hamas,” as Canadian Ambassador to Israel Jon Allen was quoted as saying by the Canadian Jewish News.

American General Keith Dayton, in charge of organizing a 10,000-member Palestinian security force, even admitted that he was strengthening Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah against Hamas, telling a US audience in May 2009 his force was “working against illegal Hamas activities.” According to Al Jazeera, between 2007 and early 2011 PA security forces arrested some 10,000 suspected Hamas supporters in the West Bank.

The broader aim of the US-Canada-Britain initiated Palestinian security reform was to build a force to patrol the West Bank and Gaza. In a 2011 profile of Canadian Lieutenant-Colonel Ron Allison, “Dayton’s chief of liaison in the West Bank” for a year, Allison’s hometown newspaper the Times & Transcript reported: “The Dayton team was concerned with enhancing security on the West Bank of Palestine and was all geared towards looking after and ensuring the security of Israel.”

We don’t provide anything to the Palestinians,” Dayton told the Associated Press in June 2009, “unless it has been thoroughly coordinated with the State of Israel and they agree to it.” For instance, Israel’s notorious internal intelligence agency, the Shin Bet, vets all of the Palestinian recruits, according to US government reports.

The Israelis supported Dayton’s force as a way to keep the West Bank population under control. Like all colonial authorities throughout history, Israel looked to compliant locals to take up the occupation’s security burden.

Writing in the July 2011 London Review of Books, Adam Shatz detailed how “The PA already uses the
American-trained National Security Force to undermine efforts by Palestinians to challenge the occupation.”

He continued: “It is an extraordinary arrangement: the security forces of a country under occupation are being subcontracted by third parties outside the region to prevent resistance to the occupying power, even as that power continues to grab more land. “This is, not surprisingly, a source of considerable anger and shame in the West Bank.”

The Palestinian security force is largely trained in Jordan at the U.S.-built International Police Training Center (established to train Iraqi security after the 2003 invasion). In October 2009, The Wall Street Journal reported: “[Palestinian] recruits are trained in Jordan by Jordanian police, under the supervision of American, Canadian and British officers. The number of military trainers in the West Bank varied slightly but in mid-2010,eighteen Canadian troops worked with six British and ten US soldiers under Dayton’s command.”

“The Canadian contribution is invaluable,” explained Dayton to The Maple Leaf, the monthly publication of the Canadian army. Canadians are particularly useful because, Dayton said, “US personnel have travel restrictions when operating in the West Bank. But, our British and Canadian members do not.”
Calling them his “eyes and ears” Dayton added: “The Canadians … are organized in teams we call road warriors, and they move around the West Bank daily visiting Palestinian security leaders, gauging local conditions.”

Part of the U.S. Security Coordinator office in Jerusalem, the Canadian military mission in the West Bank (dubbed Operation PROTEUS) includes Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers as well as officials from the foreign ministry, Justice Canada and the Canadian Border Services Agency.

In a September 2010 interview with The Jerusalem Post, Peter Kent, then Canada’s deputy foreign minister, said Operation PROTEUS was Canada’s “second largest deployment after Afghanistan” and it receives “most of the money” from the five-year $300 million Canadian “aid” program to the PA.

During a visit to the Middle East in January 2012, foreign minister John Baird told The Globe and Mail he was “incredibly thrilled” by the West Bank security situation, which he said benefited Israel.

In effect, Canada has helped to build a security apparatus to protect a corrupt PA led by Mahmoud Abbas, whose electoral mandate expired in January 2009, but whom the Israeli government prefers over Hamas.

Mira Nair, the internationally-acclaimed director of Salaam Bombay! and Monsoon Wedding, has refused an invitation to take her latest film to Israel, citing the Palestinian call for cultural boycott.

In a series of tweets today, Nair made the following statement:

I was just invited to Israel as a guest of honor at the Haifa International Film Festival with “The Reluctant Fundamentalist.” I will not be going to Israel at this time. I will go to Israel when the walls come down. I will go to Israel when occupation is gone. I will go to Israel when the state does not privilege one religion over another. I will go to Israel when Apartheid is over. I will go to Israel, soon. I stand with the [Palestinian Campaign] for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) and the larger Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS)Movement.

Official trailer of The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Thanks to Michael Feikema and Doug Hendren for inviting me.  Like most of you I do not spend my life studying trade agreements, but the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is disturbing enough to make me devote a little time to it, and I hope you will do the same and get your neighbors to do the same and get them to get their friends to do the same — as soon as possible.

I spend most of my time reading and writing about war and peace.  I’m in the middle of writing a book about the possibility and need to abolish war and militarism.  I hate to take a break from that.  But if we think trade and militarism are separate topics we’re fooling ourselves.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, a big fan of the supposed wonders of the hidden hand of the market economy says, “The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the U.S. Air Force F-15.  And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley’s technologies to flourish is called the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.”

Of course, there’s nothing hidden about that fist.  The TPP is planned to include the United States, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam, with Japan expected to be added this month, and with the ability to expand to any other Pacific nation even after the treaty is created — if it is created.  The U.S. military works closely with the militaries of all of those nations, encourages their militarization, and keeps its own troops in most of them.  The U.S. military is currently building up its presence in the Pacific — including even in Vietnam, where McDonald’s also opened its first store this week.  In a presidential debate last year President Obama described the TPP as part of a strategy to counter China and exert U.S. influence in Asia, the same rationale behind the naval base on Jeju Island and all the rest of the military build up around China’s borders.  In this year’s State of the Union, Obama said the TPP and an agreement with the European Union were priorities for him this year.

There is also, of course, nothing hidden about the hand of corporate trade agreements.  These are not agreements aimed at maximizing competition by preventing monopolies.  These are very lengthy and detailed agreements that include protection and expansion of monopolies.  Rather than relying on the magic of the marketplace, a corporate trade agreement relies on the influence of lobbyists.  Just as the corruption of the military industrial complex helps explain a global military buildup in the absence of a national enemy — I mean an enemy that is a nation, not a handful of criminals who ought to be indicted and prosecuted rather than blown up along with whoever’s nearby — so, too, the corporate ownership of our government explains our government’s trade policies.

What is hidden, in another sense, is the detailed negotiated text of the proposed TPP treaty.  Some 600 corporate advisors are helping the U.S. government write the text.  Some of these advisors come from those benevolent, public-interest firms known as Monsanto, the Bank of America, Chevron, and ExxonMobil.  The rest of us are shut out.  The government gathers up our every communication, but we aren’t allowed to see what it’s doing in our name.  We don’t influence the text and we don’t get to see it.  Some courageous person or persons willing to risk charges of aiding the enemy (even if there is no enemy) has made parts of what is in the TPP known.

I dealt with corporate trade agreements a little when I worked as press secretary for Dennis Kucinich for President in 2004.  Basically my job was to tell any media outlet that would listen that we were going to end wars, create single-payer healthcare, and abolish NAFTA.  But mostly we were going to end wars.  I remember in the 2008 campaign, a whole bunch of Democratic primary candidates lined up on a stage for a huge labor-organized debate in a football stadium.  Kucinich said he would abolish NAFTA, get out of the WTO, and create bilateral trade agreements with nations, agreements that left in place protections for workers, consumers, and the environment.  The applause suggested most people there agreed.  But every other one of the candidates refused to say they would end NAFTA.  Instead, every one of them, including Barack Obama, said they would re-negotiate NAFTA to fix it by adding in the protections it was missing.  Most of them, of course, didn’t get elected.  The one who did seems to have had a change of plans.  The TPP has been under negotiation for 5 years.

A year and a half ago, some of us were living in Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., and there was another camp just over in McPhearson Square, and the Occupy Movement had gone national through corporate television and newspapers.  A Senate committee was holding a hearing on new corporate trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and Korea.  After the lobbyists got their seats, there were a few left for the public, and I took one.  The senators were discussing how they would mitigate the damage of what they were about to support.  They planned to try to help find jobs for some of the people they would throw out of work.  I thought I should point out to them that they could just leave everybody in their current jobs.  I was hoping they would realize that on their own.  I didn’t want to be rude and interrupt.  But it seemed an important enough point.  So I spoke up.  And they arrested me.

Then the senators discussed Korean and U.S. tariffs on beef.  A woman in the audience spoke up and asked why we couldn’t just leave the Korean beef in Korea and the U.S. beef in the United States instead of shipping beef both ways across the ocean.  They arrested her.  They arrested everybody who said anything.  In the first year of the previous agreement made with Korea, U.S. exports to Korea fell 10% and the U.S. trade deficit with Korea rose 37%.  The same sort of results are likely with a new one.

On the plus side, Congress was kept safe from interruptions.  The charges carried some months in jail, as I recall.  Four of us made deals in court that kept us out of jail but banned us from Capitol Hill for 6 months.  In the next courtroom over, some friends were convicted of speaking out against torture when some committee chairman hadn’t asked them to.  And straight across the hall, that same day, another friend was told she’d completed her probation for having interrupted Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in the Capitol, a punishment imposed even though Netanyahu had thanked her for speaking and bragged about how she’d have been treated worse in Iran — although the assault she suffered in the U.S. Capitol put her in a neck brace.

The First Amendment is not doing much better than the Fourth Amendment these days.  I know that some of you will say nobody should interrupt anyone.  How would I like to be interrupted myself? Et cetera.  But how much has the corporate media that dominates our communications system, and does so with our subsidies, told us about the Trans-Pacific Partnership?  Unless we can organize enough of these meetings, someone is going to have to interrupt someone to get the word out.

Maybe the first thing I would interrupt a super bowl or a state of the union to tell people about the TPP is that it creates corporate nationhood.  This is something I started to focus on after interviewing Lacey Kohlmoos of Public Citizen on my radio show.  Public Citizen has a website set up at ExposeTheTPP.org.  Another coalition has created FlushTheTPP.org.  Another is at CitizensTrade.org.  And then there’s a cross-border effort to organize against the TPP at TPPxborder.org.  You can find pretty much everything I have to say, and much more, at those websites.  You can sign up and get involved with ongoing campaigns as things develop at those websites.

Many of us have heard of corporate personhood.  Corporations have been given the Constitutional rights of persons by U.S. courts over the past 40 years, including the right to spend money on elections.  By corporate nationhood I mean the bestowing of the rights of nations on corporations.  The TPP, drafts of which have been leaked to Public Citizen, has 29 chapters, only five of which — according to Public Citizen’s thinking — deal with trade.  The others deal with things like food safety, internet freedom, medicine costs, job off-shoring, and financial regulation.  Treaties, according to Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, are — together with the Constitution itself — the supreme law of the land.  So U.S. laws would have to be made to comply with the TPP’s rules.

The United States is party to treaties banning war and torture.  Some treaties are treated more like helpful suggestions than the supreme law of the land.  That would not be the case with the TPP.  Our federal and state and local governments would have to obey the TPP.  And if they didn’t, corporations could force them to.  A corporation could take the U.S. government or other nations’ governments to court (or rather, a special tribunal) and overturn their laws.  That’s corporate nationhood.  A bunch of corporate lawyers would make their case to a tribunal made up of three corporate lawyers taking a break from themselves arguing such cases in order to rule on some of them.  These three lawyers would answer to no electorate and be bound by no precedents.  There would be no appeals process.  They would be empowered to order any amount of compensation whatsoever, to be paid to corporations by tax payers.

So, if the United States has a healthcare policy or an environmental or workplace policy or a banking or internet or other public policy that a few corporate lawyers can convince three other corporate lawyers fails to comply with the TPP, the policy will be overturned, the law rewritten, and compensation ordered to be paid by the public treasury to the corporations that suffered from having to provide healthcare or from having to refrain from poisoning a river, or whatever.  We don’t know all of the details — I’ll get to some of them shortly.  But this framework is an outrage no matter what they turn out to be.  And it’s an expansion of something already being tried under existing corporate trade agreements.

ExposeTheTPP.org says: “Tribunals have already ordered governments to pay over $3.5 billion in investor-state cases under existing U.S. agreements.  This includes payments over toxic bans, land-use policies, forestry rules and more.  More than $14.7 billion remain in pending claims under U.S. agreements alone.  Even when governments win, they often must pay for the tribunals’ costs and legal fees, which average $8 million per case.  The TPP would expand the scope of policies that could be attacked.

“The proposed TPP foreign investor privileges would provide foreign firms greater ‘rights’ than those afforded to domestic firms. This includes a ‘right’ to not have expectations frustrated by a change in government policy. Claiming such radical privileges, foreign corporations have launched investor-state cases against a broad array of environmental, energy, consumer health, toxics, water, mining and other non-trade domestic policies that they allege undermine their ‘expected future profits.’

“Some of the investor-state attacks now underway are:

Chevron trying to evade liability for its Ecuadorian Amazon toxic contamination;

Phillip Morris attacking Australia’s cigarette labeling policy;

Eli Lilly attacking Canada’s drug patent policy; and

European firms attacking Egypt’s post-revolution minimum wage increase and South Africa’s post-Apartheid affirmative action law.”

Corporate trade agreements like the TPP don’t impose something as dangerous as corporate nationhood as part of the cost of some other benefit.  These agreements have no clear upside, unless it’s inexpensive, poorly made products that poorly paid people can afford to buy.  Most destructive public policies are justified by jobs.  We’ll chop down that forest for jobs.  We’ll build a bigger military for jobs.  We’ll mine coal for jobs.  We’ll concentrate wealth beyond medieval levels for jobs.  But corporate trade agreements eliminate, or at least export, jobs.

The United States had about 20 million manufacturing jobs before NAFTA, and lost about 5 million of them, including the closure of more than 60,000 facilities.  Imports have soared while the growth of exports has slowed.  Millions of service jobs have been offshored too, of course.  The TPP is referred to by those who have seen drafts of it (and you can read some draft chapters online) as NAFTA on steroids.  It expands on NAFTA’s policies.  The TPP would provide special benefits to, and eliminate risks for, companies that offshore jobs.  Vietnam’s wages are even lower than China’s.  An average day’s wage in China is $4.11.  In Vietnam it’s $2.75.

The TPP will push U.S. wages downward.  And if NAFTA’s impact on Mexico is any guide, the TPP won’t end up being seen as beneficial to Vietnam either, especially when some other country decides that it can pay workers even less than Vietnam does.

The TPP will also move U.S. government contracting jobs to foreign companies by banning buy-American procurement policies.  The ability of U.S. firms to bid on government contracts in the other participating countries will not begin to balance this out.  And in every country involved, the foreign companies will be less accountable to the people whose money is being spent.  Also banned will be preferential treatment for sweat-free businesses, minority-owned businesses, women-owned, or environmentally-friendly businesses.  Not only does the TPP make corporations into governments, but it also makes governments into corporations, requiring that they work purely to maximize profits — although the profits are for the corporations.

The TPP doesn’t end there.  When it comes to food safety and workplace safety and other consumer or environmental protections, an agreement like this could require that all nations enforce a high standard, even the highest standard of any of the nations, or a higher standard than any nation now meets — after all, the agreement would create an even playing field for all and ought to be seen as an opportunity to collectively raise the standards.  The TPP, as drafted, does just the opposite.  It would require the United States to import meat and poultry that doesn’t meet U.S. safety standards.  Any U.S. food safety rule on pesticides, labeling, or additives that is higher than international standards could be challenged as an “illegal trade barrier.”  Malaysia and Vietnam are big seafood exporters.  High levels of contaminants have been found in Vietnam’s seafood.  (I can’t imagine why!)  The FDA only inspects 1% of imported seafood now.  Local seafood producers struggle as it is.  The pollution involved in shipping seafood around the globe probably won’t work wonders for future seafood either.  And don’t imagine we’ll all just buy local and “vote with our wallets.”  The TPP will impose limits on labeling where food comes from, labeling GMO foods, labeling foods dolphin-safe, etc.  You won’t know where your food comes from or how it was produced unless you grow it or buy it from a neighbor who grew it.  But the odds will be stacked even more heavily against the small farmer if the TPP is enacted.

Once everyone’s gotten good and sick by eating TPP food, just wait to see what the TPP does to healthcare.  Corporations with national rights will be able to overturn domestic patent and drug-pricing laws.  The big drug companies will be able to raise prices with extended monopolies over drugs and over surgical procedures.  People in need of inexpensive generic drugs will be denied them, and many of those people will die.  The TPP, in the end, may turn out to be more deadly than any war.  The TPP would threaten provisions included in Medicare, Medicaid, and veterans’ health programs to make medicines more affordable.  Foreign corporations will also be able to challenge laws on toxics, zoning, cigarettes, alcohol, public health, and the environment — anything that they could claim might cost them profits.  NAFTA doesn’t go as far as the TPP, but these things are already happening under it.  ExposeTheTPP.org says: “Canada lifted a ban on a gasoline additive already banned in the U.S. as a suspected carcinogen after an investor attack by Ethyl Corporation under NAFTA. It also paid the firm $13 million and published a formal statement that the chemical was not hazardous.”

Under the TPP, the United States could increase its exports of so-called natural gas, and that will mean more fracking.  And laws to protect the environment, including the human beings, where the fracking is done could be challenged by corporations as limiting their future profits.  The same problems arise with tar sands.  Even under existing corporate trade agreements, governments have already paid over $3 billion to foreign corporations, and over 85% of that has been the result of challenges to oil, mining, gas, and other environmental and natural resource policies.  This includes payments by the governments of Mexico and Canada to U.S. fossil fuel corporations.

The United States has been growing accustomed to secret laws.  The PATRIOT Act, for example, according to numerous members of Congress, has been secretly “reinterpreted” to mean things radically at odds with and worse than what the words of the bill — horrible as they were — meant.  The TPP could become public, and bits of it keep leaking out, but it outdoes the PATRIOT Act in size and breadth.  It would rewrite laws.  It would even put in place laws very intentionally rejected by Congress following a very public process.

Last year there was a big struggle over SOPA, a bill that was marketed as copyright protection but ultimately rejected as internet censorship — following a great deal of public, and even some corporate, pressure.  According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the ACLU, the TPP would largely recreate SOPA while no one’s watching.  Unless, of course, we start watching.  Under the TPP, internet service providers will be able to monitor user activity, remove internet content, and prevent certain people from accessing certain content.  Downloading a song could be treated the same as a large-scale for-profit copyright violation.  The TPP would impose copyright protections for 120 years for corporate-created content.  Breaking digital locks (and no, I don’t really know what those are) for legitimate purposes, such as using Linux or accessing closed captioning for the deaf or audio-supported content for the blind could result in fines.

Then there are the laws that we dream our government might enact that the TPP would prevent, such as reasonable regulation of Wall Street.  Under the TPP a government could not ban the toxic derivatives and other risky financial “products” that helped crash the economy.  A firewall could not be put back in place between different types of financial institutions.  Senator Elizabeth Warren wants to reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act, arguing that it prevented economic crashes for a half century from the 30s through the 80s. The TPP would forbid it.  A huge movement that I’ve been working with wants to impose a Robin Hood tax, a tax on financial transactions.  Some nations’ governments have begun to agree.  The TPP would forbid it.  If our government creates and then abides by the TPP it will be asked for more bankster bailouts.  If it creates and does not abide by the TPP, corporate tribunals will make it pay the bailouts as punishment for imposing regulations.  Our government is doing this to itself because it is broken.  Elections are broken.  Communications are broken.  Secrecy is out of control.  Whistleblowers are persecuted.  Bribery is institutionalized.  Parties have replaced branches.  And a culture of shortsighted greed and subservience has supplanted anything resembling statesmanship.

The TPP will, as the flyer for this event stated:

§  Prevent effective regulation of Wall Street

§  Trade good-paying careers for sweatshop labor

§  Destroy family farms

§  Accelerate global warming in the name of profits

§  Keep the public in the dark

§  Place corporate rights above our national sovereignty

§  Crush our ability to support local economies

§  Weaken and undermine democracy at home and abroad

President Obama wants to fast-track the TPP.  Industry groups this week have been demanding that Congress approve fast-tracking.  Corporate trade agreements are not treated as treaties requiring a two-thirds vote in the Senate.  Rather, they are treated as requiring a simple majority in both houses.  If Congress allows fast-tracking, that means the thing can’t be amended.  And it can’t be filibustered.  It must be simply voted on as is, with the most horrible bits included along with the only moderately horrible parts.  Most Congress Members had no time to read the PATRIOT Act before they voted on it, and of course the public had not seen it.  Congress has not seen the TPP yet either.  There are three chapters in the draft text that no one has leaked even the titles of.

Fast-track authority expired in 2007 and Congress refused to renew it.  Urging Congress to continue rejecting fast-track could be part of a comprehensive campaign aimed at getting Congress to take itself seriously, a campaign that might include repeal of the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force which essentially handed war powers over to the president.  Regardless, stopping fast track would help stop the TPP.  And it wouldn’t stop decent trade agreements that can withstand the light of day.  There have been over 500 trade agreements created since 1974, and fast track has been used for only 16 of the worst ones.

As a candidate, Obama said he would replace fast track and make sure that Congress played a strong and informed role in trade agreements. Now he’s seeking fast track.  If he gets it, the TPP will become likely in every gory detail.

The TPP can be stopped.  Others have been since NAFTA passed, including the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), which failed following huge public protests.  In the case of the FTAA, the negotiation documents were made public.  Not this time.  But FlushTheTPP.org offers these words of encouragement:

“Since the ‘Battle in Seattle,’ the World Trade Organization has had an impossible time moving forward, as was seen in the failure of the Millennial and Doha Rounds of the WTO. We also stopped the Free Trade Area of the Americas and the Multilateral Agreement on Investment. And at least 14 other corporate trade agreements have not been completedbecause of widespread public opposition. This is hopeful news, and together we can stop the TPP also, which will be a tremendous victory for the people against transnational corporate power!”

FlushTheTPP.org has a map where you can find or create actions around the country.  Groups are encouraged to hold TPP Tuesdays, dedicating Tuesdays to educational or nonviolent resistance events.  In August, when Congress Members are expected to be in their districts and senators in their states.  We should bird-dog them, lobby them, meet with them, interview them, pressure them, protest them, until they agree to make the TPP public and to stop fast track.  Former US Trade Representative Ron Kirk has said that if the contents of this agreement were known it could not be signed because it would be so unpopular.

The Backbone Campaign, online at BackboneCampaign.org, has great ideas for props and banners and puppets.  They’ve even been holding training camps, teaching things like action planning, light projection, song and dance flash mobs, guerilla theatre, fundraising, giant banner construction and deployment — including with helium balloons, blockades, rappelling, etc.  I recommend contacting them or organizing a similar effort.

Maybe TPP opposition can be a catalyst for a resurgence of Occupy Harrisonburg and Occupy Everywhere.  We are going to have to get organized and we are going to have to occupy.  We need to keep moving the money out of the big banks.  We need to advance worker ownership and community power.  We need to become independent of the outrageously corrupt political party that we’re supposed to hate and the outrageously corrupt political party that we’re supposed to like.  We need to stop cheering when President Obama gives speeches opposing his own policies.  I can’t recall once demanding that President Bush give a speech.  We always wanted something more substantive than that.

There are places to get involved:

http://ExposeTheTPP.org

http://FlushTheTPP.org

http://CitizensTrade.org

http://TPPxborder.org

Also, at RootsAction.org, where I work, there is a page at which 20,000 people have already emailed Congress and the president against the TPP, and you should too.  Make your voice heard here.

This free trade agreement is not free and not about trade, and we’re definitely not in agreement!

She’s one of thousands of US political prisoners. She’s well known. She committed no crimes. She’s been brutalized in captivity. Mercy isn’t in America’s vocabulary. Rogue states operate that way.

Washington’s by far the worst. It reportedly agreed to Pakistan’s extradition terms. Both sides will swap prisoners.

Previous articles discussed her 2003 abduction, detention, torture, false charges, prosecution, and conviction. More on that below.

On July 20, the Pakistan Observer headlined “US agrees on Aafia’s Siddiqui’s extradition,” saying:

“In a major breakthrough, the US has offered Pakistan to sign prisoner swap agreement for the extradition of Dr Aafia Siddiqi, after which the Pakistani scientist will be allowed to serve the remaining part of her imprisonment in homeland.”

Pakistan foreign office spokesman Uman Hameed said terms include other prisoner swaps.

Washington offered Pakistan two deals. They include the European Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons and Inter-American Convention on Serving Criminal Sentences Abroad.

On July 20, Justice for Aafia Coalition (JAC) headlined “The Family of Aafia Siddiqui and the Aafia Movement welcomes development on Aafia issue,” saying:

“(I)t appears some steps are finally being taken towards” repatriating her. She’s called “the daughter of our Nation.”

Previous steps forward ended up two back. “We are hopeful” what’s announced is genuine.

America can’t be trusted. It’s duplicitous. It’s uncertain what’s next. Promises made are broken. Aafia’s been in limbo for years.

It remains to be seen what follows. Will she or won’t she be extradited? Nothing’s guaranteed. Not in deals with America. Promises made are broken. It’s standard rogue state practice.

Both prisoner exchange conventions are similar. The Inter-American one is simpler. If both sides agree, Aafia can be returned in weeks.

The European one takes longer. It’s more tedious. It could take months. Neither convention involves freedom. Terms require Aafia to complete her sentence at home.

According to Pakistan’s 2002 transfer of offenders ordinance, its Interior Ministry must initiate efforts to do so. It must direct its foreign office to proceed.

According to JAC:

“What the Interior Minister’s ‘Free Aafia task force committee’ has recommended is a list of 10 points, according to media reports.”

“The committee has refused to share those with Aafia’s family or lawyer, which makes one wonder if this hype is a bit premature or a smokescreen to dampen the growing support for Aafia and cool the sentiments of people during Ramadan.”

“Dr. Aafia’s sister, Dr. Fowzia, will go to Islamabad in the hope that the points are shared and a positive way forward can be achieved.”

She “appreciates the committee’s rapid action and the Interior Minister’s resolve in this matter.”

“She thanks the (foreign) Media for its vigilance in this matter and hopes the media will clarify common myths and misunderstandings and continue to monitor practical follow through on the positive verbal statements.”

Aafia’s family won’t believe announced efforts unless/or until they’re achieved.

“Years of rhetoric and broken promises at the highest levels have confirmed that words in the absence of results are either outright lies to sooth sentiments or demonstrate incompetence of the worst kind.”

“We, like all people of Pakistan, hope that this government will demonstrate results on all the challenges facing Pakistan. Aafia’s repatriation is an easy early result that will validate their sincerity about all issues.”

Post-9/11, Washington declared war on Islam. It rages out-of-control. It goes on at home and abroad. Many others are victims like Aafia. They’re guilty of being Muslims in America at the wrong time.

Her ordeal’s been one of the worst. Previous articles discussed it in detail. Charges against her were falsified. It’s standard rogue state practice.

No evidence against her exists. It was fabricated to claim otherwise. She’s been denied due process and judicial fairness. She was declared guilty by accusation.

The mainstream media called her “Al Qaeda woman.” Reports falsely claimed she had detailed radiological, chemical and biological information.

She planned a mass casualty attack, they said. Perhaps using a dirty bomb.

Potential targets, they claimed, included the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, Empire State Building, Wall Street, and the animal disease center on Plum Island.

FBI sources called her “very dangerous.” She had a “treasure trove” of documents when captured, they claimed.

They lied. So did the mainstream media. They convicted her in the court of public opinion. They did so disgracefully. It wasn’t the first time. It won’t be the last.

Aafia’s indictment excluded all the above charges. Doing so proved their fabrication.

On September 2, 2008, the Justice Department headlined “Aafia Siddiqui Indicted for Attempting to Kill United States Nationals in Afghanistan and Six Additional Charges.”

No Brooklyn Bridge. No Statue of Liberty. No Empire State Building. No Wall Street. No Al Qaeda links. No dirty bomb. These lies exposed others that followed.

Charges falsely alleged “a team of United States servicemen and law enforcement officers, and others assisting them, attempted to interview Aafia Siddiqui in Ghazni, Afghanistan, where she had been detained by local police the day before.”

“Unbeknownst to the United States interview team, unsecured, behind a curtain, Siddiqui obtained one of the United States Army officer’s M-4 rifles and attempted to fire it, and did fire it, at another United States Army officer and other members of the United States interview team.”

Charges were ludicrous on their face. You can’t make this stuff up. It reads like a bad film plot.

Authorities said she assaulted an army interpreter, an army officer, and FBI agent. They claimed she did so while they tried to subdue her.

She endured years of brutalizing torture and abuse. She was frail and weak. She weighed 110 pounds at most. Perhaps less after what she’d been through.

Yet according to charges, she inexplicably managed to assault three US operatives, get one of their rifles, open fire at close range, hit no one, and end up severely wounded.

Elaine Whitfield Sharp represented Aafia.

“Picture this woman who is very tiny and frail, and ask yourself how she engaged in armed conflict with six (armed/well-trained) military men,” she said.

“How did this happen? And how did she get shot? I think you can answer that, can’t you?”

During proceedings, defense attorney Linda Moreno said no forensic evidence proved the rifle Siddiqui allegedly used was fired.

No bullets, shell casings, or bullet debris were recovered. No bullet holes were detected. None existed. Prosecutorial charges were fabricated.

It didn’t matter. In September 2010, Aafia was wrongly sentenced. She got 86 years in prison. Doing so constituted gross injustice. It compounded years of horrific treatment.

It continued during post-conviction incarceration. She’s imprisoned at Federal Medical Center (FMC) Carswell. It’s in Fort Worth, TX. It’s where Lynne Stewart’s wrongfully held.

Obama wants her dead. She’s suffering Stage Four cancer. It metasticized. She’s dying. She needs proper treatment. In late June, she was denied compassionate release.

She’s getting deplorable medical care. Prison authorities lied. They claim otherwise. Longterm Carswell imprisonment assures pain, suffering and death. Lynne’s vulnerable. So is Aafia.

In late May, guards brutally assaulted her. They did so in her cell. She was left bleeding and unconscious. Attorney Tina Foster intervened on her behalf.

Two days elapsed before sub-standard medical care was provided. It was too little too late. Prison authorities don’t care. They claimed an “internal investigation into the incident” was conducted.

Findings remain secret. Whitewash is standard policy. Gulag rules apply. Justice is a four-letter word. Returning Aafia to Pakistan is urgent.

Otherwise she’ll die in America. Perhaps guards will kill her next time. Denied medical care for sure will. She’s a war on terrorism victim.

She’s guilty of being Muslim in America at the wrong time. Years of torture and abuse affected her greatly. It shortened her life.

She’s an MIT graduate. She’s a Brandeis University PhD. She’s an honorable woman. She raised money for charities. She did volunteer work. She’s deeply religious.

She did nothing out of the ordinary. She committed no crimes. She was a normal woman living a normal life. She’s been treated unconscionably.

She endured it for 10 years. She’s victimized by US brutality. Rogue states operate that way. Innocence is no defense. Aafia never had a chance. What’s next remains to be seen.

Pakistan’s no paradise. It’s a US imperial partner. It doesn’t give a damn about Aafia. It claims otherwise. Pretense doesn’t wash.

If extradited, horrific treatment may continue. It won’t surprise. In March 2003, she disappeared en route to Rawalpindi. She was traveling to visit family. Pakistani authorities abducted her. They did so for Washington.

They denied involvement. They claimed no knowledge of her whereabouts. They lied. They gave her to US authorities. They did so knowing what she’d face.

She became Bagram’s ghost prisoner. She was Prisoner 650. Other inmates called her the Gray Lady of Bagram.

She was brutally tortured and abused. For years, they heard her screams. She was forced to admit things she didn’t do. Her children’s lives were threatened.

Her justice struggle continues. Thousands of others endure US gulag harshness. Their pain and suffering is ours.

We’re all victims of gross US injustice. It’s a crime too great to ignore. It’s a cancer. It’s malignant. It targets humanity. It’s destroying it. It’s doing so maliciously. It’ll succeed if not stopped.

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

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

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com

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

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

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

http://www.dailycensored.com/aafia-siddiqui-victim-of-us-injustice/

The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled Friday that New York Times reporter James Risen can be forced to testify against former CIA officer and alleged leaker Jeffrey Sterling in a case brought against Sterling by the Obama administration.

In a blow to the First Amendment’s protection of freedom of the press, two of the three presiding appellate judges—both Democratic appointees—reversed a lower court ruling and agreed that the government can jail journalists who refuse to reveal their sources.

The ruling reinforces the US government’s assault on democratic rights. It is part of a wider campaign to intimidate or imprison anyone—journalists included—who attempts to make public information about the secret and illegal actions of the US government.

The Obama administration appealed a federal court ruling in favor of Risen to the Fourth Circuit appeals court, which is based in Virginia, underscoring the ruthlessness of its drive to silence all would-be leakers and whistle-blowers. Friday’s ruling comes in the midst of Washington’s international campaign to capture former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who has exposed details of the US government’s illegal spying operations against the entire US population and much of the rest of the world, and try him for espionage.

It also coincides with the final stages of the frame-up court martial of Private Bradley Manning, who is charged with espionage and “aiding and abetting the enemy” because he leaked, via WikiLeaks, material exposing US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for more than a year in an attempt to avoid extradition to face prosecution under espionage laws in the US.

Chief Judge William Traxler Jr. wrote in the majority opinion: “There is no First Amendment testimonial privilege, absolute or qualified, that protects a reporter from being compelled to testify by the prosecution or the defense in criminal proceedings about criminal conduct that the reporter personally witnessed or participated in, absent a showing of bad faith, harassment, or other such non-legitimate motive, even though the reporter promised confidentiality to his source.”

The opinion further stated: “The reporter must appear and give testimony just as every other citizen must. We are not at liberty to conclude otherwise.”

The federal district court ruling quashing the subpoena of Risen, which the Obama administration appealed, stated: “A criminal trial subpoena is not a free pass for the government to rifle through a reporter’s notebook.”

Now that the appeals court has granted such a free pass, the administration has declared its approval. “We agree with the decision,” said Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr. “We are examining the next steps in the prosecution of this case.”

The Obama White House has carried out an unprecedented campaign against alleged leakers and whistle-blowers, prosecuting seven people for violating the Espionage Act of 1917–more than double the number of individuals prosecuted by all previous administrations combined.

Sterling—one of the seven—is under criminal investigation for allegedly providing Risen with information about CIA spying operations against Iran, which Risen subsequently published in his book, State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration .

The Fourth Circuit ruling was met with heavy condemnation by First Amendment groups. Trevor Trimm, the founder of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, said, “[T]his is the worst reporter’s privilege decision in recent memory, and if it stands, will have significant consequences for press freedom in the United States.”

Trimm’s comments were echoed by Lucy Dalglish, the co-chair of the First Amendment Committee of the American Society of News Editors. “It has really gotten bad, and not just in national security reporting,” Dalglish said. “Every official now knows that if they talk to a reporter they are potentially in a world of hurt.”

The subpoena of Risen comes as part of a wider attack waged by the Obama administration against press freedom. The administration has obtained the telephone records of dozens of reporters in a program the Associated Press called a “massive and unprecedented intrusion.” It has also seized the email of Fox News reporter James Rosen.

The New York Times on Saturday noted the degree to which the Obama administration has escalated the attack on leakers and whistle-blowers. Its article cited former Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Dennis Blair as working closely with Attorney General Eric Holder and other high-ranking Obama officials to “fashion a more aggressive strategy to punish anyone who leaked national security information that endangered intelligence-gathering methods and sources.”

The Times cited officials who emphasized that the changes that took place after the inauguration of Obama.

“A tipping point was reached in 2009,” an anonymous Senate aide told the Times. “There was an official change of policy” after Obama took office.

The article noted that added pressure was placed on the Department of Justice by Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee. She complained that the national security apparatus “had not adequately protected national security secrets.”

It is notable that the 2009 “tipping point” occurred before WikiLeaks began to publish material leaked by Bradley Manning in 2010.

The Obama administration’s continuing legal assault on journalists such as Risen underscores the reactionary nature of the Department of Justice’s recent announcement of new guidelines for the subpoenaing of reporters’ phone records and issuance of warrants for reporters’ email records.

A memorandum detailing the new proposals was published by Attorney General Eric Holder earlier this month. Far from limiting government surveillance of journalists, the memorandum affirms the supposed right of the state to spy on the press, in blatant contravention of the First Amendment, without any serious safeguards or limits.

Risen has declared he will not testify against Sterling, even if it means going to jail. “I am going to fight this subpoena,” he said in 2011. “I will always protect my sources, and I think this is a fight about the First Amendment and the freedom of the press.”

Risen reiterated this position on Saturday. It is likely the Fourth Circuit ruling will be appealed to the US Supreme Court.

Last week’s bankruptcy filing by the city of Detroit is being used as a test case for a much wider assault on the pensions and health benefits of millions of state and municipal employees around the country.

The city’s emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, Michigan’s Republican governor, Rick Snyder, and Detroit’s Democratic mayor, David Bing, made this clear during appearances on nationally televised news talk shows Sunday.

On Fox News, Orr acknowledged that the city’s 31,000 current and retired city workers would see “some adjustments” to their benefits, declaring that federal bankruptcy laws would supersede Michigan’s constitutional protections against pension reductions.

Orr is pushing for brutal cuts in pensions and benefits. He wants to pay as little as 10 cents on every dollar of the $3.5 billion in unfunded pension obligations. He also wants to freeze all future payments into the pension fund and dump retirees onto Medicare or private medical insurance exchanges under the Obama administration’s health care scheme.

Orr—whose former bankruptcy law firm, Jones Day, represents many of the Wall Street banks holding the city’s debt—insisted Detroit’s 700,000 residents had to pay for the financial crisis, which he cynically blamed on an “addiction to debt.”

Asked what lessons other cities should take from Detroit’s experience, the financial czar said, “Delay doesn’t produce positive outcomes. Whatever the problems are, deal with them. Have the wherewithal and political will to deal with them—that’s exactly what we are doing.”

Mayor Bing, who has cut 20 percent of the municipal workforce since taking office in 2009, appeared on ABC’s “This Week” program. “We are not the only city that is going through the struggle we are going through,” he said. “There are over 100 major urban cities having the same problems we are having. We may be one of the first, we are the largest, but we will absolutely not be the last. So we have to set a benchmark on how to fix our cities and come back from this tragedy.”

The Detroit Free Press reported that Chicago recently had its credit rating downgraded because of a $19 billion unfunded pension liability, which the ratings service Moody’s puts closer to $36 billion. Los Angeles could, by some estimates, face a liability of more than $30 billion. Moody’s also recently downgraded Cincinnati, largely because of its unfunded pension liability.

The newspaper wrote: “It’s no surprise—given the pressure public pensions are putting on municipal budgets—that any move to ease those liabilities, especially through a bankruptcy court order like what’s happening in Detroit, is being watched carefully nationwide by state and municipal officials, union leaders, bond traders and retirees.

“’We’re just at the front of the line here,’ Michigan Treasurer Andy Dillon said Friday. ‘It could be a landmark case.’”

Appearing on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program, Governor Snyder made it clear there would be no state bailout of the city. Feigning concern over the “tragic situation” facing “retirees who had worked hard,” Snyder asserted that bankruptcy would allow the city to reduce benefits in “a more thoughtful, better way.”

The Obama administration, which has overseen a record number of public-sector job losses, has rejected any federal bailout. Top administration officials have been in close contact with Michigan and Detroit officials.

The Free Press reported that Orr had “lobbied hard with Obama and senior adviser Valerie Jarrret (a longtime friend) for federal help and has been frustrated by the White House’s lack of engagement.”

While the administration rushed to bail out Wall Street, Vice President Joseph Biden said White House officials “don’t know at this point” what they can do to help Detroit.

Obama, who allowed the auto companies to dump their retiree health care obligations during the 2009 auto industry bailout, clearly sees the attack on Detroit workers as paving the way to slash benefits owed to state and municipal workers throughout the country. The Pew Center for the States has estimated that states’ public pension plans across the US were underfunded by $1.4 trillion in 2010.

After decades in which the bankruptcy courts were used to gut the pensions and health care benefits of private-sector retirees in steel, airlines, auto, mining and other industries, public-sector workers are now being targeted for having supposedly unsustainable “legacy costs.”

The federal judge chosen to preside over the bankruptcy proceedings for Detroit has been involved in several cases where the wages, pensions and other benefits of workers were slashed in order to satisfy the demands of big investors.

US Bankruptcy Judge Steven W. Rhodes, 64, was assigned the case by Alice Batchelder, the chief judge for the US Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, Ohio. Batchelder is the wife of the speaker of the House of Representatives in Ohio, who spearheaded anti-worker laws stripping workers of collective bargaining rights and attacking their pensions and other benefits.

Rhodes oversaw Detroit-area bankruptcy cases in which workers were forced to accept devastating cuts. Awrey Bakeries used his bankruptcy court in 2005 to impose severe wage reductions.

In 2007, Rhodes approved a liquidation plan for Southfield, Michigan-based auto parts maker Collins & Aikman, which decimated the jobs and benefits of 21,000 employees and retirees. Former Reagan budget director and Wall Street asset-stripper David Stockman threw the company into Chapter 11 bankruptcy after the exposure of false accounting by the firm. Rhodes approved a plan to shut factories in Georgia, Ontario and elsewhere and dump the company’s underfunded pensions into the government’s Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC).

Rhodes also oversaw the bankruptcy of Simplified Employment Services, one of the nation’s largest payroll outsourcing firms, which went out of business in 2001. Two former top executives later pled guilty to charges of conspiring to defraud the IRS and several banks.

The web site Center for a Changing Workforce noted that after the company filed for bankruptcy, “it left thousands of employees unpaid and without health insurance.”

The web site reported, “After the company was allowed to reorganize and be sold, employees were told not worry because all medical bills would be paid.” However, only a few health care providers were paid, at pennies on the dollar, leaving workers with thousands of dollars of debt.

America No Longer Has a Functioning Judicial System

July 22nd, 2013 by Washington's Blog

The Separation of Powers Which Define Our Democracy Have Been Destroyed

The Department of Justice told a federal court this week that the NSA’s spying “cannot be challenged in a court of law”.

(This is especially dramatic given that numerous federal judges and legal scholars – including a former FISA judge – say that the FISA spying “court” is nothing but a kangaroo court.)

Also this week, the Department of Justice told a federal court that the courts cannot review the legality of the government’s assassination by drone of Americans abroad:

“‘Are you saying that a US citizen targeted by the United States in a foreign country has no constitutional rights?’ [the judge]  asked Brian Hauck, a deputy assistant attorney general. ‘How broadly are you asserting the right of the United States to target an American citizen? Where is the limit to this?’

“She provided her own answer: ‘The limit is the courthouse door’ . . . .

“‘Mr. Hauck acknowledged that Americans targeted overseas do have rights, but he said they could not be enforced in court either before or after the Americans were killed.’”

(Indeed, the Obama administration has previously claimed the power to be judge, jury and executioner in both drone and cyber-attacks.  This violates Anglo-Saxon laws which have been on the books in England and America for 800 years.)

The Executive Branch also presents “secret evidence” in many court cases … sometimes even hiding the evidence from the judge who is deciding the case.

Bush destroyed much of the separation of powers which made our country great.  But under Obama, it’s gotten worse.

For example, the agency which decides who should be killed by drone is the same agency which spies on all Americans.

Daniel Ellsberg notes that even the Founding Fathers didn’t have to deal with a government claiming that it could indefinitely detain Americanseven on American soil.

After Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges, journalist Naomi Wolf, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and others sued the government to enjoin the NDAA’s allowance of the indefinite detention of Americans – the judge asked the government attorneys 5 times whether journalists like Hedges could be indefinitely detained simply for interviewing and then writing about bad guys. The government refused to promise that journalists like Hedges won’t be thrown in a dungeon for the rest of their lives without any right to talk to a judge

The Department of Justice has also tapped Congressional phones, and a high-level NSA whistleblower says that including all 9 Supreme Court justices.

It’s not just the Executive Branch which has attacked the courts.  For example, Congress passed a bill stripping courts of the power to review issues related to genetically modified foods.

The Constitution is mortally mounded.  While the “war on terror” is commonly cited as the excuse, most of the attacks on our rights started before 9/11.  Indeed, the Founding Fathers warned 200 years ago that open-ended wars give the Executive an excuse to take away our liberties.

Two former U.S. Supreme Court Justices have warned that America is sliding into tyranny.   A former U.S. President, and many other high-level American officials agree.

In addition to attacks on the judiciary by the White House and Congress, judges are voluntarily gutting the justice system … and laying down in lapdog-obeisance to D.C.

For example, the Supreme Court ruled that if judges don’t like plaintiffs’ allegations of bad government actions, the judge can simply pre-judge and throw out the lawsuit before even allowing the party to conduct any discovery to prove their claims.   This guts 220 years of Constitutional law, and makes it extremely difficult to challenge harmful government action in court.

America has a “dual justice system … one for ordinary people and then one for people with money and enormous wealth and power”.

Indeed, most Americans have less access to justice than Botswanans … and are more abused by police than Kazakhstanis.

Why have Edward Snowden’s actions resonated so powerfully for so many people?

The huge political impacts of the leaked NSA documents account for just part of the explanation. Snowden’s choice was ultimately personal. He decided to take big risks on behalf of big truths; he showed how easy and hazardous such a step can be. He blew the whistle not only on the NSA’s Big Brother surveillance but also on the fear, constantly in our midst, that routinely induces conformity.

Like Bradley Manning and other whistleblowers before him, Snowden has massively undermined the standard rationales for obedience to illegitimate authority. Few of us may be in a position to have such enormous impacts by opting for courage over fear and truth over secrecy—but we know that we could be doing more, taking more risks for good reasons—if only we were willing, if only fear of reprisals and other consequences didn’t clear the way for the bandwagon of the military-industrial-surveillance state.

 Painted by Robert Shetterly for his Americans Who Tell The Truth Project. (right)

Near the end of Franz Kafka’s The Trial, the man in a parable spends many years sitting outside an open door till, near death, after becoming too weak to possibly enter, he’s told by the doorkeeper: “Nobody else could have got in this way, as this entrance was meant only for you. Now I’ll go and close it.”

That’s what Martin Luther King Jr. was driving at when he said, in his first high-risk speech denouncing the Vietnam War: “In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity.”

Edward Snowden was not too late. He refused to allow opportunity to be lost. He walked through the entrance meant only for him.

When people say “I am Bradley Manning,” or “I am Edward Snowden,” it can be more than an expression of solidarity. It can also be a statement of aspiration—to take ideals for democracy more seriously and to act on them with more courage.

 The artist Robert Shetterly has combined his compelling new portrait of Edward Snowden with words from Snowden that are at the heart of what’s at stake: “The public needs to know the kinds of things a government does in its name, or the ‘consent of the governed’ is meaningless. . . The consent of the governed is not consent if it is not informed.” Like the painting of Snowden, the quote conveys a deep mix of idealism, vulnerability and determination.

Edward Snowden has taken idealism seriously enough to risk the rest of his life, a choice that is to his eternal credit and to the world’s vast benefit. His decision to resist any and all cynicism is gripping and unsettling. It tells us, personally and politically, to raise our standards, lift our eyes and go higher into our better possibilities.

Global Research Editor`s Note

Read the following article by Kim Zetter published in Salon.com in 2006. 

Kim Zetter interviews Martin Aid, a historian of US intelligence and university professor.

This 2006 interview with Martin Aid provides in-depth analysis and information about the NSA’s surveillance program.

“An intelligence expert predicts we’ll soon learn that cellphone and Internet companies also cooperated with the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on us.

The NSA now owns vastly improved technology to sift through and mine massive amounts of data it has collected in what is being described as the world’s single largest database of personal information. And, according to Aid, the mining goes far beyond our phone lines.”

It says it all. Déjà Vu. And that was in 2006. 

Bear in mind spying on Americans was an official policy of the Bush administration. In June 2006, according to reports, the head of the CIA Gen. Michael Hayden was to build a vast domestic spying network to: 

“pry into the lives of most Americans around the clock.”

Most of what Edward Snowden has revealed amidst Worldwide controversy is not only known to analysts of US intelligence,  it is in the public domain.

And it has been in the public domain for several years.

Ask yourself. Is the Edward Snowden Saga the story of a controversial  Whistleblower revealing classified information, or is it something else? Is Hollywood going to pick it up and create another Legend?

The independent media –including Global Research– has been covering the issue of spying on Americans for several years. Why is the mainstream media providing coverage of this issue now in relation to the Edward Snowden affair?  Why did it not inform the public years back when this information was made available? 

Why would Snowden be prosecuted for leaking something which has been known and documented (in the public domain) for years? 

With regard to the Snowden affair, are we dealing with something “real” or is it a “red herring” which seeks not only to deliberately mislead public opinion but to create Worldwide confusion? 

Michel Chossudovsky, July 21, 2013


The NSA is on the line — all of them

An intelligence expert predicts we’ll soon learn that cellphone and Internet companies also cooperated with the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on us.

Monday, May 15, 2006

When intelligence historian Matthew Aid read the USA Today story last Thursday about how the National Security Agency was collecting millions of phone call records from AT&T, Bell South and Verizon for a widespread domestic surveillance program designed to root out possible terrorist activity in the United States, he had to wonder whether the date on the newspaper wasn’t 1976 instead of 2006.

Aid, a visiting fellow at George Washington University’s National Security Archive, who has just completed the first book of a three-volume history of the NSA, knew the nation’s bicentennial marked the year when secrets surrounding another NSA domestic surveillance program, code-named Project Shamrock, were exposed. As fireworks showered New York Harbor that year, the country was debating a three-decades-long agreement between Western Union and other telecommunications companies to surreptitiously supply the NSA, on a daily basis, with all telegrams sent to and from the United States. The similarity between that earlier program and the most recent one is remarkable, with one exception — the NSA now owns vastly improved technology to sift through and mine massive amounts of data it has collected in what is being described as the world’s single largest database of personal information. And, according to Aid, the mining goes far beyond our phone lines.

The controversy over Project Shamrock in 1976 ultimately led Congress to pass the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and other privacy and communication laws designed to prevent commercial companies from working in cahoots with the government to conduct wholesale secret surveillance on their customers. But as stories revealed last week, those safeguards had little effect in preventing at least three telecommunications companies from repeating history.

Aid, who co-edited a book in 2001 on signals intelligence during the Cold War, spent a decade conducting more than 300 interviews with former and current NSA employees for his new history of the agency, the first volume of which will be published next year. Jeffrey Richelson, a senior fellow at the National Security Archive, calls Aid the top authority on the NSA, alongside authorJames Bamford.

Aid spoke with Salon about how the NSA has learned to maneuver around Congress and the Department of Justice to get what it wants. He compared the agency’s current data mining to Project Shamrock and Echelon, the code name for an NSA computer system that for many years analyzed satellite communication signals outside the U.S., and generated its own controversy when critics claimed that in addition to eavesdropping on enemy communication, the satellites were eavesdropping on allies’ domestic phone and e-mail conversations. Aid also spoke about the FBI’s Carnivore program, designed to “sniff” e-mail traveling through Internet service providers for communication sent to and from criminal suspects, and how the NSA replaced the FBI as the nation’s domestic surveillance agency after 9/11.

Having studied the NSA and its history extensively, were you surprised and concerned to discover that, since 2001, the agency has been amassing a database of phone records, and possibly other information, on U.S. citizens?

The fact that the federal government has my phone records scares the living daylights out of me. They won’t learn much from them other than I like ordering pizza on Friday night and I don’t call my mother as often as I should. But it should scare the living daylights out of everybody, even if you’re willing to permit the government certain leeways to conduct the war on terrorism.

We should be terrified that Congress has not been doing its job and because all of the checks and balances put in place to prevent this have been deliberately obviated. In order to get this done, the NSA and White House went around all of the checks and balances. I’m convinced that 20 years from now we, as historians, will be looking back at this as one of the darkest eras in American history. And we’re just beginning to sort of peel back the first layers of the onion. We’re hoping against hope that it’s not as bad as I suspect it will be, but reality sets in every time a new article is published and the first thing the Bush administration tries to do is quash the story. It’s like the lawsuit brought by EFF [Electronic Frontier Foundation] against AT&T — the government’s first reaction was to try to quash the lawsuit. That ought to be a warning sign that they’re on to something.

I’ll tell you where this story probably will go next. Notice the USA Today article doesn’t mention whether the Internet service providers or cellphone providers or companies operating transatlantic cables like Global Crossing cooperated with the NSA. That’s the next round of revelations. The real vulnerabilities for the NSA are the companies. Sooner or later one of these companies, fearing the inevitable lawsuit from the ACLU, is going to admit what it did, and the whole thing is going to come tumbling down. If you want some historical perspective look at Operation Shamrock, which collapsed in 1975 because [Rep.] Bella Abzug [D-NY] subpoenaed the heads of Western Union and the other telecommunications giants and put them in witness chairs, and they all admitted that they had cooperated with the NSA for the better part of 40 years by supplying cables and telegrams.

The newest system being added to the NSA infrastructure, by the way, is called Project Trailblazer, which was initiated in 2002 and which was supposed to go online about now but is fantastically over budget and way behind schedule. Trailblazer is designed to copy the new forms of telecommunications — fiber optic cable traffic, cellphone communication, BlackBerry and Internet e-mail traffic.

Were you really surprised to learn recently that the NSA was eavesdropping on phone calls, as the New York Times reported last December? I think most people assumed, or at least suspected, that the government had been monitoring some domestic conversations for years after the Echelon program was revealed. Echelon, though never confirmed by the government, was described as a global surveillance system that had the ability to intercept every phone, fax and e-mail conversation around the world.

I think it was generally assumed that when I heard breathing on the other end of the phone, it was the FBI and not the NSA listening in.

Since [the movie] “Enemy of the State” came out, everybody has assumed that the NSA had the ability to turn its antennas around and monitor us in the U.S. as much as they did anybody else. But I honestly believe that prior to 9/11, the NSA was not engaged in any domestic work at all. Then 9/11 changed the entire equation, and Congress, in its rush to prove how patriotic it was, passed the Patriot Act, which gave the government unlimited powers to conduct surveillance in the US. Basic freedoms were abridged.

Echelon, in fact, is nothing more than a VAX microcomputer that was manufactured in the early 1970s by Digital Equipment Corp., and was used at six satellite intercept stations [to filter and sort data collected from the satellites and distribute it to analysts]. The computer has long since been obsolete. Since 9/11, whatever plans in place to modernize Echelon have been put on hold. The NSA does in fact have a global intercept network, but they just call it the intercept collection infrastructure. They don’t have a code name or anything sexy to describe it, and it didn’t do domestic spying.

In 1988 Duncan Campbell, a U.K. journalist, wrote an article for the New Statesman based on an interview with a Lockheed Martin employee named Margaret Newsham, who had worked at an NSA satellite listening station in England. She claimed the NSA was eavesdropping on U.S. phone conversations back then and that she herself had eavesdropped on a conversation involving Senator Strom Thurmond. The stories reported then were that the NSA did have the ability to eavesdrop globally on conversations and was doing so domestically.

I’m not sure what she heard, but I can tell you the NSA was not listening to domestic calls — they were testing the system at the time that [Newsham] was in England, so while playing with the receiver they may have scrolled over some signals, but the system was not yet operational. Lockheed was in the process of installing the brand new processing stations and Newsham was sent to help put it in place. I asked a number of NSA people about this and they said their main focus at the time was the Soviet Union, with a minor focus on the Middle East. They had no U.S. intercept function whatsoever. If there was domestic work being done in the U.S., it was mostly being done by the FBI and not the NSA.

It’s true that some elements in the NSA really wanted to loosen the restrictions imposed by FISA but were told it’s the law of the land. And we can’t go to Congress and ask that the FISA statute be modified to allow the NSA to engage in domestic work. The assumption was that the Justice Department would never agree to it.

Judging by the USA Today article last week they found a way to get around those FISA restrictions and the Justice Department.

The USA Today article doesn’t cover how the NSA convinced all of the phone companies to cooperate. Did General Hayden [former NSA director and current nominee to run the CIA] pick up the phone and call the CEOs? Or were they presented with National Security letters saying you will turn over all your records to us and keep it quiet within your organization? But it does seem clear that the Justice Department was excluded from all of this, or at least the parts of the Justice Department that would normally have some oversight over this. For example, they didn’t refer the case down to the Civil Rights Division for their approval. They kept the number of people within the Justice Department who had knowledge of the program to a small number of people. I think they feared that if they passed it down to other departments that might have some purview over the program they might have encountered a stream of objections.

It’s all coming out now in dribs and drabs, but when it all becomes clear, we’ll find out that the key oversight functions — those functions that were put in place to protect the rights of Americans — were deliberately circumvented. Key components of the Justice Department that would have rightly objected to this were never consulted or told about the program. Alberto Gonzales when he was the White House counsel knew about it, as did Attorney General Ashcroft and his deputy, but outside of that I don’t think there were many others who knew all the details.

According to President Bush, there were apparently some members of Congress who knew about the program.

They can claim that they briefed individual members of Congress but there’s a difference between briefing a few members of Congress and briefing a full committee. Only a few members of the intelligence committee were told and they were told in a way in which they couldn’t do anything about it. And the briefings were very general and lacking in specifics, as I understand.

What happens is that you’re [privately] briefed about the program, and then even if you object to the program, you can’t do anything about it because you can’t tell the whole committee. Our system only works when information is given to the full committee. But the way they did it effectively handcuffed any opposition because you can’t go to the full committee and say I object to this program and we ought to call some hearings and examine the legalistic background and justification for the program. Even if Senator Rockefeller or Congresswoman Pelosi had some issues with it, they couldn’t even tell their own staff, much less other members of the committee. They deliberately did it this way so the intelligence committees couldnt do anything about it.

Who’s the person running the NSA’s data collection program?

James M. Cusick, assistant deputy director of the NSA for data acquisition. He’s Mr. Data Acquisition. He’s the specialist in charge of building collection systems that can acquire vast amounts of data, and his unit is the one that is running this program.

Do you think such a program could be effective at catching terrorists?

To the best of my knowledge, in the five years in which the program has been running, it has not caught a single person.

How did we go from having the FBI doing domestic surveillance to having the NSA serve that function? How was the decision made?

The FBI is in a state of shell shock after 9/11. They’ve become so risk-averse. They’ve been criticized so many times, for the right reasons, that they’re terrified of doing their job anymore. So the White House felt they’d become rather leaky and creaky.

Also, the FBI had to get approval from the attorney general for every tap it used. I’ve been told on fairly good authority that the reason the FBI’s Carnivore telecommunications surveillance program was not used in the fashion that the NSA system has been after 9/11 was because it would require the written consent of the attorney general and the Civil Rights and Criminal Divisions of the Justice Department, any one of which could have scuttled the program. That’s a prospect worse than the FISA court, as far as the White House is concerned. So the White House decided to abandon the FBI in favor of an agency that had not done any domestic work since 1975. As a result, the NSA had to spend billions of dollars constructing a system that it didn’t have the capability to construct prior to 2001, which may explain why some NSA veterans I talked to say that some parts of the NSA are now short of money.

Do you know how much the NSA has spent on its phone record data collection project?

No. I don’t even think the people who have been briefed on the program on Capitol Hill know how the money is being used. Each year the House and Senate intelligence committees pass, by oral vote, the money for the entire intelligence community. Then they pray like the dickens that these people are spending it wisely and properly. It will come as no surprise to anyone that Congress has basically abrogated its responsibility for overseeing the national security establishment of the NSA. And you can’t blame one party over the other. It’s my experience that many senior ranking Democrats on these committees are also not doing their job for one reason or another.

This story has been corrected since it was originally published.

Conflict drags on interminably. Dozens or more die daily. Syrian forces outmatch Western-backed death squad terrorists. They’re not rebels. They’re lawless invaders.

They’re US proxy fighters. They’re imported from dozens of countries. They’re waging war against sovereign Syrian independence.

Assad’s military outguns and outflanks Washington’s shock troops. Reinforcements keep coming. Libya 2.0 looks possible. Perhaps likely.

Russia hopes for a September international peace conference. Originally a June one was planned. Why bother when Washington prioritizes war. It spurns peace. Last year’s conference failed.

Expect nothing different this time. Peace remains elusive. Advocates have no partners.

According to European Council president Herman Van Rompuy:

“A military solution to the crisis is impossible. (T)he solution is only diplomatic.”

Conflict can end soon. It can happen if Washington calls off its dogs. It shouldn’t have unleashed them in the first place.

Syria is Obama’s war. He began it. He can end it. Not according to some reports. On July 18, London’s Guardian headlined “Obama considering military power in Syria, top general tells Senate.”

Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey said he provided Obama with “options for the use of force.” He declined to explain more.

“(I)t would be inappropriate for me to try to influence the decision with me rendering an opinion in public about what kind of force we should use.”

John McCain’s super-hawkish. He’s not alone. He asked the wrong question. He asked Dempsey what carries greater risk: continued limited Washington intervention or more robust tactics.

He favors more heavily arming terrorist fighters. They’re getting plenty of weapons already. He wants no-fly zone protection implemented.

Doing so’s an act of war. It’s illegal without Security Council authorization. So is meddling in Syria’s internal affairs politically, economically, and/or militarily (directly or indirectly).

McCain’s dismissive of international law. So are other congressional hawks. Dempsey said he favors “building a moderate opposition and supporting it.”

“The question whether to support it with direct kinetic strikes¦is a decision for our elected officials, not for the senior military leader of the nation.”

Kinetic strikes refer to missiles, bombs, drone attacks, and other military initiatives.  According to Dempsey, they’re “under deliberation inside of our agencies of government.”

Asked about Dempsey’s comments, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama always asks military commanders for options. It’s “true in an arena like Syria” and elsewhere.

Obama’s reviewing them, he added. According to Vice Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral James Winnefeld:

“There are a whole range of options that are out there. We are ready to act if we’re called on to act.”

These type comments aren’t new. Whether direct US intervention follows remains to be seen.

Senator Carl Levin wants it. He wants Syria bombed. He urged Obama to attack “airfields, airplanes and massed artillery.” He supports terrorist insurgent invaders. He does so shamelessly. More on him below.

Armed Services Committee members are considering whether to renominate Dempsey and Winnefield for second terms. McCain’s opposed.

Democrats have majority say. Expect both top commanders to be approved.

At the same time, anti-Assad forces are fighting each other. Extremist Al Nusra insurgents are clashing with Free Syria Army elements. Unity remains elusive.

Things escalated dramatically. Whether full-scale internecine conflict follows remains to be seen. If so, maybe each side will annihilate the other. That’s one way to wind things down.

On July 19, Russia Today headlined “Al Qaeda’s planned emirate in Syria is West’s own doing.” Syrians want a secular state.

Al Qaeda wants its own. Syrian unity is threatened. So far insurgent extremists lack enough strength to prevail.

Assad forces consistently rout them. Without US intervention, they don’t have a chance. They can prolong conflict.

They can cause many more deaths, injuries and displacements. They can’t prevail without Libya 2.0 help.

On July 17, London’s Telegraph headlined “Army chief: We risk war with Syria.”

General David Richards is UK outgoing armed forces chief. Britain must be prepared to “go to war” with Syria, he said. “(I)f you want to have the material impact on the Syrian regime’s calculations that some people seek…ground targets” must be “hit.”

“There is a lack of international consensus on how to take this forward,” he said.

“We are trying to cohere the opposition groups, but they are difficult to cohere because there are many different dimensions to them.”

“So it is work in progress. So I am very clear in my military advice to the government that we need to understand what the political objective is before we can sensibly recommend what military effort and forces should be applied to it.”

“That is something we debate a lot, from the Prime Minister downwards. We also need to do this with our allies.”

“Allies have different views on the way ahead. Understandably there is a great reluctance to see Western boots on the ground in a place like Syria.”

“If you wanted to have the material impact on the Syrian regime’s calculations that some people seek, a no fly zone per se is insufficient.”

“You have to be able, as we did successfully in Libya, to hit ground targets.”

“You have to establish a ground control zone. You have to take out their air defences.”

“You also have to make sure they can’t manoeuvre – which means you have to take out their tanks, and their armoured personnel carriers and all the other things that are actually doing the damage.”

“If you want to have the material effect that people seek you have to be able to hit ground targets and so you would be going to war if that is what you want to do.’

“That is rightly a huge and important decision. There are many arguments for doing it, but there are many arguments for not doing so too.”

Syria’s situation is “highly complex,” he stressed. Escalated war risks cross-border conflict. It’s happening in Lebanon.

It could affect all Syria’s neighbors. Perhaps other regional states. The entire region could become embroiled. Global conflict could follow.

Richards knows the risks. So do other high-level military commanders. They’re warriors, not peacemakers.

Richards called himself a “moral soldier.” His remark is offensive. It’s oxymoronic on its face. He said Afghanistan’s a “good war.”

Others know better. Benjamin Franklin said “(t)here is no such thing as a good war or a bad peace.”

Russia said it won’t let Assad be toppled militarily. It has strategic interests at stake. Perhaps it wants Syria to be Obama’s regional Waterloo.

Halting his imperial rampaging’s important. If Russia and China aren’t committed, who will be? United they stand the best chance. It’s time they stepped up to the plate and acted.

America wages wars on small nations. It prefers weaker ones it can roll over. It abstains from challenging more equal rivals militarily. Bullies operate that way.

Jimmy Carter believes “America does not at the moment have a functioning democracy.” It never had one. Carter didn’t explain.

He’s pessimistic. He’s got good reason to be. He called Snowden’s leaks “beneficial.”

He thinks NSA spying undermines US credibility worldwide. It constitutes “the invasion of human rights and American privacy.” It’s “gone too far.”

“I think that the secrecy that has been surrounding this invasion of privacy has been excessive,” he said.

“So I think that the bringing of it to the public notice has probably been, in the long term, beneficial.”

He criticized Obama’s policies earlier. He condemned his drone attacks. He called targeted assassinations lawless.

Imperial policies undermine America’s “role as the global champion of human rights,” he said.

“America’s violation of international human rights abets our enemies and alienates our friends.”

America lacks moral authority. It lost it multiple ways. Carter’s no saint. Compared to Obama, he looks that way.

A Final Comment

On July 18, Senators Carl Levin (D. MI) and Angus King (I. ME) headlined “For Syria, lessons from the Balkan war.”

Levin chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee. King serves on it with him. Both express hawkish views. They visited the region. They did so for propaganda purposes.

They deplore peace. They support escalated war. They may get what they wish for. They’ll be accountable for lots more blood on their hands.

“We believe the United States should join with its partners and allies in the region and elsewhere to pursue an end to the bloodshed,” they said.

“An international coalition that strengthens the military and political capabilities of thoroughly vetted anti-Assad forces should supply equipment and training.”

“That coalition should also plan for steps that would place even greater military pressure on the Assad regime, including possible strikes against the missiles, aircraft and other heavy weapons that are the instruments of Assad’s campaign of terror.”

Both senators know Washington directly aids Al Qaeda and other extremist groups. They’re supplied weapons, funding, training and direction. It’s been ongoing since conflict began. CIA and US special forces are involved. It’s an open secret.

Levin and King believe the best way to end war is wage more of it. They believe war is peace. They stop short of recommending US boots on the ground. Perhaps they will later. Who knows?

No matter the risks involved, they said, “the costs of inaction are equally high. Assad’s survival, with support from Iran and Hezbollah, would surely strengthen them, to our great detriment.”

They barely stopped short of urging regional war against nonexistent threats.

They blame Assad for Washington’s crimes. It’s standard imperial duplicity. Obama bears full responsibility. Don’t expect them to explain.

“US national interests are at stake,” they claim. So are neighboring countries “Israel, Turkey and Jordan.”

They propose international action against Assad. They want “a comprehensive strategy” agreed on as soon as possible.

They want all-out war. They want it against an independent, nonbelligerent sovereign state. They ignore inviolable international law principles.

They turned truth on its head, saying:

A “widespread insurgency has strong popular support.”

False! The vast majority of Syrians support Assad. Independent polls show it. The longer conflict persists, the more his support grows.

Syrians depend on him for whatever protection he can provide. When Syrian forces liberate insurgent held areas, residents express gratitute openly.

Levin and King want America to “help the Syrian people end the senseless slaughter they are suffering” by inflicting more of it.

They, likeminded congressional members, Obama, and complicit administration officials reflect diabolical forces of evil. They’re unmatched in human history.

They’re waging war on humanity. Perhaps they believe the best way to save it is destroy it.

They support permanent war. They want unchallenged US global dominance. They’ll stop at nothing to achieve it.

Imagine the worst ahead. They endorse what’s likely coming. Survival’s up for grabs.

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

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

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

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

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

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

http://www.dailycensored.com/whats-next-for-syria/

Leaked CIA Document and Freedom of the Press

July 21st, 2013 by Trevor Timm

Often forgotten amidst journalists’ public personas and front page scoops is the crux of their profession: the practice of gathering news. Reporting, at its best, consists of bringing to light information powerful factions want kept in the dark, and the sources for these stories are often people whose careers, or even lives, are at risk if they are exposed. To provide this public service, all good reporters must sometimes promise their sources confidentiality for which they would, in turn, risk their own careers to protect.

Recognizing that robust and uninhibited newsgathering is essential to a free press, many courts have established a common law “reporter’s privilege” which protects journalists from having to testify about the identity of their sources in all but the most extreme cases. Yesterday, in the most significant reporter’s privilege decision in decades, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals eviscerated that privilege, in the jurisdiction where it is needed most.

The underlying case involves a former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, who is alleged to be a source for an illuminating chapter in New York Times reporter James Risen’s 2006 book State of War, and Risen was subpoenaed to give up the identity of his source. The court ruled that Risen has no right to a reporter’s privilege in the First Amendment, nor is there a common law privilege in the Fourth Circuit, nor does the Court have the right to create one, nor will they allow Risen to escape testimony even if there was.

The district court, which this decision overturns, had it exactly right when it wrote, “A criminal trial subpoena is not a free pass for the government to rifle through a reporter’s notebook.” Now there is nothing stopping reporters from being used as prosecutors, called to testify as to their sources at the whims of the Executive, which is often times the very branch of government they are reporting on.

Many of the largest government agencies dealing with national security—including the CIA, NSA, and Joint Special Operations Command (JOSC)—are located in the Fourth Circuit; this will undoubtedly make it harder for reporters covering them to do their job. As Marcy Wheeler put it, “This pretty much guts national security journalism in the states in which it matters.”

The stinging dissent, written by Bush-appointed Judge Roger Gregory, suggested the decision betrayed the spirit of the free press clause of the First Amendment, “one of our Constitution’s most important and salutary contributions to human history.”

“Our country’s Founders established the First Amendment’s guarantee of a free press as a recognition that a government unaccountable to public discourse renders that essential element of democracy–the vote–meaningless,” he wrote. “The majority reads narrowly the law governing the protection of a reporter from revealing his sources, a decision that is, in my view, contrary to the will and wisdom of our Founders.”

The district court decision granted James Risen the privilege not to testify after he submitted an extraordinary legal affidavit to the court in which he laid out how his reporting on national security abuses during the Bush administration had led to him being harassed—with his emails, phone calls, and even credit reports being monitored. The Bush administration and members of Congress had publicly threatened him with prosecution under the Espionage Act for his reporting on the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program. (Sound familiar?)

The Bush administration eventually dropped the subpoena after Risen resisted it for so long, but when President Obama took office, his Justice Department re-issued it and has taken the fight from Sterling’s grand jury, to his trial, and now the appeals court. As Marcy Wheeler wrote, “there is a strong case to be made that the entire point of this trial is to put James Risen, not Jeffrey Sterling, in jail.”

As the New York Times reported Friday, “Mr. Risen has vowed to appeal any loss at the appeals court to the Supreme Court, and to go to prison rather than testify about his sources.” He should be commended for continuing to fight for his rights and others’.

This should strengthen the calls for a federal shield law that will once and for all codify protections most courts already provided (at least up until today). But be warned: the current bills circulating in the House and Senate are quite dangerous and should be resisted by all media organizations until substantial fixes are made. The Senate bill contains a significant national security exception, which as we’ve explained before, would make the bill meaningless for the only journalists who need the law in the first place. The bills also contain restrictive definitions of journalism that will leave many bloggers and independent journalists without protection.

Whatever happens, make no mistake: this is a dark day for press freedom in the United States. This decision not only deals a blow to all national security journalists, but to the public at large, whose right-to-know will certainly suffer because of it.

NSA Spying:  A Matter of Degree

We have long noted that the government is spying on just about everything we do.

The NSA has pretended that it only spies on a small number of potential terrorists.  But NSA Deputy Director John C. Inglis inadvertently admitted that the NSA could spy on just about all Americans.

Inglis told Congress last week that the agency conducts “three-hop” analysis.

Three-hop (also known as “three degree”) analysis means:

The government can look at the phone data of a suspected terrorist, plus the data of all of the contacts, then all of those people’s contacts, and all of those people’s contacts.

This means that a lot of people could be caught up in the dragnet:

If the average person calls 40 unique people, three-hop analysis could allow the government to mine the records of 2.5 million Americans when investigating one suspected terrorist.

Given that there are now approximately 875,000 people in the government’s database of suspected terrorists – including many thousands of Americans – every single American living on U.S. soil could easily be caught up in the dragnet.

For example, 350 million Americans divided by 2.5 million Americans caught up in dragnet for each suspected terrorist, means that a mere 140 potential terrorists could lead to spying on all Americans.   There are tens of thousands of Americans listed as suspected terrorists … including just about anyone who protests anything that the government or big banks do.

As the Electronic Frontier Foundation notes:

According to an unusually blunt Senate investigation of so-called “fusion centers” released last month, the TIDE [i.e. suspected terrorist] database is also full of information of innocent people that have nothing to do with terrorism. The report gave examples of: a TIDE profile of a person whom the FBI had already cleared of any connection to terrorism, a TIDE profile of a two-year old-boy, and even a TIDE profile of Ford Motor Company.

ARS Technica reports:

When the first revelations about the National Security Agency’s (NSA) widespread collection of phone call metadata and Internet traffic began to surface, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham noted that for those not talking to terrorists on the phone, “We don’t have anything to worry about. I’m glad that activity is going on, but it is limited to tracking people who are suspected to be terrorists and who they may be talking to.

Turns out the data collection is not so limited. In testimony yesterday before the House Judiciary Committee, National Security Agency Deputy Director Chris Inglis said that the NSA’s probing of data in search of terrorist activity extended “two to three hops” away from suspected terrorists. Previously, NSA leaders had said surveillance was limited to only two “hops” from a suspect.

If you’ve ever played “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” or used LinkedIn to try to reach someone professionally, you know how small the world of interconnected contacts can be.  When you use big data tools to mine for relationships, the world gets even smaller. That third hop in connections greatly expands the probability of innocent people worldwide being scooped up into the NSA’s surveillance machine to include a good-sized share of American citizens—citizens who Senator Graham said “don’t have anything to worry about.”

***

By reading this article, you’re one hop from me—and three hops from [Afghan President] Hamid Karzai.

***

The NSA’s systems sort through the data using algorithms to find connections. These can be detected in near real time from Internet data or discovered in the periodic dumps of phone metadata from carriers, building upon the system’s knowledge of previous connections. The system narrows the field of potential surveillance targets through a process that’s similar to playing the game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”—only, in this case, it’s more like “Three Degrees of Osama Bin Laden.”***

To determine how many hops you are from Osama, for example, the NSA’s data analysis engine software constantly plows through information and builds a model of all the relationships between every phone number on record and every IP address. Other software robots query the graph to discover which “nodes”—phone numbers, IP addresses and email accounts—fall within three degrees of separation from an established suspect.

If you have a direct relationship with a suspected terrorist or target (you’ve called them, you’ve emailed them, you’ve visited their website) that’s a “one hop” relationship; there’s a solid line connecting you to that person in the NSA’s relationship graph. If you talk with, e-mail, or visit the Facebook page or website of someone who’s got a one-hop relationship, you’re two hops away. Add one more person in between in the graph, and you’re three hops away.

If you’re within three hops, you may get flagged for analysis, and then you could get extra special attention, such as a secret FISA warrant request to use PRISM for access to your data on cloud providers’ servers.

Under the NSA’s FISA requests, Google, Microsoft, and other Internet services companies can be compelled to hand over relevant data from their servers on any account that falls within the three-hop range and is flagged as belonging to a person of interest. If you’ve won this lottery, the NSA will get access to your e-mails on Gmail or Outlook.com as well as your chats and Web-stored contacts, your documents, your synced data from computers and mobile devices, your backups, and anything else that can be handed over—at least, so the documents Snowden leaked imply.

Your raw Internet traffic will get more attention as well. Your IP address will be watched more carefully by deep packet inspection hardware at the NSA’s ‘Net taps, and what you do online will get extra scrutiny.

If your behavior is anomalous enough, and if you’re a US resident, the NSA will pass the surveillance over to the FBI. Otherwise, your data will be collected and analyzed until it’s determined that you have nothing to do with the alleged terrorist; how long that process takes (and how long the data is retained after analysis) is unknown.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t take much to hit the three-hop jackpot; without knowing it, a large percentage of the world’s population (and the US population) could easily be classified as being in a third degree of separation from a suspected terrorist.

A great deal of research has been done into the interconnectedness of people in the Internet age. Social scientists, mathematicians, and computer scientists have explored the “small world” phenomenon with studies and experiments for over 50 years, and their findings show that the “small world” keeps getting smaller as technology advances. In 1979, chair and founder of MIT’s political science department Ithiel de Sola Pool and the University of Michigan’s Manfred Kochen published a paper titled “Contacts and Influence,” which draws on a decade of research into social networks. De Sola Pool and Kochen posited that “in a country the size of the United States, if acquaintanceship were random and the mean acquaintance volume were 1,000, the mean length of minimum chain between pairs of persons would be well under two intermediaries.”

In other words, if the average person in the US has contact with and is acquainted with 1,000 others (through brief interactions, such as an e-mail or a phone call, or through stronger associations), then we’re at most two hops from anyone else in the US. Ergo, if any one person in the US is one hop from a terrorist, chances are good that you are three hops away.

***

Live in a major metropolitan center in the US and you’re bound to be two degrees of separation away from someone in a country that’s of interest to the NSA. For example: I have been a regular customer of restaurants owned by Baltimore’s Karzai family, which is headed by a brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai—two hops. I’m also, according to LinkedIn, two degrees of separation away from President Obama. Am I a good guy or a bad guy?

The Internet has blown the level of interconnectedness though the proverbial roof—we now have e-mail, social media, and instant message interactions with people we’ll never meet in real life and in places we’ll never go. A 2007 study by Carnegie Mellon University machine learning researcher Jure Leskovec and Microsoft Research’s Eric Horvitz found that the average number of hops between any two arbitrary Microsoft Messenger users, based on interaction, was 6.6. And a study of Twitter feeds published in 2011 found the average degree of separation between random Twitter users to be only 3.43.

So even if the NSA limited its surveillance activities—and by “surveillance” I mean active probing of the content of communications of an individual—to people within two hops of suspected terrorists, that’s a sizable population. Three ratchets it up to hundreds of millions or potentially billions of people, especially when the definition of a hop is based on relationships so casual we could create them by accidentally clicking on a link in a spam e-mail. So far, we know that there have been about 20,000 requests for FISA warrants to surveil domestic targets since 2001, but if those warrants covered three hops from the suspects at the center of the requests—depending on how tightly or loosely the NSA defines a relationship—three hops could encompass as much as 50 percent of the Internet-using population of the world.

What’s the likelihood that you’ve managed to fall into that 50 percent? Well, if you live outside the US or ever talk to anyone outside the US, your odds go up. If you have contacts in parts of the world that the US government has interest in as sources of terrorism, it goes up much more. That places people like me (journalists), social activists, academics, and a large chunk of the business world in a zone of high risk for NSA surveillance.

***

You’d be a fool not to at least consider the possibility that the NSA is already reading your e-mail.

The New York Times writes:

Adding a new chapter to the research that cemented the phrase “six degrees of separation” into the language, scientists at Facebook and the University of Milan reported on Monday that the average number of acquaintances separating any two people in the world was not six but 4.74.

If the distance between any two people in the world is 4.74, the distance between any two Americans is probably less than 3 .

Legendary NSA cryptographer and mathematician William Binney – who worked at the agency for 32 years, and who was the head of the NSA’s global digital data efforts – created a much better “two hop” system before 9/11.

Called “ThinThread“, the system created by Binney (with the help of Thomas Drake, Kirk Wiebe and Ed Loomis) automatically encrypted all Americans’ communications to protect our Constitutional rights.  Information was gathered on people within two hops of suspected terrorists, and information could only be decrypted by a court order. In other words, Binney’s system created a structure in which innocent Americans couldn’t be spied on unless there was  a court order showing probable cause.

Binney’s system was actually cheaper and more efficient than the NSA’s current Constitution-violating system.

Binney told us:

The zone of suspects was for us limited to two degrees (hops).  Beyond that increases the problem exponentially.  So, three hops is going much too far.

By “going much too far”, Binney means that the NSA is unnecessarily trashing Americans’ Constitutional rights.

But he also means that the more data the NSA gathers on more innocent Americans, the harder it will be to catch bad guys. Because – contrary to the NSA’s claims – looking in bigger and bigger haystacks doesn’t help find the needle.

Technical Postscript: We asked Binney about the formula for determining how many Americans would be caught up in a “three hop” dragnet. He explained that simple formulas can’t give an accurate answer, as it depends on such factors as whether government and business organizations are eliminated from the hop analysis:

If you don’t eliminate commercial companies and government agencies from the calculations, then by inclusion they reduce the number of degrees of separation.

Binney also explained that failure to eliminate duplicate contacts, the number of people caught up in the dragnet could be over-estimated.

This was posted to my facebook page

My Proposal for us to discuss this weekend:

Creating a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to move this country forward, to a higher level, where we all–on this page, anyway–want it to be. (Bill Clinton suggested a National Dialogue on Race.)

Not too long ago, we also discussed the Laissez-Faire Leadership that us visionaries are saddled with in the White House and the Congress. I would also like to make this a call for us to support only Transformational Leadership–what the times in our country call for.

Transformational Leadership is charismatic, visionary, highly ethical, and morally based. Transformational Leadership does not dictate what is needed, but allows a process of discovery of solutions that are consistent with stated and shared values.

On this page, I saw the beginnings of the kind of transformations that are possible when people open up on their feelings, hear others, and then reflect on what they’ve experienced. This is the process by which we can move forward on a new SHARED vision.

While many are preparing to rally in their hometowns against the Trayvon Martin murder verdict, I thought I’d encourage us on this page to develop a possible solution that could last more than the mere hours of a protest rally. Rallies serve their purpose, but only the development of a process whereby we all can functionally come together and work collectively on a new shared vision that includes everyone will put an end to the scourge that we continue to face.

I posted my sincere feelings here and many others did, too. I believe that we engaged in open and honest discussion here with everyone not agreeing. Except for the Zionist trolls who populate this site, I do believe that we began a process that our country as a whole really needs if we ever are to move forward together, building character, with integrity, for liberty and justice in our local and global communities.

So, I propose a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I must admit that the idea I’m putting forward came to me in the form of a paper submitted by Dr. Mutulu Shakur, Tupac Shakur’s father figure, incarcerated as a political prisoner since the days of the Black Panther Party before it was cracked down upon by the FBI and others in COINTELPRO.

Tell me what you think about the idea of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission for the U.S. whose goal would be to allow us to develop goals and shared values first. Perhaps, if this had been done generations ago, many communities could have been spared so much pain. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission would begin with that pain and encourage civic action with common purpose and enlightenment.

Let me know what you think. Do you have an alternative or complementary solution? Please think about your solution and share it here on this page with the rest of us.

And, as always . . . Thank you for sharing.

The CIA is funding a scientific study to determine the feasibility of altering the planet’s climate in order to stave off climate change, according to documents released by The National Academy of Sciences.

The papers reveal that the project will run for 21 months at a cost of $630,000, with a final report due in 2014. The CIA backed scientists will study how weather patterns could be influenced and altered, and assess the potential impacts of geo-engineering attempts.

The NAS website notes that the funding for the study is coming from “the US intelligence community”. William Kearney, a spokesman for NAS, told Mother Jones that the agency in question is the CIA.

The revelations mark the first time that an intelligence agency has publicly funded such a study.

A CIA spokesman would not confirm that the agency was involved, yet stated that “It’s natural that on a subject like climate change the Agency would work with scientists to better understand the phenomenon and its implications on national security.”

It seems that the CIA has outsourced its geo-engineering studies following the apparent closure of its own research center on climate change and national security in 2012. The move came following criticism from Republican members of Congress who said that the intelligence community should not be spending time researching weather modification.

The NAS website states that the study will encompass a “technical evaluation of a limited number of proposed geoengineering techniques.” A prominent technique that will be evaluated, according to the papers, is “solar radiation management”, which involves spraying aerosol particles into the stratosphere to reflect sunlight away from the planet – in other words chemtrailing.

The study will also look into “carbon dioxide removal (CDR)”, which involves sucking carbon out of the air via chemical reactions or porous nanosponges. Of course, Carbon Dioxide is fundamental to all life on Earth, so “sucking it out of the air” could come with dire consequences.

The study is also being backed by two other government agencies – NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Reporting on the project, The New Scientist stresses that CIA involvement in weather modification should not be seen as sinister.

“In fact, the CIA’s main interest in geoengineering does not lie in any offensive use. Rather, the US intelligence community sees climate change as a potential threat to global geopolitical stability, and so wants a thorough analysis of the mitigation options.” the report states.

Critics will balk at such a naive statement, given the history the CIA has for covertly subverting and overthrowing foreign governments that it does not approve of, and doing anything but securing geopolitical stability.

Weather weapons have existed for decades, with research on such offensive techniques dating back to the 1950s. In 1997, U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen admitted that weather modification techniques had been actively used by governments for over 15 years. The US military has been using weather modifcation techniques since the Vietnam war.

One need only look up at the sky to confirm that our governments, at the behest of think tanks, ‘research’ groups, and radical environmental organisations, are already engaging in these type of programs. Our skies are riddled with artificial clouds, that are patently not merely the contrails of standard air planes.

Indeed, as we reported last year, a Harvard University project experiment funded by Microsoft founder Bill Gates saw thousands of tonnes of sulphur particles sprayed over New Mexico as part of a geoengineering study, despite the fact that even staunch environmentalists have warned the process could have catastrophic effects on the earth’s eco-system.

This is just one example of a practice that has now been in operation for years, if not decades.

Groups such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meet routinely to discuss ongoing geoengineering programs, specifically the spraying of aerosols into the atmosphere.

Levels of aluminium, barium and strontium in our air, water and soil have exponentially increased, leading many to conclude that these are the after effects of radical geoengineering programs that are already in operation.

A further study last year revealed that the cost of a massive program to spray sun-dimming particles into the upper atmosphere would be around $5 billion dollars a year. However, the study conducted by U.S. scientists writing in the journal Environmental Research Letters completely failed to analyze whether such a massive geoengineering program would be a good idea and what environmental consequences it would have.

A similar Carnegie Institution for Science proposal also recently advocated spraying the upper atmosphere with aerosols, a process that would “reduce by 20 per cent the amount of sunlight that takes a direct route to the ground” and make blue skies “fade to hazy white,” the New Scientist reported.

Given the fact that most advancements in science and technology are already taking place years before they are disclosed to the public, it stands to reason that geoengineering programs based around spraying the upper atmosphere with particles are already underway.

Scientists now admit that vapor trails from airplanes are creating “artificial clouds” that block out the sun. This is no longer a matter of debate. The chemtrail “conspiracy theorists,” who were ridiculed for pointing out that from the mid-90′s onwards contrails from jet planes were lingering for hours and forming artificial clouds, have been proven correct.

 Reading University’s Professor Keith Shine told the Daily Mail that the clouds “formed by aircraft fumes could linger ‘for hours’, depriving those areas under busy flight paths, such as London and the Home Counties, of summer sunshine.”

The report also makes reference to a 2009 Met Office study which found that high-level winds did not disperse contrails that later formed into clouds which covered an astonishing 20,000 miles.

 As we have documented, geoengineering programs based around the premise of artificial aerosols were already in operation years ago, including at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Savannah River National Laboratory in Aiken, S.C, which in 2009 began conducting studies which involved shooting huge amounts of particulate matter, in this case “porous-walled glass microspheres,” into the stratosphere.

Another program under the Department of Energy’s Atmospheric Science Program is directed towards, “developing comprehensive understanding of the atmospheric processes that control the transport, transformation, and fate of energy related trace chemicals and particulate matter.”

The DOE website states that, “The current focus of the program is aerosol radiative forcing of climate: aerosol formation and evolution and aerosol properties that affect direct and indirect influences on climate and climate change.”

These programs are already having the effect of blocking out sunlight. The emergence of the chemtrails phenomenon coincided with an average 22% drop in sunlight reaching the earth’s surface.

 In 2008, a KSLA news investigation found that a substance that fell to earth from a high altitude chemtrail contained high levels of Barium (6.8 ppm) and Lead (8.2 ppm) as well as trace amounts of other chemicals including arsenic, chromium, cadmium, selenium and silver. Of these, all but one are metals, some are toxic while several are rarely or never found in nature.

The newscast focuses on Barium, which its research shows is a “hallmark of chemtrails.” KSLA found Barium levels in its samples at 6.8 ppm or “more than six times the toxic level set by the EPA.” The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality confirmed that the high levels of Barium were “very unusual,” but commented that “proving the source was a whole other matter” in its discussion with KSLA.

KSLA also asked Mark Ryan, Director of the Poison Control Center, about the effects of Barium on the human body. Ryan commented that “short term exposure can lead to anything from stomach to chest pains and that long term exposure causes blood pressure problems.” The Poison Control Center further reported that long-term exposure, as with any harmful substance, would contribute to weakening the immune system.

Spraying sulphur into the upper atmosphere is linked with both environmental catastrophes and human health problems.

 The following health effects are linked with exposure to sulphur.

- Neurological effects and behavioral changes
- Disturbance of blood circulation
- Heart damage
- Effects on eyes and eyesight
- Reproductive failure
- Damage to immune systems
- Stomach and gastrointestinal disorder
- Damage to liver and kidney functions
- Hearing defects
- Disturbance of the hormonal metabolism
- Dermatological effects
- Suffocation and lung embolism

 Even pro-geoengineering scientist Mark Watson, admits that injecting sulphur into the atmosphere could lead to “acid rain, ozone depletion or weather pattern disruption.”

 Rutgers University meteorologist Alan Robock also, “created computer simulations indicating that sulfate clouds could potentially weaken the Asian and African summer monsoons, reducing rain that irrigates the food crops of billions of people.”

“Imagine if we triggered a drought and famine while trying to cool the planet,” Robock told a geoengineering conference in 2010.

The Canada-based Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC) has called for such experiments to be shut down. “This experiment is only phase one of a much bigger plan that could have devastating consequences, including large changes in weather patterns such as deadly droughts,” the group said in a written statement.

 Fred Singer, president of the Science Environmental Policy Project and a skeptic of man-made global warming theories, warns that the consequences of tinkering with the planet’s delicate eco-system could have far-reaching dangers.

“If you do this on a continuous basis, you would depress the ozone layer and cause all kinds of other problems that people would rather avoid,” said Singer.

 Even Greenpeace’s chief UK scientist – a staunch advocate of the man-made global warming explanation – Doug Parr – has slammed attempts to geoengineer the planet as “outlandish” and “dangerous”.

Steve Watson is the London based writer and editor for Alex Jones’ Infowars.com, and Prisonplanet.com. He has a Masters Degree in International Relations from the School of Politics at The University of Nottingham, and a Bachelor Of Arts Degree in Literature and Creative Writing from Nottingham Trent University.

 

It was the CIA that helped Jail Nelson Mandela

July 20th, 2013 by Brian Becker

Today is Nelson Mandela’s 95th birthday, but forget the crocodile tears from the U.S. government about Mandela’s poor health. Imperialist diplomacy with all of its sugar-coated phrases is nothing more than a form of historical perjury.

Nelson Mandela’s arrest in 1962, which led to 18 of his 27 years of imprisonment on Robbins Island, was based on the work of the CIA. The CIA and National Security Agency worked as partners with the racist, apartheid regime’s vicious military and intelligence services.

Mandela was a leader of the African National Congress (ANC) that organized civil resistance and an armed struggle against South Africa’s white racist apartheid regime. The United States and the other western capitalist governments supported the racist, fascist apartheid regime.

Mandela was labeled a terrorist by the United States. So was the entire ANC. Even as late as 2008 the U.S. State Department had to pass special waivers so that Mandela or any ANC leader could visit the United States because he and the ANC were still on the “terrorist watch list.”

The ANC’s struggle for Black majority rule and the liquidation of apartheid received critical support from Cuba, the Soviet Union and other socialist countries. The ANC had an active alliance with South African Communist Party in the struggle for Black majority rule.

Even after the fall of the apartheid government ANC members applying for visas to the USA were flagged for questioning and forced to ask for waivers to enter the country. Former ANC chairman Tokyo Sexwale was denied a visa in 2002

In 2007, Barbara Masekela, South Africa’s ambassador to the United States until the year prior was denied a visa to visit a dying cousin living in the United States.

U.S. Imperialism was the enemy of African Liberation

The CIA and NSA spy services—with the full collaboration of such transnational corporations at IBM,  Kodak and many others—worked at all levels and for decades for apartheid and against the African National Congress activists who were routinely murdered, tortured and sentenced to life terms in the hell holes of South Africa.

The ANC was labeled and treated as a terrorist organization and pro-communist by the CIA and successive U.S. administrations, Democratic and Republican alike. Congress, too, was an enthusiastic cheerleader for this vile partnership with the planet’s most disgustingly racist regime.

The House of Representatives only voted to call for Nelson Mandela’s release from prison in 1986 when it was clear that the fascist apartheid regime’s days were numbered, leading the United States and Britain to abruptly shift course and broker a negotiated end to the white supremacist system. A mass worldwide anti-apartheid movement had completely isolated South Africa. Dick Cheney voted against the House resolution in 1986, pointing out that the U.S. government was still retaining the ANC on the official  U.S. “terrorist list.”

The U.S. and Britain knew the end had finally come for the usefulness of the apartheid government when its seemingly invincible military was decisively defeated by the Angolan army and thousands of Cuban volunteers in the historic battle of Cuito Canavale.

As Mandela said, “When Africa called, Cuba answered.”

Shameless duplicity

In an act of shameless duplicity, once Mandela was released from prison, each successive U.S. administration  has pretended that the United States was always opposed to Mandela’s imprisonment and stood with him against apartheid.

After getting out of prison, Mandela came to the United States to meet President George H.W. Bush on June 25, 1990. He was being touted as a hero and a champion in the fight against racism. The U.S. government, working through propagandists in the corporate-owned media, tried to instill a society-wide case of amnesia about the fact that they were the defenders of apartheid and directly responsible for Mandela’s imprisonment.

But one reporter had the gall to ask an unscripted question.

Bush’s press secretary, Marlin Fitzwater, was asked in the days before the June 25 meeting with Bush whether the president would apologize to Mandela for the U.S. role in his arrest.

Fitzwater was angry and caught off guard. He said, “I just don’t like it when people question our motives on blacks or on Mandela because of an incident that happened 20 years ago in another administration.”

Today, on Mandela’s 95th birthday and when the U.S. government celebrates Mandela, will any of the corporate media expose the bloody role of the CIA, NSA and other U.S. intelligence services in their war against the African liberation movements?

Nelson Mandela is a beacon for the oppressed. He is a hero and he will be remembered as such. Not true for the CIA and NSA which worked as the spy service for the racist, apartheid regime as it hunted down and captured Mandela and captured or killed his comrades.

From Turkey with Love: Another Israeli attack on Syria?

July 20th, 2013 by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

Prime Minister Erdogan and his AK Party government have a track record of being deceitful, especially in regards to both Israel and Syria.

No one should be surprised to hear that Israel and Turkey are collaborating together against the Syrians. With the aim of tightening the front against Syria, President Obama even travelled to Israel in March 2013 to directly broker a quick rapprochement between the governments of Israel and Turkey. Getting a public nudge from the Obama Administration, Israel and Turkey would announce that their diplomatic row was over only two days after NATO announced it had put together contingency plans for operations in Syria on March 20, 2013. Even when relations were publicly sour between Ankara and Tel Aviv, the two countries maintained military and commercial ties.

Despite the fact that Prime Minister Erdogan denounced Tel Aviv for attacking Syria, the first fruits of Israeli and Turkish collaboration became visible in May 2013 when Israeli warplanes attacked a Syrian military research facility in the town of Jamraya with US approval, as admitted by President Obama to Telemundo. Right after the Israeli attacks the Turkish and Israeli militaries launched simultaneous exercises on their respective borders with Syria. Although the military operations were presented as uncoordinated events, both Ankara and Tel Aviv were coordinating with one another in a military posture against Syria. The Israeli and Turkish moves on their borders with Syria were probably aimed at preventing Syria from responding through intimidation. The Turkish government would also put extra pressure on the Syrians by blaming them for a terrorist attack in the Turkish border town of Reyhanli, which the Turkish activist group of internet hackers named Redhack would reveal was known about well in advance by Turkey’s Gendarmerie Intelligence.

Israeli Merkava tanks roll during a military exercise in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights near the border with Syria on July 18, 2013. (AFP Photo / Jack Guez)

Israeli Merkava tanks roll during a military exercise in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights near the border with Syria on July 18, 2013. (AFP Photo / Jack Guez)

What Happened in Latakia?

Just when it began becoming apparent that the US and its allies were facing serious regional setbacks in the Middle East and North Africa, reports began circulating about an explosion in Latakia. Unverified reports, originating from anonymous sources in Israel in early July 2013, began claiming that Tel Aviv had launched an attack against the Syrian port of Latakia that caused a massive explosion. As the rumours began to circulate in the media, it was dubiously claimed that the Israeli attacks were launched against shipments of Russian-made S-300 air defence systems that were in the process of being delivered to Syria by the Kremlin. US officials would enter the picture by deliberately leaking more information about what happened in Latakia by claiming that Israel used its air force to bomb the port there to destroy a military depot filled with Russian-made Yakhont land-to-sea anti-ship missiles.

Then, on July 15, RT’s Paula Slier would report from Tel Aviv that Israel had attacked Latakia by using a Turkish military base. This would upset the Turkish government, which would deny it and say anyone making the claims was involved in an “act of betrayal.” In response to the Russian report, Turkish officials would up the ante by claiming that the Russian anti-ship missiles in the Syrian port were destined for Hezbollah in Lebanon and that the US and Israel had coordinated the attacks by holding meetings in Turkey with the anti-government militias operating inside Syria. Uzi Mahnaimi would complicate the matter by reporting through the British press that the Israeli attacks were launched from a German-built Dolphin from the sea, which essentially vindicated Turkey by refuting the claim that a Turkish base was used by the Israelis.

 

Syrian rebels head to the town of Bsankol in the northwestern province of Idlib to join comrades fighting regime forces for the control of the highway that connects Idlib with Latakia on July 11, 2013. (AFP Photo / Daniel Leal-Olivas)Syrian rebels head to the town of Bsankol in the northwestern province of Idlib to join comrades fighting regime forces for the control of the highway that connects Idlib with Latakia on July 11, 2013. (AFP Photo / Daniel Leal-Olivas)

 

What has to be understood is that countries like Turkey and Saudi Arabia conceal their collaboration with Tel Aviv due to the heavy opposition against the Israeli occupation of Palestine among their respective societies. What is also important to note is that a Turkish jet was downed in 2012 by Syria when it was following a route that was used by Israeli jets near the Syrian-Turkish border. The use of this aerial route by Tel Aviv has never really been challenged by Turkey. It is also part of an important pattern that shows how close the tactics used by Israel and Turkey against Syria are.

From Turkey with love! (The first time around)

On June 22, 2012 a Turkish F-4 Phantom fighter-bomber from Malatya in Turkey was shot down above Syrian airspace. There would be conflicting reports about the fate of the pilots. The Turkish media would report that they were rescued while Syrian sources would claim that they were captured. The fighter-bomber’s two pilots, however, would reportedly be found dead trapped under the jet’s wreckage almost two weeks later.

Perhaps coming as a surprise to many, the Syrian and Turkish governments would conduct joint search and rescue efforts to find the airplane’s wreck and the two missing pilots. Damascus would even allow Turkish rescue units to enter Syrian territorial waters and make the proposal that a joint Syrian-Turkish military committee be formed to investigate what really happened.  Syria would even apologize to Turkey and argue that its troops thought that the Turkish warplane was an Israeli jet violating Syrian airspace.

Initially, it was clear that the Turkish government did not know how to react and made several contradictory statements. Erdogan would even say that he was unaware if the Syrians had shot the jet down and was waiting for precise information about the incident. Ultimately, Ankara would claim that the Turkish jet was shot down by the Syrian military without any warnings inside international airspace above the Mediterranean Sea. Later the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya network—the Fox News of the Arab World—would claim that the two Turkish pilots were executed by the Syrians and had their corpses planted into the wreckage under instructions from the Russian government, which also directed Damascus to apologize and then tried to manage the entire event.

What had caught the Turks, and NATO, by surprise was the fact that the Syrians had detected the F-4 fighter-bomber. The Turkish jet was actually spying against Syria on an intelligence mission conducting low altitude reconnaissance work and testing the air defence systems of Syria. This is why the Turkish government quickly changed its position several times. Expecting to be exposed, the Turkish government at first played stupid. At the outset Turkish officials talked about the incident like it was a mistake. They even admitted that the Turkish plane had crossed into Syrian airspace, but said it was an honest accident during a training mission. When Damascus said nothing, however, Erdogan and his government began to aggressively blame the Syrians of unjustified aggression.

 

A Turkish F-16 fighter jet approaches the tarmac of Incirlik airbase in the southern Turkish city of Adana July 4, 2012. (Reuters / Umit Bektas)A Turkish F-16 fighter jet approaches the tarmac of Incirlik airbase in the southern Turkish city of Adana July 4, 2012. (Reuters / Umit Bektas)

 

The Syrians would respond to Ankara’s lies by relying on the technical facts. From a technical standpoint the Turkish government’s story that Ankara’s jet was shot by the Syrian military while it was flying outside of Syrian airspace over the Mediterranean Sea was impossible. The reason was that the Turkish warplane was downed by an anti-aircraft artillery machine gun with a maximum range of 2.5 kilometers, which can only operate from land and operates on the basis of visual confirmation. It would have been impossible for the Syrians to use the anti-aircraft machine gun to target the Turkish jet if it were in international airspace, because it was out of firing range. Surface-to-air missiles would have had to been used instead by the Syrians. Moreover, Syria would even warn NATO as a whole, after Turkey called a NATO consultative meeting under the Washington Treaty’s Article 4, not to even think of violating Syria’s airspace, territorial waters, or land borders.

Many of the same tactics that were used against the Libyans by Turkey and NATO have been recycled against the Syrians. The failed Turkish spy mission for NATO in 2012 was actually a repeat of what happen to Libya in 2011. A Syrian pilot had defected by flying with his jet from Al-Dumayr, just northeast of Damascus, to Jordon’s King Hussein Air Base in Mafraq on June 21, 2012. The Syrian pilot, Colonel Al-Hamadeh, even sent his family out of Syria to Turkey before he defected. From Jordon his Syrian jet’s flight codes were passed to NATO and Turkey to disguise or cloak their aerial units as friendly Syrian ones. The Turkish military and NATO had tried to disguise the Turkish F-4 Phantom fighter-bomber as a Syrian jet using the stolen codes. The Syrians, however, were aware of what happened earlier to Libya when two Libyan warplanes defected to Malta and handed over their military flight codes to NATO, which used those codes months later when it attacked Libya as a means of bypassing Libya’s air defence system.

The AK Party’s dirty hands

The AK Party has dirty hands and has tried to hide many of its activities from its own citizens. When the idea that a Turkish military jet could have been involved in operations against Syria was reported in 2012 by members of the Turkish media, the AK Party government began a very aggressive campaign to censor them. The Turkish government began drafting new media laws to prevent criticism against the Turkish government and Erdogan attacked the Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet and anyone that dared to question the official narrative provided by his government as a “traitor” and “enemy of the state.”

Skeptics cannot be blamed for thinking that the story about the Israeli military strike on Latakia was planted to disguise the miserable failure of Washington’s regime change project in Syria, Israel’s growing fears about the regional environment, and the regional decline of the Muslim Brotherhood. Despite Ankara’s denials, the revelation of Turkish involvement in the events surrounding Latakia is pushing the different players involved to talk more. It should be remembered that Prime Minister Erdogan and the AK Party government in Turkey have a track record of being very deceitful, especially in regards to Turkey’s cooperating with Israel and their government’s aggression against the Syrians. In this context, the news that Israel used a Turkish base against Syria to avoid detection should come as no surprise either. Even the same tactical approaches were used by both the Israeli and Turkish militaries in regards to entering Syrian airspace from the Syrian Arab Republic’s northwestern coast.

Things will become cleared once, and if, more governments start talking openly about the events that occurred in Latakia. Only then can there be a clear picture of what really happened in Latakia. Nevertheless, there should be no mistake about it that the Israeli-Turkish alliance never really ended and that Israel and Turkey are comrades-in-arms against the Syrians.

This article war originally published by RT Op-Edge.

Is the Cyprus Bank “Bail-in” a “dress rehearsal” for things to come?

Is  a “Savings Heist” in the European Union and North America envisaged which could result in the outright confiscation of bank deposits?

In Cyprus, the entire payments system has been disrupted leading to the demise of the real economy.

Pensions and wages are no longer paid. Purchasing power has collapsed.

The population is impoverished.

Small and medium sized enterprises are spearheaded into bankruptcy.

Cyprus is a country with a population of one million.

What would happen if similar ‘hair cut” procedures were to be applied in the U.S. or the European Union?

According to the Washington based Institute of International Finance (IIF) (right) which represents the consensus of the global financial establishment, “the Cyprus approach of hitting depositors and creditors when banks fail, would likely become a model for dealing with collapses elsewhere in Europe.” (Economic Times, March 27, 2013).

It should be understood that prior to the Cyprus onslaught, the confiscation of bank deposits had been contemplated in several countries. Moreover, the powerful financial actors who triggered the bank crisis in Cyprus, are also the architects of  the socially devastating austerity measures imposed in the European Union and North America.

Does Cyprus constitute a “model” or scenario?

Are there “lessons to be learned” by these powerful financial actors, to be applied elsewhere, at some later stage, in the Eurozone’s banking landscape?

According to the Institute of International Finance (IIF), “hitting depositors” could become the “new normal” of this diabolical project, serving the interests of the global financial conglomerates.

This new normal is endorsed by the IMF and the European Central Bank.  According to the IIF which constitutes the banking elites mouthpiece,  “Investors would be well advised to see the outcome of Cyprus… as a reflection of how future stresses will be handled.”  (quoted in Economic Times, March 27, 2013)

“Financial Cleansing”. Bail-ins in the US and Britain

What is at stake is a process of  “financial cleansing” whereby the “too big to fail banks” in Europe and North America (e.g. Citi, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, et al ) displace and destroy lesser financial institutions, with a view to eventually taking over the entire “banking landscape”.

The underlying tendency at the national and global levels is towards the centralization and concentration of bank power, while leading to the dramatic slump of the real economy.

Bail ins have been envisaged in numerous countries. In New Zealand  a “haircut plan”   was envisaged as early as 1997 coinciding with Asian financial crisis.

There are provisions in both the UK and the US pertaining to the confiscation of bank deposits.  In a joint document of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the Bank of England, entitled Resolving Globally Active, Systemically Important, Financial Institutions, explicit  procedures were put forth whereby “the original creditors of the failed company “, meaning the depositors of  a failed bank, would be converted into “equity”. (See Ellen Brown, It Can Happen Here: The Bank Confiscation Scheme for US and UK Depositors,Global Research, March 2013)

What this means is that the money confiscated from bank accounts would be used to meet the failed bank’s financial obligations. In return, the holders of the confiscated bank deposits would become stockholders in a failed financial institution on the verge of bankruptcy.

Bank savings would be transformed overnight into an illusive concept of capital ownership. The confiscation of savings would be adopted under the disguise of  a bogus “compensation” in terms of equity.

What is envisaged is the application of  a selective process of  confiscation of bank deposits, with a view to collecting debt while also triggering the demise of “weaker” financial institutions. In the US, the procedure would bypass the provisions of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) which insures deposit holders against bank failures:

No exception is indicated for “insured deposits” in the U.S., meaning those under $250,000, the deposits we thought were protected by FDIC insurance. This can hardly be an oversight, since it is the FDIC that is issuing the directive. The FDIC is an insurance company funded by premiums paid by private banks.  The directive is called a “resolution process,” defined elsewhere as a plan that “would be triggered in the event of the failure of an insurer . . . .” The only  mention of “insured deposits” is in connection with existing UK legislation, which the FDIC-BOE directive goes on to say is inadequate, implying that it needs to be modified or overridden. (Ibid)

Because depositors are provided with a bogus compensation, they are not eligible to the FDIC deposit insurance.

Canada’s Deposit Confiscation Proposal

The most candid statement of confiscation of bank deposits as a means to “saving the banks” is formulated in a recently released document of the Canadian government entitled Jobs, Growth and Long Term Prosperity: Economic Action Plan 2013″. 

The latter was submitted to the House of Commons by Canada’s Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty on March 21 as part of a so-called “pre-budget” proposal.

A short section of the 400 report entitled “Risk Management Framework for Domestic Systemically Important Banks” identifies bail-in procedure for Canada’s chartered banks. The word confiscation is not mentioned. Financial jargon serves to obfuscate the real intent which essentially consists in stealing people’s savings.

Under the Canadian “Risk Management” project:

 The Government proposes to implement a ‘bail-in’ regime for systemically important banks.

 This regime will be designed to ensure that, in the unlikely event that a systemically important bank depletes its capital, the bank can be recapitalized and returned to viability through the very rapid conversion of certain bank liabilities into regulatory capital.”

This will reduce risks for taxpayers. The Government will consult stakeholders on how best to implement a bail-in regime in Canada.

What this signifies is that if one or more banks (or credit unions) were obliged to “systemically deplete their capital” to meet the demands of their creditors, the banks would be recapitalized through “the conversion of certain bank liabilities into regulatory capital.” 

The  “certain bank liabilities” pertains (in technical jargon) to the money they owe their customers, namely to their depositors, whose bank accounts would be confiscated in exchange for shares (equity) in a “failing” banking institution.

“This will reduce risks for taxpayers” is a nonsensical statement. What this really means is that the government will not provide funding to compensate depositors who are victims of a failed banking institution, nor will it come to rescue of the failed institution.

Instead the depositors will be obliged to give up their savings. The money confiscated will then be used by the bank to meet their liabilities contracted with major financial creditor institutions. In other words, this entire scheme is “a safety net” for too big to fail banks, a mechanism which enables them as creditors to overshadow lesser banking institutions including credit unions, while precipitating either their collapse or their takeover.

Canada’s Financial Landscape

The Risk Management Bail in initiative is of crucial significance for Canadians across the land: once it is adopted by the House of Commons as part of the budget package, the Bail-in procedures could be applied.

The Conservative government has a parliamentary majority. There is a good likelihood that the Economic Action Plan 2013″  which includes the Bail-in procedure will be adopted.

While Canada’s Risk Management Framework intimates that Canada’s banks “are at risk”, particularly those which have accumulated large debts (as a result of derivative losses), a generalised across the board application of the “Bail in” is not contemplated.

The likely scenario in the foreseeable future is that Canada’s “big five” banks, Royal Bank of Canada, TD Canada Trust, Scotiabank, Bank of Montreal and CIBC (all of which have powerful affiliates operating in the US financial landscape) will consolidate their position at the expense of  lesser (provincial level) banks and financial institutions.

The Government document intimates that the Bail-in could be used selectively “in the unlikely event that one [bank] becomes non-viable.” What this suggests is that at least one or more of  Canada’s  “lesser banks” could be the object of a bail-in. Such a procedure would inevitably lead  to a greater concentration of bank capital in Canada, to the benefit of the larger financial conglomerates.

Displacement of Provincial Level Credit Unions and Cooperative Banks

There is an important network of over 300 provincial level credit unions and cooperative banks including the powerful Desjardins network in Quebec, the Vancouver City Savings Credit Union (Vancity) and the Coastal Capital Savings in British Columbia, Servus in Alberta, Meridian in Ontario, the caisses populaires in Ontario (affiliated to Desjardins), among many others, which could be the target of selective “Bail-in” operations.

In this context, what is likely to occur is a significant weakening of provincial level cooperative financial institutions, which  have a governance relationship to their members (including representative councils) and which, in the present context, offer an alternative to the Big Five chartered banks. According to recent data, there are more than 300 credit unions and caisses populaires in Canada which are members of  the “Credit Union Central of Canada”.

New Normal: International Standards Governing the Confiscation of Bank Deposits

Canada’s Economic Action Plan 2013″  acknowledges that the proposed Bail-in framework “will be consistent with reforms in other countries and key international standards”. Namely, the proposed pattern of confiscating bank deposits as described in the Canadian government document is consistent with the model contemplated in the US and the European Union.  This model is currently a “talking point” (behind closed doors) at various international venues regrouping central bank governors and finance ministers.

The regulatory agency involved in these multilateral consultations is the Financial Stability Board (FSB) based in Basel, Switzerland and hosted by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) (image right). The FSB  happens to be chaired by the governor of the Bank of Canada, Mark Carney, who was recently appointed by the British government to head the Bank of England starting in June 2013.

Mark Carney, as Governor of the Bank of Canada, was instrumental in shaping the provisions of the Bail-in for Canada’s chartered banks. Before his career in central banking, he was a senior executive at Goldman Sachs, which has played a behind the scenes role in the implementation of the bank bailouts and austerity measures in the EU.

The FSB’s mandate would be to coordinate the bail-in procedures, in liaison with the “national financial authorities” and “international standard setting bodies” which include the IMF and the BIS. It should come as no surprise: the deposit confiscation procedures in the UK, the US and Canada examined above are remarkably similar.

Bank “Bail-ins” vs. Bank “Bail-outs”

The bailouts are “rescue packages” whereby the government allocates a significant portion of State revenues in favor of failed financial institutions. The money is channeled from the coffers of the State to the banking conglomerates.

In the US in 2008-2009, a total of $1.45 trillion was channeled to Wall Street financial institutions as part of the Bush and Obama rescue packages.

These bailouts were considered as a De facto government expenditure category. They required the implementation of austerity measures. Together with massive hikes in military expenditure, the bailouts were financed through drastic cuts in social programs including Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

In contrast to the Bailout, which is funded from the public purse, the “Bail-in” requires the (in-house) confiscation of bank deposits. The bail-ins are implemented without the use of public funds. The regulatory mechanism is established by the central bank.

At the outset of Obama’s first term in January 2009, a bank bailout of the order of $750 billion was announced by Obama, which was added on to the 700 billion dollar bailout money allocated by the outgoing Bush administration under the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP).

The total of both programs was a staggering 1.45 trillion dollars to be financed by the US Treasury. (It should be understood that the actual amount of cash financial “aid” to the banks was significantly larger than $1.45 trillion. In addition to this amount defence allocations to fund Obama’s war economy (FY 2010) was a staggering $739 billion. Namely the bank bailouts plus defence combined ($2189 billion) eat up almost the totality of the federal revenues which in FY 2010 amounted to $2381 billion.

Concluding remarks

What is occurring is that the bank bailouts are no longer functional. At the outset of Obama’s Second term, the coffers of the state are empty. The austerity measures have reached a deadlock.

The bank bail-ins are now being contemplated instead of  the “bank bailouts”.

The lower and middle income groups which are invariably indebted will not be the main target. The appropriation of bank deposits would essentially target the upper middle and upper income groups which have significant bank deposits. The second target will be the bank accounts of small and medium sized firms.

This transition is part of the evolution of the global economic crisis and the impasse underlying the application of the austerity measures.

The purpose of the global financial actors is to wipe out competitors, consolidate and centralize bank power and exert an overriding control over the real economy, the institutions of government and the military.

Even if the bail-ins were to be regulated and applied selectively to a limited number of failing financial institutions, credit unions, etc, the announcement of a program of confiscation of deposits could potentially lead to a generalized “run on the banks”. In this context, no banking institution would be regarded as safe.

The application of Bail-in procedures involving deposit confiscation (even when applied locally or selectively) would create financial havoc. It would interrupt the payments process. Wages would no longer be paid. Purchasing power would collapse. Money for investment in plant and equipment would no longer be forthcoming. Small and medium sized businesses would be precipitated into bankruptcy.

The application of a Bail-In in the EU or North America would initiate a new phase of the global financial crisis, a deepening of the economic depression, a greater centralization of banking and finance, increased concentration of corporate power in the real economy to the detriment of regional and local level enterprises.

In turn, an entire global banking network characterized by electronic transactions (which govern deposits, withdrawals, etc), –not to mention money transactions on the stock and commodity markets– could potentially be the object of significant disruptions of a systemic nature.

The social consequences would be devastating. The real economy would plummet as a result of the collapse in the payments system.

The potential disruptions in the functioning of an integrated global monetary system could result in a a renewed global economic meltdown as well as a drop off in international commodity trade.

It is important that people across the land, in the European Union and North America, nationally and internationally, forcefully act against the diabolical ploys of their governments –acting on behalf of dominant financial interests– to implement a selective process of  bank deposit confiscation.


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US, Britain Push for Military Intervention in Syria

July 20th, 2013 by Chris Marsden

The Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, has told the Senate that the Obama administration is actively considering the use of military force in Syria.

Dempsey said Thursday that he had provided President Barack Obama with options for military strikes in Syria. Responding to hostile questioning from Republican Senator John McCain, a leading advocate of US military intervention, he said the use of “kinetic” strikes—i.e., missiles and bombs—“is under deliberation inside of our agencies of government.”

He said that if not, then President Bashar al-Assad would still hold power in a year because “[C]urrently the tide seems to have shifted in his favour.” Given how much Washington has invested in Assad’s removal, this is a powerful indication that the US is moving to a military solution sooner rather than later.

Senator Carl Levin even asked Dempsey to provide the Senate panel with an unclassified list of options by next week. That same day, it was announced that the military commander of the opposition Free Syrian Army, General Salim Idriss, would visit the US next week for meetings at the UN and possibly the White House.

Also speaking to the Senate, Samantha Power, Obama’s nominee for ambassador to the UN, described “the failure of the UN Security Council to respond to the slaughter in Syria” as “a disgrace that history will judge harshly.”

She cautioned against placing too much emphasis on breaking Russia and China from their alliance with Assad, indicating that Washington is contemplating action without UN authorisation.

Dempsey spoke after the outgoing head of the British armed forces, General Sir David Richards, spoke to The Daily Telegraph and Rupert Murdoch’s The Sun, indicating that a joint military intervention with the US was under active discussion. Richards said “there is a great reluctance to see Western boots on the ground in a place like Syria,” and that a no-fly zone “is insufficient… You have to be able, as we did successfully in Libya, to hit ground targets.”

He told The Sun that the UK “would have to act” if the Assad regime collapsed, to stop the proliferation of chemical weapons to Islamist insurgents. “The risk of terrorism is becoming more and more dominant in our strategic vision for what we might do in Syria,” he said. “If that risk develops, we would almost certainly have to act to mitigate it and we are ready to do so… Some could characterise that, even though it might be for a limited period, as a war.”

Advocates of war from across the political establishment, from Power to McCain, invoke the humanitarian disaster in Syria as providing a supposed moral imperative.

This week the media was filled with chilling depictions of the situation in Syria, emanating from the UN or from pro-opposition groups. The UN’s refugee chief Antonio Guterres told the Security Council that the Syrian conflict has caused the worst refugee crisis for 20 years, with 6,000 people fleeing the country every day. In addition, 5,000 people are being killed each month, bringing total casualties to over 93,000 and refugees to over five million.

Leila Zerrougui, the UN’s special representative for children and armed conflict, visiting refugee camps, spoke of “serious human rights abuses, war crimes and crimes against humanity” in Syria as “the rule.” The conflict was producing “a generation of children who lost their childhood, have a lot of hate and are illiterate.”

The media dutifully reported the visit by US Secretary of State John Kerry to a refugee camp in Jordan. A carefully choreographed appeal was made by six “refugees”—supporters of the opposition—for the US to immediately set up a no-fly zone and buffer zones.

“Where is the international community? What are you waiting for?” asked an unnamed woman.

This is contemptible propaganda. The devastation of Syria, the refugee crisis, the growing list of casualties, and its descent into sectarian warfare, are wholly the responsibility of the imperialist powers.

In the aftermath of the downfall of Zine el-Abedine Ben Ali in Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, the US moved to dictate events—first in Libya and now Syria—by force of arms and through various compliant proxy forces.

The Baathist regime of al-Assad is reactionary to the core, but the opposition movement that developed against him is wholly the creature of the US. It is made up of an alliance of CIA assets, ex-regime figures and Islamists entrusted with the creation of a pro-western regime to ensure that the oil riches of the Middle East continue to flood into the coffers of US-based transnationals and banks.

In the process, brutal sectarian crimes have been committed, threatening to plunge the entire region into a bloody, communal struggle. This week alone, the BBC reported on how Syria’s Christian minority is being targeted by jihadis. Also, mortar shells struck near a major Shiite shrine of Sayida Zeinab, the Prophet Muhammad’s granddaughter, outside Damascus; it has become a rallying point for Hezbollah fighters supporting Assad, now that the Syrian conflict has already spread to Lebanon.

The argument presently unfolding in ruling circles in the US and Europe is over whether Syria should be bled dry through an ongoing campaign of destabilisation funded by the Gulf States and Turkey, or whether to model Syria policy more directly on the war in Libya—which ended in the deposing and murder of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

This campaign is provided with political cover by pseudo-left tendencies such as the International Socialist Organisation in the US, the Socialist Workers Party in Britain and the New Anticapitalist Party in France, who line up to hail the supposed “revolutionary forces” represented by the Syrian opposition.

Speaking in London last weekend, the political representative of the SWP in Syria, Ghayath Naisse, supported the arming of the opposition by Washington declaring, “We want to arm the people,” but “with no conditions.”

Simon Assaf of the SWP was more cynical still, stating, “We support the uprising of the people, to give them arms,” adding that “There is no such thing as a weapons fairy.”

The overthrow of Assad by the imperialist powers and their flunkeys would be a bloody step in the consolidation of US hegemony in the Middle East and towards war against Iran. It would escalate conflict with Russia and China, bringing with it the danger of a far bloodier global war.

Senate immigration bill SB 744may be a savvy way to divide the Republican Party in the coming elections, or a small step forward at the cost of massive militarization of the border. Already many immigrant rights activists are in revolt against the now advancing compromise.

The political stakes are clear enough. President Barack Obama and the Democrats are pushing for a comprehensive immigration reform, and are willing to accept virtually any amendments to win Republican support. For the Democrats, the question is whether they have a bottom line and where it is drawn. On the Republican side, big business and traditional conservatives want cheap labor and a better brand name with Latino voters, but the Tea Party bloc is totally opposed to citizenship rights for immigrants because, frankly, that would dilute white voting strength nationally and in several key states.

The bottom line for progressives should be to legalize the undocumented so that they can be organized, unionized and empowered to vote. The president’s 2012 executive order protecting the Dreamers’ status will confer those benefits on upwards of 1.3 million young people. Under the proposed legislation, the Dreamers would become permanently legalized, no longer subject to administrative waivers. If the bill goes down in partisan flames, the Dreamers status would depend on continued waivers from whatever administration is in power. Approximately one million more agricultural workers will gain a five-year path to legalization while locked into the historically oppressive farm labor economy.

U.S. Border Patrol agent Sal De Leon stands near a section of the U.S.- Mexico border fence while stopping on patrol on April 10, 2013 in La Joya, Texas. (Photo: John Moore)

An estimated 10 million more undocumented people, mostly Latino and Asian, will be affected by the new legislation. According to the Congressional Budget Office report, only 60 percent of those people will make it through the administrative gauntlet of qualifications before becoming able to vote in 13 years. Other critics question whether the 60 percent figure is optimistic and predict that less than 50 percent will make it. This means that instead of 11 to 12 million undocumented people enabled to emerge from “the shadows”, the number will be closer to six million new citizen-voters after another decade.

So the Senate proposal falls far short of opening a “path to citizenship” for 12 million people as often promoted, their electoral impact will not be felt fully until 2027 or later, and the Senate proposal already has been rejected by the House.

On the “enforcement” side, SB 774 looks like a war authorization as funding for Iraq and Afghanistan fade. Labeled a “surge” by its proponents, the number of armed, full-time active duty US Border Patrol agents will double from 18,000 to “no fewer than 38,405…deployed, stationed, and maintained along the Southern Border” – more troops than will be in Afghanistan by the end of next year. The cost of added fencing and surveillance, including drones, is to be $46.3 billion over 10 years. On the Mexican side of the fence, the DEA, FBI and CIA have been engaged in covert efforts to disrupt drug cartels, while border patrol agents and armed vigilantes chase down elusive immigrants, often with children, who enter our southwestern desert.

According to UCLA professor Raul Hinojosa, for the Border Patrol “to catch a Mexican,” it cost US taxpayers $220 per capture in 1992, which escalated to $8,000 by 2013, and would rise further to $25,000 if SB 744 becomes law.

This is more like a counterinsurgency plan than one promoting worker rights and citizenship. The Mérida Initiative, introduced by the Bush administration and continued by Obama, mainly funds drug enforcement rather than development programs. From FY2008 to FY2012, Congress appropriated $1.9 billion in Mérida assistance for Mexico; $234 million in 2013 and $183 million has been requested for FY2014. In general, border security will cost an additional $50 billion over the next decade, 25 times more than Mérida Initiative funding channeled into Mexico at the current rate.