NATO has confirmed that it will be holding major war games in The Mediterranean from September 24 to October 7

“NATO will conduct a major naval exercise code-named Noble Mariner 12 (NOMR12) in the Mediterranean Sea.

NOMR12 plays an important part in the certification process of the NATO Response Force (NRF). This year, the objective is to certify the capacity of France to lead the maritime component of NRF.

… Allied Maritime Command Northwood will oversee both the preparation and conduct of this exercise.
 
Rear Admiral Philippe Coindreau (French Navy), FRMARFOR Commander, will assume command of TF 445.

The successful completion of this exercise will allow FRMARFOR to assume command of the maritime component of the NRF for the whole of 2013.”

These war games involving Britain and France in the Mediterranean coincide chronologically with those conducted under US-NATO auspices in the Persian Gulf, within proximity of Iran’s coastline.

The NATO Task Force (TF) 445 under French Command  will deploy in a so-called “exercise zone”.

The assumption of these war games are a “crisis scenario involving a multi-threat environment”.  They are intended to ” train the staff of participating units in all types of warfare”.

Although no formal announcement has been been made, these war games are intended to put pressure on the Syrian government of Bashar al Assad.

Introduction

This series is aimed at shedding light over contemporary Russian affairs, as I firmly believe that in order to analyze properly current international relations, one must get a strong historical background.

Part 1 will be dedicated to the foundation of the Russian state, and the process, as we will see, began way before 862. Indeed, a political embryo emerged with the state of Gardaríki, centered in Novgorod, which included the areas inhabited by Votes, Veps and Ilmen Slavs. It was set up by the Varangian chief Rurik in 862, marking the traditional beginning of Russian history. [1]

But before the creation of Gardaríki, many nomad tribes settled the land, and their influence over the early Russian state will be further discussed. Then, Rurik’s successor, Oleg of Novgorod founded Kievan Rus’, the first united East Slavic state. [2] Christianity became the official religion of the state in 988, after extended commercial ties with the Bizantine Empire. [3] This crucial event is considered as the beginning of the synthesis between Byzantine and Slavic cultures, which would define Russian culture until the advent of the Empire. [4]

Kievan Rus’ was finally torn apart by the Mongol invasion between 1237 and 1240. In the meantime, regional powers such as Novgorod and Pskov fought to inherit the cultural and political legacy of the former state. However, after the 13th century, Moscow asserted itself as the political center of Russia until tsarism. [5]

The Conquest of the Land by Pre-Slavic inhabitants and Early East Slavs

During Prehistory, the steppes of Southern Russia were home to nomadic tribes, more precisely the Sami people (on the Kola Peninsula), Nenets people (in northern artict Russia) and Chukchis (on the Chukchi Peninsula and in the Bering Sea region). In classical antiquity, the Pontic Steppe was known as Scythia and the term Scythian, like Cimmerian, was used to refer to a variety of groups from the Black Sea to central Asia and southern Siberia. [6] Archeological evidence of these civilizations were found during the 20th century in places like Arkaim, [7] Sintashta, [8] Ipatovo, [9] and Pazyryk. [10]

The Early East Slavs settled Western Russia by moving from Polotsk towards Novgorod and Rostov, and also by heading to Suzdal from Kiev. [11] From the 6th century heretofore they constituted the majority of Western Russia’s population and gradually assimilated the native Finno-Ugric tribes, such as the Meshchera, [12] the Merya [13] and the Muromians. [14]

Traditionally, the changes which took place in eastern Europe during the 6th century are explained through the demographic expansion of Slavic peoples, who carried with them their language and customs.

But given the extreme diversity of origins among Slavic tribes, there is no consensus regarding the precise location of the Slavic homeland, although a majority of scholars consider the northern Carpathian Mountains as a probable place. [15] The protection of the forest steppe kept most of their culture safe from assimilation. That is true for their languages (except for phonetic) and agricultural techniques. [16]

Basically, when the Hun Empire collapsed, a distinct Eastern Slavic culture emerged and spread to eastern and central Europe. According to Gimburtas : “Neither Bulgars nor Avars colonized the Balkan Peninsula; after storming Thrace, Illyria and Greece they went back to their territory north of the Danube. It was the Slavs who did the colonizing; . . . entire families or even whole tribes infiltrated lands. As an agricultural people, they constantly sought an outlet for the population surplus. Suppressed for over a millennium by foreign rule of Scythians, Sarmatians and Goths, they had been restricted to a small territory; now the barriers were down and they poured out”. [17] Besides, Goffart argued that Slavic expansion has been furthered eased by the relative depopulation of eastern Europe, with significant emigration of Germans, and also by the lack (or ineffectiveness) of state defences in the related territories. [18]

However, this point of view has been contested by Nichols : “Ethnic spreads can involve either the spread of a language to speakers of other languages or the spread of a population. Massive population spread or demographic replacement has probably been a rarity in human history…. There is no reason to assume that the Slavic expansion was a primarily demographic event. Some migration took place, but the parsimonious assumption is the Slavic expansion was primarily a linguistic spread”. [19]

Furthermore, Dolukhanov asserts that the Slavs were able to gain substantial political and military experience thanks to their ties with nomads. That would be the way they emerged as a « dominant force » and established « a new sociopolitical network in the entire area of central and southeastern Europe ». [20]

Yet another concept has been used to explain Slavic expansion : system collapse. According to its proponents, the fall of the Roman Empire on the one hand and the Hun Empire on the other hand enabled some minority groups to take over the land and impose their customs and language. [21]

Moreover, Barford noted that Slavic tribes might have existed in a large area of central-eastern Europe, comprising territories lying between Zarubintsy-Przeworsk and Chernyakov, even prior to the Slavic migrations of the 6th to 9th centuries mentioned above. [22]. Then, Geary pointed out that the Slavic outstrech was an addition of local processes resulting in the assimilation of scores of people. It was carried out by small groups of “soldier-farmers” who shared common traditions and language. This decentralized movement was probably what protected Slavic people and their emerging unity from foreign aggressors. [23]

This opinion is strongly upheld by Poh, stating : “Avars and Bulgars conformed to the rules of the game established by the Romans. They built up a concentration of military power that was paid, in the last resort, from Roman tax revenues. Therefore they paradoxically depended on the functioning of the Byzantine state. The Slavs managed to keep up their agriculture (and a rather efficient kind of agriculture, by the standards of the time), even in times when they took their part in plundering Roman provinces. The booty they won apparently did not (at least initially) create a new military class with the greed for more and a contempt for peasant’s work, as it did with the Germans. Thus the Slavic model proved an attractive alternative . . . which proved practically indestructible. Slav traditions, language, and culture shaped, or at least influenced, innumerable local and regional communities: a surprising similarity that developed without any central institution to promote it. These regional ethnogeneses inspired by Slavic tradition incorporated considerable remnants of Roman or Germanic population ready enough to give up ethnic identities that had lost their cohesion”. [24]

Also important is the fact that in the latter part of the 8th century BC, Greek merchants brought classical civilization to Tanais (a city located in the Don river delta) and Phanagoria (which was the largest Greek colony on the Taman peninsula and was chosen by the kings of Bosporus as their capital in Asia). [25] Then, between the 3rd and 6th centuries AD, the Bosporan Kingdom, which succeeded the Greek colonies, [26] was erased after several invasions carried out by nomad. [27]

Therefore, Greek culture had a significant impact on the initial Slavic culture (it will be discussed later in this article).

Although the study of all those peoples’ culture and history is a major topic from an anthropological point of view, it won’t be further studied here, because their influence on the emerging Russian state has been limited, unlike the one of the Khazars, a Turkic people (not to be confused with the Turkish people, which is just one among many ethnic groups composing the Turkic people). Thereby, this study must begin with an examination of the role held by the Khazars at that time.

Khazaria and Rus’ Khaganate: Early Political Influences of the Russian State

The lower Volga basin steppes between the Caspian and Black Seas were ruled by the Khazars, until the 8th century. The political power belonged to the Khagan (i.e emperor) while the army was led by the Khagan Bek. [28] Their political power reached its climax during the European Dark Ages and was critical for the creation of capitalism. [29] Indeed, their strategic and commercial importance between China on one side and the Middle East and Europe on the other gave tremendous riches to most of the Eurasian states of that time. [30]

As a result, Khazars established one of the largest polities of medieval Eurasia, their territory comprising much of present-day European Russia, eastern Ukraine, western Kazakhstan, Azerbaidjan, along with large parts of the northern Caucasus and also parts of the Crimea, Georgia, and northeastern Turkey.

Khazaria (or Khazar Khaganate) was known for its tolerance, cosmolitarianism and fairly developed judicial system. To take just one example, its army incorporated soldiers belonging to each great monotheist religion and even pagans. It was also the main commercial link between the Baltic and the Muslim Abbasid empire centered in Baghdad. [31] As stated before, they were major allies of the Byzantine Empire, [32] and won several wars against the Arab Caliphates. [33]

Another important feature of Khazaria is its jewish faith : it prevented Islam to spread in Europe. [34] According to David Keys, if Arabs had occupied what is now Russia and Ukraine, the Rus’ might never have been able to gain control of southern and eastern territories from the Baltic to establish Russia. [35]

The alliance between Khazaria and the Byzantine empire began to weaken in the early 10th century but the Khazars influenced greatly the Rus’ Khaganate, an early Rus’ polity located in present-day northwestern Russia and Belarus. [36] However, their relations quickly turned hostile as Joseph, the Khazar ruler in the early 960′s, stated : “I have to wage war with them, for if I would give them any chance at all they would lay waste the whole land of the Muslims as far as Baghdad.”. Between 965 and 969, Khazar sovereignty was eventually broken by Kievan Rus’, with the help of the Bizantine empire. The allies achieved their goal by conquering the Khazar fortress of Sarkel, paving the way to a full-scale annihilation of Khazar Khaganate. [37]

Before the Rurik Dynasty and the Kievan Rus’, the Rus’ Khaganate was a congregation of city-states set up by a people called Rus’, who probably came from what is today northern Russia. [38]

The earliest reference related to the Rus’ Khaganate is the Annals of St. Bertin, which mention a group of Norsemen who visited Constantinople in 838. The precise beginning of this polity remains unclear and has been a source of debates as a result. Anymay, Pritsak dates the foundation of the Khaganate to around 830–840, and there are no references mentioning the existence of the Rus’ before the 830′s. [39]

Moreover, the date of the Khaganate’s disintegration has also been contested, partly because the title of Khagan is not mentioned in the Rus’-Byzantine treaties (907, 911, 944), nor in De Ceremoniis, a record of court ceremonials. Therefore, Golden concluded that the Khaganate collapsed at some point between 871 and 922, backed by the fact that ibn Fadlan, in his detailed account of the Rus’ (922), designated their ruler as “king” and not Khagan. [40] Rybakov proved that Kiev was the residence of the Khagan, assuming that Dir and Askold were the only Khagans recorded. [41]

However, a worrisome fact is the failure of archeological expeditions to find coins of that period in the region, which would prove that the Dnieper trade route (which would become the backbone of later Kievan Rus’) was running in the 9th century. [42] As a result, many historians have suggested that the Khaganate must have been located north from Kiev. The first to propose this theory was Bartov. [43]

Besides, the First Novgorod Chronicle mention an uprising in Novgorod before Rurik came to rule the region in the 860′s. This account led Brøndsted to assert that Novgorod was the Khaganate’s capital for several decades prior to the arrival of Rurik. [44]

Then, around the year 860, the Rus’, a group of Vikings lead by Rurik, came from Sweden and began to rule Gardaríki, an area which was comprised of Novgorod, Smolensk, Saint-Petersburg, Tver and Yaroslavl. [45]

The Khazar connection to early Rus’ rulers is supported by the use of a Khazarian seal by Rus’ leaders like Sviatoslav I of Kiev. [46] Consequently, Golden asserts that the Rus’ Khaganate was a puppet state set up by the Khazars in the area of the Oka River to fight off the recurring attacks of the Magyars. [47]

On the contrary, Novoseltsev argues that the adoption of the title “Khagan” was designed to promote the Rus’ claims to the equality with the Khazars. This theory is shared by Noonan, who points out how politically scattered was the emerging Rus’ Khaganate. Therefore, the adoption of the title “Khagan” was aimed at giving legitimacy to the Rus’ leader in the eyes of his subjects and neighboring states. [48]

Anyway, the power in the Rus’ Khaganate was shared by two officials, just like in Khazaria: the Rus’ Khaganate was assisted by a deputy whose main task was to command the army.

Regarding the economy, trade was the main source of income for the Rus’, who according to ibn Rustah did not engage in agriculture: “They have no cultivated fields but depend for their supplies on what they can obtain from as-Saqaliba’s [Slavs] land. They have no estates, villages, or fields; their only business is to trade in sable, squirrel, and other furs, and the money they take in these transactions they stow in their belts.”. [49]. Rus’ merchants travelled down the Volga, paying duties to the Khazars and travelled as far as Baghdad. [50]

According to Vernadsky, the Greeks and the Khazars erected Sarkel between the Volga and the Don River to defend this strategic point from the Rus’. [51] Other scholars, such as Franklin and Shepard, believe that Sarkel was aimed at repelling (or at least monitoring) the Magyars and other steppe tribes, but not the Rus’. [52]

In 860, the Byzantine army was busy waging war against the Abbasid Caliphate, which enabled the Rus’ to besiege Constantinople. [53]

However, in the early10th century relations between the Khazars and the Rus’ began to sour, while Photius informed other Orthodox bishops about the Christianization of the Rus’, which led to the complete destruction of all the centres of the Khaganate in North-Western Russia. Braichevsky labelled it as a “pagan reaction” against the Christianization of the Rus’. [54]

Soon after, between 880′s and 890′s the Volga trade route ceased functioning, precipitating “the first silver crisis in Europe”. As we might expect, a period of economic depression and political upheaval followed this crisis, but the recovery occurred quite quickly, at the beginning of the 900′s. The arrival of Rurik’s viking crew was probably influencial in the process, because he decided to shift the trade route from the Volga to the Dnieper. [55] Consequently, Kiev developed into an important urban centre and Kievan Rus’ replaced the Rus’ Khaganate when Rurik decided to move the capital from Novgorod to Kiev after having thrown out the Khazars. [56]

Kievan Rus’ and the Republic of Novgorod: the Particularity of the Russian Middle-Age

In 880, the Kievan Rus’ was officially founded by Prince Oleg, who subordinated the various Eastern Slavic and Finnic tribes. By 884 he managed to subjugate the Polians, Vyatichs, Drevlians, Radimichs and Severians. In 907, Oleg led an attack against Constantinople leaving Igor, son of Rurik in Kiev.

Through a treaty, Oleg managed to impose a bribe upon Greeks, then in 911 he signed a commercial treaty with the Byzantine Empire as an equal partner. In 912, the Drevlians took advantage of the death of Oleg to momentarily break away but were conquered back by Igor.

The new Kievan state prospered because it controlled the three major trade routes of Eastern Europe: the Volga trade route from the Baltic Sea to the Orient, the Dnieper trade route from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea, and the trade route from the Khazars to the Germans. They grew also through the trade of furs and honey.

Following the death of Igor in 945, his wife Olga ruled as regent in Kiev until their son Sviatoslav reached maturity, in 963. His reign was marked by a fast expansion through the invasion of the Balkans and the conquest of the Khazars of the Pontic steppe. At the end of his life, Sviatoslav was in charge of the largest state in Europe, eventually moving his capital from Kiev to Pereyaslavets in 969, but his conquests, for the most part, were not consolidated into an empire due to fratricidal quarrels among his sons. [57]

In the mid 11th century, the state reached its maximal power as its territory extended east to the Volga, west to the Kingdom of Poland and to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and south to the Black Sea.

Junior members of the dynasty usually began their career as rulers of a minor province, then progressed to more important principalities and finally competed for the throne of Kiev. Officials and soldiers received income and land from the princes in return for their political and military services. Merchants and artisans sometimes exercised political influence through a city assembly, the veche (council), which included all the adult males in the population. A class of tribute-paying peasants, who owed labor duty to the princes existed but there was not a widespread serfdom system, which was a major feature of medieval Western Europe. [58]

The reigns of Vladimir the Great (980–1015) and his son Yaroslav I the Wise (1019–1054) are regarded as the “Golden Age” of Kiev, which saw the introduction of Christianity (988) and the creation of the first East Slavic written legal code, the Russkaya Pravda, which means literally “Justice of Rus’ “.

Capital punishment in Kievan Rus’ was rare compared to feudal Western Europe, as the Pravda favored fines as punishment. [59] Besides, some rights were accorded to women, such as property and inheritance rights. Therefore, the Kievan judicial system was particularly modern compared to the standards of that time. [60]

 

The christianization was decided because Vladimir’s emissaries in Constantinople were amazed by the beauty of the cathedral of Hagia Sophia and its liturgical service. Vladimir’s choice of Eastern Christianity was made official by his wedding with Princess Anna, the sister of the Byzantine emperor, Basil II. [61]

Besides, this choice was probably heavily influenced by Vladimir’s personal ties with Constantinople, which dominated the Black Sea and more particularly the Dnieper River, which was Kievan Rus’ main commercial route. Therefore, joining the Eastern Church had tremendous political and commercial consequences.

In the meantime, the conversion to Christianity of the Eastern Slavs introduced them to science, Greek philosophy and history, without learning Greek as Hagia Sophia’s liturgy was available in cyrillic. [62]

As a result of their independence from the Roman authority, the East Slavs developed their own literature and arts, which are pretty different from those of other Eastern Orthodox countries. [63] Literacy was high in Kiev, Novgorod and other large cities, compared to European standards of that time. [64]

A son of Vladimir the Great, Yaroslav was vice-regent of Novgorod when his father died in 1015. In 1019, he defeated his brother Svyatopolk with the help of Novgorodians and Viking mercenaries, as Svyatopolk killed three of his other brothers to seize power in Kiev. [65] Yaroslav looked forward to improving relations with the rest of Europe, especially the Byzantine Empire, which was also a concern for his father. He further expanded his power through arranged marriages for his sister and three daughters to the kings of France, Norway, Poland and Hungary. Yaroslav’s major achievements is the enactment of the Russkaya Pravda, while the construction of Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev and Saint Sophia Cathedral in Novgorod used to demonstrate his power to the neighboring states. [66]

The state declined in the late 11th, following the death of Yaroslav, and imploded in the 12th century to leave the land unruled because of the emergence of several regional powers due to this collapse.

A major cause has been the nature of the political system itself: the power was transferred not from father to son, but to the eldest member of the ruling dynasty. Of course it entailed rivalry and hatred within the royal family. Three of Yaroslav’s sons fought each other after their defeat at the Battle of the Alta River against the Cumans (1068) while an unrest took place in Kiev, bringing to power Vseslav of Polotsk.

In 1097, Vladimir II Monomakh organized the first federal council of Kievan Rus in Liubech , in order to reach an agreement among the various fighting sides. The last ruler to maintain a relative unity within the state was Mstislav the Great. After his death in 1132, the Kievan Rus fell into decline and his successor struggled with the growing power of the Novgorod Republic. [67] Then in 1169, Bogolyubsky of Vladimir-Suzdal’ destroyed Kiev and by the end of the 12th century the Kievan state became even further fragmented. [68]

After this, the state was further weakened by the collapse of Rus’ commercial ties to Constantinople due to the Crusades, which made the Dnieper a marginal as a result of the destruction of Constantinople by the christians. More precisely, the trade route between the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea was the backbone of Kiev’s economy as it served as the main trade route between the Varangians and the Greeks, and the Black Sea was controlled by Constantinople at that time. Thereby, once the Byzantine Empire collapsed, trade on this route plummeted and Kiev lost its appeal as a result. [69]

In the north, the Republic of Novgorod prospered as part of the Hanseatic League, the first international trading confederation in history. [70] The city’s oligarchy controlled trade routes from the River Volga to the Baltic Sea and as Kievan Rus’ declined, it became more independent (but continued to be part of Kievan Rus’).

An interesting feature in the development of Novgorod is that although it was ruled by a local oligarchy, a republican government existed there because major political decisions had to be made by a town assembly, which also elected a prince as the city’s military leader. It is possible that there was also a kind of “Council of Lords” that was headed by the archbishop but its actual power remains unclear today and he was elected by Novgorodians anyway. Its economy was mainly based on salt and furs, with the lands located north of the city being critical in that regard. Indeed, they supplied most of the above mentioned items and Novgorod had to defend them against Moscow in the late 14th century. The victory of Moscow brought about the decline of Novgorod and boosted Moscow’s development until it became the heart of Russia. [71]

In the northeast, Slavs from the Kievan area colonized the territory that would become the Grand Duchy of Moscow. Rostov, which was the oldest centre of this region has been overtaken first by Suzdal and then by the city of Vladimir, which became the capital of Vladimir-Suzdal’, a principality which would assert itself as a major power in Kievan Rus’ in the late 12th century.

Indeed, Bogolyubskiy, the prince of Vladimir-Suzdal destroyed Kiev in 1169, which resulted in the rise of Vladimir-Suzdal as the main principality succeeding Kievan Rus’. [72]

From the Vladimir-Suzdal Principality to the Grand Duchy of Moscow

The principality progressively grew into a grand duchy which was divided into several smaller principalities. After the Mongol invasion, it became a self-governed state ruled by its own nobility. The principality was bounded by the Volga, Northern Dvina and Oka Rivers.

In 1238, the Mongols set fire to the city of Vladimir, along with other cities in northern Russia. [73]

They conquered gradually most of the Russian principalities, with the notable exception of Novgorod.

The princes of eastern and southern Russia had to pay tribute to the Mongols of the Golden Horde, commonly called Tatars. [74]

As a result, old cultural centers such as Kiev and Vladimir never recovered from the devastation of the attack, while Moscow (an insignificant trade city back then), Novgorod (still prospering thanks to the Hanseatic League) and Tver began to compete in order to take control of the mongol-dominated land. [75] Mongol domination continued until 1480 and entailed the division of the East Slavic people into three separate nations (modern day Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus). [76]

A major cause of the rise of Moscow was that in 1327 the prince of Tver joined a rebellion against the Mongols while prince Ivan I of Moscow allied with the Mongols to crush Tver and to devastate its lands.

By doing so he got rid of his rival, allowed the Russian Orthodox Church to move its headquarters to Moscow, and was granted the title of Grand prince by the Mongols.

As a result, the Muscovite princes became the main intermediaries between the Mongol chiefs and the Rus’ principalities. To reward them of their docility, the Mongols didn’t raid Moscow-controlled lands, which attracted nobles who sought to settle in these relatively secure lands. [77]

The influence of the Mongols on the Russian nobility was so deep that a survey of Russian noble families of the 17th century established that over 15% of the Russian noble families had Tatar or Oriental origins. [78]. Therefore, historians generally consider that without the Mongol destruction of Kievan Rus’, Moscow, and subsequently the Russian Empire, would not have risen. Meanwhile, the isolation from the West may have caused Russia’s later non-involvement in the Renaissance and the Protestant Reformation, both critical in the emergence of capitalism. [79]

The judicial system has also been heavily influenced by the mongol presence, as capital punishment and the use of torture became widespread, while during Kievan Rus’ it had “only” been applied to slaves.

However, penal law in western Europe at the same time was even harsher than mongol law. [80]

On the other hand, the Russian fiscal system, transportation, military tactics and census were developed under the Mongol domination. [81]

In a nutshell, Moscow’s leadership expanded through war, purchase and marriage.

Indeed, the first ruler of the principality of Moscow, Daniel I, son of Alexander Nevsky of Vladimir-Suzdal, expanded his principality by seizing Kolomna, while his son Yuriy would take over Mozhaisk, ally with Uzbeg Khan of the Golden Horde, marry the Khan’s sister and gain the title of Duke of Vladimir-Suzdal as a result. It was this special position within occupied Rus’ which enabled the Muscovite nobility to interfere into the affairs of the powerful Republic of Novgorod.

Then, Yuriy’s successor, Ivan I managed to keep the title of Grand Duke by cooperating closely with the Mongols, more precisely by collecting taxes from other Rus’ principalities on their behalf.

Ivan’s successors continued to gather the lands of Rus’ to increase the population and wealth under their rule. After this, Dmitri of Moscow managed to unite the principalities of Rus’ in his struggle against the Horde and became a national hero, although his attempt didn’t work in the short term.

Vasily I continued the policies of his father and desisted from paying tribute to the Khan. Married to the only daughter of Vytautas, the Grand Duke of Lithuania, Vasily attempted to avoid open conflicts with him, even when the former annexed Smolensk. His long reign was marked by the expansion to the east (annexation of Suzdal in 1392) and to the north (annexation of Veliky Ustyug, Vologda and Perm of Vychegda in 1398). [82]

Another reason explaining the expansion of the Grand Duchy of Moscow was its favorable dynastic situation, when each sovereign was succeeded by his son, contrary to rival principalities, which experienced many strifes within their own dynasties.

In the 14th and 15th centuries, expansion of the Grand Duchy of Moscow went along with internal consolidation. Indeed, the state was successful in destroying and annexing Novgorod in 1478 and the Grand Duchy of Tver (allied with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania) in 1485, thereby getting rid of direct political competitors.

Indeed, Ivan III, during his 43 year reign over the Grand Duchy of Moscow, further strengthened the state (after defeating the declining Golden Horde) partly by seizing the lands of his brothers, campaigned against his remaining rival power, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and, by 1503, he had tripled the territory of his principality. He adopted the title of Tsar and claimed the title of “Ruler of all Rus’”, while his marriage to the niece of the last Byzantine emperor asserted Moscow as the “Third Rome”, the successor state of the Roman Empire.

He competed with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania for control over some of the former principalities of Kievan Rus’ in the upper Dnieper and Donets river basins. It was also under Ivan III that the new Russian Sudebnik, or law code, was compiled by the scribe Vladimir Gusev. [83]

The reign of the Tsars started officially with Ivan the Terrible, but in practice it started with Ivan III, who completed the centralization of the state, traditionally known as the gathering of the Russian lands.

The Moscow princes combined customs and ceremonies inherited from Kievan Rus’ with those imported from the Byzantine Empire and the Golden Horde. During the times of dynastic troubles, like during part of the reign of Ivan IV, boyards (i.e the most senior aristocrats) constituted an internal force which was a permanent threat to the throne. During such conflicts, Muscovite monarchs felt the necessity to counterbalance the the power of the boyards by creating a new kind of nobility, based on personal devotion to the Tsar, rather than by heredity. [84]

To conclude, the Grand Duchy of Moscow drew people and wealth to the northeastern part of Kievan Rus’; established trade links to the Baltic Sea, Siberia and the Caspian Sea. It created a highly centralized political system, whose traditions would exert a powerful influence on the future development of the Russian society. [85]

This part had the ambitious aim to sum up more than ten centuries of history. At the end of it, I hope readers can remind of a handful of key ideas:

  • From the dawn of humanity, the Russian civilization has been a multicultural one
  • Extended political and commercial ties with central asian and middle-eastern states existed as soon as the 9th century. This is an interesting fact to be aware of if one is to understand today’s geopolitical relations between Russia and its Arab partners …
  • The history of Kievan Rus’ and the Republic of Novgorod offers striking evidences against the western belief that the Russian people has always been more violent and less educated that their western counterparts, as the exact opposite is true regarding this period of time (not to mention the consequences of the destruction of Constantinople by the Crusaders …)
  • Novgorod and other merchant cities prospered without joining the initial capitalist movement, meaning trade is possible and suitable if it does not imply the impoverishment of weaker commercial partners and workers
  • The Grand Duchy of Moscow was an authoritarian political system which paved the way to its successors in that regard. Nevertheless, the context should not be forgotten: the Mongol domination has been critical in the emergence of such a hard line regime. Wars of independence are rarely followed by progressive governments …

Part 2 of this series will deal with Tsarism and the Russian empire, in order to explain how Russia eventually became a major power.

Notes :

[1] Wladyslaw Duczko,Viking Rus: Studies on the Presence of Scandinavians in Eastern Europe, Brill Academic Pub, 2004

 

[2] http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/317574/Kievan-Rus

[3] Glenn E. Curtis, ed, “ Kievan Rus’ and Mongol Periods” , excerpted from Russia: A Country Study, Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress, 1996

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Kristian Kristiansen, Europe Before History. Cambridge University Press. 2000

[7] Ludmila Koryakova, “ Sintashta-Arkaim Culture ”, lectured at the University of California, Berkeley, 1998. Excerpt made available by The Center for the Study of the Eurasian Nomads (CSEN)

[8] Robert Drews, Early Riders: The beginnings of mounted warfare in Asia and Europe, Routledge, 2004

[9] Andrej Belinskij and Heinrich Härke, “ The ‘Princess’ of Ipatovo ”, Archeology, vol. 52, 1999

[10] Robert Drews, op. cit.

[11] David Christian, A History of Russia, Central Asia and Mongolia, Blackwell Publishing, 1998

[12] Aleksandr L. Mongaĭt, Archeology in the U.S.S.R., Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1959

[13] Henry K Paszkiewicz, The Making of the Russian Nation, Greenwood Pub Group, 1977

[14] Rosamond McKitterick, The New Cambridge Medieval History, Cambridge University Press, 1995

[15] Florin Curta, The Making of the Slavs: History and Archaeology of the Lower Danube Region, Cambridge University Press, 2007

[16] Paul R. Magocsi, A History of Ukraine, University of Toronto Press, 1996

[17] Marija Gimburtas, The Slavs, Praeger, 1971

[18] Walter Goffart, ” Does the Distant Past Impinge on the Invasion Age Germans? ” in Andrew Gillett, ed., On Barbarian Identity. Critical Approaches to Ethnicity in the Early Middle Ages, Brepols, 2002

[19] Nicholas V. Riasanovsky (quoting Johanna Nichols), Russian Identities: A Historical Survey, Oxford University Press, 2005

[20] Pavel M. Dolukhanov, The Early Slavs: Eastern Europe from the Initial Settlement to the Kievan Rus, Longman Pub Group, 1996

[21] Colin Renfrew, Archaeology and Language: The Puzzle of Indo-European Origins, Cambridge University Press, 1990

[22] Paul M. Barford, The Early Slavs : Culture and Society in Early Medieval Eastern Europe, Cornell University Press, 2001

[23] Patrick J. Geary, Myth of Nations. The Medieval Origins of Europe, Princeton University Press, 2003

[24] Walter Pohl, ” A Non-Roman Empire in Central Europe: the Avars “, in Hans-Werner Goetz, Jorg Jarnut and Walter Pohl, Regna and Gentes: The Relationship Between Late Antique and Early Medieval peoples and Kingdoms in the Transformation of the Roman World, Brill Academic Pub, 2003

[25] Esther Jacobson, The Art of the Scythians: The Interpenetration of Cultures at the Edge of the Hellenic World, Brill, 1995

[26] Gocha R. Tsetskhladze, Greek Colonisation: An Account Of Greek Colonies and Other Settlements Overseas: Volume 1, Brill, 2006

[27] Peter Turchin, Historical Dynamics: Why States Rise and Fall, Princeton University Press, 2003

[28] David Christian, op. cit.

[29] Samuel A. M. Adshead, Material Culture in Europe and China, 1400-1800: The Rise of Consumerism, Palgrave Macmillan, 1997

[30] Samuel A. M. Adshead, Central Asia in World History, Palgrave MD, 1993

[31] André Wink, Al-Hind, the Making of an Indo-Islamic World, Brill, 2004

[32] András Róna-Tas, Hungarians and Europe in the Early Middle Ages: An Introduction to Early Hungarian History, Central European University Press, 1999

[33] David Christian, op. cit.

[34] Daniel H. Frank and Oliver Leaman, History of Jewish Philosophy, Routledge, 1997

[35] David Keys, Catastrophe: An Investigation into the Origins of Modern Civilization, Ballantine Books, 2000

[36] András Róna-Tas, op. cit.

[37] Norman Golb and Omeljan Pritsak, Khazarian Hebrew Documents of the Tenth Century. Cornell University Press, 1982

[38] Janet Nelson, ed., The Annals of St-Bertin, Manchester University Press, 1991

[39] Omeljan Pritsak, The Origin of Rus’, Vol 1: Old Scandanavian Sources Other than the Sagas, Ukrainian Research Institute of Harvard University, 1982

[40] Peter B. Golden, Central Asia in World History, Oxford University Press, 2011

[41] Boris A. Rybakov, Early centuries of Russian history, Progress Publishers, 1965

[42] Thomas S. Noonan, The Islamic World, Russia and the Vikings, 750-900: The Numismatic Evidence, Variorum, 1998

[43] David Christian, op. cit.

[44] Johannes Brondsted, The Vikings, Penguin Books, 1983

[45] F. Donald Logan, The Vikings in History, Routledge, 2005, 3rd edition

[46] Florin Curta, East Central and Eastern Europe in the Early Middle Ages, University of Michigan Press, 2005

[47] Peter B. Golden, op. cit.

[48] Thomas S. Noonan, op. cit.

[49] Johannes Brondsted, op. cit.

[50] Kate Fleet, Gudrun Krämer, Denis Matringe, John Nawas and Everett Rowson, éd., Encyclopaedia of Islam, Brill Academic Pub, 2010

[51] George Vernadsky, A History of Russia, Yale University Press, 1961

[52] Simon Franklin and Jonathan Shepard, The Emergence of Rus: 750-1200, Addison Wesley Publishing Company, 1996

[53] Ibid.

[54] Serhii Plokhy, The Origins of the Slavic Nations: Premodern Identities in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, Cambridge University Press, 2010

[55] Thomas S. Noonan, op. cit.

[56] Franklin and Shepard, op.cit.

[57] Orland Figes, Robin Milner-Gulland and Lindsey A. Hughes, éd., The Russian Chronicles: A Thousand Years That Changed the World, Thunder Bay Press, 2001

[58] Ibid

[59] Paul R. Magocsi, op. cit.

[60] Janet Martin, Medieval Russia: 980-1584, Cambridge University Press, 2008

[61] Ibid.

[62] Simon Franklin, “ Greek in Kievan Rus’ ” in Dumbarton Oaks Papers, Dumbarton Oaks, 1992

[63] Simon Franklin, Writing, Society and Culture in Early Rus, Cambridge University Press, 2002

[64] Ibid.

[65] http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/652106/Yaroslav-I

[66] Simon Franklin and Jonathan Shepard, op. cit.

[67] http://www.shsu.edu/~his_ncp/Kievan.html

[68] Nancy S. Kollmann, “ Collateral Succession in Kievan Rus’ ”, Harvard Ukrainian Studies, Vol. 14, 1990

[69] Serhii Plokhy, op. cit.

[70] Edwin S. Hunt and James Murray, A History of Business in Medieval Europe: 1200-1550, Cambridge University Press, 1999

[71] Nevill Forbes, Robert Michell, A A Shakhmaton and Charles R. Beazley, The Chronicle of Novgorod: 1016-1471, BiblioBazaar, 2009

[72] Walter G. Moss, A History of Russia, Vol. 1: To 1917, Anthem Press, 2003

[73] Janet Martin, op. cit.

[74] http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHistories.asp?historyid=aa76

[75] Sigfried J. De Laet, History of Humanity: Scientific and Cultural Development, Taylor & Francis, 2005

[76] Boris A. Rybakov, op. cit.

[77] Richard Pipes, Russia under the Old Regime, Penguin Books, revised edition, 1997

[78] George Vernadsky, op. cit.

[79] Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2010

[80] George Vernadsky, op. cit.

[81] Glenn E. Curtis, “Muscovy”, op. cit.

[82] Richard Pipes, op. cit.

[83] http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/298142/Ivan-III

[84] Glenn E. Curtis, “Muscovy”, op. cit.

[85] Walter G. Moss, op. cit.

Julien Paolantoni earned a BSc of Economics & Management from the University of Bordeaux, France and enrolled in the MSc of Political Science still at the same university. He can be reached at:

[email protected]

 

 

Dollar Hegemony in the Empire of the Damned

September 26th, 2012 by Colin Todhunter

Many commentators and economists wonder if the US is able to turn its ailing economy around. The reality is that it is bankrupt. However, as long as the dollar remains the world currency, the US can continue to pay its bills by simply printing more money. But once the world no longer accepts the dollar as world reserve currency, the US will no longer be able to continue to pay its way or to fund its wars by relying on what would then be a relatively valueless paper currency.

And the US realises this. Today, more than 60 per cent of all foreign currency reserves in the world are in US dollars, and the US will attempt to prevent countries moving off the dollar by any means possible. It seems compelled to do this simply because its economic infrastructure seems too weak and US corporate cartels will do anything to prevent policies that eat into their profits or serve to curtail political influence. They serve their own interests, not any notional ‘national interest’.

Pail Graig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury, notes that much of the most productive part of the US economy has been moved offshore in order to increase corporate profits. By doing so, the US has lost critical supply chains, industrial infrastructure, and the knowledge of skilled workers. According to Roberts, the US could bring its corporations back to America by taxing their profits abroad and could also resort to protective tariffs, but such moves would be contrary to the material interests of the ruling oligarchy of private interests, which hold so much sway over US politics.

So, with no solution to the crisis in site, the US is compelled to expand its predatory capitalism into foreign markets such as India and to wage imperialist wars to maintain global allegiance to the dollar and US hegemony. And this is exactly what we are seeing today as the US strategy for global supremacy is played out.

Over the past two decades, the US has extended its influence throughout Eastern Europe, many of the former Soviet states in central Asia and, among other places, in the former Yugoslavia, Libya, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria and Pakistan. But with each passing year and each new conflict, the US has been drawing closer and closer to direct confrontation with Russia and China, particularly as it enters their backyards in Asia and as China continues to emerge as a serious global power.

Both countries are holding firm over Syria. Syria plays host to Russia’s only naval base outside of the former USSR, and Russia and China know that if the US and its proxies topple the Assad government, Tehran becomes a much easier proposition. Ideally, the US would like to install compliant regimes in Moscow and Beijing and exploiting political and ethnic divisions in the border regions of Russia and China would be that much easier if Iran fell to US interests.

A global US strategy is already in force to undermine China’s growth and influence, part of which was the main reason for setting up AFRICOM: US Africa Command with responsibility for military operations and relations across Africa. But China is not without influence, and its actions are serving to weaken the hegemony of the US dollar, thereby striking at a key nerve of US power.

China has been implementing bilateral trade agreements with a number of countries, whereby trade is no longer conducted in dollars, but in local currencies. Over the past few years,China and other emerging powers such as Russia have been making agreements to move away from the US dollar in international trade. The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China,South Africa) also plan to start using their own currencies when trading with each other. Russia and China have been using their own national currencies when trading with eachother for more than a year.

A report from Africa’s largest bank, Standard Bank, recently stated:

“We expect at least $100 billion (about R768 billion) in Sino-African trade – more than the total bilateral trade between China and Africa in 2010 – to be settled in the renminbi by 2015.”

Under Saddam, Iraq was not using the dollar as the base currency for oil transactions, neither is Iran right now. Even Libya’s Muammar Gadhaffi was talking about using a gold backed dinar as the reserve currency for parts of Africa. Look what happened to Libya and Iraq as a result.

In 2000, Iraq converted all its oil transactions to euros. When U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, it returned oil sales from the euro to the dollar. Little surprise then that we are currently watching the US attempt to remove the Iranian regime via sanctions, destabilization, intimidation and the threat of all out war.

In the meantime, though, Iran is looking east to China, Pakistan and central Asia in order to counteract the effects of US sanctions and develop its economy and boost trade. In order to sustain its empire, US aggression is effectively pushing the world into different camps and a new cold war that could well turn into a nuclear conflict given  that    Russia,          China and Pakistan all have nuclear weapons.

The US economy appears to be in terminal decline. The only way to prop it up is by lop-sided trade agreements or by waging war to secure additional markets and resources and to ensure the dollar remains the world reserve currency. Humankind is currently facing a number of serious problems. But, arguably, an empire in decline armed to the teeth with both conventional and nuclear weapons and trapped in a cycle of endless war in what must surely be a futile attempt to stave off ruin is the most serious issue of all.

Originally from the northwest of England,  Colin Todhunter has spent many years in India. He has written extensively for the Deccan Herald (the Bangalore-based broadsheet), New Indian Express and Morning Star (Britain). His articles have also appeared in various other publications. His East by Northwest website is at http://colintodhunter.blogspot.com

Obama uses UN Speech to Threaten War against Iran

September 26th, 2012 by Bill Van Auken

President Barack Obama postured before the United Nations Tuesday as the champion of peace and democracy, while threatening war against Iran and demanding a crackdown against the wave of anti-US demonstrations that have swept the Middle East.

This, Obama’s fourth address to an opening session of the UN General Assembly since taking office in 2009, was saturated with hypocritical invocations of “American values” and lies about Washington’s actions on the world stage.

The US president delivered an unmistakable threat that the US is preparing to launch yet another war of aggression, this time against Iran, with potentially far bloodier consequences than those it has carried out in Afghanistan and Iraq over the last decade.

“Make no mistake: a nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained,” Obama declared. “It would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of Gulf nations, and the stability of the global economy. It risks triggering a nuclear arms race in the region and the unraveling of the non-proliferation treaty. That is why… the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

Asserting that there is “still time” for the US to force Iran to cede to its demands by means of diplomacy, he added, “that time is not unlimited.”

The facts are that international inspectors have found no evidence that Iran has embarked on a nuclear weapons program or is doing anything other than developing nuclear power for peaceful purposes. Israel, which is supposedly threatened with “elimination,” has built some 400 atomic weapons while refusing to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and categorically rejecting any inspection of its secret nuclear program. If there is a threat of an arms race in the region and a breakdown of the non-proliferation agreement, this Israeli nuclear stockpile is its source.

Obama’s speech came one day after the US Treasury Department claimed to have uncovered links between Iran’s state oil company and the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, providing a pretext for escalating its unilateral sanctions against banks doing business with the company.

Meanwhile, the US has assembled its largest ever armada in the Persian Gulf, including two aircraft carrier battle groups, a new “forward staging base” vessel, and half of the US Navy’s mine-sweeping fleet, all of which are participating in joint exercises with warships from over 30 countries.

Much of the US president’s 30-minute speech was dedicated to the recent upheavals that swept the Middle East and predominantly Muslim countries in South Asia and Africa, with crowds attacking US embassies in over a dozen capitals. Describing the protests as “mindless violence,” Obama lumped them together with the September 11 attack by an Islamist militia on the US consulate and a CIA headquarters in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi that killed US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

Obama declared these events “an assault on the very ideals upon which the United Nations was founded—the notion that people can resolve their differences peacefully; that diplomacy can take the place of war.”

What insolence! After a decade of US wars that have claimed the lives of over a million Iraqis and Afghans, the US president is the last person to lecture the people of the Middle East on how to “resolve their differences peacefully” and the advantages of diplomacy over war.

Obama added, “If we are serious about these ideals, we must speak honestly about the deeper causes of this crisis.” However, he did no such thing. Instead, he treated the anger against the US as merely the product of the crude anti-Islamic video “Innocence of the Muslims” and of those who promote “hatred of America, or the West, or Israel.”

There was nothing in the speech about Washington’s wars, its unconditional support for Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians, or its reliance on dictatorial regimes and absolute monarchs to secure semi-colonial control over the region and its energy resources.

Obama went on to present a potted history of US reaction to the so-called “Arab Spring” that began with working class uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt early last year. Washington, he claimed, had “supported the forces of change,” had been “inspired by the Tunisian protests,” had “insisted on change in Egypt,” and had “supported a transition in Yemen, because the interests of the people were not being served by a corrupt status quo.”

Anyone familiar with the recent history of the region knows that the American president is lying. The US government was so “inspired” by the revolt in Tunisia that it approved a $12 million military aid package to the dictatorial regime of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to help it beat and shoot the demonstrators into submission.

It pursued the same policy in Egypt, seeking to the bitter end to prop up Hosni Mubarak, whose regime had been kept in power with US military aid and political support for three decades. Only after it was clear that the two dictators could no longer cling to power did the US shift policy, working to salvage as much as it could of the old regimes.

As for Yemen, the US-backed “transition” has kept in power a regime that is virtually identical to the old one, with the dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh replaced by his vice president, and with the US carrying out far more intense military intervention, with dozens of drone assassinations and special forces raids.

Obama presented the US-NATO war for regime-change in Libya as well as the attempt by Washington and its allies to topple the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria as a continuation of this “Arab Spring.”

In Libya, he claimed, the US intervened under a UN mandate to protect civilians. In reality, it brazenly violated this mandate, waging an aggressive war that led to the deaths of tens of thousands of Libyans. The proxy forces it supported on the ground included the same Islamist militia elements that killed the US ambassador in Benghazi. Its aims, as in Iraq, were not humanitarian or democratic, but predatory—principally to assert US hegemony over Libyan oil reserves, while denying control to its rivals, particularly China.

Obama repeated his demand for regime-change in Syria while expressing concern that the current civil war “not end in a cycle of sectarian violence.” In reality, the US has done everything it can to stoke sectarian warfare as part of its scheme to mobilize the Sunni monarchies of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, as well as Al Qaeda-linked militias, in a campaign to bring down the Syrian government and thereby weaken Washington’s main regional rival, Iran.

The US president offered no proposal whatsoever on the Israel-Palestine question. Instead, he called for the region to “leave behind those who thrive on conflict, and those who reject the right of Israel to exist.” This amounts to a blanket endorsement of Israel’s illegal occupation and its continuous expansion of settlements in West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Echoing the bellicose rhetoric of his predecessor, Obama spoke three times in his address about “bringing to justice” those who attacked Americans abroad. It was a not-so-subtle reminder of the US president’s status as “assassin-in-chief,” holding weekly meetings at the White House to choose targets for execution by US drone attacks.

The hollow rhetoric, hypocritical sermonizing and bullying threats received a tepid response from the assembled delegates. The US president had not a single new initiative or original conception to offer. The speech only made clear that his administration will continue to employ military aggression, economic pressure and CIA destabilization to secure US control over the Middle East and its energy wealth, all the while posing as the patron of “democracy.”

Living Under Drones

September 26th, 2012 by Global Research News

 We bring to the attention of our readers this important study by Stanford University and NYU.

The complete study can be downloaded

 

Download Stanford/NYU Report

 

Executive Summary and Recommendations

In the United States, the dominant narrative about the use of drones in Pakistan is of a surgically precise and effective tool that makes the US safer by enabling “targeted killing” of terrorists, with minimal downsides or collateral impacts.[1]

This narrative is false.

Following nine months of intensive research—including two investigations in Pakistan, more than 130 interviews with victims, witnesses, and experts, and review of thousands of pages of documentation and media reporting—this report presents evidence of the damaging and counterproductive effects of current US drone strike policies. Based on extensive interviews with Pakistanis living in the regions directly affected, as well as humanitarian and medical workers, this report provides new and firsthand testimony about the negative impacts US policies are having on the civilians living under drones.

Real threats to US security and to Pakistani civilians exist in the Pakistani border areas now targeted by drones. It is crucial that the US be able to protect itself from terrorist threats, and that the great harm caused by terrorists to Pakistani civilians be addressed. However, in light of significant evidence of harmful impacts to Pakistani civilians and to US interests, current policies to address terrorism through targeted killings and drone strikes must be carefully re-evaluated.

It is essential that public debate about US policies take the negative effects of current policies into account. 

First, while civilian casualties are rarely acknowledged by the US government, there is significant evidence that US drone strikes have injured and killed civilians. In public statements, the US states that there have been “no” or “single digit” civilian casualties.”[2] It is difficult to obtain data on strike casualties because of US efforts to shield the drone program from democratic accountability, compounded by the obstacles to independent investigation of strikes in North Waziristan. The best currently available public aggregate data on drone strikes are provided by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ), an independent journalist organization. TBIJ reports that from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, available data indicate that drone strikes killed 2,562-3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom 474-881 were civilians, including 176 children.[3] TBIJ reports that these strikes also injured an additional 1,228-1,362 individuals. Where media accounts do report civilian casualties, rarely is any information provided about the victims or the communities they leave behind. This report includes the harrowing narratives of many survivors, witnesses, and family members who provided evidence of civilian injuries and deaths in drone strikes to our research team. It also presents detailed accounts of three separate strikes, for which there is evidence of civilian deaths and injuries, including a March 2011 strike on a meeting of tribal elders that killed some 40 individuals. 

Second, US drone strike policies cause considerable and under-accounted-for harm to the daily lives of ordinary civilians, beyond death and physical injury. Drones hover twenty-four hours a day over communities in northwest Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles, and public spaces without warning. Their presence terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities. Those living under drones have to face the constant worry that a deadly strike may be fired at any moment, and the knowledge that they are powerless to protect themselves. These fears have affected behavior. The US practice of striking one area multiple times, and evidence that it has killed rescuers, makes both community members and humanitarian workers afraid or unwilling to assist injured victims. Some community members shy away from gathering in groups, including important tribal dispute-resolution bodies, out of fear that they may attract the attention of drone operators. Some parents choose to keep their children home, and children injured or traumatized by strikes have dropped out of school. Waziris told our researchers that the strikes have undermined cultural and religious practices related to burial, and made family members afraid to attend funerals. In addition, families who lost loved ones or their homes in drone strikes now struggle to support themselves.

Third, publicly available evidence that the strikes have made the US safer overall is ambiguous at best. The strikes have certainly killed alleged combatants and disrupted armed actor networks. However, serious concerns about the efficacy and counter-productive nature of drone strikes have been raised. The number of “high-level” targets killed as a percentage of total casualties is extremely low—estimated at just 2%.[4] Furthermore, evidence suggests that US strikes have facilitated recruitment to violent non-state armed groups, and motivated further violent attacks. As the New York Times has reported, “drones have replaced Guantánamo as the recruiting tool of choice for militants.”[5] Drone strikes have also soured many Pakistanis on cooperation with the US and undermined US-Pakistani rel­ations. One major study shows that 74% of Pakistanis now consider the US an enemy.[6]

Fourth, current US targeted killings and drone strike practices undermine respect for the rule of law and international legal protections and may set dangerous precedents. This report casts doubt on the legality of strikes on individuals or groups not linked to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2011, and who do not pose imminent threats to the US. The US government’s failure to ensure basic transparency and accountability in its targeted killing policies, to provide necessary details about its targeted killing program, or adequately to set out the legal factors involved in decisions to strike hinders necessary democratic debate about a key aspect of US foreign and national security policy. US practices may also facilitate recourse to lethal force around the globe by establishing dangerous precedents for other governments. As drone manufacturers and officials successfully reduce export control barriers, and as more countries develop lethal drone technologies, these risks increase.

In light of these concerns, this report recommends that the US conduct a fundamental re-evaluation of current targeted killing practices, taking into account all available evidence, the concerns of various stakeholders, and the short and long-term costs and benefits. A significant rethinking of current US targeted killing and drone strike policies is long overdue. US policy-makers, and the American public, cannot continue to ignore evidence of the civilian harm and counter-productive impacts of US targeted killings and drone strikes in Pakistan.

This report also supports and reiterates the calls consistently made by rights groups and others for legality, accountability, and transparency in US drone strike policies:

  • The US should fulfill its international obligations with respect to accountability and transparency, and ensure proper democratic debate about key policies. The US should:
    • Release the US Department of Justice memoranda outlining the legal basis for US targeted killing in Pakistan;
    • Make public critical information concerning US drone strike policies, including as previously and repeatedly reques­ted by various groups and officials:[7] the tar­geting criteria for so-called “signature” strikes; the mechanisms in place to ensure that targeting complies with international law; which laws are being applied; the nature of investigations into civilian death and injury; and mechanisms in place to track, analyze and publicly recognize civilian casualties;[8]
    • Ensure independent investigations into drone strike deaths, consistent with the call made by Ben Emmerson, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism in August 2012;[9]
    • In conjunction with robust investigations and, where appropriate, prosecutions, establish compensation programs for civilians harmed by US strikes in Pakistan.
  • The US should fulfill its international humanitarian and human rights law obligations with respect to the use of force, including by not using lethal force against individuals who are not members of armed groups with whom the US is in an armed conflict, or otherwise against individuals not posing an imminent threat to life. This includes not double-striking targets as first responders arrive.
    • Journalists and media outlets should cease the common practice of referring simply to “militant” deaths, without further explanation. All reporting of government accounts of “militant” deaths should include acknowledgment that the US government counts all adult males killed by strikes as “militants,” absent exonerating evidence. Media accounts relying on anonymous government sources should also highlight the fact of their single-source information and of the past record of false government reports.
Notes

[1] The US publicly describes its drone program in terms of its unprecedented ability to “distinguish … effectively between an al Qaeda terrorist and innocent civilians,” and touts its missile-armed drones as capable of conducting strikes with “astonishing” and “surgical” precision. See, e.g., John O. Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, The Efficacy and Ethics of U.S. Counterterrorism Strategy, Remarks at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (Apr. 30, 2012), available at http://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/the-efficacy-and-ethics-us-counterterrorism-strategy.

[2] See Obama Administration Counterterrorism Strategy (C-Span television broadcast June 29, 2011), http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/AdministrationCo; see also Strategic Considerations, infra Chapter 5: Strategic Considerations; Contradictions Chart, infra Appendix C.

[3] Covert War on Terror, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/category/projects/drones/ (last visited Sept. 12, 2012).

[4] Peter Bergen & Megan Braun, Drone is Obama’s Weapon of Choice, CNN (Sept. 6, 2012), http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/05/opinion/bergen-obama-drone/index.html.

[5] Jo Becker & Scott Shane, Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will, N.Y. Times (May 29, 2012), http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/29/world/obamas-leadership-in-war-on-al-qaeda.html?pagewanted=all.

[6] Pew Research Center, Pakistani Public Opinion Ever More Critical of U.S.: 74% Call America an Enemy (2012), available at http://www.pewglobal.org/files/2012/06/Pew-Global-Attitudes-Project-Pakistan-Report-FINAL-Wednesday-June-27-2012.pdf.

[7] See, e.g., Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Study on Targeted Killings, Human Rights Council, UN Doc. A/HRC/14/24/Add.6 (May 28, 2010) (by Philip Alston), available at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/14session/A.HRC.14.24.Add6.pdf; US: Transfer CIA Drone Strikes to Military, Human Rights Watch (Apr. 20, 2012), http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/04/20/us-transfer-cia-drone-strikes-military; Letter from Amnesty International et al. to Barack Obama, President of the United States (May 31, 2012), available at http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/node/1242.

[8] Letter from Amnesty International et al., supra note 7.

[9] Terri Judd, UN ‘Should Hand Over Footage of Drone Strikes or Face UN Inquiry’, Independent (Aug. 20, 2012), http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/us-should-hand-over-footage-of-drone-strikes-or-face-un-inquiry-8061504.html.

 

Download Stanford/NYU Report

By Zhang Di

At a crucial time when Sino-Japan relations are deteriorating over the Diaoyu Islands issue, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s recent visits to Japan and China are generally interpreted as “mediation”. Panetta stressed the U.S.-Japan alliance and vowed to deploy missile defense systems in Japan while he proposed friendly diplomacy and peaceful settlements, and claimed that the United States would take no side on the Diaoyu Islands issue. Such “mediation” apparently adds fuel to the dispute and arouses people’s doubt about U. S. “sincerity” to promote peace in Asia Pacific.

Looking back upon history, it is not difficult to find that the United States likes to “mediate” between countries, such as in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Kosovo crisis. However, these mediations bring more wars and worsen living conditions to people. It indicates that any malicious “mediation” will lead to troubles and negative results.

Panetta will only safeguard the interests of the United States, rather than those of China or Japan. The Diaoyu Islands issue was originally caused by the secret transfer from the United States to Japan. In recent years, Japanese right-wingers even staged an “islands-buying” farce. What’s worse, the United States acts as the umbrella of Japan and plays an irresponsible role at the crucial moment.

Since the United States announced the shift of strategic focus back to the Asia-Pacific region, it can always be seen in affairs related to China, from the East China Sea, South China Sea, Diaoyu Islands to Huangyan Island. On the one hand, the United States instigates neighboring countries against China on territorial issues and, on the other hand, it plays the role of peacemaker as the disputes escalate.

The United States has never been the messenger of peace and its sole intention of returning to the Asia-Pacific is to mess up others and safeguard its own interests. The so-called “mediations” and “peace-making” are not applicable for the United States at all.

China has its own interests. It will never sacrifice its interests to please the United States and Japan. We should have a clear understanding of their words and deeds and not have unrealistic illusions about the seemingly beautiful “olive branch”. Only by continuously developing and strengthening itself can China grasp the initiative in the future development.

After nine months of research and more than 130 interviews, in what is being called one of the most exhaustive attempts by academics to evaluate Washington’s drone wars, the Stanford and New York universities’ law schools have finally put out a damning report.

According to the new study, just one in fifty victims of the CIA programme of “targeted” drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas are known militants, while between 2,562 and 3,325 people were killed in Pakistan between June 2004 and mid-September this year – of whom between 474 and 881 were civilians, including 176 children.

Based on these and other figures, the report calls the strikes politically counterproductive and damaging, concluding they have killed innocent civilians, ruined the local economy, undermined respect for international law and left the people of the tribal areas psychologically battered, constantly living under the daily threat of annihilation from the air.

The report especially focuses on children becoming collateral damage of strikes, and comes down particularly hard on the common tactic of the “double-tap” strike where initial strikes are followed up by further missiles, killing an even greater number of civilians, and putting fear into the hearts of rescuers who often wait for hours before daring to visit the scene of an attack.

There is no doubt that this meticulous report will go a long way in challenging the dominant narrative about the use of drones in Pakistan and elsewhere. Indeed, an important aspect it highlights is precisely how difficult is it to obtain accurate data on casualties given US efforts to shield the drone programme from democratic accountability, and its failure to ensure basic transparency and accountability in targeted killings or provide details about the programme.

The lack of transparency is compounded by the fact that the areas targeted by drones are under military and militant control, making access difficult for local as well as foreign journalists and thus allowing civilians killed by drones to become ‘invisible dead.’

But after the release of this damning report, will anything change? Will the Obama administration relent in carrying out this controversial campaign of death? Many hope that it may just – especially if the report has an impact on the American public.

Coming from American lawyers rather than Pakistani human rights groups, the criticism is likely to resonate a lot more in US domestic debates over the legality of drone warfare.

As Reprieve’s director, Clive Stafford Smith, said: “George Bush wanted to create a global ‘war on terror’ without borders, but it has taken Obama’s drone war to achieve his dream.” But Obama’s dream seems to have become Pakistan’s nightmare and it may just be time for the US to wake up from its delusion once and for all.

Why Does NATO Need Military Bases In Afghanistan?

September 26th, 2012 by Ilya Kharlamov

The absence of a productive dialogue between Moscow and the alliance on the issue of European missile defence obliges Moscow to insist on knowing the West’s plans with regard to Afghanistan.

“We are concerned about the character of international military presence in Afghanistan after 2014 and we are worried by the information that at present new bases are being built there that can deploy tens of thousands of servicemen…”

In the case of Syria, Moscow and Beijing have already shown that they can block the West’s militarist plans in the Security Council.

*      *      *

Moscow intends to find out about the future of NATO military contingents in Afghanistan after 2014. NATO leadership has repeatedly announced that by that time its troops will be withdrawn from that country.

However, there is information that foreign bases will remain in Afghanistan. Russia proposes to clarify this issue at the UN General Assembly session, which began recently, and also at a meeting of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

The absence of a productive dialogue between Moscow and the alliance on the issue of European missile defence obliges Moscow to insist on knowing the West’s plans with regard to Afghanistan. Russia’s security is at stake and also that of the region bordering on Russia, so Russian diplomats’ insistence is absolutely natural. Russian permanent representative at the UN Vitaly Churkin believes that leaving NATO bases in Afghanistan raises many questions. If the alliance announces an end to the anti-terrorist operation in 2014, the presence of foreign military forces will have different aims and nothing is known about such aims yet.

In essence, Russia intends to clearly formulate its position: if the fight against terrorism must be continued, the UN Security Council’s mandate should be prolonged. It is possible that this issue will be discussed on the 27th of September during consultations between members of the UN Security Council and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko believes that Russia is prepared to pragmatically cooperate with the alliance to solve the Afghan problem on the basis of the UN Security Council resolution.

“We are concerned about the character of international military presence in Afghanistan after 2014 and we are worried by the information that at present new bases are being built there that can deploy tens of thousands of servicemen. All this is superfluous if we only mean stabilizing the situation in Afghanistan. We proceed from the assumption that no superfluous military presence in Afghanistan is required.”

Alexander Grushko added that Russia understands the need to leave foreign military instructors in Afghanistan to train personnel for the Afghan army and security service. If any other plans are implemented there, it will further complicate Moscow’s relations with NATO.

Russia is also planning to ask the US to provide a report on the Afghan campaign at the UN General Assembly session. This could give rise to a contradictory situation. It is common knowledge that no special progress has been achieved there. Neither terrorism nor huge economic and social problems have been solved in Afghanistan since NATO’s arrival. The admission of a failure is unlikely to impel the UN Security Council to prolong the mandate. Moreover, it will be a good reason not to provide similar mandates in Syria and Iran. On the other hand, if Americans prove their success, there should logically be no bases left in Afghanistan and all the troops have to be withdrawn.

Political scientist Pavel Zolotaryov has shared his opinion with The Voice of Russia.

“It is not clear at present whether Americans have completed their operation or if it should be continued. In any case, it should be decided by the UN. It would not be correct to continue any activities relying on the US administration’s decisions only. The same is true about NATO, which has assumed responsibility for security outside their traditional zone of influence, Europe. So Russia’s raising this issue is absolutely legitimate.”

It is clear that Washington has room to manoeuvre. For example, it can ignore Russia’s requests or act without the Security Council’s permission because more and more Americans are in favour of this idea. In the case of Syria, Moscow and Beijing have already shown that they can block the West’s militarist plans in the Security Council. In addition, Russia could revise its cooperation with the alliance in Afghanistan, starting with cargo transit and finishing with training Afghan personnel.

Patrick Clawson, Director of Research of the Washington Institute  for Near East Policy suggests that the US should provoke Iran into taking the first shot.

“If the Iranians are not going to compromise, it may be best that somebody else start the war”.

“We can do a variety of things to increase the pressure”.

“We are in the game of using covert means against Iranians. We can get nastier at that.”

Patrick Clawson,  who was a “progressive” political economist in the 1970s,  heads the Washington Institute’s Iran Security Initiative.   The latter “aims to generate critical analysis, private dialogue, public debate, and operational recommendations designed to address the many challenges posed by Iran.”

*        *       *

Recalling the war pretext incidents in US history, including  the Lusitania (World War I) Pearl Harbor (Waorld War II) and the Gulf of Tonkin (Vietnam), Patrick Clawson’s “operational recommendation” is to incite an incident which will provoke Iran to firing the first shot, potentially leading us onto the path of World War Three.

According to Patrick Clawson and David Makovski, in a September 2012 Washington Institute publication:

At some point soon, … the window for diplomacy will indeed have closed, and the United States—along with as many international partners as it can mobilize—should move to more forceful action, be it covert or overt, publicly proclaimed or deniable. …  Recognizing this reality, the U.S. government may decide that, in the absence of diplomatic progress, the best alternative is to create conditions under which Israel will attack, rather than to accept that the talks have failed; after all, failed talks would lead to much debate about whether the United States must act overtly and directly against Iran’s nuclear program. But such an approach would amount to placing quite a heavy burden on a small U.S. ally. Other countries relying on U.S. security would have to draw lessons about how much value to place in their U.S. security guarantees. (emphasis added)

Covert procedures to trigger a war pretext incident are an integral part of military planning.

Recent developments, including US-NATO war games and the deployment of a powerful naval armada in the Persian Gulf, `”create conditions” which favor a Gulf of Tonkin type incident, which in turn would provide a justification to waging an all out war on Iran.

 

The move by Washington last week is, in effect, giving full approval to the MEK’s terror and assassination campaign in Iran. It is a stark reminder of Washington’s unwavering warpath towards Iran.

*       *       *

Here’s a thought experiment: imagine that there is a terrorist network in the USA that has been responsible for hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths over several decades.

The group declares itself dedicated to destroying the US government and has been involved in car bombing urban centres, kidnapping and murdering members of the country’s security forces, and assassinating government scientists, as well as perpetrating countless random murders on businessmen and ordinary families.

Now imagine that the Iranian government announces a new policy in which it does not consider the above clandestine group a terrorist entity. That policy means that the network is free to raise money in Iran to fund its terror campaign against US citizens and to lobby for political support among Iranian lawmakers and ambassadors.

We can safely conclude that in such a far-fetched scenario, the US government would immediately declare war on Iran and proceed to carpet bomb that country mercilessly – with the Western corporate news media blasting righteous endorsements of vengeance.

Yet this scenario of aiding and abetting terrorism is far from far-fetched when it comes to actual US policy towards Iran. Just last week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton officially de-listed the Iranian Mujahideen e-Khalq (MEK) from its official terror watch list.

That the MEK is a terror group is beyond dispute, despite the US government’s apparent change of opinion. The term “terror group” applies objectively and accurately. It is not just a pejorative propaganda label used by the Iranian government to blacken some dissident group. Since the 1980s, the MEK network itself claims that it has killed 40,000 Iranians whom it considers legitimate targets because they are “loyal” to, that is because they are citizens of, the Islamic Republic. Lower estimates of fatalities are put at around 17,000. Proportionate to its population that would give an upper equivalent of 150,000 dead Americans – a death toll suffered by Iran which is 50 times greater than that ascribed to 9/11.

The MEK, also known as MKO, has colluded with foreign powers for the stated goal of destroying the Islamic Republic of Iran. Most notably, between 1980 and 1988 when Iran was facing a US-backed war of aggression by Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, the MEK functioned as subversives and shock troops operating “behind enemy lines” to betray their own people.

For that reason, the group has negligible, if any, popular support within Iran. It cannot claim the slightest modicum of popular mandate that might otherwise serve to give its activities a veneer of legitimacy as an “insurgency” or “freedom struggle.” Indeed, it is more accurate to call the group a sort of terrorist cult rather than a political movement. Since 2003, the MEK has not even had a base within Iran, operating clandestinely out of Iraq.

Such is the organisation’s fringe status, that even Iranian political opponents of the government in Tehran deprecated the US government move to officially de-list it as a terror group. That indicates how extreme the network is viewed by the Iranian population.

The Western mainstream media claim that Washington’s clearance of the MEK was given because the group “has renounced violence.” That renunciation was officially made 10 years ago. That is also allegedly why the European Union and the British government removed the network from their terror lists in 2009 and 2008.

How these Western governments can maintain this charade with a straight face is rather astounding. The MEK and other Iranian terror gangs, such as the al-Qaeda-linked Jundallah, have been actively plying violence unabated against the citizenry over the past decade. Even Washington officials admit it. Following the murder of Iranian nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan on 11 January earlier this year with a magnetic bomb attached to his car in northern Tehran, anonymous US officials disclosed to American mainstream media that the killing was the work of the MEK in collusion with Israel’s Mossad.

Since 2007, five Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated. The MEK and Mossad are strongly implicated in all these murders and much worse.

Why US officials should have authoritative knowledge of such MEK activities is quite simple. It is because the US government and its military intelligence support these very terrorist activities, along with Mossad and Britain’s MI6. During the George W Bush presidency, congressional leaders secretly approved a budget of $400 million to arm and fund the MEK and Jundallah. According to investigative American journalist Seymour Hersh, US Joint Special Operations Command trained members of the MEK at a secret site in Nevada between 2005 and 2009. Training included use of weapons and explosives in the black arts of sabotage, or, in short, terrorism. During the American illegal occupation of Iraq following 2003, the MEK was given protection and immunity at a dedicated facility, known as Camp Ashraf, in Iraq from where they would launch operations into Iran. The camp has since been closed down following the large-scale American troop withdrawal from the country.

So, the “ceasefire” pretense is a bad joke. However, a substantial reason why the US has de-listed the MEK is the powerful lobbying for such a decision over many years by senior American political and military figures. They include former CIA director James Woolsey, former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, ex-New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and past US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton. All of these senior figures, and more, of the American ruling class have called for Washington to give clearance to the MEK – at a time when even US officials are acknowledging that the group is involved in assassinations in Iran.

The move by Washington last week is, in effect, giving full approval to the MEK’s terror and assassination campaign in Iran. It is a stark reminder of Washington’s unwavering warpath towards Iran. Recently, some commentators have tended to misread Washington as giving a rebuff to Israel’s war rhetoric against Iran. But the clearance by Washington of a terrorist campaign in Iran – one that the US government is materially assisting – is a sobering sign that war is still the order of the day. The recent alleged spats between Washington and Tel Aviv are more likely a reflection of tactical variance due to the forthcoming US presidential election than any substantive difference in aggression towards Tehran.

It is hardly a coincidence that Washington’s MEK announcement was made only days before Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressed the 67th summit of the UN General Assembly in New York. The Washington regime also took the unprecedented step of denying some 20 Iranian diplomats travel visas to attend the UN assembly ¬ this week – this despite an historic agreement by the US, as host nation to the United Nations, to refrain from such obstruction of diplomats from any country regardless of bilateral disputes.

The obstructive snub to Iran’s sovereignty comes in the wake of the successful hosting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) last month in which some 120 member states gathered in Tehran. And it beggars belief that such a diplomatic mugging by Washington this week is not related to Iran’s new presidency of the NAM emphasizing the urgent need for an overhaul of the UN Security Council and greater democracy within the UN General Assembly to end the abusive political domination by the US. Such an overhaul is glaringly obvious now especially in light of the American member of the “security council” supporting terrorism in Iran and denying the victims of terrorism a full hearing. (That other has-been security council power, Britain, is also a disgrace for the same reason.)

Washington’s sinister relationship with Iranian MEK terror group points up the fact of who really is the “rogue state.” White House rhetoric has long tried to paint Iran as such. But in the real world, the MEK joins the phalanx of Washington’s terror proxies and mercenaries, from the Contra to al-Qaeda, who do America’s dirty work around the world. Like the MEK, it’s probably only a matter of time before al-Qaeda is also given official clearance by Washington. Yes, the contradictions are perverse, but such is America’s real relationship with world terrorism and its rogue status par excellence.

 

France seeks no-fly zone over Syria to repeat the Al Qaeda Benghazi-blowback.

 

As NATO desperately attempts to coverup a botched false flag operation in Benghazi, Libya which left a high ranking US diplomat dead, France has urged a repeat performance in Syria. That is, arming and providing air support for the very terrorist battalions now operating in Syria that have ravaged and overrun Libya, leaving it a perpetually wrecked, destabilized terrorist epicenter.

The announcement made by French President Francois Hollande came on the heels of a deadly terrorist bombing in Damascus targeting a school rebels senselessly claim was being used by Syrian security forces. Western propagandists are now calling the school a “security building.”

Reuters reported in their article, “Syrian rebels bomb security building in Damascus:”

Protection for “liberated” areas would require no-fly zones enforced by foreign aircraft, which could stop deadly air raids by Assad’s forces on populated areas. But there is little chance of securing a Security Council mandate for such action given the continuing opposition of veto-wielding members Russia and China.

 

Before quoting Hollande who said:

“How long can we accept the paralysis at the U.N.?”

To answer Mr. Hollande’s question, one might look toward Libya where an identical campaign of violent subversion based on similar lies regarding the “protection of civilians,” was carried out by NATO and proxy terrorist organizations who were in fact listed by the UN itself as affiliates of the notorious global terror network Al Qaeda. The NATO-led, UN mandated evisceration of Libya put power into the hands of genocidal, racist terror battalions who literally scoured entire cities of their inhabitants either massacring, imprisoning, or exiling them all beyond Libya’s borders.

Image: Libyan Mahdi al-Harati of the US State Department, United Nations, and the UK Home Office (page 5, .pdf)-listed terrorist organization, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), addressing fellow terrorists in Syria. Harati is now commanding a Libyan brigade operating inside of Syria attempting to destroy the Syrian government and subjugate the Syrian population. Traditionally, this is known as “foreign invasion.” 

….

It should be clear then, to Mr. Hollande, that the UN is not in fact “paralyzed” but that the member nations that constitute the Security Council and the General Assembly are increasingly aware of and opposed to the duplicitous and untenable nature of NATO’s wars of conquest, merely dressed up as humanitarian intervention.

As France Pushes for A Libya Repeat, Media & Politicians Desperately Attempt to Rewrite Narrative

As international condemnation grew, recognizing that NATO, led by the US, UK, and France were essentially funding, arming, training, and handing an entire nation over to Al Qaeda affiliates, these terror battalions were directed to attack US diplomatic missions across the Arab World (and here).

One attack in Benghazi, Libya, left the US consulate ablaze, unexpectedly trapping US Ambassador Christopher Stevens who succumbed to smoke inhalation. Despite the attacks, and the subsequent media circus and staged rallies to depict Libya’s client regime as “disbanding” terrorist militias, the fact remains that vast terrorist networks stretching from Libya to Syria are still fully armed, funded, and covertly backed by the very corporate-financier interests that sold the last decade of “War on Terror” to the West.

In addition to a myriad of staged events to portray a divide between the West and its terrorist proxies, there are also sophomoric and desperate attempts throughout the corporate-media to rewrite the Syrian narrative as public awareness grows, and support for Western destabilization under the guise of “humanitarian causes” collapses.

One such attempt was published in the Washington Post in a piece titled, “Among Assad’s opponents, moderation reigns,” where David Pollock of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy attempts to argue that Syria’s “opposition” is overwhelmingly moderate, with sectarian extremists being an exception to the rule, based on a poll conducted by the International Republication Institute.

However, Pollock’s think-tank, the Washington Institute, is in fact a Wall Street pro-war think-tank, lined by notorious warmongering frauds and Neo-Cons including Richard Perle, Max Kampelman, US Ambassador to Israel Samuel Lewis, accused war criminal Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, and James Woolsey, all signatories of the now infamous Project for a New American Century (PNAC), and all signatories of numerous letters calling for war with both Libya and Syria.

The International Republican Institute (IRI) is in fact funded by the US State Department and is chaired by Senator John McCain, who had shaken hands with the very terrorists responsible for the US consulate attack that left Ambassador Stevens dead in Benghazi, Libya. McCain has also traveled to the Turkish-Syrian border to provide these same terrorists with support. The IRI itself had played an instrumental role in engineering the allegedly “spontaneous” “Arab Spring,” training and organizing activists years before unrest took to the Arab World’s streets.

Image: Senator John McCain (with the now deceased US Ambassador John Christopher Stevens on the right with blue tie) in the terrorist rat nest of Benghazi after marshaling cash, weapons, and political support for militants tied directly to Al Qaeda. McCain’s insistence that the terrorists he helped arm and install into power were “not Al Qaeda” runs contra to the US Army’s own reports which state that Benghazi’s terror brigades officially merged with Al Qaeda in 2007. McCain’s “Libyan patriots” have now killed US Ambassador Stevens with weapons most likely procured with cash and logistic networks set up by NATO last year, part of a supranational terror campaign that includes violently subverting Syria – a campaign McCain also supports.

….

Clearly the “poll” which was conducted over “Skype” by IRI with “activists” inside Syria was produced for public perception only to cook up numbers that would allow Pollock, CNN and others to conclude, “all in all, the data show that most Syrian opposition activists are far from being Islamic fanatics or extremists,” as well as “the argument that providing this help might result in trading Assad’s hostile secular dictatorship for a hostile Islamic one does not square with these facts.”

The idea is to maintain the narrative that the US is backing “freedom fighters” not terrorists, and it is an idea perpetuated by the very pro-war advocates behind the Libyan disaster and the Arab World unrest in the first place.

We can expect calls for arming and defending terrorist proxies in Syria to continue while the corporate-media continues its attempt to portray what is literally Al Qaeda operating in Syria with NATO backing as instead, “pro-democracy” “freedom fighters” in desperate need of Western assistance. Conversely, we must continue to expose the corporate-financier narrative as the lies they are, while resolving to undermine the very source of their unwarranted influence which allows them to meddle globally in the first place.

Canada’s Trade Union Movement in Crisis

September 26th, 2012 by Herman Rosenfeld

Just about everyone in and around the union movement in Canada is talking about the upcoming merger between the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers (CEP). The new union being formed will be the largest private sector union in Canada.

While bigger is not necessarily better – as numerous other examples of larger mergers have shown[1] – in this era of general unions, the new union should become a positive force on the Canadian labour scene.  Both the CAW and CEP have strengths in different but complementary sectors and geographical areas; their pooling of resources should help address some of the membership losses in each (a problem throughout the entire private sector) as well as provide needed collective resources for research, education and organizing.

But the CAW and CEP – in their public documents and speeches at the recent CAW Constitutional Convention – aspire to greater things. At a time where the Canadian union movement is at a strategic impasse and a steep organizational decline, the new union they will form is being touted as a key element in turning the situation around, through a larger project of union renewal and a major response to the attacks on the working-class and labour movement. One has to be very careful in assessing these rather lofty aspirations.

The new union will be shaped and limited by neoliberal capitalism, the structures and experiences of the larger working-class and labour movement, and the particular limitations of unions in this era. Whatever changes the new union plans, it must take into account and address these limitations and imperatives.

There are some important and exciting potential contributions that the new union project argues for and can make. They should be encouraged and supported, with a number of caveats.

But the huge challenges that the new union talks about addressing require a larger project of change that goes beyond the current capacities and contradicts many of the approaches (and practices) of the component unions. As well, they depend on a series of larger political projects that currently do not exist and that the component unions are not likely to initiate.

Context, Limitations and Openings

The new union is being formed at a time where unions and the working-class as a whole have experienced numerous attacks, setbacks and defeats. Unions are politically and organizationally isolated and weak. This is dramatically different than the moment when the CAW itself was formed.

In the 1980s, the Canadian section of the UAW and later the new union (the CAW) – often in partnership with social activist movements outside of labour and sometimes with other unions – waged a battle to challenge free trade and continentalism (with demonstrations, grassroots education with members and the general public). It mobilized against the austerity agenda of the time and, most importantly, took on the major auto companies as well as the latter’s union partners/enablers in the UAW. By refusing concessions, and asserting the need for the union to maintain its independence from employers and reject competitiveness as a goal, the UAW’s Canadian region inspired its members and huge numbers of Canadian working people and, in the process formed a new union.

The formation of the new union didn’t signal an end to these struggles but their continuation. This helped to create conditions for more intensified efforts to challenge the growing tide of neoliberal transformation. The new union in 1985 inspired other members of the working-class and the larger progressive community in Canada and led to a healthy, growing union.

The effort to create a new union out of a merger between the CAW and CEP today takes place in a completely different context. Neoliberalism has moved apace, and has all but defeated and marginalized many private sector unions, radically segmented the working-class, creating huge material and experiential gaps between those on social assistance, in precarious market segments and those with more secure and better-paying jobs. Many unionized workers – and the bulk of the rest of the working-class – have never participated in collective struggles. Many have been forced to rely in individual strategies to keep afloat and this has helped to shape their understanding of society and their role in it.

Unions – particularly in the public sector, but also in others, such as auto – are isolated in many ways from the rest of the working-class. Even in the better-off labour market segments, unions have given up concessions both in wages and benefits, as well as in their workplaces. This helped to demoralize much of the membership, but also distanced those whom the unions seek to organize.

Politically, unions have not challenged the system. With the utter defeat of the radical left, which once served as a pole of reference beyond capitalism, they have tried to “hold on” to what they had, and nostalgically return to the good old days of the welfare state and partnership with employers and governments. On the other hand, continentalism, free trade, export dependency and managerial demands for concessions have all but been accepted by the labour movement, including the two unions that are merging to form the new union project (as well as all major political parties).

Unions are tied to the success of particular employers in individual sectors, and are bound to look after the interests of their dues-paying members who work there. In an era where the better off workers were able to set patterns for others, this didn’t seem as limiting as today. But in this era of advanced neoliberalism – with masses of unemployed, poor, precarious workers – it separated out unions from other workers, with devastatingly harmful results. Unions are seen by much of the class as being privileged.

Rather than being part of an ongoing resistance movement, the new union project takes place in an environment of defeat and those forming the new union (leaders, activists and many rank and filers) have been shaped by that experience as much as other unions and components of the working-class. They are frustrated by those defeats and claim to want very much to move beyond them. But they remain very much limited by them, not having really studied or learned the lessons from them, fully accepting the limitations as defined by the corporations.[2]

“The critical factor remains, the larger disorganization and defeat of the working-class as a whole, the strength of neoliberalism, the limitations of unions as they currently exist and the lack of any real political or organizational alternatives that address the need to create a class-wide movement. ”

In order to address this set of limitations, the new union – and the rest of the union movement – needs to change what it does. Unions across the developed capitalist world often talk about embracing new strategies: big mergers, renewal programs, spending more on organizing, and so forth. But the critical factor remains the larger disorganization and defeat of the working-class as a whole, the strength of neoliberalism, the limitations of unions as they currently exist and the lack of any real political or organizational alternatives that address the need to create a class-wide movement.

Who are the CAW and CEP and what do they bring to the table?

The CAW has been one of the predominant private sector unions in Canada, since its founding in 1985, as a split-off from the American International Union, the UAW. At one time it had 265,000 members and, although its base was in auto and the manufacturing sector, it spread across sectors as diverse as airline, general manufacturing, public sector, services, rail, fisheries, etc. The union has always played an important role in shaping the lives of union members and the working-class as whole. Collective bargaining in core sectors such as auto set patterns for wages and benefits across the country and its political role in larger campaigns at one time was a critical part of the working-class movement in Canada – as are its more recent difficulties in dealing with the crises of its major employers. It also has tremendous resources in bargaining expertise, worker education (spends more than all other unions combined and has its own educational centre), and in research capability.

The CEP is concentrated in other key sectors, such as Communications, Resource Extraction and Energy, major strategic components of the Canadian economy. It has had to deal directly with key transformations in broadcasting, newspapers, mining and forestry and energy issues – all of which have been central components of neoliberal restructuring in Canada. It, too, has participated in a number of political campaigns, and has a history of building relationships between energy and resource extraction workers and environmentalists and local communities. The new union will combine some 300,000 workers across the country, in strategic sectors such as Manufacturing (94,000); Communications (41,000); Resources (52,000); Transportation (40,000); Services – including public sector – (76,000).

Membership will be spread throughout the entire country, in every province and territory except Yukon and Nunavut. It will have more than 86,000 women, and, “tens of thousands of aboriginal and workers of colour.”[3] It will include more than 800 local unions and over 3,000 bargaining units.

Linking Up with the Rest of the Working-Class

A key feature of the plan for the new union is its approach to organizing and community unionism. It pledges to “organize and mobilize workers” such as the unemployed, members who join in unsuccessful organizing drives, individual, non-unionized workers, working in precarious, temporary, contract, self-employed, and freelancers and students and other young people. It claims that, “this is crucial to allow us to involve a broader range of working people in our mission to build a powerful social movement fighting for all working people.”[4]

These are stirring words. Many on the left have been calling for such a development for many years. The component unions should be congratulated for it. It has the potential to alter the role of the new union in its relations with the segments of the working-class that have been most affected by neoliberal restructuring of labour markets. There are precious few unions around the world that have experimented with this open membership concept, such as the CTA in Argentina.

But the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Making this work requires a major rethink of how the union relates to workers and communities outside of it. It calls for new ways of doing things and an opening up to the experiences of other activists. At the very least, it raises a number of thorny questions, such as the role of individual membership inside the union’s structures; forms of support for individual or groups of workers in non-unionized workplaces and relations with existing social movement and community activists and organizations.

This effort must be undertaken as a project of contributing to the organization of the class. A common class project could contribute to breaking down the narrowness and limitations of both the unions and the social movement left’s projects. But a narrower approach, seeking primarily to strengthen the union itself could have the opposite effect.

These questions can’t be seen as separate from the other things the union must do to inspire youth, as well as unemployed and precarious workers, such as fighting employers, resisting concessions and fighting for new ways to create jobs that are not dependent on the competitive success of individual capitalists. The CAW and the CEP – and the rest of the labour movement – have not proved capable of doing this all that well. The new auto contracts that cement wage and pension inferiority for ten years for junior workers, only worsens the problem. It is part of what must change to make this new strategic approach work.

Engaging in a genuine attempt at social movement unionism clearly raises some difficult questions that need to be considered and tackled. The attempt itself is an important breakthrough.

Organizing

Along with the individual membership and opening up to the community, the new union will dramatically increase resources for organizing. It is committed to developing a ‘culture of organizing’ across the union and is putting 10 per cent of its national dues revenue to this project. This will mean $50-million over the first five years of the union’s existence, doubling what the two unions currently spend.

Here again, how this is done makes a big difference. International experience shows that spending money and making claims about building an organizing culture doesn’t necessarily result in increased union density.[5] The union needs to work together with others to make organizing part of a larger class project, and move away from the current competition for new members, between large, general unions.

Unions have had very mixed success with organizing in sectors where precarious work is predominant. It requires collective efforts between unions to work together to organize across entire sectors (right now, they compete with each other). Will the new union be willing to change the current approach, which is to see organizing as a way of strengthening its own capacity to act, rather as one element in a larger class project, or building the capacity of the entire working-class? Perhaps the union could start by inviting CUPE, SEIU, the Toronto Workers’ Action Centre, and organizations based in immigrant communities that predominate in this sector and others, to collectively organize homecare workers.

Workers will not join a union, no matter how big or how much money it spends, if they think that it will not give them any real capacity to protect themselves against their employers. Years of concession bargaining, especially give backs of time off the job, break time and ending efforts to challenge lean production practises in the workplace (in order to increase productivity so as to protect wages and benefits) on the part of the CAW, makes workers at Japanese transplant auto plants less likely to sign union cards. Successful organizing requires substantial changes, not only in the way unions organize, but how they defend workers interests – in the workplace and in society as a whole.

And, as well, today, given the constant threats of job loss for those with jobs, and the frustration, anger and resentment of those in the precarious sectors, it requires a larger sense that the union is part of a movement that can shape the economy and actually limit the larger power of the employers.

Two Divides Into One…

Merging two unions doesn’t easily translate into a ‘new’ union. There are all kinds of forms of organization and cultural dissonance that needs to be worked out over time. The CAW’s organizational structure is highly integrated and tends to be led from the centre.[6] CEP has its own regional power centres, and the different components of that union are said to operate as ‘silos.’

In the recent period, there remains a tradition of autonomous dissidence within the membership and different layers of the activist core in the CEP (some of it more, some less progressive in the political sense), while the CAW’s leadership core, along with the effects of neoliberal restructuring and the defeat of the left have more or less defeated efforts to create any autonomous organization of members or activists.

The CAW’s tradition of recognizing the national identity of Quebec and, therefore, the need for organizational autonomy for the Quebec section of the union – quite remarkable, as it reaches across many different elements in that union – came up against people within the CEP that did not.

The two unions embarked on an extended and rather unique process of building the merger. They put together a Proposal Committee which adopted a series of principles, and worked their way through the elements of the merger, keeping these principles in mind. The result was a proposal for a series of new structures and components. This has been approved by the CAW and will be voted on by the CEP later this year. If the latter approves, a series of working groups will be set up to “facilitate the preparations for the foundation of the new union” and a founding convention will be held.

A number of the new structures outlined by the Proposal Committee seek to merge elements of the different organizational cultures, dominated by many of the institutional practices of the CAW. These include a series of four regional councils with elected delegates from locals, along with a number of Industrial Councils. There will also be a larger Canadian Council that will meet once per year. There will be an autonomous Quebec Council.[7]

The idea was to create councils where issues could be raised and debated by elected delegates from local unions; build structures that accommodate the large size of the union and combine the regional and more decentralized practises of the CEP, along with the CAW’s more centralized traditions. The operations of these councils (as described in the new union document), seem to track the existing practises of the CAW Council: the meetings will be centred around reports from the elected leadership to the delegates, with the reports shaping and dominating the procedure and content. This provides a potential to hold the leadership to account, and allows the latter to introduce campaigns and bargaining issues, as well as political and economic questions it deems important. On the other hand, it also replicates tendencies that limit the initiative and role of activists from the local unions.[8]

Responding to the Attacks

The new union documents and the debate at the August CAW Convention talk about many of the challenges that the labour movement and the working-class are facing today. They identify key elements of attacks against the working-class, as well as important weaknesses and shortcomings of the labour movement itself in having mounted such feeble resistance.[9] The documents lament the inability to oppose concessions, build a political response to what they identify as ‘neoliberal capitalism,’ and even recall key moments of collective resistance, such as the Ontario Days of Action and the BC Solidarity movement.

The documents claim that the new union will become a key space for a larger effort to respond to these potentially mortal attacks and major weaknesses.

An element of the new union’s aspirations in fostering renewal, is the union’s claim to reinvigorate the collective fightback of labour, to “inspire,” “push” and “embarrass” existing labour centrals into “more forceful vision of action … [to] articulate a broader critique of the current…system (neoliberal capitalism) and position itself as fighting for long-run social and political change, not just incremental economic progress for its members.”[10] The CAW Constitutional Convention was rife with fiery speeches about the collective desire to build a new and wider resistance movement. The feeling was powerful and palpable across the union’s political and organizational spectrum, and in the guest speakers from CEP as well.

But to be serious about making these aspirations a reality, requires changes in approach and orientation that are very difficult to put into practice and, given the actions and experiences of the constituent unions and the larger labour movement, require major changes to move forward. What are some of these changes?

First, power has to be rebuilt in the workplace. The workplace shapes so much in the working-class experience: our power and our of lack of it; the authority and legitimacy of business, its decisions and interests; our sense of what we can and can’t do collectively, the notion of independent worker and employer interests, etc. Workers often learn about who and what unions are and can be, through their collective experience in struggles in the workplace – alongside union activists willing and able to do education together. The neoliberal era has seen a steady erosion in the protections that workers have in the workplace, the rise and institutionalization of lean production norms, and the increasing acceptance by many unions (including the CAW) that concessions in wages and benefits can be minimized (or hidden) by increasing work intensity, reducing break time and giving back time off the job. Workers in and outside of union workplaces (and even those not working) know this and it limits their interest in collective organization as well as unions. This needs to become a key battleground for a new union to begin to re-establish the support and power of the workers. It has, unfortunately, been a site of key defeat and setbacks. This must change, but as of yet there seems to be neither recognition of the defeats in the workplace nor the necessity of building independent collective power there.

Second, they require an aggressive and solidaristic approach to key collective bargaining struggles. In their documents, the unions acknowledge that employers have dug in their heels in key areas, and that the labour movement has been unable to mount the kind of sustained and wide scale campaigns necessary to win. Unfortunately, the collective agreements recently bargained by the CAW at GM and Ford (talks still continue with Chrysler) move in the opposite direction.

The auto companies have once again become profitable, yet remained locked-in to demands for further cost reductions and concessions from the union (such as permanent two-tier workers, elimination of 30-and-out pensions, etc.). They operate in a brutally competitive economic environment, but don’t most capitalists these days? The auto companies are using the rise in the dollar’s value, the sluggish and tentative economic recovery and workers’ fear of job loss and lack of new investment to enforce a sense of powerlessness and dependence.[11]

The terms of the agreement (and the rhetoric underpinning it) demonstrate that the union fully accepts and accommodates the logic of the companies – that ongoing worker concessions are necessary to solidify their unstable and fragile profitability. They and the companies are not divided over whether or not to accept further concessions, but over what they are and how long they might be expected to last. The CAW offered to reduce wages and benefits for new hires that ‘grows-in’ to the full rate over a period of 10 years (in exchange for investment commitments) – an offer that has been accepted by Ford and GM. The agreement also includes a “hybrid” pension for the new hires (elements of defined benefit and defined contribution pensions), along with wages that start at 60 per cent of the normal rate.[12] Current workers will see no basic wage increases or cost-of-living adjustments, but lump sum bonuses will substitute for both over the four years of the agreement. There are also a series of employment commitments, as well as a seemingly successful effort to restrict the highly unpopular uncontrolled use of temporary workers in GM plants.

The union (and unfortunately, all too many analysts and commentators) claim that this is some kind of a victory – citing the difficult objective circumstances and the fact that since the two-tier workforce would ‘only’ exist for 10 years, rather than permanently.

What effect will this have on the solidarity of the workers in the workplace, and how will it affect efforts to organize younger workers into the union? Just as in American plants, the divisions between the cohorts of workers – tracking age and generational differences as well – will of necessity challenge efforts to renew the union and build a new sense of solidarity and independence from the employer. Even more, the acceptance of this form of two-tier-by-stealth, along with the ‘hybrid’ pension formula for new hires, will undermine efforts of the rest of the labour movement to oppose them in their workplaces and sectors. What does it say about the claims of the new union to lead a movement of resistance and struggle?[13]

Bargaining is only one part of what unions need to do to establish their capacity to resist and build alternatives. And the larger political-economic context affects the relative balance of forces between labour and capital. But this set of contract talks will go far to shape who and what the new union will look like – and the honesty and sincerity of the tough talk at the Convention and in the press.

Third, the two new union documents and the speeches at the CAW convention talk about building alternatives to the current economic and political environment that shapes collective bargaining as well as the lives of workers. What can we expect of this?

At the very least, for the new union to take this seriously would require both unions to rethink their current approach to political and economic reforms, their relationships with employers and the state and their analyses of the sectors in which they operate, as well as how they engage in politics. Both the CAW and CEP have political approaches that involve some form of partnership between the unions, private sector employers and the state, and do little to transform the larger economic and political environment.

The CAW’s principal legislative demand for job creation – according to its Collective Bargaining and Political Action Program – is a call for a “national summit to implement a National Jobs Strategy” that includes “federal and provincial governments, major business sectors, municipal leaders, labour and other economic stakeholders.”[14] The CAW’s auto policy is geared toward enhancing the capacity of the current employers to maintain and increase investments in Canada, and, across the larger economic spectrum, intensifying manufacturing and export capacities in “high-value, high tech” sectors. Further, it calls for “more carefully regulating resource industries, and taking active efforts to maximize Canadian value-added opportunities associated with resource extraction.”[15]

While developing manufacturing capacities are critically important, the union accepts the limits of the current framework of complete domination of economic activity by export-oriented or resource-based private sector firms, operating in highly competitive markets. Even in its calls for lowering the value of the Canadian dollar, it does so, in the context of advancing the competitive export advantage of the private sector firms which dominate the sectors in which it predominates.

The CAW acts as if it wants to be ‘respected’ and considered to be part of the larger establishment conversation – as a ‘legitimate’ stakeholder – by the state and the capitalist class. This helps to explain the invitation recently given to Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney, the ‘pride’ in having him engage with the Convention, and the fact that they invited him instead of speakers who call for nationalizing the entire financial sector and running it as a democratically-controlled public utility, as a way of challenging the underpinnings of neoliberalism.

CEP has an extensive and interesting set of demands in the energy sector, calling for public ownership, the repeal of the energy provisions of NAFTA and the development of a “national energy policy.” The latter is to be the result of corporatist project that is the “product of a national debate involving all levels of government, industry, trade unionists, consumers, First Nations and community representatives.” The method of getting to the public ownership is hazy, but at least it is there. CEP also endorses carbon capture and storage and the use of bitumen from the tar sands for refining and use in Canada, as part of a larger industrial strategy, keeping in mind the interests and needs of First Nations. The policy book from CEP does not call for stopping the Tar Sands projects, the continued production of bitumen, or the phasing-out of fossil-based energy sources in a planned manner in order to move toward renewable energy.[16]

Neither union raises a call for, much less a plan for converting the economy away from fossil-fuel dependence.

But there is potential to be different. The two unions’ collective concentration in key sectors, such as energy, auto and other forms of transportation does literally cry out for an integrated anti-capitalist approach. The new union could argue for a move away from its current dependence on American companies manufacturing and exporting private vehicles in fierce competition with other firms. It could call for taking over closed manufacturing facilities to produce environmentally responsible goods that people need, moving toward a dramatic reinvestment in mass transit across the country, concentrating in urban areas. A nationalized energy sector could direct the massive subsidies already given to the tar sands and oil and gas interests toward a planned move away from fossil fuels and the development of renewable energy sources. Collectively, they could become a political force across the country for endogenous (that is internally-directed) economic investment, arguing for a move away from dependency on the competitiveness of individual firms, and end to free trade and capital mobility and argue for structural reforms that reject the fundamental principles of neoliberalism and capitalism.

The new union documents call for a reassessment of the way that unions engage in electoral politics. The CAW has stressed strategic voting and, at times, issue-oriented campaigning during elections, while the CEP is more closely tied to the NDP. In his speech at the CAW Constitutional Convention Ken Lewenza talked about all three options. In the current context, the NDP looms large and not just because of the CEP tradition. As the official opposition in Ottawa, it has become a magnet of sorts for a significant segment of progressive Canadians.

The new union needs to consider a politics that challenges the key elements of neoliberalism and capitalism and argues for reforms which move in an alternative direction. ”

But the NDP will not challenge the larger direction of neoliberalism, or resource and export dependency. The new union – like the rest of the labour movement – needs to consider a politics that challenges the key elements of neoliberalism and capitalism and argues for reforms which move in an alternative direction. This is not compatible with a politics that defines itself in terms of social democracy or the NDP.

Any serious attempt toward a politics that challenges the system might require an effort to collectively consider how to do politics differently: doing education with members about the current economic system, asking what is wrong with it, what alternatives can there be to neoliberal capitalism, how a union can contribute to arguing and organizing for an alternative and, thinking about what can be done in the meantime. (At one time, the CAW did organize what it called a Task Force on Working Class Politics. It ended up being a rather interesting snapshot of the political opinions and aspirations of the members, but little else.)

That kind of project is beyond the capacity of any union right now, especially in an environment where the socialist left – which can influence, inspire and learn from such a project – is virtually non-existent. But working to build support for it, amongst the activists in and around the union is an important part of changing that environment.

The Union and the Exercise of Renewal

The desire to renew the union is clear in many of the plans and approaches outlined in the documents. But a critical component of renewal is not addressed. While there are structures that have openings for rank and file participation and initiatives, the new union does little to create an autonomous democratic life in the union, whether in the locals or throughout the new representative spaces, where rank and file members and activists initiate and participate in political movements and argue for policies and approaches that differ from the existing leadership.

In the CAW, large local unions and the elected councils (which are the model for the new union’s institutions) became spaces where the leadership present policies and approaches, and the members ‘respond.’ They are not places where workers bring ideas, positions and proposals (or in organized groups based on competing visions or political approaches), and argue them out. Elections in these bodies (and in key local unions) are often non-contested, and this is celebrated as some kind of vindication of incumbents. Most members accept the policies that come down to them or, if they disagree, tend to lose interest and grumble silently – much like life in other institutions in bourgeois society. Even the recent elections to the NEB were not contested – certainly elections were not seen as spaces to raise alternative views. It reflects the decline in democratic life of rank and file workers and the parallel decline in political literacy and radicalism across the entire union movement.

This also reinforces bureaucratic practices that most unions carry with them, such as the tendency for many full-time union representatives to become accustomed to life out of the workplace or off the line. This creates well-recognized barriers between the stratum of elected leaders and many of the rank and file and activist layers.

The lack of membership initiative and participation – and the closely-related absence of an autonomous political life inside these unions – can be addressed in a number of ways, all of which are difficult: the union needs to be engaged in struggles in the workplace and local communities against employers and governments; and leading, debating and orienting these struggles inside the union’s democratic structures. This should become a means educating and politicizing members. Union education must be tied to summarizing and orienting these experiences. The culture, activities and structures of the new regional councils could move away from activities built around reports from the leadership, and instead encourage member initiated agendas and issues. Traditional leadership and organizational models must be questioned, with experiments such as term limits, rotating of staff or full time reps, and others.

Here again, for autonomous political movements and organizations to become a factor amongst the rank and file and activist layer, there needs to be an activist left working outside and inside the union. In past historical periods a lively internal political life was tied to the strength of radical political parties and organizations, rooted in the larger working-class.

Conclusion

The overall project of merging the CAW and CEP is a positive one. Its plan to allow individual membership and open up to social movements outside of the union brings important potentials for moving forward. But most of the new union’s more ambitious agenda items stand in contradiction to their current practices, the broader structural and political limitations of the era and the component unions’ inability and unwillingness to do what is necessary to challenge the latter. The current set of collective agreements being ratified with the Detroit Three automakers is a case in point.

Changing this requires an active and growing socialist and anti-capitalist left in Canada and North America. But this left today is tiny, localized and isolated from the larger trade union movement. Building such a movement would go a long way toward creating the conditions to allow unions to transform their organizations, relations with the rest of the working-class and a larger politics. •

Herman Rosenfeld is a retired CAW Staffperson, former GM worker, taught Labour Studes at McMaster and Political Science at York University.

Notes:

1. The experiences in the U.S., with UNITE-HERE, and Britain, with UNISON, not to mention efforts to create cross-continent unions have been mixed, at best.

2. See: Herman Rosenfeld, “The Electro-Motive Lockout and Non-Occupation: What did we lose? What can we learn?The Bullet, N. 615, April 10, 2012. The latest collective agreements signed between the Detroit Three automakers and the CAW sadly reflects this in both the results and the underlying approach.

3. Towards a New Union, CAW-CEP Proposal Committee Final Report, August 2012, p. 9. The new union also has plans for inclusiveness and participation at multiple levels for people of colour, women and LGBT members.

4. Towards a New Union, p. 30.

5. Despite the efforts of the Change to Win group in the U.S. to increase percentages of resources earmarked for organizing, American densities remain abysmally low.

6. This has both strength and weaknesses as will be argued below.

7. Towards a New Union, p. 24.

8. This is a thumbnail sketch. See: Towards a New Union, p.21.

9. A Moment of Truth for Canadian Labour, CAW-CEP Discussion Paper, p.1; Towards a New Union, p. 9.

10. Towards a New Union, p. 5.

11. A number of journalistic and academic commentaries and descriptions describe (while some reinforce) this. See: Greg Keenan, “Union reaches deal with Ford. Gives GM and Chrysler and extension,” Globe and Mail, September 18, 2012; Charlotte Yates, “Labour expert warns CAW that Detroit 3 ‘feel fragile’,” CBC News; Bernard Wolf, “World has changed for Detroit’s Big 3 and their unions,” Globe and Mail, September 17, 2012.

12. According to the union’s Collective Bargaining Report handed out to Ford workers at the ratification meetings, wages remain at 60% for 2 years; 65% for a third; 70% for a further two years; 75% for the sixth; and so on. At a time where the union has accepted the principle of adjusting wages for new hires to accommodate the competitive challenges of the employers, and where new hiring will be sluggish at best, one wonders if further and more onerous ‘grow-ins’ aren’t awaiting for the next contract, four years from now.

13. Some argue that the CAW’s further embrace of concessions in the current agreement can be used as a lesson to discipline the public sector unions. See: Martin Regg Cohn, “How some unions make the best – and worst – of tough times,” Toronto Star, September 19, 2012.

14. A Better World is Possible, 1st Constitutional and Collective Bargaining Convention Collective Bargaining and Political Action Program, CAW, August 20-24, 2012, p. 16.

15. A Better World is Possible. Also see: Jim Stanford, “Spinning Mark Carney at the 2012 CAW convention,” Rabble.ca, August 29, 2012.

16. CEP Energy Policy.

17. See: Herman Rosenfeld, “The North American Auto Industry in Crisis,” Monthly Review, 61: 2, June 2009; Dan La Botz, “What’s to be done about the Auto Industry?,” MRzine, October 18, 2008.

“Warship Diplomacy”: A Prelude to All Out War against Iran?

September 26th, 2012 by Prof Michel Chossudovsky

NATO and allied forces are involved in major naval exercises in the Persian Gulf. 

War games in the Eastern Mediterranean directed against  Syria have also being contemplated.  Meanwhile,  Tehran is preparing for its largest air defense exercises to be held in October…

Warships from some 25 countries including NATO member states and partner nations have converged on the  Strait of Hormuz  in what is described by the British media  as “an unprecedented show of force as Israel and Iran move towards the brink of war.” (Daily Telegraph, September 26, 2012).

Officially, the operation is described as an “anti-mine exercise” of a purely defensive nature, according to US Vice Admiral John W. Miller, Commander of the Fifth Fleet.

According to US military sources, the war games will “focus on a hypothetical threat from an extremist organization to mine the international strategic waterways of the Middle East, including the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Oman, and the Persian Gulf, although exercise activities will not extend into the Strait of Hormuz.” (PBS News Hour, September 16, 2012, emphasis added)

“The hypothetical threat from an extremist organization” no doubt refers to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The US has deployed three carrier strike groups. Britain has deployed it HMS Diamond destroyer. Warships from the Gulf states and Saudi Arabia are also involved.

This massive deployment of military hardware is tacitly acknowledged by military analysts as constituting an act of provocation directed against Iran.

While officially, “the aim [of the war games] is not to increase anxiety, but rather to ensure stability.”,  a  preemptive US-Israeli  war on Iran is the underlying assumption of these war games.

We are dealing with a diabolical military agenda:  The Strait of Hormuz is 34 kilometers wide at its narrowest point. “The width of the shipping lane in either direction is only three kilometers, separated by a three kilometer buffer zone.”

 

The naval exercises conducted within proximity of Iran’s territorial waters (see above) are also intended to simulate Iran’s response to a US-Israeli attack, namely what actions will be taken by allied forces in response to military retaliation by Iran.

USS Ponce, the U.S. Navy’s naval base in the Persian gulf.

USS Ponce, US Navy’s Naval Base in the Persian Gulf

These war games are said to be largest ever undertaken in the region. “They will practise tactics in how to breach an Iranian blockade of the strait and the force will also undertake counter-mining drills.”  They will also simulate within a short distance of the enemy’s territorial waters,  an attack on Iran as well as the simulated destruction of Iranian jet fighters and warships. (The Daily Telegraph, op cit)

The USS Ponce is to serve as a “staging and command post for mine hunting operations”.  USS Ponce (See above) is also carrying an “underwater drone” .  “The BAE Systems Plc (BA/) 25mm guided ‘‘Mark 38 Mod 2,” and Kingfish unmanned underwater vehicle are among the programs the Pentagon this year accelerated under a “Fast Lane” initiative to counter Iranian naval weapons. One of the most serious threats, the Navy says, are Iranian speedboats that can employ “swarming” tactics.” (Bloomberg, September 19, 2012)

These war games serve essentially two related purposes.

1. To threaten and intimidate Iran with a massive display of military might.

2. To deliberately create conditions within proximity of Iran’s territorial waters, which could lead to a Gulf of Tonkin type incident. The latter would involve military provocation conducive to confrontation and/or response by Iran.  This incident, would in turn provide a justification for attacking Iran on the grounds of self-defense.

The unspoken objective of warship diplomacy is to trigger an all out war. The objective is to portray Iran as the aggressor, as a threat to peace and security. Already insinuations abound in the Western media  to the effect that Iran may attempt to “draw the Americans into a conflict”. Confrontation in the Strait of Hormuz is part of the simulations and scenarios contemplated by US and allied military planners:

“Western leaders are convinced that Iran will retaliate to any attack by attempting to mine or blockade the shipping lane through which passes around 18 million barrels of oil every day, approximately 35 per cent of the world’s oil traded by sea.” (Ibid )

US defence secretary and former CIA director Leon Panetta, has intimated, in this regard, that any attempt by Iran “to exercise control over the Strait of Hormuz could be met with force.”

Iran has retorted stating that if it it is attacked,  it could close the Strait of Hormuz.

The underlying situation is extremely tense.

While the US-NATO naval exercises were ongoing, Iran test-fired anti-warship missiles near the Strait of Hormuz.

The Iranian war games was taking place simultaneously and close to the U.S.-led naval exercises in the Persian Gulf.

In October, Iran will be conducting  a major air defense war game in preparation of a US-NATO-Israeli attack. Thesewar games will test Iran’s missile capabilities.”The [Iranian] exercise is being showcased as the biggest air defence war game in the Islamic Republic’s history, and will be its most visible response yet to the prospect of an Israeli military strike. The Iranian war games will display the Islamic Republics missile capabilities.” (Ibid)  Tehran has announced that in the case of a US-Israeli attack, Israel as well as US military facilities in the region would be the target of retaliatory missile attacks.

Confronting Syria in the Eastern Mediterranean

Western military deployments directed against Iran are coordinated with those directed against Syria. We are dealing with an integrated military agenda pertaining to the entire Middle Eat Central Asian region.

A Franco-British naval operation consisting of the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, and HMS Illustrious equipped with Apache attack helicopters will be conducting war games off the Syrian coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean.  This Franco-British naval operation  code-named  “Response Force Task Group” is directed against the government of Bashar Al Assad.

Fichier:Charles De Gaulle (R91) underway 2009.jpg

France’s Charles De Gaulle aircraft carrier

Announced in July by the British Ministry of Defense,the Franco-British warships are  also slated to participate in the planned evacuation of  “British nationals from the Middle East, should the ongoing conflict in Syria further spill across borders into neighboring Lebanon and Jordan.”

The evacuation program is being used as a pretext for military intervention directed against Syria.

Sources in the British Ministry of Defense, while confirming the Royal Navy’s “humanitarian mandate” in the planned evacuation program, have categorically denied “any intention of a combat role for British forces [against Syria]“.

*        *      *

WWIII Scenario

The object of this book is to forcefully reverse the tide of war, challenge the war criminals in high office and the powerful corporate lobby groups which support them.” (Michel Chossudovsky, Towards a World War III Scenario, Global Research, Montreal,  2012)

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Reviews

Professor Chossudovsky’s hard-hitting and compelling book explains why and how we must immediately undertake a concerted and committed campaign to head off this impending cataclysmic demise of the human race and planet earth. This book is required reading for everyone in the peace movement around the world.”
-Francis A. Boyle, Professor of International Law, University of Illinois College of Law

“This book is a ‘must’ resource – a richly documented and systematic diagnosis of the supremely pathological geo-strategic planning of US wars since ‘9-11’ against non-nuclear countries to seize their oil fields and resources under cover of ‘freedom and democracy’.”
-John McMurtry, Professor of Philosophy, Guelph University

“In a world where engineered, pre-emptive, or more fashionably “humanitarian” wars of aggression have become the norm, this challenging book may be our final wake-up call.”
-Denis Halliday, Former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations

Michel Chossudovsky exposes the insanity of our privatized war machine. Iran is being targeted with nuclear weapons as part of a war agenda built on distortions and lies for the purpose of private profit. The real aims are oil, financial hegemony and global control. The price could be nuclear holocaust. When weapons become the hottest export of the world’s only superpower, and diplomats work as salesmen for the defense industry, the whole world is recklessly endangered. If we must have a military, it belongs entirely in the public sector. No one should profit from mass death and destruction.
-Ellen Brown, author of ‘Web of Debt’ and president of the Public Banking Institute

On September 24, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization granted Iraq the second Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme under the auspices of the bloc’s latest military collaboration and integration framework, partners across the globe.

The latter program (for which the substantives are occasionally capitalized), NATO’s latest, incorporates to date eight nations in the broader Asia-Pacific region (including West Asia, the Middle East) that have supplied troops for the U.S.-led military organization’s war in Afghanistan under International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) command or are subsumed under NATO consultative arrangements and training programs like the Afghanistan-Pakistan-ISAF Tripartite Commission, the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan and the NATO Training Mission – Iraq.

The partners across the globe currently are Afghanistan, Australia, Iraq, Japan, Mongolia, New Zealand, Pakistan and South Korea. Among the 50 nations providing NATO with troop contingents for the war in South Asia are additional Asia-Pacific states not covered by other international NATO partnership formats like the Partnership for Peace (22 nations in Europe, the South Caucasus and Central Asia), the Mediterranean Dialogue (seven nations in North Africa and the Middle East, with Libya to be the eighth) and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, which targets the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates).

Those states – Malaysia, Singapore and Malaysia – are likely the next candidates for the new global partnership, as are Latin American troop contributors like El Salvador (present) and Colombia (announced). The inclusion of the last will mark the expansion of NATO, through memberships and partnerships, to all six inhabited continents.

In the past two years there has been discussion about NATO establishing a collective partnership arrangement, which could include individual partnerships as well, with the ten members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which are, in addition to Malaysia and Singapore, mentioned above, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand.

During the NATO summit in Chicago this May, Secretary General Rasmussen met with what were identified as 13 partners across the globe.

Regarding the new partnership agreement with Iraq, the NATO website reports that it follows and builds upon the eight-year NATO Training Mission-Iraq, which was employed to train thousands of Iraq officers, soldiers and oil police, and “inaugurates a full-fledged partnership.” (2)

The Alliance further stated, “The signing of the partnership accord marks the formal accession of Iraq to NATO’s ‘partnerships family,’” which will create the basis for the Western alliance “assisting Iraq as it builds a modern security sector which can cooperate with international partners.”

That is, the NATO-trained Iraq armed forces are being recruited into the Western military axis’ international nexus.

Four days earlier NATO signed an Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme with South Korea in Brussels which, the NATO press release on the occasion stated, “follows seven years of progressive engagement from a dialogue that was initiated in 2005.”

In June NATO Secretary General Rasmussen traveled to New Zealand and signed the same agreement with the nation’s prime minister, John Key.

The first Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme was signed with Mongolia this March. (Though an agreement with the same title was signed with Switzerland in the same month.) That country borders China and Russia; in fact, of the eight current partners across the globe, three – Mongolia, Pakistan and Afghanistan – share borders with China and two others, Japan and South Korea, are its near neighbors.

In conjunction with the U.S., NATO is striving to assemble the remnants of defunct or dormant Cold War-era military blocs in the Asia-Pacific region, all modeled after NATO itself – the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO), the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) and the Security Treaty between Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America (ANZUS) – to replicate in the East against China what NATO expansion has accomplished in Europe over the past 13 years in relation to Russia: its exclusion, isolation and encirclement by military bases, naval deployments and interceptor missile installations.

The U.S. has recruited Japan, South Korea and Australia into its global sea- and land-based missile shield grid, with a recent report indicating the Pentagon plans to add the Philippines to the list with the deployment there of an Army Navy/Transportable Radar Surveillance mobile system of the sort already stationed in Japan, Israel and Turkey.

Following Mongolia, New Zealand, South Korea and Iraq, NATO intends to sign Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme accords with its remaining partners across the globe: Afghanistan, Australia, Japan and Pakistan.

Like South Korea with its neighbor to the north, Japan is embroiled in a showdown with China, and Afghanistan and Pakistan are involved in armed conflicts, with NATO waging a nearly 11-year war in Afghanistan and periodic incursions and attacks across the border in Pakistan.

The formal consolidation of military partnerships with the above nations will provide NATO the rationale for direct participation in hostilities in the Asia-Pacific region as a manifestation of the bloc’s repeated claims to being a global military force.

Notes

1) Partners Across The Globe: NATO Consolidates Worldwide Military Force, http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/partners-across-the-globe-nato-consolidates-worldwide-military-force/

2) Iraq: NATO Forges New Strategic Partnership In Persian Gulf, http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2012/06/21/iraq-nato-forges-new-strategic-partnership-in-persian-gulf/

Pravda.Ru interviewed Paul Craig Roberts, an American economist, who served as an Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan Administration and became a co-founder of Reaganomics – the economic policies promoted by the U.S. President Ronald Reagan during the 1980s. We asked Mr. Roberts to share his views about the current state of affairs inside and outside the United States.

Pravda.Ru: Mr. Roberts, you are known in Russia as the creator of Reaganomics, which helped the country overcome stagflation. What were the key aspects of that policy and how would you estimate its results today? Do you think your faith in free market has shattered?

Paul Craig Roberts: Free market means the freedom of price to adjust to supply and demand. It does not mean the absence of regulation of human behavior.

Reaganomics was a political word for supply-side economics, a new development in economic theory. In the post World War 2 western world, governments used Keynesian demand management economic policy to control inflation and to boost employment. John Maynard Keynes was the British economist who explained the Great Depression in the West as a consequence of insufficient aggregate demand to maintain full employment and stable prices.

Keynesian demand management relied on government budget deficits and easy monetary policy (money creation) to stimulate demand for goods and services. To control inflation from too much demand for goods and services, high tax rates were used to reduce disposable income.

The problem that developed is that the high tax rates on income made leisure inexpensive in terms of lost current earnings from not working, and made current consumption inexpensive in terms of lost future income from not saving and investing. In other words, high tax rates on income made leisure and current consumption cheap in terms of foregone present and future income. Thus, high tax rates on income depressed the supply of labor and capital.

Using the UK’s 98% tax rate on investment income (pre-Thatcher), the Nobel economist Milton Friedman illustrated the problem with this example. You are an Englishman with $100,000. Shall you invest it for future income, or shall you purchase a Rolls Royce and enjoy life? The true price of the Rolls Royce (or Bentley, or Ferrari or Maserati) is not the purchase price. The price of the exotic car is the foregone future income from not investing the $100,000.

Suppose you could earn 10% on the $100,000. That would be $10,000 per year as the cost of purchasing the luxury car. But after tax (98%) the car would only cost $200 per year, a very cheap price.

The same example works for labor and salary income. Because of the high marginal tax rates, many professionals such as medical doctors closed their practices on Fridays and went to the golf course.

By changing the policy mix, that is by tightening monetary policy and reducing marginal tax rates (the tax rate on increases in income), the supply-side economic policy of the Reagan administration caused aggregate supply to increase. Thus output expanded relative to demand, and inflation declined.

This supply-side policy was instrumental as Reagan’s first step toward ending the cold war with the Soviet Union. As long as the US economy was afflicted with stagflation–the simultaneous rise in both inflation and unemployment, the Soviet government saw capitalism failing along with communism. But when Reagan corrected the economic problem, it made the Soviet government unsure that it could withstand an arms race.

Reagan’s next step was to bring the Soviet government to the negotiating table to end the cold war. The cold war was an economic drain on both societies and always had the risk of a miscalculation that would result in nuclear war, wiping out life on earth. Gorbachev, an intelligent person aware of the risk, came to agreement with Reagan.

This was a great accomplishment for the Americans and for the Russians. Friendship and cooperation was now possible.
But it was not to last. Reagan’s successors took advantage of the good will between the countries that Reagan and Gorbachev had created to achieve American hegemony over the world.

Q: During the 80s, relying on the revived economic power of the United States, Ronald Reagan managed to convince the Soviet government to end the Cold War. All those agreements, as you believe, were destroyed by Reagan’s successors. Russia shares a completely different opinion about Reagan. The Russians think of him as the man, who resumed the arms race, designed the space shield and “cut out the cancer of communism” having won (or maybe bribed) Gorbachev over to his side for cooperation. Maybe one shouldn’t strike him out of the list of the authors of today’s American “idiotism?”

A: Reagan was not a member of the Republican Establishment. He defeated the Establishment’s candidate, George H. W. Bush (father of George W. Bush) for the Republican presidential nomination. By appealing to Democratic as well as Republican voters, Reagan had a great electoral victory. Reagan had two goals: one was to end stagflation, the other was to end the cold war. He was not much interested in anything else. The “arms race” and the “anti-ballistic missile defense–star wars” were never real. They were threats used to bring Gorbachev to negotiate the end of the cold war. Unlike the present Republican Party, Reagan wanted peace, not war.

I know this because when I succeeded in establishing the new economic policy that cured stagflation, President Reagan appointed me to a super-secret presidential committee that had subpoena power over the CIA.

The CIA opposed Reagan’s effort to end the cold war, as did the powerful military-security complex, about which President Dwight Eisenhower warned the American people in his last address to the American nation. The end of the cold war threatened the profits of the powerful military industries and the power of the CIA.

The CIA said that the Soviet Union would win an arms race, because the Soviet Union could control investment, unlike the US, and could allocate the entire Gross Domestic Product of the Soviet Empire to the military. Reagan’s secret committee over-ruled the CIA.
I had been a member of the US-USSR student exchange program to the Soviet Union in 1961 and had observed the situation. My first book (1971) said that the Soviet economy had failed. When decades later I addressed the Soviet Academy of Sciences in Moscow in 1989 and 1990, members of the Economic Institute brought me copies of my book to be autographed. And I had thought that censorship existed in the Soviet Union.

The Soviet Union collapsed three years after Reagan left office. It came as a surprise to those of us who had helped Reagan to end the cold war and dispose of the nuclear war threat.
Myself and many other Reagan supporters opposed the extension of NATO to Russia’s reduced borders. What the world seems to be unaware of is that the Soviet collapse unleashed a new, highly dangerous ideology in the US known as neoconservatism.

Q: You wrote that the insane and criminal government in Washington, no matter Democratic of Republicans, no matter the outcome of the next elections, is the biggest threat to life on Earth ever. How would you describe this threat, what is it made of and who represents it in the US?

A: The threat is the neoconservative ideology, unleashed by the Soviet collapse. It is a form of Marxism in which American “democratic capitalism” instead of the proletariat has won history’s verdict–”the end of history.” Americans are the “indispensable people,” and the US is the “indispensable nation” with the right and responsibility to establish its hegemony over the world. Adolf Hitler called the same thing “Aryan Superiority.” Now Washington asserts the superiority. The neoconservative ideology threatens the world with nuclear war.

Q: What would you say about the Russian law, according to which political parties funded from abroad should be registered as foreign agents?

A: The US has laws that require foreign interests to register as foreign agents. This law does not always apply to all Israeli lobby groups, such as AIPAC.

There are no political parties in the US that are funded by foreign interests. No such thing would be permitted. It would be regarded as high treason. What is surprising is that the Russian government permitted for 20 years its political opposition to be funded by Washington and still permits that today as long as the opposition registers as an American agent. The ability of Washington to fund the Russian government’s political opposition and also protest groups, perhaps including Pussy Riot, allows Washington free access to destabilize Russia.

Q: What role do so-called non-governmental organizations play in the US? The National Endowment for Democracy, for example?

A: NGOs play no role inside the US. NGOs are Washington’s means of interfering in the internal affairs of other countries, such as funding and organizing “color revolutions” in Georgia and Ukraine. The National Endowment for Democracy is a principle funder of political opposition and protest groups in countries with governments to which Washington is opposed. Despite its original purpose, the National Endowment for Democracy has been converted into an agent for US hegemony.

Q: You wrote a lot about the fate of Pussy Riot. As you said, “they were brutally deceived and used by the Washington-financed NGOs that have infiltrated Russia.” What is the goal of such stunts?

A: It might be the case that Pussy Riot’s assaults on Russian probity are independent protests. On the other hand, the offending stunts could be provoked and funded by NGOs that are funded from Washington. Regardless, it is the result that is important. The result is that the controversy over Pussy Riot has shifted criticism from Washington’s destruction of Syria to Putin, “the suppressor of free speech.” It is folly for Russians to ally with Washington’s propaganda against their own government. If this folly continues, Russia will end up as another American puppet state.

Q: If an act like that of Pussy Riot took place in America, in a location of national significance, how would the general public and the government react? What do common people say about the Pussy Riot scandal in Russia?

A: Ordinary Americans know nothing about Pussy Riot. Despite the propaganda from Washington, most Americans have never heard of the incident. The importance of Washington’s propaganda about Pussy Riot is to send the signal to Washington’s European puppet states that Russia is to be demonized for opposing Washington’s destruction of Syria and Iran. It was the Russian and Chinese governments that blocked Washington’s UN resolution that would have allowed an opening for NATO to bomb Syria as it did Libya. Instead of being praised for its concern with life, human rights, and international law, Russia has been damned.

The consequence in the US of an act like those performed by Pussy Riot would vary depending on state and local laws. Also, depending on where the act takes place–a Jewish synagog for instance–the US Department of Justice could declare the act a hate crime or a form of discrimination against a “preferred minority” and bring a federal case.

Q: You wrote that the US government was full of determination to have the war on three fronts: Syria, Lebanon and Iran – in the Middle East, China – in the Far East and Russia – in Europe. Does the country have financial possibilities for that?

A: The US is bankrupt. However, the US dollar remains the world reserve currency. This means that the US can print money to pay its bills. As long as the world accepts the dollar as world reserve currency, the US will be able to continue its wars.

Q: Being in the insular situation, the USA experiments on other countries hoping that war will never come to the US territory. The US spends a lot more on defense of its forward-based forces in Europe and in the Middle East than it does on defense of its own borders. Maybe Russia should be more active and put the threat closer to the US borders by deploying a sea-based missile defense system near the shores of a friendly Latin American country?

A: Like President Reagan, I am in favor of peace. I believe that Americans, Russians, Chinese, Iranians, and everyone else should spend their resources in getting along with one another, not in trying to dominate one another. I believe that Washington is forcing Russia and China to spend resources on military preparedness that the countries could better use in economic development and in protecting the environment. It is my belief that Washington’s drive for world hegemony is driving the world toward nuclear war. I have no way of knowing how the Russian and Chinese governments might respond to Washington’s drive for hegemony.

Q: What stops Russia and China from uniting to oppose the USA?

A: This question is outside my knowledge. Perhaps suspicion of one another, like the suspicion between Sunni and Shia that allows the US to dominate the Middle East.

Q: You said that the US is a police state, which was set up in the name of mystification of the “war on terror.” Can you give a clear explanation as to what the American Big Brother is doing?

A: The Bush/Cheney regime rammed through the PATRIOT Act, which assaulted the US Constitution and took away US civil liberties. The Bush regime established that the president did not have to obey either statutory US law, such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act which requires a court warrant for spying on US citizens. President Bush violated the law, a felony, and was not held accountable.

Bush asserted and established by assertion, the power to negate Constitutional protections, such as habeas corpus, and confined US citizens to indefinite detainment (life in prison) without any evidence or court proceedings. Nothing was done about this violation of constitutional order. President Obama has declared that he has the power to execute US citizens on suspicion alone without evidence or due process of law. These are the most extreme police state measures of modern times.

The Department of Homeland Security has announced that it has shifted its focus from Muslim terrorism to “domestic extremists,” an undefined term. Recently the Department of Homeland Security has purchased more than one billion rounds of deadly ammunition, such as hollow point bullets, enough to shoot the entire US population several times. There are also reports that detainment camps have been constructed, allegedly for such events as hurricane evacuation. Congress and the media are not asking questions about these developments.

Q: President Barack Obama said that one of the principles to resume peace talks between Israel and Palestine was about the retrieval of 1967 borders. How could the Jewish lobby let him say that?

A: President Obama has been declared by Israeli prime minister Netanyahu and the Israel Lobby to be a lackluster friend of Israel, because Obama has not yet launched a military attack on Iran. Obama, perhaps believing himself to be the president of the world’s only superpower, and not a puppet of the Israeli prime minister, has taken offense at the public bullying to which he has been subjected by the far right-wing Israeli government. Obama’s statement referring to the 1967 borders was Obama’s way of letting the Israeli government know that it was going too far and pushing too hard.

Q: You see the basic problems of the US economy in moving production to China. If you were invited to serve as an adviser to the president, what would be your plan for taking America out of the crisis?

A: I will never again be permitted to serve as an adviser to the president of the US. Since the Clinton presidency, the only permitted advisers are those who lie for the government. I will not do that.

I am unsure that America can be taken out of economic crisis. Much of the most productive part of the US economy has been moved offshore in order to increase corporate profits, the performance-based bonuses for executive compensation and capital gains to equity owners. The US has lost critical supply chains, industrial infrastructure, and the knowledge of skilled workers.

Theoretically, the US could bring its corporations back to America by taxing their profits according to the geographical location in which value is added to their product. If value is added abroad, in China or India, for example, the tax rate would be high. If value was added domestically in the US, the tax rate would be low.

The US could also resort to the protective tariffs that were responsible for its rise as an economic power.

These changes would be difficult to enact as the changes are contrary to the material interests of the one percent.

The US today is ruled by an oligarchy of private interests. The US government is not very independent of the powerful interest groups that fund political campaigns. The US ceased being a democracy during the Clinton administration.

Дмитрий Судаков

By Madison Ruppert

The dangerous reality of nuclear power is becoming increasingly apparent in the wake of the continuing (and “profoundly man-made”) disaster at Fukushima as well as studies which project similarly devastating disasters in the future.

Yet nations including Japan continue to press forward with nuclear power in spite of the clear dangers and the widespread public opposition to the deadly technology. That being said, Japan recently announced that they will seek to phase out nuclear power generation by 2040, although how hard they will push toward this goal has yet to be seen.

The case against nuclear power just gets stronger with another study headed by Spanish researchers which identifies nuclear power plants which are especially vulnerable to suffering the devastation of a tsunami.

“In total, twenty-three plants, in which there are seventy-four active nuclear reactors, are located in dangerous areas in east and southeast of Asia, including Fukushima I,” Homeland Security News Wire reports.

The researchers found the “potentially dangerous” sites which are either already constructed or currently under construction. While scientists still cannot perfectly predict tsunamis and obviously thus cannot predict nuclear disasters as a result of tsunamis, they can identify potentially problematic sites before any real danger is present.

The study entitled, “Civil nuclear power at risk of tsunamis,” was conducted by Joaquin Rodríguez-Vidal Jose M. Rodriguez-Llanes and Debarati Guha-Sapir and was published in Natural Hazards 63, no. 2 (September 2012).

The researchers determined the world’s geographic zones which are at greater risk of being hit by large tsunamis and based on their data they determined that there are a whopping 23 nuclear plants with a total of 74 reactors in these danger zones.

Unsurprisingly, the researchers determined that one of the nuclear power plants in these high risk areas is the nuclear facility at Fukushima which continues to be shrouded in mystery thanks to the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and the Japanese government.

Thankfully not all of the plants and reactors in these high risk zones are currently online. Of the 23 plants identified by the researchers, 13 plants and 29 reactors are currently active.

Other plants are being expanded to include even more additional reactors and seven brand new plants are under construction which will bring 16 new reactors online when complete.

“We are dealing with the first vision of the global distribution of civil nuclear power plants situated on the coast and exposed to tsunamis,” said José Manuel Rodríguez-Llanes, one of the authors of the study and researcher with the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium.

The researchers based their determinations of tsunami risk on a combination of factors including archeological, geological, historical and instrumental records.

While it is not just the area in Asia which is threatened by tsunamis, the areas highlighted by the study are at greater risk due to the presence of nuclear power stations.

“The impact of natural disaster is getting worse due to the growing interaction with technological installations,” said Debarati Guha-Sapir.

China is on the forefront of the expansion of nuclear power with China making up 27 out of the 64 reactors currently under construction.

“The most important fact is that nineteen (two of which are in Taiwan) out of the twenty-seven reactors are being built in areas identified as dangerous,” the researchers stated.

Japan’s reactors are still far from safe with seven plants and 19 reactors at risk, one of which is still under construction. South Korea is currently expanding two plants with five reactors, all of which are at risk according to the study. India’s two reactors and Pakistan’s single reactor are also at risk.

“The location of nuclear installations does not only have implications for their host countries but also for the areas which could be affected by radioactive leaks,” said Joaquín Rodríguez-Vidal, lead author of the study and researcher at the Geodynamics and Paleontology Department of the University of Huelva in Spain.

The researchers emphasize the need for lessons to be learned from the Fukushima disaster in order to avoid and prevent similar disasters in the future.

The authors noted that we are somewhat lucky that the Fukushima disaster occurred in one of the nations with the world’s highest standards in technological infrastructure and scientific development.

“If it had occurred in a country less equipped for dealing with the consequences of catastrophe, the impact would have been a lot more serious for the world at large,” the researchers stated.

Therefore, one would expect if such a disaster was to hit China, India or Pakistan, the damage would be considerably worse.

If we do not learn from the horrific damage caused by Fukushima – much of which is still not seen and the ramifications of which likely will not be accurately determined for decades – we are doomed to repeat it.

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On Wednesday, September 12th, the House of Representatives voted 301-118 to extend the 2008 amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) for another five years, despite continuing secrecy, unanswered questions, and concerns from across the political spectrum about its sweeping invasions of privacy.

When originally passed, FISA was meant to curtail the federal government’s surveillance practices. Over the years, provisions for dragnet surveillance have been expanded, particularly since 2002. During the Bush administration, the National Security Agency began a warrantless wiretapping scheme hatched in secret, and in such clear violation of FISA that Attorney General John Ashcroft refused to authorize it and Justice Department officials threatened to resign en masse.

When the program was first revealed to the public in 2005, by New York Times journalists who risked prosecution to reveal state secrets, it caused an earthquake in Washington. However, in 2008, Congress amended FISA to essentially permit what the original statute prohibited. Since then, the program has continued to operate in secret, drawing widespread concerns as the NSA has escalated its war on privacy and the Constitution.

In response to questions from Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), the Director of National Intelligence has even admitted that the NSA’s activities violated the Constitution, and the incredibly permissive limits of FISA, on at least one occasion.

The House’s vote to reauthorize the 2008 FISA amendments is beyond troubling. Many legislators and concerned Americans have called for greater transparency in the interpretation of this law, and how it has been applied. Yet the NSA has continuously denied requests to reveal information about how many Americans have been monitored.

Even more troubling is that lawmakers in the House voted to reauthorize these amendments without such information, aiming to entrench even beyond the next administration what BORDC executive director Shahid Buttar calls “the most pervasive state surveillance system ever known to humankind. The only settings in which powers like it have ever existed are dystopian science fiction novels.” In his recent article, “Uncle Sam is watching you,” Buttar states that though much about the NSA has been kept secret, what we do know about the program is quite telling:

We know that it began illegally, without any authorization by Congress and in clear violation of the FISA law crafted by Congress in the 1970s to stop our government from spying on Americans.

We know it is so vast and unchecked that, nearly ten years ago, Attorney General John Ashcroft refused to authorize it, even despite coercion from the Bush White House.

We know that an architect of the program, alarmed at how his work was co-opted to abuse the rights of Americans, blew a whistle about fraud and waste, only to face prosecution by the Obama Administration for espionage–until a federal court ultimately told the government to stop chasing a loyal servant of the American people.

Buttar also notes the Congressional failure is spread across party lines:

We know that congressional Democrats–including then Senator Obama–joined their Republican colleagues in 2008 to approve FISA, even while both parties paid lip service about defending constitutional values in Washington. Despite the partisan rancor apparent on many issues, Congress marches in lockstep on national security, elevating government power well beyond constitutional limits.

With the House vote complete, this overreaching authorization of unwarranted and unprecedented domestic surveillance will now move to the Senate.  Unfortunately, unless Senators finally heed the voices of Americans demanding answers and the restoration of their Fourth Amendment rights, many appear content to rubber stamp the House bill. For instance, Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) supports Senate approval without further revisions.

Until legislators acknowledge the concerned voices of We the People and act to impose overdue limits on dragnet domestic surveillance, it will be safe to presume that Uncle Sam is watching you.

How Do You Take Your Poison?

September 25th, 2012 by Chris Hedges

One way or another the corporate hemlock will be shoved down our throats. Corporate power, no matter who is running the ward after January 2013, is poised to carry out U.S. history’s most savage assault against the poor and the working class, not to mention the Earth’s ecosystem. And no one in power, no matter what the bedside manner, has any intention or ability to stop it.

We will all swallow our cup of corporate poison. We can take it from nurse Romney, who will tell us not to whine and play the victim, or we can take it from nurse Obama, who will assure us that this hurts him even more than it hurts us, but one way or another the corporate hemlock will be shoved down our throats. The choice before us is how it will be administered. Corporate power, no matter who is running the ward after January 2013, is poised to carry out U.S. history’s most savage assault against the poor and the working class, not to mention the Earth’s ecosystem. And no one in power, no matter what the bedside manner, has any intention or ability to stop it.

If you insist on participating in the cash-drenched charade of a two-party democratic election at least be clear about what you are doing. You are, by playing your assigned role as the Democratic or Republican voter in this political theater, giving legitimacy to a corporate agenda that means your own impoverishment and disempowerment. All the things that stand between us and utter destitution — Medicaid, food stamps, Pell grants, Head Start, Social Security, public education, federal grants-in-aid to America’s states and cities, the Women, Infants, and Children nutrition program (WIC), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and home-delivered meals for seniors — are about to be shredded by the corporate state. Our corporate oligarchs are harvesting the nation, grabbing as much as they can, as fast as they can, in the inevitable descent.

We will be assaulted this January when automatic spending reductions, referred to as “the fiscal cliff,” begin to dismantle and defund some of our most important government programs. Mitt Romney will not stop it. Barack Obama will not stop it.

And while Romney has been, courtesy of the magazine Mother Jones, exposed as a shallow hypocrite, Obama is in a class by himself. There is hardly a campaign promise from 2008 that Obama has not broken. This list includes his pledges to support the public option in health care, close Guantanamo, raise the minimum wage, regulate Wall Street, support labor unions in their struggles with employers, reform the Patriot Act, negotiate an equitable peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, curb our imperial expansion in the Middle East, stop torture, protect reproductive rights, carry out a comprehensive immigration reform, cut the deficit by half, create 5 million new energy jobs and halt home foreclosures. Obama, campaigning in South Carolina in 2007, said that as president he would fight for the right of collective bargaining. “I’d put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself, I’ll … walk on that picket line with you as president of the United States of America,” he said. But when he got his chance to put on those “comfortable pair of shoes” during labor disputes in Madison, Wis., and Chicago, he turned his back on working men and women.

Obama, while promising to defend Social Security, also says he stands behind the planned cuts outlined by his deficit commission, headed by Morgan Stanley board member Erskine Bowles and former Sen. Alan Simpson, a Wyoming Republican. The Bowles-Simpson plan calls for cutting 0.3 percentage points from the annual cost-of-living adjustment in the Social Security program. The annual reduction would slowly accumulate. After a decade it would mean a 3 percent cut. After two decades it would mean a 6 percent cut. The retirement age would be raised to 69. And those on Social Security who continued to work and made more than $40,000 a year would be penalized with further reductions. Obama’s payroll tax cuts have, at the same time, served to undermine the solvency of Social Security, making it an easier target for the finance corporations that seek to destroy the program and privatize the funds.

But that is just the start. Cities and states are frantically staving off collapse. They cannot pay for most pension plans and are borrowing at higher and higher interest rates to keep themselves afloat. The country’s 19,000 municipalities face steadily declining or stagnant property tax revenues, along with spiraling costs. Annual pension payments for state and local plans more than doubled to 15.7 percent of payrolls in 2011 from 6.4 percent a decade ago, according to a study by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. And local governments, which made some $50 billion in pension contributions in 2010, face unfunded pension liabilities of $3 trillion and unfunded health benefit liabilities of more than $1 trillion, according to The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government. State and local government spending fell at a rate of 2.1 percent in the second quarter of this year, according to the Commerce Department. It was the 11th consecutive quarterly reduction in expenditures. And in the past year alone local governments cut 66,000 jobs, mostly those of teachers and other school employees, reported The Wall Street Journal, which accumulated this list of grim statistics.

The costs of our most basic needs, from food to education to health care, are at the same time being pushed upward with no control or regulation. Tuition and fees at four-year colleges climbed 300 percent between 1990 and 2011, fueling the college loan crisis that has left graduates, most of them underemployed or unemployed, with more than $1 trillion in debt. Health care costs over the same period have risen 150 percent. Food prices have climbed 10 percent since June, according to the World Bank. There are now 46.7 million U.S. citizens, and one in three children, who depend on food stamps. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency under Obama has, meanwhile, expelled 1.5 million immigrants, a number that dwarfs deportations carried out by his Republican predecessor. And while we are being fleeced, the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve Bank has since 2008 doled out $16 trillion to national and global financial institutions and corporations.

Fiscal implosion is only a matter of time. And the corporate state is preparing. Obama’s assault on civil liberties has outpaced that of George W. Bush. The refusal to restore habeas corpus, the use of the Authorization to Use Military Force Act to justify the assassination of U.S. citizens, the passing of the FISA Amendments Act to monitor and eavesdrop on tens of millions of citizens without a warrant, the employment of the Espionage Act six times to threaten whistle-blowers inside the government with prison time, and the administration’s recent emergency appeal of U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest’s permanent injunction of Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act give you a hint of the shackles the Democrats, as well as the Republicans, intend to place on all those who contemplate dissent.

But perhaps the most egregious assault will be carried out by the fossil fuel industry. Obama, who presided over the repudiation of the Kyoto Accords and has done nothing to halt the emission of greenhouse gases, reversed 20 years of federal policy when he permitted the expansion of fracking and offshore drilling. And this acquiescence to big oil and big coal, no doubt useful in bringing in campaign funds, spells disaster for the planet. He has authorized drilling in federally protected lands, along the East Coast, Alaska and four miles off Florida’s Atlantic beaches. Candidate Obama in 2008 stood on the Florida coastline and vowed never to permit drilling there.

You get the point. Obama is not in charge. Romney would not be in charge. Politicians are the public face of corporate power. They are corporate employees. Their personal narratives, their promises, their rhetoric and their idiosyncrasies are meaningless. And that, perhaps, is why the cost of the two presidential campaigns is estimated to reach an obscene $2.5 billion. The corporate state does not produce a product that is different. It produces brands that are different. And brands cost a lot of money to sell.

You can dismiss those of us who will in protest vote for a third-party candidate and invest our time and energy in acts of civil disobedience. You can pride yourself on being practical. You can swallow the false argument of the lesser of two evils. But ask yourself, once this nightmare starts kicking in, who the real sucker is.

Chris Hedges spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years.

Hedges was part of the team of reporters at The New York Times awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for the paper’s coverage of global terrorism. He also received the Amnesty International Global Award for Human Rights Journalism in 2002. The Los Angeles Press Club honored Hedges’ original columns in Truthdig by naming the author the Online Journalist of the Year in 2009, and granted him the Best Online Column award in 2010 for his Truthdig essay “One Day We’ll All Be Terrorists.”

The Globalization of NATO

September 25th, 2012 by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

In Liaison with Washington: Canada’s Complicity in Torture

September 25th, 2012 by Matthew Behrens

The ease with which self-described democratic states embroil themselves in torture continues to be illustrated by the manner in which agencies of the Canadian state, from spies to judges, have wedged open a door to legitimize complicity in a practice that both domestic and international law ban outright.

Before dismissing that paragraph as preposterous, it is worth considering that two federal inquiries into the torture of Abdullah Almalki, Maher Arar, Ahmad El Maati, and Muayyed Nureddin revealed a sinister level of Canadian complicity in torture, from which no accountability or systemic changes have emerged. Further, damning documents reveal Canadian knowledge of and culpability in the renditions and torture of Benamar Benatta and Abousfian Abdelrazik. Meanwhile, the Federal Court, while accepting CSIS memos acknowledging that secret trial “security certificate” cases are based largely on torture, continues with hearings that could result in deportations to torture. That latter possibility is courtesy of a 2002 Supreme Court of Canada decision that left open the possibility of such complicity in torture under “exceptional circumstances.”

Outrage over Canadian involvement in torture remains fairly muted, especially as each new revelation of deepening complicity is met by government officials not so much with shamefaced promises to keep our hands clean, but rather bald-faced justifications in the name of security. Indeed, as in the U.S., there appears a growing Canadian effort to justify as legal and legitimate that which is neither.

Process of Legitimization

Part of that process of legitimization – accepting torture as a normal course of social and political events in much the same mundane way we would assess price drops in overseas markets – is now firmly fixed at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). As we learned last month in a declassified memo, CSIS runs a thinly disguised torture committee, using the more group hug-like moniker of the Information Sharing Evaluation Committee.

According to a formerly secret August 2011 memo from CSIS Deputy Director of Operations Michel Coulombe, a group of six people sit around the table and shoot the breeze about information coming across their desks that may have come from torture (or, to use their preferred term, “mistreatment”). Their task is to decide whether to act on the fruits of torture and whether to share information that could lead to the torture of someone else. This may sound familiar, because it’s exactly what CSIS and the RCMP were already found to be up to in the decade following 9/11. Rather than ending such practices, they’ve developed an Orwellian process whereby they justify doing what they are not supposed to do, with subsequent Public Safety memos from [Minister of Public Safety] Vic Toews to the Canadian Border Services Agency and the RCMP outlining the same process. All of these documents clearly state that the “Government of Canada does not condone the use of torture,” but then proceed to justify involvement in torture.

So what does the Gang of Six do when they decide whether they have to defy the law by getting down and dirty with torture? Their list of sources to consult starts with “CSIS databases,” a less than objective or reassuring source of information which the departed Inspector General of CSIS, Eva Plunkett, slammed in her November 2011 report as “unreliable.” (Her position has since been eliminated to save $1-million, while the War Department continues to spend upwards of $2-million on Viagra).

“Diplomatic Assurances”

CSIS is then to look at their “foreign arrangements” as well as “assurances” that have been received by the foreign entity. In deciding whether to turn someone over to the Gestapo or to share information with those who turn the screws, CSIS must decide whether the Gestapo’s promise not to torture someone can be taken at face value (this practice of “diplomatic assurances” has long been condemned as another disgrace that erodes further the outright ban on torture).

CSIS can also check the human rights reports from DFAIT (the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade). DFAIT was found to be complicit in torture by two federal inquiries (and their memos with respect to the torture of Abdelrazik, detained in Sudan for years, illustrated similar culpability as well). DFAIT human rights reports are not made public, according to the Arar Inquiry, because “there is some concern about the impact public reports may have on Canadian commercial interests with these countries.” In addition, the reliability of DFAIT reports is far from certain. The Arar Inquiry pointed out that while a DFAIT report on torture in Syria in 2001 referenced “credible evidence of torture” and the use of torture to extract confessions, the 2002 report qualifies the use of torture as “allegations” and omits mention of the use of torture to extract confessions. Notably, while Canadians like Maher Arar, Ahmad El Maati and Abdullah Almalki were detained and tortured in Syria, the DFAIT annual report failed to make any mention of them.

And when a perhaps junior staffer at DFAIT has the gall to report the truth, it is rewritten. Indeed, we learned in 2008 that an 89-page PowerPoint DFAIT training manual listed, among countries using torture, the U.S. and Israel (both of which are well-documented facts). Former foreign affairs minister Maxime Bernier reacted by declaring: “It contains a list that wrongly includes some of our closest allies. I have directed that the manual be reviewed and rewritten.”

The other items checked include “open source information” (code word for the National Post and other right-wing publications and websites from which CSIS builds its cases). To cover their derrieres, they throw a sop about consulting Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and U.S. State Department reports, but they likely carry no weight given that CSIS and DFAIT officials have repeatedly refused to acknowledge that torture has been systematic in countries like Syria and Egypt.

By choosing to be part of the torture chain, and using lawyers at Canada’s Department of Justice for cover (as they were during the torture of Canadians in Syria and Egypt), it appears that the Canadian government seeks not to hide its involvement, but rather to sanction it under the cover of law.

Training the Torturers?

Skeptics might ask whether this is blowing things out of proportion. Yet this is precisely what happens when the door to torture has been opened. U.S. lawyer Alan Dershowitz famously said that Americans should be able to obtain torture warrants for “extreme cases,” yet if one is to open that door, who does the torture? How is it practiced to ensure a torture team will be available and ready to roll when it is mandated by a torture warrant? Thus we enter the world of “torture controls and limitations,” in much the same twisted way in which we have global holocaust controls with nuclear weapons limitations.

Richard Matthews of Mount Allison University, in his excellent book The Absolute Violation, notes that just as fighter pilots need to train so they can drop their bombs,

“at some points torturers have to practice on victims if they are going to be any good. The spread of state torture is not merely a risk but is in fact inevitable once the state decides that torture serves a state interest.”

In this instance, CSIS has clearly defined its state interest in torture by declaring there will be times when it is necessary to engage in the odious practice. Matthews notes that

“defenders of torture typically accept that every human being has a right not to be tortured, and they agree that this should be enshrined in international law. The debate is not about whether there is such a right but about whether such rights may ever be overridden.” [emphasis added]

Matthews, whose book was published in 2008, has clearly hit the nail on the head, since this is exactly how the CSIS memos are structured. What follows from this rationale, he notes, is a concerted effort to incorporate such processes within the framework of the law, so that any decision that leads to blood on the hands will be seen as lawful.

This is made possible because in the UN Convention Against Torture, its early definition includes a dangerous exception in Article 1, when it states torture “does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.” From this definition, one can see the emerging legal and moral calisthenics engaged in by the Bush administration as well as Canada’s Justice Department and associated government agencies when they try and bend the definitions, use temperate language, and wrap their procedures in the soothing gauze of international law and respect for human rights. Indeed, in the CSIS memo and related documents, torture becomes mistreatment, and an interrogation session with electric shock or genital crushing gets reduced to a “detention interview.”

Furthermore, CSIS declares that it will not “knowingly rely upon information” derived from torture, a convenient construction given the willful blindness with which it operates with its foreign partners. If CSIS does not knowingly acknowledge that Syria engages in torture, then how can it be knowingly relying on the fruits of torture when it receives information from Syria? With such reasoning CSIS maintains it is “essential” to nurture these relationships because, in their eyes, they’re doing nothing wrong.

As Canada continually refuses to apologize to and provide compensation for the numerous returnees from overseas torture whose lives the government has ruined, it becomes even clearer how high the stakes have become in these cases: any acknowledgement that what was done in these situations was wrong, illegal, or unethical, would bump Canada from its comfortable position in the global torture chain. •

Matthew Behrens is a freelance writer and social justice advocate who co-ordinates the Homes not Bombs non-violent direct action network. He has worked closely with the targets of Canadian and U.S. ‘national security’ profiling for many years. This article first published on Rabble.ca website.

Education and Democracy in America

September 25th, 2012 by Stephen Lendman

Democracy and an educated citizenry go hand in hand. Public education is the great equalizer. America’s founders believed it was insurance against loss of liberty.
Jefferson said:

“Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves, therefore, are its only safe depositories. And to render them safe, their minds must be improved to a certain degree.”

Neil Postman perhaps is best known for saying “Americans are the most entertained and least informed people in the world.” Most know little or nothing about what matters most.

Ignorance isn’t universal, but a significant majority is affected. Postman served as chairman of New York University’s Department of Culture and Communication. He also said:

“Public education isn’t important because it serves the public. (It’s) important because it creates the public.”

Benjamin Barber believed the same thing, saying:

“Public schools must be understood as public not simply because they serve the public, but because they establish us as a public.”

They give meaning to “we the people.”

They develop better citizens and improve achievement. Most people agree. A 2003 America Association of School Administrators (AASA) poll showed 95% of respondents agree with the statement:

“We need to stand up for public education to make sure that public schools continue to fill their role as a cornerstone of the common good, providing the foundation for the civic society that is critical to our democracy.”

AASA believes public schools belong to the public. Its Executive Director Paul Houston said:

“We know that people see education in a broad way. They want to see kids do well on basic skills, but they also need to do well in areas that are basic to living — being good citizens, productive members of the community and able to find and hold down a job that allows them to live in America.”

Father of American education Horace Mann called “(t)he common school….the greatest discovery ever made by man.”

He meant public, not privatized, ones. He believed all students should be educated equally and responsibly. More on Mann’s philosophy below.

Public education in America today is targeted for destruction. Chicago’s war on teachers, parents and kids reflects policy across the country.

Education is being commodified into another profit center. Bottom line priorities alone matter. Preparing kids for better futures doesn’t count.

They’re sacrificed on the alter of money power unless stopped. Bush’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Obama’s Race to the Top (RTTT) are Exhibits A and B. The former leaves behind most kids. The latter is a race to nowhere. Both reflect schemes to destroy a nearly four century tradition.

In cities across America, schools are closed, teachers fired, and students left out in the cold. Why bother educating kids when only profits matter and high-pay skilled jobs moved abroad.

In 1983, the National Commission on Excellence in Education published a report titled, “A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform.” It found academic performance poor at nearly all levels. It warned that America’s educational system was “being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity.”

It’s much worse today. It’s a national disaster by design. So-called education reform is a scam. It masks privatization schemes, a society of growing haves and have nots, and no desire to educate most kids for low pay, low skill jobs if they can find one.

For over 40 years, Jonathan Kozol courageously defended public education. He still does. He believes every child should have equal opportunity in public schools. The Chicago Sun Times once called him “today’s most eloquent spokesman for America’s disenfranchised.”

He believes privatized schools “starve the public school system of the presence of well-educated, politically effective parents to fight for equity for all kids.”

“I am opposed to the use of public funds for private education,” he said.

“The greatest difference between now and (the 1960s) is that public policy has pretty much eradicated the dream of Martin Luther King.”

Privatized education creates separate and unequal. It didn’t work 100 years ago and doesn’t now, he stresses.

Quasi-privatized charter schools institutionalize class and racial separation, he maintains. Mandated robotized learning through standardized tests is “segregative and divisive.”

Culture is starved. “Aesthetics are gone. Joy in learning is regarded as a bothersome distraction.” NCLB and RTTT institutionalize “apartheid of the intellect.” Kids are “trained to spit up predigested answers.” They learn nothing.

Horace Mann is called the “father of the common school.” For him, it meant public ones. He believed universal public education was essential to ensure a nation of informed citizens. His six main educational principles included:

(1) Citizens can’t be ignorant and free.

(2) Education should be publicly funded and controlled.

(3) It should be provided equally for all children.

(4) It must be nonsectarian.

(5) It must emphasize the tenets of a free society.

(6) It must be provided by well-educated, professional teachers.

Mann’s main educational goal was to foster universal equality. Education helps lift people out of poverty. Knowledge is power, he believed. An educated person no longer is a “slave” to the status quo.

Knowledge also is essential to a true democracy. It differs vastly from rote learning. The latter, he said, “was neither effective nor desirable.”

“Children must be led to discover principles and relationship.” Learning is a means to an end. Its value is self-improvement. It separates humans from beasts. If “all mankind were well fed, well clothed, and well housed (alone), they still might be half civilized.”

In his capacity as Massachusetts State Board of Education Secretary, he said:

“Surely nothing but universal education can counterwork this tendency to the domination of capital and servility of labor.”

“If one class possesses all the wealth and the education, while the residue of society is ignorant and poor, it matters not by what name the relationship between them may be called: the latter, in fact and in truth, will be the servile dependents and subjects of the former.”

“But, if education be equally diffused, it will draw property after it by the strongest of all attractions; for such a thing never did happen, as that an intelligent and practical body of men should be permanently poor.”

He truly believed no child should be left behind. Education should be provided equally for all. He championed and campaigned for it. He established teacher training schools and district libraries. He won financial backing for public education. His influence extended way beyond Massachusetts.

He called free public education a morally mandated right. He said America “owes a vast economical debt to (ordinary people) whose labor (have) been mainly instrumental in rearing the great material structures of which we so often boast.”

He argued that “every wise, humane measure adopted for their welfare, directly promotes our own security. For (their children) will soon possess the rights of men, whether they possess the characters of men or not.”

In 1848, he resigned his post to serve in Congress. He replaced John Quincy Adams who died in office. Besides his passion for universal public education, he became an important anti-slavery spokesman.

In 1853, he became Antioch College president three years after its founding. In that capacity, he implemented his educational ideas in higher education.

Two months before his August 1859 death, he said:

“I beseech you to treasure up in your hearts these my parting words: Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.”

Ideas he fostered and championed are fast disappearing. Some final comments on that below.

John Dewey was an America philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer. He advocated progressive education and liberalism. He considered an educated public fundamental to democracy.

He believed education should be freely available to everyone from kindergarten to college. His progressive education ideas were later codified as follows:

(1) Student conduct “shall be governed by themselves, according to the social needs of” society.

(2) “Interest shall be the motive for all work.”

(3) Teachers should inspire a desire to learn. They should be guides in the educational process.

(4) “Scientific study of each pupil’s development, physical, mental, social, and spiritual is absolutely critical to the essential direction of his (her) development.”

(5) Attention should be paid to all childhood needs.

(6) Cooperation should be fostered between school and home.

(7) Progressive schools are laboratories to increase learning.

He equated learning with freedom. He warned against uneducated masses. He opposed dual track education.

“The world in which most of us live is a world in which everyone has a calling and occupation, something to do,” he said.

“Some are managers and others are subordinates. But the great thing for one as for the other is that each shall have had the education which enables him to see within his daily work all there is in it of large and human significance.”

Education should be more than creating “human capital.”

“The inclination to learn from life itself and to make the conditions of life such that all will learn in the process of living is the finest product of schooling.”

He believed both in liberal arts and real-world skills teaching. Everyone should have a chance for “large and human significance” in their lives and work.

In 1897, he published his “pedagogic creed.” Learning begins “unconsciously almost from birth.”

“I believe that the individual who is to be educated is a social individual and that society is an organic union of individuals.”

“If we eliminate the social factor from the child we are left only with an abstraction; if we eliminate the individual factor from society, we are left only with an inert and lifeless mass.”

Schools are social institutions, he believed. They should be integrated into community life. “Education is the fundamental method of social progress and reform.”

He called the ideal school one that serves individual and institutional needs. He said “the community’s duty to education is (a) paramount moral duty.”

“I believe it is the business of every one interested in education to insist upon the school as the primary and most effective instrument of social progress and reform in order that society may be awakened to realize what the school stands for, and aroused to the necessity of endowing the educator with sufficient equipment properly to perform his task.”

Dewey and Mann would be horrified about what’s happening today. They’d denounce how education is being commodified. It’s mirror opposite of their vision. It’s being systematically destroyed.

Budgets are slashed. Teachers en masse are laid off or fired. Hundreds of schools are closed where they’re most needed. Inner city kids won’t have them in their communities.

Democrats and Republicans are in lockstep on policy at the federal, state and local levels. In the last two years alone, over 250,000 teachers lost jobs. From September 2011 through June 2012, 50,000 lost them.

How many hundreds of thousands more will be tolerated? How many more communities will put up with losing schools? How long will ordinary people accept commodified education replacing the real thing? How much more will families take before rebelling?

What about teacher rights? They’re pressured to work longer for less pay and benefits. They’re rated by robotized learning results. They’re fired and replaced at half pay.

They’re losing effective collective bargaining rights. Corrupt union bosses sell them out for their own self-interest. Public education in America is dying. A decade from now it may not exist.

Primary and secondary education today already are gravely compromised. Imagine what’s likely ahead. Abolitionist Frederick Douglas once said: “I have found that to make a contented slave, it is necessary to make a thoughtless one.”

Globalization fosters inequality, instability, and unemployment. Wage slavery replaced its chattel antecedent. Teachers are affected like other workers. Hard won rights are compromised and lost.

The state of the nation overall is troubling. The targeting and destruction of public education alone reflects class warfare.

It reveals contempt for democratic principles. It’s a dagger in the heart of equal opportunity and freedom. It shows why America no longer is fit to live in. People have three choices: accept loss of all rights, leave, or rebel.

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

His new book is titled “How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War”

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays 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

The September 11 attack that claimed the life of the US ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans disrupted a major CIA operation in the North African country.

According to the New York Times, at least half of the nearly two dozen US personnel evacuated from the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi following the fatal attack on the US consulate and a secret “annex” were “CIA operatives and contractors.”

“It’s a catastrophic intelligence loss,” a US official who had been stationed in Libya told the Times. “We got our eyes poked out.”

The Times report describes the mission of the CIA station in Benghazi as one of “conducting surveillance and collecting information on an array of armed militant groups in and around the city,” including Ansar al-Sharia, an Islamist militia that has been linked by some to the September 11 attack, and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM.

It further states that the CIA “began building a meaningful but covert presence in Benghazi” within months of the February 2011 revolt in Benghazi that seized the city from forces loyal to the government of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Stevens himself was sent into the city in April of that year as the American envoy to the so-called “rebels” organized in the Benghazi-based National Transitional Council (NTC).

What the Times omits from its account of CIA activities in Benghazi, however, is that the agency was not merely conducting covert surveillance on the Islamists based in eastern Libya, but providing them with direct aid and coordinating their operations with those of the NATO air war launched to bring down the Gaddafi regime. In this sense, the September 11 attack that killed Stevens and the three other Americans was very much a case of the chickens coming home to roost.

There is every reason to believe that the robust CIA presence in Benghazi after Gaddafi’s fall also involved more than just surveillance. Libyan Islamists make up the largest single component of the “foreign fighters” who are playing an ever more dominant role in the US-backed sectarian civil war being waged in Syria with the aim of toppling the government of President Bashar al-Assad. According to some estimates, they comprise anywhere from 1,200 to 1,500 of approximately 3,500 fighters who have been infiltrated into Syria from as far away as Chechnya and Pakistan.

The CIA has also set up a center on the border between Turkey and Syria to oversee the funneling of arms, materiel, money and fighters into the Syrian civil war. Given the relationship established between the US agency and the Libyan Islamist militias during the US-NATO war to topple Gaddafi, it seems highly probable that the departure of such elements from eastern Libya and their infiltration into Syria would be coordinated by CIA personnel on both ends.

The government installed by the US-NATO war in the Libyan capital of Tripoli was apparently unaware of the size of the CIA presence in Benghazi, though the agency was supposedly cooperating with Libyan intelligence officials in monitoring the activities of the Islamists.

According to a report published September 21 in the Wall Street Journal, the attempt by Libyan government forces to coordinate a response to the militia assault on the US consulate and the “annex” used by the CIA was hindered by the refusal of American officials to provide the Libyans with GPS coordinates for the “annex,” which came under sustained assault and where two security contractors, former Navy Seals, were killed.

When the US and Libyan rescuers managed to evacuate some 30 Americans from the “annex” and bring them to the Benghazi airport, Libyan officials were stunned by the number of US personnel there and had to bring in a second plane to fly them all out.

“We were surprised by the numbers of Americans who were at the airport,” Libyan Deputy Prime Minister Mustafa Abushagour told the Journal. “We have no problem with intelligence sharing or gathering, but our sovereignty is also key,” he added.

In the aftermath of the attack in Benghazi, the question of security at US facilities has become a politically contested issue, with Republicans charging that the Obama administration had behaved irresponsibly in not having US military personnel protect Stevens and other personnel. They have also accused the administration of misleading the public by describing the assault on the two buildings as an outgrowth of a spontaneous demonstration over the anti-Islamic film that has triggered protests throughout the Muslim world, rather than a terrorist attack.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard McKeon, a California Republican, last week declared the lack of military guards in Benghazi as “inconceivable” given an earlier attack on the Benghazi compound and other incidents of armed violence in the city.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton responded to the criticism by insisting that local security forces and a private security company that deployed Libyan guards had provided security “of the kind that we rely on in many places around the world.”

By late last week, administration officials had begun referring to the assault as a “terrorist attack.” With the US having deployed warships, drones and a 50-member US Marine rapid reaction force to Libya, this may be preparation for military retaliation.

In Libya itself, thousands of people marched in Benghazi on Friday against the militias. Crowds laid siege to the headquarters of Ansar al-Sharia and another Islamist militia, the Rafallah Sahati brigade, leading to at least four deaths.

The demonstrations clearly expressed public anger over the sway of the Islamists over Benghazi, with participants talking of the need for “a new revolution.”

Late on Saturday, the authorities in Tripoli responded to the popular frustration. The Libyan army chief, Yusseff Mangoush, and national assembly leader Mohamed Magrief announced that “illegitimate” militias would have 48 hours to disarm and disband, or the army would use force.

What this meant was far from clear, however, as Libyan President Mohamed el-Megaref called upon Libyan protesters to leave the “legitimate” militias alone. The president demanded that the demonstrators stop attacks on militias that are “under state legitimacy, and go home.”

The spokesman for the national assembly went further. According to the Wall Street Journal, the spokesman, Omar Humidan, declared that while the militias “have wrong practices… serve their own agenda and have their own ideology… striking these militias and demanding they disband immediately will have grave consequences.”

He continued: “These are the ones that preserve security. The state has a weak army and no way it can fill any vacuum resulting in eviction of these militias… The street is upset because of the militias and their infighting. We are worried of the fallout in the absence of those militias. The state must be given time.”

The militias in Benghazi are almost all offshoots of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a jihadist group that had ties to Al Qaeda and whose leaders were abducted and tortured by the CIA as part of Washington’s “global war on terror.” This is the case with Ansar al-Sharia, which is responsible for providing security at the Al Jala hospital in Benghazi, as well as the Rafallah Sahati brigade, which has also been deployed as a security force in the city, including during the national elections.

In the aftermath of last Friday’s demonstrations, the militias struck back, claiming that the popular repudiation of their policies had been stirred up by supporters of the former Gaddafi regime.

The Rafallah al-Sahati militia announced Monday that it had rounded up 113 people for alleged involvement in the protests. A leader of the group claimed that most of those detained were former members of the Gaddafi-era military or supporters of the deposed president.

Libyan state television reported Monday that on the outskirts of Benghazi the bodies of six Libyan soldiers were found shot, execution style, with their hands cuffed behind them. It was also reported that an army colonel had disappeared and was believed to have been kidnapped.

According to the Wall Street Journal: “Some media reports accused militiamen of taking revenge on Gaddafi-era veterans in the military; in contrast, a military spokesman, Ali al-Shakhli, blamed Gaddafi loyalists, saying they were trying to stir up trouble between the public and the militias.”

British Banking and the Global Drug Trade

September 25th, 2012 by Tom Burghardt

Death penalty doesn’t mean anything unless you use it on people who are afraid to die. Like… the bankers who launder the drug money. The bankers, who launder, the drug money. Forget the dealers, you want to slow down that drug traffic, you got to start executing a few of these fucking bankers. White, middle class Republican bankers. — George Carlin, ‘Back in Town Special,’ 1996

In a recent investigation I presented the case that British banking and financial giant HSBC interfaced with banking institutions which had links to terrorist financing.

Drawing upon evidence published by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in their mammoth report, “U.S. Vulnerabilities to Money Laundering, Drugs, and Terrorist Financing: HSBC Case History,” we learned that senior HSBC officers, despite misgivings voiced by staff in internal correspondence, had relations with Saudi Arabia’s Al Rajhi Bank, described by U.S. law enforcement agencies as moneymen for Al Qaeda.

Read complete article

OSAKA: Japan’s southwestern city of Nagasaki expressed its outrage and protest against a new type of nuclear test conducted for the sixth time in August by the United States, the local press reported on Tuesday.

The report said that the United States conducted a nuclear test which simulated a nuclear blast using intense X-ray beams and checked how plutonium would react at the Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico on August 27.

The sixth test caused further condemnation by the city, following last week’s protest against the fifth new type of nuclear test which was reportedly carried out between April and June this year.

According to the report, Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue sent a letter of protest, dated September 24, to U.S. President Barack Obama, saying that the people of Nagasaki, who have been calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons, cannot retrain their resentment after encountering reports about a further test despite their protest.

“As a representative of an atomic-bombed city strongly protest again,” the mayor said.

The letter also urged that the United States make sincere efforts to stop any nuclear tests, adding that the country should fulfill its leadership role in achieving a world without nuclear weapons.

False Solution to Hunger in Africa

September 25th, 2012 by Friends of the Earth International

Friends of the Earth International

For immediate release

September 25, 2012

GATES FOUNDATION-LED GREEN REVOLUTION PROMOTES FALSE SOLUTIONS TO HUNGER IN AFRICA

Friends of the Earth International warns against damaging industrial farming promoted by the Gates Foundation at the Agricultural Green Revolution Forum 2012, Arusha, Tanzania on 26-28 September.

ARUSHA (TANZANIA) / LONDON (UK), September 25, 2012 – Donors controlling the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) are representing the interests of biotechnology corporations rather than African small farmers, warns Friends of the Earth International on the eve of the annual AGRA Forum in Tanzania.

Multi-million dollar investments from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation -a major AGRA donor- into shares in biotech corporations, and revolving doors between donors and these corporations skew the agenda of AGRA in favor of profit-based, corporate-led farming rather than farming benefiting local people and small farmers. [1]

“It is time African Governments stop bowing to corporate donors and instead put farmers in the driver’s seat, and focus on funding ecological methods and preserving local seeds. Africa can feed itself with ecological agriculture and it is small farmers themselves who are the most important investors in farming. Through AGRA, multinational corporations are trying to control our seeds, land, food and then our lives. AGRA is not in the best interest of Africans, it is a trojan horse for agribusiness,” says Mariann Bassey from Friends of the Earth Nigeria.

The bulk of projects funded by the Gates Foundation and its brainchild AGRA favor technological solutions for high-input industrial farming methods. These include patented seeds, fertilizers and lobbying for genetically modified crops. [2]

Evidence from the roll-out of genetically modified crops in other countries shows that these crops push farmers into debt, cause irreversible environmental damage and encourage land concentration. [3]

In March 2011 the UN issued a report urging ‘eco-farming’ as the best strategy for improving farming in the developing world. The report’s author challenged the wisdom of the Gates Foundation’s approach in agricultural development. [4]

“If AGRA carries on with its greenwash revolution, Africans will lose traditional and ecological farming that can feed people in the face of climate change. Instead they will have a toxic system that pushes farmers onto a chemical treadmill. This will be a disaster for their livelihoods and the environment. This is the opposite of what we need,“ says Kirtana Chandrasekaran, Friends of the Earth International Food Sovereignty coordinator.

Sustainable family farming, agro-ecological production models and strong local markets have been recognized as the best way to feed people and to protect the planet. [5]

FOR MORE INFORMATION

In Nigeria :

Mariann Bassey from Friends of the Earth Nigeria and Coordinator for the Food Sovereignty and Agrofuels Program Friends of the Earth Africa, +234 703 44 95 940 or email [email protected]

In the United Kingdom:

Kirtana Chandrasekaran, Friends of the Earth International Food Sovereignty program coordinator, + 44 79 61 98 69 56 or email [email protected]

NOTES TO EDITORS

[1] For more information read http://www.seattleglobaljustice.org/agra-watch/

[2] For more information read a commentary by Mariann Bassey at http://www.foei.org/en/resources/publications/pdfs/2012/agra2019s-technology-push-in-africa/view

[3] Governments are being forced to protect farmers and citizens from genetically modified crops to combat biotech corporations’ stranglehold over farmers, and health scares from escalating pesticide use, according to a 2011 report online at http://www.foei.org/en/what-we-do/climate-biodiversity-finance/latest-news-old/who-benefits-from-gm-crops

[4] For more information read the 2011 UN report ‘Agro-ecology and the right to food’ at http://www.srfood.org/index.php/en/component/content/article/1-latest-news/1174-report-agroecology-and-the-right-to-food

[5] In April 2008 a study by 400 multi-disciplinary scientists and several international organisations (the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development, or IAASTD) concluded that agro-ecology, local trade and supporting small farmers is the best way forward to combat hunger and poverty.
For more information read the assessment at http://www.agassessment.org/

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Media Coordinator – Friends of the Earth International
Email: [email protected]
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Website: http://www.foei.org/media
Twitter: @FoEint_press
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Deadly Sanctions Regime: Economic Warfare against Iran

September 25th, 2012 by Eric Draitser

The ongoing overt and covert war against Iran, instigated by the United States and Israel primarily, seeks to isolate Iran politically, militarily and, most importantly, economically.  The Western imperialists have as their goal no less than full-scale war with Iran, a key regional power and one that the United States has failed to control or otherwise manipulate since the revolution of 1979.

Their attempts to demonize Iran as an international pariah and an irrational actor on the world stage have been repeatedly thwarted, most recently at the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran, where two thirds of the world stood alongside Iran in condemning the sanctions imposed by the US and its European allies.  However, Iran’s response to the series of aggressions and provocations by the West is not purely a diplomatic one as evidenced by the summit. Rather, Iran is engaging in a process of economic cooperation and mutual development with powerful regional and international partners – a process which could marry the economic future of Iran with that of other nations – thereby countering the continued attempts at economic strangulation by the West.

The Painful Reality of Sanctions

It is easy to think of the sanctions as a tactic in a political and diplomatic chess game between Washington and Tehran: they undoubtedly are part of such a match.  However, the reality of the sanctions is that they are an economic weapon trained directly at the people of Iran, despite whatever rhetoric may emanate from Washington regarding the targeting of the regime.  In fact, the sanctions are one of the most potent weapons in the imperialist arsenal, used by those in power in their attempt to foment chaos and unrest in Iran and topple the government from within. In an article entitled “Obama’s Counterproductive New Iran Sanctions” published in Foreign Affairs, the publication of the Council on Foreign Relations, Suzanne Maloney of the Brookings Institution writes:

The Obama administration’s new sanctions signal the demise of the paradigm that has guided Iran policymaking since the 1979 revolution: the combination of pressure and persuasion…the United States cannot hope to bargain with a country whose economy it is trying to disrupt and destroy… The White House’s embrace of open-ended pressure means that it has backed itself into a policy of regime change.

The notion that the sanctions are somehow intended to pressure Tehran into coming to the negotiating table and making the necessary concessions is completely fraudulent.  The ruling class in the United States (and Israel) knows full well that sanctions do not work in this capacity. One need only look to recent history for examples of sanctions that crippled nations and destroyed the lives of citizens but had little to no appreciable impact on the rulers – Iraq, Myanmar, etc.  Instead, the sanctions serve as a necessary prelude to either regime change or war.  This policy, aside from being immoral, is a belligerent one, greatly escalating tensions and the possibility of war.

One of the desired effects of the sanctions is the devaluation of the Iranian currency.  The most recent data suggest that the Iranian rial has lost more than half of its value since January, when the sanctions were announced.  This trend has only accelerated since July, when the new sanctions were fully implemented, preventing countries around the world from doing business with the Iranian central bank, a move aimed at destroying the Iranian export economy, particularly oil exports.  In fact, Reuters reported in April that the inflation rate in Iran was hovering around 21.5%.  This was well before the sanctions came into effect in July, after which inflation has increased even more dramatically. Nowhere are the sanctions more painful than in the oil export market.  According to recent data, Iran’s oil sales in July of 2012 fell to a quarter of sales from July 2011.  In fact, Iran has even admitted that much of the unsold oil is now being stored either in ports or on tankers at sea – a startling revelation that demonstrates quite clearly the difficult economic predicament Iran faces.   Such a significant drop in sales means that state revenues are down, only exacerbating the already difficult economic situation in the country.

However, the sanctions are not intended to cripple merely the commercial economy, they are also designed to erode public confidence in the government and foment unrest.  With the creation of an inflationary crisis, staple foods, medicines, and other basic necessities have become significantly more expensive and in much less supply, naturally generating anger from the Iranian people.  This, combined with the removal of food subsidies at the behest of President Ahmadinejad, has generated a feeling of unease within the general population regarding their economic future, which, in turn, has exposed very serious fractures within the political establishment in Tehran. Despite all of these challenges to its economy and the impact on the population, Iran remains committed to its own mission of independent economic and political development.  The defiance Iran has shown the United States and the imperialist ruling class is rooted in a larger strategy, one that combines economic development with diplomacy, seeking to find an alternative to either continued resistance in isolation or capitulation to the US and Israel.

Energy – Pipelines & Power Lines

The sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union are intended to cripple the Iranian economy by specifically attacking Tehran’s ability to participate in the world oil market. However, it is important to note that the sanctions are not solely directed at actual oil sales but, rather, all the mechanisms necessary for international oil transactions including debt settlement, tanker insurance, and much more.  Indeed, in examining the sanctions in their totality, one begins to see that they are intended to strike at the heart of the Iranian economy and hamper Tehran’s ability to do business of any kind. Despite all of this, Iran continues to survive economically.  Much of this is due to the fact that Iran has effectively cemented its economic relations with key international actors, particularly India, Pakistan, and China, each of whom has resisted pressure from the United States to scale back their dealings with the Islamic Republic. In fact, Bloomberg recently reported that China has continued to purchase Iranian oil in massive amounts despite the sanctions.  This demonstrates not only that China wants to continue to do business with Iran, but that Iran sees expanded engagement as the only way to ensure their continued economic growth.

In fact, Iran-China trade is booming as many Western companies pull out of Iran due to the sanctions and international pressure. This has left the door open for China to fill the void, having imported more than $45 billion from Iran in 2011. China is not the only international player to increase Iranian oil imports since the embargo.  Countries such as Italy, Japan, and India have also begun to increase their imports of Iranian oil despite the arm-twisting of the US.  These major energy importers view Iran not as a pariah state and threat to world peace as Western demagogy would have one believe.  Rather, they see in Iran the possibility of a long-term strategic and economic ally that, due to political circumstances, could become heavily dependent on them. Although the energy exports themselves are very significant, it is the delivery infrastructure, especially pipelines, which permanently cements these sorts of mutually beneficial economic arrangements and, consequently, makes the continued isolation and subversion of Iran more difficult.  Perhaps the most important of all the pipelines in which Iran is a participant is the Iran-Pakistan pipeline, also known as the “Peace Pipeline”.  This project will deliver Iranian energy to Pakistan – a nation dealing with a protracted and crippling energy shortage.  The pipeline is crucial to Iranian strategy not only because it will generate much needed revenue for Tehran, but also because of its significance as a symbol of the warm relations between Iran and Pakistan.  Moreover, this project is still in its early incarnation.  One can easily imagine the pipeline being extended into China, thereby becoming China’s direct link to the vast energy resources of the Middle East while providing Iran with the security of a superpower ally.

The Iran-Pakistan project is not the only important pipeline under construction.  In fact, Iran is currently in the process of implementing no less than fifteen new pipeline projects all throughout the country.  This is more than just economic expansion. Instead, it is the necessary modernization of the energy infrastructure of the country, allowing the Islamic Republic to maintain its status as one of the world’s leaders in energy exports while, at the same time, improving delivery capabilities within the country itself. Energy exports and pipelines are also at the heart of the expansion of relations between Iran and Turkmenistan.  Having emerged in recent years as a world leader in gas exports, Turkmenistan has become a crucial player in the Caspian region, necessitating a close working relationship with the Islamic Republic.  As Iranian President Ahmadinejad recently stated, relations between the two countries must be cultivated and expanded.  This demonstrates not only Iran’s desire to have friendly relations with its neighbors, but also Tehran’s recognition of the dangers of isolation in the region, particularly at a time when Caspian energy exploration and development are still in the early stages.

Oil and gas are not the only forms of energy that Iran is looking to export in order to subvert the US-led sanctions.  One of the most critical aspects of Iranian energy exports is the sale and delivery of electrical power, particularly to Pakistan which, as already mentioned, suffers from a painful and perpetual energy shortage.  Iran is poised to become Pakistan’s energy benefactor as there has been renewed interest in upgrading and expanding the shared energy infrastructure of the neighbor countries.  It was recently reported that an Iranian firm is planning a one gigawatt power project in Pakistan that will connect the Iranian port at Chabahar with the Pakistani port of Gwadar.  This is a hugely significant deal because it will provide much needed electrical power to Pakistan while solidifying, in physical form, the close relations between the two countries.  However, what this project also indicates is the growing importance of Iranian ports, especially Chabahar, as well as other infrastructural and technological projects, to the future of Iranian economic development.

Beyond Energy

One of the most common misconceptions regarding Iran is the belief that the future of the Islamic Republic’s economic development rests solely on the energy sector.  On the contrary, Tehran is in the process of developing a number of ports and other projects that will spur growth and development in the coming decades.  The first and most important of these projects is the Iranian port of Chabahar.  Situated on the coast of Iran, Chabahar is intended to be a port of regional and international importance. Tehran recently announced that it will invest $25 billion into the Chabahar port to transform it into one of the great energy hubs of the world.  Naturally, China figures prominently in this vision, as it looks to Chabahar for that coveted land-based access to the Indian Ocean.  However, China is not the only regional player that is interested in the port.  Recently, Iranian representatives met with their Indian and Afghan counterparts to discuss regional trade and the role of Chabahar.  In light of this meeting, it is clear that Chabahar is fast becoming one of the most important ports in Asia.  Additionally, the port would make Iran an integral player in commercial shipping, providing access to the Iranian market to international companies that would otherwise be impossible. This opening of Iran via the Chabahar port undoubtedly figures prominently in Tehran’s plans to integrate itself into the world economy on its own terms, rather than those dictated by the Western imperial powers.

Iran is not solely relying on Chabahar. In fact, Iran has recently announced more than $4 billion of investment into a number of Iranian ports.  This level of investment demonstrates Iran’s willingness to invest in its own economic future while, at the same time, showing outside observers that development is not just an idea, it is a reality.  These ports, Tehran hopes, will transform the country into a shipping center that could rival those of the Gulf monarchies and make Iran an indispensible partner for the region and the world’s powers. The Islamic Republic has also turned its eyes to the sky in search of development.  Iran has recently launched a full-fledged space program and is currently constructing a national space center to be used for the launch of satellites by itself and other Muslim countries.  Iran’s foray into the space sector benefits the country in a number of ways.  First, and perhaps most importantly, this development is a major propaganda victory for Iran.  It catapults the country into the top tier of world powers, gaining Tehran the respect of nations around the world.  Beyond the propaganda however, the development of a space program provides fertile ground for Iranian science to make other technological breakthroughs in a number of different sectors.

Lastly, the space center helps integrate Iran into the region and Muslim world by making it an attractive partner for other nations wishing to launch satellites or other projects.  The space center, like the ports and pipelines, helps Iran overcome the isolation imposed upon it by the US, Europe, and Israel. Iran has had to endure an unprecedented international assault in recent years.  Because of the unwillingness of the government and the Iranian people to bend to the will of the Western imperialist ruling class, the Islamic Republic has been attacked quite literally from all sides.  Having to endure a covert war of sabotage and terrorism while being demonized internationally, Tehran has managed to repel these attacks to this point.  Despite economic hardship caused by the US-imposed sanctions, Iran continues to keep an eye toward development and progress.  As the world saw recently at the Non-Aligned Movement Summit, Iran is not as isolated as the US and Israel would like to see.  On the contrary, Iran looks to other nations of the world for partners while taking the initiative to build its own future.  Of course, nothing infuriates the forces of international finance capital and imperialism more than economic independence.  For this reason, Iran will remain the bogeyman for much of the Western world while working to shape its own economic future.

Eric Draitser is an independent geopolitical analyst based in New York City.  He is the Founder and Editor of StopImperialism.com as well as host of the Stop Imperialism podcast.  He is a frequent contributor to Russia Today, the Center for Research on Globalization, and many other sites and publications.

As Malaysia approaches its highly anticipated 13th General Elections set to take place at some point before late June 2013, a tense political climate and a sense of unpredictability looms over the nation. The significance of these upcoming elections cannot be understated. During Malaysia’s 2008 General Elections, the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, which held power continuously since the nation’s independence, experienced its worst result in decades, while the opposition Pakatan Rakyat coalition led by Anwar Ibrahim won 82 parliamentary seats. For the first time, the ruling party was deprived of its two-thirds parliamentary majority, which is required to pass amendments to Malaysia’s Federal Constitution. As the United States continues to militarily increase its presence in the Pacific region inline with its strategic policy shift to East Asia, Washington’s leaders would like to see compliant heads of state who will act to further American interests in the ASEAN region.

The outcome of the approaching elections could have significant ramifications for Malaysia’s foreign policy, economy, and trade relations. While allegations of corruption and economic mismanagement hinder the credibility of ruling Prime Minister Najib Razak, foreign organizations affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and funded by the United States government, have contributed support toward bolstering the influence and status of the Malaysia’s opposition groups, in addition to the controversial Bersih coalition for electoral reform, led by Ambiga Sreenevasan. Opponents of this information may dismiss these claims as the “propaganda” of Barisan Nasional, however the validity of these accusations have been highly documented, and constitute an attempt by foreign governments to undermine Malaysia’s independent political process. On June 27th, 2011, Bersih coalition leader Ambiga Sreenevasan conceded that her organization received financial assistance from two private American organizations:

Ambiga admitted to Bersih receiving some money from two US organisations — the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and Open Society Institute (OSI) — for other projects, which she stressed were unrelated to the July 9 march. [1]

However innocuous such contributions may seem, a more critical review of these organizations and their affiliations is necessary. Hungarian-American philanthropist and financier George Soros founded the Open Society Institute in 1993, whose principle aim sought to “strengthen open society principles and practices against authoritarian regimes and the negative consequences of globalization,” with an emphasis on countries in transition from communism after the fall of the Soviet Union. [2] Although OSI has emphasized its commitment to “human rights” and “transparency” by heavily sponsoring organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, Soros was convicted of insider trading in 2002 regarding French bank Société Générale and was ironically denied an appeal by the “European Court of Human Rights.” [3][4][5] Although Soros has appeared to be publicly critical of capitalism, he has disingenuously profited from predatory trading in many instances, most prominently in 1992 when he earned an estimated $1.1 billion by short selling sterling while the British government was reluctant to adjust its interest rates prior to devaluing the pound.

Former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright chairs the National Democratic Institute, an organization that supplies electoral observers and promotes governance reform, widely seen as an attempt to foster foreign political systems compatible with American interests by assisting civil society groups in mounting pressure on national governments. NDI President Kenneth Wollack served as the legislative director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, widely considered to be Israel’s most prominent lobbyist organization, one that influences American legislation to exert aggressive Israeli policy and viewpoints. [6] The National Democratic Institute is one of four organizations funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), in addition to the International Republican Institute (IRI), the Chamber of Commerce’s Center for Private Enterprise (CIPE) and the American Center for International Labor Solidarity.

Alan Weinstein, one of the founders of the National Endowment for Democracy was notably quoted in 1991 as saying, “A lot of what we (NED) do was done 25 years ago covertly by the CIA.” [7] The National Endowment for Democracy receives its funding entirely through an annual allocation of funds from the United States Congress within the budget of the development assistance agency USAID, a branch of the US State Department. [8] Although the NED receives public funding from the US taxpayer, the activities of its four satellite institutes are not reported to Congress, making funding trails and their final recipients difficult to identify. Although the organization boasts of “promoting democracy” and “fortifying civil society” around the world, history had proven that these tired euphemisms have been used in numerous countries to mask funding to various political forces opposed to their national governments and aligned with American interests. American historian and former employee of the US State Department William Blum writes:

NED’s Statement of Principles and Objectives, adopted in 1984, asserts that “No Endowment funds may be used to finance the campaigns of candidates for public office.” But the ways to circumvent the spirit of such a prohibition are not difficult to come up with; as with American elections, there’s “hard money” and there’s “soft money”. As described in the “Elections” and “Interventions” chapters, NED successfully manipulated elections in Nicaragua in 1990 and Mongolia in 1996; helped to overthrow democratically elected governments in Bulgaria in 1990 and Albania in 1991 and 1992; and worked to defeat the candidate for prime minister of Slovakia in 2002 who was out of favor in Washington. And from 1999 to 2004, NED heavily funded members of the opposition to President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela to subvert his rule and to support a referendum to unseat him. [9]

NED President Carl Gershman was formerly a member of the Governing Council of the American Jewish Congress and Vice-Chairman of the Young People’s Socialist League, and in 1968, he was employed in the research department of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, considered the most prominent Jewish service organization in the world, committed to the security and continuity the State of Israel. [10] The Anti-Defamation League is a US-based human rights group committed to the “security of Israel and Jews worldwide,” and was implicated in 1993 by the District of Attorney of San Francisco for overseeing a vast surveillance operation monitoring American citizens who were opposed to Israel’s policies in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, prior to passing their personal information to the Israeli government in Tel Aviv. [11]

In addition to providing funding to the Bersih coalition through the National Democratic Institute, the National Endowment for Democracy’s Malaysian operation provides $100,000 (RM 317,260) for political news website Malaysiakini, considered to be the nation’s most pro-opposition news outlet. [12] Premesh Chandran, Malaysiakini CEO, is a grantee of the Open Society Foundations and launched the news organization with a $100,000 grant from the Bangkok-based Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), a recipient of funds from the Open Society Institute, the NED, and Freedom House, an organization reliant on US federal government grants for a significant percentage of its funding. [13][14] NED also provides $90,000 (RM 285,516) to SUARAM, an organization promoting human rights. [15]

The most significant recipient of NED’s Malaysia programs is the International Republican Institute (IRI), who annually receives $802,122 (RM 2,544,670) and is tasked to “work with state leaders in Penang and Selangor to provide them with public opinion research, training and other resources to enable them to be more effective representatives of their constituents.” [16] IRI’s mention of these specific regions is unsurprising, as Penang is held by the Malaysian Democratic Action Party, while Selangor is held by Parti Keadilan Rakyat, two of the three organizations comprising the opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat, led by Anwar Ibrahim. US Senator John McCain, an ardent supporter of American militarism who boasts of being “proudly pro-American and proudly pro-Israel”, chairs the International Republican Institute, whose mission statement in Malaysia reads:

Since Malaysia’s independence in 1957, the country has experienced a series of national elections, but never a change in national government.  The ruling coalition, known as Barisan Nasional (BN) since 1973, has held power continuously during Malaysia’s post-independence era. In the 2008 general elections, for the first time, the BN lost its two-thirds majority in parliament and control of five state assemblies to the opposition coalition, Pakatan Rakyat (PR). Subsequently, in April 2011 in Sarawak (the only state holding assembly elections before national elections occur) the BN retained control of the state assembly but suffered a reduction in its majority. It is in this context that IRI provides technical assistance, training, and consultation to political parties to build knowledge and impart skills that enable both ruling and opposition Malaysian political leaders to more effectively address citizen concerns. IRI’s current work in this area started in 2009 when the Institute began a groundbreaking series of training sessions designed to assist political parties in developing the in-house capacity to conduct and analyze focus group discussions. These sessions were followed by workshops which allowed focus group moderators to present their findings to their colleagues and craft messages that were used to recruit new political party members and retain existing ones. [17]

It comes as little surprise that opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim talks boldly of a “Malaysian Spring,” as the same organizations bolstering the opposition in Kuala Lumpur have successfully fomented events that led to the series of uprisings across the Arab World in 2011. Such organizations rely on the passive impressionability of their followers, while enflaming the legitimate grievances of the subject population to pressure a change in government. This is accomplished by the formation and propagation of dissident news media organizations, and by leveraging police misconduct and human rights abuses to discredit targeted governments in the eyes of the international community. Such agitation is not intended to promote a genuine democratic framework; its purpose is the gradual installation of national governments friendly to American interests by coaxing popular uprising and social unrest. In an April 2011 article published by the New York Times titled, “U.S. Groups Helped Nurture Arab Uprisings,” it was stated:

A number of the groups and individuals directly involved in the revolts and reforms sweeping the region, including the April 6 Youth Movement in Egypt, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and grass-roots activists like Entsar Qadhi, a youth leader in Yemen, received training and financing from groups like the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House, a nonprofit human rights organization based in Washington. The Republican and Democratic institutes are loosely affiliated with the Republican and Democratic Parties. They were created by Congress and are financed through the National Endowment for Democracy, which was set up in 1983 to channel grants for promoting democracy in developing nations. The National Endowment receives about $100 million annually from Congress. Freedom House also gets the bulk of its money from the American government, mainly from the State Department. [18]

In the Egyptian context, these organizations have experienced “blowback” from their activities training and funding dissidents, and fomenting Egypt’s popular revolution. In a December 2011 article published by the Los Angeles Times, it was said:

Egyptian security forces on Thursday raided the offices of 17 nongovernmental organizations, including three U.S.-based agencies, as part of a crackdown on foreign assistance that has drawn criticism from the West and threatened human rights groups and pro-democracy movements. The move appeared to be part of a strategy to intimidate international organizations. The ruling military council has repeatedly blamed “foreign hands” for exploiting Egypt’s political and economic turmoil. But activists said the army was using the ruse of foreign intervention to stoke nationalism and deflect criticism of abuses. Egyptian soldiers and black-clad police officers swept into offices, interrogated workers and seized computers across the country. Those targeted included U.S. groups the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute and Freedom House, which are funded by Congress to monitor elections and promote democracy overseas. [19]

While the Los Angeles Times frames its report to insinuate that Egypt’s security forces have intrusively aimed to “intimidate” international human rights groups, one must examine the case of Egypt’s newly drafted constitution. After the overthrow of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, democracy advocates called for the constitution to be rewritten from scratch. Reuters published reports citing a pro-opposition judiciary official, who said Egypt’s new constitution would be drafted by civil society groups, namely, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, a recipient of funds directly from George Soros’ Open Society Institute and the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, financed by the National Endowment for Democracy. [20][21][22] Undoubtedly, the conduct of foreign nations and their relationship with opposition organizations and civil society groups is incompatible within any authentic democratic framework.

In the Malaysian context, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim maintains close ties with senior US officials and organizations such as the National Endowment for Democracy. In July 2006, Ibrahim chaired the Washington-based Foundation for the Future, established and funded by the US Department of State at the behest of Elizabeth Cheney, the daughter of then-Vice President Dick Cheney, who was recently convicted in absentia for war crimes for his issuance of torture during the Iraq war by Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission, chaired by former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed. [23] In 2007, Ibrahim was a panelist at the National Endowment for Democracy’s “Democracy Award” event held in Washington. [24] These questionable affiliations raise strong concerns over the legitimacy of the candidate and the administration he would lead if winning the 13th General Election.

It would be advisable for Malaysia to follow the example of Russia; President Vladimir Putin recently approved a new law that tightens controls on civil rights groups receiving funded from abroad, forcing non-governmental organizations (NGOs) engaging in “political activity” to register with the Russian Justice Ministry as “foreign agents,” requiring such organizations to file a report to officials every quarter. [25] While such a law would inevitably be criticized as a suppression of dissent, it must be understood that such legislation would not hamper legitimate activism. Malaysia, like Russia, must take the initiative to address the legitimate grievances of activists by bolstering its own indigenous institutions and civil society organizations. Foreign organizations with questionable affiliations attempting to tip the balance of power in their favor is the very antithesis of an authentic democracy. A quote from a recent Op-Ed penned by Russian journalist Veronika Krasheninnikova sends a strong message to the people of Malaysia:

Building a patriotic civil society cannot be outsourced. Democratic processes and national security cannot be outsourced – all the more so to openly hostile governments. [26]

 Notes

[1] Bersih repudiates foreign Christian funding claim, The Malaysian Insider, July 27, 2011

[2] A Global Alliance for Open Society, Soros Foundation Network, 2001

[3] Report and financial statements for the year ended 31 March 2010, Amnesty International, March 31, 2010 (Page 10)

[4] Partners, Human Rights Watch, 2012

[6] Kenneth Wollack, National Democratic Institute, 2011

[7] Democracy promotion: America’s new regime change formula, Russia Today, November 23, 2010

[8] History, National Endowment for Democracy, 2011

[9] Trojan Horse: The National Endowment for Democracy, The International Endowment for Democracy, 2003

[10] Who is Who, Annual Conference on World Affairs, 1971

[11] The ADL Spying Case Is Over, But The Struggle Continues, Counterpunch, February 25, 2002

[13] Southeast Asian Press Alliance, Southeast Asian Press Alliance, 2010

[14] 2007 Annual Report, Freedom House, 2007

[15] Malaysia | National Endowment for Democracy, National Endowment for Democracy, 2011

[16] Ibid

[17] Malaysia, International Republican Institute, 2011

[18] U.S. Groups Helped Nurture Arab Uprisings, The New York Times, April 14, 2011

[19] Egypt raids foreign organizations’ offices in crackdown, The Los Angeles Times, December 29, 2011

[20] Rewrite Egypt constitution from scratch, say critics, Reuters, February 16, 2011

[21] Acknowledgements, Arabic Network For Human Rights Information, 2004

[22] Egypt | National Endowment For DemocracyNational Endowment For Democracy, 2005

[23] Foundation for the Future Holds its First Board Meeting in Doha, QatarFoundation for the Future, July 15, 2006

[24] 2007 Democracy Award, National Endowment for Democracy, 2007

Nile Bowie is a Kuala Lumpur-based American writer and photographer for the Centre for Research on Globalization in Montreal, Canada. He explores issues of terrorism, economics and geopolitics.

Iran has again offered to halt its enrichment of uranium to 20 percent, which the United States has identified as its highest priority in the nuclear talks, in return for easing sanctions against Iran, according to Iran’s permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Ali Asghar Soltanieh, who has conducted Iran’s negotiations with the IAEA in Tehran and Vienna, revealed in an interview with IPS that Iran had made the offer at the meeting between EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton and Iran’s leading nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili in Istanbul Sep. 19.

Soltanieh also revealed in the interview that IAEA officials had agreed last month to an Iranian demand that it be provided documents on the alleged Iranian activities related to nuclear weapons which Iran is being asked to explain, but that the concession had then been withdrawn.

“We are prepared to suspend enrichment to 20 percent, provided we find a reciprocal step compatible with it,” Soltanieh said, adding, “We said this in Istanbul.”

Soltanieh is the first Iranian official to go on record as saying Iran has proposed a deal that would end its 20-percent enrichment entirely, although it had been reported previously.

“If we do that,” Soltanieh said, “there shouldn’t be sanctions.”

Iran’s position in the two rounds of negotiations with the P5+1 – China, France, Germany, Russia, Britain, the United States and Germany – earlier this year was reported to have been that a significant easing of sanctions must be part of the bargain.

The United States and its allies in the P5+1 ruled out such a deal in the two rounds of negotiations in Istanbul and in Baghdad in May and June, demanding that Iran not only halt its enrichment to 20 percent but ship its entire stockpile of uranium enriched to that level out of the country and close down the Fordow enrichment facility entirely.

Even if Iran agreed to those far-reaching concessions the P5+1 nations offered no relief from sanctions.

Soltanieh repeated the past Iranian rejection of any deal involving the closure of Fordow.

“It’s impossible if they expect us to close Fordow,” Soltanieh said.

The U.S. justification for the demand for the closure of Fordow has been that it has been used for enriching uranium to the 20-percent level, which makes it much easier for Iran to continue enrichment to weapons grade levels.

But Soltanieh pointed to the conversion of half the stockpile to fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor, which was documented in the Aug. 30 IAEA report.

“The most important thing in the (IAEA) report,” Soltanieh said, was “a great percentage of 20-percent enriched uranium already converted to powder for the Tehran Research Reactor.”

That conversion to powder for fuel plates makes the uranium unavailable for reconversion to a form that could be enriched to weapons grade level.

Soltanieh suggested that the Iranian demonstration of the technical capability for such conversion, which apparently took the United States and other P5+1 governments by surprise, has rendered irrelevant the P5+1 demand to ship the entire stockpile of 20-percent enriched uranium out of the country.

“This capacity shows that we don’t need fuel from other countries,” said Soltanieh.

Iran began enriching uranium to 20 percent in 2010 after the United States made a virtually non-negotiable offer in 2009 to provide fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor in return for Iran’s shipping three-fourths of its low-enriched uranium stockpile out of the country and waiting for two years for the fuel plates.

The P5+1 demand for closure of the Fordow enrichment plant was also apparently based on the premise the facility was built exclusively for 20-percent enrichment. But Iran has officially informed the IAEA that it is for both enrichment to 20 percent and enrichment to 3.5 percent.

The 1,444 centrifuges installed at Fordow between March and August – but not connected to pipes, according to the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security – could be used for either 20-percent enrichment or 3.5-percent enrichment, giving Iran additional leverage in future negotiations.

Soltanieh revealed that two senior IAEA officials had accepted a key Iranian demand in the most recent negotiating session last month on a “structured agreement” on Iranian cooperation on allegations of “possible military dimensions” of its nuclear programme – only to withdraw the concession at the end of the meeting.

The issue was Iran’s insistence on being given all the documents on which the IAEA bases the allegations of Iranian research related to nuclear weapons which Iran is expected to explain to the IAEA’s satisfaction.

The Feb. 20 negotiating text shows that the IAEA sought to evade any requirement for sharing any such documents by qualifying the commitment with the phrase “where appropriate”.

At the most recent meeting on Aug. 24, however, the IAEA negotiators, Deputy Director General for Safeguards Herman Nackaerts and Assistant Director General for Policy Rafael Grossi, agreed for the first time to a commitment to “deliver the documents related to activities claimed to have been conducted by Iran”, according to Soltanieh.

At the end of the meeting, however, Nackaerts and Grossi “put this language in brackets”, thus leaving it unresolved, Soltanieh said.

Former IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei recalls in his 2011 memoirs that he had “constantly pressed the source of the information” on alleged Iranian nuclear weapons research – meaning the United States – “to allow us to share copies with Iran”. He writes that he asked how he could “accuse a person without revealing the accusations against him?”

ElBaradei also says Israel gave the IAEA a whole new set of documents in late summer 2009 “purportedly showing that Iran had continued with nuclear weapons studies until at least 2007″.

Soltanieh confirmed that the other unresolved issue is whether the IAEA investigation will be open-ended or not.

The Feb. 20 negotiating text showed that Iran demanded a discrete list of topics to which the IAEA inquiry would be limited and a requirement that each topic would be considered “concluded” once Iran had answered the questions and delivered the information requested.

But the IAEA insisted on being able to “return” to topics that had been “discussed earlier”, according to the February negotiating text.

That position remains unchanged, according to Soltanieh. The Iranian ambassador quoted an IAEA negotiator as asking, “What if next month we receive something else — some additional information?’”.

“If the IAEA had its way,” Soltanieh said, “It would be another 10 or 20 years.”

Soltanieh told IPS a meeting between Iran and the IAEA set for mid-October had been agreed before the IAEA Board of Governors earlier this month with Nackaerts and Grossi.

The Iranian ambassador said the IAEA officials had promised him that Director General Yukia Amano would announce the meeting during the Board meeting, but Amano made no such announcement.

Instead, after a meeting with Fereydoun Abbasi, Iran’s Vice President and head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Amano only referred to the “readiness of Agency negotiators to meet with Iran in the near future.”

“He didn’t keep the promise,” said Soltanieh, adding that Iran would have to “study in the capital” how to respond.

Soltanieh elaborated on Abassi’s suggestion last week that the sabotage of power to the Fordow facility the night before an IAEA request for a snap inspection of the facility showed the agency could be infiltrated by “terrorists and saboteurs”.

“The objection we have is that the DG isn’t protecting confidential information,” said Soltanieh. “When they have information on how many centrifuges are working and how many are not working (in IAEA reports), this is a very serious concern.”

Iran has complained for years about information gathered by IAEA inspectors, including data on personnel in the Iranian nuclear programme, being made available to U.S., Israeli and European intelligence agencies.

Gareth Porter, an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy, received the UK-based Gellhorn Prize for journalism for 2011 for articles on the U.S. war in Afghanistan.

Every year the French Communist Party ( PCF) organizes the Fête de l’Humanité in Paris, a left-wing festival where concerts are held and communist parties from all over the world erect stands to exchange books, pamphlets and ideas. Many authors, journalists and intellectuals are invited every year to participate in debates on philosophy, culture, politics and current affairs.

 
But this year will probably be remembered for the important debates the attendees of the festival were not allowed to have.  Two authors, Belgian theoretical physicist Jean Bricmont and French author Caroline Fourest, were forced to cancel their talks due to intimidation and threats from  organisations calling themselves “Antifa” and “Indigènes de la République”, respectively.
Caroline Fourest is a pro-Israeli reactionary who masquerades as a “left-wing” feminist.  Her invitation to the festival to discuss the rise of Islamic extremism and the French far right upset many on the left.
Reactionary and islamophobic Fourest most certainly is, but preventing her from speaking not only gives credence to her erroneous theories but violates her constitutional right to freedom of speech.
When Fourest was about to speak of the dangers of Islamic extremism and the rise of the Front National, France’s far right party, a group calling themselves “les Indigènes de la République” entered the tent where Fourest was speaking and began to throw objects on the stage. Some protestors even attempted to assault her.
Soon the tent was occupied by the protestors who shouted slogans against racism and islamophobia. The protestors proceeded to occupy the stage whereupon the audience shouted back “liberté d’expression!” (freedom of expression). The confrontation between the conference attendees and protestors continued for about 20 minutes with each side calling the other “fascist”.
The “Indigènes de la République” protestors won out, however, when the debate was cancelled and Caroline Fourest was escorted by bodyguards to a nearby vehicle.
The following day Belgian physicist, author and intellectual Jean Bricmont was due to give a far more important talk on the crisis in Syria and the specious discourse of “humanitarian intervention”   propagated by the mainstream media to justify wars of aggression.
For many years, Bricmont has been a critic of the politics of military interventions undertaken under the pretext of protecting “human rights”. Bricmont’s heresy on this issue and his anti-Zionism has made him a pariah in the fashionable salons of France’s “respectable” intelligentsia.
The Belgian physicist’s unequivocal anti-imperialist stance has also made him the target of a vile defamation campaign on the internet and in the mainstream French media where he has been called a “rouge-brun” , a brown-shirt red, a “confusioniste” etc.
Furthermore, the more extremist fringes of the internet’s thought-police have singled out Bricmont for special attention. A few days prior to the fête de l’Humanité, an “anti-fascist” anarchist organization called Antifa launched a campaign on Indymedia against Bricmont’s attendance at the festival, where they threatened to assault him if he spoke about humanitarian intervention. In the insane world of Antifa activism, Bricmont’s opposition to NATO-fomented terrorism in Libya and Syria makes him a “fascist”.
Antifa is just one of the  international anarchist groups currently being used by the intelligence agencies of imperialist states to sow confusion and chaos among the ranks of disaffected youth, inciting them to mindless, violent acts that serve the agenda of an ever- encroaching police state. This organization, in particular, targets intellectuals who denounce Zionism as well as alternative media outlets which expose the mechanisms and institutions that promote US imperialism throughout the world. It does all this under the guise of “anti-fascism”.
Due to the simple-mindedness of their beliefs and stupidity of their actions, Antifa tend to attract naïve and angry youths who turn up at demonstrations in black hoodies in order to provoke police crackdowns and sabotage any meaningful resistance to the current political order. In other words, Antifa are a group of useful idiots, whose real agenda is to promote fascism under the guise of “anti-fascism”.
 Bricmont was informed of their campaign and asked the management of the festival to provide him with appropriate security. The festival managers assured the Belgian scientist that he would have protection. However, one hour before Bricmont was about to speak, he received notification that the talk was cancelled.  The violent threats of the Antifa agents provocateurs provided Pierre Laurent, general secretary of the PCF with the perfect pretext to cancel Bricmont’s heretical lecture. Allowing Bricmont to speak would have shown up the PCF for the right-wing, imperialist sham that they are in the eyes of their ever dwindling supporters.
The festival management had decided they could not provide security for Belgian physicist in the event of an attack by the “Antifa” protestors.  However, the pro-war, pro-Israeli pundit Caroline Fourest was provided with full protection by the festival management, in spite of similar threats having been made against her.
This was hardly surprising, considering that the l’Humanité newspaper was the organizer of the festival. L’Humanité has given full support to NATO’s destabilization of Syria since violence broke out there last year, publishing the same war propaganda as its “right-wing” competitors.
According to the PCF’s international affairs spokesman Jacques Fath, the only solution for peace is Syria is the fall of Assad.  Fath, of course, made no mention of NATO’s death squads, who have been killing both innocent civilians and security forces since March 2011, facts that have even been verified by many independent journalists and admitted by the Arab league’s observer mission.
Neither of Syria’s communist parties was invited to the festival.  Both the Communist Party of Syria(Bakdash) and the Communist Party of Syria (Faisal Aka Unified) won 11  seats in the parliamentary elections that followed the implementation of Syria’s  new democratic constitution in May this year.
Both parties have consistently denounced NATO and Gulf-state fomented terrorism against their country since the outbreak of violence in Daraa in 2011. Neither party was allowed to erect a stand at the French communist festival. Instead representatives of the pro-war Syrian opposition were represented.
Those who believe that Jean Luc Melanchon’s Front de Gauche (the French “far left” party which one 11 percent of the vote in last year’s parliamentary elections) represents some form of alternative to the status quo, would do well to remember that Melanchon and the Front de Gauche SUPPORTED NATO’s intervention in Libya last year.  This is an organization which claims to oppose NATO. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The supporters of Melanchon- a demagogue who likes to prop up his left-wing credentials by pretending to support president Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and other centre-left governments in Latin America- do not seem to realize that the ALBA countries all supported Libya’s colonel Gaddafi last year and now openly declare their support for President Bachar al-Assad in his struggle against NATO, and Gulf-state funded terrorism.
While President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela sought to mediate in the Libyan crisis in 2011 in order to prevent military aggression against the country, a mediation welcomed by the Libyan government- and which could have prevented war- they received absolutely no help from Jean Luc Melanchon, who now vaunts himself as an anti-imperialist. Melanchon is a dastardly liar and a political fraud of the highest order.
One would not have to be a physicist like Jean Bricmont to see and understand the horrible reality of NATO’s proxy war in Syria, but what an inconvenient interruption it would have been if the would-be communists of this year’s festival were to be confronted with the naked, mephitic truth about NATO’s humanitarian wars, and the left-wing dupes who support them. Bricmont had to be silenced
.
France’s “extrême gauche” are nothing more than a contemptible, motley crew of cowards, liars and fools, whose inflated egos and vacuous slogans adequately reflect the all-pervasive cynicism of the corrupted petty-bourgeois class they represent.
But there is another reason for Bricmont’s ostracism from respectable French society; he is a scientist who is capable of applying critical thought to everyday issues that affect the common citizen. In other words, unlike his elitist and conformist colleagues in academia, for whom, peer –reviewed papers, tenure and social respectability count more than scientific truth, Bricmont represents the type of scientist capable of applying his microscope to the laws that govern civil society; laws whose  flagrant violation by Western governments the neo-scholastic monks of postmodern academia conveniently ignore.
In the days following the festival Caroline Fourest’s expulsion was widely bruited in the French mainstream media, who vociferously denounced the violation of her “freedom of expression”
.
Fourest is one of the most prominent propagandists for the New World Order, and such is her ubiquity across the French media complex, that she has become a household name.  The war-mongering Fourest has been presented as a martyr of human rights, feminism and free speech, thanks to the useful idiots of Antifa. Needless to say, the war-mongering harpies of France’s mainstream media made no mention of the violation of Jean Bricmont’s freedom of speech.
 If Fourest, Antifa, the PCF, Front de Gauche and the entire pseudo-leftist French establishment had their way, Bricmont and his ilk would never again be allowed to speak in a public platform. For what he has to say would expose them for the fakers, imperialist collaborators and loud-mouthed nincompoops that they are.
Those activists who admire and those who detest Caroline Fourest can scream “fascist” to one another to their heart’s content in their zany, infantile theatre of the absurd. But it is they who are opening the path for a seizure of power by the extreme right in this country, as the real fascists in Marine Le Pen’s Front National will easily capitalize on their buffoonery. For, who can blame a simple working class voter for being seduced by the mendacious arguments of Marine Le Pen when there are none but prattling fools to oppose her?
This is not the first time genuine anti-war activists were prevented from speaking in France. Michel Collon, a Belgian journalist, author and editor of a news and analysis website InvestigAction was prevented from speaking at the Bourse du Travail in Paris on November 9th 2011 by the Antifa agents provocateurs. These groups serve the imperialist state by preventing the public from engaging in serious debate about France’s foreign wars.
Other political organizations which have been attacked by  the “Antifa” agents provocateurs are the URCF, l’Union de Révolutionaires -Communistes de France and the PRCF, Pôle de renaissance communiste en France .
These organizations have some former heroes of the French Resistance among their members, real fighters against fascism. The president of the PRCF is Léon Landini, a combatant in the French resistance during the Second World War, who was responsible for the killing of over 40 Nazi soldiers, the destruction of 300 Nazi vehicles and dozens of attacks against Nazi railway carriages. The URCF and PRCF are now the main political organizations in France militating for the construction of a real communist party.
 Unlike the fakers in the Front de Gauche, PCF, NPA and other organizations, the URCF and PRCF have given their full support to the Syrian communist parties of Syria in their fight against fascist aggression by NATO and the Petro-monarchies of the Gulf states and have unequivocally denounced the lies and disinformation against Syria of the reactionary French press.
It is one of the most egregious propaganda achievements in recent history that those who expose the lies that trick the public into perceiving wars of aggression as humanitarian operations are denounced as “fascists”, while those who bang the drums of war are considered to be “left-wing” and “progressive”. This is the general pattern set by the French media complex and genuine anti-imperialist intellectuals have paid the price by being subjected to a veritable witch hunt for their theoretical heresies.
The censorship of Jean Bricmont by the left liberal establishment is deeply indicative of the perilous direction French society is currently taking. It is the road to a new form of totalitarianism, where critical thought is murdered by platitudes,empty, effete slogans, and the meaningless newspeak of the ruling group mind.
The unconscionable, dishonest and dastardly behavior of the petty bourgeois leftists, if unchecked, will inevitably lead to a grim dénouement in this tragic-comic farce that is contemporary France.

by United for a Fair Economy

Forbes Magazine calls their list of the 400 richest Americans the “definitive scorecard of wealth in America,” but a new report asserts the magazine is misleading. Born on Third Base: What the Forbes 400 Really Says About Wealth & Opportunity in America, released this week by Boston-based non-profit United for a Fair Economy, examines the sources of wealth for members of the Forbes 400 and uncovers the role of inheritance and privilege in economic mobility. The report urges Forbes to stop glamorizing the “self-made man” while minimizing the other factors in wealth accumulation, including tax policies, birthright, gender, and race.

The report finds that 40 percent of the Forbes 400 list inherited a sizable asset from a family member or spouse, and over 20 percent inherited sufficient wealth to make the list. In addition, 17 percent of the Forbes 400 have family members on the list.

“Forbes spins a misleading tale of what it takes to become wealthy in the U.S. by understating the overwhelming impact of birthright and privilege,” said Shannon Moriarty, co-author of the report. “Economic success should be a function of achievement, not just a guarantee for people lucky enough to be born into wealthy families. The Forbes 400 shows that birthright and family privilege are still very much at play in the American Dream.”

The report explains that the net worth of the Forbes 400 grew fifteen-fold between the launch of the list in 1982 and 2011, while wealth stagnated for the average U.S. household. In 1982, the wealth threshold for the Forbes 400 was $75 million; today, every person on the list is a billionaire.

Women accounted for just 10 percent of the list in 2011, and nearly 90 percent of those women inherited their fortunes. The whiteness of the Forbes 400 list also makes clear the racial wealth divide. In the past two years, just one African American made the list. “Instead of asserting that ‘the American dream is very much alive,’ Forbes should acknowledge that the

Opportunity to become wealthy has never been equally shared,” said Moriarty. “The billionaire members of the Forbes 400 are exceptions, not the rule.”

Born On Third Base takes Forbes to task for their misuse of the loaded term “self-made” and the undervaluing of privilege and social capital in financial success. “We disagree with Forbes claim that 70 percent of the list made their fortunes entirely from scratch,” said Brian Miller, executive director of United for a Fair Economy and co-author of the book The Self-Made Myth.

“The ‘self-made’ and ‘I built this’ narratives wrongly present the opportunity to become rich as equally attainable by all people in today’s highly stratified society. Forbes’ story also ignores the important contributions of others and the role of government in the success of the wealthiest Americans.”

“Tax policies have for decades been tilted in favor of the very wealthy,” said Tim Sullivan, federal policy coordinator at United for a Fair Economy. “Tax rates on capital gains have been slashed to historic lows, which is of particular benefit to the likes of the Forbes 400.” The report explains that the wealthiest 0.1 percent (including those on the list) receive half of all net increases in capital gains. “Drastic cuts to the federal estate tax made under George W. Bush and extended with the 2010 Obama tax deal have made it easier for wealthy families to keep and amass even greater fortunes,” said Sullivan.

“As was once said of President George W. Bush, many of those on the Forbes 400 were ‘born on third base’ but claim to have ‘hit a triple,’ and the Forbes 400 list perpetuates this falsehood,” said Moriarty.

United for a Fair Economy is launching a petition to coincide with the release of the Forbes 400 and the Born on Third Base report, asking Forbes to tell the whole story of wealth and opportunity in the U.S. Download the report and see the petition at www.faireconomy.org/BornOnThirdBase2012. Co-authors of Born on Third Base and authors of the book The Self-Made Myth are available for interview.

United for a Fair Economy is a national, independent, nonpartisan, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization working to raise public awareness of the destructive effects of concentrated wealth and power and supporting the movement for greater economic equality. Learn more at www.faireconomy.org.

 

Introduction: Structural Deep Events and the Strategy of Tension in Italy

From an American standpoint, it is easy to see clearly how Italian history was systematically destabilized in the second half of the 20th century, by a series of what I call structural deep events. I have defined these as “events, like the JFK assassination, the Watergate break-in, or 9/11, which violate the … social structure, have a major impact on … society, repeatedly involve law-breaking or violence, and in many cases proceed from an unknown dark force.”2

The examples in Italy, well known to Italians, include the Piazza Fontana bombing of 1969, the Piazza della Loggia bombing of 1974, and the Bologna railway bombing of 1980.

These bombings, in which over one hundred civilians were killed and many more wounded, were attributed at the time to marginal left-wing elements of society. However, thanks chiefly to a series of investigations and judicial proceedings, it is now clearly established that the bombings were the work of right-wing elements in collusion with Italian military intelligence, as part of an on-going “strategy of tension” to discredit the Italian left, encourage support for a corrupt status quo, and perhaps move beyond democracy altogether.3 As one of the conspirators, Vincenzo Vinciguerra, later stated, “The December 1969 explosion was supposed to be the detonator which would have convinced the political and military authorities to declare a state of emergency.”4

Vinciguerra also revealed that he and others had also been members of a paramilitary “stay-behind” network originally organized at the end of World War II by the CIA and NATO as “Operation Gladio.”

In 1984, questioned by judges about the 1980 Bologna station bombing, Vinciguerra said: “With the massacre of Peteano, and with all those that have followed, the knowledge should by now be clear that there existed a real live structure, occult and hidden, with the capacity of giving a strategic direction to the outrages…[it] lies within the state itself…There exists in Italy a secret force parallel to the armed forces, composed of civilians and military men, in an anti-Soviet capacity that is, to organise a resistance on Italian soil against a Russian army…A secret organisation, a super-organisation with a network of communications, arms and explosives, and men trained to use them…A super-organisation which, lacking a Soviet military invasion which might not happen, took up the task, on Nato’s behalf, of preventing a slip to the left in the political balance of the country. This they did, with the assistance of the official secret services and the political and military forces.5

Gladio connections to sustained false-flag violence, again involving NATO and the CIA, were subsequently revealed in other countries, notably Belgium and Turkey.6

The original purpose of Gladio was to consolidate resistance in the event of a Soviet takeover. But many of the senior Italians involved in the bombings implicated the CIA and NATO in them as well:

General Vito Miceli, the Italian head of military intelligence, after his arrest in 1974 on a charge of conspiring to overthrow the government, testified “that the incriminated organization, … was formed under a secret agreement with the United States and within the framework of NATO.” Former Italian defense minister Paulo Taviani told Magistrate Casson during a 1990 investigation “that during his time in office (1955-58), the Italian secret services were bossed and financed by ‘the boys in Via Veneto’—i.e. the CIA agents in the U.S. Embassy in the heart of Rome.” In 2000 “an Italian secret service general [Giandelio Maletti] said . . . that the CIA gave its tacit approval to a series of bombings in Italy in the 1970s to sow instability and keep communists from taking power. . . . ‘The CIA wanted, through the birth of an extreme nationalism and the contribution of the far right, particularly Ordine Nuovo, to stop (Italy) sliding to the left,’ he said.”7

Another conspirator, Carlo Digilio, “described how he passed on details of planned bomb attacks to his CIA contact, Captain David Carret, who had told him that the bombing campaign was part of a US plan to create a state of emergency.”8 Daniele Ganser, in his important book Nato’s Secret Armies, has endorsed a Spanish report that in 1990 NATO Secretary General Manfred Wörner (a German politician and diplomat) secretly confirmed that NATO’s headquarters, SHAPE, was indeed responsible:

The Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), directing organ of NATO’s military apparatus, coordinated the actions of Gladio, according to the revelations of Gladio Secretary-General Manfred Wörner during a reunion with the NATO ambassadors of the 16 allied nations.9

Extrapolating from such testimony, Ola Tunander has compared the strategy of tension in Italy, with its false-flag bombing attacks, to “what the Turkish military elite might describe as the correction of the course of democracy by the ‘deep state’ [a Turkish term].”10

Strategy of Tension

But I believe it would be too simplistic an analysis to blame the Italian strategy of tension exclusively on Vinciguerra’ssuper-organisation which… took up the task [of false-flag bombings], on Nato’s behalf.” There appear to have been other directing forces besides NATO and those elements Vinciguerra was aware of through Italian military intelligence (the SID, later SISMI). It is important to recall that the Italian trials of those convicted for the 1980 Bologna bombing implicated not only Vinciguerra, SISMI, and Gladio, but also elements of the Italian mafia (the Banda della Magliana) and the Italian Masonic Lodge Propaganda-Due (P-2), with links to criminal bankers and the Vatican.11

In short, if we suggest that something like the Turkish deep state was involved in the Italian strategy of tension, this does not suggest a solution to the Italian mystery, so much as a zone, or interlocking network, for further research.

Has a Strategy of Tension Been Exercised in America?

Gladio connections to sustained false-flag violence, again involving NATO and the CIA, were subsequently established in other countries, notably Belgium and Turkey.12 I wish to propose that America, as well as Europe, has also suffered from a similar series of false-flag structural deep events, including bombings, that have, in conformity with the same strategy of tension, systematically moved America into its current condition, a state of emergency.

Nato headquarters

Among the false flag structural deep events I wish to consider today are

The John F. Kennedy assassination of 1963, or 11/22, which led to the CIA’s Operation Chaos against the anti-Vietnam War movement. (11/22 was clearly a deep event: many documents in the area of Lee Harvey Oswald’s relations to CIA operations are still being withheld, despite statutory and court orders to release them.13

The Robert Kennedy assassination of 1968, followed immediately by emergency legislation which led to state-sponsored violence at the 1968 Democratic Party Convention.

The 1993 first World Trade Center bombing and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, which led to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.

9/11 and the subsequent false flag anthrax attacks of 2001, which led to the imposition of Continuity of Government (COG) measures, the Patriot Act, and the proclamation, on September 14, 2001, of a State of Emergency which remains in effect. (In September 2012 it was once again renewed for another year).14

These structural deep events have had a common and cumulative result: the erosion of public or constitutional power, and its progressive replacement by unconstrained repressive force. I have argued elsewhere that

1) as in Italy, all of these events were blamed on marginal left-wing elements, but in fact involved elements inside America’s covert intelligence agencies, along with their shadowy underworld connections.

2) some of these structural deep events bore a relationship to the ongoing secret planning – known in the Pentagon as the Doomsday Project – for Continuity of Government (or COG) in an emergency, which entailed its own secret communications network, and arrangements for what (in the Oliver North Hearings) was called “suspension of the American Constitution.”

3) in every case, the official response to the deep event was a set of new repressive measures, usually in the form of legislation.

4) cumulatively, these events suggest the on-going presence in America of what I have called a “dark force” or “deep state,” analogous to what Vinciguerra described in Italy as a “secret force…occult and hidden, with the capacity of giving a strategic direction to the [successive] outrages.”15

The Oklahoma City Bombing (4/19) and 9/11

Recently I viewed for a film, “A Noble Lie,” about the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.16 This gave me a chance, for the first time, to test these hypotheses against the case of Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, or what I shall call 4/19. More than I could have anticipated, 4/19 fit into and strengthened this analysis.

Oklahoma City Bombing

The film “A Noble Lie,” itself points to some striking similarities between the events of 1995 and of 2001. The most obvious is the alleged destruction of a steel-reinforced building by external forces (a truck bomb in the case of the Murrah Building in 1995, flying debris in the case of Building Seven in 2001). Experts in both cases have asserted that the buildings in fact could only have been brought down by cutting charges placed directly against the sustaining columns inside the building. Here for example is a report to Congress from General Benton K. Partin, a retired U.S. Air Force Brigadier General and expert on non-nuclear weapons devices:

When I first saw the pictures of the truck-bomb’s asymmetrical damage to the Federal Building, my immediate reaction was that the pattern of damage would have been technically impossible without supplementing demolition charges at some of the reinforcing concrete column bases…. For a simplistic blast truck-bomb, of the size and composition reported, to be able to reach out on the order of 60 feet and collapse a reinforced column base the size of column A-7 is beyond credulity.17

There is now a broad and growing consensus among architects, engineers, and other experts, that the three buildings which collapsed on 9/11 in the World Trade Center were also most probably destroyed by controlled demolition charges.18

Another important similarity was the legal consequence of most of these events: the response to Oklahoma City was the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, while the response to 9/11 was the first implementation of COG and the passage (after a false flag anthrax attack) of the Patriot Act. “A Noble Lie” focuses on the domestic consequences of the Antiterrorism Act, and indeed it did, like the Patriot Act after it, provide for significant restrictions on the right of habeas corpus as the courts had interpreted it. In other words, both acts provided pretexts for implementation of the proposals for warrantless detention that had been a central focus of COG planning in the 1980s with Oliver North. This fit into a larger ongoing pattern of the progressive restriction of our constitutional rights by unrestrained coercive power — a pattern that I will trace back to the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963.

But there were important foreign consequences of the 1996 Antiterrorism Act as well, in particular Section 328, which amended the Foreign Assistance Act to bolster

assistance in the form of arms and ammunition to certain specific countries, for the purpose of fighting terrorism.19 This in turn led in 1997 to the creation of secret “Eyes Only” liaison agreement between the CIA’s Counter-Terrorism Center (CTC) and Saudi Arabia, followed by a subsequent CIA agreement in 1999 with Uzbekistan (i.e. two of the most secretive and repressive regimes in the world today).20

I have argued that these secret liaison agreements – with Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan – may have provided the cover for secret CIA withholding of information before 9/11 about the designated 9/11 culprits al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar.21 Thus, if my analysis of the CIA’s withholding in 2000-2001 is accurate, then 4/19 in 1995 did not just exhibit similarities to 9/11: it was a significant part of the build-up which allowed this withholding to occur, and also 9/11 itself.

Increases in Repressive Power After Deep Events

That 4/19 in 1995 had repressive legal consequences links it both to 9/11 in 2001 and also to 11/22 in 1963, after which the Warren Commission used the JFK assassination to increase CIA surveillance of Americans. As I wrote in Deep Politics, this was the result of

the Warren Commission’s controversial recommendations that the Secret Service’s domestic surveillance responsibilities be increased (WR 25-26). Somewhat illogically, the Warren Report concluded both that Oswald acted alone (WR 22), . . . and also that the Secret Service, FBI, CIA, should coordinate more closely the surveillance of organized groups (WR 463). In particular, it recommended that the Secret Service acquire a computerized data bank compatible with that already developed by the CIA.22

In the ensuing Vietnam War this involvement of the CIA in domestic surveillance led to the CIA’s Operation Chaos, an investigation of the antiwar movement in which the CIA, despite its Charter’s restrictions on domestic spying,

amassed thousands of files on Americans, indexed hundreds of thousands of Americans into its computer records, and disseminated thousands of reports about Americans to the FBI and other government offices. Some of the information concerned the domestic activity of those Americans.23

The pattern of increased repression would repeat itself four years later in 1968 after the assassination of Martin Luther King, in response to which two US Army brigades were (until 1971) stationed on permanent standby in the United States, as part of Operation GARDEN PLOT to deal with domestic unrest.24

The pattern was repeated again with

the assassination of Robert Kennedy. In the twenty-four hours between Bobby’s shooting and his death, Congress hurriedly passed a statute— drafted well in advance (like the Tonkin Gulf Resolution of 1964 and the Patriot Act of 2001) — that still further augmented the secret powers given to the Secret Service in the name of protecting presidential candidates.25

This was not a trivial or benign change: from this swiftly considered act, passed under Johnson, flowed some of the worst excesses of the Nixon presidency.26 The change also contributed to the chaos and violence at the Chicago Democratic Convention of 1968. Army intelligence surveillance agents, seconded to the Secret Service, were present both inside and outside the convention hall. Some of them equipped the so-called “Legion of Justice thugs whom the Chicago Red Squad turned loose on local anti-war groups.”27

Other Similarities between Dallas in 1963 and Oklahoma City in 1995

The repressive consequences after 11/22 in 1963, and after 4/19 in 1995, are linked to other shared features between the two events. Almost immediately after 11/22 there were reports from both inside and outside government, suggesting that Oswald had killed the president as part of an international Communist conspiracy.

In Deep Politics and the Death of JFK, I called these “Phase-One” reports, part of

a two-fold process. Phase One put forward the phantom of an international plot, linking Oswald to the USSR, to Cuba, or to both countries together. This phantom was used to invoke the danger of a possible nuclear confrontation, which induced Chief Justice Earl Warren and other political notables to accept Phase Two, the equally false (but less dangerous) hypothesis that Oswald killed the President all by himself. …. [T]he Phase-One story… was first promoted and then defused by the CIA. Michael Beschloss has revealed that, at 9:20 AM on the morning of November 23, CIA Director John McCone briefed the new President. In Beschloss’ words: “The CIA had information on foreign connections to the alleged assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, which suggested to LBJ that Kennedy may have been murdered by an international conspiracy.”28

To this day both Phase-One and Phase-Two stories have dominated the treatment of 11/22 in the governing media, to the virtual exclusion of non-establishment analyses treating 11/22 as a deep event.

Many have forgotten that there was a Phase One-Phase Two process with respect to 4/19 as well. Both immediately and thereafter there were a number of reports linking McVeigh and Nichols to Iraqis and other Middle Easterners, including Ramzi Yousef, the fugitive bomber in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (which also used an ammonium nitrate (ANFO) bomb in a Ryder rental truck.)29 Both Clinton and his Counterterrorism Coordinator, Richard Clarke, have confirmed that some of these stories were discussed at a meeting of the Counterterrorism Security Group on the day of 4/19.30 Both men also claim to have dismissed them in favor of a low-grade Phase Two local conspiracy led by the two designated culprits: Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. But reports of Middle Eastern involvement, sometimes attributed to sources inside government, continued to appear in the governing media, including CBS, NBC, and the New York Times.31

First World Trade Center bombing of 1993

Meanwhile, signs of a local Iraqi conspiracy were industriously pursued by an Oklahoma City NBC reporter, Jayna Davis, and collected in her book The Third Terrorist. Her Phase-One evidence was centered on an all-points-bulletin initial search, quickly suppressed, for an unnamed John Doe #2. Her research was subsequently endorsed in a Congressional Report by Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher.32

Moreover Richard Clarke has written that the Oklahoma City bombing was followed by a spate of new internal Presidential Decision Directives or PDDs (in addition to the Antiterrorism Act), which were drafted by himself. One of these addressed a security problem in response to the Oklahoma City bombing, and another conferred new counterterrorism powers on himself, including his new title as National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-terrorism. Two (PDD 62 and especially PDD 67) dealt with what he calls a more “robust system of command and control” for “our Continuity of Government program,” which in his words “had been allowed to fall apart when the threat of a Soviet nuclear attack had gone away.”33

These words recall Tim Weiner’s report of April 1994 in the New York Times that in the post-Soviet Clinton era, “the Doomsday Project, as it was known” was scheduled to be scaled way back, because “the nuclear tensions” of the Soviet era had faded away.34 In other words Clinton had planned to scale back the Doomsday Project (which was governed by a secret extra-governmental committee including Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, then both not in government); but Richard Clarke used Oklahoma City to save the Doomsday Project, make it more robust and place it under his own control.

According to author Andrew Cockburn, a new target was found:

Although the exercises continued, still budgeted at over $200 million a year in the Clinton era, the vanished Soviets were now replaced by terrorists. . . . There were other changes, too. In earlier times the specialists selected to run the “shadow government” had been drawn from across the political spectrum, Democrats and Republicans alike. But now, down in the bunkers, Rumsfeld [and Cheney] found [themselves] in politically congenial company, the players’ roster being filled almost exclusively with Republican hawks. “It was one way for these people to stay in touch. They’d meet, do the exercise, but also sit around and castigate the Clinton administration in the most extreme way,” a former Pentagon official with direct knowledge of the phenomenon told me. “You could say this was a secret government-in-waiting.”35

Of course the fact that 4/19 was followed by a strengthening of COG does not of itself corroborate my thesis that COG planning has been a significant factor in the planning and execution of America’s structural deep events36 However there were other recurring features in the picture I have presented of America’s structural deep events, and we do find these in the Oklahoma City story.

Of these the most prominent is the importance in the official story of designated culprits who were very possibly government informants or double agents.37 Perhaps the best documented recent example is the US Government’s use and protection of the senior al-Qaeda operative Ali Mohamed as a double agent inside al Qaeda; this protection allowed him to train some of the participants of the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, and later help organize the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombing in Kenya.38

In my 2008 book The War Conspiracy I discussed the possibility that both Lee Harvey Oswald and some of the Arabs designated in 9/11 (Ali Mohamed, al-Hazmi, al-Mihdhar) may in fact have been double agents working with a US Government agency, such as the FBI or Army Intelligence.39 Others have suggested that at the very least Oswald was an FBI informant; and Lawrence Wright wrote in The New Yorker that, in withholding the names of al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar from the FBI, “The CIA may also have been protecting an overseas operation and was afraid that the F.B.I. would expose it.”40

In this context I noted with great interest the contention in “A Noble Lie” that Timothy McVeigh, the prime designated culprit in 4/19, may also have been an informant or double agent working for the U.S. Army.41 Of course this contention remains unproven, but the film provides some corroborative evidence.

The Oklahoma City Bombing and Operation PATCON

What is certain is that McVeigh, like Oswald, al-Hazmi, and al-Mihdhar, was in a milieu of known informants and or double agents, who were part of an important secret operation. In the case of Oswald and the two Saudis, this suggests reasons for the U.S. Government’s on-going suppression of important facts about them, both before the crimes they are alleged to have committed, and ever since to the present day.42

In 2005 John M. Berger, an excellent researcher, discovered that in the 1990s the FBI, in a major counterintelligence operation, codenamed PATCON for “Patriot-conspiracy,” had been investigating McVeigh’s milieu of armed right-wingers — or what Berger called

a wildly diverse collection of racist, ultra-libertarian, right-wing and/or pro-gun activists and extremists who, over the years, have found common cause in their suspicion and fear of the federal government. The undercover agents met some of the most infamous names in the movement, but their work never led to a single arrest. When McVeigh walked through the middle of the investigation in 1993, he went unnoticed.43

PATCON was particularly focused on a former asset of Oliver North’s illegal network to supply arms to the Nicaragua Contras: Tom Posey and his paramilitary group Civilian Material Assistance (CMA). In the 1980s, according to Paul de Armond, CMA had begun as “as an adjunct to the Alabama Ku Klux Klan.”44 Enrolled in the Contra supply effort by first the Defense Intelligence Agency and then Oliver North, CMA’s “volunteer” work in patrolling the Arizona border against incoming aliens persuaded then-Congressman John McCain to serve on its board.45 But in PATCON’s eyes in the Post-Reagan era, “Posey was a notorious black market arms dealer, suspected of having contraband sources on more than one U.S. military base.”46

In both JFK and 9/11 it seems clear to me that the subsequent cover-ups derive from the fact that the respective plots were skillfully designed to piggy-back on authorized covert operations, in such a way as to ensure a subsequent cover-up. Berger’s important essay in Foreign Policy on PATCON does not suggest a connection between McVeigh’s plot and the FBI operation. However he notes deep in the essay that Dennis Mahon, an associate of McVeigh and another important target of PATCON,

would go on to be a well-known figure in white supremacist circles and was convicted in February for the 2004 mail bombing of a state diversity official in Arizona. After his arrest in 2009, Mahon told his cellmate that he was “the number three anonymous person in the Oklahoma City bombing investigation.”

In other words, Mahon identified himself as John Doe #2.

Berger, on his own Website Intelwire, has written that “Mahon has spoken of knowing McVeigh in the past,” and has concluded that, “Based on those comments and other information, it is at least plausible that Mahon was involved in the [Oklahoma City] bombing.47 Berger’s “other evidence” is the testimony of ATF informant Carol Howe, transmitted first by Jayna Davis and then by Congressman Rohrabacher, that before 4/19 “Mahon talked about targeting federal buildings for bombings. …[and] took three trips [with McVeigh's contact Andre Strassmeir] to Oklahoma City.”48

Mahon has been characterized as a self-aggrandizing loose talker. However, it seems safe to say that we better understand the context of Oklahoma City after considering the new evidence relating to PATCON, a secret FBI operation from 1991 to 1993 then known only to insiders.

Was Oklahoma City “a Sting Gone Wrong”?

Although PATCON itself was officially terminated in 1993, we learn from its files that there were in fact a number of ongoing informants at Elohim City, Oklahoma very likely including not only Howe but also Strassmeir.49 The Government’s lack of response to the reports they received of an intended bombing strengthens the hypothesis, voiced in the film “A Noble Lie,” that the 4/19 plot was initially intended as a sting, the lethal result of which represented “a sting gone wrong.”

If so, this would increase the similarity between 4/19 and the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. According to the official account, this was also a conspiracy penetrated by the FBI, also involving an ANFO bomb on a Ryder rental truck that was also later identified by its vehicle identification number (VIN) on a metal fragment.50 In the 1993 bombing the New York Times later reported from tapes of interviews of the FBI’s informant with his FBI handler:

Law-enforcement officials were told that terrorists were building a bomb that was eventually used to blow up the World Trade Center, and they planned to thwart the plotters by secretly substituting harmless powder for the explosives, an informer said after the blast.

The informer was to have helped the plotters build the bomb and supply the fake powder, but the plan was called off by an F.B.I. supervisor who had other ideas about how the informer, Emad A. Salem, should be used, the informer said.51

This Times story of the 2003 WTC bombing clearly describes a conspiracy that had been effectively penetrated by the FBI, which nonetheless, for whatever reason, reached its lethal conclusion. One such case of a penetrated operation “gone wrong” in 1993 might be attributed to confusion, bureaucratic incompetence, or the problems of determining when sufficient evidence had been gathered to justify arrests. A repeated catastrophe two years later raises the question whether the lethal outcome was not intended.

Together with the example of inaction on the CIA’s prior knowledge of the alleged 9/11 hijackers, the three mass murders strengthen the claim to the International Criminal Court of Judge Ferdinando Imposimato, the Honorary President of Italy’s Supreme Court: that 9/11 was “a repeat of the CIA’s ‘strategy of tension’ carried out in Italy” from the 1960s to the 1980s.52 I appreciate that it will be difficult as well as painful for most Americans to contemplate that America’s own history, like that of Italy a half century ago, could have been systemically manipulated and destabilized by unknown forces. But the more research I do, the more I am convinced that something like Judge Imposimato’s verdict must be considered.

Moreover, if the Italian analogy is applicable to the United States, then the judgment that “9/11 was “a repeat of the CIA’s ‘strategy of tension’ carried out in Italy” raises a larger question about all the structural deep events we have considered, especially the bombings of 1993 and 1995. Were these all part of a single sustained strategy of tension? It is too early to tell. But at the very least the WTC bombings of 1993 and 2001 show suggestive signs of common origins – both outside government (the plotters Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and the informant Ali Mohammed) and possibly inside (as indicated by the overlapping, ongoing cover-ups of both).53

In contrast, all of the structural deep events I have been discussing are predictably treated by the governing media as the work of marginal outsiders – by a “lone nut” like Oswald, or a “lone wolf” like Timothy McVeigh. The commonalities between these events I have presented suggest a different analysis: that insiders including intelligence officials and other government officers, as well as outsiders, including government agents and double agents, must be held responsible for repeatedly designing plots that, because of their interface with sanctioned intelligence operations, will not be revealed by government.

My own analysis identifies these insiders as part of an on-going milieu, admittedly amorphous and unstructured, linking the secret networks in government to other powerful forces in our society, For want of a better phrase, I have labeled this milieu, reluctantly, as the “deep state.”54 But as I remarked earlier with respect to Italy, the term “deep state” is not offered as a solution to these unsolved crimes, but as a focus for further research.

An Alternative Analysis of Deep Events: State Crimes Against Democracy

Let me contrast my own analysis with those of two others. The first is the notion of a “secret government” put forward in an important PBS program in 1987 by Bill Moyers.55 It rightly points to the dangerous rise of covert agencies, and above all the CIA, inside government since the National Security Act of 1947. And it analyzes the crimes of Iran-Contra in particular as an example of secret government escaping from the jurisdiction of the law and other restraints of the Constitution and public state.

In the words of the Moyers show

The Secret Government is an interlocking network of official functionaries, spies, mercenaries, ex-generals, profiteers and superpatriots, who, for a variety of motives, operate outside the legitimate institutions of government.

In other words, the show was pointing to the “Enterprise” used by North and his allies inside and outside the Executive Office Building to implement Iran-Contra and other policies that violated law and/or the directives of Congress. As I have shown elsewhere, North, implementing these policies, availed himself of the emergency antiterrorist network, codenamed Flashboard, that had been put together, at immense cost, by the Doomsday Project.56 In so doing, he was “piggy-backing:” using the authorized secret network for an illicit, criminal program, outside of the network’s designated purpose.

Such an analysis could be screened on PBS in 1987 because one part of the U.S. government at that time was at war with another – a war which set Casey at odds not only with Congress but even with senior officers in his own agency the CIA.57 One can locate Moyers’ show as part of a series of insider leaks and governing media exposés of Oliver North’s off-the-books “Enterprise,” which North (and behind him CIA director Casey) had used to violate official policies and laws.58 In short Moyers’ challenge to Casey’s and North’s “warriors” suited the aims of the traditional CIA (and their usual backers, the “traders” on Wall Street).59

Thus we should not be surprised that it had nothing to say about the role of North’s superior, Vice-President Bush, or about the stake of corporate interests in promoting CIA covert operations around the world (such as the much larger 1980s CIA operation in Afghanistan). Above all, it had not a word about North’s Doomsday Project planning to “suspend the U.S. Constitution,” even though this did surface for an instant in the Iran-Contra Hearings.60 By its silence about the Doomsday Project, the show failed to address the ongoing planning which, I believe, allowed for the fruition of COG plans in 9/11 and the Patriot Act. To sum up, the Moyers attack on the secret government was largely confined to what was already in the public record. It did not venture into deep politics.

More recently the concept of State Crimes Against Democracy, or SCADs, has been proposed by Prof. Lance deHaven-Smith, and endorsed by some of my friends in the 9/11 Truth community, including Peter Phillips and Mickey Huff. By SCADs, Prof. deHaven-Smith means “concerted actions or inactions by government insiders intended to manipulate democratic processes and undermine popular sovereignty.”61

One great advantage of the SCAD hypothesis is that, unlike my own work, it has been discussed in academic journals, thus breaking a kind of sound barrier. But I have problems with the term “State Crimes.” On the one hand I would claim that the State, or some segments of the state, is often the victim of deep events, as in 4/19. On the other I see the State as primarily a guarantor of democracy, not simply an enemy of it.

I agree that some government insiders play an important role in these events, indeed, I have documented some of these in the preceding pages. But I find it misleading to pin the blame for the crime on the State alone. After all, if a bank insider opens the door to a group of bank robbers, what ensues (even if you choose to call it an “inside job”) is unmistakably a robbery of the bank, not by it.

SCAD analysis is far more useful and sophisticated than I can present it here, and I expect to continue to learn from those who pursue it. But it is not deep political analysis. DeHaven-Smith’s list of SCADs includes “the secret wars in Laos and Cambodia,” two relevant policy decisions (rather than events) that we know came from the Oval Office; although covert at the time, and very arguably illegal, they were when exposed not at all mysterious and thus essentially not very deep.

By positing SCADs as a struggle between the State on the one hand and democracy on the other, I believe this analysis oversimplifies both concepts, and underestimates (as Moyers did not) the internal contradictions within each. Democracy is after all a form of the state in which the people’s freedom and power is constitutionally guaranteed by the state (or what I call the public state). And at least one of deHaven-Smith’s SCADs – the JFK assassination – might more logically be considered a crime against the state, rather than by it.

Phillips and Hoff seem to recognize this difficulty: they drop the JFK assassination from their own list of SCADs.62 But this artificially segregates the JFK assassination from other deep events, such as the Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy assassinations, which I believe are parts of a common syndrome.

In short I believe in the crucial importance of a distinction that SCAD analysis does not make – between the public state that is ostensibly dedicated to fostering the welfare, rights and upward power of the people, and that residue of unofficial powers inside and outside government, or what I have awkwardly called the deep state, that for a half century has been progressively eroding that upward or persuasive power, and replacing it with unrestricted, unconstitutional power (or violence) of its own.

My final objection to SCAD analysis is practical. If the state is the author of these crimes, then the work of critics must be to mobilize public opinion against the state. This fits the libertarian politics of those who (like Alex Jones and other lovers of the Second Amendment) profoundly distrust the public US state in its entirety, and not just its covert agencies. Prof. DeHaven-Smith’s own analysis implicates not just covert intelligence agencies of the US Government but the government as a whole, and perhaps particularly the courts. (In support of this indictment, he is able to point to the Supreme Court’s unusual action, in 2000, of itself electing George W. Bush as president, by a vote of five to four.)

But a strategy of attacking the state as a whole seems to me an example of defeatist politics. Here again we can be enlightened by the Italian strategy of tension, which is a tale of indiscriminate terror with a happier ending. The terror bombings ended after Bologna in 1980, thanks to a series of vigorous and courageous investigations by first journalists, then parliamentary commissions, and finally the courts (not least the court of Judge Imposimato himself, which investigated the murder of Italian premier Aldo Moro and the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II). The victory of truth over violence did not come easily: journalists, parliamentarians, and at least one judge were themselves killed. And it was clearly a victory against one part of the state, which was achieved through the countervailing forces of other parts.

The Italian example proves that the forces behind a strategy of tension are not invincible. They also suggest that, if the dark forces of the deep state are to be defeated, this will take the combined resources, not just of the people, but of those elements in government that can, eventually, be aroused in search of the truth.

If this essay contributes to this purpose, it will be because others take up the line of inquiry I have indicated. I myself do not claim to understand the inner truth about these structural deep events. But I hope I have successfully indicated some of the directions which future investigations should pursue.

Peter Dale Scott, a former Canadian diplomat and English Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, is the author of Drugs Oil and War, The Road to 9/11, and The War Conspiracy: JFK, 9/11, and the Deep Politics of War. His most recent book is American War Machine: Deep Politics, the CIA Global Drug Connection and the Road to Afghanistan. His website, which contains a wealth of his writings, is here.

Recommended citation: Peter Dale Scott, “Systemic Destabilization in Recent American History: 9/11, the JFK Assassination, and the Oklahoma City Bombing,” The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 10 Issue 39, No. 2, September 24, 2012.

Articles on related subjects

Peter Dale Scott, Why Americans Must End America’s Self-Generating Wars

Peter Dale Scott, The NATO Afghanistan War and US-Russian Relations: Drugs, Oil, and War

Peter Dale Scott, The Doomsday Project and Deep Events:JFK, Watergate, Iran-Contra, and 9/11

Peter Dale Scott, Norway’s Terror as Systemic Destabilization: Breivik, the Arms-for-Drugs Milieu, and Global Shadow Elites

Tim Shorrock, Reading the Egyptian Revolution Through the Lens of US Policy in South Korea Circa 1980: Revelations in US Declassified Documents

Notes:

1 This essay is adapted from a talk I presented at the 2012 Oakland 9/11 Film Festival presented by the Northern CA 9/11 Truth Alliance.

2 Peter Dale Scott, “The Doomsday Project and Deep Events: JFK, Watergate, Iran-Contra, and 9/11,” The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, November 21, 2011, http://www.japanfocus.org/-Peter_Dale-Scott/3650.

3 Daniele Ganser, Nato’s Secret Armies: Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe (New York: Routledge, 2005); Philip Willan, Puppetmasters: The Political Use of Terrorism in Italy (London: Constable, 1991).

4 Vincenzo Vinciguerra, in “Strage di Piazza Fontana spunta un agente USA,” La Repubblica, February 11, 1998, here.

5 “Secret agents, freemasons, fascists . . . and a top-level campaign of political ‘destabilisation,’” The Guardian, December 5, 1990, here; quoted in Daniele Ganser, NATO’s Secret Armies: Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe (London: Frank Cass, 2005), 7.

6 Ganser, NATO’s Secret Armies, 125-47, 224-44.

7 Peter Dale Scott, The Road to 9/11 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007), 181. Cf. Ganser, NATO’s Secret Armies, 6.

8 Ola Tunander, “The War on Terror and the Pax Americana, ” in David Ray Griffin and Peter Dale Scott, 9/11 and American Empire: Intellectuals Speak Out (Northampton, MA: Olive Branch Press, 2007), I, 164.

9 Ganser, Nato’s Secret Armies, 26; citing El Pais, November 26, 1990.

10 Tunander, “The War on Terror,” 164.

11 Cf. Peter Dale Scott, American War Machine (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2010), 30: “In February 1989 Italian Special Prosecutor Domenico Sica asserted that responsibility for at least some of the terror bombings during the past decade lay also with the Mafia—that is, what I am referring to as the global drug connection.”

12 Ganser, NATO’s Secret Armies, 125-47, 224-44.

13 Scott Shane, “C.I.A. Is Still Cagey About Oswald Mystery,” New York Times, October 16, 2009, here. For my analysis of deep similarities between 11/22 and 9/11, see Peter Dale Scott, The War Conspiracy: JFK, 9/11, and the Deep Politics of War (Ipswich, MA: The Mary Ferrell Foundation, 2008), 341-96.

14 See White House, “Message from the President Regarding the Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to Certain Terrorist Attacks,” September 11, 2012, here.

15 For my ambivalent use of the term “deep state,” see Scott, American War Machine, 20-23.

16 For an introduction to the film, see “A Noble Lie: Oklahoma City 1995 with James Lane and Chris Emery,” Alex Jones Channel, December 16, 2011, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XmHnePnaR6E.

17 General Benton K. Partin, letter to members of Congress, May 17, 1995; in David Hoffman, The Oklahoma City Bombing and the Politics of Terror (Los Angeles: Feral House, 1998); on line at here. Another explosives expert, Samuel Cohen, wrote to a Congressman that “It would have been absolutely impossible and against the laws of nature for a truck full of fertilizer and fuel oil… no matter how much was used… to bring the building down” (ibid.). Anton Breivik’s ammonium nitrate car bomb in front of the Norwegian Prime Minister’s office would seem to corroborate Partin and Cohen: Breivik’s bomb shattered windows but caused no structural damage whatever to the building.

18 “9/11: Explosive Evidence – Experts Speak Out,” a film prepared by AE911Truth, PBS, September 16, 2012; viewable on line at here. Cf. Bill Christison (a former senior official of the CIA), “Stop Belittling the Theories About September 11,” Dissident Voice, August 14, 2006, here. www.dissidentvoice.org: The WTC buildings “were most probably destroyed by controlled demolition charges placed in the buildings.”

19 Charles Doyle, “Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996: A Summary,” Federation of American Scientists, June 3, 1996, here. In a December 2000 memo, Richard Clarke confirmed that this assistance was being supplied “through the CIA’s Counter-terrorism Center (CTC) and State’s Anti-Terrorism Program (ATA)”

20 Scott, “Launching the U.S. Terror War,” The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, here; citing Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan, The Eleventh Day (New York: Ballantine Books, c2011), 396.

21 Scott, “Launching the U.S. Terror War.” This withholding of information is a significant parallel with the CIA’s withholding of significant information about Lee Harvey Oswald from the FBI in 1963, in the weeks just before the 11/22 JFK assassination.

22 Peter Dale Scott, Deep Politics and the Death of JFK, 280; quoted in Scott, “Doomsday Project.”

23 Church Committee, Report, Book III – Supplementary Detailed Staff Reports on Intelligence Activities and the Rights of Americans, 682.

24 Nate Jones, “Document Friday: ‘Garden Plot:’ The Army’s Emergency Plan to Restore “Law and Order” to America.” National Security Archive, August 11, 2011, here.

25 Public Law 90-331 (18 U.S.C. 3056); discussion in Peter Dale Scott, Paul L. Hoch, and Russell Stetler, The Assassinations: Dallas and Beyond (New York: Random House, 1976), 443-46; quoted in Scott, “Doomsday Project.”

26 Army intelligence agents were seconded to the Secret Service, and at this time there was a great increase in their number. The Washington Star later explained that “the big build-up in [Army] information gathering…did not come until after the shooting of the Rev. Martin Luther King” (Washington Star, December 6, 1970; reprinted in Federal Data Banks Hearings, p. 1728); quoted in Scott, “Doomsday Project.”

27 George O’Toole, The Private Sector (New York: Norton, 1978), 145, quoted in Scott, Deep Politics and the Death of JFK, 278-79, also Scott, “Doomsday Project.”

28 Peter Dale Scott, “Overview: The CIA, the Drug Traffic, and Oswald in Mexico,” History Matters, here; citing Michael Beschloss, ed., Taking Charge: The Johnson White House Tapes, 1963-1964 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997), 22. “Phase-One” stories, followed by “Phase-Two” media rebuttals, have continued ever since, most recently in 2012 with the publication by former CIA officer Brian Latell of an informant’s claim that Castro had prior knowledge of what would happen in Dallas (Brian Latell, Castro’s Secrets: The CIA and Cuba’s Intelligence Machine [New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012]).

29 Wall Street Journal, September 5, 2002, here; “Take AIM: Jayna Davis on OKC Third Terrorist,” AIM.org, here. Cf. Dana Rohrabacher, Chairman, Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House International Relations Committee, “The Oklahoma City Bombing: Was There A Foreign Connection?” Report, December 26, 2006, here.

30 Richard Clarke, Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror (New York: Free Press, 2004), 97-99.

31 Jim Naureckas , “The Oklahoma City Bombing: The Jihad That Wasn’t,” Extra! (Fair), July/August 1995, here.

32 Jayna Davis, The Third Terrorist: The Middle East Connection to the Oklahoma City Bombing (Nashville TN: Thomas Nelson, 2004); Dana Rohrabacher, Chairman’s Report, Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House International Relations Committee, Oklahoma City Bombing Investigation.

33 Clarke, Against All Enemies, 167.

34 Tim Weiner, “Pentagon Book for Doomsday Is to Be Closed,” New York Times, April 17, 1994: quoted in Scott, Road to 9/11, 186.

35 Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy(New York: Scribner, 2007), 88; quoted in Scott, Road to 9/11, 187.

36 Scott, “The Doomsday Project and Deep Events.”

37 Over and over the daily news provides instances of new deep events that involve informants. As I write, the headlines report widespread Muslim violence throughout the world, in response to a despicable anti-Muslim film one of whose promoters admitted to be a deliberate provocation (Sheila Musaji, “The Tragic Consequences of Extremism,” The American Muslim, September 14, 2012, here). I was not surprised to read later that one of the men responsible for the film, Nakoula Nakoula, was also a federal informant (“Producer Of Anti-Islam Film Was Fed Snitch,” The Smoking Gun, September 14, 2012, here). As I wrote on my Facebook page, “I don’t think anyone should leap to sweeping conclusions from this revelation that one of the film’s makers, Nakoula Nakoula, was a government informant. But this fact so complicates the background of this allegedly “amateurish” film that I feel justified in my original assumption: that we might be facing here another deep event (as defined in my book American War Machine).”

38 Scott, Road to 9/11, 151-60.

39 Scott, War Conspiracy, 355-56, 357-63 (“The Role of Double Agents”); Cf. Scott, Deep Politics and the Death of JFK, 247-53, 257-60.

40 See Anthony Summers, Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover (New York: PocketBooks, 1994), ch.29, n4; Harrison E. Livingstone, The Radical Right and the Murder of John F. Kennedy (Bloomington, IN: Trafford, 2006), 131 (Oswald); Lawrence Wright, “The Agent,” New Yorker, July 10 and 17, 2006, 68; cf. Wright, Looming Tower, 339-44 (al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar).

41 This is in line with other features he exhibited in conformity with those I had previously pointed to in the designated culprit stereotype. One is the absurd ease and speed with which he was soon arrested for driving without license plates. In 2008 I compared Oswald with the alleged 9/11 hijackers under the heading “Instant Identification of the Culprits” (Scott, War Conspiracy, 347-49). David Hammer, who was on Death Row with McVeigh, has written that McVeigh confided to him at length how in fact he was a federal undercover agent in a sting operation targeting right-wing extremists. See David Paul Hammer, Deadly Secrets: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing (B.oomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2010).

42 Jefferson Morley and Michael Scott, Our Man in Mexico: Winston Scott and the Hidden History of the CIA (Lawrence, Kansas: University of Kansas Press, 2008) [11/22]; Kevin Fenton, Disconnecting the Dots (Walterville, OR: Trine Day, 2011) [9/11].

43 J.M. Berger, “Patriot Games: How the FBI spent a decade hunting white supremacists and missed Timothy McVeigh,” Foreign Policy, April 18, 2012, here.

44 “First organized by Tom Posey as part of his Civilian Military Assistance (CMA) organization, the CMA operated as a shadow wing of the Reagan administrations illegal Contra network. Posey and the CMA began as an adjunct to the Alabama Ku Klux Klan. They were first active in smuggling weapons to Central America with the assistance of a Defense Intelligence Agency operation called “Yellow Fruit” and later absorbed into Oliver North’s Contra re-supply operation. Posey was later indicted for violations of the Neutrality Act for his gunrunning activities. North and Reagan administration officials intervened in the trial and the charges were dismissed under the curious grounds that the Neutrality Act only applied during peacetime and the Contra operation was the equivalent of a formal state of war” (Paul de Armond, “Racist Origins of Border Militias”).

45 “John McCain has worked with white racists before,” Daily Kos, October 12, 2008, here. I have not been able to determine whether this is the Tom Posey whom David Koch named to be Treasurer of his Citizens for a Sound Economy. Cf. “Tom-Posey, KKK, Koch Brothers, CSE,” here.

46 Berger, “Patriot Games.”

47 John Berger, “Witness Mahon Claimed He Was Third Man in Oklahoma City Bombing,” Intelwire, January 10, 2012, here.

48 Dana Rohrabacher, Chairman’s Report, Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House International Relations Committee, Oklahoma City Bombing Investigation.

49 For Strassmeir as an intelligence agent, see e.g. Investigative Report prepared for Oklahoma Representative Charles Key, in Oklahoma Bombing Investigation Committee, Final Report, 460-62; David Hoffman, The Oklahoma City Bombing and the Politics of Terror (Venice City, CA: Feral House, 1998), 121-47.

50 Athan G. Theoharis, The FBI: A Comprehensive Reference Guide (Phoenix, Ariz.: Oryx Press, 1999), 94.

51 Ralph Blumenthal, “Tapes Depict Proposal to Thwart Bomb Used in Trade Center Blast,” New York Times, October 28, 1993, here.

52 “Top Italian Judge Refers 9/11 to International Criminal Court,” Aangirfan, September 11, 2012, here.

53 Scott, Road to 9/11, 151-61. Both before and after 1993, and again before and after 2001, a key role in the cover-up was played by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. See Scott, Road to 9/11, 152, 155-59; Peter Lance, Triple Cross (New York: Regan/HarperCollins, 2006), 219-23, 274-79, 298-301, 317-18, 358-64, etc.

54 Scott, American War Machine, 20-23.

55 Bill Moyers, The Secret Government, PBS 1987; here.

56 Peter Dale Scott, “Northwards without North,” Social Justice (Summer 1989); revised as “North, Iran-Contra, and the Doomsday Project: The Original Congressional Cover Up of Continuity-of-Government Planning,” Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, February 21, 2011, here.

57 See e.g. Tim Weiner, Legacy of Ashes (New York: Doubleday, 2007), 396-404; Scott and Marshall, Cocaine Politics, 125-64. (Posey),

58 North’s ventures into illegality eventually involved the mobilization of known drug-traffickers in support of the Contras. One of his more dubious assets was the patriot paramilitary group Civilian Military Assistance of Tom Posey, which eventually became a prime target of PATCON (Berger, “Patriot Games).

59 For the distinction between traders and warriors or “Prussians,” see Michael Klare, “Beyond the “Vietnam Syndrome” (Washington, D.C.: Institute for Policy Studies, 1981); Peter Dale Scott, “Korea (1950), the Tonkin Gulf Incident, and 9/11: Deep Events in Recent American History,” The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, June 22, 2008, here.

60 A personal note: when I was at a think tank in Washington dealing with Iran-Contra, I was videotaped at length by the two producers of Moyers’ show. One week before the show aired on PBS, they assured me that I would be in it. But in the end, all that remained of me in the show was my forearm, in an unexplained group shot of the think tank sitting around a conference table. At the time my research focused on the activities of Bush and North (including North’s alleged plans for “suspension of the constitution”) that the Committees, like the Moyers program, did not pursue. See Scott, “North, Iran-Contra, and the Doomsday Project.”

61 Lance deHaven-Smith, “Beyond Conspiracy Theory: Patterns of High Crime in American Government,” American Behavioral Scientist, 53, 796; citing Lance deHaven-Smith, “When political crimes are inside jobs: Detecting state crimes against democracy. Administrative Theory & Praxis, 28(3).

62 Peter Phillips and Mickey Huff, “State Crimes Against Democracy,” Media Freedom International, Mar 2, 2010, here.

GRTV: Muslim Rage at US is More than a Decade Old

September 24th, 2012 by Brian Becker

Confronting War Rhetoric Against Iran: Stop the March to War

September 24th, 2012 by Global Research

War rhetoric is beginning to get out of control between Israel and Iran. There are clear signs now that the overwhelming majority of Israelis do not want a suicidal war against Iran, which would have devastating consequences for the State of Israel and its entire population. In the United States there is also an increasing divide between those who want a US-Israeli attack on Iran and those who think that it will have devastating consequences for the Middle East and the United States.

The Iranians have now warned that they are prepared to retaliate and that if Iran is attacked the door could be opened for World War III. The US and a large coalition of its allies are presently executing naval drills in the Persian Gulf, while the Israelis are holding military drills on the Syrian border while the Syrian Army is fighting a US-sponsored insurgency. The Iranians themselves have begun preparations for military exercises simulating an eventual invasion of Israel in the scenario of a US-Israeli pre-emptive strike. Indeed the world is at a dangerous cross-road in its history.

For years Global Research has worked relentlessly to alert our readers about the danger that humanity faces if a war is launched against Iran.

We have brought analyses forward from leading experts and world statesmen warning that the march to war be stopped before it is too late for all of us. We have worked to present alternative views and cutting edge news from around the world.

Global Research has worked to give an international platform for those important voices that are ignored in the mainstream discourse that is supportive of the war agendas that have laid waste to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya.

We have also brought forward an important book on the dangers of nuclear war that warns against a strike on Iran by our director, Professor Michel Chossudovsky: Towards A World War III Scenario: The Dangers of a Nuclear War is an important study that no anti-war activist or person opposing a military strike against Iran should be without.

WWIII Scenario

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A March of Folly Toward Iran

September 24th, 2012 by Paul R. Pillar

Tough-guy posturing in Washington continues to push the United States toward another collision course in the Middle East, as two politically motivated actions ratcheted up tensions with Iran. Ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar sees troubling parallels with the march of folly that led to war in Iraq.

Two actions at the end of last week, involving two different branches of the U.S. government, continued a pattern of unthinking support for anything that gets perceived as opposition to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

One such action was passage by the U.S. Senate in the middle of the night of a resolution declaring that the United States and other countries have a “vital interest” in working “to prevent the Government of Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.” The resolution “rejects any United States policy that would rely on efforts to contain a nuclear weapons-capable Iran.”

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei

Never mind that this resolution buys into Benjamin Netanyahu’s “red line” game of talking about “nuclear weapons capability,” which by some measures Iran already has now, rather than possession of a nuclear weapon, which Tehran consistently disavows.

The most disturbing thing about the resolution is its categorical rejection — in the wee hours of the morning, no less, as Congress was rushing into its pre-election recess — of an entire category of policy options with no consideration whatsoever of the alternatives or any weighing of advantages and disadvantages in comparison with the alternatives.

All we get to accompany the rejection is a string of “whereas” clauses that repeat a familiar litany of things people don’t like about Iran.

Evidently some members who might otherwise have had reservations about this resolution were reassured by a clause stating that “nothing in this resolution shall be construed as an authorization for the use of force or a declaration of war.” The resolution passed 90-1, with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, casting the only vote against.

But if the P5+1 (the countries of the UN Security Council plus Germany) continue refusing to offer any significant sanctions relief in return for major restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities and as a result the negotiations with Tehran go nowhere, we will inevitably hear voices loudly proclaiming that military force is the only way to abide by the policy objectives that this resolution declares.

Congressional statements such as this midnight resolution have a parallel from prior to the Iraq War: the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998. Although most of the members who voted for that legislation and the president (Bill Clinton) who signed it may have had no intention of facilitating a war, it became a benchmark that promoters of the war repeatedly referred to as a bipartisan statement that regime change in Iraq was the policy of the United States.

The other piece of anti-Iran posturing last week was the decision by the Obama administration to remove the Iranian cult-cum-terrorist group, the Mujahedin-e Khalq or MEK, from the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations. Adding groups to that list or removing groups from it is supposed to be a dull process of administrative and legal review, and usually it is.

But the MEK’s case became the subject of a lavishly funded public-relations campaign, unlike anything seen with any other group in the 15-year history of the list. Prominent figures, including well-known Democrats as well as Republicans, reportedly received five-figure fees to speak on behalf of delisting the group.

Many members of Congress and others, even if they did not prostitute themselves through such arrangements, naively believed that anything or anyone opposed to the Iranian regime must be worth supporting.

No good will come out of this subversion of the terrorist-group list with regard to conditions in Iran, the behavior or standing of the Iranian regime, the values with which the United States is associated or anything else.

The regime in Tehran will tacitly welcome this move (while publicly denouncing it) because it helps to discredit the political opposition in Iran — a fact not lost on members of the Green Movement, who want nothing to do with the MEK.

The MEK certainly is not a credible vehicle for regime change in Iran because it has almost no public support there. Meanwhile, the Iranian regime will read the move as another indication that the United States intends only to use subversion and violence against it rather than reaching any deals with it.

Although the list of foreign terrorist organizations unfortunately has come to be regarded as a kind of general-purpose way of bestowing condemnation or acceptance on a group, we should remember that delisting changes nothing about the character of the MEK. It is still a cult. It still has near-zero popular support in Iran. It still has a despicably violent history.

As for more recent chapters of that history, given how public the delisting issue became with the MEK, it probably would have been appropriate for the Department of State to address publicly the press reports, sourced to U.S. officials, that the MEK has collaborated with Israel on terrorist assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists. But that, of course, would have required the politically inconvenient act of publicly addressing Israeli terrorism.

Attention to the issue of moving MEK members from one camp in Iraq to another camp in Iraq, and about threats to the group from within Iraq, appears to have become in the end an excuse for caving in to the public-relations campaign. Whether the group resides at Camp Ashraf or Camp Liberty doesn’t determine whether it meets the definition under U.S. law of a foreign terrorist organization.

Whatever problem there may have been at Camp Ashraf, it was the MEK itself that was balking at a move, not any Iraqis that threatened the group. If there is an issue of human rights and refugees, it is mainly one of permitting rank-and-file members to escape the control of the cult’s leaders.

The MEK story also has a parallel with the Iraq War. A role that the MEK has to some extent assumed for anti-Iran agitators in this country — and that the delisting will only encourage — recalls the prewar role played by Ahmed Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress (INC).

Each case involved a group of exiles with a slick talent for manipulating public opinion in the United States but a paucity of support in their own countries. A possible difference is that the MEK’s support in Iran is even less than that of the INC in Iraq, given the former’s treasonous behavior (in Iranian eyes) during the Iran-Iraq War.

Both of last week’s actions, which involve both political parties and both the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government, are discouraging not only for what they imply about discourse and policy on Iran but also for what they say more generally about U.S. policy-making. The competitive politics of an election campaign have not helped and probably have hurt.

Competitive politics did not have to hurt, especially at a time the Romney campaign is groping for any stick it can use to beat the Obama administration. On the MEK matter, the administration could be legitimately criticized for pusillanimously giving in to a terrorist group’s public-relations campaign. It could be charged with appearing to convey approval to a group whose behavior is repugnant to American values. It could be further charged with hurting the cause of democracy in Iran and providing propaganda points to the Iranian regime.

But the campaign evidently is sticking with the usual simplistic approach that anyone who bashes that regime must be a friend of ours — and besides, some prominent Romney advisers are among those who have spoken publicly on the MEK’s behalf.

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

A balance sheet of the Afghanistan war

September 24th, 2012 by Patrick Martin

Not with a bang, but a whimper: that seemed to be the operating principle for the Obama administration in announcing that the last of the “surge” force sent to Afghanistan in late 2009 has now been pulled out of the war-torn country. A total of 33,000 US troops have left Afghanistan, while 68,000 remain, mainly deployed in the southern and eastern districts.

The Pentagon revealed the pullout in a brief press release from US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta during a visit to New Zealand, perhaps the most distant spot on the globe from both the United States and Afghanistan. There was no public acknowledgement of the fact from either President Obama or Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Panetta declared, “As we reflect on this moment, it is an opportunity to recognize that the surge accomplished its objectives of reversing Taliban momentum on the battlefield and dramatically increased the size and capability of the Afghan national security forces.”

The most striking “capability” demonstrated by Afghan forces, however, is the willingness to turn against their American-NATO overlords. “Green-on-blue” attacks, in which uniformed Afghan army soldiers and police have opened fire on US and NATO troops, have killed at least 51 and wounded a much larger number.

Last week the US military was compelled to shut down most direct collaboration with Afghan national security forces because of the increasing number of “insider” attacks on American and NATO soldiers by Afghan soldiers and police. This fact alone makes Panetta’s claim of success laughable.

Moreover, while the Obama administration claims to have significantly “degraded” the military capabilities of the Taliban and other insurgent groups, an incident September 14 suggests otherwise. A group of insurgents staged a daring frontal assault on a heavily fortified British base in Helmand province, breaking through the perimeter and destroying numerous aircraft on the ground.

In an apparent effort to temper the ludicrously optimistic tone of his remarks, Panetta told a news conference in Auckland, “There’s no question there will continue to be difficult days ahead in this campaign,” but added, “I think we are on track.”

Panetta was answered by an acid editorial in the Washington Post, the principal daily newspaper in the US capital, headlined, “Off track in Afghanistan.” The Post, a virulent supporter of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, and of new wars in Syria and Iran, warned: “US strategy in Afghanistan … may be more imperiled than at any other time in Mr. Obama’s presidency.”

The newspaper commented that the political impact of the “green-on-blue” killings was “being compared by senior US officials and members of Congress to the Vietnam War’s Tet Offensive, because of the devastating effect on troop morale and the already weak domestic support for the war.”

Vietnam and Afghanistan are the two longest wars waged by American imperialism, with the two capitalist parties that alternate power in Washington sharing responsibility for each bloodbath. Vietnam began under the Democrats and was escalated under the Republicans before ending in an historic debacle. Afghanistan began under the Republican George W. Bush and has been escalated under his Democratic successor.

There are of course many differences between the two war-torn countries, in terms of historical context, geographic terrain and social structure. They share one major similarity: the genocidal impact of American intervention on the population of the occupied country. More than two million Vietnamese died as a result of the US aggression, much of that from aerial bombardment.

In Afghanistan, the US role has been more complex and indirect, but no less catastrophic. Millions have been killed, wounded or displaced in more than 30 years of warfare and imperialist intrigue, from the initial efforts at subversion of a pro-Soviet government—engineered by the Democratic administration of Jimmy Carter to provoke a Soviet invasion and a “Russian Vietnam”—to the organization of what would become Al Qaeda under the auspices of the CIA, to the coming to power of the Taliban with the support of both Pakistan and the United States, to the present counterinsurgency war.

The withdrawal of the “surge” troops marks not an end, but another phase in the ongoing agony of the Afghan people. There still remain 68,000 US troops, along with significant NATO forces, as well as the corrupt stooge regime of Karzai in Kabul, and various venal warlords in other regional centers.

The political rationale for the US invasion of Afghanistan has been exploded by subsequent events. The Bush administration, with bipartisan support, claimed that its overthrow of the Taliban regime was a necessary first step in a global “war on terror” being conducted in response to the attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, 2001. Eleven years later, Al Qaeda, still the supposed target of the war in Afghanistan, is a principal ally of US imperialism in its effort to overthrow the Assad regime in Syria and pave the way for a direct US assault on Iran. Yet the war in Afghanistan grinds on.

The political initiative to put an end to this slaughter will not come from any section of the US ruling elite, still less from the middle-class pseudo-left groups that claim to oppose imperialist wars waged by Republicans, while hailing those waged by Democrats. It falls to the American working class, in alliance with the international working class, to build a mass movement against imperialist war, demanding the withdrawal of all US and NATO troops from Afghanistan, the provision of tens of billions of dollars in aid to rebuild the shattered country, and the prosecution for war crimes of those who have given and are giving the orders to continue this bloodbath.

Patrick Martin

There are growing fears that the US Federal Reserve’s policy of “quantitative easing”—the process by which tens of billions of dollars are pumped into financial markets every month—is sparking international tensions over currency values.

One of the consequences of the Fed’s actions is to push down the value of the US dollar, thus worsening the competitive position of other major countries in international markets.

Following the latest decision, in which the Fed gave an indefinite commitment to purchase mortgage-backed securities to the tune of $40 billion per month, the Brazilian finance minister, Guido Mantega, repeated his earlier warnings of a currency war.

Interviewed by the Financial Times last Thursday, Mantega said the US move was “protectionist” and could have drastic consequences for the rest of the world. “It has to be understood that there are consequences,” he told the newspaper. The Fed’s latest move would have only marginal benefits, he said. There was already plenty of liquidity in the economy but it was not going into production. The real purpose of the measures was to depress the value of the dollar and boost US exports, he added.

Mantega pointed to last week’s decision by the Bank of Japan (BoJ) to intervene in financial markets with its own version of quantitative easing as another sign of global tensions. “That’s a currency war,” he said.

In a move clearly aimed at pushing down the value of the yen and lifting Japanese exports, the BoJ decided to add $128 billion to its program of asset purchases. It cited the effects of “financial and foreign exchange market developments” as one of the reasons for its actions.

Further evidence of the impact of global financial turmoil is revealed by Japanese trade figures for last month. These show that exports to Western Europe were down by 28 percent compared to a year ago, with exports to China falling for the third month in a row.

China is also concerned about the impact of the Fed’s actions. The head of the country’s central bank, Zhou Xiaochuan, publicly released criticisms he made last April of the “quantitative easing” program. He said the continued injections of cheap credit were not working and more targeted measures should be developed to get money where it was needed.

China has two concerns about the fall in the value of the American dollar. It tends to push up the value of the yuan, which impacts on Chinese export markets, and reduces the value of the more than $1.2 trillion of US treasury bonds that Beijing holds.

The US Fed’s rationale for its actions is that the injection of liquidity will lower interest rates and encourage investment, resulting in the creation of more jobs and a lowering of unemployment. But a recent Duke University survey of the chief finance officers of 887 large companies found that a lowering of interest rates would have virtually no impact on their decisions.

According to the Duke University analysts: “CFOs believe that … monetary action would not be particularly effective. Ninety-one percent of firms say they would not change their investment plans even if interest rates dropped by 1 percent, and 84 percent said they would not change investment plans if interest rates dropped by 2 percent.”

In other words, so far as the real economy is concerned, the Fed’s actions are equivalent to pushing on a string. Indeed this is recognised within leading financial circles.

Addressing the Harvard Club of New York last Wednesday, Richard Fisher, a non-voting member of the Federal Opening Market Committee, which decided on the latest policy, said the Fed was sailing deep into unchartered waters. In a frank admission, he stated: “The truth … is that nobody on the committee, nor on our staffs at the Board of Governors and the 12 Banks, really knows what is holding back the economy. Nobody knows what will work to get the economy back on course. And nobody—in fact, no central bank anywhere on the planet—has the experience of successfully navigating a return home from the place in which we now find ourselves. No central bank—not, at least, the Federal Reserve—has ever been on this cruise before.”

Former Fed chairman Paul Volcker has added his voice to those who insist that further quantitative easing will do nothing to boost the economies of the US and Europe. Speaking at a conference in Scotland over the weekend, he said: “There is so much liquidity in the market that adding more is not going to change the economy.”

The growing sense that the world economy is heading down again was reinforced by the latest forecasts from the World Trade Organisation. It predicted that the world economy would grow only 2.5 percent this year, down from its previous estimate of 3.7 percent.

While the Fed’s measures have almost no impact on investment and jobs, they do give a boost to financial markets. Since the collapse of September 2008, the Fed has followed a clear agenda. The banks and finance houses, whose speculative activities, some of them of an outright criminal character, triggered the crisis, have been given endless supplies of ultra cheap money. Profits are being made through the elevation of the price of financial assets resulting from the injection of more money from the Fed.

However, the stagnation and outright recession in the real economy means that this process cannot continue indefinitely and the house of cards must collapse. The interventions by the world’s three major central banks—the US Fed, the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan—means that rather than being able to provide further bailout money, they will themselves be dragged into the maelstrom.

New Zogby Poll: Romney Loses Ground, Down By 8 Points

September 24th, 2012 by Global Research News

A new Zogby Poll of 860 likely voters nationwide, conducted online September 21 and 22, shows President Barack Obama opening up an 8 point lead over GOP challenger and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Among likely voters, Obama now leads 49% to 41%; when leaners are factored in and minor party candidates are included, Obama’s lead widens to 9 points, 49%-40%, with 2% each voting for Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party’s Dr. Jill Stein, and 1% for Constitution Party Virgil Goode.

The poll has a margin of sampling error of +/-3.4 percentage points.

Obama has a 14 point lead among independents (46% to 32%), 33 points among moderates (60% to 27%), 36 points among 18-29 year olds (65%-29%), 11 points among 30-49 year olds (48% to 37%), and is down among 50-64 year olds by only 2 points (45%-47%) and 3 points among voters over 65 (44%-47%). The President maintains his huge leads among Hispanics (68% to 26%) and African American voters (93%-0%).

Romney’s lead is only 50% to 39% among white voters and 48% to 40% among evangelicals. Obama continues his lead among NASCAR fans (49% Obama to 42% Romney).

Pollster John Zogby:

I won’t say that things are spinning out of control for Romney, but I can say that things are not spinning in control. He is off message, losing ground, not connecting with his own base, being severely chastised (and even dismissed) by GOP pundits who should be his friends. There are ups and downs in presidential campaigns. For Romney, this is a real down.
Full News Release and Xtabs available at – http://www.jzanalytics.com

“On Psywar against the Innocent”

September 24th, 2012 by J. B. Gerald

When freedom of expression is used to incite the public to hatred of a national, religious, racial or ethnic group it becomes a crime. According to Article 20 of the U.N.’s “International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights” :

1. Any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law.

2. Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.

                This doesn’t contradict rights of freedom of expression. It attempts to constrain agendas of hatred. It is possible that any program of military propaganda or psywar against groups or nations is fundamentally illegal. Attempts to defend extreme hate crimes as within our rights of free speech encourages censorship, which encourages repression.

A video of U.S. origin, “Innocence of Muslims,” the trailer to a film defaming and sexually deriding the Prohet Mohammed, has of course resulted in protest by Muslims worldwide. Why isn’t everyone protesting ? The trailer is intensively offensive to human values, lacks redeeming artistic merit, and is recognizably propaganda. In California a judge refused to ban “Innocence of Muslims” from youtube, on the grounds that suppression would violate U.S. guarantees of free speech.

In France Charlie Hebdo has published on its cover a cartoon caricature depicting Islam’s Prophet naked in a distorted sexual posture. The effect is despicable and intended. The original issue sold out and despite the anxiety of the country’s 4 million Muslims, Charlie Hebdo ran the cartoon again. While France is sensitive to religious laws (abortions don’t appear in French literature), it hasn’t charged the editors of Charlie Hebdo with a hate crime, and instead closed French embassies and schools in twenty countries. Domestically any protests against the Charlie Hebdo cartoon, or against the American video/film, are banned.  In Germany there are debates about whether the film should be allowed at cinemas or not.

To step back in history: in 2005 a cartoon of the Prophet by a Dutch cartoonist caused global protest by Muslims. The effect of his cartoon was compounded by selection of Islamic countries as NATO’s preferred military targets as well as the occupation of Iraq. Internationally the humour of blasphemous cartoons is lost on people who live by their religions, particularly when their co-religionists are slaughtered for profit.

Europe can’t be considered unwitting in the uses of cartoons as weaponry. Starting in about 1934 a campaign of cartoons attacking Judaism became a singularly Nazi tool in propaganda programs which became extermination programs. A similarity compounds in that both the U.S. video and the French cartoon are semi-pornographic in deriding their target sexually. Sexual derision as propaganda was introduced to the world by Julius Streicher, editor of Der Stuermer, the Nazi organ which published cartoons of Jews defined to caricature. A note from  The Black Book, originally compiled by the Soviet Union’s Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee starting in 1942:

For the first time in history, pornography was made an instrument of national education when Julius Streicher became editor of Der Stuermer and head of the publishing house Stuermer Verlag. Streicher, governor of Franconia, publicly honored by Hitler, was charged with the task of turnng men in swine. Sadism and morbid sexual suggestions were the means. No under-the-counter sales were made of his perversely sensational literature, but rather by advertising and even by edict was it disseminated throughout Germany….Der Stuermer claims that the Jewish religion by its laws imposes sexual crimes on its believers.”

                 The video trailer of  “Innocence of Muslims” strums these chords. In every country of the world, Muslims have the courge to protest the ugliness. Aside from being a blasphemy within Islam, the singular derision of the Prophet extends to the entire religious group. It isn’t only propaganda but hate propaganda, and the occasional violence of the response a measure of the propaganda’s damage and effectiveness.

“Innocence of Muslims” has its predecessor in the film Fitna made by Netherlands MP Geert Wilders, who rose to a seat in Dutch Parliament by increasing Islamophobia and gathering its support. In February 2009 Wilders showed the film to members of the U.S. Congress. In Canada as the Conservative government contributed to the illegal bombing of Libya, Mr. Wilders shared his opinion of Mohammed on May 9th, 2011 in Toronto, then on May 10 from Ottawa’s National Arts Center. Although Wilders was acquitted of hate speech in the Netherlands, moments of his warnings against Islamizaton are provocative deep insults. Canada’s laws against hate speech were not applied and he was given police protection. When the banner of freedom of speech yields a serious hate crime, repeatedly without prosecution, the campaign is sanctioned by the State.

Citizens of Western nations where ‘sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me,’ are slow to realize the sensitivity of Islam to symbolism, if not  somewhat numb to religion in general. In the 1980′s Islamic fundamentalist threats against Salmon Rushdie may have seemed a ridiculous response to his manner of questioning authority. After strong warnings, his “Satanic Verses” was used in a worldwide marketing campaign with predictable results. Some indication of an agitprop campaign was there in the effective marshalling of England’s and North American literary communities to Rushdie’s defense, in a “which side are you on” equation useful to warriors, less so to intellectuals. The rise of Islamophobia inerfaces neatly with U.S. and Coaliton bombing of Iraq in 1990-91, and the subsequent military policies against Islamic nations. The defense of Rushdie’s literary merit and rights, was followed by the demonization of Saddam Hussein and five Hiroshima’s worth of ordinance dropped on a Muslim culture in 1990 and 91, initial steps in the destruction of Iraq’s national group, museums, culture, people.

Because in 2012, the U.S. and France refuse to assert  domestic laws against hate crimes in response to ongoing violations of Muslims’  civil, religions and political rights, the propaganda continues with State sanction. In France, the government’s responses to Hebdo and the anti-Islamic film contribute to isolating Muslims from their national fabric. It has the same effect as adopting anti-burqa legislation. In North America the ongoing extreme abuses of Islamic culture, both through crimes of foreign policy, but more immediately in the military’s and legal system’s treatment of individual Muslims, are normalized. The appearance of widely publicized hate crimes, masquerading as the flux of free expression,  warns one as a prelude to another step in another illegal war targeting hundreds of thousand of innocent civilians.

When we speak of Hitler’s “War against the Jews,”  we are using a figure of speech. It was a war against unarmed men, against women and children, carried on by an army of many millions  of highly expert soldiers using all the destructive techniques of modern military science…           - The Black Book

 

 

 

They set it up perfectly.
A government “compensation fund” would pay off most families of 9/11 victims, preventing them from ever suing anyone for what happened to their loved ones.
And those who didn’t take the money would be pressured into accepting out-of-court settlements. Everyone would be kept quiet with gag orders and non-disclosure clauses, and the truth about 9/11 would never come out in a courtroom. Brilliant.
And it worked perfectly – except for Ellen Mariani.
The widow of Louis Neil Mariani, a passenger on Flight 175, which is alleged to have flown into the south tower of the World Trade Center, has been fighting to get to the truth about what happened to her husband that day.
Most have taken the money and gone away. Mariani is the last family member still fighting a wrongful death suit for losing a loved one on 9/11. Others, such as the family of 9/11 victim Mark Bavis, also fought for years before finally agreeing to settle. Here’s a statement from the family.
“It’s very hard to find justice in a corrupt legal system,” said Vincent Gillespie, secretary treasurer of the Ellen Mariani Legal Defense Fund, in an interview. “I feel a sense of obligation to help the country by talking about this stuff.”
Even with the enormous obstacles put in her way by dishonest lawyers, biased judges, and a generally corrupt legal system, Mariani remains determined to take her fight for justice as far as it can go. And that means to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Monday, she got some good news when her lawyer, Bruce Leichty, was granted an extension to file a request for an appeal with the Supreme Court. The deadline had been Sept. 23, but not enough funds had been raised by that point to proceed. With the extension, the defense fund now has until Nov. 1 to raise $11,000 to meet a new filing deadline of Nov. 23.
The odds have been stacked against Mariani since she first filed her wrongful death suit in December 2001 – she was actually the first family member to do so. Around that time the government created the Victim Compensation Fund, which was administered by Special Master Kenneth Feinberg, who has run a number of high-profile compensation funds, including the one to compensate victims of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Feinberg was given total discretion to award what he thought was appropriate in each case, taking into account the future earning potential of the person who had been killed. The final result was that $7 billion was paid out, with all but 94 families signing on.
An act of Congress transferred all 9/11 wrongful death suits to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, presided over by Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein. He has presided over almost all the 9/11 court cases. Hellerstein has been strongly criticized by Mariani and by the Bavis family in their statement above.
Originally, Mariani was administrator of her husband’s estate and therefore had standing to sue. She was pushed out of that role by her husband’s daughter, Lauren Peters in 2004. On the advice of her own attorney, Paul McEachern, Mariani didn’t fight this. She would later regret this.
The loss of control over her husband’s estate led to her initial suit being settled over her objections by the new administrator, lawyer John Ransmeier.
“It was Ransmeier who killed her case,” Gillespie says.
Mariani has been fighting to regain standing in the case since she first learned of a possible settlement. The settlement, she contends, didn’t adequately compensate for her losses nor did it give her any additional information about what led to her husband’s death. She hopes the Supreme Court will revive the suit and give her standing once again.
Besides wanting the truth to be revealed in court, Mariani wants the Supreme Court to uphold her standing to challenge the settlement that was negotiated against her wishes.
It has come to light that while Ransmeier was representing Neil Mariani’s estate in a suit against United Airlines, his law firm was also representing United in other cases. Mariani’s claims of conflict of interest have been ignored by the court.
Thanks to a gag order imposed on Mariani and her lawyer by the New Hampshire probate court, she can’t talk about the case publicly. The 9/11 family members who accepted settlements also had to sign non-disclosure clauses, which have the same effect as gag orders.
Hellerstein has been a controversial figure throughout. Mariani alleges he has done everything possible to keep any 9/11 lawsuits out of court. She has filed motions that contend that Hellerstein is in a conflict of interest position because his son, Joseph Hellerstein, works for an Israeli law firm that has connections ICTS International N.V., the parent company of Huntleigh USA, a firm that was involved with security at Logan Airport. Both Huntleigh and ICTS were defendants in Mariani’s suit. (For more detail on Mariani’s contentions about Hellerstein’s connections, see this court filing. Quite a number of court filings are archived on the web site marianilawsuit.com.
It’s a mess but not a surprise. This is, after all, the same legal system that allowed George W. Bush’s cousin to preside over an appeal by April Gallop in her suit against Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld (former defense minister), and Richard Myers (former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff).
It is clear that the “legal system” is not at all concerned about truth or justice but only in hushing up the whole subject of 9/11 liability, not to mention keeping government lies from being exposed publicly.
Mariani was also talked into filing a RICO suit (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) in late 2003 against George W. Bush and other high government officials. The suit was quickly dismissed, and Mariani would later admit it had been a mistake to file it.
So the fight over the past few years has been to regain standing in the lawsuit and to have the estate pursue the wrongful death claim. She is also asking for compensation for her loss. Mariani is collecting Social Security and barely getting by while she pursues this.
“She’s the last one, and she’s hanging on by a thread,” Gillespie says.
The government and the courts have done everything in their power to ensure that no 9/11 lawsuit for wrongful death ever gets into a courtroom. Ironically, the lawsuit of Larry Silverstein’s World Trade Center Properties against both United and American Airlines, filed in 2008, will go to trial, according to the judge in that case. His name is, uh, Alvin Hellerstein. Hmm.
In that case, Silverstein, who took over as leaseholder of the World Trade Center just six weeks before 9/11, contends that negligence on the part of United Airlines and American Airlines allowed the “terrorist attacks” to take place. Silverstein has already collected billions from his insurance company.
It seems that if you’re Larry Silverstein, you can find yourself on the judge’s good side and get your day in court. It does seem hard to believe that this case will ever go to trial. If it does, we know that neither side will be looking to upset the government’s official story of 9/11.
Journalist Christopher Bollyn has followed Mariani’s story very closely over the years, so anyone interested in learning more about this legal saga will find lots of good information on his web site, including his most recent update on her case.
On marianilawsuit.com, you can read numerous court filings in the case that help to explain the details of this incredibly complicated case.
Time is short for Ellen Mariani’s last chance to get 9/11 into a courtroom. She needs $11,000 by Nov. 1. Let’s see if we can help her get there.
If you’d like to help her by donating to her defense fund, go to marianilawsuit.com (to donate by PayPal, credit or debit card). You can also make a check payable to: Ellen Mariani Legal Defense Fund.”

Checks can be sent to:
Ellen Mariani Legal Defense Fund
P. O. Box 1284
Greenfield, Mass.  01302

Privatizing Israel’s Legal System

September 24th, 2012 by Stephen Lendman

Israel’s Mandatory Arbitration Bill (MA) is troubling. Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman proposed it. It mandates compulsory arbitration for civil suits filed in Magistrate Courts.

The Court president or deputy may order it. Litigants have no say. Neeman claims it’s needed to reduce excessive case loads. His hidden agenda has other things in mind. Judicial fairness will be compromised if he prevails.

On September 4, Knesset members discussed it ahead of second and third readings. Strong opposition exists. More on that below.

Arbitration is an alternate form of dispute resolution. It’s common in commercial disagreements. Costly litigation is avoided. So are conventional court proceedings.

When voluntary, both sides agree to let an arbitrator or arbitral panel review evidence and impose binding rulings.

Mandatory arbitration is more controversial. It lets one party impose its will on another. In commercial disputes, companies have bargaining power at the expense of consumers. Litigation rights are denied. So are class actions. Unfair proceedings result. Outcomes may be predetermined.

Israel’s MA bill lets courts forward civil suits to private lawyers. They’ll become designated arbitrators. Litigants can’t sue.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) said this measure “has no equivalent anywhere in the world.” If enacted, Israeli judicial fairness will be severely compromised.

ACRI, Israeli Supreme Court President Asher Grunis, retired justices, and prominent jurists oppose the bill for good reason.

ACRI attorney Anne Suciu calls it step one toward privatizing Israel’s courts. Doing so will severely damage judicial fairness. Unlike judicial vetting, the main qualification for arbitrators is seven years seniority.

Another is the absence of frequent conflicts of interest between his or her proposed arbitral status and outside financial interests.

According to legislative language, individuals with some, but not too many, conflicts are eligible. Moreover, no limitation is placed on ones considered minor. No definition explains.

Growing criticism in some countries led to greater protection for weaker parties in arbitration disputes. Israel’s measure denies it. According to Suciu:

“Years of under-funding led to an unbearable burden on the court system. Instead of solving this problem by amending the system, many decision-makers blindly accept the view that privatization is the desired solution for almost every public service that is not properly functioning.”

“The Mandatory Arbitration Bill is an extreme initiative that has no equivalent anywhere in the world, and it could violate the basic right to a due process.”

Israel’s Basic Law states that “person(s) vested with judicial power shall not, in judicial matters, be subject to any authority but that of the Law.”

Legal provisions are intended to ensure judicial independence. Qualifications for judges are strict. They include ethical standards, salaries, length of service, termination of service, and others. According to Israeli Supreme Court Judge Ayala Procaccia:

“We set the standards of behavior that apply to specific judges. They are subject to strict standards of conduct not only judgment, but also in other walks of life….They have to understand that the judgment is not just a job. It is a way of life.”

Suciu believes that transferring civil jurisdiction authority to private parties reflects a “simplistic and flawed judicial role of a specific solution to the conflict between” two parties.

Doing so ignores “competent court of law interpretation,” longstanding social values, fundamental rights and obligations, and rule of law priorities.

Civil litigation is a right. It plays a key role in democratic societies. Privatizing the judiciary compromises freedom. Israel’s MA bill raises fundamental constitutional issues. It’s excessive and unreasonable. It damages the public’s trust in courts.

According to Supreme Court Judge Mishal Hashin, judicial access is “an essential basic right.” It’s also “the life blood of the court. (When) the path to the court is obstructed, whether directly or indirectly, or even partially, it undermined the raison d’être of the judiciary.”

At the same time, legal procedures and laws aren’t absolute. Times change, and so do they. Doing so should strengthen democracy, not compromise it. Denying judicial access is dangerously unreasonable.

Privatizing judicial authority compromises basic rights. Mandatory arbitration undermines its intended purpose. Strict regulations, ethics standards, and a supervisory system govern judges.

The arbitrator selection process is lax by comparison. No restrictions are placed on political activity, private practice, income, or other activities potentially compromising their independence. Arbitrators can live double lives.

MA bill provisions include operating according to substantive law and evidentiary rules. However, arbitrators won’t be bound by judicial procedures and some Arbitration Law mandates.

Arbitrators will be able to make up his or her own rules and operate virtually ad hoc. Moreover, qualified jurists may be shut out. Only persons who’ve practiced law are eligible. Judges, law professors, and others with legal expertise won’t qualify without this credential.

In addition, the bill greatly empowers Israel’s justice minister. He alone may determine who’s qualified for appointment. Selection standards should be no different than for judges. No one person should have sole authority.

On September 5, the Jerusalem Post headlined “Supreme Court President stops Neeman arbitration reform,” saying:

Israel’s High Court of Justice President Asher Grunis strongly opposes Israel’s MA bill. As a result, the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee asked Neeman to respond.

Grunis isn’t alone. Other bill opponents include Knesset members, the Israel Bar Association, senior jurists, ACRI, and other legal experts concerned about privatizing legal procedures.

Neeman’s history is checkered. Previous initiatives he supported empowered the executive and legislative branches at the expense of the judiciary. He’s no friend of judicial fairness and other democratic values.

MA bill critics call it poorly designed. It’s rife with provisions likely to compromise judicial independence, due process, judicial relief, and other constitutional protections.

Litigants also have no say. If ordered to arbitration, they’ll be shut out of conventional judicial proceedings. Labor MK Isaac Herzog accused Neeman of trying to pull off a “revolution.” He also said he was undercutting Grunis’ authority.

Overburdened court dockets don’t justify compromising judicial fairness. Instead of arbitrators, Israel’s Bar Association urged appointing temporary judges during overload periods.

Israel long ago headed down a slippery slope. Its democracy is seriously flawed. It’s more hypocrisy than real. Mandatory arbitration assures further weakening. Political reality can’t hide disturbing attempts to transform its deficiencies into strengths.

Arabs never had rights. Jewish ones are eroding en route to eliminating them altogether. Israel isn’t just a pariah state. It’s a failed one. It’s just a matter of time before concealing it becomes impossible.

 

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

His new book is titled “How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War”

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

 Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays 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

Major Victory for Quebec Students, Environmental Activists

September 24th, 2012 by Richard Fidler

Their demonstrations have shaken Quebec in recent months, and on September 20th students and environmentalists won major victories.

At her first news conference as premier, Pauline Marois announced that her Parti Québécois government had cancelled the university tuition fees increase imposed by the Charest Liberal government, and would repeal the repressive provisions of Law 12 (formerly Bill 78)

Charest had imposed in his efforts to smash the province’s massive student strike. Among other things, this will remove the restrictions on public demonstrations and the threat of decertification of student associations.

In addition, Marois has ordered the closing of Gentilly-2, Quebec’s only nuclear reactor, while promising funding to promote economic diversification to offset job losses resulting from the shutdown. And she will proceed with her promise to cancel a $58-million government loan to reopen the Jeffrey Mine, Quebec’s last asbestos mining operation.

End to Shale Gas Exploration

The new Natural Resources minister, Martine Ouellet, followed up by announcing an end to shale gas exploration and development in Quebec. “I do not see the day when there will be technologies that will allow their safe development,” she said. Residents of dozens of Quebec communities have been mobilizing against shale gas. As of March, there were 31 wells already drilled, and 18 had been fracked. The shale gas industry, which has spent some $200-million to date in Quebec, had plans to dig up to 600 wells a year by 2015.

A former president of Eau Secours!, a water protection group, Ouellet is one of three new ministers with strong environmentalist credentials, the others being Environment minister Daniel Breton, a co-founder of the Parti Vert, the Green party, and his deputy Scott McKay, a former Montréal city councillor and one-time leader of the Greens.

Student leaders were jubilant at the cancellation of the tuition fees increase. “Bravo to the striking students,” tweeted Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, the former co-spokesman for the CLASSE, the most militant of the student groups that led the unprecedented four-month student strike in Quebec’s “printemps érable.”

“Total Victory” for Students

“It’s a total victory!” said Martine Desjardins, president of the FEUQ, the university students’ federation. “Sept. 20 will be etched in the annals of history in Quebec,” tweeted the FECQ, the college students’ federation. The students also welcomed Marois’ announcement that her government would maintain the $39-million boost to financial assistance introduced by the Liberals to offset their tuition increase.

The PQ government is committed to holding a summit on education as early as this fall to debate and propose new arrangements for funding higher education in Quebec. Marois says she will be defending her party’s proposal to index tuition fee increases, which she says amounts to a freeze on current levels. The CLASSE pledged that it will continue to fight for free tuition, as did Québec solidaire.

Marois also announced cancellation of the $200 per person health tax imposed by Charest, which would have brought almost a billion dollars into the government coffers. The loss of this user fee will be made up by a tax increase on incomes over $130,000 a year and a 25 percentage point decrease in the capital gains exemption, she said.

Marois also confirmed her determination to bring in a balanced budget by 2014, which means that these popular decisions will no doubt be followed by major cutbacks in spending in other areas, yet unspecified.

However, it was a good day for the new Parti Québécois government. Predictably, it was met by cynical reactions in the capitalist media. Typical were the editors of the Montreal Gazette, who expressed the hope that the right-wing opposition parties would come up with what they described, in a mixture of hope and prediction, as “a persuasive alternative to what might probably be the shambles of PQ governance.”[1]

In a more sombre vein, Le Devoir‘s environment columnist Louis-Gilles Francoeur drew attention to the powerful business interests who will be quick to campaign against even modest efforts that threaten their profits.

“The lobbies that profit from the lack of rules governing wetlands, for example, have already claimed the head of Thomas Mulcair, then Environment minister.[2] The review of [Charest's] Plan Nord and the changes that will be made by minister Ouellet – to whom we owe some caustic analyses of the proposed overhaul of the Mining Act – will no doubt provoke a groundswell of protest from the major investors… for whom the green economy is still an irritant and not a potential.

“Then we will see whether minister Breton took his dreams for reality when he declared that the greens were now in power….” •

Richard Fidler is an Ottawa member of the Socialist Project. This article first appeared on his blog Life on the Left.

Endnotes:

1. Later changed in on-line versions to “what may likely be,” etc.

2. Mulcair was Charest’s Environment minister, who quit and later joined the federal New Democrats, whom he now leads. (Francoeur’s column is locked to non-subscribers.)

US War Agenda: Coke or Goldman Sachs, What’s Your Poison?

September 24th, 2012 by Colin Todhunter

Who in their right mind would be prepared to fight and die for Shell, Chevron or Coca Cola? Who with half a brain would choose to put their life on the line for Goldman Sachs, Bank of America or General Electric? Any volunteers? I’m guessing there wouldn’t be many.

Then again, I could be wrong. Think of the tens of thousands of NATO troops who over the last decade have been in Afghanistan or Iraq. Drunk on the potent aphrodisiac of nationalism and a military that sells life in the armed forces as resembling some computer game reality, young mainly working class men have lined up in their droves to put their lives on the line for their respective governments.

Enticed by the glamour of armed forces’ adverts that proclaim ‘see the world’ or ‘learn a trade’ in an era of severe economic downturn, when few poorer people have little chance of doing either, ‘serving queen and country’ (or some other nationalistic slogan) seems like a good option.

This form of economic conscription has meant no shortage of young men signing up to fight wars in far away lands. Sold under the outright lie of ‘protecting democracy’, ‘humanitarian intervention’ or another apparent high-minded falsehood, thousands have gone off to kill and die and pledge allegiance to a ‘greater good’.

But it’s not the greater good of humankind, queen, flag or country that is at stake. Forget about blurry eyed nationalism or idealism. These young men are spilling their own blood and the blood of countless others on behalf of corporate interests.

Western ‘liberal democracy’ has nothing to do with empowering people and everything to do with enslaving them and making them blind to the chains that bind them. It is the powerful foundations and think tanks headed or funded by private corporations that drive US policies and its war agenda.

In his Global Research article ‘Tipping the balance of power’ ( 23 Sept), Tony Cartalucci highlights how, through their funding or by direct membership of various foundations, think tanks and government bodies, US domestic and foreign policies are formulated to serve corporate interests. It is the Brookings Institute, International Crisis Group and Council on Foreign Relations, among others, where the real heart of the US government lies. In Britain, Chatham House plays a similar role.

It is not without good reason that former CIA ‘asset’ Susan Linduar claimed that US oil giants Chevron and Occidental Petroleum exerted pressure on Washington to remove Gadhaffi from power because he was supposedly was exerting heavy pressure on US and British oil companies to cough up special fees and kick backs to cover the costs of Libya’s reimbursement to the families of the Pan Am plane that blew up over Lockerbie. On Washington’s nod, tens of thousands of Libyans subsequently paid the price with their lives

John Perkins book ‘Confessions of an Economic Hitman’ details how poorer countries have been neo-colonised by a cabal of US corporations, banks and government agencies. This is achieved via a combination of targeted assassinations, bribery, deceit and financial loans leading to debt dependency. If all of that fails, the troops are then sent in under the banner of ‘humanitarianism’ or protecting ‘national security’. Corporate America has been the leading hand in virtually every US led conflict since 1945, from Guatemala in the 1950s right up to Syria today.

Who but a misinformed and brainwashed public would think for one minute that such corporations and their foundations, institutes and agencies would let ordinary folk have any say in policies that would adversely affect their power or enormous wealth? There is no way they will allow any genuine form of democracy that could disrupt their aims. What is required and achieved is an ignorant and misinformed public that places an X on a ballot form every four years in favour of competing corporate-sponsored politicians. A public that readily lines up to support the corporate war agenda, and a public from which a cannon fodder army of young men is recruited to die on the battlefields of Asia.

And as those young men are delivered to their families inside a wooden box or return home suffering from the long term effects of using weapons that contained depleted uranium, there can only be one thought among decent minded folk – ‘what a waste.’

But young men being carted away in a body bag or suffering from life long illnesses means nothing to the men these wars are fought for. They are just ‘collateral damage’ in pursuit of the ‘greater good’. Not the greater good of lofty idealism. But the corporate brand of ‘greater good’ – greed, resource grabs, ever more profits and ever more power.

The mainstream media glorifies the military at every available opportunity. Obama calls armed forces personnel ‘the real patriots’. In Britain they are ‘our brave lads’. Such rhetoric serves as a smokescreen to hide the true nature of the illegal, imperialist wars NATO continues to engage in.

For many, it seems strange that our ‘brave heroes’, our ‘true patriots’ who were sent out to kill, so often have to rely on charities when back from the battlefield to piece their health and lives back together again. Not so strange really because, behind the rhetoric, the reality is they are regarded by the wealthy beneficiaries of the war agenda as constituting disposable working class fodder who have no idea about what they are really fighting for..

Don’t take my word for it. Henry Kissinger, the criminal responsible for scorching, torching, maiming and killing tens of thousands is reported in the book ‘The Final Days’ (Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein) to have referred to military men as “dumb, stupid animals to be used as pawns for foreign policy.”

The Power of the Mormon Church Over Mitt Romney

September 24th, 2012 by William John Cox

The election of Mitt Romney as president of the United States would represent the culmination of a century-and-a-half quest by the Mormon Church for national political power in preparation for the Kingdom of God.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s candidacy is only the last in a series of powerful “callings” to the members of his Mormon royal family, extending from his great-great-grandfather Miles Romney, who helped build Joseph Smith’s second temple, through his great-great-grandfather Pratt, who was one of Joseph Smith’s first Apostles, through his cousin Marion Romney, who served in the First Presidency of the Church, and through his father Michigan Governor George Romney, who tried and failed to be elected president.

Not only because of his royal family, or because of the high positions he and his family have held in the Church and government, Mitt Romney is no ordinary Mormon because he is what is known as an “iron-rodder” in the Church.  These are the members who follow “a straight and narrow” path and who “are certain that prophetic revelation and scriptural instruction … will lead them toward a righteous life and, eventually, godhood.”

As a student at Brigham Young University, Romney would testify during monthly “fireside testimonies” to his “belief that he lived in Heaven before being born on Earth, [and] that he became mortal in order to usher in the later days,…”

Recalling the controversy in the early 1970s about blacks receiving the priesthood, fellow BYU students say that, [Mitt] “Romney appeared to have embraced the prevailing view that the ban was the word of God and thus unalterable without divine intervention.”

According to fellow Church members in Boston, Romney wept during services “with spiritual fervor and believed in a traditional brand of Mormonism that sought daily divine intervention.”  He would often begin speeches by explicitly channeling the Holy Spirit in the hopes of imbuing his remarks to the congregation with an aura of truth.”

During monthly “fast and testimony meetings,” Romney would become teary-eyed as he testified, “I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet and that the church is true.”

The election of Mitt Romney would present an irreconcilable conflict of interest.  If asked, he could not deny that he has been obedient to the priesthood hierarchy and has taken vows in the temple to consecrate every blessing, including the presidency of the United States, to the Church.

Even without being instructed to do or not do an official act concerning a Church interest, those vows and his more than 50 years of service to the priesthood would compel him to use the blessings of his office to benefit the Church in every case where the interests of the Church might conflict with the needs of the Nation.

Romney has taken an oath of obedience and has been indoctrinated in a culture of obedience to divine power.  It’s easy for him to say “no authorities of my church … will ever exert influence on presidential decisions,” but what would he do if the living Mormon Prophet experienced a divine revelation and ordered him to protect the Mormon Church and its Kingdom of God.  As president, Romney would have the political and military power to do so, and he would be spiritually powerless to do otherwise.

Without resigning from the Mormon Church, and thereby becoming an apostate and outcast, Mitt Romney could not take any position contrary to the Mormon authorities because his very spirituality is judged by them.  Not only can he be denied access to the temple, if he acts contrary to their wishes, he can be deprived of his access to the “Celestial Kingdom” upon death and all of its attendant rewards.

Over the past 30 years, a tremendous power has come to be concentrated in the “unitary presidency” of the United States, including the power to declare martial law by executive orders and to indefinitely imprison citizen “terrorists” in military facilities.  It is, therefore, essential that the People, who are being asked to vote for a highly-religious candidate, receive answers to legitimate questions about his beliefs, when the spiritual obligations of that religion may be paramount to the political duty owed to the People.

Perhaps as a result of his Mormon upbringing in which questioning is suppressed, Mitt Romney is operating a campaign of secrecy, in which he avoids answering questions about many issues, including the amount of taxes he has paid and the religious deductions he has claimed beyond the last two years.

Romney is asking the American People to take him on faith, yet he refuses to discuss his faith, as it has a bearing on the decisions he will be required to make if he is elected president.

Another of Mitt Romney’s cousins, Park Romney has resigned from the Church.  He has stated, “I think the notion that a candidate’s religion should not be considered and weighed thoughtfully by his constituents is absurd.  Mitt Romney is an active High Priest of the Mormon Church.  Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith is absolutely an issue.”

The mainstream media has demonstrated a reluctance to question Romney’s Mormon religion; however, during the 2008 election, Barack Obama was forced to leave the Christian church he had attended for years and to publicly repudiate its pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, following numerous stories about Wright’s fiery sermons.

Romney has avoided personally attacking President Obama about his prior connection with Reverend Wright; however, he continues to say that Obama wants to make the United States “a less Christian nation.”

Mitt Romney has stated, “There are some who would have a presidential candidate describe and explain his church’s distinctive doctrines.  To do so would enable the very religious test the founders prohibited in the Constitution.”

Romney and his campaign managers are, however, very aggressively making an issue of President Obama’s religion.  He has said, “Unfortunately, possibly because of the people the president hangs around with, and their agenda, their secular agenda — they have fought against religion.”

A current Romney television advertisement asks, “Who shares your values?”  “President Obama used his health care plan to declare war on religion, forcing religious institutions to go against their faith.”  However, Romney now disavows the universal health care plan he implemented while governor of Massachusetts, which is virtually identical to the President’s plan.

Born to and raised with privilege, Romney wants it all; he wants to attack Obama’s religious principles and he wants to avoid answering questions about the legitimacy of his own religion and how it would affect his decisions, if elected.

 This article is an excerpt from “Mitt Romney and the Mormon Church: Questions” available on Amazon and can be downloaded for free in all electronic formats at Smashwords.com (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/218370)

William John Cox is a retired prosecutor and public interest lawyer, author and political activist.  His efforts to promote a peaceful political evolution can be found at VotersEvolt.com and USVRA.us.  His writings are collected at WilliamJohnCox.com and he can be contacted at [email protected].

When Is A Terrorist No Longer A Terrorist?

September 24th, 2012 by Danny Schechter

Question: When is a terrorist a terrorist?

Answer: When the US government says so.

When the Mujhadeen in Afghanistan were assassinating members of their government and the Russian troops dispatched to support it,  they were, in Washington’s view, freedom fighters,  even as their enemies branded them terrorists.

When they turned against an Afghan government imposed by the United States or revolted against a US invasion, they were once again branded terrorists.

When armed groups battling Gadaffi’s govermment were supported by NATO, they were called freedom fighters. When some recently and  allegedly turned violently against the United States which is now dominating Libyan politics, they are once again castigated as terrorists.

And now, the United States Government through a decision by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has decided that the Iranian group  Mujahedeen Khalq, or People’s Mujahedeen, that had been on the US State Department’s  terrorist list for years, ha now been taken off the list.

That means they will no longer face financial and legal sanctions.

One day they were feared terrorists, the next day they were not. The “bad guys” became “good guys” with the swipe of a pen.

The New York Times says this feat was accomplished through what it describes as an “extraordinary” lobbying effort costing millions over many  years.

Reports the Times: “The group, known as the M.E.K., carried out terrorist attacks in the 1970s and 1980s, first against the government of the Shah of Iran and later against the clerical rulers who overthrew him. Several Americans were among those killed. In the 1980s, it allied with Saddam Hussein, who permitted it to operate from Camp Ashraf.

But by most accounts, the M.E.K. has not carried out violent attacks for many years. While it is described by some critics as cult-like and unpopular with Iranians both inside and outside the country, the group has been able to gather large crowds at rallies in the United States and Europe to press its bid to reverse the United States’ terrorist designation, imposed in 1997.”

The decision comes just before an October 1 cut off date ordered by a Federal appeals court

US News explains:  “As recently as 2007, a State Department report warned that the M.E.K., retains “the capacity and will” to attack “Europe, the Middle East, the United States, Canada, and beyond.

The M.E.K., which calls for an overthrow of the Iranian government and is considered by many Iranians to be a cult, once fought for Saddam Hussein and in the 1970s was responsible for bombings, attempted plane hijackings, and political assassinations. It was listed as a foreign terrorist organization in 1997.

If the State Department does decide to delist M.E.K., whose name means “People’s Holy Warriors of Iran,” it will be with the blessing of dozens of congressmen.”

No less than 99 members of Congress—Democrats and Republican alike—signed to a Congressional resolution to take the “holy warriors” off the list.

Just last week at a rally in Paris, none other than former House speaker and hyper conservative Republican presidential candidate New Gingrich, now scurrying to pay off his campaign debts, was caught on camera bowing to the French based movement’s leader Maryam Rajavi.

Top lobbying firms have been paid high fees for rounding up support for M.E.K

US News explains: “Victoria Toensing of DiGenova & Toensing, a lobbying shop famous for its involvement in the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal, was paid $110,000 in 2011 to lobby for the resolution. The firm Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld dedicated five lobbyists to getting signatures for the resolution, and was paid $100,000 in 2012 and $290,000 in 2011 to do so. Paul Marcone and Association similarly lobbied for the resolution, and received $5,000 in 2010 and $5,000 in 2011 for its efforts.”

Glenn Greenwald has reported on Salon, “That close association on the part of numerous Washington officials with a Terrorist organization has led to a formal federal investigation of those officials,,,, paid MEK shill Howard Dean (a former Democratic liberal presidential candiate) actually called on its leader to be recognized as President of Iran while paid MEK shill Rudy Giuliani has continuously hailed the group’s benevolence.”

The Pro-publica not for profit media organization has also revealed that  a very prominent liberal journalist known for his Watergate reporting was paid to speak up for M.E.K

“On a Saturday afternoon last February, journalist Carl Bernstein got up on stage at the grand ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan and delivered a speech questioning the listing of an obscure Iranian group called the Mujahadin-e Khalq (MEK) on the U.S. government list of officially designated foreign terrorist organizations.

The speech, before a crowd an organizer put at 1,500, made Bernstein one of the few journalists who has appeared at events in a years-long campaign by MEK supporters to free the group from the official terrorist label and the legal sanctions that come with it. He told ProPublica that he was paid $12,000 for the appearance but that, “I was not there as an advocate.”

Bernstein told the crowd that, “I come here as an advocate of the best obtainable version of the truth” and as “someone who believes in basic human rights and their inalienable status.” He also challenged the State Department, saying that if the agency “has evidence that the MEK is a terrorist organization, have a show-cause hearing in court, let them prove it.”

Listening to the talk was a bi-partisan group of prominent pols including ex-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former congressman Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, and former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.

This is a line up that is hard to rent, much less buy, but M.E.K and its well connected lobbyists have shown how money makes things happen in Washington.

It shows how porous the terrorism issue too is subject to how changes in political fashions, and how little the media knows or remembers and how open it is to being influenced by insiders, especially when there’s money to be paid for a few hours work.

It also shows the politics of provocation in action, part of a larger strategy of escalating tensions. The tactics range from sending a naval armada to menace Iran, perhaps in hopes of staging a contemporary “Tokin Gulf” incident in which any Iranian defensive maneuver –or attack by “militants” could be projected as an act of aggression justifying air strikes and drone attacks.

Even the decision to refuse visas to Iranians coming to a UN meeting seems part of the same strategy designed to show critics in Israel, and Republicans that the US is ready to get tough.

The delisting of an Iranian terror group fits right in to an approach that could lead to a “October Surprise” designed to get voters to rally behind the flag and their Commander in Chief.

News Dissector Danny Schechter blogs at www.newsdissector.net. His latest books are Blogothon and Occupy: Dissecting Occupy Wall Street.  He hosts a show on Progressive Radio Network (PRN.fm) Part of this piece appeard on PressTV.com Comments to [email protected]  

“War on Iran Will Trigger World War III”

September 24th, 2012 by Prof Michel Chossudovsky

“Our defensive power has been created on the basis of our defensive strategy and the presumption ruling our defensive strategy is that we will enter an massive battle with a US-led coalition.”  Brigadier General Hossein Salami, IRGC Deputy Commander, September  2012)

*       *       *

Both the US and Israel have threatened to implement a preemptive first strike attack against Iran, the consequences of which would be devastating.

Responding to these ongoing threats, Iran’s Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) General Amir Ali Hajizadeh has warned that a US-Israeli military attack against Iran could lead to the outbreak of a Third World War. He also intimated that Israel cannot launch a war without the green-light from the US.

If such a war were to be launched, according to General Hajizadeh, a scenario of uncontrolled military escalation  is likely to occur.   If attacked, Iran would retaliate against both Israeli and US targets including US military facilities in neighboring countries (ie. Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Gulf States):

Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Force General Amir Ali Hajizadeh warned the US and the Zionist regime [Israel] that an attack on Iran will likely trigger World War III.

Speaking to the Arabic news network, Al-Alam on Sunday, General Hajizadeh said the US and the Israeli regime may not enter war with Iran “independent from each other, meaning that either one of these two starts the war, it will be joined by the other one”.

“We see the US and the Zionist regime standing fully on the side of each other and we cannot imagine the Zionist regime initiating a war without the US backup. Due to the same reason, if a war breaks out, we will definitely wage battle on both sides and will definitely be engaged with the US bases,” he said.

“In case such conditions arise, a series of incidents will take place which will not be controllable and manageable and such a war might turn into a third world war. That means, certain countries may enter the war for or against Iran,” added the general.

The IRGC commander warned that in case such war is waged on Iran, the US bases in “those countries around us and inside the neighboring countries will be targeted and they will even be threatened by the nations of these very states”. (Fars News Agency, September 23, 2012, emphasis added)

The World is at a dangerous crossroads. The statement of General Hajizadeh must be taken seriously.

Active war preparations against Iran have been ongoing for the last eight years. Since 2005, the US and its allies, including America’s NATO partners and Israel, have been involved in the extensive deployment and stockpiling of advanced weapons systems. The air defense systems of the US, NATO member countries and Israel are fully integrated. Israel cannot act without the support of its allies.

This is a coordinated endeavor of the Pentagon, NATO and Israel’s Defense Force (IDF) directed against Iran. Several non-NATO partner countries including the frontline Arab states (members of NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative)  are also involved.

Media Disinformation

Public opinion, swayed by media hype is tacitly supportive, indifferent or ignorant as to the likely impacts of what is upheld as an ad hoc “punitive” operation directed against Iran’s nuclear facilities rather than an all out war.

The war on Iran is presented to public opinion as an issue among others. It is not viewed as a threat to humanity. Quite the opposite: it is viewed as a humanitarian endeavor.

Retaliation

The Western media is beating the drums of war. The purpose is to tacitly instil, through repeated media reports, ad nauseam, within people’s inner consciousness, the notion that the Iranian threat is real and that the Islamic Republic should be “taken out”.

Iran has significant military capabilities. The fact that an attack on Iran could lead to retaliation and escalation which could potentially unleash a “global war” is not a matter of concern.

While the Islamic Republic does not constitute a threat to the security of Israel,  Iran’s military brass has emphasized that in the case of an attack on Iran, retaliation against Israel is contemplated, with potentially devastating consequences:

On Saturday, IRGC’s top Commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari said an enemy invasion of Iran is possible, but such a war would put an end to the life of the Zionist regime of Israel.

….

“War may break out, but if Zionists [Israeli government] start something, that will be the point of their annihilation and the endpoint of their story,” he added.

Jafari, meantime, underlined that “no one dares to wage an extensive ground assault on Iran”.

The General said if the enemy were wise, there wouldn’t be any problem, “but the problem is that there is no guarantee for this rationality and we should be prepared too.

Later yesterday, his deputy, Brigadier General Hossein Salami, cautioned that any possible attack on the Islamic Republic of Iran by the Zionist regime would provide an opportunity for Tehran to wipe the regime off the earth.

“If the Zionists embark on attacking Iran, it will provide a historical opportunity for the Islamic Revolution to wipe them off the world’s geographical history,” Salami said on Saturday night on the state-run TV.

“We are now through with concerns about the Zionist regime’s threats,” he said, adding that Israel has bitter memories of its last-decade wars with the regional allies of the Islamic Republic, including Hezbollah and Hamas Movement.

“(Given the above-mentioned failures) how does it (the Zionist regime) want to be a threat against the Islamic Republic of Iran?” Salami asked.

He, meantime, underlined Iran’s preparedness to confront any aggression against the country, and said, “Our defensive power has been created on the basis of our defensive strategy and the presumption ruling our defensive strategy is that we will enter an massive battle with a US-led coalition.”

On Friday, Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Seyed Hassan Firouzabadi also warned that Tehran would reciprocate any aggression against the country with an “immediate” and “non-stop” response, stressed.

“We do not feel threatened by the boastful remarks of Zionist leaders, because they are creatures with deep fright who continue crying out since they know that Iran’s response to threats will be readymade, immediate and non-stop,” Major General Firouzabadi told reporters on the sidelines of September 21 military parades marking the anniversary of the Week of Sacred Defense here in Tehran on Friday morning.

“The Zionist regime officials have declared in their (military) estimates that military operations against Iran neither can be done by Israel nor is useful for them,” he added.

He also stated that Iran’s armed forces today are unpredictable and their strategy and actions cannot be foreseen by the enemies.

The Sacred Defense Week, commemorating Iranians’ sacrifices during the 8 years of Iraqi imposed war on Iran in 1980s, started on Friday with nationwide parades by various units of the Islamic Republic Army, Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) and Basij (volunteer) forces in Southern Tehran. (Fars News Agency, September 23, 2012, emphasis added)

Reverse the Tide of War

We call upon our readers to spread the message far and wide.

We call upon people across the land, in America,  Western Europe, Israel, Turkey and around the world to rise up against this military project, against their governments which are supportive of military action against Iran, against the media which serves to camouflage the devastating implications of a war against Iran.

The people of Israel are largely united against Prime Minister Netanyahu’s resolve to attack Iran.

A protocol of non-aggression should be reached between Israel and Iran.

*        *      *

WWIII Scenario

The object of this book is to forcefully reverse the tide of war, challenge the war criminals in high office and the powerful corporate lobby groups which support them.” (Michel Chossudovsky, Towards a World War III Scenario, Global Research, Montreal,  2012)

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Towards a World War III Scenario” by Michel Chossudovsky

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Reviews

Professor Chossudovsky’s hard-hitting and compelling book explains why and how we must immediately undertake a concerted and committed campaign to head off this impending cataclysmic demise of the human race and planet earth. This book is required reading for everyone in the peace movement around the world.”
-Francis A. Boyle, Professor of International Law, University of Illinois College of Law

“This book is a ‘must’ resource – a richly documented and systematic diagnosis of the supremely pathological geo-strategic planning of US wars since ‘9-11’ against non-nuclear countries to seize their oil fields and resources under cover of ‘freedom and democracy’.”
-John McMurtry, Professor of Philosophy, Guelph University

“In a world where engineered, pre-emptive, or more fashionably “humanitarian” wars of aggression have become the norm, this challenging book may be our final wake-up call.”
-Denis Halliday, Former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations

Michel Chossudovsky exposes the insanity of our privatized war machine. Iran is being targeted with nuclear weapons as part of a war agenda built on distortions and lies for the purpose of private profit. The real aims are oil, financial hegemony and global control. The price could be nuclear holocaust. When weapons become the hottest export of the world’s only superpower, and diplomats work as salesmen for the defense industry, the whole world is recklessly endangered. If we must have a military, it belongs entirely in the public sector. No one should profit from mass death and destruction.
-Ellen Brown, author of ‘Web of Debt’ and president of the Public Banking Institute

“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” (George Santayana, 1863-1952.)

A meticulous piecing together of the events in Benghazi leading to the deaths of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, three colleagues and either seven or ten Libyan personnel, on 11th September, has been presented by Mark Robertson and Finian Cunningham, cutting through “fog”, hypocrisies and misinformation. (i.)

The events in Benghazi have been presented in the media as a spontaneous uprising caused by rage at the sewer level “film”, The Innocence of Muslims. However, quoting one of the surviving, but badly injured Libyan personnel, Robertson and Cunningham note his words:

“The Americans would have left if there had been protesters, but there wasn’t a single ‘anti.’ The area was totally quiet until about 9:35 pm, when as many as 125 men attacked with machine guns, grenades, RPGs, and anti-aircraft weapons. They threw grenades into the villas, wounding me and knocking me down. Then they stormed through the facility’s main gate, moving from villa to villa.”

The article also points out that this was not an official US Consulate, but a bunch of rented dwellings with little reinforcement of doors and windows as would usually be the case. That soundly negates the claim that “U.S. sovereignty” was attacked,  justifying in U.S. Administration eyes, as ever, more bombs from the air and “boots on the ground.”

Paying tribute to Ambassador Stevens the day after his death (ii) Hillary Clinton, it has to be said, probably explained the reason for his murder to the world: “In the early days of the Libyan revolution, I asked Chris to be our envoy to the rebel opposition. He arrived on a cargo ship in the port of Benghazi and began building our relationship with Libya’s revolutionaries.”

President Obama in tribute confirmed: “With characteristic skill …  and resolve, he built partnerships with Libyan revolutionaries … I think both Secretary Clinton and I relied deeply on his knowledge of the situation on the ground there. ” With hindsight a tragic lack of judgement all round. And what happened to that Nobel Peace Prize?

The President concluded: “Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America.” (iii)

Thus, with US government backing, the Ambassador plotted with a bunch of insurgents and terrorists the overthrow of yet another sovereign government. “The world needs more Chris Stevens”, said Madam Clinton. “He would be remembered as a hero by many nations … in a noble and necessary” mission, she concluded.

Clearly there are Libyans in their ruined country who do not see it quite that way. As Iraq of course, they will be “dead enders”, as Afghanistan “rogue elements”, and another illegal, ill judged, finally to be defeated, U.S. quagmire looms.

However, in the immediate, consider some questions. Assuming quotes from the survivor are correct, unprotected buildings, including that or those housing the Ambassador and American colleagues, were attacked with hand grenades, rocket propelled grenades and anti-aircraft weapons, then buildings were stormed and set ablaze.

Hand grenades blow bits off people, or blow them to bits depending on the distance of the body from the impact. RPGs destroy tanks,  yet alone people, anti-aircraft weapons are designed to damage and bring down aircraft. It seems however, the Ambassador did miraculously survive, some of the gruesome pictures are appear authentic. What remained of the others?

Allowing for the chaos of the immediate aftermath of the attack, the varying accounts are multiple: the Ambassador was killed in the building; he was rescued and driven to hospital, the car shot through the window; he was rescued and carried on shoulders to hospital. On arrival he was breathing but suffering from severe smoke installation; he was already dead – much later later, he was noted to be covered in soot.

U.S. planes finally land to collect the bodies. There seems to be no independent verification, no pictures from to be found of this heroic rescue.. Four coffins were subsequently shown at Andrews Air Force Base, their arrival marked by a “solemn ceremony.”

Then, near silence. The Ambassador, given the words of the President and his Secretary of State was surely to be given a State funeral. His colleagues’ passing also likely to be attended by Washington officials.

A search finally revealed that the funeral for Glen Doherty, the former Navy SEAL, turned contractor, was held in Winchester, Mass., on Wednesday 19th September. There is no mention of any official Washington Presence.(iv)

The following day the funeral of his colleague, serving SEAL Tyrone Woods, was held in San Diego, with little national coverage. (v)

In a nation which lets its grief hang out as no other, oddly, daily searches find no funeral announcements for Ambassador Stevens or U.S. Air Force veteran Sean Smith, with ten years as an information management officer in what has been since 2009, Hillary Clinton’s State Department.

It is also impossible to forget those pictures claimed to be of the unconscious or dead Ambassador being dragged through Benghazi.

With two deceased shrouded in silence, it is worth noting Germany’s Der Algemeiner’s coverage of 16th September: “The blogo-sphere is buzzing with a shocking unconfirmed report, originating from Lebanese based news website Tayyar, that Christopher Stevens, the US Ambassador to Libya was …. dragged through the streets before being murdered on 11th September.

The report originally cited the AFP news agency, however after AFP issued a denial saying: “That report falsely quoted our news agency”, the website apologized, but said its still stands behind the report.”

The report (vi) is in fact more graphic and explicit, claiming the attack mirrored that on Colonel Quaddafi, whereabouts of whose remains have never been discovered.

It is still early days, but it is impossible not to reflect on stories recounted by Reginald Keys- who challenged Tony Blair in the 2005 UK election – who lost a son in Iraq, and of others bereaved, of coffins coming back to the UK encasing stones, not bodies, or a single limb, which the grieving were asked to identify. Both the U.S. and U.K. have been found to have buried remains in land-fill, rather than return them to relatives. (e.g. vii.)

If there are, as one bereaved American father stated of his son: “throw away soldiers”, perhaps there are also “throw away” Ambassadors and their staff when things go wrong.

The U.S. Administration has also failed to acknowledge the Libyans they employed who died. When General Taguba was investigating the horrors of Abu Ghraib he was told by an official that the murdered, tortured and abused: “were only Iraqis.” Were these allies of Ambassador Stevens: “only Libyans”?

In a terrible irony, the air waves have been noting that the last U.S. Ambassador to be murdered, was in 1979. The circumstances are never mentioned. He was Adolph Dubbs, appointed U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan in 1978.

On 14th February 1979 he was kidnapped by four armed militia posing as police. He was held in room 117 of the Kabul Hotel (now the Kabul Serena Hotel.) All negotiations failed and he was killed an exchange of gunfire hours later.

The wretched victims in Benghazi are of another U.S. folly. Ironically, Quaddafi’s take over of Libya, which at the time of his murder had the highest standard of living in Africa, was bloodless. America’s aspirations of democracy, liberation and freedom (read asset stripping) involves unending rivers of blood. Theirs and the decimated “liberated.”

There are countless questions surrounding another terrible incident.

And lessons are never learned.

Notes

i.    http://www.globalresearch.ca/libyas-green-resistance-did-it-and-nato-powers-are-covering-up/

ii.    http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/st/english/texttrans/2012/09/20120912135847.html#ixzz27Btl1UU6

iii.  http://www.nationaljournal.com/nationalsecurity/full-text-president-obama-s-remarks-on-the-death-of-u-s-ambassador-to-libya-20120912

iv.  http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57515952/funeral-for-ex-seal-killed-in-libyan-consulate-attack-held-in-mass/

v.   http://www.kgw.com/news/national/Funeral-Thursday-for-SEAL-killed-in-embassy-attack-170373926.html

vi.  http://www.algemeiner.com/2012/09/16/website-us-   ambassador-stevens-raped-and-dragged-in-street-warning-graphic-photo/

vii. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-air-force-used-secret-landfill-site-to-bury-soldiers-6274456.html

 

by Ewan Robertson

Former US President Jimmy Carter claimed Venezuela’s electoral system is “the best in the world” (agencies).

Mérida, 21st September 2012 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Former US President Jimmy Carter has declared that Venezuela’s electoral system is the best in the world.

Speaking at an annual event last week in Atlanta for his Carter Centre foundation, the politician-turned philanthropist stated, “As a matter of fact, of the 92 elections that we’ve monitored, I would say the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world.”

Venezuela has developed a fully automated touch-screen voting system, which now uses thumbprint recognition technology and prints off a receipt to confirm voters’ choices.

In the context of the Carter Centre’s work monitoring electoral processes around the globe, Carter also disclosed his opinion that in the US “we have one of the worst election processes in the world, and it’s almost entirely because of the excessive influx of money,” he said referring to lack of controls over private campaign donations.

Former US President Jimmy Carter claimed Venezuela’s electoral system is “the best in the world” (agencies).

The comments come with just three weeks before Venezuelans go to the polls on 7 October, in a historic presidential election in which socialist incumbent President Hugo Chavez is standing against right-wing challenger Henrique Capriles Radonski of the Roundtable of Democratic Unity (MUD) coalition.

Chavez welcomed Carter’s comments, stating yesterday that “he [Carter] has spoken the truth because he has verified it. We say that the Venezuelan electoral system is one of the best in the world”.

Chavez also reported that he had had a forty minute conversation with the ex-Democrat president yesterday, and said that Carter, “as Fidel [Castro] says, is a man of honour”. The Carter Centre has recently confirmed it will not send an official delegation to accompany the presidential election, but may have officials observe the process on an individual basis.

Meanwhile, the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) electoral accompaniment delegation arrived yesterday in Venezuela.

The delegation’s head, former Argentinian vice-president Carlos Alvarez, mentioned that this was the Unasur’s first electoral observation mission, and that “for us it’s fundamental to consolidate our democracies, because it’s taken us a lot of struggle, effort and time to establish [democracy] in our countries”.

In press comments after meeting with officials from Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) Alvarez declared that based on his experience of electoral observation in South America, ”Venezuela has one of the most advanced electoral systems in the region and the continent, that grants a great deal of confidence and transparency”.

Meanwhile, secretary of the MUD, Ramón Guillermo Aveledo, accused the CNE yesterday of being “biased”, and said that it doesn’t adhere to the National Constitution nor electoral law. In an interview with opposition TV station Globovision, he clarified his opinion that “we [the MUD] trust the voting system” but that CNE officials “have a preference” for the government.

The CNE has issued warnings regarding both the MUD and Chavez’s Carabobo Command for infringements of campaign rules relating to electoral publicity and advertising space.

Pro-Chavez sources have speculated that the opposition is planning not to recognise the CNE results in the likely event of a Chavez victory on 7 October. In July, Chavez and Capriles signed an accord by which both agreed to recognise the result announced by the CNE.

Russia Strengthens Its Strategic Position In Central Asia

September 23rd, 2012 by Vladimir Radyuhin

Russia has consolidated its strategic positions in Central Asia by extending the long-term lease on its military facilities in Kyrgyzstan and securing the shutdown of a United States base in the former Soviet republic.

In exchange, Russia agreed to write off nearly $500 million in Kyrgyzstan’s debt and pledged to uplift its near bankrupt economy.

Under an agreement signed during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Kyrgyzstan on Thursday, the lease of the Russian airbase in Kant and a number of other facilities has been extended from 2017 for a further 15 years with an option for a further five-year extension.

“Russian military presence in the region, both in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, is a significant factor in stability,” Mr. Putin said at a joint news conference with Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev.

A political declaration signed by the two sides reaffirmed Kyrgyzstan’s intention to evict the U.S. airbase at the Manas international airport near the capital Bishkek. Russia “welcomed” the pledge and promised to help turn the Manas airport into a cargo transit hub between Asia and Europe.

Under another deal, Russia will help Kyrgyzstan build and operate hydroelectric power stations in Kyrgyzstan at an estimated cost of $5 billion.

The deal will give Russia power to mediate in the acrimonious disputes between Central Asian states over scarce water resources.

Moscow has also promised to help Bishkek develop its mining industry and agriculture and to open Russian markets for Kyrgyzstan by granting it membership in the newly set up Customs Union of some former Soviet states.

US officials investigating the September 11 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi now suspect it may have been carried out by Al Qaeda-linked forces that Washington backed during last year’s NATO war to topple Libyan Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

They identified Abu Sufian Ibrahim Ahmed Hamouda bin Qumu as a potential figure behind the attack, which killed four Americans, including US Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens.

Bin Qumu is a leading member of the Ansar al-Shariah brigade in Benghazi, which has been blamed for the attack. He also reportedly is a member of the Al Qaeda-linked Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) and leads the Darnah Brigade—an armed group in his home town of Darnah in northeastern Libya, which fought on the side of NATO in the war for regime change last year.

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius has reported that US intelligence is also investigating whether LIFG member Abdul Wahab al-Qaed al-Libi may have encouraged the attack. He is the brother of Abu Yahya al-Libi, a top Al Qaeda operations planner and LIFG member killed on June 4 of this year by a US drone strike in Mir Ali, Pakistan.

The Al Qaeda leadership did not formally acknowledge al-Libi’s death until September 11, however. On that date, Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri released a video confirming that al-Libi had died in a US drone strike.

“The idea of this being revenge for Abu Yahya’s death, we see discussion of that,” one US intelligence official told the Post.

These events expose the hypocrisy of Washington’s “war on terror” and its claims to be fighting for democracy in Libya. These were convenient fictions behind which the US and its allies could advance their imperialist interests—seizing $120 billion in Libyan oil funds, taking larger stakes in Libya’s oil industry, and imposing a puppet regime in Tripoli—in alliance with reactionary local proxies. These proxies included Al Qaeda forces, even as the US continued to massacre them in other parts of the world.

This cynical policy has now backfired, however, with deadly consequences for US operatives.

Accounts of the attack show that US State Department officials underestimated the threat they faced in Benghazi. There were several warnings: a June 6 bomb attack on the Benghazi consulate, a June 11 rocket-propelled grenade attack on a convoy carrying Britain’s ambassador to Libya, and an August 27 State Department travel warning noting the threat of car bombings and assassinations in Tripoli and Benghazi.

Nonetheless, Stevens argued against guarding US diplomatic facilities in Libya with Marines, who usually perform such duties. Local Libyan militias helped State Department security forces to guard the consulate in Benghazi, and no Marines were ever involved in the fighting.

Stevens took this decision to “show faith in Libya’s new leaders,” according to the Wall Street Journal, which wrote: “Officials say Mr. Stevens personally advised against having Marines posted at the embassy in Tripoli, apparently to avoid a militarized US presence.”

Another official, Randa Fahmy Hudome, added: “This is what happens when you’re relying on a government that’s not in control of the whole country … [Benghazi] was awash with weapons in the hands of various brigades who were all in combat with one another. It wasn’t a secret.”

Nonetheless, the attack on the Benghazi consulate, which began at 9 p.m. local time on September 11, apparently took US diplomats by surprise. Stevens and State Department official Sean Smith died of smoke inhalation, while trying to flee a safe room that filled with smoke after attackers set fire to the consulate. After surviving officials went to a secret safe house, where they met other US personnel in Benghazi and a State Department security team flown in from Tripoli, the safe house itself came under heavy and accurate mortar fire.

Newspaper accounts suggest the attackers outmaneuvered the US officials. The New York Times wrote, “The attackers had lain in wait, silently observing as the rescuers, including eight State Department civilians who had just landed at the airport in Benghazi, arrived in large convoys. This second attack was shorter in duration than the first, but more complex and sophisticated. It was an ambush.”

The attackers apparently suffered no casualties, but two US guards—former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty—were killed.

If bin Qumu and al-Libi indeed helped organize the attacks with forces under their command, it would be for the United States a case of the chickens coming home to roost. Having crossed and double-crossed Al Qaeda forces in Libya and internationally—murdering, imprisoning, and torturing them, when it was not employing their services in various dirty wars—it is now facing the consequences of having armed and handed power to them in much of Libya.

Abdelhakim Belhadj, reportedly the LIFG’s founder, emerged as the leader of the Tripoli Military Council after Tripoli fell to NATO-backed forces in August. His forces are reportedly now serving with the Syrian Free Army, the US-backed force fighting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Belhadj began his career fighting alongside Osama bin Laden with the CIA-backed Islamist mujahedin in the Soviet-Afghan war during the 1980s. Together with other veterans of that war, he founded the LIFG during the 1990s and launched an armed uprising against Gaddafi in 1995 that was suppressed. He escaped and helped run Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan before the September 11 attacks, after which he traveled to Pakistan, Iraq, and Malaysia, where he was captured in 2003 and rendered to a CIA prison in Thailand, where he was tortured.

In 2004, Belhadj was turned over to the Libyan government, which released him and other detained LIFG leaders in 2010, when they pledged to renounce armed struggle. One year later, Washington turned to Belhadj’s forces to topple Gaddafi. Some of these same forces have been brought into Syria to fight in the US-backed war to topple the government of Bashar al-Assad.

As for bin Qumu, he escaped prison in Libya and fled to a camp run by bin Laden in Afghanistan in the early 1990s; he was captured in Pakistan after the September 11 attacks. Accused of being a LIFG member, he was imprisoned for over five years at the Guantánamo Bay prison camp. US officials there cited Libyan intelligence reports that he was “known as one of the extremist commanders of the Afghan Arabs”—that is, a foreign fighter trained in Afghanistan—and as a “dangerous man with no qualms about committing terrorist acts.”

The United States rendered bin Qumu in 2007 to Libya, which later released him. During the Libyan war, the New York Times praised him as a “notable figure” in the US war effort, in an April 24, 2011 article titled “Libyan, Once a Detainee, Is Now a US Ally of Sorts.”

Washington relied on bin Qumu and similar forces even though it was well aware of his personal history. The Times commented, “The former enemy and prisoner of the United States is now an ally of sorts, in a remarkable turnaround resulting from shifting American policies rather than any obvious change in Mr. Qumu.”

At the time, US officials who spoke to the Times downplayed the risks arising from their alliance with LIFG fighters: “We’re more worried about Al Qaeda infiltration from outside than indigenous ones. Most of them have a local agenda, so they don’t present as much of a threat to the West.”

Life expectancy falling for the poorest Americans

September 23rd, 2012 by Patrick Martin

 

According to a study conducted for the professional journal Health Affairs, life expectancy is falling for significant sections of the working class in the United States, and in some cases has reverted to levels not seen in half a century.

The figures reported are stark. The gap in life expectancy between the most socially privileged and the most socially disadvantaged groups in American society is more than 10 years for women and more than 14 years for men. The authors write: “These gaps have widened over time and have led to at least two ‘Americas’…”

The authors draw particular attention to the actual decline in life expectancy among the poorest sections of the white working class, those with less than a high school education. Life expectancy for women in that subgroup fell from more than 78 years in 1990 to 74 years in 2008. The figure for men also declined, by three years.

Across all racial groups—white, black and Hispanic—the authors wrote: “We found that in 2008 US adult men and women with fewer than twelve years of education had life expectancies not much better than those of all adults in the 1950s and 1960s.”

Researchers suggested that rising obesity, higher rates of smoking among women, abuse of prescription drugs, and a decline in health insurance coverage—43 percent of the least-educated had no health insurance in 2006—may all have been contributing factors.

Michael Marmot, director of the Institute of Health Equity in London, told the New York Times that the decline in life expectancy for poor white women over the five-year period from 2003 to 2008 brought to mind the seven years of falling life expectancy for Russian men after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

This comment is all the more striking given that the five years from 2003 to 2008 largely preceded the Wall Street crash of September 2008 and the ensuing plunge of the US and world economy into the deepest slump since the Great Depression of the 1930s. There is no doubt that all the social evils discussed in the Health Affairs report have worsened over the past four years.

The decline for poor white women produced the remarkable result that in 2008 life expectancy for white women without a high school diploma was actually lower than for black women with the same educational level, the first time that such an inversion has been reported in relation to a major indicator of social distress.

This fact alone is a refutation of all the peddlers of identity politics who claim that race, not class, is the fundamental division in American society. What is taking place in America is a class catastrophe, a social counterrevolution directed at the entire working class, of all racial and ethnic backgrounds.

The authors strongly argue that behavioral factors alone, like drug abuse, cannot explain the disparity in health outcomes, which “reflect racial and ethnic differences as well as differences in education and income…”

Instead, they continue, “it has been proposed that social conditions can be ‘fundamental causes’ of health inequalities, which is why interventions based exclusively on modifying biomedical risk factors have not been, and are not likely to be, successful in substantially reducing health disparities.”

In other words, the decline in life expectancy for some sections of the working class is a product of a broader social crisis. The Health Affairs report is an ominous warning of the cumulative impact of social inequality, poverty, unemployment, low wages and general deterioration of social services in America.

Despite being expressed in the technical jargon of the social sciences, with its conclusions very cautiously drawn, the study documents the failure of American capitalism to meet the most basic test of a society: the preservation and extension of human life.

The report provides an insight into the shocking conditions of poverty that are concealed by the corporate-controlled media and the political establishment. The decline in life expectancy for substantial sections of the population is the result not simply of impersonal economic forces. It is the outcome of decades of social and political reaction, presided over by Democratic as well as Republican administrations.

These policies—tax cuts for the rich, deregulation, cuts in social programs—have been carried out with the conscious aim of increasing the wealth of the ruling elite at the direct expense of the vast majority of the people. They have been continued and intensified by the Obama administration.

The New York Times gave the Health Affairs report front-page treatment Friday, a prominence that was certainly warranted by the devastating findings of the study. But the account published by the Times gave one-sided attention to racial and cultural aspects of the study, as suggested by the headline chosen: “Life Span Shrinks for Least-Educated Whites in US.”

The Times article ignores the more fundamental socio-economic dimension of class, a term that does not appear among the more than 1,300 words the newspaper devoted to the report.

The authors of the Health Affairs study are not so shy about considering the impact of economic factors on life expectancy. They argue that “education and its socioeconomic status correlates are associated with lifelong health and survival outcomes that transcend the independent effects of race—a finding that is consistent with a large body of scientific literature dating back more than eighty years.”

The Times report does have the merit of giving the Health Affairs study public attention and placing it in the context of other research into the social crisis in the United States.

The article notes the dramatic decline of the United States in international rankings of life expectancy, especially for women, from 14th place in 1985 to 41st place in 2010, according to the United Nations. “Among developed countries, American women sank from the middle of the pack in 1970 to last place in 2010, according to the Human Mortality Database,” the Times noted.

While social conditions for the working masses deteriorate, America still remains number one in the world in the categories that really matter to the ruling elite: the number of billionaires, the profits amassed by the super-rich, and the number of soldiers, policemen, bombs, missiles, and prison cells available to protect the financial parasites from the working people whose labor is the actual source of all wealth.

ACLU Sues CIA Over Drone Killings

September 23rd, 2012 by Stephen Lendman

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have been around since the Vietnam era. They were used as reconnaissance platforms. In the 1980s, Harpy air defense suppression system radar killer drones were employed. In the Gulf War, unmanned combat air systems (UCAS) and X-45 air vehicles were used.Others were deployed in Bosnia in 1995 and against Serbia in 1999. America’s new weapon of choice is now commonplace in Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, elsewhere abroad, and domestically for law enforcement and surveillance. Escalated domestic and foreign use is planned.

A previous article called drone warfare remote control killing like sport. From distant or nearby command centers, operators wage virtual war.

They dismissively ignore human carnage. It shows up as computer screen blips. They look no different from video game images. The difference, of course, is people die.

They’re mostly noncombatants. Studies show militants are successfully hit about 2% of the time. Others are wrongly targeted or happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

On January 13, 2010, the ACLU petitioned Washington under the Freedom of Information ACT (FOIA). It requested legal justification claimed for conducting predator drone targeted killings abroad.

In March 2010, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit. As part of its challenge, it collected about 200 on-and-off the record public statements. Former and current US officials made them.

It “demand(ed) that the government disclose the legal basis for its use of unmanned drones to conduct targeted killings overseas.”

“In particular, the lawsuit asks for information on when, where and against whom drone strikes can be authorized, the number and rate of civilian casualties and the other basis information essential for assessing the wisdom and legality of using armed drones to conduct targeted killings.”

In court briefs, Justice Department lawyers claimed revealing sensitive documents would compromise national security. How many times before have we heard that? It doesn’t wash.

The same excuse is given in political prosecution cases. Secret evidence is used to convict. Defense attorneys and defendants can’t contest it. Who knows if it exists?

On September 13, ProPublica.org headlined “How the Gov’t Talks About a Drone Program it Won’t Acknowledge Exists,” saying:

Drones are Washington’s weapon of choice. They’re used for targeted assassinations. No one anyway is safe. Eye in the sky predator drones spot victims, aim, fire and kill.

Administration officials claim drone warfare works. It does so sans details, often staying anonymous, yet claiming “tacit credit” at the same time.

“A White House spokesman declined to comment to ProPublica on the FOIA suit or on the CIA’s drone program.” Silence is official policy on what’s widely acknowledged.

Vagueness substitutes for specifics. For example, in October 2011, former CIA director/current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said:

“I have a hell of a lot more weapons available to me in this job than I had at the CIA, although the Predators aren’t bad.” Did he acknowledge predator drone killings or their use to surveil and gather intelligence?

Months earlier he said Pakistan-based Al Qaeda elements were beaten back in part from “the most aggressive operation the CIA had been involved in in our history.” Did he mean by drones or other means?

At the same time, The New York Times reported in May that the CIA considers all military-aged males killed combatants. Targeting them is fair game. Rule of law principles don’t apply. Killers and higher-up superiors aren’t prosecuted.

In his book titled “The ‘Good Soldier’ On Trial: A Sociological Study of Misconduct by the US Military Pertaining to Operation Iron Triangle, Iraq,” Professor Stjepan Mestrovic discussed violations of US and international law.

He documented “hundreds of instances” of lawless and other “dubious behavior on the part the government.”

US brigade commander Col. Michael Steele was one of many examples. He ordered every military-aged Iraqi killed on sight. Doing so also violates the US Army Field Manual (FM) 27-10.

Paragraph 498 says any person, military or civilian, who commits a crime under international law is responsible for it and may be punished.

Paragraph 499 defines a war crime. Paragraph 500 refers to a conspiracy, attempts to commit it, and complicity with respect to international crimes.

Paragraph 509 denies the defense of superior orders in the commission of a crime, and paragraph 510 denies the defense of an “act of state” to absolve them.

These provisions apply to all US military and civilian personnel. They include top commanders, the Secretary of Defense, his subordinates, CIA and other intelligence officials, as well as the president and vice president of the United States.

In other words, no one is exempt on this or other fundamental rule of law principles. Target killings are lawless. Habeas and due process still apply. Exemptions are prohibited.

The ACLU sued the Defense, State, and Justice Departments. They stonewalled information requests. “(N)or have they given any reason for withholding documents. The CIA answered the ACLU’s request by refusing to confirm or deny the existence of any relevant documents.”

At the time, the CIA wasn’t sued. At first, the ACLU appealed its non-response to the Agency Release Panel. In June 2010, it filed suit. It argued that CIA’s response wasn’t lawful “because the CIA Director and other officials….publicly acknowledged the existence of” the Agency’s drone program.

After the lower court ruled for CIA, the ACLU appealed to the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals. Oral arguments were scheduled for September 20, 2012. The DC Circuit is notoriously conservative.

Expect ACLU lawyers to face stiff headwinds. Supreme Court justices are no better. Like political Washington, federal courts represent absolute power corrupting absolutely. Don’t bet on ACLU prevailing against odds that long.

On September 18, a press release headlined “ACLU in Appeals Court Thursday Arguing Against CIA’s Secrecy Claim on Targeted Killing Documents.”

The Agency refused to respond to FOIA requests. Its killer drones operate daily in numerous countries. It makes public statements about its program.

Former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair told the House Intelligence Committee that US drones kill Americans. He added that targeted killing “is the only game in town.” It reminded him of body counts in Vietnam.

At the same time, few details about the drone program are discussed. Comments are made in broad terms. Necessity and legality are claimed. “Military operations” outside “hot” battlefields are acknowledged.

Government and CIA officials don’t formally admit the Agency’s involvement, let alone details.

Obama prioritizes drone killing. They’re the “one tool we use,” he said. He usurped the power of life and death, including over US citizens. He’s got final “kill list” authority. He can order drone or other attacks to kill anyone, anyway, based on his say alone.

ACLU wants information on “when, where and against whom drone strikes can be authorized, and how the US ensures compliance with international laws relating to extrajudicial killings.”

According to ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer:

“The notion that the CIA’s targeted killing program is a secret is nothing short of absurd.” Everyone paying attention knows it exists.”

“For more than two years, senior officials have been making claims about the program both on the record and off. They’ve claimed that the program is effective, lawful and closely supervised.”

“If they can make these claims, there is no reason why they should not be required to respond to requests under the Freedom of Information Act.”

On June 13, 2012, ACLU v. CIA requested a DC Circuit expedited hearing. “This case concerns (CIA’s) refusal….to confirm or deny the existence of records responsive Plaintiff’s (FOIA) request (concerning) the CIA’s use of drones to conduct targeted killings.”

 

“Plaintiffs filed their FOIA request on January 13, 2010 and commenced this suit on March 16, 2010. After the district court (Collyer, J.) granted summary judgment to the CIA on September 9, 2011, Plaintiffs filed a timely appeal.”

“The only issue on appeal is whether the CIA’s refusal to confirm or deny the existence of the drone program….is lawful given that senior government officials have repeatedly discussed (it publicly).”

“Plaintiffs have argued that government officials have officially acknowledged the program in those contexts and that the CIA’s refusal to confirm or deny the existence of the program here is unlawful.”

Expedited resolution was requested because of “immense public interest – namely, the lawfulness, effectiveness, strategic wisdom, and morality of the CIA’s use of drones” to kill.

The entire ACLU document can be read through the above link.

A Final Comment

Last July, America’s “newspaper of record” moralized drone use. Its article headlined “The Moral Case for Drones,” saying:

“….moral philosophers, political scientists and weapons specialists believe armed, unmanned aircraft offer marked moral advantages over almost any other tool f warfare.”

The article stands in stark contrast to a May one titled “Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will,” saying:

Obama “placed himself at the helm of a top secret ‘nominations’ process to designate terrorists for kill or capture, of which the capture part has become largely theoretical.”

In other words, he appointed himself judge, jury and executioner. Despot authority is official administration policy. Diktats decide who lives or dies.

Anyone called Al Qaeda or accused of terrorist connections gets marked for death.

What “moral and legal conundrum” could he face, asked The Times? None whatever. On day one in office, he spurned rule of law principles. It’s been downhill ever since.

The New York Times and other media scoundrels march in lockstep. They’re comfortable with imperial lawlessness.

Killing by any means has no moral basis whatever. Claiming it makes supporters complicit. Because of its global reach and influence, NYT bosses, editors, and contributors have the greatest cross to bear. Expect no mea culpas or apologies.

 

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

His new book is titled “How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War”

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays 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

Why Support the Troops?

September 23rd, 2012 by Global Research News

by Jacob G. Hornberger

One of the most fascinating phenomena of our time is the extreme reverence that the American people have been taught to have for the military. Wherever you go — airports, sports events, church — there is a god-like worship of the military.

“Let us all stand and express our sincerest thanks to our troops for the wonderful service they perform for our country,” declare the sports broadcasters.

*       *      *

“Let us pray for the troops, especially those in harm’s way,” church ministers exhort their parishioners.

“Let us give a big hand to our troops who are traveling with us today,” exclaim airline officials.

Every time I see this reverence for the military being expressed, I wonder if people ever give any thought to what exactly the troops are doing. No one seems to ask that question. It just doesn’t seem to matter. The assumption is that whatever the troops are doing, they are protecting our “rights and freedoms.” As one sports broadcaster I recently heard put it, “We wouldn’t be here playing this game if it weren’t for the troops.”

There is at least one big problem with this phenomenon, however: The troops are engaged in actions that are harmful to the American people, including most of the people who have a reverential attitude toward them.

Consider the following hypothetical. Suppose a family lives out in the country on a 50-acre spread in the middle of a wooded area. In the trees are dozens of hornets’ nests. The hornets leave the family alone because the family leaves the hornets’ nests alone.

One day U.S. troops arrive, come on to the property, and begin poking every hornets’ nest they can find. For the next several days, the members of the family and their friends and visitors are stung by the hornets.

The following week, the troops arrive and do the same thing, with the same results. This goes on indefinitely.

Suppose we were to encounter the family and ask them how they feel about the troops. We could easily imagine them saying, “Oh, we love the troops and we support them. Without them, we wouldn’t have this nice property. Thank goodness for the troops because they are keeping us free.”

What about all weekly stings from the hornets? We could easily imagine the family responding, “Oh, that’s not the troops’ fault. For some reason, the hornets are just mad these days, but it has nothing to do with the fact that the troops are poking their nests. Anyway, the troops are just following orders. It’s not their fault. We love the troops.”

Does that make any sense? It seems to me that when people are doing the right thing, they are entitled to be supported. But when they’re engaged in wrongful or harmful conduct, then they shouldn’t be supported. Why should the military be exempt from normal moral and ethical principles?

Consider the threat of terrorism, which Americans have lived under now for some 11 years. Did you ever think that 9/11 would change our country so fundamentally? There wasn’t any “war on terrorism” before 9/11. Torture and assassination weren’t official policy. There was no detention center at Guantanamo Bay. There were no official kidnappings, rendition, and torture partnerships with brutal dictatorial regimes. There was no indefinite incarceration without trial.

So, why must everything be different just because of 9/11? Why can’t we live in a normally functioning society, one in which people are not living under the constant fear of terrorism and one in which the government isn’t adopting and employing permanent “emergency” powers that constitute severe infringements on the freedoms of the people.

What was it that produced the anger and rage that brought on 9/11? Was it hatred for America’s “freedom and values,” as U.S. officials maintain? Or was it anger and rage arising from what the troops and other U.S. officials were doing to people in the months and years leading up to 9/11?

That obviously gets us into U.S. foreign policy, an area that makes many people who support the troops very uncomfortable. Why? Because if they conclude that the troops are doing things to people overseas that are producing the anti-American anger and rage that culminates in anti-American terrorism, then that presents a problem for them. How do they in good conscience continue supporting the people who are causing their problems?

Yet, the reality is that the troops are doing things to people overseas that are making people angry at the United States. Examples include the invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and ever-increasing drone assassinations. As everyone knows, such actions have succeeded in killing and maiming hundreds of thousands of people, including women and children. On top of that has been the torture, the kidnappings, Gitmo, the support of brutal dictatorships and the Israeli government, the U.S. troops on Islamic holy lands, the illegal no-fly zone over Iraq, the sanctions that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, and the current sanctions on Iran. It’s the troops who enforce many of those programs.

Now, it might be said that the troops aren’t at fault because they’re just following orders. Even if that’s true, is that any reason to support them? For one thing, no one forced them to join an organization that would require them to do whatever they were ordered to do. They did that on their own volition.

Moreover, even though they’re following orders, the fact remains that what they’re doing is nonetheless counterproductive to the best interests of the American people. That is, for those of us who want a normally functioning society, rather than the aberrant post-911 society in which we now live, what the troops are doing is an obstacle to the achievement of our goal, whether they are doing it willingly or simply on orders of their commanders.

For those Americans who like the direction our country has been taking for the past 11 years and would like things to continue as they are, the best thing they can do is simply continue supporting the troops.

But for people who are sick and tired of all this, for them it’s necessary to confront the root causes of America’s problems. And like it or not, one of the root causes of America’s woes is the U.S. military establishment and the entire national-security state, not only with respect to the anti-American anger and hatred they produce by their actions overseas but also by contributing to the out-of-control spending and debt that now constitute a grave threat to the economic well-being of our nation.

Why would anyone want to support people who are doing things that are detrimental to us and our country?

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of the Future of Freedom Foundation.

How to Change our World: Tipping the Balance of Power

September 23rd, 2012 by Tony Cartalucci

How to really change the world – and it’s easier than you think.

Democracy is a Form of Oppression. 

The modern concept of “democracy” is perhaps the most effective form of human oppression ever devised. It has single-handedly convinced billions of people around the world that if only they cast their vote at each election, struggle behind their favorite politicians and pet political causes, they can change the world. And as each side of any given political paradigms struggles against each other, a singular agenda continues to march forth, one above and beyond “democracy”  and the strategies of tension we’ve all been mired in.

The corporate-financiers of Wall Street and London, and their ever expanding orbit of proxies, client regimes, and co-conspirators have mastered long ago the method of controlling both sides of any given political paradigm, ensuring that no matter who you fight for, no matter how hard you fight, you still ultimately contribute to the singular agenda as determined by the corporate-financier elite. Thus, despite believing you have a “choice” and a “say” in your destiny, you do not. You spend all of your time and energy pursuing a false solution to fixing a system you do not truly understand, against forces you are either vaguely aware of, or entirely oblivious to.

No better can this be illustrated than in American politics where still, many people believe there is some sort of discernible difference between Republicans and Democrats. However, for example, from 2000-2012, we see a singular Western agenda of invading, occupying, dividing, overthrowing, destroying, and installing client regimes across the Arab World and to a lesser extent, across Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe. However, within that period, we saw two allegedly ideologically opposed presidents in office.

Image: Bush = Obama = Romney. Professional spokesmen, representative not of the American people but of Fortune 500 multinational corporations and banks. Since the time of JP Morgan 100 years ago, the corporate-financier elite saw themselves as being above government, and national sovereignty as merely a regulatory obstacle they could lobby, bribe, and manipulate out of existence. In the past 100 years, the monied elite have gone from manipulating the presidency to now reducing the office to a public relations functionary of their collective interests. Only tipping the balance of power from corporate-financier monopolies back to our local communities can change anything – this cannot be accomplished by merely “voting.” 

The corporate media has gone through great lengths to sell each leg of the agenda in terms most fitting to each respective president’s alleged political agenda, but in reality, all that President Barack Obama did was pick up where President George Bush left off, who was in reality carrying out a singular agenda, modern empire, that has been more or less in play for decades, possibly centuries depending on where one would like to draw the line.

The quest for American global hegemony began with corporate-financier interests during the late 1800′s and continues today. The policy we believe is born of our leaders’ political ideologies is in reality produced by these corporate-financier interests and the myriad of think-tanks they fund and direct. The policy papers these think-tanks produce, often published and even available to read online, are then rubber stamped into law by our politicians and sold to the public through the filter of false political paradigms.

The military, political, and economic conquest of the Middle East was sold by Bush under the guise of fighting the “War on Terror.” Under Obama, it was sold as “democracy promotion.” In reality, the policies dictating both legs of this singular agenda were meted out by think-tanks possessing both Bush and Obama-era administrators, often sitting around the same table, implementing the collective will of the their corporate-financier sponsors.

A recent examination of two such institutions, the National Endowment for Democracy and the Atlantic Council in “The Queen of Corporate-Fascist Faux “Democracy,”" provides lists where Neo-Conservative warmongers sit side-by-side with current and former Obama administrators, producing policies that were implemented throughout both Bush and Obama’s presidencies. Identical corporate-financier interests were discovered behind both institutions, and are the same corporate-financier interests to be found pervading all Western foreign and domestic policy.

Image: It is clear that NGOs and opposition movements many believe are spontaneous, indigenous, and independent are in fact part of a larger network for the sole purpose of imposing and maintaining global system administration. This is not a web of elaborate, vague associations. In each case there is direct path of funding leading back to Western foundations and the think-tanks that devise policy for them, all funded and chaired by the Fortune 500 of Wall Street and London. (click image to enlarge)

….

Under such a system, voting is an exercise in futility – at best to make you content with the chains of your confinement, at worst, providing unwitting approval of your subjugation to corporate-financier domination. The constitutional representative governance we believe we live under, or are attempting to restore, or in some countries, trying to establish in the first place, exists only in the figments of our imaginations. To truly manifest a representative government, driven by our own ambitions and our true collective interests, toward a self-determined destiny, we must begin locally, and we must begin with much more than simply casting a ballot.

Freedom and self-determination means taking on the responsibility ourselves for the functioning and progress of our communities and society as a whole.

Identify, Boycott, and Replace

Clearly, the first step is recognizing that corporate-financier interests dominate modern civilization, and through controlled paradigms, maintain domination over all aspects of society through rules and regulations, laws, and law enforcement.

We must identify who these corporate-financier interests actually are, and through what avenues they execute their agenda. Then we must understand the source of power behind their unwarranted influence and aim at undermining and cutting it off. Luckily for us, we ourselves are the source of this unwarranted influence. More specifically, our daily patronage of the global elite’s corporations, institutions, and organizations through the payment of our time, money, and attention grant them nearly inexhaustible wealth, power, and influence.

While, say a single Coke or Pepsi, might seem like a very insignificant contribution to this global spanning conglomeration of corporate-financier interests, it is through millions and millions of people on a daily basis, collectively contributing, that results in significant power, wealth, and subsequent influence in the hands of a concentrated elite.When we consider that our collective earnings month to month often go to either taxes or large corporate interests, we may begin to understand just why there exists such a disparity between their power and influence versus our subservience and impotence.

Image: Several Fortune 500 corporate-financier funded think-tanks who produce the total summation of Western policy, both foreign and domestic, which is then merely rubber stamped into law by proxy politicians, who along with the corporate-owned media then sell this policy to the public. “Naming Names: Your Real Government” provides an extensive, but by no means all inclusive list of many of these corporate-financier interests.

….

It becomes obvious that to rebalance this equation in our favor, we must stop paying our time, money, and attention to the corporate-financier elite’s corporations, institutions, and organizations. It also quickly becomes obvious that in order to stop paying into these concentrated, centralized conglomerations of power, wealth and influence, we must devise decentralized, local alternatives.

While it may seem futile and insignificant to deny these large, global-spanning conglomerations our individual patronage on a daily basis, collectively it will undermine them, just as we have collectively built them up. Simply boycotting something like Coke or Pepsi is also something easy we can do starting today.

In any given country, in any given town, there are surely at least some local alternatives we can begin to replace what we have depended on large global-spanning corporate-financier interests to provide for us. But what exactly can we do if no alternative exists?

Building Local Institutions to Empower Local People 

The power of civilization lies within its institutions. This is something that the purveyors of empire knew long ago. While most attention in history books and movies is paid to the military might of any given empire, equally as important were the financial, economic, and administrative institutions created to both direct these military forces and reap the benefits from their campaigns. Those with the most powerful institutions will always prevail – as institutions form the basis of organizing and directing human resources.

This is explained at great length in ” Empire’s Double Edged Sword: Global Military + NGOs.” What we see today, around the world operating under the guise of “democracy promotion,” is the West establishing modern day equivalents of these administrative networks and institutions to establish a modern day global empire.

The counterbalance for vast networks of global institutions, is to create an equally vast network of independent local institutions to replace the role these global networks attempt to play. The obvious advantage of global institutions is the endless amount of funding they have access to. This advantage currently gives them an edge alternative, indigenous local institutions lack. Through greater awareness, participation, and collaboration, however, local institutions can not only out-compete global institutions, but entirely and permanently replace them.

While imperial, and now neo-imperial institutions generally work under vast amounts of deceit, manipulation, and coercion, local institutions wouldn’t need or be able to. Local institutions, involving local people, aimed at solving local problems operate on a level people can easily understand. With people able to meet all involved face to face on a daily basis, a greater aspect of transparency would inhibit the level of compartmentalized duplicity and deceit that are common and necessary features of modern corporate-financier global institutions.

Examples of Local Institutions & Activism

There exists already traditional local institutions that we have allowed to be eroded by corporate-financier interests who have specifically, systematically, and ceaselessly attempted to undermine and destroy them. These include:  

The Family: the basic building block of any society
The Church, Temple, or Mosque: a place for local social networking, welfare, charity, and coordination
The Sheriff: charged with local security, law and order
Local Schools: educates and develops local human resources, the foundation upon which all society, economically and intellectually is built upon.

We can begin by revisiting each one of these institutions and seeing where, individually and collectively, we can revitalize, rebuild, or repurpose them to serve our communities in a more effective way. Preventing corporate-financier driven government meddling and regulating of these institutions is essential. And where rules and regulations are already in place, inhibiting the functioning of these institutions, innovative means of circumventing such measure must be implemented.

There are endless possibilities for the creation of innovative of new local institutions that can help us pool or resources and collaborate both financially and intellectually to solve problems, to improve our local communities, and to live better and more meaningful lives.

The resurgence of farmers’ markets provide for us an example of a traditional institution that has been revitalized and repurposed to address modern trends in food security and health. Other possibilities include:

Underground Trading: This is the creation and trade of alternatives to commonly purchased corporate-financier dominated commodities within private circles of friends and family. The carbonation of beverages as a micro-business or hobby, to replace the consumption of Fortune 500 products like Coke or Pepsi can be traded “underground” at dinner parties or small get-togethers. In many countries, small businesses like this remain unregulated, mostly untaxed, and very accessible. In other countries, legal barriers may require creative solutions – such as trading “underground.”

photo by Rachel Stringer

Farmers’ Markets: Everyone should make a point of at least visiting their local farmers’ market once. Get to know the people there, see what is available and ask yourself whether or not the extra time and perhaps, extra money is not warranted in the face of  the alternative – continuing to fuel corporate-financier monopolies that are literally poisoning us. Local independent farmers and organic growers have been at the forefront of localization and the preservation of individual liberties and independence. While the cost may be higher, the more people that get involved locally as both consumers and producers will help develop a stronger local economy and stabilize prices.

Hackerspaces: A relatively new phenomenon – a hackerspace can be thought of as a local “field” where instead of growing food, people collaborate to develop new technology. Hackerspaces generally have membership fees for access to tools, electricity, and work areas. Additionally, educational short courses, lectures, and presentations can be given, pro-bono or also for extra income. Hackerspaces like New York City’s “NYC Resistor” have served as springboards for local small businesses and technological innovations.

While a group of electronic, computer, robotic, design, and other technical hobbyists getting together in a common area and collaborating seems like a simple idea, the implications, especially as technology enables individuals, and small groups of individuals to do more on their own today than armies could do 50 years ago, the implications and possibilities for developing and strengthening our local communities become far reaching.

If a hackerspace does not exist in your area, you can simply start your own – it requires nothing more than a table and several like-minded people to sit around it for a first meeting. Again, like everything else, while the results may seem underwhelming, day to day, on an individual basis – added up over a year quite a bit can be accomplished. Add together everyone tempted to get involved on a global scale – and the collective impact becomes overwhelming.

Image: Hackerspaces provide an environment within which people can leverage technology on a local level – turning consumers into producers and skewing the current paradigm. Pictured is MIT’s Dr. Neil Gershenfeld inside his “Fab Lab,” arguably the birthplace of the personal fabrication revolution and the inspiration for hackerspaces around the world. More details can be found in “Self-Sufficiency: a universal solution to the globalist problem.”
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Gardening: Another simple idea that seems underwhelming – but if pursued incrementally over time, can make a big impact, is simply growing your own garden. This can be done on virtually any budget, and as marijuana growers have proven, can be done virtually anywhere. Growing your own food, even your own herbs to offset even in the smallest way your dependence on large corporate-financier monopolies collectively has a much bigger impact.

Like the concept of “underground trading,” one need not bring their produce to the local farmers’ market to make some extra money or socially interact with others in their community. Dinner parties with friends and family where food was grown and prepared entirely “in-house” can easily replace the degenerate corporate-financier forms of entertainment we all too often waste our times participating in.

The Alternative Media: Every bit makes a difference, and starting your own blog, twitter, or Facebook account with the expressed purpose of informing others of what is going on locally, nationally, and internationally is both free and easy to do. Even if you simply repost articles others write – your efforts combined with others already active will make a significant difference.

How far your project goes depends solely on the amount of time and effort you spend investing in it and the standards of objectivity and intellectual honesty you hold yourself to. The alternative media is a perfect example of a new “institution” and form of activism that has already successfully begun to shift the paradigm, and it does so by leveraging technology that allows us to do as individuals what was once only possible with large, capital intensive organizations.

Shooting Club: A great way to exercise your right to bear firearms, hone your marksmanship and safety skills, as well as develop a community of safe and organized marksmen who can at the very least serve as a constructive source of socializing, and at the most, come through in an emergency to defend your community is to form a shooting club. It can start as nothing more than a few friends who get together on the weekend who share a common interest in firearms, the 2nd Amendment, safety, and the discipline of marksmanship, and can be expanded to help educate others in the community, work with the local sheriff, and promote responsible firearms ownership.

The presence of a localized, professional group of firearms enthusiasts who are well organized and politically active serves as a deterrent against corporate-financier driven federal efforts to disarm the public. By promoting responsible firearms ownership in an organized and professional manner, people can begin disarming the government and its corporate-financier sponsors of the endless excuses they use to legislate intrusive measures of gun control.

Constructive Pastimes: Pastimes, depending on what they are, can either greatly empower us individually and collectively, or forever inhibit our development and progress as human beings and as a society. Watching sports, vegetating behind the TV in general, consuming alcohol, going shopping, and watching Hollywood movies are all examples of activities that no matter how long you do them, will never yield opportunities or spur personal development on any level, physically or intellectually. These also so happen to be the pastimes of choice endlessly promoted by the same corporate-financier interests that propose to us that “voting” in their political theater is the greatest possible expression of human self-determination.

Conversely, playing sports as a community, making movies, writing, woodworking, gardening, brewing alcohol, and nearly anything at all that is productive or encourages positive social interaction and health provides us with endless opportunities. While the accomplishments we may make pursuing any given pastime may seem negligible on a daily basis, over time the results of  what we passionately pursue add up toward a “critical mass” of sorts that open the door to many opportunities – such as starting a small business, providing a useful good or service to our local community, or solving a myriad of problems.

We can question how significant these opportunities may or may not be – but one thing is for sure. If we do exactly zero with our spare time on a daily basis, at the end of one year we will have exactly zero to add up. No matter how insignificant our constructive pastimes may seem on a daily basis, they will add up to “something” over a year. The level of passion, imagination, and collaboration we put into that pastime determines how big that “something” is.

Get Organized & Get a Program

The point behind all of this is to simply get organized – personally and as a community – toward doing something both constructive and fulfilling while tipping the balance of power away from a destructive self-serving system that dominates and exploits us however gilded the cage may seem.  We must get organized with friends and family, and as a community.

It doesn’t need to be a well-oiled organization at first. It can simply be a group of hobbyists or enthusiasts of any variety that get together simply to pool resources and share interests. With a full understanding of how necessary it is to organize and work together as a community, rather than delegate our responsibilities to centralized governments and corporate-financier interests, these small gatherings can be expanded.

What guides this expansion is a program. Instead of subscribing to political demagogues, we must instead search for programmatic and pragmatic solutions and devise the road maps needed to then arrive at these solutions.  Instead of surfing cable TV for political pundits selling us endless debate within a false political paradigm, we should get out a piece of paper and write down what our problems are, then organize locally, leverage the technology at our disposal, and devise solutions.

Education, the economy, infrastructure, and healthcare generally top the list. Things like education can be tackled on a local level leveraging the immense amount of resources available for free online. We can pool resources together and take cues from and expand upon the ever growing home-schooling movement.

In many ways, we can begin to boycott large corporate-financier monopolies and piecemeal develop our own local economies to be stronger and more independent. Certain aspects of infrastructure and healthcare can also be tackled on varying levels, starting locally and working our way upward.

Regarding healthcare, by understanding that big corporate monopolies and government subsidies may currently be necessary aspects of modern healthcare, but are untenable permanent solutions, we can begin pursuing avenues to help find solutions that are permanent.

Conclusion 

All of this and more, however, can only be accomplished if we stop depending on others, and starting having faith in ourselves. For we are the only ones who truly have our own interests at heart, and are the only ones we can trust to pursue what is truly in our best own interests – even our own self-preservation. To delegate these responsibilities to others, particularly large corporate-financier interests lorded over by people we neither know, nor have ever met, is to delegate as well our freedom, self-determination, independence, and liberty – all of those things that we currently, and may very erroneously believe we enjoy within our current “democratic” political paradigm.

As technology advances, we are able to do more individually and locally than entire nations could accomplish decades ago. This is what makes a real revolution possible now more than ever. By recognizing that this power in our hands, wielded locally and pragmatically is the solution, is the first step toward reclaiming our destiny.

It will not be easy. It will be hard work. It will not happen overnight. Change doesn’t happen with one person, with a single instantly reverberating act. But change is not impossible, and it only takes our individual actions added up collectively overtime to achieve it. Even the elite today who dominate the planet, only do so because they possess an immense network involving millions of people wittingly or unwittingly contributing to their agenda.

We the people already have a common agenda – peace, progress, and prosperity – something average people have always yearned for. Next, we must simply just get started, in whatever capacity, today to build up our own local networks to pursue our own collective agenda, on our own, outside the global elite’s paradigm and inside a new paradigm of our own design.

America and Western Democracy Were Founded On a Conspiracy Theory

September 23rd, 2012 by Washington's Blog

The Constitution, Magna Carta and Democracy Itself Are Based on the Idea that – Without Checks and Balances – Those In Power Will Take Advantage of Us

America was founded on a conspiracy theory: that Britain’s King George was conspiring against the colonists by all his actions.

*      *      *

The Declaration of Independence recites a series of conspiracies:

When a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism … The history of the present King of Great Britain [and others working with and for him] is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

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He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

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He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

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He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

***

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

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For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

***For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

***

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

***

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

The American concept of “separation of powers” is also based on the conspiracy theory that those with unchecked power will abuse it.  By creating 3 branches of government, the Founding Fathers hoped to reduce abuse of power.

Political science professor Lance deHaven-Smith has documented in a soon-to-be-released book that conspiracy theories were considered as American as apple pie all through American history … up until very recently.

The father of modern economics – Adam Smith – also believed in conspiracy theories.  As the New York Times notes:

Smith railed against monopolies and the political influence that accompanies economic power …

***

He saw a tacit conspiracy on the part of employers ”always and everywhere” to keep wages as low as possible.

But the centrality of conspiracy theories in Western civilizations goes back much further …

The Magna Carta – signed in 1215 – was based on the conspiracy theory that the claim of the “Divine Right” of the king and his men to do whatever they wanted was false and oppressive.

Indeed, the entire idea of democracy – going back to ancient Greece – is based on a conspiracy theory as well:  that leaders who make decisions without input from the public will not treat the people as well as if they have a chance to vote.  This is another form of “separation of powers”, as it creates checks and balances between the decision-making power of the government and that of the people.

Arguably, Western civilization would never have gotten off the ground with the core idea that those in power need to be checked and reined in, or they would abuse the people.

But Aren’t Conspiracy Theories Nutty?

You may have heard that conspiracy theories are nutty.  But the truth is that conspiracies are so common that judges are trained to look at conspiracy allegations as just another legal claim to be disproven or proven based on the specific evidence:

Federal and all 50 state’s codes include specific statutes addressing conspiracy, and providing the punishment for people who commit conspiracies.

But let’s examine what the people trained to weigh evidence and reach conclusions think about “conspiracies”. Let’s look at what American judges think.

Searching Westlaw, one of the 2 primary legal research networks which attorneys and judges use to research the law, I searched for court decisions including the word “Conspiracy”. This is such a common term in lawsuits that it overwhelmed Westlaw. Specifically, I got the following message:

“Your query has been intercepted because it may retrieve a large number of documents.”

From experience, I know that this means that there were potentially millions or many hundreds of thousands of cases which use the term. There were so many cases, that Westlaw could not even start processing the request.

So I searched again, using the phrase “Guilty of Conspiracy”. I hoped that this would not only narrow my search sufficiently that Westlaw could handle it, but would give me cases where the judge actually found the defendant guilty of a conspiracy. This pulled up exactly 10,000 cases — which is the maximum number of results which Westlaw can give at one time. In other words, there were more than 10,000 cases using the phrase “Guilty of Conspiracy” (maybe there’s a way to change my settings to get more than 10,000 results, but I haven’t found it yet).

Moreover, as any attorney can confirm, usually only appeal court decisions are published in the Westlaw database. In other words, trial court decisions are rarely published; the only decisions normally published are those of the courts which hear appeals of the trial. Because only a very small fraction of the cases which go to trial are appealed, this logically means that the number of guilty verdicts in conspiracy cases at trial must be much, much larger than 10,000.

Moreover, “Guilty of Conspiracy” is only one of many possible search phrases to use to find cases where the defendant was found guilty of a lawsuit for conspiracy. Searching on Google, I got 3,170,000 results (as of yesterday) under the term “Guilty of Conspiracy”, 669,000 results for the search term “Convictions for Conspiracy”, and 743,000 results for “Convicted for Conspiracy”.

Of course, many types of conspiracies are called other things altogether. For example, a long-accepted legal doctrine makes it illegal for two or more companies to conspire to fix prices, which is called “Price Fixing” (1,180,000 results).

Given the above, I would extrapolate that there have been hundreds of thousands of convictions for criminal or civil conspiracy in the United States.

Finally, many crimes go unreported or unsolved, and the perpetrators are never caught. Therefore, the actual number of conspiracies committed in the U.S. must be even higher.

In other words, conspiracies are committed all the time in the U.S., and many of the conspirators are caught and found guilty by American courts. Remember, Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme was a conspiracy theory.

Indeed, conspiracy is a very well-recognized crime in American law, taught to every first-year law school student as part of their basic curriculum. Telling a judge that someone has a “conspiracy theory” would be like telling him that someone is claiming that he trespassed on their property, or committed assault, or stole his car. It is a fundamental legal concept.

Obviously, many conspiracy allegations are false (if you see a judge at a dinner party, ask him to tell you some of the crazy conspiracy allegations which were made in his court). Obviously, people will either win or lose in court depending on whether or not they can prove their claim with the available evidence. But not all allegations of trespass, assault, or theft are true, either.

Proving a claim of conspiracy is no different from proving any other legal claim, and the mere label “conspiracy” is taken no less seriously by judges.

It’s not only Madoff. The heads of Enron were found guilty of conspiracy, as was the head of Adelphia. Numerous lower-level government officials have been found guilty of conspiracy. See this, this, this, this and this.

Time Magazine’s financial columnist Justin Fox writes:

Some financial market conspiracies are real …

Most good investigative reporters are conspiracy theorists, by the way.

But Our Leaders Wouldn’t Do That

While people might admit that corporate executives and low-level government officials might have engaged in conspiracies – they may be strongly opposed to considering that the wealthiest or most powerful might possibly have done so.

But powerful insiders have long admitted to conspiracies.  For example, Obama’s Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Cass Sunstein, wrote:

Of course some conspiracy theories, under our definition, have turned out to be true. The Watergate hotel room used by Democratic National Committee was, in fact, bugged by Republican officials, operating at the behest of the White House. In the 1950s, the Central Intelligence Agency did, in fact, administer LSD and related drugs under Project MKULTRA, in an effort to investigate the possibility of “mind control.”  Operation Northwoods, a rumored plan by the Department of Defense to simulate acts of
terrorism and to blame them on Cuba, really was proposed by high-level officials ….

But Someone Would Have Spilled the Beans

A common defense to people trying sidetrack investigations into potential conspiracies is to say that “someone would have spilled the beans” if there were really a conspiracy.

But famed whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg explains:

It is a commonplace that “you can’t keep secrets in Washington” or “in a democracy, no matter how sensitive the secret, you’re likely to read it the next day in the New York Times.” These truisms are flatly false. They are in fact cover stories, ways of flattering and misleading journalists and their readers, part of the process of keeping secrets well. Of course eventually many secrets do get out that wouldn’t in a fully totalitarian society. But the fact is that the overwhelming majority of secrets do not leak to the American public. This is true even when the information withheld is well known to an enemy and when it is clearly essential to the functioning of the congressional war power and to any democratic control of foreign policy. The reality unknown to the public and to most members of Congress and the press is that secrets that would be of the greatest import to many of them can be kept from them reliably for decades by the executive branch, even though they are known to thousands of insiders.

History proves Ellsberg right. For example:

  • A BBC documentary shows that:

There was “a planned coup in the USA in 1933 by a group of right-wing American businessmen . . . . The coup was aimed at toppling President Franklin D Roosevelt with the help of half-a-million war veterans. The plotters, who were alleged to involve some of the most famous families in America, (owners of Heinz, Birds Eye, Goodtea, Maxwell Hse & George Bush’s Grandfather, Prescott) believed that their country should adopt the policies of Hitler and Mussolini to beat the great depression”

Moreover, “the tycoons told General Butler the American people would accept the new government because they controlled all the newspapers.” Have you ever heard of this conspiracy before? It was certainly a very large one. And if the conspirators controlled the newspapers then, how much worse is it today with media consolidation?

  • The government’s spying on Americans began before 9/11 (confirmed here and here. And see this.) But the public didn’t learn about it until many years later. Indeed, the the New York Times delayed the story so that it would not affect the outcome of the 2004 presidential election
  • The decision to launch the Iraq war was made before 9/11. Indeed, former CIA director George Tenet said that the White House wanted to invade Iraq long before 9/11, and inserted “crap” in its justifications for invading Iraq. Former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill – who sat on the National Security Council – also says that Bush planned the Iraq war before 9/11. And top British officials say that the U.S. discussed Iraq regime change one month after Bush took office. Dick Cheney apparently even made Iraqi’s oil fields a national security priority before 9/11. And it has now been shown that a handful of people were responsible for willfully ignoring the evidence that Iraq lacked weapons of mass destruction. These facts have only been publicly disclosed recently.  Indeed, Tom Brokaw said, “All wars are based on propaganda.”  A concerted effort to produce propaganda is a conspiracy

Moreover, high-level government officials and insiders have admitted to dramatic conspiracies after the fact, including:

The admissions did not occur until many decades after the events.

These examples show that it is possible to keep conspiracies secret for a long time, without anyone “spilling the beans”.

In addition, to anyone who knows how covert military operations work, it is obvious that segmentation on a “need-to-know basis”, along with deference to command hierarchy, means that a couple of top dogs can call the shots and most people helping won’t even know the big picture at the time they are participating.

Moreover, those who think that co-conspirators will brag about their deeds forget that people in the military or intelligence or who have huge sums of money on the line can be very disciplined. They are not likely to go to the bar and spill the beans like a down-on-their-luck, second-rate alcoholic robber might do.

Finally, people who carry out covert operations may do so for ideological reasons — believing that the “ends justify the means”. Never underestimate the conviction of an idealogue.

Conclusion

The bottom line is that some conspiracy claims are nutty and some are true.  Each has to be judged on its own facts.

Humans have a tendency to try to explain random events through seeing patterns … that’s how our brains our wired.  Therefore, we have to test our theories of connection and causality against the cold, hard facts.

On the other hand, the old saying by Lord Acton is true:

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely.

Those who operate without checks and balances – and without the disinfectant sunlight of public scrutiny and accountability – tend to act in their own best interests … and the little guy gets hurt.

The early Greeks knew it, as did those who forced the king to sign the Magna Carta, the Founding Fathers and the father of modern economics.   We should remember this important tradition of Western civilization.

Postscript: The ridicule of all conspiracy theories is really just an attempt to diffuse criticism of the powerful.

The wealthy are not worse than other people … but they are not necessarily better either.   Powerful leaders may not be bad people … or they could be sociopaths.

We must judge each by his or her actions, and not by preconceived stereotypes that they are all saints acting in our best interest or all scheming criminals.

Britain: A Client State of America

September 23rd, 2012 by Colin Todhunter

What is human decency? What does it mean to be law abiding? Last year, British PM David Cameron was all too eager to talk about such things in front of the TV cameras in the aftermath of the street disturbances in the UK. Consider his following statement.

“These are sickening scenes – scenes of people looting, vandalising, thieving, robbing, scenes of people attacking police officers and even attacking fire crews as they are trying to put out fires. This is criminality, pure and simple, and it has to be confronted and defeated. People should be in no doubt that we are on the side of the law-abiding people, who are appalled by what has happened.” 

Other senior politicians came out with similar sentiments.

How about we turn these words back on those who utter them? Let us hold them to account, according to the criteria that they use to judge and condemn others.

Many of the politicians who were mouthing such sentiments have sanctioned illegal wars and policies that have led to the deaths hundreds of thousands of people. Think back to the sanctions imposed on Iraq in the 1990s that led to the deaths of 500,000 children.

But you don’t have to think back that far. In Libya, a similar war strategy was put in place to remove another leader who would not tow the line, resulting in tens of thousands of deaths. From Afghanistan to Syria, such imperialism, such mass killing, continues to be justified on the basis of ‘humanitarianism’ or bringing ‘stability’ to a region. As the chaos and body-count piles up, so does the hypocrisy.

David Cameron condemned thousands of ordinary folk who took to the streets and looted stores. But in many respects, they were the victims of the ‘greed is good’ neo-liberal policies that Cameron supports.

Many senior politicians, with the media in tow, have been cheerleaders for the free market approach and the gamblers on Wall Street, or in the City of London, who have plunged millions into poverty across the world – a world reeling from the effects of the economic crisis induced by them.

Look around the UK – the social deprivation, the rich who have got even richer (according to economist John Foster, by one third in 2009 alone – equal to half the British deficit!) and the inequality gap that has become a chasm. Then ask, what are the real crimes? Who are the real criminals? Who has done the most thieving, the most robbing, the most looting? Who has indulged in devastating vandalism and created fires from Libya to Afghanistan? Who has looted from the poor across the world and, through the system in place, has ensured wealth flows from bottom to top?

Who has marched into other people’s countries and smashed them up?

Whose criminality is worse? The politicians, the financiers, the proponents of economic and political dogma, which serves as a masking device for militarism and brutality, or the folk who have born the brunt of it all and who then react? Some of the rioters in Britain used stones to mount smash and grab raids on high street stores. Better that than politicians who sanction drone attacks or the use of depleted uranium to bring killing and cancers to civilian populations.

While some working class youth helped themselves to all manner of consumer goods, just who did they take cue from? The great role models of the age, no doubt – the take now, pay later mentality of corporate Britain and the bankers – or, in the case of the bankers, take now and take again, but never pay back.

As many of their supposed parliamentary representatives continue to sanction the globalization of looting and mass killing that benefit their corporate masters, there is none guiltier of gross hypocrisy that William Hague, British Foreign Secretary. The blood on his hands not yet dry from Libya, he can always be relied on to try to cheer-lead the public into supporting military aggression abroad.

Dr David Halpin’s article that appeared on Global Research on 21 Sept (Britain’s Foreign Secretary’s Litany of Lies and Distortions) outlined the type of falsehoods that Hague specializes in. He continues to spew out lies and to demonise the Syrian regime and to soften up the public for possible British involvement in what could be an eventual military attack on Iran. Of course, this plays well to a mainstream media that has already spent years in conveying the notion Iran is run by a bunch of ‘mad mullahs’ and a crazyman president.

But this is to be expected. The British government is once more falling in line with US policy. As a client state of the US, something the Brits foolishly regard as a ‘special relationship’, Britain can be relied on to do Washington’s bidding. When the drum is beaten over the ransacking of the British embassy in Tehran or over Syria, the drum is provided courtesy of Washington and its corporate cartels. Like a clockwork toy monkey, Foreign Secretary Hague hits it on cue.

The polite mannerisms of members of the British government can be quite media-friendly. That’s what an Oxbridge background can provide. But once that veneer is peeled away, the true criminality of intentions and actions is laid bare. Look no further than William Hague.

Greece: Extreme Austerity is leading the EU Down the Road to Disaster

September 23rd, 2012 by Global Research News

George Gibson interviews Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras

The policy of extreme austerity is leading the European Union down the road to disaster, Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras tells the Athens News, and only a broad popular mobilisation can stop it.

He calls for a comprehensive solution to the debt of the EU South, linking debt servicing to growth, and insists that lenders will never get their money back if the memorandum is implemented. Tsipras supports a civil service overhaul with performance evaluations, but insists that mass layoffs will destroy the civil service and that the government sees evaluations as a pretext for layoffs.

The leader of the leftist coalition lashes out against the government’s privatisation proposals, charging that selling off strategic sectors will not benefit the economy, while longterm land leasing is an attempt at an unconstitutional selloff of public land.

Athens News: Prime Minister Antonis Samaras accuses your party of being the “lobby of the drachma”. How do you respond and what will your opposition strategy be? Is it feasible for the budget cuts package to be voted down in parliament and what would that take?

Alexis Tsipras: Samaras is trying to create the impression that every reaction against measures taken by his government is motivated by a scheme to return to the drachma. This is a desperate communication tactic. It is a continual attempt at deception, an extreme lie on which he tries to support his extreme policies. Everyone now understands that the fate of the common currency does not depend on the austerity programme in Greece. The government and the troika’s measures will face tremendous resistance within and without parliament. Preventing the implementation of the measures is an issue concerning all of society and Syriza will fully contribute to this effort.

 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande have stated firmly that the implementation of the memorandum is a prerequisite for Greece’s receiving the next, 31 billion euro, loan tranche and for the country’s remaining in the eurozone. Do you have reason not to believe them?

The loan instalments that are disbursed return almost entirely to our lenders – and, moreover, with a margin profit that is not at all negligible. In return, Greece is required to follow a course that reverts it many decades back, economically and socially. This leads nowhere. They know that the Greek debt cannot become sustainable this way. They know they cannot expel us from the euro. What we need is determination by the Greek people towards beginning negotiations anew, on a totally new basis.

What do you think of the EU’s efforts so far to handle the debt crisis and bolster the euro? What are the emerging power balances within the EU on this issue and is there room for an alliance or common strategy between the member states of the South?

On the path it’s on, Europe no longer has the tools to handle the crisis. The end result of the current policy will be the spreading of recession and social misery throughout the EU. Hence, we need a different Europe, one that is not held in bondage by banks, profit and the markets, but rather one orientated towards democracy, solidarity, equality and the dignity of labour. This is certainly an issue that should be addressed by regional alliances, but above all it is a matter for the peoples and societies of both the North and the South. The upcoming social struggles can challenge the dominance of the markets and their profits over people and can change the future.

Why is a possible return to a national currency worse than the vicious circle of austerity-recession-bankruptcy? Is a return to the drachma a disaster for the people, as the government argues, and what would the real impact on labour be?

A return to the drachma would benefit the financially strong and it would further widen social disparities. It would also sharpen competition with the rest of the European south. The issue is not to return to a state of competition with Spanish, Italian and Portuguese workers over who will produce more cheaply and with lower salaries. The aim is to ally ourselves with them in order to avert a socially catastrophic plan. In any event, no one can force us to leave the euro. The drachma is not an option.

What actions do you plan against the memorandum and with which political and social forces do you intend to collaborate – might they include the Independent Greeks party? Can you block the implementation of certain memorandum measures and, if so, which ones?

The great mobilisation will be undertaken by society itself, from the misery, pain and indignation caused by the memorandum measures. We will take part in these struggles with all our forces and we will go to battle both within parliament and without. What is important for us is that these struggles open the way to a great change, to an alternative political plan. On this path, an agreement with other parties is not enough: what is needed is a strategic concept of a productive reconstruction, of what we must change and how.

Which aspects of the Siemens scandal and the process of Greece’s adoption of the memorandum should potential probes by parliamentary committees explore?

The Siemens scandal is the leading example in a long chain of scandals that characterised the period of so-called development. Let us not forget that we know this because the company itself was subject to investigation. There has been a huge and unabashed effort by the two parties that ruled Greece [Pasok and New Democracy] to cover up this case. We have pledged to do everything possible to get to the bottom of it. The same stands for the memorandum, on which we have already tabled a proposal for a parliamentary probe. Greeks must know how they were dragged into this adventure, with what arrangements and with what intention.

How do you view the plan to reduce the number of civil servants through early retirement and performance evaluation?

Public sector employees are not an elite with scandalous privileges, as television depicts them. The vast majority of workers receive salaries that are at the edge of decency and which have been substantially reduced. The repercussions of this policy of massive layoffs are enormous. Entire families will be pushed into poverty and desperation. The public sector is essentially being dissolved at a time that its overhaul is needed to make it more effective. This is being done at the behest of private interests, which aim to make huge profits by exploiting large sectors of the Greek economy.

Should no one be laid off? Do you have a plan to restructure the public sector and its personnel, and would there be a place for performance evaluations?

The left was not involved in the client system set up over the last decades. It was created exclusively by the parties that ruled and their political machines. The percentage of the labour force employed in the public sector is slightly below the EU average. Those who now want to get rid of people as if they were landfill material are the very same ones who objected to all attempts to productively reform and rationalise the public sector.

Nowhere in Europe has the public sector been improved by driving it to dissolution and devaluation. You can’t do this by wholesale slaughter; it is done by planning and under a programme, which includes evaluation procedures. You don’t use these procedures as a pretext to fire people, but in order to meet the development needs of the country.

Are there privatisations that you agree with? Why is it better for the middle class to make tremendous sacrifices to repay the debt instead of selling state assets with proper planning?

There is no planning. There are only plans to pillage and grab. They privatised the shipyards and their employees are in desperation. They privatised Hellenic Telecommunications (OTE). They want to privatise water, natural gas, trains and other vital sectors, so as to profit at the expense of people’s needs. This will lead to no relief. If they want to relieve people, why don’t they break the cartels in fuel, medicine, passenger shipping and supermarkets? Why do they sell off profitable businesses like the state betting OPAP, which can contribute huge amounts to the budget? No, we will not enter a discussion on the extent and preconditions of pillaging. Their plan wants Greece’s construction capacity destroyed and we will avert that.

How do you view longterm leasing (30, 50 or 100 years) and private development of public land and real estate?

It is a pretext; it is obviously a privatisation, because in 100 years none of us will be here to check what happened. Longterm leasing is a gross ruse to sell off assets, in violation of the constitution. Public land and islands, the sale of which is being increasingly discussed, fall under this category. We are ceding control over land and productive capabilities while abolishing labour relations, town planning, environmental protection and business taxation. Greece is being transformed into a colonial country and it is ceding to private individuals every growth prospect it has – for decades. This will happen only if they can implement this plan and not stumble over fierce social reaction.

Some Syriza members blasted you for meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres. Are you against closer Greece-Israel ties and how do you see them developing? Wasn’t the Cyprus-Israel cooperation a deterrent in the face of Turkey’s threats against Cyprus’ gas and oil drilling?

The meeting with the president of Israel is part of the protocol of the Greek president’s office. We do not meet just with people with whom we agree. There was no aspect of the Palestinian problem that we did not raise at that meeting. The tightening of Greece-Israel relations goes along with the demand for a solution of the Palestinian issue, based on UN resolutions. The same applies to the Cyprus issue. We believe that energy cooperation must be based on mutual interests, relations of trust and principles of international law. They should unite peoples, instead of fuelling nationalisms and extreme elements.

Why do you want to transform Syriza into a unified party? How will you merge the ideologically diverse component groups and what would you say to those groups that oppose the move?

The need for a unified party arises from the enormous changes taking place on the political scene. The left, with its alternative political proposal, is moving to the forefront and becoming an agent of a great, historical upset. Hence, the left must become even stronger, even more serious and even more effective. We must transform the trust people showed us into an active political and social stance. Beyond their vote, we must win the consciousness of people: The left must win the hearts and minds of people, it must inspire the optimism and determination needed to change things. These are the reasons that mandate this transformation. We are not disturbed or annoyed by pluralism. We seek the broadest possible social and political consensus in favour of our political plan; this could never be achieved with absolute unanimity and inflexible ideology.

How do you view the activity of Golden Dawn, in parliament and out of it? Do you believe they are involved in attacks against migrants – possibly with the tacit consent of police – and could the party be outlawed under certain conditions?

Neo-Nazi groups act in a criminal manner and everyone knows that. They are obviously being treated with tolerance by the police, the mass media and a broad swathe of the pro-memorandum front. This tolerant attitude must end. Whether these organisations are acting within the parameters of the law is for the courts to judge. On the other hand, the fact is that a substantial segment of the electorate chose an extreme answer to the crisis by voting for the neo-Nazi party, thinking that they were casting a so-called anti-system vote. For us, political darkness can only be faced by the decisive strengthening of political consciousness. The more people realise that the answer to this crisis is unity, solidarity and struggle, the more the neo-Nazi camp will return to its isolation.

The vast majority of cuts are from wages, pensions and welfare benefits, as the government says it can’t collect 11.5 billion euros otherwise. What alternative proposals do you have for the country to meet its loan commitments?

There is just no way to extract so much money from an economy that you have already been choking for two-and-a-half years; Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras has cynically admitted that. The country’s commitments, as imposed by the memorandum, cannot be implemented, nor can they provide a solution to the debt crisis. A new negotiation [with the troika lenders] is needed. We have tabled comprehensive proposals, and they include an aggregate solution for the debt of the South, a moratorium with lenders [on debt servicing] while linking repayment with growth, the issuing of a eurobond and direct borrowing from the European Central Bank. Instead, the government is following the logic of the “disciplined prisoner”, which is proving catastrophic.

Can the government withstand a strong popular backlash against the measures and how do you view the participation of socialist Pasok and the Democratic Left in the coalition? Do you believe the latter has tarnished its leftwing credentials?

The Democratic Left is under judgment now. Up to the election day its stance was one of denouncing the memorandum, but the day after it voluntarily joined the political establishment and is exhibiting tendencies of becoming more pro-memorandum than the memorandum itself. Pasok is trying to save itself, trapped in the same inconceivable policies in which it trapped the people and the country. There is no political future for the parties of the memorandum because the policies that they have undertaken to implement are destructive and lead to a dead end. There are already very rapid shifts happening on the political scene. Society is seeking an alternative way out and it is rallying around a new, progressive alliance, with the left at its core.

How does the US further intend to “motivate or force” a bruised, thoroughly dejected and exploited Pakistan and its army into the North Waziristan Agency? And if it wants to land its boots on Pakistani soil, how does it expect Pakistan to react? Accept it as a fait accompli, ignore it passively or defend its territory aggressively? Will the US do it alone or will ‘all’ countries, comprising the US/Nato/Isaf combine, cross the Durand Line and attack Pakistan as one? Nuclear Pakistan’s and the militants’ reactions in such a scenario would constitute the biggest variables of the Afghan campaign.

[B]y bringing Pakistan into their fold, the Russians could have a sphere of influence extending from the Persian Gulf right up to the Malacca Straits and the Asia Pacific Region, including Iran, Pakistan and India. And the US will not have a single reliable ally in this entire swathe of Asian territory right up to Singapore.

Were Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and India to become full members of the SCO (on Russian initiatives), then that could be a real geopolitical or strategic game changer. The US could find itself literally outflanked in the region.

*       *      *

The geopolitics of South Central Asian Region (SCAR) and AfPak Region (APR) are in a state of massive flux. The US/Nato/Isaf combine is primed to egress as it struggles, woefully, to retain balance in a fast deteriorating strategic and geopolitical environment.

And, ominously, Russia is making its moves to get into the most advantageous position in the region – post-2014.

The USA’s planned Afghan endgame appears to be going awry. To maintain strategic direction, it must consider the numerous variables in this complex Afghan equation and make the necessary corrections in anticipation.

The US Afghan Policy:

It has lacked clarity in its conception and execution. This confused and muddled thinking is evident, prominently, as the Afghan campaign moves into its end state. Major policy ends and objectives remain to be attained, while the bugle for the retreat has already been sounded. There have been strategic, diplomatic and intelligence failures aplenty. The obtaining strategic environment is profoundly unfavourable. Is this then the desired end state that the US and its allies had envisioned and aimed for at the outset? Will the US make the required course corrections?

The US Elections:

Will it be Obama and a continuation of the Afghan policy? Will Mitt Romney, if elected, opt for radical changes in the Afghan policy or not? The Afghans, all allies and all regional countries wait with bated breath.

The US Allies:

The ‘green on blue’ murderous attacks may force a strategic pause for the US/Nato/Isaf combine, directly impacting their withdrawal schedules. Any prolonging of the US campaign will not rest easy with them or their governments. How many of them will be willing to stick with the US for another indeterminate extension?

The Afghan National Security Force (ANSF):

It is the most critical variable. With ‘green on blue’ attacks on the rise, and joint operations with US/Nato/Isaf forces on hold, its development as a thoroughly professional outfit is in doubt. It has demonstrated suspect loyalties, poor professionalism and a penchant to react aggressively to perceived slights by its foreign trainers and colleagues. It has clearly been infiltrated by the Taliban or other groups, and shows signs of progressively biased, suspicious, volatile and deadly characteristics. Its emergence as a professionally cohesive and effective force, or not, will have a decisive impact on the egress of the foreign forces and the future of post-2014 Afghanistan.

Pakistan:

It must be the most worrisome and most unpredictable of all the variables. The USA’s handling of Pakistan could not have been worse, converting a most willing ally into a very reluctant one. The USA’s two-timing and double standards (Raymond Davis, Salala, OBL, etc.,) and its contemptuous, arrogant and self-righteous attitude caused the drift. Pakistan has also suffered from the persistent infighting within the Obama administration and the resultant conflicting demands of an ill-conceived and poorly executed Afghan policy.

The situation has been further vitiated by a plethora of ill-considered anti-Pakistan diatribes by some US congressmen. As we now approach the decisive Afghan endgame a thoroughly disenchanted Pakistan’s reticence and unpredictability has become more pronounced. The USA’s nervousness and irritability has increased correspondingly, as it cannot execute its endgame successfully without a willing Pakistan. They still have no clue on how to deal with a clearly annoyed and subtly defiant Pakistan.

The Militants:

The US policy lacks clarity on dealing with the militants too. It is still undecided whether it wants to negotiate with the Taliban, or bludgeon them into submission, or weaken them enough to force them to the negotiating table. By declaring the Haqqani Network (HN) a foreign terrorist organisation (FTO), the US has closed all doors to a negotiated solution to the imbroglio. Who will they now negotiate with? If they want to eliminate the militants, then do they have the time and the political and military will to do so?

How does the US further intend to “motivate or force” a bruised, thoroughly dejected and exploited Pakistan and its army into the North Waziristan Agency? And if it wants to land its boots on Pakistani soil, how does it expect Pakistan to react? Accept it as a fait accompli, ignore it passively or defend its territory aggressively? Will the US do it alone or will ‘all’ countries, comprising the US/Nato/Isaf combine, cross the Durand Line and attack Pakistan as one? Nuclear Pakistan’s and the militants’ reactions in such a scenario would constitute the biggest variables of the Afghan campaign.

Russia:

It senses Pakistan’s inevitability in any future geopolitical or strategic developments in the region. It also senses a vacuum in the SCAR and is positioning itself to exploit it. The US-Pakistan ‘non-alliance’ is not likely to last beyond the former’s egress from the region. The Russians sense a great opportunity here. By meeting Pakistan’s energy, infrastructure, defence and trade needs, they could try to replace or complement the US, albeit at a substantially lower scale. However, by bringing Pakistan into their fold, the Russians could have a sphere of influence extending from the Persian Gulf right up to the Malacca Straits and the Asia Pacific Region, including Iran, Pakistan and India. And the US will not have a single reliable ally in this entire swathe of Asian territory right up to Singapore. This is too big a prize for Russia to give up without a try.

By winning Pakistan over, the Russians could also get access to the southern routes of egress of the US/Nato/Isaf combine, the Arabian Sea, Iran, the emerging regional trade corridors and the mineral resources of the region. Were Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and India to become full members of the SCO (on Russian initiatives), then that could be a real geopolitical or strategic game changer. The US could find itself literally outflanked in the region. How far the Russians actually succeed in this scenario would have an indelible impact on the region and US interests therein. However, could the US itself turn out to be the biggest variable in this fascinating Afghan equation? Could it reverse or adjust policy and not let Pakistan and the region slip into the Russian embrace? Time, the biggest variable of all, will tell.

The writer is a retired brigadier and a former defence attaché to Australia and New Zealand.

Early this week, sixty-five American soldiers landed in Kathmandu and moved to Dhikurpokhari of Kaski district of Nepal. They are also travelling in Manang and Mustang districts bordering China’s Tibet region. 

Ostensibly they are on a “humanitarian mission” of assessing the quality of healthcare services available to the local people. They have been meeting health workers and holding talks with NGOs working in these parts. This job could have been better accomplished by a team of public health experts in civilian dress.

In reality, it looks like an advance reconnaissance party to evaluate the nature of local terrain and assess possible local cooperation to overcome logistical bottleneck in the event of Nepal’s occupation. Nepalese Army’s senior officer is coordinating with American soldiers; again the coordination could have been better with local public health experts who are more knowledgeable in these matters. Effectively, this ‘humanitarian mission’ appears to be strictly an army matter and it stinks.

The US soldiers have never ever entered a sovereign country on a humanitarian mission anywhere in the world, except in a limited way during the Second World War and that too in Europe.

In every third world country, US Government’s ‘humanitarian mission’ has been a cover to eliminate popular leaders and/or incite civil wars.

Since there is no leader in Nepal either popular or opposed to Western domination or both, that can’t be a reason for the humanitarian mission of US soldiers. On the other hand, the undercurrent of simmering ethnic strife stoked by well funded INGOs and NGOs, USAID, FORD Foundation, Asia Foundation, George Soros’ Human Rights groups and the UN Framework Team could be used as an opportunity to grab strategic territory close to China. The construction of Lily Pad in Gorkha district, of no use to the local civilian population, is a strong indication that the US Government is planning an extremely risky surgery in the Himalayan heart.

Nepalese NGOs, people and politicians should note that Russia has expelled USAID for their nefarious activities including interference in Russia’s electoral process. [1]

Intelligence reports from North Korea confirm that US boots are also on ground there, with the connivance of Kim Jong-un’s sister and brother-in-law who want North Korea to become another star in the spangled banner.  Equaling or surpassing the Korean pecuniary motives, are the over ambitious India educated Prime Minister Bhattarai and his cohort, well known to the Nepalese people. Aptly, a leading Kathmandu daily, responding to Bhattarai’s helpless ‘power is not in my hand’, asked “So, where is the power centre?” Valid question. Since Bhattarai doesn’t know where his power stems from, who allowed the US soldiers on the Nepalese soil is a moot question.  If the Prime Minister approved it then Nepal has a huge problem as it amounts to surrender of national sovereignty.

State of Nepal’s political institutions and politicians

At this juncture, Nepal’s governed under the 2007 Interim Constitution; the mandated tenure of the Constituent Assembly [CA] expired on 27th May, 2012. The mandate to the Prime Minister stands on pretty shaky ground, yet, he somehow managed to represent Nepal in the recently concluded Non-Aligned Movement [NAM] summit in Teheran. Along with him went twenty without people’s mandate. During preparations in Kathmandu, ambassadors of Israel, US and UK made several visits to the Foreign Ministry to dissuade the troupe not to go to Teheran because ‘it’d send a wrong signal that Nepal supports a terrorist state.’ Did any senior leader give a press statement that Iran is not a terrorist state? I can’t recall even one senior politician stating that Nepal is a sovereign state and at full liberty to enter into any relationship with any country including Iran. [2] Only one person Dr Shashank Koirala, BP Koirala’s youngest son, has said “International forces perceive China as the future super power. They thus want to unnerve China by provoking aTibetan issue through the Nepali soil”, as reported in The Telegraph Nepal.

On the contrary, while leaders have been asserting that Nepal is a buffer state between China and India, during the past two decades these very politicians, willingly or unwillingly, have allowed infamous international institutions with known history of covertly engineering civil wars in third world countries, to expand their activities in Nepal which threatens peace and stability in border areas of China and India. Worse, the situation they have created will make life miserable for the Nepalese people and for the ethnic minorities in some of the most sensitive regions.

Learning from history

After the untimely demise of King Mahendra Vir Vikram Shahdev’s in 1972, not one Nepali leader, including the well meaning late King Virendra, has shown the perspicacity of steadfastly remaining neutral in regional power politics panning out now under the Zionist Neo-Conservative sponsored Project for the New American Century [PNAC]. If King Virendra had his father’s insight into the subtle manipulations of the western powers, he would not have allowed Kathmandu to become the South Asian operational base of fifth columnist INGOs and NGO and all the Trojan horses of rogue international developmental agencies. It was King Mahendra who had a consistent policy of keeping Nepal as a buffer state between China and India, leaning towards China, and keeping western powers’ illicit and perverted designs at bay.

Recall that the moment King Mahendra found out that the then Prime Minister BP Koirala had secured arms from Israel to overthrow monarchy he ordered his arrest and imprisoned him for treason. His advisors were astute analysts and nationalists. They knew how the British and CIA had engineered the murder of democracy and violent overthrow of Mossadeq of Iran in 1953 to install a brutal despot, the ‘Shah’ as King of Iran. They also knew that Americans had a hand in democratically elected Pakistani Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan’s assassination to install a military dictator five years later [Ayub Khan] as an agent of chaos in South and West Asia. Throughout the 1950s and 60s, one after another, democratically elected popular leaders were removed or murdered by the same western powers whose soldiers are on ground in Nepal today. The current Nepali leadership is complicit in defiling God’s own divine soil.

Delve into the history of Indonesia where popular leader Sukarno was removed and a brutal dictatorship of Suharto was installed. Both USAID and FORD Foundation played pernicious role and Mrs. Ann Dunham Soetoro, mother of the US President Barak Hussain Obama whose real name is Barry Soetoro and has travelled to South Asia [Pakistan] on an Indonesian passport with his mother, working as anthropologist for the CIA, handed over a complete list of every ethnic group that had even remotest communist leaning. Ann Dunham, according to Wayne Madsen’s sources, was perhaps responsible for a quarter million to one million Indonesians slaughtered by Suharto in league with the CIA. [3]

Complete list of every ethnic group in Nepal by number of households, population, residence, social structure, economic activity, and religious and political affiliations are known to CIA, MI6, and MOSSAD. That list was prepared by the Christian Church under Joshua Project and that list is in the public domain. Similar lists have been prepared for Burma, Northeastern region of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Scientific Committee of the Vatican, despite opposition of many Archbishops, approved the use of Genetically Engineered Seeds on 17th May, 2009, and the USAID and MONSANTO have already announced in league with stupid Nepalese Agricultural scientists to promote GM seeds; this will decimate Nepalese population within two generations. [4] Contrary to media reports, the US and NATO forces are unlikely to leave Afghanistan and the US will further intensify Drone attacks on Pakistani people.

Nepalese people should further note that Islamic Relief Worldwide [IRW] working in Nepal is under heavy scanner in India for funding Islamic terrorist activities in South Asia. There are hard evidences that the European Community headquartered in Brussels directly funds their activities in South Asia controlled from Dacca. [5] This organization also gets Wahhabi funds from Saudi Arabia whose rulers are Zionists closely allied with Israeli Government. This network coordinates with the Chabad Lubavitchers and the Tibetan refugee centres in Kathmandu and funds hard drug production and distribution via Nepal which Nepalese authorities can’t control. [6]

 

Nepalese people should watch every move of foreign agencies and that of their politicians carefully. They can’t be trusted exactly as the leaders thousand mile West-South of Kathmandu can’t be trusted by 1.2 billion Indians. Sitting silently in the hope that the current crop of leaders or the ethnic federalists NGOs will provide them with stable and democratic Government is tantamount to national suicide. Trusting European and American institutions to help them would be even more foolish.

Notes:

[1] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-09-20/russia-expels-usaid/4271094

Most people don’t realize that USAID is a division of the US-Department of Defense and serves the expansionary imperialist agenda of the US Government and their cohorts in West Europe, especially UK.

[2] I don’t have access to all the Nepali dailies. If any leader has responded to the three ambassadors’ interference in Nepal’s sovereign right to decide its foreign policy, then I apologize and stand corrected.

[3] Wayne Madsen; “The Manufacturing of a President”-How the CIA ‘inserted’ Barak Hussain Obama into the White House; Lulu Publication; 2012

Wayne Madsen is a former US Naval intelligence officer and a well known investigative journalist. He has extensive intelligence network in Asia and has the canny ability to accurately predict events by connecting the dots.

[4]   Weaponization of the food system-Genetically engineered maize threatens Nepal and the Himalayan region;  Centre for Research on Globalization; 2012. http://www.globalresearch.ca/weaponization-of-the-food-system-genetically-engineered-maize-threatens-nepal-and-the-himalayan-region/

A recent French study shows that rats fed GM foods develop cancers and vital organ failure. If Nepal’s agricultural scientists, with dollars rammed down their throats, think that Nepalese people are laboratory rats, and they can live with this scenario, then I have no further comments, except that Nepal will be completely depopulated in two generations and that will affect China and India and the entire Himalayan region too. Nepal’s Agricultural scientists can amass wealth but they have no right to kill people in three countries because of their stupidity.

[5] Islamic Relief Worldwide is registered in Birmingham, UK. They are the conduit of European Community funding of social chaos and terrorism in South Asia. India’s Home Ministry has extensive documents tracking their nefarious activities. Nepal should ban their activities but, unfortunately, Nepal does not have a leader who has the anatomical feature of having a spine.

[6] Political Crisis in Nepal; Centre for Research on Globalization; 2012 http://www.globalresearch.ca/weaponization-of-the-food-system-genetically-engineered-maize-threatens-nepal-and-the-himalayan-region/