Medio Oriente: lo zio Sam indietreggia mentre l’orso russo avanza

January 10th, 2014 by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

L’egemonia statunitense in Medio Oriente sta declinando e gli alleati degli USA nella regione stanno cominciando a prendere in considerazione delle alternative ai tradizionali legami con Washington.

Non facciamoci illusioni: la Guerra Fredda non è mai finita per lo “Zio Sam”. Gli USA hanno lavorato strategicamente per indebolire sia la Federazione Russa che la Repubblica Popolare Cinese. La strategia di Washington in Medio Oriente ed i suoi atti ostili contro Iran e Siria sono parte integrante della sua linea di attacco contro Mosca e Pechino.

Nonostante gli sforzi dell’Amministrazione Obama, il ruolo decisivo che gli Stati Uniti hanno svolto dal 1945 in poi nell’instabile Medio Oriente, vessato dalle costanti ingerenze straniere e dalle meschine rivalità tra dinastie e potenze regionali, si sta ridimensionando. I venti impetuosi che spirano in quell’area stanno cancellando le sue vecchie tracce, mentre gli avvenimenti regionali e mondiali le stanno sostituendo con altre.
La Pax Americana è morta. Va comunque detto che non ha mai avuto molto a che fare con la pace. Questo termine indica, nel contesto mediorientale, il periodo di dominio statunitense nella regione, iniziato dopo la Seconda Guerra Mondiale e che ha raggiunto il suo apice nel 1978. L’anno seguente si produsse la Rivoluzione Islamica Iraniana. Il punto di non ritorno nel costante declino dell’influenza di Washington è stato segnato pochi decenni dopo dai monumentali errori del Presidente George W. Bush Jr.

Il costante declino degli USA in Medio Oriente

Condoleeza Rice, segretaria di Stato dell’Amministrazione Bush Jr. era molto sicura che l’egemonia di Washington si sarebbe ulteriormente estesa in tutto il Medio Oriente. Durante la guerra israeliana contro il Libano del 2006 dichiarò trionfalmente che la mappa mediorientale sarebbe cambiata definitivamente a vantaggio degli USA. Ma Israele perse la guerra e le cose non andarono secondo i piani. L’influenza della grande potenza a stelle e strisce iniziò a diminuire, mentre quella dei suoi rivali stava aumentando.

Il popolo palestinese (sempre nel 2006, ndt) elesse democraticamente la propria rappresentanza, scegliendo Hamas. Questa organizzazione islamica non solo ottenne dagli elettori il controllo di Gaza, ma lo mantenne anche dopo che gli Stati Uniti cospirarono con Israele, Arabia Saudita, l’Egitto di Hosni Mubarak, il caudillo palestinese Mohammed Dahlan e con il leader della ANP, Mahmoud Abbas (il cui ruolo è quasi simbolico), per rovesciare il Governo del movimento islamico a Gaza.

Il blocco economico, il sabotaggio politico, la mini guerra contro Fatah e la serie di aggressioni armate intraprese da Israele non sono riusciti a rovesciare il potere di Hamas nella piccola fascia di terra sul Mar Mediterraneo.

L’influenza di Hezbollah (“Partito di Dio”, ndt) in Libano è aumentata in modo spettacolare. L’Alleanza 14 marzo, organizzazione libanese diretta da Hariri e patrocinata da Washington e alleati contro Hezbollah, si è dimostrata impotente rispetto al suo compito di neutralizzare il Partito di Dio ed i suoi alleati politici libanesi riuniti nell’Alleanza 8 marzo. Anche se diversi rapporti finalizzati alla disinformazione politica continuano a diffondere l’idea che l’intervento di Hezbollah in Siria avrebbe indebolito e minato la popolarità dell’organizzazione in Libano è vero esattamente il contrario. L’intelligence israeliana, in un rapporto firmato dal Mossad, ha dovuto ammettere che in realtà per Hezbollah è iniziata una vera e propria età dell’oro.

Tenendo conto di tutto ciò, non si vede applicato da nessuna parte il piano statunitense di ridefinire le frontiere mediorientali, che ha l’obiettivo di creare Stati più piccoli e quindi più facilmente controllabili da Washington, al fine di mantenere il suo ordine imperiale. Ma non si può negare che gli incendi causati da questo progetto continuino ad ardere in Siria e Iraq e che il piano abbia raggiunto dei risultati, per esempio, nella divisione del Sudan e nella destabilizzazione del Nord Africa.

Un impero che si sta sfaldando

Gli USA non hanno neutralizzato i loro due principali avversari in Medio Oriente. È fallito l’obiettivo del cambio di regime a Damasco e Washington non ha scatenato il potere bellico del Pentagono sulla Siria. Un accordo transitorio tra Stati Uniti e Iran sul nucleare è stato raggiunto a Ginevra.

Le ragioni dello sfaldamento del potere statunitense non sono né la decisione di Washington di non intraprendere una guerra contro la Siria né quella di arrivare finalmente a un accordo con gli iraniani. Questo potere era già in declino. L’Amministrazione Obama ha accettato di accordarsi con Siria e Iran per cercare di mantenere l’influenza nordamericana in Medio Oriente e rallentare il suo declino.

Gli alleati e “clienti” degli USA nel frattempo lanciano fulmini e saette, sono impauriti. Visto il declino di Washington stanno a poco a poco diversificando le loro relazioni internazionali. Da Tel Aviv a Riad, i governi finora fedeli agli Stati Uniti si sono resi conto che l’ombrello protettivo della grande potenza sta cominciando a fare acqua e si sono messi a cercare alternative al patrocinio nordamericano.

L’orso russo sta per tornare sul delta del Nilo?

L’Amministrazione USA ha dichiarato il 9 ottobre 2013 che avrebbe tagliato parte della sua assistenza militare all’Egitto. Questo passo è stato ritenuto parte integrante della ridefinizione della politica nordamericana in Medio Oriente. L’esercito egiziano lo ha criticato, considerandolo un atto che ostacolerebbe e indebolirebbe le forze armate del Paese nordafricano nel momento in cui sta lottando contro elementi destabilizzatori, soprattutto nella Penisola del Sinai.

L’aiuto statunitense all’esercito egiziano è diminuito. L’Arabia Saudita e le petro-monarchie del Golfo Persico sono state segretamente sub-contrattate per soppiantare l’assistenza d’oltreoceano. Ben fatto dal punto di vista di Washington, che non si può più permettere di finanziare le forze armate del Cairo. Anche l’Egitto si rende conto dello stato di decadenza in cui versano gli USA e ha cominciato a cercare alternative al patrocinio della grande potenza.

L’11 novembre 2013, circa un mese dopo la parziale sospensione degli aiuti militari da parte di Washington, una nave da guerra lanciamissili russa, la Varyag, ha fatto scalo nel porto egiziano di Alessandria, nel Mar Mediterraneo. Alcuni giorni dopo la Boris Butoma, nave ausiliaria dell’armata russa adibita all’approvvigionamento, ha attraccato in quello di Safaga, sempre in Egitto.  Nessuna nave della Russia aveva più fatto scalo in Egitto dal 1992 e Mosca non aveva una presenza militare significativa nel Paese nordafricano dai tempi dell’era sovietica durante la Guerra Fredda.

Il 13 novembre 2013 il Cremlino ha affiancato la diplomazia agli sbarchi delle sue navi. Il ministro russo degli Esteri Sergei Lavrov e quello della Difesa Sergei Shoigu si sono recati in Egitto accompagnati da folte delegazioni. Lavrov ha definito “storico” questo avvenimento. Il Cremlino ha inviato i due ministri al Cairo per tastare il polso all’Egitto.

Le domande da porsi per capire le reali intenzioni del Cairo sono diverse: le alte cariche egiziane stanno tendendo la mano a Mosca per fare pressione su Washington o perché sperano veramente di trovare nella Russia un interlocutore alternativo? In altre parole: L’Egitto si sta rivolgendo al Cremlino per mercanteggiare con Casa Bianca e Dipartimento di Stato oppure per svincolarsi dal loro controllo e dalle loro pressioni?

Il segretario di Stato John Kerry è volato al Cairo dopo la visita russa, intenzionato a preservare l’influenza statunitense. Il regime egiziano, a quanto si sa, vuole ottenere flessibilità e vantaggi per depotenziare il controllo statunitense ed evitare di crollare assieme all’ordine imperialista della grande potenza americana. La caduta dei Fratelli Musulmani e la dissoluzione dell’alleanza regionale in Siria hanno inviato un messaggio negativo a tutti gli alleati e clienti degli USA. Tutti in Medio Oriente, sia i corrotti che i giusti, sanno oggi più che mai che Washington non li proteggerà. Si sono anche resi conto che chi si è alleato con Mosca e Teheran è rimasto in piedi.

La resurrezione della Russia in Medio Oriente

La Federazione Russa è già diventata il secondo fornitore di armi all’Egitto dopo che l’Amministrazione degli Stati Uniti d’America ha deciso di ridurre il suo aiuto militare al Cairo. Mosca sta semplicemente approfittando del ritiro degli USA per consolidare e migliorare i suoi rapporti commerciali con l’Egitto. Ma i russi non vendono armi soltanto al grande Paese nordafricano. L’Iraq ha firmato nel 2012 un contratto per forniture belliche da parte del Cremlino, che è così diventato il secondo fornitore di armi a Baghdad dopo gli Stati Uniti.

Le amichevoli relazioni della Federazione Russa con l’Iran e con tutti gli altri Stati del Blocco di Resistenza (formato da Iran, Siria, Hezbollah ed alleati, esponenti palestinesi e in misura crescente dall’Iraq, ndt) hanno procurato al gigante euro-asiatico un certo vantaggio in Israele. Il gran numero di immigrati russi e di russofoni presenti nello Stato ebraico ha contribuito all’influenza della Russia. La presenza di una numerosa comunità russofona in Israele è una delle ragioni per le quali i politici dello Stato ebraico si recano in visita nel Paese euro-asiatico e si avvalgono di “sponsor” russi durante le loro campagne elettorali. Mosca ha inoltre fatto parte dell’inetto Quartetto per il Medio Oriente, costituito nel 2002 e che si presume abbia il compito di  mediare tra israeliani e palestinesi.

L’influenza di Mosca nella regione ha fatto costanti progressi dal 2011 ad oggi. La Federazione Russa ha rafforzato le sue relazioni con il Libano e iniziato un dialogo strategico con Hezbollah.

I siriani sono criticamente grati alla Russia per il suo sostegno. La Federazione Russa, insieme all’Iran, ha avuto una notevole influenza su Damasco e l’ha aiutata a resistere al tentativo di cambio di regime. L’attacco terroristico contro l’ambasciata di Mosca nella capitale siriana testimonia l’importanza del ruolo svolto dalla potenza euro-asiatica.

Sarebbe un errore pensare che l’incremento della presenza russa in Medio Oriente rappresenti una sorta di “riapparizione” di questo Paese in una regione, quella mediorientale, che ha sempre avuto molti rapporti con la vicina Federazione Russa. L’influenza di Mosca sta aumentando nella misura in cui quella di Washington sta diminuendo.

Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, sociologo e analista geopolitico, ha vinto vari premi per le sue opere.

Traduzione di Sandro Scardigli per l’Associazione Politica e Culturale MARX XXI

On December 5th, yet another war led by foreign powers broke out in Africa, and like the one in Mali, it was led at the helm by the French. The UN Security Council unanimously passed a resolution which authorized the deployment of French and African troops in the Central African Republic. At the same time, Chad, Cameroon, South Africa, Angola, Morocco, Burundi, Rwanda, the Republic of Congo, and other African countries, sent troops. Other countries like the UK, Germany, Spain, Denmark and Poland provided logistical support, while Belgium and the US provided air support by transporting the peacekeeping troops.

To pay for this war, which is a huge expense, France paid a good portion, along with the US pitching in $60 million, and Canada even pitching in a little. On January 20th, the full financing of international donors will come into view as EU and UN donors will meet and decide how much money they are giving to support the intervention. All the while, high-level UN officials have said that “a strong peacekeeping force” is needed in the Central African Republic and that 6,000 to 9,000 UN Peacekeepers would be needed to “stabilize the country.” This brings one to the question of who or what is being stabilized by the military intervention in the Central African Republic and what the real goals are, other than professed humanitarian reasons.

There is already some signs that the stabilization is not going very well for the population of the Central African Republic. 935,000 have been displaced by the conflict in the country, with more than 74% being internally displaced and more than 26% leaving to neighboring countries according to the UN High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR). As a recent Reuters article noted, “the deployment of 1,600 French and nearly 4,000 African Union peacekeepers has done little to contain the tit-for-tat violence between religious communities.” Already, numerous French troops and AU peacekeepers have died in action while many residents of the country continue to be killed, wounded, mutilated, and beheaded, numbers which grow day by day. The humanitarian crisis continues to get worse with over 600,000 internally displaced by December 30th of 2013. This is compounded by the fact that the President and his family, who came to power in a coup last year, have fled the country for Benin.

France: the gendarme of Africa?

What Roosevelt says connects to the fact that the French multinational nuclear energy company, Areva “mines the Bakouma uranium deposit in the CAR’s south” which Reuters describes as “France’s biggest commercial interest in its former colony.” [6] This reality runs deep into the reasons for intervention. As Francois Hollande, the fake socialist and really neoliberal, president of France, declared to the government-owned Radio France Internationale (RFI), that while the “intervention will cost about 400-500 million euros…[which] may seem like a lot, especially at a time when we have budget constraints and we demand sacrifices of French people” it is based in the “role of France” he believes to be true: “the responsibility of France…is to be a world power.”

That same day, Hollande told the Telegraph that “we think that it should not cost France anything as I have spoken to you of European financing…I would hope that they [European Union] can contribute more, be in the forces that we could mutualise.” Only the day before, he had said at end of a summit between France and African leaders that 1,600 troops in the Central African Republic will be “a number that will remain as long as necessary for this mission.” In that same article, an anonymous source from the French defense ministry source claimed that “there were patrols all night, including some on foot. We are going everywhere.”

This is partially confirmed by the fact that “French jets and surveillance aircraft” flew over parts of the country, while in the neighboring country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, five drones were deployed in the first use of “unmanned surveillance aircraft” by the UN for “peacekeeping efforts.” As for Hollande, drones were not his major aim, but rather it was mounting a rhetorical defense of the intervention by telling a group of French troops that it was “necessary if one wants to avoid carnage here” and that “it was time to act. It was soon going to be too late.” He added that fighting in the country was “taking on a religious dimension with the risk of leading to a civil war” and that “France is not here in the CAR out of any self-interest. France has come to defend human dignity.” These words seemed to echo what he said back in October, at a meeting with South African President Jacob Zuma: “there is a political emergency because there is no state. There is also an emergency at a regional level because there is a risk of spillover. We might witness religious conflict.”

What Hollande is saying is only the beginning of French officials covering and defending the intervention. In a purportedly non-interventionist manner, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius declared that since “the democratic situation has been re-established,” France doesn’t need to provide assistance or “get involved” in the troubles in Mali, but that: “France intervened and we can say it saved Mali. But it’s not up to us to be the gendarme of Africa.” A gendarme is “a police officer in any of several European countries, esp. in France,” [6] which in this context would be the policeman of Africa, since neo-colonial domination is deeply patriarchal. The idea that France is not ‘policing’ is frankly absurd. As a Reuters article reminds us, the Central African Republic “has seen little stability in five decades, and France has intervened more times since independence in 1960 than in any of its former colonies” which is partially evidenced by the fact that “under a 1960 defence accord, France is obligated to intervene in the event of foreign aggression.”

This is why some say that France has conduced a forty-year secret war in Central Africa. In the last sentence of an article in The Telegraph, which almost seems to be an afterthought, it importantly points out that “since 2011, France has intervened in four African states: in Ivory Coast…in Libya, in Mali and now in the Central African Republic.” Only a few days before the intervention in Central Africa officially began, France quietly sent more troops to complement the 2,600 African Union troops then in the country and in later November, as the Christian Science Monitor noted, France planned “to boost its force there to around 1,000 troops to restore law and order until a much bigger African Union force fully deploys.” In all of Africa, France has 6,275 troops as of December 2013, the most recent information,which is between 74-75% of its overseas deployments. If this isn’t enough, at the end of the summit between Africa leaders and French officials on December 8th, Hollande pledged to “help the African Union turn its plans for a rapid reaction force into a functioning unit by 2015” by offering “to provide equipment, logistical support and training for 20,000 troops from the continent every year for five years” while trying to persuade “Britain, Germany and other EU partners to help finance the equipment and arms the new force will require.” This huge commitment is a sign of France’s lasting presence in Africa, especially over in its former colonies.

There is something that proves Hollande was wrong: a war for securing resources, blatant imperialism. Unlike Obama’s speech at the UN, French politicians haven’t in recent years blatantly declared their imperialist motives. With the war in Libya, many nations rushed in to support the rebel forces officially for humanitarian reasons, but really about acquiring or protecting the oil supply. Like in Mali, France also led the charge, with the objectives being about making sure that uranium reserves in Niger were untouched by violence, and possibly also helping international mining companies as well. These events must be seen in context of the overall French foreign policy in regards to Africa. A document written by Paul Melly and Vincent Darracq for the London think thank, Chatham House, in May 2013, describes this policy well, noting that: “France wields a level of influence in sub-Saharan Africa that it cannot command anywhere else in the world…Africa accounts for 3 per cent of France’s exports and remains an important supplier of oil and metals…[such as] uranium…sub-Saharan Africa is an important market for French logistics, service, telecoms and infrastructure companies.”

The policy that Chatham House describes is definitely active in the Central African Republic. In 2008, the majority French state-owned multinational corporation, Areva, [7] signed a “uranium mining deal with Central African Republic” but only a year earlier, Francois Bozize, the President of the Central African Republic who was ousted, said that the acquisition of UraMin by Areva “without our consent” and said that he wouldn’t let the country’s economy “be bandied about in a game between capitalists on the London Stock Exchange.” Over two years later, Areva “suspended its uranium mining project in the Central African Republic for two years” due to a fall in prices in uranium after the Fukashima disaster, which means it was scheduled to reopen operations in November 2012 and “ramp[ing] up to full production in 2014-15” as noted by the World Nuclear Association. It is important to remember, that as the World Bank noted, Areva also “controls most of Niger’s uranium industry.” With the tensions between numerous groups, Areva, as noted by Bloomberg News, began removing employees from their Bakouma uranium mine after an attack the previous year. There were been numerous attacks on Areva properties including one in January in which hundreds attacked a uranium exploration site, taking “computers and looted houses” and another, well-known one, in June, with gunmen attacking a uranium plant and doing some material damage to a site “considered important by Areva.” Still, France did not intervene.

The importance of the uranium mine and exploration in the country likely got the attention of the French government. As an article in The Guardian in January 2013 noted, France has 250 troops in the country at the time, with the government saying that it would “only deploy them to protect its embassy and other interests” and the article then noted that “there are around 1,200 French citizens in the country, many working for mining firms, such as French nuclear giant Areva, which has a significant uranium mine in south-east CAR.” If this couldn’t be made any clearer, a BBC article around the same time pointed out that “France… dispatched additional troops to the country to protect its nationals, many of whom work in Areva’s large uranium mine at Bakouma in the south-east of the country.” The underlying truth should be clear: France deployed the troops to protect the uranium operations conducted by Areva. Since the France’s “main source of electricity generation is nuclear power” as noted by the Energy Information Agency (EIA) of the US Department of Energy, uranium deposits would be important for their national security. In May 2012, Juliette Poirson wrote on the site of the World Information Service on Energy, a review of a book by Raphael Granvaud titled Areva en Afrique (Areva in Africa), that “the great development of French civilian and military nuclear power have been possible thanks to the exploitation of the soil of French African colonies….and then of African independent countries” making “French energy independence” a myth which is further proven by the continuing “collusion between politics and interests of the French nuclear industry.”This conclusion, that the war is related to France’s security connected to a mineral, uranium is held by others across the board and is the main reason for intervening in the country.

French-backed currency, the EU and African elite

The French-led imperialist war, as it should be called, is not only in their hands, but also that of the African-led force called MISCA. The Lieutenant General Babacar Gaye, who leads the mission, graduated from École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr (ESM), the premier military academy in France, seemingly their version of West Point. This force includes soldiers who have been transferred from the Multinational Force of Central Africa, an AU military mission, which was comprised of soldiers from Gabon, Chad, Republic of Congo, and Cameroon along with those serving as part of MICROPAX, a peacekeeping mission led by the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), which is part of the AU.

This is important to point out, because it directly connects to France’s economic policy in regards to Central Africa. As the founder Christof Lehmann writes on the online newspaper, NSNBC International, and political consultant, the Central African CFA Franc, the currency of the all of the states of ECCAS, “is printed under supervision of the French National Bank,” but is issued by the region’s central bank the Bank of Central African States (BEAC) which France has veto power over. All the while, “foreign currency reserves…[are] subject to deposition” in the central bank of France, Banque de France, including those which are gold. He says all of these things are, in his view, “indebting and enslaving Africans by means of Africa’s own wealth” and are “not only bleeding Africa…[but] increasingly bleeding both the French and European economies.” This is only the tip of the iceburg.

The West African CFA franc, is printed in a similar manner, and is also “guaranteed by the French treasury” and France also has a veto over the region’s central bank, called the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO). This means that fourteen countries in total have their currencies, which are pegged to the Euro, guaranteed by Banque de France, which is linked to the European Central Bank, a total of over 123 million people, a massive exploitation by the French government of poor Africans. This is important to note, because it could be a reason for intervention by European states, along with the EU’s involvement in Central Africa’s Rainforests and the recent declaration that the EU is considering deploying an additional 1,000 troops to the country.

The deep connection between the French state and the fourteen African governments, is likely a motivator for some members to send troops to the Central African Republic, not the bribes and support that the government gave African dictators in the past.[8] This shows that Cornel West was right: “African and Latin American regimes [are] still grappling with postcolonial European and U.S. economic domination.” [9] Interestingly, Dembassa Worogagoi, the ambassador of said country appointed by Bozize, asked from help from the French at the UN on November 25th: “it is during difficult times that we recognize our friends” and also said that day that the country would like to see the “the African-led MISCA…supported and equipped by the United Nations, with the logistical support of France.”

While some say that France wants to overthrow the current government, one can’t be so sure. After all, the current prime minister of the Central African Republic, Nicolas Tiangaye, a choice of the rebels, went to the summit of African leaders. According to the International Business Times, he “welcomed the French intervention and called for international support,” saying that the country needed “massive humanitarian aid…[because] there is a risk of famine.” It is important to remember that the rebel government, led by Djotodia has promised “to review all mining deals, but those awarded to richer states are likely to be secure [including] the French billion dollar uranium project in Bakouma…and…[the] Canadian gold mining company Axmin Inc” which was recently approved by an interim council. WSWS added to this, noting that the “Djotodia…already announced that he will review the CAR’s mining and oil contracts with China, signed by the Bozizé government.” Despite this, on December 8th, Hollande said “I don’t want to point fingers but we cannot keep in place a president who was not able to do anything, or even worse, who let things happen,” and that he wants Djotodia to go and have elections to replace him as “fast as possible.”

Sources tell Reuters that Michel Djotodia “is due to step down at a summit of regional leaders” partly because other African leaders had run out of patience with him. Part of the reason Canada is involved in the country is that Axamin, a Canadian international mining company, has a gold mine, called the Passendro Gold Project, to which the company claimed had a total reserve of 1.4 million ounces of gold which is equivalent of approximately 3,348 gold bars. At the same time, South Africa, Angola, Burundi, Rwanda and the Republic of Congo, have their own reasons, to enrich their elite or to maintain regional stability to join in the fight. In the end, French credit insurer COFACE writes on their profile of the Central African Republic, that insecurity in the country “is curbing investment development” while “growth, which leads into the reasons the US joined in the scramble.

The business of America in Africa is business

When the war began, the United States government didn’t hold back at endorsing the intervention. Current National Security Adviser Susan Rice, who holds assets in Bank of America, Deutsche Bank, Honda, AOL, Monsanto, Shell, TransCanada, McDonalds, and other corporations, according to her most recent financial disclosure report, remarked at the Human Rights First Annual Summit, a day before the intervention, that the US is taking “on the deteriorating situation and increasing violence in the Central African Republic” by “working this week at the UN to support African Union forces protecting civilians, to provide humanitarian assistance, and to investigate human rights abuses so the perpetrators can be held accountable.” The next day, Press Secretary Jay Carney wrote that the UN resolution was “an important step in preventing further atrocities or an escalation of the violence,” and that African and French forces will “protect civilians, restore security, and ensure humanitarian access” while the US government evaluates what it will do next. Only a few days later, Obama made a plea for the warring factions in the country to “reject violence” and he said that the US government will support the intervention in Central African Republic, which he said will “protect civilians.”

As the next month rolled by, the US first said that it was providing $40 million in aid, then by December 19th, it was “$101 million in support for restoring security” in the country which was mostly of a military nature. Aid wasn’t all: the US began ferrying African troops to the Central African Republic on December 9th, an action which was requested by the French.

At the same time, the US has special forces in the country, which are not counted as boots on the ground, as noted by a Washington Post article in April 2012 and President Obama’s message to Congress in December. In this message, Obama wrote that there were a number of officially deemed ‘counterterrorism’ operations in Africa: “the capturing longtime al-Qa’ida member Abu Anas al Libi” in Libya, a military raid in Somalia, the stationing of 200 military personnel in Niger to provide intelligence for French troops who are still in Mali, the continued deployment of 120 military personnel in Central Africa officially to go after Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), 715 military personnel staying in Egypt as part of the “Multinational Force and Observers” and others staying in Libya. On top of this, as noted by a map of US and French military operations in Africa, made by Philippe Rekacewicz, the US gives military aid in the form of training special forces to Mali, Niger, Chad, Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, Kenya, Mauritania, and Senegal, along with a US naval presence off the coast of Gabon, a US base in Djibouti.

That’s not all. In almost a band across the middle of the continent, the United States has deployed special forces and other military personnel, as a map complementing an article in Foreign Policy magazine points out. Near the Central African Republic, the US even has numerous flight bases, specifically in South Sudan, Niger, Burkina Faso and Uganda as noted by Public Intelligence.

While increased US presence in Africa could lay the groundwork for intervention, this is not really what is at stake. The answer lies in the official documents that set the foundation for US national security policy. The first of these is the current National Security Strategy, which is due to be replaced this year with a new one that last the rest of his years. There is a major focus on the Middle East and North Africa, just like the speech Obama made to the UN, but the document still says “…as long as we are dependent on fossil fuels, we need to ensure the security and free flow of global energy resources…We will stimulate our energy economy at home, reinvigorate the U.S. domestic nuclear industry.” One could make a logical connection to the uranium deposits, saying that the US government wants to secure those in central Africa to help the domestic nuclear industry, but no government policy or action shows this to be true. Involvement in the intervention of central Africa doesn’t even seem to be connected to US’s non-tolerant attitude toward an energy supply cut off in North Africa and the Mideast. The US, through covert methods which are “out of the public eye” have expanded in Africa, along with so-called access agreements that allows deep cooperation between the US military and African forces. In fact, the US has engaged in a war for oil in Africa already: Libya in 2011, which was to protect the volatile oil markets and secure better contracts for international petroleum corporations, the first major war the US has had in Africa since the Barbary Wars of the early 1800s which one of the first public displays through military might of the dirty energy doctrine. Additionally, the positioning of US special forces in Uganda officially to go after Joseph Kony was “likely because of huge oil deposits” in the country, the U.S. government is also concerned about oil in the Sudans, assistance in Mali was seemingly connected to oil deposits, and there is a growing importance of African oil to the United States, since 25% of US oil consumption is estimated to come from West Africa by 2015 as noted by Chatham House. AFRICOM or Africa Command, which was created in 2008, is related to this phenomenon and is connected to the growing empire of bases across the continent while engaging in war where terror is invoked but resources are the real underlying reason. Let us not forget that the Obama Administration has used the US armed forces more times in Africa than any other President in US history.[10]

As for the Central African Republic, the reason for US assistance mainly seems to lie in something different than just a hunt for resources. Valerie Jarrett, Obama’s senior advisor, said ominously that “we all know that Africa is the new center of global growth.” I’m not sure who ‘we’ is referring to but I can infer that ‘global growth’ means the expansion of the wealth of the rich through corporate investments, individual finances and so on. The quote by Jarrett was tied into the hoopla over Obama’s trip to Africa, in June 2013, described in Jarrett’s same blogpost which outlined the trip’s three main goals: increasing US trade and investment, creating “strong democratic institutions,” and training the “next generation of African leaders.” The last one is possibly more important than the others because if these new leaders, if they get into office, will have a positive impression of the United States, likely influencing them to make sure that American multinationals are favored while cooperating with and assisting continued US military domination over Africa. There is one document written in June 2012 titled US Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa that seems to be part of the puzzle of why the U.S. is involved in Central Africa. Like the goals of the Africa tour, it has a focus on creating powerful democratic institutions which could be part of hidden goal to great ‘big government’ that would help the rich and powerful. There is more: the strategy says the U.S. government should “promote opportunity and development” through supposedly encouraging measures to address social inequality, “spur economic growth, trade [and] investment” by creating a friendly business climate, promoting “regional integration,” improving “economic governance,” helping Africans effectively “access and benefit from global markets,” and finally encouraging “U.S. companies to trade with and invest in Africa.” This is all capped by efforts to “advance peace and security” or stabilize Sub-Saharan Africa which would create a better business climate to bring U.S. businesses in, which is exactly what the U.S. government is supporting by backing the military intervention in the Central African Republic.

The low trade between the US and the Central African Republic, and paltry amounts of seemingly humanitarian aid by USAID, doesn’t invalidate the push for investment in Central Africa, but rather strengthens it. After all, the current economic circumstances for business are rocky: Global Edge gives the country a D rating for the business climate. They write that while “agricultural potential, forest and mining wealth” along with IMF support is a plus, there are numerous weaknesses of the country’s investment climate such as an “economy vulnerable to internal and external shocks…geographic isolation…unstable political and security situation” and poor infrastructure. This brings one to the point that the country is underdeveloped and needs to be developed.

The U.S. is already committed to supporting “private sector engagement and investment in Africa through three Africa regional trade hubs,” which is part of the U.S. government initiative that claims to tackle food insecurity in Africa: Feed the Future, along with a number of other programs to move forward with “economic growth” in Africa while the US pushes for increased trade with selected countries in East Africa. For the US, no such investment like that of numerous country-specific and continent-specific investment banks, which have offices in the country, exists, but it could. There is one likely contender that could swoop in: not the big banks or oil companies, but the technology giants. The reason for this is partly because the technology giants have deep support from the Obama administration, like the mainstay of the Democratic Party. The strategy for Sub-Saharan Africa, which I mentioned earlier, calls for “technology [that] will further support the region’s economic expansion.” More importantly, every country in Africa has internet cable running through a majority of its territory except Gabon, Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Eritrea, Somalia, and the Central African Republic.

These tech companies have already been pushing to close this gap, using their best efforts and all the resources at their disposal to expand into a new market. In an article in the Seattle Times, the power of Microsoft and other companies in Africa is fully explained. This article noted that in recent years, Microsoft, “IBM, Google, Intel, Hewlett Packard and other tech companies…have expanded their presence in Africa” because many countries have “become more stable” and able to work with multinational corporations like themselves. In order to accommodate these projects and future “business potential” in the billions of dollars, these technology companies are building “tech infrastructure…bringing faster broadband connections to Africa’s coasts and terrestrial cables to extend these networks inland” while also investing in increased internet access and other infrastructure. Other articles noted the same boom in investment, with The Economist boasting in February 2013 that the information technology coming to the continent was “the next frontier” since “mobile-phone and internet penetration in Africa is sharply on the rise.”

Another article in The Economist also notes how Google is a ‘hit’ in Africa, possibly becoming the “single biggest private-sector influence in Africa” which is operating in a realm where there is little regulation and they have much power. All of these developments come together with technology companies wanting a new market, which consists of the 30% food insecure Central African Republic. This is proven by the fact that UPS is the only big American multinational that has an office in the country. All of this ties into the National Strategy for Global Supply Chain Security which says that the US government will “promote the efficient and secure movement of goods,” make sure the global supply chain is not disrupted and while working to “promote America’s future economic growth and international competitiveness by remaining open for businesses to the world.”

Still, resource interests still play some part in the US reasons for assisting in the intervention of Central Africa, which in this case is oil, rather than mineral interests. As a June 2013 fact sheet for the seemingly pro-dirty energy project launched during Obama’s trip to Africa, Power Africa, notes, “the recent discoveries of oil and gas in Sub-Saharan Africa will play a critical role in defining the region’s prospects for economic growth and stability, as well as contributing to broader near-term global energy security.” At the same time, the Engineering and Technology Magazine points out, five countries dominate the upstream oil production of Africa: Nigeria, Libya, Algeria, Egypt, and Angola. Refugees from Central Africa, that aren’t in the majority who have been internally displaced, are fleeing to oil-rich South Sudan, resource-rich Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo, Cameron, and Chad, all which could be destabilized.

The last two of these countries is the most important to the US reasons for assisting in the intervention in Central Africa and is connected to the expanding amount of roads and pipelines being “built or envisioned into the interior of Central Africa from multiple directions,” none which penetrate the resource-rich Congo. This is refined on page five of TransNet’s Pipeline Development Plan, which notes that none of the proposed gas, crude of liquid fuel pipelines in Africa will be anywhere near the Central African Republic, but only one existing pipeline is nearby: the Chad-Cameroon pipeline. This pipeline runs through the middle of Cameroon by beginning at a marine terminal outside the city of Krel, continuing along and near the border of the Central African Republic and ending outside the Chadian city of Kome.

This pipeline, as dutifully noted on website of the pipeline project, has four main partners: the governments of Chad and Cameroon, the World Bank, and a “consortium of three energy companies” that built the pipeline: ExxonMobil (40%) which was the pipeline’s operator, Malaysian multinational Petronas (35%), and Chevron (25%). The latter corporation is directly connected to the Obama administration because Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel used to be on the board of directors of Chevron, and pro-fracking Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz who was part of the corporate funded MIT Energy Initiative, with companies like Chevron, BP and Shell giving money while many other people in Obama’s corporatist administration have ties to Big Business. Still, while there are other pipelines being developed in Africa like the proposed Trans-Saharan pipeline, the East African pipeline, the Kenya-Uganda pipeline, only the pipelines coming out of South Sudan and Nigeria seem close enough to be affected. Protecting dirty energy in the Republic of Congo as a reason for assisting in the intervention, is affirmed through the fact that while French multinational Total S.A. And Italian Eni dominate the oil and gas sector, Chevron has its place, and “Congo holds the fifth-largest proven natural gas reserves in Sub-Saharan Africa” according to the EIA.

In closing, for the US, the reasons for helping out the French-led effort seem to be clear and revolve around stabilizing the country from violence committed by rebels who are coming from South Sudan and Chad, or other countries: create a friendly business climate likely for American tech giants, and protect the Chad-Cameroon pipeline along with oil in the Republic of Congo from strife or disturbance.

Left in the dust: China, India, and Russia

The competition in Africa has gone to new heights: not only is the US competing with China, but also with the European countries, India, and Russia in a “scramble for Africa’s many resources including oil…diamonds and gold to land for agricultural investment” along with a push to create a friendly climate for their country’s investors. Of these competitors, China is the most potent as it has major investments “across the continent and has surpassed the U.S. as Africa’s largest trading partner.” Even so, its military presence doesn’t even meet that of the US, but uses of the Chinese military in Africa are slowly growing. As John Reed noted in Foreign Policy magazine on July 2013, “for the second time in little over a year, China has infantry on the ground in Africa, reflecting the Chinese military’s increasing global presence.” In another article about China’s involvement in Africa, American University professor Debroah Brautigam dispels some myths about China, describing the smaller-than-expected amount of aid the country gives to Africa which is not really given because of a want for natural resources, China working with all sorts of regimes across the continent, not just Sudan and Zimbabwe, but ones like South Africa, whose president, Jacob Zuma, visited China in 2010, and much more. Most importantly, in the closing part of her article, Brautigam writes that “China is now a powerful force in Africa, and the Chinese are not going away. Their embrace of the continent is strategic, planned, long-term and still unfolding.” The investment power of the Chinese in the continent is what one could call Renminbi Diplomacy, named after the official currency of China, is almost a 21st century version of William Howard Taft’s ‘dollar diplomacy’ except the aims of China in Africa are furthered through the economic power of guaranteeing investments, rather than loans. Additionally, the mutualistic approach and persistence keeps Chinese companies in place, not brute force like military interventions or covert actions that topple or destabilize governments.

In the Central African Republic, Renminbi Diplomacy has been developing since 2009.[11] That year, the country called on China for investment. Bozize told Hu Jintao, then the President of China (the current president is Xi Jinping), that their country welcomed “Chinese enterprises to come and invest” and Jintao responded, stating that both countries should “strengthen and push forward our economic and trade competition.” Later that year, Jintao made four proposals to strengthen ties with the Central African Republic while Bozize was on a state visit: have better communication on “major issues and important affairs,” making sure that both countries have mutually beneficial “economic and trade cooperation,” having “personnel and cultural exchanges” between the two countries; and having better coordination in multilateral affairs.” Even by this time, BBC was declaring that China was an “increasingly important commercial partner” for the Central African Republic, adding that “China appears to be undeterred by an unpromising business climate [across Africa] and looks to be safely established there.”

In March 2010, this dialogue between the two countries continued, as the Ambassador of the Central African Republic to China, spoke highly of the Chinese president, while also saying that “China’s aid to Africa is trustworthy, practical [and] efficient” and lauded the “brilliant achievements” of the ruling Chinese ‘Communist’ Party, at the time. In May 2011, Bozize visited China again, saying that he was greatful for the “sincere and friendly assistance to the construction of the Central African Republic” from China, and hoped for future cooperation. After this meeting, Bozize and other high ranking officials from both countries at the meeting, signed an “economic and technological cooperation agreement.” By September 2012, the Chinese premier was calling for closer relations with Central Africa. An article on Global Voices, published in December 2012, brings the subject a bit closer to the present: “in recent months the licensing of oil exploration has been underway” with two contracts going to a South African company and one to a Chinese company while on December 27th, 2012, Bozize would suggest that “he was being attacked because he decided to grant oil exploration contracts to a Chinese company.”

Despite military support from fellow African countries, rebels occupied the capital city of the Central African Republic in March 2013, and Bozize fled to the Democratic Republic of Congo and later to France, resulting in the ascension of Michel Djotodia as the president of the country in a three-year transitional government which has promised to review the resource contracts. This, on top of the increased instability in East Africa which could be harming Chinese investments, was not good news for the Chinese, even though they remain the biggest export partner of the Central African Republic. In addition, South Sudan or even north Sudan could become less stable due to refugees fleeing, which is important because China is the top export partner of Sudanese oil, according to the EIA. At the same time, China still has a chance to expand in the country, since 2012 data shows that it does not have a “documented presence” in the country and Chinese companies are ok with operating in bad conditions.

This is precisely why China would support an intervention: to create a better business climate to increase investments of Chinese companies.

This brings one to the next player and member of the UN Security Council, like China, the UK, US, and France. The Russian Federation has an embassy and consulate in the Central African Republic, while the same country has an embassy in Russia. On November 1st, 2013, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that it was “seriously concerned about the activities of the anti-government coalition of Seleka rebels which resulted in the deterioration of [the] situation in the Central African Republic” and called for peaceful negotiations between the warring groups, and the government. On All Africa, an article noted something important in Russian relations toward the African continent, that while the country’s current “presence now pales when compared to its competitors,” in recent years, “increasing bilateral exchanges…suggest…that Russia-Africa relations are on the brink of revival.” South Africa, like China, and the US, is one of Russia’s major trading partners in the region, with enough connections that both countries want to supposedly create an OPEC-style “platinum cartel” to monopolize the sales of platinum worldwide.

Also, like China, Russia has brought troops to Africa: 200 peacekeepers specifically to Chad and the Central African Republic “in support of a UN mission in the region” in 2008. This isn’t all. Russia has a growing amount of arms sales to Africa, along with increased military and technical cooperation in Africa including training officers, giving military equipment, and much more, since since it is one of the biggest arms exporters in the world. Arms and weaponry aren’t all, but there is an element of economic involvement as well. The most recent data I could find was a report describing trade between Africa and Russia “at a glance” with data from late 2011. While the exact data is probably outdated as of now, the report makes a point that “renewed interest” by the Russians has not only included “recent visits by several African leaders to Russia and by Russian leaders to the continent,” but it includes investments in dirty energy such as natural gas and oil, mineral mining, nuclear power, hydropower, and more across the continent [12]

The last country that should be discussed is the up-and-rising country of India. While this country is not a member of the UN Security Council, but may become a member in the future, it has an embassy in the Central African Republic as well. The Prime Minister of the country, like the Russian government, was distressed with disturbances in the country, specifically the killings. Additionally, it is the third biggest export partner of Sudanese oil, with Japan being the second biggest, which is important because the Sudans could be negatively affected by events in the Central African Republic, especially South Sudan. In some respects, even India and France had a relationship, as The Hindu reported that there is a commitment from India to France, promising to shortlist “its companies…for lucrative defence and civil nuclear energy contracts.” The country is seeming to expand into Africa more and more, than it had in the past. Other than the $29.5 million line of credit the public Export-Import Bank of India, India’s government enjoys “friendly relations” with the Central African Republic, along with a number of agreements between the two countries, “foreign office consultation” on issues such as expanding “trade, investment, and technical cooperation between the countries,” and a total $89.9 million in projects and investments in the mining of limestone, construction of a cement factory, hydroelectric projects, and sending 100 buses, along with the materials for repair and to build new buses. This is all despite the fact that there is a small community of Indian workers in the country and a small amount of trade between the two countries.

In conclusion, the involvement of China, Russia and India in the African continent and the Central African Republic is important despite the fact that they didn’t send military forces to assist the African or French forces.

What can you do about all of this?

Unlike Mali, there have already been protests against the war, from the beginning. Already, there have been protests in the Central African Republic, with those in a crowd who were calling out Chad’s presence in the country since it has backed the rebel groups in the past, being fired on by Chadian peacekeepers on December 24th. Pictures of protests that same day against the clearly French imperialist intervention near where the soldiers were stationed were posted by Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of Pan-African News Wire. [13] A number of other news outlets reported this as well, but characterized the protesters in a negative light as “supporters of the largely Muslim Seleka rebels,” by the governent-owned France 24 or as “Muslims” by the Associated Press, neither of which actually interviewed any of the protesters. The first article, which seemed very pro-intervention, described people chanting “No to colonisation! No to the Sangaris operation!” or “We don’t want religious conflict in our country” said by another protester.

The Associated Press did a better job of describing the protest, while including pictures, saying that most of the marchers were young and male “demand[ed] the departure of French troops” from the country, with some signs saying “We say No to France!” and others “Hollande = Liar” with some even having a “hand drawn map of this nation…split into two, with a Muslim homeland penciled in in the country’s north,” all the while the French are trying to put out propaganda to justify the war. The previous day, an article actually quoted some of those who were angry and protesting, who were attacked by French forces with tear gas, and protesters blocked roads with “rocks, metal barrels and pieces of wood” while chanting “’Not to France’ and ‘Hollande is a criminal’” and raiging signs that read “French crimes against the Central African Republic” among other messages, with one yelling that the french war in the country “is a murderous operation [since] they [the French] want to divide us Central Africans…to impose their will and make us kill each other. These protesters are not alone. An article in the Epoch Times profiled the views of some Africans on the war, with some knowing it wouldn’t bring peace, others opposing the intervention as not enough, which some had either “great doubt” in the intervention or weren’t reassured by it.

There are others who have already showed their resistance in numerous different countries. The French public has already gone weary to the intervention. A poll on December 15th showed that a majority of French citizens were “growingly opposed…to…[the] military intervention in the Central African Republic” which is very different than what happened with Mali. A poll almost a month later on January 5th showed even lower public support for the military intervention. There may be protests in the country, but I couldn’t find evidence of any. Few French have spoken out, with those opposing it including a small French group of radicals that believes in anti-capitalism, democratic socialism, eco-socialism and alter-globalization, called Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste or New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA), stating their case against the intervention: “François Hollande is therefore to engage the French army in its second operation in Africa in a year…clinging to his policing role, French imperialism, far from helping to solve problems, only exacerbates poverty and underdevelopment…Large companies [have]…plunder[ed] the wealth of the former colonies for decades…French imperialism is the problem, not the solution!They even have a whole page on their website in which they have fliers opposing the war, and other critiques as the war goes along. They have also, along with another radical group, Worker’s Struggle, called for the French withdrawal of troops from Mali. Also in France, writer and freelance journalist Michel Collon, wrote that the intervention is not about humanitarianism but rather about resources and protecting the interests of multinational French corporations operating in the country, which is a deeply stinging critique.

In the US, a group that is made up of true communists, called Workers Power, and they oppose the intervention as well. In a statement titled ‘Why communists oppose French military intervention in Central African Republic‘ they write that politicians are being deceptive when they say there is a coming genocide, continuing and writing that “France has been directly or indirectly involved in the assassination or overthrow of every single leader of the CAR since it first gained autonomy…There has never been a constitutional transfer of power,” and says that France wants “to install a government dependent on French military protection in return for the right to develop and monopolize the extraction of CAR’s reserves of diamonds, uranium, and other raw materials.” Then, on what Allison Kilenny, a co-host of Citizen Radio, jokingly calls the ‘People’s Republic of the Internet,’ there was a video by Vin0nymous, part of the Anonymous collective, that includes a declaration that an operation would not be needed along with no “taking down/defacement of government websites,” saying that humanitarian supplies that are all that’s necessary, while also stating that they fear that “French troops and possible US military soldiers” in the country are “not here to make way for a hopeful path for the people in the Republic. They are there for the sake of oil, minerals and other resources the country is rich on” and repeating Anonymous’s stand against those who have committed heinous acts against the people of the country. Similar messages were spread in the Anonymous ‘twitterstorm’ about the country on January 5th.

These actions of resistance are laudable, but as I said about the war in Mali, more is needed. There needs to be protests in France, the US, the UK, and as many countries in the world in solidarity with those already protesting in the Central African Republic. Pushing the antiwar groups into action and alternative parties to show their opposition is important. While those who made the video I mentioned earlier may disagree, I think it would be wise to engage in an Anonymous operation about the Central African Republic, specifically targeting the French military, AFRICOM, and that of the UN mission, among other targets as an act of electronic civil disobedience in solidarity. Such protest actions, among others including direct action, civil disobedience, and so on are needed. Connecting with anti-imperialists would be key, as to build a bigger movement, tied to opposition of other wars as well. Just to be clear, I am not trying to tell people what actions they can take, but rather making suggestions. In the end, there must be a push to make sure Africa is for Africans, a push to a world where no nations or states, even the US and its allies, “covet the land or resources of other nations” [14] along with multinational corporations, while also rejecting the idea, as Martin Luther King, Jr. put it, that “God chose America as his divine, messianic force to be a sort of policeman of the whole world.” [15]

NOTES

[1] West, Cornel. Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight Against Imperialism. 2004. Penguin Books. pp. 59

[2] Webster’s Concise World Atlas published in 1991, pp. 123. This is also noted by USAID, on their page about the Central African Republic as well: “The Central African Republic is one of the world’s least-developed countries, with over 60 percent of its population living in poverty. The country does have some important natural resources, with timber and diamonds dominating exports. However, transportation and electricity infrastructure is extremely limited.”

[3] The 21st Century World Atlas. Trident Press International. Italy. 2000. This book has bias because it gets funding from big international funders, statisticians and others. This quote is from page 282. To be specific, at the time of the writing of this book, 30% of the population was unemployed. The CIA World Factbook also confirms this: “Subsistence agriculture, together with forestry and mining, remains the backbone of the economy of the Central African Republic (CAR), with about 60% of the population living in outlying areas. The agricultural sector generates more than half of GDP. Timber and diamonds account for most export earnings, followed by cotton.”

[4] Black, Jeremy. World History Atlas: Mapping the Human Journey: fully revised and updated. Doring Kindersley. 2005, London. pp. 96-99, 102-3, 106-7 and 169.

[5] See Roosevelt’s tweets here and here

[6] Importantly, Areva also has a hand in military technology like designing the nuclear reactors, which serve as a power source for the Barracuda submarines used by the French, while it has operations in the United States, Niger, Canada, South Korea, China, India and Kazakhstan.

[7] There was a plan to privatize Areva and sell off its government shares, but this was shelved in 2005. Currently the French state owns 90% of the corporation.

[8] There are a number of articles detailing this. Some note the accusations, which are seemingly correct, that French government gave accepted bribes from African dictators which one can find in an article by Business Insider, Al Arabiya, and Pambuzuka. Others talk about the French government propping up African Dictators including articles in Foreign Policy magazine, AllAfrica, The Perspective, IPS News, and Al-Jazeera.

[9] West, Cornel. Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight Against Imperialism. 2004. Penguin Books. pp. 7

[10] As noted by the most recent Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad 1798-2013 and the most recent declaration of the use of armed forces by President Obama. Here are the statistics broken down for those who are interested: from 1798-1950, there were only seven separate uses of US armed forces in Africa which were very sporadic; from 1950-1980, US armed forces were only used twice; from 1981 to 1988 US armed forces were only used six times; from1989-1992 they were only used four times; from 1993-2000 they were used nine times, from 2001-2008 they were used four times, which incorporates repeated usage, and from 2009 to present there have been over twelve uses of armed forces.

[11] While some say 2006, which may be accurate as well, but this refers to powerful country-to-country involvement and this was only the information I could find

[12] The report describes investments by Russian corporations in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Angola, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Algeria, DRC, and Egypt. I am not sure how the current countries Russians are operating in differs from this list, but that could be a good future investigation if someone else wants to pursue it.

[13] The pictures were posted on Azikwe’s flickr, showing a march, protesters being guided back by French soldiers, the aftermath of the Chadian peacekeepers opening fire on a crowd, and part of a crowd of other protesters with a poster advocating against France’s intervention.

[14] This is a reference to a section of Obama’s speech at the UN, in which he said “Ultimately, this is the international community that America seeks: one where nations do not covet the land or resources of other nations, but one in which we carry out the founding purpose of this institution and where we all take responsibility.” In this case, I want to use these words against the US and its allies, since there was a hidden caveat to exempt the US and its allies from this declaration, while also rejecting the seemingly imperialist tone of the ‘world policeman’ that Obama projects.

[15] The full text of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech in 1967 titled ‘Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam‘ 

The Pacific Ocean appears to be dying, according to a new study recently published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Scientists from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) in California recently discovered that the number of dead sea creatures blanketing the floor of the Pacific is higher than it has ever been in the 24 years that monitoring has taken place, a phenomenon that the data suggests is a direct consequence of nuclear fallout from Fukushima.

Though the researchers involved with the work have been reluctant to pin Fukushima as a potential cause — National Geographic, which covered the study recently, did not even mention Fukushima — the timing of the discovery suggests that Fukushima is, perhaps, the cause. According to the data, this sudden explosion in so-called “sea snot,” which is the name given to the masses of dead sea creatures that sink to the ocean floor as food, has skyrocketed since the Fukushima incident occurred.

“In the 24 years of this study, the past two years have been the biggest amounts of this detritus by far,” stated Christine Huffard, a marine biologist at MBARI and leader of the study, to National Geographic.

At an ocean research station known as Station M, located 145 miles out to sea between the Californian cities of Santa Barbara and Monterey, Huffard and her colleague Ken Smith observed a sharp uptick in the amount of dead sea life drifting to the ocean floor. The masses of dead sea plankton, jellyfish, feces and other oceanic matter that typically only cover about 1 percent of the ocean floor were found to now be covering about 98 percent of it — and multiple other stations located throughout the Pacific have since reported similar figures.

“In March 2012, less than one percent of the seafloor beneath Station M was covered in dead sea salps,” writes Carrie Arnold for National Geographic. “By July 1, more than 98 percent of it was covered in the decomposing organisms. … The major increase in activity of deep-sea life in 2011 and 2012 weren’t limit to Station M, though: Other ocean-research stations reported similar data.”

No more sea life means no more oxygen in our atmosphere

Interestingly, Arnold does not even make a peep about Fukushima, which by all common sense is the most reasonable explanation for this sudden increase in dead sea life. Though the most significant increases were observed roughly a year after the incident, the study makes mention of the fact that the problems first began in 2011.

“Forget looking at global warming as the culprit,” writes National Geographic commenter “Grammy,” pointing out the lunacy of Arnold’s implication that the now-debunked global warming myth was the sudden cause of a 9,700 percent increase in dead sea life.

Backing her up, another National Geographic commenter jokingly stated that somehow “the earth took such a huge hit in a four-month timeframe of a meltdown via global warming and we as a people didn’t recognize this while [it was] happening; while coincidentally during that same time frame the event at Fukushima took place.”

It is almost as if the powers that be want us all to forget about Fukushima and the catastrophic damage it continues to cause to our planet. But they will not be able to cover up the truth forever, as human life is dependent upon healthy oceans, the life of which provides the oxygen that we all need to breathe and survive.

Sources for this article include:

http://www.pnas.org

http://enenews.com

http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com

http://science.naturalnews.com

http://science.naturalnews.com

http://science.naturalnews.com

copyright Natural News, 2014

“At last the world knows America as the savior of the world!” – President Woodrow Wilson, Paris Peace Conference, 1919

The horrors reported each day from Syria and Iraq are enough to make one cry; in particular, the atrocities carried out by the al-Qaeda types: floggings; beheadings; playing soccer with the heads; cutting open dead bodies to remove organs just for mockery; suicide bombers, car bombs, the ground littered with human body parts; countless young children traumatized for life; the imposition of sharia law, including bans on music … What century are we living in? What millennium? What world?

People occasionally write to me that my unwavering antagonism toward American foreign policy is misplaced; that as awful as Washington’s Museum of Horrors is, al-Qaeda is worse and the world needs the United States to combat the awful jihadists.

“Let me tell you about the very rich,” F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote. “They are different from you and me.”

And let me tell you about American leaders. In power, they don’t think the way you and I do. They don’t feel the way you and I do. They have supported “awful jihadists” and their moral equivalents for decades. Let’s begin in 1979 in Afghanistan, where the Moujahedeen (“holy warriors”) were in battle against a secular, progressive government supported by the Soviet Union; a “favorite tactic” of the Moujahedeen was “to torture victims [often Russians] by first cutting off their nose, ears, and genitals, then removing one slice of skin after another”, producing “a slow, very painful death”.

With America’s massive and indispensable military backing in the 1980s, Afghanistan’s last secular government (bringing women into the 20th century) was overthrown, and out of the victorious Moujahedeen arose al Qaeda.

During this same period the United States was supporting the infamous Khmer Rouge of Cambodia; yes, the same charming lads of Pol Pot and The Killing Fields.

President Carter’s National Security Adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, was a leading force behind the US support of both the Moujahedeen and the Khmer Rouge. What does that tell you about that American leader? Or Jimmy Carter – an inspiration out of office, but a rather different person in the White House? Or Nobel Peace Laureate Barack Obama, who chose Brzezinski as one of his advisers?

Another proud example of the United States fighting the awful jihadists is Kosovo, an overwhelmingly Muslim province of Serbia. The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) began an armed conflict with Belgrade in the early 1990s to split Kosovo from Serbia. The KLA was considered a terrorist organization by the US, the UK and France for years, with numerous reports of the KLA having contact with al-Qaeda, getting arms from them, having its militants trained in al-Qaeda camps in Pakistan, and even having members of al-Qaeda in KLA ranks fighting against Serbia.But Washington’s imperialists, more concerned about dealing a blow to Serbia, “the last communist government in Europe”, supported the KLA.

The KLA have been known for their torture and trafficking in women, heroin, and human body parts (sic).The United States has naturally been pushing for Kosovo’s membership in NATO and the European Union.

More recently the US has supported awful jihadists in Libya and Syria, with awful consequences.

It would, moreover, be difficult to name a single brutal dictatorship of the second half of the 20th Century that was not supported by the United States; not only supported, but often put into power and kept in power against the wishes of the population. And in recent years as well, Washington has supported very repressive governments, such as Saudi Arabia, Honduras, Indonesia, Egypt, Colombia, Qatar, and Israel.

Not exactly the grand savior our sad old world is yearning for. (Oh, did I mention that Washington’s policies create a never-ending supply of terrorists?)

And what do American leaders think of their own record? Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was probably speaking for the whole private club when she wrote that in the pursuit of its national security the United States no longer needed to be guided by “notions of international law and norms” or “institutions like the United Nations” because America was “on the right side of history.”

If you’ve never done anything you wouldn’t want the government to know about, you should re-examine your life choices.

“The idea is to build an antiterrorist global environment,” a senior American defense official said in 2003, “so that in 20 to 30 years, terrorism will be like slave-trading, completely discredited.”

One must wonder: When will the dropping of bombs on innocent civilians by the United States, and invading and occupying their country become completely discredited? When will the use of depleted uranium, cluster bombs, CIA torture renditions, and round-the-world, round-the-clock surveillance become things that even men like George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Barack Obama, and John Brennan will be too embarrassed to defend?

Last month, a former National Security Agency official told the Washington Post that the Agency’s workers are polishing up their résumés and asking that they be cleared – removing any material linked to classified programs – so they can be sent out to potential employers. He noted that one employee who processes the résumés said, “I’ve never seen so many résumés that people want to have cleared in my life.”

Morale is “bad overall”, said another former official. “The news – the Snowden disclosures – it questions the integrity of the NSA workforce,” he said. “It’s become very public and very personal. Literally, neighbors are asking people, ‘Why are you spying on Grandma?’ And we aren’t. People are feeling bad, beaten down.”

President Obama was recently moved to declare that he would be proposing “some self-restraint on the NSA” and “some reforms that can give people more confidence.” He also said “In some ways, the technology and the budgets and the capacity [at NSA] have outstripped the constraints. And we’ve got to rebuild those in the same way that we’re having to do on a whole series of capacities … [such as] drone operations.”

Well, dear readers and comrades, we shall see. But if you’re looking for a glimmer of hope to begin a new year, you may as well try grabbing onto these little offerings. When the American Empire crumbles, abroad and at home, as one day it must, Edward Snowden’s courageous actions may well be seen as one of the key steps along that road. I’ve long maintained that only the American people have the power to stop The Imperial Machine – the monster that eats the world’s environment, screws up its economies, and spews violence on every continent. And for that to happen the American people have to lose their deep-seated, quasi-religious belief in “American Exceptionalism”. For many, what they’ve been forced to learn the past six months has undoubtedly worn deep holes into the protective armor that has surrounded their hearts and minds since childhood.

A surprising and exhilarating example of one of these holes in the armor is the New Year’s day editorial in the New York Times that is now well known. Entitled “Edward Snowden, Whistle-blower” – itself a legitimation of his actions – its key part says: “Considering the enormous value of the information he has revealed, and the abuses he has exposed, Mr. Snowden deserves better than a life of permanent exile, fear and flight. He may have committed a crime to do so, but he has done his country a great service.”

The president has been moved to appoint a committee to study NSA abuses. This of course is a standard bureaucratic maneuver to keep critics at bay. But the committee – Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies – did come up with a few unexpected recommendations in its report presented December 13, the most interesting of which perhaps are these two:

“Governments should not use surveillance to steal industry secrets to advantage their domestic industry.”

“Governments should not use their offensive cyber capabilities to change the amounts held in financial accounts or otherwise manipulate the financial systems.”

The first recommendation refers to a practice, though certainly despicable, that is something the United States has been doing, and lying about, for decades.Just this past September, James Clapper, Director of US National Intelligence, declared: “What we do not do, as we have said many times, is use our foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies.”

Clapper is the same gentleman who told Congress in March that the NSA does not intentionally collect any kind of data on millions of Americans; and, when subsequently challenged on this remark, declared: “I responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful, manner by saying ‘no’.”

The second recommendation had not been revealed before, in a Snowden document or from any other source.

“That was a strangely specific recommendation for something nobody was talking about,” observed the director of a government transparency group.

ABC News reported that “A spokesperson for the NSA declined to comment on the issue of bank account hacking, and a representative for U.S. Cyber Command did not immediately return an emailed request for comment.”

Manipulating bank records is about as petty and dishonorable as a superpower can behave, and could conceivably, eventually, lead to the end of the NSA as we’ve all come to know and love it. On the other hand, the Agency no doubt holds some very embarrassing information about anyone in a position to do them harm.

The bombing of Flight 103 – Case closed?

When the 25th anniversary of the 1988 bombing of PanAm Flight 103 occurred on December 21 I was fully expecting the usual repetitions of the false accusation against Libya and Moammar Gaddafi as being responsible for the act which took the lives of 270 people over and in Lockerbie, Scotland. But much to my surprise, mingled with such, there were a rash of comments skeptical of the official British-US version, made by various people in Scotland and elsewhere, including by the governments of the United States, the United Kingdom and Libya.

In a joint statement the three governments said they were determined to unearth the truth behind the attack. “We want all those responsible for this brutal act of terrorism brought to justice, and to understand why it was committed”, they declared.

Remarkable. In 1991, the United States indicted a Libyan named Adelbaset al-Megrahi. He was eventually found guilty of being the sole perpetrator of the crime, kept in prison for many years, and finally released in 2009 when he had terminal cancer, allegedly for humanitarian reasons, although an acute smell of oil could be detected. And now they speak of bringing to justice “those responsible for this brutal act of terrorism”.

The 1988 crime was actually organized by Iran in retaliation for the American shooting down of an Iranian passenger plane in July of the same year, which took the lives of 290 people. It was carried out by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC), a 1968 breakaway from a component of the Palestine Liberation Organization, with some help from Syria. And this version was very widely accepted in the Western world, in government and media circles. Until the US buildup to the Gulf War came along in 1990 and the support of Iran and Syria was needed. Then, suddenly, we were told that it was Libya behind the crime.

If the US and UK now wish to return to Iran, and perhaps Syria, as the culprits, they will have a lot of explaining to do about their previous lie. But these two governments always have a lot of explaining to do. They’re good at it. And the great bulk of their indoctrinated citizens, with little resistance, will accept the new/old party line, and their mainstream media will effortlessly switch back to the old/new official version, since Iran and Syria are at the top of the current list of Bad Guys. (The PFLP-GC has been quiescent for some time and may scarcely exist.)

If you’re confused by all this, I suggest that you start by reading my detailed article on the history of this case, written in 2001 but still very informative and relevant. You may be rather surprised.

The UK, US and Libyan governments have now announced that they will co-operate to reveal “the full facts” of the Lockerbie bombing. And Robert Mueller, the former head of the FBI, said he believes more people will be charged. This could be very interesting.

Free books of historical value

  1. The complete set, less one volume, of the 15 Church Committee (1975-6) volumes. Lacking only Final Report, book 6: “Congressional Research Service. Supplementary Reports on Intelligence Activities.”
  2. The complete set, less one volume, of the 6 Pike Committee volumes. Lacking only volume 6: “Committee Proceedings, part II”
  3. The Rockefeller Commission Report, one volume.
  4. Hearings on FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) before Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (same as Church Committee), one volume.

Total of 21 volumes, all from 1975-1976, all in good condition. Either pick them up in Washington, DC or send me $10 for postage.

Notes

  1. Washington Post May 11, 1979; New York Times, April 13 1979
  2. William Blum, “Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower” (2005), chapter 10
  3. RT TV (Russia Today, Moscow), May 4, 2012
  4. Associated Press, December 14, 2010
  5. Foreign Affairs (Council on Foreign Relations), January/February 2000 issue
  6. New York Times, January 17, 2003
  7. Washington Post, December 7, 2013
  8. Washington Post, December 18, 2013
  9. Washington Post, December 7, 2013
  10. “Liberty and Security in a Changing World”, p.221
  11. See Anti-Empire Report, #118, June 26, 2013, second part
  12. Statement by Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper on Allegations of Economic Espionage, September 8, 2013
  13. NBC News, June 9, 2013
  14. Kel McLanahan, executive director of National Security Counselors, speaking to ABC News Radio, December 23, 2013
  15. ABC News Radio, December 23, 2013
  16. Reuters news agency, December 22, 2013

Many commentators make Greece and other peripheral EU members responsible for the sovereign debt crisis. People in these countries would have lived above their means and it was only right that they should tighten their belts now, the argument goes. Having postponed the necessary restructuring for too long, austerity would be the only solution to enforce liberalization and deregulation from the outside. In their impressive book Crucible of Resistance: Greece, the Eurozone and the World Economic Crisis (Pluto Press, 2013), Christos Laskos and Euclid Tsakalotos challenge these understandings and reveal the class dynamics underlying the crisis.

In this article, I will provide a critical review of this book including also a discussion of potential ways out of the crisis. I will argue, in contrast to Laskos and Tsakalotos, that successful resistance may well start at the Greek, national level rather than the European level.

 The Neoliberal Restructuring of Greece

Mainstream explanations of the crisis argue that a “productive and efficient North had to bail out a South that was determined to keep its more consumer-oriented and leisurely lifestyle. The reforms necessary for challenging this state of affairs had not gone far enough – they never do in neoliberal accounts – and thus the crisis must be used to complete the reform agenda” (p. 80). Laskos and Tsakalotos successfully challenge the idea that Greece had not liberalized enough. In fact, neoliberal restructuring had been implemented across the economy “after 1996 under the leadership of PASOK’s new leader Kostas Simitis” (p. 22).

Importantly, however, and perhaps not surprisingly, neoliberal restructuring did not include any kind of new social contract, ensuring some degree of wealth redistribution. Instead, “modernizing strategies were crafted onto existing clientelistic arrangements rather than replacing them” (p. 4), thereby guaranteeing some kind of redistribution and social stability. “All capitalist social formations need mechanisms to spread the gains of the market to some less privileged social groups, and the clientelistic state was the preferred option of elites in Greece” (p. 41), the authors argue. In other words, rather than being an obstacle to neoliberalism, clientelism has been an essential part of restructuring in Greece.

Overall, the social consequences of restructuring were dramatic even before the crisis. “Promoting some of the key features of neoliberalism, in a society already ridden with unacceptable levels of inequality, was to lead not just to an accentuation of social problems, but also to a crisis of a political system seemingly unable to respond to the needs of ever wider sections of the population” (p. 24).

Causes of the Crisis and the Austerity Response

Rather than locating the causes of the crisis within Greece itself, Laskos and Tsakalotos identify problems in the global economy in general, and the unevenness within the European Union (EU) in particular. The role of Germany and its export-led growth strategy is clearly at the heart of the problem. “Germany depends quite heavily on demand generated within the rest of the European Union,” the authors point out. “In 2007, when the trade account was 8.15 per cent of GDP, some 4.44 per cent of GDP (i.e. 63.4 per cent of the trade account surplus) originated in Germany’s surplus arising from its export of goods to other EU countries” (p. 86). Importantly, this not because Germany’s production was based on higher levels of productivity based on new technology and working practices. “In Greece productivity increases actually outstripped those in Germany, especially in the later period. Rather, it is the German restrictive wages policy after 2000 that made it almost impossible for the periphery to compete” (p. 83).

When Greece faced bankruptcy in 2010 and 2012, bailout packages were provided, but they came at the cost of permanent austerity imposed by the Troika consisting of the European Central Bank, the Commission and IMF. As the authors make clear, austerity has not solved the economic crisis. Instead, a vicious circle of austerity-recession-more austerity commenced, undermining further Greece’s productive capacities. “Industrial production (manufacturing, mining, electricity) fell by 23.3 per cent between October 2008 and October 2012, widening the gap between Greece and its EU partners” (p. 104). Moreover, “between 2010 and 2012 almost 60,000 enterprises closed down each year” (p. 106). If economic recovery was not achieved, why was austerity continued? What was the real purpose behind austerity?

Laskos and Tsakalotos convincingly demonstrate that austerity has ultimately been a class project. It was used as opportunity by capital to strengthen its position vis-à-vis labour. It was used “as opportunity to finish the neoliberal modernizing project in terms of reducing wages and pensions, dismantling labour protection, and undertaking an even more radical program of privatization” (p. 103). The external role by the IMF, in co-operation with local elites, is crucial. “By the time of the second austerity programme, the IMF was making it clear that Greece should consider its competitors to include countries such as Bulgaria, and that consequently wage levels in the private sector still had some way to fall” (p. 111). An already highly unequal society was pushed into further inequality. “The adjustment programmes have raised inequality and poverty to new heights” (p. 131).

Moments of Resistance

And yet, crises are also always moments of opportunity for progressive forces from the left. Resistance against austerity is noticeable in Greece. “Especially after 2010, social resistance to austerity included diverse forms of solidarity and initiatives to set up a parallel social economy: from social clinics and pharmacies to social groceries, and from the movement to cut out the intermediaries in agricultural production to various cooperative ventures” (p. 143).

At the organizational level, the authors highlight SYRIZA’s success at uniting large parts of the left on the basis of their strong engagement with social movements and concrete local struggles. SYRIZA’s “increasing engagement with the European Social Forum, and its support for Left unity to overcome the divisions of the past, provided the basis for a leftwards trajectory in which leftist Eurocommunist ideas played an increasingly significant part (p. 128). While Laskos and Tsakalotos highlight the dangers of an authoritarian turn, they also see the possibility of transcending capital. “For the first time in many generations the Left has a convincing interpretation of the present crisis, and that this can become a materialist force breaking old social alliances and forming new ones in favour of a strategy that begins the transcendence of capitalism itself” (p. 12).

In order to be able to balance capital’s class power, “this time round,” they argue, we need a Left which is more democratic, more participatory, and more aware that supranational problems need supranational responses” (p. 15). This requires new alliances across borders as well as the formation of broader movements. “Left strategies need to build on the experience of the labour, feminist, anti-racists and other movements such as those struggling against the commodification of social and public goods” (p. 142).

What Level of Resistance?

The authors firmly look to the European, supranational level for resisting austerity and transforming capitalism. And I agree, a strong and united left European movement for “Another Europe” would be the most desirable development. Unfortunately, however, this united movement at the European level has not emerged yet. The European Social Forum process has run out of steam and been discontinued. The Alter Summit process with a first meeting in Athens in June 2013 has not yet attracted a large following. The European trade unions led by the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) have finally agreed on a joint demonstration for 4 April 2014 and put forward their own plan for sustainable growth and quality jobs (see ETUC, 18/12/2013). In general, however, the ETUC is tied up in a social partnership ideology and working within the existing European institutions. Transcending capitalism is certainly not on its agenda.

The question then is why wait for a European level response, when perhaps the Greek national level offers a more immediate solution? Costas Lapavitsas and colleagues have put forward the strategy of a debtor-led default by Greece including also an exit from the Eurozone. Critics of this strategy argue that while a depreciating new currency after the exit may boost exports, it would also imply that state debt denominated in Euros would rocket sky high aggravating an already difficult situation (e.g. Toporowski, 2013). And yet, these critics overlook Lapavitsas et al’s flanking measures. Key policies of such a programme would include: (1) a unilateral suspension of payments; (2) a public audit of debt following suspension of payments to identify which part of national debt is actually legitimate; (3) a deep “haircut” for lenders (Lapavitsas et al, 2012: 130-1) and (4) an expansion of the tax base to include the rich and capital more generally (Lapavitsas et al, 2012: 135). To avoid an immediate crisis of the financial system, “there would have to be extensive and decisive government intervention. In Greece this would certainly mean extending public ownership and control over banks, thus protecting the banks from collapse and preventing depositor runs. Under public ownership, the banks could act as levers for root and branch transformation of the economy in favour of labour” (Lapavitsas et al, 2012: 132; see also Crisis in the Eurozone, Part II – progressive ways out of the crisis!).

Alternatively, what would happen if resistance in Greece itself is so strong that the government, together with the Troika, is unable to enforce austerity further? It is foreign banks, especially German and French private banks, which are heavily exposed to Greek debt. A stop to austerity in Greece would first and foremost threaten these banks and then the overall European financial system. The whole strategy of austerity would suddenly be questioned and may well unravel. Could we not envisage a chain reaction in such a situation where resistance elsewhere may be encouraged and then eventually lead to a European-wide movement?

Ultimately, these questions will be decided by concrete practice, by class struggle. The clarity with which Laskos and Tsakalotos present their analysis and outline the challenges is impressive, their discussion of ways forward highly stimulating. I strongly recommend this book for reading to all those interested in moving toward “Another Europe.” •

 Andreas Bieler is Professor of Political Economy at the University of Nottingham/UK and he maintains a blog at andreasbieler.blogspot.no where this article first appeared.

Attempts to rebrand regime’s violent mobs are aimed at confusing public in Thailand and abroad. 

While regime supporters attempt to claim recent “white ribbon,” “white candle,” and “white balloon” campaigns in recent days along with the “Respect My Vote” push are a grassroots effort by people who support “democracy” and oppose growing anti-regime protests, it is in fact propaganda campaign engineered and implemented by the regime itself. 

Image: The regime believes the Thai people, and more importantly, international audiences are as ignorant as they are gullible. Recent propaganda campaigns featuring “white” balloons, candles, shirts, and ribbons are being passed off as a groundswell of support by “the people” in favor of up coming elections. In reality, these campaigns of “support” are being engineered by the regime itself, by it’s own “red shirt” enforcers and TV networks.

….

Thaksin Shinawatra’s Asia Update TV network has been leading the campaigns for days, with presenters even exchanging their signature “red shirts” for white ones. There has been non-stop coverage of the various staged “white” stunts across the city with participants reciting regime talking-points verbatim. 

Image: White balloons for sham elections. A hundred or so people gathered in downtown Bangkok amid much larger anti-regime protests, to support the current regime and their single-party election planned for February 2, 2014. All opposition parties have boycotted the election, featuring deposed dictator, accused mass murderer and convicted criminal Thaksin Shinawatra running as defacto party leader. While the group, calling itself “Ant’s Power” attempts to appear as “pro-democracy” advocates, they are simply regime supporters who have exchanged their red shirts for white ones.
….

Upcoming February 2, 2014 elections are being opposed by protesters because they are widely seen as illegitimate – dressing up what is otherwise clearly a dictatorship. Much in the way Saddam Hussein’s Iraq or North Korea used elections to tenuously disguise what is otherwise overt despotism, Thailand’s Thaksin Shinawatra has repeatedly employed elections to vindicate his numerous abuses, including unprecedented human rights offenses.

Image: The sign to the left reads, “Thaksin Thinks, Puea Thai Does,” the campaign slogan used by Thaksin and his regime in Thailand’s last general election. Thaksin, being an accused mass murderer and a convicted criminal, is openly running the country today despite not having been on the ballot nor even being in the country. He runs the country through his placeholder, his sister Yingluck Shinawatra in a display of humiliating 3rd world corruption and nepotism an increasing number of protesters are standing up against. The Western media, despite having reported all of this, still insists Yingluck represents a legitimate, “democratically elected” government.

….
While Thailand is technically under the premiership of Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, by his party’s own admission, Thaksin is still literally running the country. The election campaign slogan for the last general election in 2011 was literally, “Thaksin Thinks, Puea Thai Does,” Puea Thai being his political party. Forbes would report in their article, “Thaksin in Exile: Advising Sister, Digging for Gold,” that:

Regarding his behind-the-scenes role in the party and policy, he is not shy: “I am the one who thinks. Like our slogan during the campaign, Thaksin thinks, Pheu Thai acts.”

The New York Times admitted in an early 2013 article titled, “In Thailand, Power Comes With Help From Skype,” that:

For the past year and a half, by the party’s own admission, the most important political decisions in this country of 65 million people have been made from abroad, by a former prime minister who has been in self-imposed exile since 2008 to escape corruption charges. 

The country’s most famous fugitive,Thaksin Shinawatra, circles the globe in his private jet, chatting with ministers over his dozen cellphones, texting over various social media platforms and reading government documents e-mailed to him from civil servants, party officials say.

The NYT piece would also report:  

“He’s the one who formulates the Pheu Thai policies,” said Noppadon Pattama, a senior official in Mr. Thaksin’s party who also serves as his personal lawyer. “Almost all the policies put forward during the last election came from him.” 

There is no question that an accused mass murderer and convicted criminal hiding abroad from a 2 year jail sentence, multiple arrest warrants, and a long list of pending court cases, is illegally running Thailand by proxy. Being unelected, Thaksin Shinawatra is by all accounts a dictator, and his “government” a regime, however cleverly they try to dress it up

In the days and weeks to come, the regime and its Western backers will attempt to portray pre-planned confrontations with anti-regime protesters as “the people” rising up for their “right to vote.” In reality, it is merely the regime’s red shirts rebranded to help continue a confrontation they are now finding difficult to sustain.

Despite what Time Magazine would have us believe, there is no doubt that the most influential newsmaker of the year has been Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee and NSA subcontractor who at the age of 29 became the unlikely center of global attention with his release of documents allegedly detailing the inner workings of various NSA spying programs.

Of the many intriguing aspects of this story, by far one of the most frustrating is that, other than a few interviews and press conferences, almost everything we know about Snowden, his motivations, and the documents themselves come from intermediaries who have found themselves in the position of spokespeople on the case.

Even such basic questions as how many documents Snowden leaked is still unclear, with various sources listing anything from 10,000 to 1.7 million documents. If details as basic as these vary so widely between sources, how much more opaque are the more difficult questions of Snowden’s motivations and intentions, let alone the specifics of any deals he may have made with journalists about how this data was to be disseminated?

SEE JAMES CORBETT’S THE EYE-OPENER VIDEO

Questions about the practices of the journalists that Snowden has partnered with arose from the moment the story broke. According to Washington Post reporter Barton Gelman’s own account, he was the first to be contacted with Snowden’s information. One of Snowden’s conditions for working with Gelman was that the Post agree to publish the full text of the PRISM program presentation—a total of 42 slides—within 72 hours, along with a cryptographic key that Snowden could use to prove to foreign embassies that he was the source of the information. According to Gelman, when he could not promise to meet that demand, Snowden turned to Greenwald and the Guardian.

Although several conflicting accounts of Snowden’s early efforts to reach out to reporters have since been forwarded, it is interesting to note that the Guardian did not meet these demands either, publishing only four of the 41 PRISM slides. It wasn’t until October of this year that Le Monde published several more slides from the presentation but to this day the full presentation has still not been released to the public, apparently in contradiction to Gelman’s account of Snowden’s intentions.

In fact, similar questions surround the ongoing release of Snowden’s documents. Who is deciding what documents to release and what documents to redact? Is there a timeframe for the release of specific pieces of information, and if so is this schedule being kept? Did Snowden himself have demands in regards to the release of these documents, or, after demanding a certain timeframe and method for release of the PRISM documents and finding that none of his journalist contacts would fulfill that agreement, did he merely hand over his entire document cache to them to release as they see fit?

Again, we only have the word of the journalists themselves to answer these questions, meaning that we have no definitive answer at all. However, revelations continue to emerge about what is and what is not being published by the media partners who have acquired possession of these documents.

After six months of reporting on the story, the Guardian has so far only published 1% of the files in its possession. According to a rough estimate published on Cryptome.org in November of this year, “Out of [a] reported 50,000 pages (or files, not clear which), about 514 pages (1%) have been released over 5 months beginning June 5, 2013. At this rate, 100 pages per month, it will take 42 years for full release. Snowden will be 72 years old, his reporters hoarding secrets all dead.” Is this really what Snowden or even the journalists themselves intended to happen with this treasure trove of information? Can the glacial pace at which the documents are being released be justified by the state of disorganization or confusion that the massive data dump has caused for the stories’ reporters?

Not according to Glenn Greenwald. Back in June, shortly after the initial reporting on the Snowden story and the PRISM program, Greenwald told Buzzfeed that the documents had been beautifully organized, “almost to a scary degree.” He then went on to imply that his reporting on the story would be over in a matter of months, telling journalist Jessica Testa: “If I’m still working on these stories a year from now, I’ll probably be in an asylum somewhere.”

So what changed? Why are we now six months into the Snowden story and the public has still only seen 1% of the documents in question (or less, depending on how many documents there actually are)? Has something come along in the meantime to persuade the crusading journalists who are so fearlessly reporting on this story to slow down and draw out their reporting?

In mid-July of this year, just weeks after telling Buzzfeed that he was planning to finish his reporting on Snowden within the year, it was announced that he had signed a book deal with Metropolitan Books, a subsidiary of Henry Holt and Co., for an undisclosed sum. Although Greenwald’s defenders bristle at the suggestion that the journalist is holding back documents from the public so he can sell them to the publisher, this aspect of the book deal is not even controversial. At the time of the announcement, Metropolitan Books promised that it would contain “new revelations exposing the extraordinary cooperation of private industry” with the US intelligence community. In a recent Reuters interview, Greenwald was even more specific:

The book is “about my time with Snowden in Hong Kong and reporting the story, but mostly about the surveillance state based on the documents I have (that The Guardian doesn’t) and my reasons why the surveillance state is menacing,” he said in the Reuters piece.

A bidding war is now taking place for the movie rights to the book, with the New York Times reporting that 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures Entertainment and HBO are all bidding on the project, although Greenwald assures Reuters that no deal has been struck yet.

But for those who are concerned about the fact that Greenwald is hoarding documents in order to entice publishers and movie producers to bid up his projects, more concerning still are details of the new journalism venture that he is entering into with billionaire eBay magnate Pierre Omidyar.

But the question is again raised: if Greenwald has continued to hold back documents from The Guardian and other outlets for his own personal use, did he use the allure of those documents as bait to attract Omidyar’s investment? Is he, in fact, selling Snowden’s leaked documents to a billionaire?

At this point, we have only speculation to go on. Very few details of Greenwald’s agreement with Omidyar have been so far presented to the public, and unless some insider is to come forward with a leak speculation of the specifics of their business partnership remain in the realm of speculation. But we do know that at the end of September, Greenwald and Scahill revealed that they were working on a ground-breaking story containing new details on the NSA’s role in the US assassination program gleaned from Greenwald’s private stash of Snowden documents.

Two weeks later the $250 million deal with Omidyar was announced and talk of the assassination program expose stopped. Three months later, no further details have been released about the story, and whether or not it will appear as one of the first big ventures on Omidyar’s new news venture.

More worrying still are Pierre Omidyar’s role in this saga. That this billionaire co-founder of eBay is suddenly so concerned with the state of journalism that he is willing to drop a quarter of a billion dollars purchasing the services of the very man who is sitting on a trove of tens of thousands (or more) NSA documents is odd, especially considering that Omidyar’s record on civil liberties and his network’s connections to the NSA and Booz Allen Hamilton are enough to raise serious red flags about his new venture.

As principal shareholder and chairman of eBay, Omidyar controls eBay’s child company, PayPal. PayPal has recently made headlines for prosecuting the so-called “PayPal 14,” the hacktivists who staged a virtual ‘sit in’ in protest of PayPal’s decision to cut off Wikileaks’ funding by organizing a Denial of Service attack on PayPal’s website. PayPal was co-founded by Max Levchin, a dedicated NSA supporter.

More worrying still, Sal Gambianco, one of the principal investment partners with the Omidyar Network, actually sits on theboard of advisors of Globant, a software company in which both the Omidyar Network and Booz Allen Hamilton, Snowden’s former employer, are major shareholdersPhilip Odeen, one of the Booz Allen Hamilton board members, also sits on the Board of Directors of Globant. The Omidyar Network and Booz Allen Hamilton are also both major investors in Innocentive.

Yet somehow none of these concerns are enough for Greenwald’s most ardent supporters to even raise the question of how he is using his personal collection of leaked NSA files and who he is getting into bed with financially to do so.

One truly independent media figure who has raised this question publicly in recent days is Sibel Edmonds of Boiling Frogs Post. In a recent series of articles she has been reporting on the Greenwald-Omidyar-PayPal-NSA connection, and has exclusively reported that a retired NSA source is claiming that PayPal involvement in the NSA is explicitly mentioned in some of the documents that Greenwald has yet to share with the public. Greenwald has issued denials to the effect that he has not encountered any such information in the leaks, but has stated that he has no doubt that PayPal has a relationship with the NSA. However, to those presuming to ask questions about the possible conflict of interest of the lead NSA leak reporter teaming up with a man whose personal financial empire rests on a company that ‘undoubtedly’ has a relationship with the NSA, Greenwald is surprisingly quick to issue ad hominem attacks and surprisingly slow to issue a substantive refutation of this concern.

Now, a number of whistleblowers and journalists are lining up to voice their own concerns about the fact that the only two people in the world with the access to the full treasure trove of Snowden documents, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, are joining forces with billionaire Pierre Omidyar.

Glenn Greenwald has repeatedly ignored request for comment for this video report, but has posted a lengthy response to such charges on his website in a post entitled “http://utdocuments.blogspot.com.br/2014/01/email-exchange-with-reader-over-first.html” target=”_blank”>Email exchange with reader over First Look and NSA reporting.” In the post, Greenwald bizarrely claims that his critics are forgetting that Laura Poitras also has access to the full set of Snowden documents without noting that she is also joining Omidyar’s $250 million operation. When he does address the issue of the blatant conflicts of interest in the situation, he writes:

“Ultimately, in terms of ‘conflicts of interest’, how is this different from working with any other media outlet? Salon has very rich funders: do you think I suppressed stories that conflicted with their business interests? Democracy Now is funded by lots of rich people: do you think Amy Goodman conceals big stories that would undermine the business interests of her funders?”

Although clearly intended as a rhetorical question meant to make the foundation funding of sources like Democracy Now seem to be unproblematic, this is in fact an issue that has been addressed many times by outlets like BoilingFrogsPost.com and other commentators who are unhappy with the reporting of the likes of Amy Goodman.

In the end, of course, only time will tell if Greenwald courageously works to expose the NSA/PayPal linkages via his new Omidyar-sponsored position. Unfortunately for us, if that reporting proceeds at the current pace, most of the people watching this video will be dead before such a day ever comes.

The Plundering of South Sudan

January 9th, 2014 by Tony Cartalucci

US AFRICOM, Israel, and Uganda’s Dictator-for-Life Yoweri Museveni set up in South Sudan, inflame conflict, push out China and prepare to take over oil. 

  RT’s report “Who is to blame for the crisis in South Sudan?” gave a succinct background on the warring factions inside the new “nation” of South Sudan and the Western genesis of the conflict. The report would state: 

The SPLM has received support from the US and Israel throughout the duration of the civil war fought between southern rebels and Khartoum, which has historically had unfriendly relations with the West and has moved very closely to China in recent times to jointly develop the country’s oil wealth prior to the separation. Romantic notions for self-determination did not motivate the West to support southern secession; the objective was to partition Sudan and deprive Khartoum of economically relevant territory in the south where most of the oil fields lie. In exchange for the financial, material, political, and diplomatic support received from the West, the new government in Juba endorsed a ‘Faustian pact’ with its sponsors to open its economy to international finance capital and multinational interests. The government in Juba even applied for IMF membership before it had even officially gained independence from Sudan.

The piece would continue by laying out the current dilemma for the West:

Despite supporting the South’s independence with diplomatic muscle and military aid, the United States has been unable to gain a foothold in the country’s oil sector; Juba’s crippled economy remains dominated by Asian companies, primarily from China. South Sudan must rely on pipelines that run through Khartoum to export its oil, and the two countries produced around 115,000 barrels of oil per day in 2012, less than half the volume produced in the years before South Sudan’s independence. Both sides have nearly gone to war over disputed oil fields that straddle a poorly demarcated border. Judging from the poor economic performance of both countries since the partition and the dramatic loss of the life in the ongoing crisis, the experiment of South Sudanese independence is failing..

Image: Violence predictably is centered around currently 
Chinese-controlled oil infrastructure. The goal is to have 
violence drive the Chinese out just as was done by NATO 
in Libya.
-

The piece would go on to note that peace deals reached leaving Sudan intact could have avoided the deadly conflict now raging – and that of course is correct. However, peace is not and never was the goal of the West and its involvement in Africa – economic gain is.

Precisely because China still maintains extensive holdings in Sudan and South Sudan’s oil infrastructure, the conflict will be brought to a fevered pitch – and unsurprisingly the conflict’s epicenter corresponds with South Sudan’s primary oil producing regions. If and when the Chinese are pushed out of South Sudan, the West will continue either across the border to establish routes for exporting their newly gained oil wealth from the landlocked country, or proceed through Kenya with or without the current government in Nairobi’s backing.

The BBC would report in their article, “China’s oil fears over South Sudan fighting,” that (emphasis added):

The stakes could not be higher for China, the largest investor in South Sudan’s oil sector, as fierce fighting continues between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and those of his former deputy.

Some of the largest oil fields China operates are in areas controlled by fighters backing Riek Machar, the country’s vice-president until he was sacked in July.

Oil production has already dropped by 20% since the onset of the conflict three weeks ago and more than 300 Chinese workers have been evacuated.

The spectre of their Libyan experience also weighs heavily on the Chinese minds – project after project now lies deserted because of heavy fighting during the Arab Spring uprising of 2011, inflicting huge losses on China.

Most telling of all is the BBC’s reference to Libya – another nation destroyed by Western military aggression that saw both Russian and Chinese interests crumble overnight and replaced by Western corporations. While South Sudan’s chaos is being orchestrated more covertly by the West, the final goal of pushing out the Chinese and taking over is the same.

Similar covert destabilization can be seen all across what the 2006 Strategic Studies Institute’s report “String of Pearls: Meeting the Challenge of China’s Rising Power across the Asian Littoral” calls China’s “String of Perals.” This includes US-backed militants attempting to carve off the province of Baluchistan from Pakistanwhere China has established a port at Gwadar and at another Chinese port in the state of Rakhine, Myanmar that has been the scene of brutal, genocidal violence carried out by “democracy icon” Aung San Suu Kyi’s “saffron monks” against Rohingya refugees.

Setting Up Shop in South Sudan

There is no doubt that the US and its accomplices Israel and Uganda have decided to stay in South Sudan. TheUS corporate foundation-funded “Enough Project” provided the rhetorical justification for an enduring presence in the war-torn African state in its Al Jazeera op-ed titled, “Al Jazeera America Op-ed: South Sudan’s Salva Kiir needs to put his black hat back on,” which stated:

To be sure, growing pains are common in societies working to secure their independence after years of marginalization and authoritarian rule. Building a cohesive national identity among South Sudan’s 81 ethnic groups will take generations. Still, the looming specters of mass intercommunal violence means we cannot afford to be complacent. The United States committed itself to the South Sudanese people’s long march toward independence decades ago. It would be a shame if America allowed a return to war when the South Sudanese are so close to securing their future.

With that humanitarian/freedom-promoting foot-in-the-door, the West has the pretext it needs to meddle for decades to come.

To begin with, Israel Military Industries Ltd. (IMI) signed what it called a “water infrastructure and technology development” deal with South Sudan’s government in 2012. The deal allegedly covers desalination, irrigation, water transport and purification, but a visit to Israel Military Industries Ltd. website indicates they are military contractors and arms manufacturers, not engineers and certainly not specialists in water infrastructure. Other sources claim IMI will serve as a conduit for actual Israeli water firms - but in light of US, Israeli, Saudi, and Qatari joint operations elsewhere, IMI will most likely serve as a conduit for weapons, cash, and conflict as well (or instead).

Image: It is not entirely clear how a military contractor and weapons manufacturer like Israel’s IMI is going to develop South Sudan’s water infrastructure. Just like Qatar’s use of humanitarian aid groups to smuggle weapons into Syria, Israel is most likely using “development” as cover for perpetuating conflict both within South Sudan to drive out the Chinese, as well as across the border in Sudan to the north to finally topple the government in Khartoum.

….

In 2013, Israel and South Sudan would begin forging oil deals. In UPI’s report, “South Sudan signs oil deal with Israel,” it was stated: 

South Sudan says it has signed an agreement with several Israeli oil companies, a potentially significant strategic move that will consolidate the Jewish state’s relations with the fledgling, oil-rich East African state.

UPI would continue, highlighting the glaring problem of actually exporting the oil to turn a profit:

South Sudan’s petroleum and mining minister, Dhieu Dau, announced the oil deal last week after he returned from a visit to Israel.

He said negotiations were ongoing with Israeli companies, which he did not identify, seeking to invest in South Sudan.

Dau indicated the southern government in Juba, ramshackle capital of the infant state, hoped to export oil to Israel, but observed that this could not happen before March.

He gave no indication how the landlocked south would achieve this, or what volume of crude would be involved. But it’s a move Khartoum would do everything possible to wreck.

Finally, the UPI report indicates the much larger implications of Israel’s (and the US’) involvement in South Sudan, using it as a springboard to topple neighboring Sudan in the north:

The prospect of Israel actually getting oil from South Sudan remains uncertain, given Juba’s difficulties with Khartoum.

There has been talk of building a 1,000-mile export pipeline from South Sudan across Kenya to the Indian Ocean that would free Juba from reliance on Khartoum’s pipelines.

But no definite plans for the project, expected to cost around $2 billion, have yet materialized.
It may be that Israeli companies are seeking to help out in that regard — if only to undermine the Islamic-oriented Khartoum regime and its alliance with Tehran, and to gain access to the Nile River, Egypt’s primary source of water and a strategic target.

During Sudan’s civil war, one of Africa’s longest conflicts in which some 2 million people died, Israel provided the southern rebels with arms, training and funding, as it has done in other parts of Africa seeking to weaken its Arab adversaries.

Clearly, the presence of Israeli arms dealers is not to develop South Sudan’s infrastructure but rather to flood the region with weapons to flush out the Chinese and eventually stab northward toward Sudan and its capital of Khartoum. UPI’s report would go on to admit that military aid was still undoubtedly flowing to South Sudan for this very purpose.

In addition to a proxy military confrontation with Sudan, the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar have been attempting to overthrow the government in Khartoum from within - attempting an “Arab Spring-style” uprising in late 2013 that eventually fizzled.

Enter US AFRICOM and Uganda’s Museveni 

Infamous Western collaborator and Ugandan dictator-for-life Yoweri Museveni has been fighting the West’s proxy wars in Africa for decades. He has also done much within his borders to appease the West including selling large tracts of land to foreign developers right out from beneath the feet of his own people – many times killing landowners who refused eviction.

Image: Whatever pretext the West attempts to use to place Western troops inside of Africa while Fortune 500 corporations scoop up the continent’s vast resources, it is nothing more than modern recolonization. US troops placed in Uganda to fight “Kony” are now conveniently in place to aid in the despoiling of neighboring South Sudan – a state carved out of proper Sudan via Western-fueled civil war.

….

In 2011 under the false pretext of fighting Joseph Kony’s “Lord’s Resistance Army” the US would begindeploying troops to Uganda. By 2013, these troops would still be there – when violence began to spread across nearby South Sudan, US troops conveniently still stationed in Uganda would be mobilized for the evacuation of US citizens.  Stars and Stripes would report in their article, “Marines airlift US Embassy personnel out of South Sudan,” that:

Nonessential U.S. Embassy personnel were evacuated Friday from South Sudan aboard two KC-130 aircraft assigned to a Marine crisis response team positioned in nearby Uganda.

The article would also report:

Last week, the Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force-Crisis Response also was pre-positioned at Entebbe, Uganda, to provide additional support. The unit, from Moron, Spain, was formed less than a year ago to bolster AFRICOM’s crisis-response capabilities.

Uganda, like Sudan, has clearly been permanently brought into AFRICOM’s fold under an initial false “humanitarian” pretext that was then quietly shifted to the permanent occupation of African territory. And Uganda not only serves as a base for US AFRICOM, but is also using its soldiers to carry out AFRICOM’s objectives beyond Uganda’s borders. 

The Guardian would report in its recent article, “South Sudan peace talks falter as Uganda sends in troops,” that:

The South Sudan peace talks being held in Ethiopia have stalled, officials say, as a rebel commander claims big victories against the South Sudanese government and Uganda sends in more troops and military hardware.

The report would also claim:

Uganda, he said, had sent 1,200 troops to secure installations such as the airport and state house, adding that Ugandan military aircraft had bombed several rebel-held positions.

Uganda says its deployment of more troops and military hardware to Juba this week came at the request of Kiir. Lieutenant Colonel Paddy Ankunda, a Ugandan military spokesman, said on Wednesday that reinforcements were dispatched on Monday and Tuesday “to plug security gaps”. He denied the Ugandans were actively involved in combat.

Yoweri Museveni, the president of Uganda, is a strong ally of Kiir. The neighbouring countries have built a bond that goes back to South Sudan’s armed struggle for independence from Sudan and the Khartoum government. Museveni recently warned Machar that East African countries would unite to defeat him militarily if he does not agree to attend peace talks.

In essence, Uganda is providing the manpower on the ground while the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and others provide the cash, weapons, and everything else. It is another proxy war, just like the ongoing conflict in Syria, albeit with Ugandan troops literally invading South Sudan to prop up the West’s proxy government in Juba.

Who is funding and arming rebel groups fighting the West’s proxy government is still unclear. Reports indicate it may be dissident factions of South Sudan’s own armed forces involved in a recent coup attempt. Other theories suggest that US, Uganda, and/or Israel may be funding and arming both sides hoping to carry the conflict onward to Khartoum. It is clear that Khartoum, Sudan, one way or another, is the US-Israeli-Saudi-Qatari goal – to complete the theft of Sudanese oil as well as the means to export it out of the broken, worn-torn, decimated country.

This is the current state of the Wall Street-London global order in Africa – and a tattered, exploited Africa in our future should this state persist.

The Third Battle of Fallujah

January 9th, 2014 by Stephen Lendman

Iraq today is a grim reflection of America’s ruthless imperial agenda. It includes mass slaughter, destruction, devastation, deprivation, human misery and unending violence.

On August 31, 2010, Obama displayed criminal contempt. He’s done it many times. He declared an end to America’s combat mission in Iraq, saying:

“Through this remarkable chapter in the history of the United States and Iraq, we have met our responsibility.”

Ignored was America’s genocidal legacy. Iraq was ravaged and destroyed. Pre-1990 Iraq no longer exists. Charnel house conditions replaced it.

So did plunder on the grandest of grand scales, millions of internal and external refugees, ongoing violence, dozens of daily deaths, a plague of preventable diseases, ecocide, and overall conditions too horrific to ignore.

Remember Fallujah. In September 2004, the UN Human Rights Council issued a report titled ”Testimonies of Crimes Against Humanity in Fallujah: Towards a Fair International Criminal Trial.”

It discussed horrific conditions, saying:

“From the (2003) outset and at the start of the indiscriminate and merciless campaign of collective punishment and willful destruction, undertaken by the occupational troops of the United States of America,” innocent civilians endured an “inhumane siege and indiscriminate killing” during April and May 2004.

“(G)enocidal massacres” included “sustained and targeted bombing(s), aimed directly at the homes of defenseless civilians.”

A November/December massacre followed. Thousands more Iraqis were slaughtered, wounded and maimed.

Depleted and enriched uranium, cluster bombs, white phosphorous and other terror weapons were used.

Chris Busby is a radiation expert. “We went to Fallujah, and we found the levels of cancer high,” he said.

“We looked at the parents of children with congenital malformation, and we did analysis of their hair to see what was inside their hair that might be genotoxic, that might be the sort of thing that can cause congenital malformation.”

“The only thing that we found was uranium. We found uranium in the mothers of the children with congenital malformations.”

“We know that uranium is genotoxic, that it causes these levels of genetic damage, and because of that it also causes cancer.”

“The only source of uranium was the use by the American-led forces of uranium weapons.”

“Not only depleted uranium weapons, but as we later found out slightly enriched uranium weapons, which we believe they were using in order to cover their tracks.”

Fallujah was besieged. Food, medicines and other vital supplies were kept out. US soldiers were ordered to kill anything that moved.

Young and old were targeted. Men, women, boys and girls were indiscriminately attacked.

Between both Fallujah battles, US warplanes kept bombing residential and industrial areas.

Negotiations to halt fighting failed. Washington blocked them. It did so to continue mass killing and destruction.

Hundreds were arrested. Imprisonments followed. So did horrific torture and ill-treatment.

Fallujah witnesses confirmed wholesale slaughter of unarmed civilians. They were killed inside their houses and mosques.

Some were shot after being arrested. Others were blown up inside their homes.

Children saw their parents shot. Adults witnessed their spouses and children killed. US and complicit Iraqi forces looted homes and stores.

Thousands of others were destroyed. A Commission for the Compensation of Fallujah Citizens said 7,000 houses were demolished.

So were 8,400 stores, workshops, clinics, warehouses and other structures. Sixty-five mosques were totally destroyed. So were five dozen primary, secondary and higher education schools.

Thirteen government buildings were leveled. Water and sewer systems were destroyed. So were two electrical power substations. Other infrastructure targets were demolished.

Around 100,000 domestic and wild animals died from toxic exposure. Four libraries containing valued Islamic manuscripts and books were burned.

Virtually everything in Fallujah was fair game. It remains symbolic of imperial US viciousness.

Subsequent Fallujah health statistics showed:

  • around 6,000 previously unknown or rarely seen diseases; and
  • sharp increases in leukemia, other cancers, infant mortality, birth defects, miscarriages, abnormal deliveries, and other health problems similar to what Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors experienced.

Will the third battle of Fallujah repeat what happened earlier? US forces aren’t directly involved. Iraqi government troops are battling Anbar Province Al Qaeda affiliated Sunni militants.

In December, Washington began supplying Nuri al-Maliki’s government with dozens of Hellfire missiles, other weapons and drones.

It’s unclear whether US operators will wage drone warfare like what’s ongoing in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere. If al-Maliki’s forces can’t contain things on their own, bet on US involvement.

On Sunday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Al Qaeda affiliated elements are “seeking to gain control of territory inside the borders of Iraq.”

“(They represent a) common enemy of the United States and the Republic of Iraq, and a threat to the greater Middle East.”

Al Qaeda is a US creation. It’s used strategically as both ally and enemy. John Kerry issued a statement saying:

“We will stand with the government of Iraq and with others who will push back against their efforts to destabilize. We are not contemplating putting boots on the ground.”

Vice President Biden spoke with al-Maliki. His office issued a statement saying “the United States stands with Iraq in its fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.”

Iraq is a failed state. It’s a dysfunctional wasteland. Nightmarish conditions exist. Multiple car bombings occur almost daily.

So does other nationwide violence. Iraq is a virtual war zone. Dozens die daily. Fighting never ended. Al-Maliki is a convenient US stooge.

Al Qaeda affiliated elements largely gained control of Ramadi and Fallujah. Al-Maliki reinforced nearby Iraqi forces. Air strikes and artillery shelling followed.

Perhaps laying siege to both towns is planned. Will mass destruction and massacres follow?

On Tuesday, fierce clashes occurred between so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters and government forces.

ISIL elements are Sunni militants. They’re linked to Al Qaeda. They’re heavily involved in Syria.

Both countries share a common border. It’s porous. Militants fighting Assad’s forces cross it easily to fight in Iraq.

Sectarian tensions are high. Violence increased after Iraqi forces attacked Hawija Sunni protesters last April. Dozens were killed.

Deadly car bombings continue nationwide. In 2013, Iraq’s death toll was the highest since 2007. In Anbar Province, Iraqi forces, local tribes and ISIL fighters are waging three-way war.

Before 2003, Iraq had no Al Qaeda elements. No threat existed. Washington’s war changed things.

Iraq is a cauldron of violence. Fighting shows no signs of ending. Expect things to get much worse before it ebbs.

If US drone warfare complements Iraqi forces on the ground, mass killing and destruction may follow. It may happen with or without US involvement.

The third battle for Fallujah may replicate the first two. Expect Ramadi and other parts of Anbar Province to be affected.

Civilians will suffer most. Millions died since GHW Bush’s Gulf War. Clinton’s sanctions alone claimed around 1.5 million lives.

GW Bush’s war, Obama continuing where he left off, and subsequent violence, disease, and deprivation took millions more.

On October 7, 2001, America’s new millennium wars began. They continue out-of-control. Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya are war zones.

Fighting rages daily. Iraqi government forces are preparing to storm Fallujah. Expect another bloodbath to follow.

Washington bears full responsibility. Bush I and II, Clinton and Obama are unindicted war criminals.

Millions of regional deaths bear witness to their high crimes. They continue daily with no end.

They do so when polls show Afghanistan is Washington’s most unpopular war in history. Over 80% of Americans oppose it. Less than 20% support it.

It rages out-of-control. It shows no signs of ending. With or without most US forces remaining, it could continue for another decade or longer.

It reflects America’s addiction to war. It reveals state terror as official US policy. It shows contempt for rule of law principles. It suggests conflicts without end will continue.

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

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

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

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

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

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

http://www.dailycensored.com/third-battle-fallujah/

US Secretary of State John Kerry spent last week testing the waters with Israelis and Palestinians over his so-called framework agreement – designed to close the gaps between the two sides. But the issues he is trying to resolve appear more intractable by the day.

As he headed to the region, Israel’s hawkish cabinet ministers gave their blessing to legislation to annex the Jordan Valley, a large swath of the West Bank that might otherwise be the Palestinian state’s economic backbone and gateway to the outside world.

To underscore their point, the interior minister, Gideon Saar, a close friend of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, led a group of rightwing politicians on a tour of the valley during which they held a dedication ceremony for a new settlement neighbourhood.

In a speech there, the deputy foreign minister, Zeev Elkin, averred that the Jordan Valley must remain under “Israeli sovereignty forever”. Without it, Israel would return to what he called the “Auschwitz borders” before the 1967 occupation began.

On Sunday, as Kerry left, the defence minister, Moshe Yaalon, added a new condition: peace was impossible, he argued, as long as the Palestinians and their schoolbooks “incited” against Israel, even quoting from a government-compiled “Palestinian incitement index”.

The hyperbole overshadowed two Israeli surveys that might one day provide a yardstick by which to judge an equivalent “Israeli incitement index”.

An opinion poll revealed that nearly two-thirds of Israeli Jews believe the conflict’s Palestinian narrative – including the nakba, the great dispossession of the Palestinians in 1948 to create Israel – should be taught in schools.

This flies in the face of Netanyahu’s own view. His government passed a law in 2011 effectively banning public institutions from giving a platform to nakba commemorations.

The other study, following an experiment in a handful of schools, demonstrated that, when Jewish students are exposed to spoken Arabic at an early age, between 10 and 12, they hold dramatically less hostile and stereotypical views of Arabs. Currently, many Jewish students never learn Arabic.

With the experimental programme employing teachers from Israel’s large Palestinian minority, the study noted that for most of the Jewish children it was the first time they had developed a close relationship with an Arab.

The education ministry, however, was reported to have waved aside the findings and is apparently failing to fund the existing, small programme, let alone expand it.

This is no oversight. Successive Israeli governments have carefully engineered the structure of Israeli society to ensure that Jewish and Palestinian citizens, the latter comprising a fifth of the population, are kept in separate linguistic, cultural, educational and emotional worlds.

The reasoning is not hard to discern. The last thing Israeli leaders want is for Jewish and Palestinian citizens to develop shared interests, forge friendships and act in solidarity. That would start to erode the rationale for a Jewish state, especially one premised on the supposed need of the Jews to defend themselves from a hostile world – “the villa in the jungle”, as former prime minister Ehud Barak once characterised Israel.

In short, a Jewish state’s future precisely depends on the anti-Arab stereotypes inculcated in young Israeli minds.

It may not therefore be coincidental that, as Israel has faced increasing pressure over the past 20 years to make peace, the separation of Jews from Palestinians has entrenched.

Today most Israeli Jews rarely meet a Palestinian, and especially not one from the West Bank or Gaza. It is easy to forget that before the 1993 Oslo accords, many Israeli Jews regularly ventured into Palestinian areas, to shop, eat and fix their cars. Palestinians, meanwhile, were evident in Israeli communities, even if only as builders or waiters.

It may have been a very unequal, even colonial encounter, but nonetheless it made it hard for Israelis to demonise their neighbours.

Such contacts are now a distant memory. And that is precisely how leaders like Netanyahu want to keep it.

Inside Israel, the direction of policy is the same. In recent weeks, the government has insisted on raising the electoral threshold in a barely concealed effort to rid the parliament of Arab parties. Legislation is also being revived to tax into oblivion human rights organisations, those that give a voice to Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories.

Last weekend Avigdor Lieberman, the foreign minister, argued that a peace agreement must include disappearing hundreds of thousands of Palestinian citizens by transferring their homes to a future, very circumscribed Palestinian state.

Palestinian legislator Ahmed Tibi’s complaint that Palestinian citizens were viewed by Israel’s leaders as nothing more than “chess pieces” goes to the heart of the matter. It is easy to dehumanise those you know and care little about.

Israel’s separation policy – and its security justifications – requires not only that Jews and Palestinians be kept apart, but that Palestinians be confined to a series of discrete ghettos, whether in the West Bank, Jerusalem, Gaza or Israel.

These divisions are the cause of endless suffering. A recent study of Gaza, the most isolated of these ghettos, found that a third of Palestinians there were physically separated from a close relative. Israeli-imposed restrictions force Palestinians to forgo marriages, learn of relatives’ deaths from afar, miss college courses, and lose the chance for medical treatment.

The prioritising of Israelis’ security over Palestinians’ freedom was a central weakness of the Oslo process, and the same skewed agenda pollutes the current peace talks.

In a commentary for the Haaretz newspaper last week, a leading general, Gadi Shamni, set out at length the many military reasons – quite apart from political ones – why Israel could never risk allowing the Palestinians a viable state. On the army’s best assessments, he argued, Israel would need to control such a state’s borders and much of its territory, including the Jordan Valley, for a period ranging “from 40 years to forever”.

The reality is that no arrangement on earth can guarantee protection for those in the villa from the beasts lurking outside. Either it is time to abandon the villa, or to start seeing the jungle as a forest to be explored.

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books).  His new website is www.jonathan-cook.net.

A version of this article first appeared in The National, Abu Dhabi.

Basra: Profiting from their Destruction, the British are Back

January 9th, 2014 by Felicity Arbuthnot

When will there be justice in Athens? There will be justice in Athens when those who are not injured are as outraged as those who are.” Thucydides (460 BC – 395 BC.)

In December 2007, Major General Graham Binns, Commander of British Forces in Basra, handed illegally occupied Basra Province back to the Iraqis, with Basra city centre “festooned with flags, lights and banners to mark the occasion.”

In fact, the whole nonsense was window dressing. British soldiers had been under siege in their bases between February and September that year and had withdrawn to Basra Airport, on the city’s outskirts, leaving just seven hundred soldiers in Basra, squatting in one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces. They too slunk out to the airport, under cover of darkness on 3rd September.

At the hand over, Major General Binns said that Basra had been successfully wrested from its enemies and was now being handed back to its friends. However, at the time, a poll of 1,000 Basra residents for BBC’s Newsnight programme showed 85% saying British troops had been a negative effect on the Province for their five year occupation.

Given the litany of claims of murder, torture, abuse, theft, against the British army being handled by lawyers in the UK, for Basra region residents, ”negative” seems a bit of an understatement.

However, Major General Binns, who commanded the 7th Armoured Brigade when it led the siege of Basra in 2003, is back in Basra with a new hat on. In the revolving door between the US and UK armies and mercenary companies, Binns, who left the army in 2010, joined one such, Aegis Defence Services, who have been employed by the New Governor of Basra, Majid al-Nasrawi.

Amongst other things, states the Major General: “Aegis will be asked to provide help with setting up specialised CCTV detection and checkpoint systems across the city, establishing a “ring of steel” security system to thwart suicide bombers.” Sounds just like old times, more work for more lawyers surely inevitable.

Aegis is to also: “set up an academy to help security forces improve coordination and intelligence-gathering techniques.” Exactly what British forces said they were also doing during their uninvited stay. Indeed a contingency remained, even after the 2007 flight, to “train” Iraqis, leaving finally, in April 2009. Further, the locals who forced the majority British troops’ “hurried departure” are still a considerable force to be reckoned with. More trouble ahead, and what a great excuse to call back the UK’s “boys” if it all goes pear shaped for Aegis, in the vital oil port hub, the engine of the entire country, which is Basra port and the region’s oil.

“The contract is politically sensitive as it will put British military experts in an influential position in Basra, advising the Governor’s … security committee.” Britain has again it’s feet firmly under Iraq’s table.

“We have signed a contract with the Basra Governor”, states Binns: “and will initially be supporting them in procuring specialised equipment for search and detection purposes and CCTV, but that may expand.” You bet. (1)

For a man who commanded UK forces in Basra, Binns seems woefully ignorant of the infrastructure. Last summer, for the third year in a row, the people of Basra demonstrated in the sweltering heat because the electricity supply operated just two hours a day. In 1991, the subsequent ten-plus years of bombing and in 2003, Iraq’s electricity system was systematically destroyed.

In context, in the first major assault: “On January 17, 1991 … the U.S. dropped metallic filaments onto the power network that short circuited the system, and caused blackouts. The Coalition then targeted twenty eight power plants, flying 215 sorties against them, along with nine transformers and switching yards. Within a few days, the entire power grid was knocked out of action.” (2) The attacks went on year after year. Each time one ruined facility had been cannibalized for equipment to revive another one to staggering along status, the repaired one would be re-bombed. The 2003 targeting was the final death knell to Iraq’s electricity infrastructure.

Through it all, until the invasion, the extraordinary ingenuity of Iraq’s engineers and other experts somehow kept the electricity imperfectly on, in spite of the siege conditions of the embargo, for far longer, daily, than those with the $billions in the budget of the “New Iraq.”

Perhaps The Major General and his burly elves will pitch up with pockets full of batteries for his CCTV, “specialised equipment” and “ring of steel.” Alice Binns in Wonderland.

As the BBC explained: Aegis is one one of the UK’s biggest mercenary companies, having: “made millions from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan since it was founded just eight years ago.

“It is even fair to say that Aegis, like much of the private security industry, owes its very existence to the last Iraq war.

“’In Iraq in 2003 and 2004 money was basically free’, explained Andy Bearpark, Director-General of the British Association of Private Security Companies”(3) unless you were an Iraqi.

Aegis was founded by former British Army officer Tim Spicer, in 2002. He was replaced as Chief Executive in 2010 by Major General Binns. To describe Spicer’s career as “colorful” would not do him justice. Controversy has followed him from his army posting in Northern Ireland, when two of his soldiers were convicted of murder, then to Papua and New Guinea and on to Sierra Leone with his previously founded mercenary company, Sandline.

In August 2004 the just two year old Aegis, under Spicer, reportedly won a $293 million, three year contract in Iraq, outsourcing, including intelligence, for the US Army. In May 2006, writing in the Guardian, Stephen Armstrong commented: “Colonel Tim Spicer is effectively in charge of the second largest military force in Iraq – some 20,000 private soldiers. Just don’t call him a mercenary.”

At the time: “Aegis had a contract with the Pentagon …to oversee the sixteen private security companies providing personnel, security, military training and reconstruction.” Training again, eh? And now they are back.

Following the awarding of the Pentagon contract: “… five US Senators, Charles Schumer, Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy, Chris Dodd and John Kerry, wrote a joint letter” to then Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld, calling on him to investigate the granting of the Aegis contract, describing Spicer as “an individual with a history of supporting excessive use of force against a civilian population” and stating that he “vigorously defends (human rights abuses.)”

Moreover: “In a December 2005 letter to his constituents, then U.S. Senator Barack Obama called on the Department of Defense to withdraw its contract with Aegis. Obama wrote that: “The CEO of Aegis Defense Services Tim Spicer has been implicated in a variety of human rights abuses around the globe … given his history, I agree that the United States should consider rescinding its contract with his company.”(4) Quite. Never-the-less, pots, kettles and black come to mind. Aegis was, after all, in competition with the US’s also seemingly human-rights-free marauders, Blackwater.

However, Tim Spicer was awarded a Knighthood and Aegis ploughs up the $millions. It is Chaired, by Sir Winston Churchill’s grandson The Honourable Nicholas Soames, former UK Minister of State for the Armed Services, former Shadow Secretary of State for Defence and mega enthusiast for the Iraq invasion. The Board includes Colonel Giles Harrison, the highlights of whose: “  …military career included managing a multi-stakeholder, multi-billion pound programme at the UK Ministry of Defence”, Brigadier James Ellery, and of course, Major General Binns (and his batteries) amongst others.(5)

For anyone who thought the British finally gave up Iraq in 1932, 2007, 2009, they are back with a vengeance. Same car, new paint.

Of course, if the appalling US appointed “Viceroy” Paul Bremer had not created his De-Ba’athification policy (enforced on 16th May 2003) which effectively sacked and denied employment to almost anyone who had been employed in the public sector during Saddam Hussein’s rule, all from electricity to security could have been fixed at a fraction of the price.

But perhaps that was the plan, to tear the financial heart out of Iraq to the mega gain of the UK and US whose companies are rolling in the mega dollars. The countries who destroyed Iraq are reaping untold riches from their destruction.

Ironically, it is the De-Ba’athification policy itself which has been blamed as a major factor in the collapse of economy, society and security throughout Iraq. The concept came from Iraqi exile and convicted embezzler, Ahmed Chalabi, whose Iraqi National Congress was nurtured by the CIA’s $millions.(6)

As Hussein al-Alak, founder of the Iraq Solidarity Campaign puts succinctly: “It is a bitter irony, that those who introduced the policy of De-Ba’athification, thus creating an unimaginable level of paranoia and discrimination, were those who also brought to the British and American Governments, the now infamous claims of Saddam’s 45 minute WMDs.” (7)

Notes

1. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iraq/10550202/Basra-invites-British-back-for-security-role.html

2. http://musingsoniraq.blogspot.co.uk/2010/06/basra-protest-over-lack-of-electricity.html

3. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-11521579

4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Spicer

5. http://www.aegisworld.com/who-we-are/key-personalities/

6. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2003/apr/14/iraq.davidleigh

7. http://totallyhussein.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/a-chance-for-iraqi- political-growth.html

 

The Obama administration and its European allies lavish praise, weapons and money on Paul Kagame’s military and ethnic dictatorship in Rwanda. Meanwhile, Victoire Ingabire, a woman of peace, languishes in Kagame’s prisons. If she were president, “there would be a major change in how Rwandans and Congolese live as neighbors, because that would be the end of Rwanda invading Congo.”

Nearly 60% of Rwanda’s Members of Parliament are women, and the country is commonly praised for empowering women. In October 2011, Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s delirious state newspaper even suggested that he deserved that year’s Nobel Peace Prize more than the three African women who won, because of his “good practices” to “guarantee a future devoid of gender imbalance.” Trouble with this theory is that Madame Victoire Ingabire, the one woman who dared to challenge Paul Kagame by attempting to run against him in 2010, has been in prison ever since. On Friday, December 13th, while Kagame was in South Africa to pay his last respects to Nelson Mandela, his Supreme Court upheld Victoire’s conviction and extended her sentence from eight to fifteen years.

Rwanda’s Supreme Court justices, 42% of whom are women, agreed with the lower court’s ruling that Victoire conspired to form an armed group to overthrow the government of Rwanda, but Human Rights Watch and many others called the charges politically motivated and the European Parliament called for justice and said that the lower court had not met international judicial standards. I myself spoke to Victoire for Pacifica’s KPFA Radio-Berkeley many times in 2010 and I’ve never known anyone so opposed to armed conflict or committed to the rule of law.  Her conviction for this would be a howler if she weren’t facing another twelve years in prison and her family weren’t facing their fourth Christmas without her.

Victoire speaks fluent Dutch, French, Kinyarwanda, and English, but pronounces “dialogue” and “debate” with a distinct and adamant French accent.  After the 2010 release of the UN Mapping Report documenting President Kagame’s army’s war crimes, crimes against humanity, and even genocide against Hutu refugees in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, she told KPFA that the mandate of the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda should be expanded to include crimes in Congo. Instead, she herself went to prison five days later.

Other prisoners who testified to joining her in a conspiracy to form an armed group were granted release for time served on the same day her own conviction was upheld.

President Obama?  

No one would seem to be more respectful of the West’s nominally revered democratic institutions and civil liberties than this Rwandan political prisoner, Victoire Ingabire, so why have President Obama and the U.S. State Department remained so silent about her case?  Neither President Obama nor British Prime Minister David Cameron hesitated to make it known that they had warned President Kagame not to send reinforcements across Rwanda’s western border to his M23 militia in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), when M23 finally faced defeat by the Congolese army and UN Force Intervention Brigade.  So why have they not, like the European Parliament, called on Rwanda, their longstanding ally and “military partner” to respect  judicial standards in Ingabire’s case?

Many reasons, no doubt, including former President Bill Clinton’s determination to protect his longtime friend Paul Kagame and their mutual determination to preserve the received history of the Rwandan Genocide and ensuing Congo wars and conflict.  Another may be Victoire’s opposition to their longstanding plan to make Rwanda, or at least its modern capital city Kigali, the “Singapore of Africa,” a banking, technology, and minerals processing hub and multinational corporate gateway to the resource riches of the DRC.  In 2010, during her thwarted attempt to run for president, Victoire said:

“The rural population in Rwanda has been neglected for the last 16 years and, instead of the Singapore model of development, which gives the lion’s share to a tiny, urban privileged elite, I would invest in agriculture, I would invest in rural roads and health networks. I would review the land management and I would give priority to the subsistence food crops, rather than cash crops which benefit mostly traders from urban areas. For example, if people cultivate only maize – if you ask them to cultivate only maize for export – what will they eat? This is why I will give priority to enough food to my people.”

Like Tanzanian President Jacaya Kikwete, Victoire stands for negotiation with armed Rwandan refugees in Congo, who have been the Kagame regime’s excuse for invading and plundering that country for years.

“Victoire Ingabire does not believe in invading the neighbors,” said Rwanda Genocide survivor and Friends of the Congo activist Claude Gatebuke.   “So Victoire’s case is very significant, not only for Rwanda, but also for Congo.  If Victoire Ingabire were allowed to run for president in Rwanda, and she won, there would be a major change in how Rwandans and Congolese live as neighbors, because that would be the end of Rwanda invading Congo.”

Imagine that.  After almost 20 years, and millions of Congolese and Rwandan refugees dead.

Speech crime 

The lower court also upheld Victoire Ingabire’s conviction for several speech crimes.

1) “Spreading false rumors” intended to incite the public to rise up against the state.
Enough said, I hope, for anyone who believes in free speech.  Or anyone who understands that Rwanda is an authoritarian spy state that has engaged in a war of aggression in neighboring Congo for nearly 20 years.

2)  “Minimizing” the 1994 Rwandan Genocide.

In 2010, Victoire went to the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre, and said that Hutu as well as Tutsi victims should be remembered there.  The history of the Rwandan Genocide, codified in Rwanda’s Constitution, is that it was only Hutu extremists’ “Genocide Against the Tutsi.”

Before she went to prison, Victoire told KPFA listeners,“ My party and I have never denied the genocide, by the UN understanding, because the Resolution 955 from UN says that in Rwanda was genocide against the people of Rwanda . . . there was genocide against Tutsis and moderate Hutus. We don’t have to forget that. Yes, there was genocide and all people involved should be brought to the court. But, before, during, and after the genocide, other Rwandese people were killed. Hutus and Tutsis were killed. Is this denying genocide? I don’t feel so.”

It’s difficult to rationally argue with this, because the 1991 Rwandan census, as documented by Ed Herman and David Peterson in The Politics of Genocide, reported a Rwandan population of 7,590,235, including 645,170 Tutsis, more than 300,000 fewer than the million Tutsis commonly reported to have died in the genocide.  And because Ibuka, Rwanda’s Tutsi genocide survivors group, has claimed that some 300,000 of these 645,170 Tutsis survived. President Kagame would therefore seem to have a lot of bones on display in his genocide memorial sites that he can’t properly account for as the result of his Constitutionally codified “Genocide Against the Tutsi.”

Ever since I began to try to untangle this story, with my own focus on U.S. responsibility for backing the Kagame regime, Rwandan Hutu people have told me that they simply want to be able to bury and openly mourn their dead, that this is what they must do to heal and reconcile.  Others have told me that they want all the bones buried, not displayed in memorial museums, because it’s not normal in Rwanda to display the bones or body parts of the dead for tourists or anyone else.

To many Rwandans, that is what Victoire Ingabire represents.  Acknowledging, remembering, mourning, and burying all the dead.

Quite a few Rwandans appeared out of cyberspace to respond to my 2010 report,Rwanda’s packed prisons and genocide ideology law.  Some were absolutely furious, others deeply relieved, just because another writer in the U.S., which has been the dominant power in the region since the Rwanda Genocide and Congo Wars, was trying to make sense of this. At that point I realized how bitterly ethnically polarized Rwanda remains, despite the government’s claim that ethnicity no longer exists there.  One reader who appreciated the report left this unforgettable statement in the comments section:

“I am from Kiyombe in Byumba. RPF [Rwandan Patriotic Front] came in 1991 and called all the people from our village for a security meeting.  After people had gathered at the soccer pitch of Kiyombe, Mr. Hitler Kagame ordered his military to bomb the gathering. I escaped and went through the tea plantation and found my way to Uganda.  Ever since I have never returned to Rwanda but I am still considered a genocide denier or genocidaire.  Why? Simply because I am a Hutu and I don’t even have rights to go back to Rwanda and bury my family and relatives in dignity. Do you know how old I was then?  Just 16.  I survived but it is me and me alone.”

After reading that, I turned to maps and found Kiyombe and Byumba, near the Ugandan border which the RPF, led by General Paul Kagame, had crossed in 1990.  And, which this young man then crossed all alone a year later, running in the other direction as a refugee. I also found the tea plantation that he said he had escaped through, and the tea processing plant nearby.

Ann Garrison is an independent journalist who contributes to the Black Star News, Counterpunch, Global Research, and the San Francisco Bay View Newspaper, and produces radio for KPFA-Berkeley and WBAI-New York City.  She can be reached on her website, anngarrison.com, or at [email protected].

Obama, the Great Dis-Equalizer

January 9th, 2014 by Glen Ford

Barack Obama has used up his people-friendly rhetoric over the past five years, and is now repeating promises he’s already made and broken: to raise the minimum wage, strengthen worker rights, establish truly universal health care, and fight for the common man and woman. Obama’s new rhetorical target is gross income inequalities – a catastrophe that has worsened on his watch.

President Obama, the Grand Facilitator of the greatest consolidation of financial wealth in human history, began his sixth year in office declaring that income inequality is “the defining challenge of our time.” The Grand Bargainer who saved George Bush’s bank bailout and presided over the (ongoing) infusion of tens of trillions of dollars into Wall Street accounts, and who bragged less than two years ago that, “Since I’ve been president, federal spending has actually risen at the lowest pace in nearly 60 years,” now calls for government action to reverse the momentum of his own policies. The Great Pretender, who in 2008 called for an increase in the federal minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2011, and then did absolutely nothing to effectuate it when Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress, now proposes to raise the bar to $10 an hour in order to embarrass Republicans in an election year. The Daring Debt Buster who, on his own initiative, has frozen federal workers’ wages since 2010, and worked hand in glove with Republicans to gut social programs in the name of fiscal restraint, laments “growing inequality and lack of upward mobility” among the masses.

The chief executive who lifted not a finger to pass “card check,” the Employee Free Choice Actof 2009, that might have given organized labor a fighting chance to survive, now pretends to be a born again champion of collective bargaining and yearns for the days when “you knew that a blue-collar job would let you buy a home, and a car, maybe a vacation once in a while, health care, a reliable pension.”

Meanwhile, Obama’s Justice Department sided with the Republican-appointed Emergency Financial Manager of Detroit, who was seeking to impose bankruptcy on the mostly Black city and raid retiree’s pensions – revealing the administration’s true colors.

The nation’s First Black President admits that “African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans are far more likely to suffer from a lack of opportunity – higher unemployment, higher poverty rates,” and claims he’ll push for “targeted initiatives” to combat this “legacy of discrimination” (although all the proposed targeting is in the form of tax incentives for business). Yet, nearly five years ago, in a press conference marking his first hundred days in office, Obama categorically rejected targeted aid for Black communities, thus ensuring that the cascading effects of the Great Meltdown would plunge African Americans deeper into the abyss. Obama said:

“So my general approach is that if the economy is strong, that it will lift all boats as long as it is also supported by, for example, strategies around college affordability and job training, tax cuts for working families as opposed to the wealthiest that level the playing field and ensure bottom-up economic growth.

“And I’m confident that that will help the African-American community live out the American dream at the same time that it’s helping communities all across the country.”

By 2009, according to economist Pamela Brown, white household wealth was 19 times that of Black households, “and is probably even greater now” – compared to a ratio of 12 to 1 in 1984 and down to 7 to 1 in 1995. The collapse of Black economic fortunes has been catastrophic, yet Obama offers only tax cuts for corporations, streamlined business regulations, undoing of sequestration, more rhetoric about ending off-shoring of jobs, and stronger application of antidiscrimination laws.

The president wants us to forget that he was the one who proposed sequestration in the first place, in an effort to force a Grand Bargain with Republicans; that his economic advisors are secretly meeting with hundreds of corporate lobbyists to shape a jobs-destroying Trans Pacific Partnership that is “like NAFTA on steroids,” and then fast-track it through Congress; and that Obama has nominated two Republican prospective judges from Georgia to federal courts, one of whom fought to keep the Confederate banner in the state flag, while the other was the lead lawyer in defense of Georgia’s Voter ID law. The Obama administration has many priorities, but nondiscrimination is not one of them.

Whatever Obama means when he says “targeted assistance,” it seldom translates as actual money for non-corporate persons. Back in April of 2012, his administration was cited for failing to spend almost all of $7.6 billion that Congress set aside to help communities and homeowners hardest hit by the housing crisis – a cohort that is disproportionately Black and brown. Obama’s Treasury Department offered no explanation other than they had not put together a proper spending plan. However, it is obvious that Obama’s people wanted to avoid doing anything that might interfere with the banks’ foreclosure processes, so as not to disturb Wall Street’s manifold schemes to further rig the market.

The growing crisis of income and wealth inequality is a result of the internal logic of capitalism under the hegemony of Wall Street. Obama’s fix for the vast social carnage the banksters leave in their wake, is to forge a State that is even more dutiful in propping up “the markets” and stripping down the public sector. There is no room in that presidential mission for even modest amelioration of the public’s pain. The president’s rhetoric is nothing more than noise, totally disconnected from actual policy. The Lords of Capital – for whom Obama is a servant – have nothing to offer but more austerity and war.

They must be disempowered, root and branch, and society “reformed” in their absence.

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

US Imperialism and Iraq’s Descent Into Civil War

January 9th, 2014 by Bill Van Auken

A decade after the US military waged two barbaric sieges of Fallujah, the Iraqi city is once again facing a bloody armed conflict.

The army of Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki has massed artillery and tanks on Fallujah’s outskirts and has already bombed and shelled civilian neighborhoods, inflicting an unknown number of casualties. Thousands have fled the city in fear for their lives, and the United Nations has warned that the cut-off of water, food and fuel is creating a humanitarian catastrophe. Maliki has vowed to launch a full-scale assault on the city unless its inhabitants succeed in persuading armed insurgents to surrender.

In April and again in November-December of 2004, Fallujah was turned into a killing field by the US occupation. From the air it was pummeled by AC-130 Specter gunships, F-16 fighter jets and Apache attack helicopters. On the ground, a force of over 10,000 US troops backed by tanks and artillery was assembled to attack the city. Bombs, missiles and white phosphorous shells—chemical weapons banned under the Geneva conventions—were unleashed against the population. Hospitals and ambulances were targeted.

In the end, fully one out five buildings in the town were destroyed, while two-thirds of what remained were damaged. Hundreds of thousands were turned into homeless refugees. At least 120 US troops were killed in the two sieges, while no accurate count of how many thousands of Iraqis were killed has ever been made.

Much of the US media coverage of the current situation in Fallujah, Ramadi and elsewhere in Iraq’s western Anbar province, has begun from the standpoint of what a shock and disappointment these events represent, given the enormous “sacrifice” made by the US occupation to pacify the area a decade ago. The Iraq war is once again being cast as a humanitarian venture aimed at fighting terrorism and bringing democracy to the Iraqi people.

The barbaric attack on Fallujah constituted a war crime. In its aims, scope and ferocity, it was comparable to the kind of collective punishment meted out by the Nazis against resisting populations in occupied Europe. It was emblematic of the criminal character of the entire US war. Foisted onto the American people with lies about non-existent “weapons of mass destruction” and ties between Baghdad and Al Qaeda, the war was a premeditated act of aggression launched to further US imperialist aims to assert hegemony over the Middle East and its vast energy reserves.

Having failed to secure a guarantee of legal immunity for remaining US troops, Obama ordered the last of them withdrawn from Iraq little more than two years ago. The Iraqi people, however, have been left to deal with the bitter legacy of nearly nine years of US military occupation. Meanwhile, Washington’s quest for hegemony in the region has continued, most notably through the war to topple Muammar Gaddafi in Libya and its fomenting and support for a war for regime change against the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. In Fallujah and Ramadi, the consequences of the crimes of US imperialism, both past and present, have come together in an explosive form.

The confrontation, presented by the corporate media as a struggle against Al Qaeda terrorists, has deep roots in the sectarian divisions that were instigated by the US war and occupation as part of a deliberate divide-and-rule strategy. They succeeded in pitting Iraq’s majority Shi’ite population against the minority Sunnis, while the Kurdish minority in the north has been allowed to pursue regional autonomy, while conflicts over borders and rights to oil wealth threaten to erupt into civil war there as well.

The government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, installed under the US occupation, has pursued an openly sectarian agenda, ruthlessly purging leading Sunni political figures, using the security forces to crack down on the population of Anbar and branding protests against these abuses of power as acts of Al Qaeda terrorism.

At the end of December, the Maliki regime touched off the present conflict by moving to arrest Ahmed al-Alwany, a prominent Sunni member of parliament in Ramadi—killing his brother and five bodyguards in the process—and then on December 30 sending in security forces to break up a protest encampment that had existed in the same city for months, killing at least 17 more.

Amid seething popular anger, armed groups, including both the Al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and local tribesmen, seized control of police stations, drove out the security forces and set up local checkpoints, effectively taking over Fallujah and much of Ramadi.

The Obama administration has responded by declaring its full support to Maliki and rushing weapons, including Hellfire missiles, drones and other equipment to his military. It is exerting maximum pressure on Congress to end its delay on shipment of Apache attack helicopters and F-16s to the regime. That this weaponry, in the hands of a regime that has become ever more sectarian and authoritarian, may soon be used to massacre civilians has presented no obstacle to the Obama White House.

Washington has presented its military aid as an imperative driven by the threat of Al Qaeda, with Secretary of State John Kerry describing those who have seized Fallujah as “the most dangerous players in that region.”

The reality is that such aid is one of the principal means of control and influence that Washington still exerts over Baghdad. While the troops have left, a 1,000-man Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq based at the US embassy remains, including both US military personnel and contractors. It has managed hundreds of military sales contracts amounting to over $9 billion since the end of the occupation. US contractors, most of them ex-special operations troops, remain “embedded” with Iraqi forces as “advisors.”

As for the supposed threat from Al Qaeda, that is also largely of Washington’s own making. The ISIS has been vastly strengthened by the US-backed war for regime change across the border in Syria, where it has been armed and funded by the US’s closest allies, particularly Saudi Arabia. The hypocrisy and cynicism of US policy in the region is summed up in Washington’s denunciation of Syria’s bombardment of ISIS forces in Aleppo, even as it rushes more missiles to Iraq so that Maliki can bomb them in Fallujah.

Embodied in this glaring contradiction is the dual use that Washington makes of Al Qaeda, employing it as a proxy where it suits is purposes—as in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and more recently in Libya and Syria—and then using it as a bogeyman to justify intervention, as in Afghanistan and Iraq a decade ago and once again in Iraq today.

The prospect that US imperialism may be able to further warm its hands over the fire it has ignited in Fallujah was indicated by the New York Times on Monday, in an article highlighting the “common enemies” shared by Washington and Tehran in Iraq. It suggested that the rapprochement between the US and Iran can extend beyond a deal on the Iranian nuclear program into turning Iran into a force for “stability” in the region.

Such a realignment, however, would hardly resolve the deep social, political and class conflicts tearing apart the Middle East, and would only be exploited by US imperialism to further its broader quest for global hegemony, particularly through confrontation with China.

 

The Long History of Zionism in Canada

January 9th, 2014 by Yves Engler

Canada’s Conservative government is trying to convince Canadian Jews to support its right-wing imperialistic worldview.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently spoke to the annual Toronto gala of the Jewish National Fund, which has a long history of dispossessing Palestinians and discriminating against non-Jews.

Echoing the words of Theodor Herzl, a founder of political Zionism, Harper told the 4,000 attendees that Israel is a “light of freedom and democracy in what is otherwise a region of darkness.”

Shortly before this event the Minister for Employment and Social Development Jason Kenney spoke at the launch of the Canadian chapter of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). Established by a former colonel in the Israeli military, MEMRI selectively (mis)translates stories from Arab and Iranian media in a bid to advance expansionist Israeli interests.

Kenney told the audience assembled at Montreal’s Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue that MEMRI is “a peaceful weapon of truth-telling in a civilizational conflict in which we are all engaged.”

The comments from Harper and Kenney certainly play well with those in the Jewish community committed to Israeli and Western imperialism, but they also spur that sentiment. Most people respect power and when leading politicians say a country is involved in a “civilizational conflict” against “a region of darkness” it tends to shape opinion.

Few Canadian Jews — or others among the target audience for that matter — realize that Harper and Kenney don’t take this “clash of civilizations” talk literally (if they did they wouldn’t be deepening political ties with a number of Middle Eastern monarchies and selling billions of dollars in weaponry to the region’s “darkest” regime, Saudi Arabia.)

While the Harper government’s pro-Israel comments are particularly extreme, they are far from unique in Canadian history. For more than a century non-Jewish Canadians have promoted a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

Similar to Europe, Zionism’s roots in Canada are Christian, not Jewish. Early Canadian support for Zionism was based on the more literal readings of the Bible that flowed out of the Protestant Reformation.

They were also tied to this country’s status as a dominion of the British Empire, which in the latter half of the nineteenth century began to see Zionism as a potential vehicle to strengthen its geostrategic position in the region.

At the time of confederation, Canada’s preeminent Christian Zionist was Henry Wentworth Monk. To buy Palestine from the Ottoman Empire in 1875, Monk began the Palestine Restoration Fund.

Unsuccessful, seven years later he took out an ad in the Jewish World proposing a “Bank of Israel” to finance Jewish resettlement. Irving Abella’s book A Coat of Many Colours: Two Centuries of Jewish Life in Canada describes Monk as “an eccentric but respected businessman” who took up a campaign in Canada and England to raise funds for buying land in Palestine during the 1870s and 1880s.

“In 1881 Monk even proposed setting up a Jewish National Fund,” Abella writes. “He issued manifestoes, wrote long articles, spoke to assorted meetings and lobbied extensively in England and Canada to realize his dream.”

Monk called for the British Empire to establish a “dominion of Israel” similar to the dominion of Canada. In the 1978 book Canada and Palestine, Zachariah Kay notes: “Monk believed that Palestine was the logical center of the British Empire, and could help form a confederation of the English-speaking world.”

Monk was not alone in Canada. Citing a mix of Christian and pro-British rationale, leading Canadian politicians repeatedly expressed support for Zionism. In 1907, two cabinet ministers attended the Federation of Zionist Societies of Canada convention, telling delegates that Zionism had the support of the government, according to Kay’s book.

Kay’s book also states that Arthur Meighen, then solicitor-general and later prime minister, proclaimed in November 1915: “I think I can speak for those of the Christian faith when I express the wish that God speed the day when the land of your forefathers shall be yours again. This task I hope will be performed by that champion of liberty the world over — the British Empire.”

The 1917 Balfour Declaration, which declared British support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine, boosted support for Zionism in this country. In the years thereafter, Canadian politicians of various stripes repeatedly urged Jews (and others) to support Zionism.

During a July 1922 speech to the Zionist Federation of Canada, the anti-Semitic Prime Minister Mackenzie King “was effusive with praise for Zionism,” explains David Bercuson in Canada and the Birth of Israel. King told participants their aspirations were “in consonance” with the greatest ideals of the “Englishman.”

A dozen years later, Prime Minister R.B. Bennett told a coast to-coast radio broadcast for the launch of the United Palestine Appeal fund drive that the Balfour Declaration and the British conquest of Palestine represented the beginning of the fulfillment of biblical prophecies.

According to a 1962 book by Canadian Zionist Bernard Figler, Bennett said, “When the promises of God, speaking through his prophets, are that the home will be restored in the homeland of their forefathers…Scriptural prophecy is being fulfilled. The restoration of Zion has begun.”

Jewish Zionism must be understood from within the political climate in which it operated. And Canada’s political culture clearly fostered Zionist ideals.

British imperialism, Christian Zionism and nationalist ideology were all part of this country’s political fabric. Additionally, in the early 1900s most Canadians did not find it odd that Europeans would take a “backward” people’s land, which is what settlers did to the indigenous population here.

A number of books about Canada’s Jewish community discuss how elite Canadian Jews, especially after the 1917 Balfour Declaration, were more active Zionists than their US counterparts. In Canada’s Jews: A People’s Journey, Gerald Tulchinsky explains: “The First World War accentuated differences between Canadian and American Jewry. For example, loyalty to Britain’s cause provided Zionists with opportunities to identify their purposes with Britain’s imperial mission.”

When British General Edmund Allenby led a campaign in late 1917 to take Palestine from the Ottomans as many as 400 Canadians (about half recruited specifically for the task) fought in Allenby’s Jewish Legion. Sometimes beleaguered Jewish communities were praised by the media for taking up England’s cause to conquer Palestine.

Since Israel’s creation in 1948 different Canadian governments have expressed varying degrees of support. But overall, the laudatory public declarations have continued.

After a long career of support for Zionism as external minister and prime minister, Lester Pearson referred to that country as “an outpost, if you will, of the West in the Middle East.”

External Affairs Minister Don Jamieson echoed this sentiment in an October 1977 speech. “Israel is an increasingly valuable ally of the West and Jews and non-Jews alike should see to it that Israel remains … an ally of the Western world,” Jamieson said. “We in Canada must see to it that when Israel is making such tremendous sacrifices, we should stand ready to help Israel with oil and material assistance.”

Yes, the current government is more aggressive in its public declarations than any before it and this has helped drive the establishment Jewish community to an even more hardline position.

To the Conservatives’ delight, two years ago the ninety-year old Canadian Jewish Congress was disbanded by its wealthy donors in favor of an even more Israel-focused Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. Similarly, the Conservatives’ strong ties to Christian Zionism has prodded the Zionist lobby group B’nai Brith to deepen its ties with Canada Christian College and the prominent right-wing evangelist Charles McVety.

At the same time, the anti-racist sectors of Canada’s Jewish community have made major strides in recent years. Groups such as Independent Jewish Voices, Not In Our Name, Jewish Voice for Peace, the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Women in Solidarity with Palestine and Jews for a Just Peace, have undercut the notion that all Canadian Jews support Israeli policy or Zionism. But these groups are unlikely to become dominant voices within the Jewish community until there is a shift in Canada’s political culture.

Canadian Zionism has long been part of the religious and political establishment. In every community there are those who take the side of the rich and powerful.

Obama’s Cheap-Labor “Promise Zone” Fraud

January 9th, 2014 by Barry Grey

In a White House speech Thursday promoting his supposed offensive against inequality, President Barack Obama will formally name five communities as so-called “promise zones.” The White House on Wednesday released a statement identifying impoverished neighborhoods in Philadelphia, Los Angeles and San Antonio, as well as Southeastern Kentucky and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, as the first such zones. Another fifteen regions are to be designated in the coming months.

In an attempt to lend an aura of progressive reform to the measures it is proposing, the administration scheduled the speech for the week of the 50th anniversary of Lyndon Johnson’s declaration of a “War on Poverty.” Besides the “promise zones,” these measures include a restoration of three months of jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed and a small increase in the federal minimum wage.

The counterposition of these paltry proposals to the last significant social reforms in the US, including Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps, only underscores the repudiation by the political establishment and both big business parties of social reform and their joint drive to dismantle the reforms of the past. Obama’s claims to be fighting inequality are belied not only by his past record, but by the further attacks on the working class he is presently pursuing.

The White House and the Democratic Party are cynically seeking to use the Christmas-time expiration of benefits for 1.3 million long-term unemployed workers, which they engineered by dropping an extension from the two-year budget deal they negotiated with the Republicans, to attack the Republicans and posture as advocates of working and poor people in advance of the 2014 midterm elections. The Democrats have already indicated they will agree to new social cuts elsewhere in exchange for Republican acceptance of a mere 90-day extension of the benefits.

The increase in the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour being advanced by the Democrats would leave the base wage, in real terms, lower than it was in the 1960s.

Obama’s “promise zones” are at once derisory in their scale and funding and reactionary in their content. It appears that the proposal has been cobbled together by combining and repackaging previously announced “revitalization” efforts such as “promise neighborhoods” and “choice neighborhoods.” It is not clear whether any additional funds are proposed for the new program. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the administration has since 2009 spent a mere $350 million “in 100 of the nation’s persistent pockets of poverty.”

This compares to the trillions of dollars handed over to the banks and corporations in the form of taxpayer bailouts and the tens of billions in monthly subsidies to the financial markets provided by the Federal Reserve Board. The Democratic-controlled Senate this week ensured the continuation of this policy by handily confirming Obama’s nominee and Wall Street’s pick, Janet Yellen, to succeed Ben Bernanke as the next Fed chairman.

Obama’s singled-minded focus on covering the bad bets of Wall Street and further enriching the financial elite, in part by driving stock prices and corporate profits to record highs, has fueled a staggering increase in social inequality. The total wealth of billionaires has more than doubled since the stock market hit bottom in March of 2009. Since then, the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index has risen by 170 percent. More than 95 percent of all income gains in the US during Obama’s first term went to the richest 1 percent of the country.

On the other side of the ledger, Obama has combined an unprecedented assault on social spending with a relentless drive to slash workers’ wages and increase their exploitation. At the center of the 2009 forced bankruptcy of General Motors and Chrysler, engineered by Obama’s Auto Task Force, was a 50 percent cut in the wages of new-hires as well as sharp reductions in the benefits of active and retired workers. This became the trigger for a nationwide assault on workers’ wages and benefits.

The majority of new jobs created in the US since the 2008 Wall Street crash pay between $7.67 and $13.83 an hour. The number of temporary jobs has increased by 50 percent.

Just as the auto bailout was presented as a boon to auto workers, every so-called “job creation” and “antipoverty” measure has centered on driving down wages and increasing speedup, while granting new tax breaks to business, so as to make US corporations more “competitive,” i.e., profitable, and increase US exports.

This was summed up in Obama’s choice of an Amazon.com fulfillment center in Chattanooga, Tennessee as the site of what was billed as a major economic policy speech last August. Speaking at a facility where the base pay is $11 an hour and working conditions are notoriously brutal, Obama praised the company’s “job creation” and declared Amazon to be “a great example of what’s possible.”

Meanwhile, Obama is proposing alongside his “promise zones” another $5 billion in tax incentives for businesses that take advantage of the poverty-wage labor being offered up.

The zones do not constitute an antipoverty program at all. They involve no government-funded jobs, but are rather, like free enterprise zones internationally, an inducement to private companies to profit from highly exploited, low-paid labor. The Philadelphia zone includes 35,000 residents in an area where the official poverty rate is close to 51 percent and unemployment is 13.6 percent. The first priority listed in the Philadelphia proposal is to “fight crime” by partnering with the police department.

The White House is attempting to palm itself off as the champion of the poor and unemployed even as it pushes a new raft of attacks on the working class. Last month, besides allowing long-term jobless benefits to expire, it endorsed a new budget that continues the automatic “sequester” cuts in social spending, forces federal employees to pay more into their retirement funds, and further reduces spending for Medicare. It backed congressional Democrats in enacting a bipartisan measure cutting food stamp benefits for 47 million Americans. More food stamp cuts are currently being negotiated.

The administration intervened in court to support the bankruptcy of Detroit, which is being used to slash the pensions and health benefits of city workers and sell off public assets, including masterpieces at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

And it launched its “Obamacare” health care overhaul, which is already being exposed as a massive attack on health care for tens of millions of workers and a profit bonanza for the insurance companies. The program includes $700 billion in Medicare cuts, opening the door to the gutting of Medicare and Social Security, the two bedrock social programs dating from the 1960s and 1930s.

These measures mark an intensification of a policy that has already effected the biggest transfer of wealth from the working class to the corporate-financial elite in US history. This is captured in figures showing that the bottom 50 percent of the population own 1.1 percent of the country’s net worth, while the top 10 percent own 74.5 percent and the top 1 percent own 34.5 percent.

In the guise of combating inequality, the Obama administration, acting in behalf of the banks and corporations, is spearheading a social counterrevolution.

Why Isn’t Obama Impeached for Mass Surveillance?

One of the crimes against the Constitution for which the House Judiciary Committee voted to impeach Nixon was:

The electronic surveillance of private citizens … subversive of constitutional government ….

2 former presidents, a vice president and a judge all warn that the NSA’s current mass surveillance is tyranny.   Top American constitutional experts say that spying by the Obama  administration is worse than the spying done by Nixon.

Why isn’t Obama impeached for such tyranny?

In fact, historians say that the NSA’s spying is worse than the Stasi East Germans. They also say that NSA spying is exactly the type of oppression that the Founding Fathers launched the Revolutionary War to stop. And see this.

Where is America’s immune system?

9/11: Does the Truth Have a Chance?

January 8th, 2014 by Global Research News

The years march on as we slip further and further from the World Trade Center attacks of September 11, 2001. Mainstream media won’t touch it, unless it’s in shameless defense of the neverending War on Terrorism that is used even today to “justify” attacks on countries around the globe.

9/11 and the media disinformation that has plagued it have set into motion over a decade of war, and there are still many unanswered questions surrounding that fateful day. But if we really want to understand why the world is at war, we must not let these important events slip into obscurity. After years of repeated lies, the truth is still out there.

In 2011, experts and scientists from around the world gathered in Toronto, Canada to present new and established evidence that questions the official story of 9/11. This evidence was presented to a distinguished panel of experts over a 4 day period.

Through their analysis and scientific investigations, they hope to spark a new investigation into the attacks of September 11, 2001.

As Dr. Paul Craig Roberts wrote:

“In the US on September 11, 2011, the tenth anniversary of 9/11, politicians and their presstitute media presented Americans with “A Day of Remembrance,” a propaganda exercise that hardened the 9/11 lies into dogma. Meanwhile, in Toronto, Canada, at Ryerson University the four-day International Hearings on the Events of September 11, 2001, came to a close at 5pm.

During the four days of hearings, distinguished scientists and scholars and professional architects and engineers presented the results of years of their independent research into all aspects of 9/11 to a distinguished panel consisting of the honorary president of the Italian Supreme Court who was an investigative judge who presided over terrorism cases and three distinguished scholars of high renown and judgment. The distinguished panel’s task is to produce a report with their judgment of the evidence presented by the expert witnesses.

The Toronto Hearings were streamed live over the Internet. I was able to watch many of the presentations over the four days. I was impressed that the extremely high level of intelligence and scientific competence of the witnesses was matched by a high level of integrity, a quality rare in US politics and totally absent in the American media…

Press For Truth and The International Center for 9/11 Studies Present:

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The Elusive Economic Recovery. The “Tide of Cheap Money”

January 8th, 2014 by Prof Prabhat Patnaik

The world capitalist crisis which began in 2008 not only persists but is worsening. The second half of the current year [2013] was supposed to be the period when growth in the major advanced countries would gather momentum.

The IMF had predicted in spring that activity would “gradually accelerate.” But the latest figures show that instead of a recovery we have an actual deceleration in growth. In the Eurozone, quarter-to-quarter growth which had been 0.3 per cent in the second quarter of this year fell to 0.1 per cent in the third quarter. Germany which had been the most successful Eurozone economy witnessed a decline in growth from 0.7 per cent in the second quarter to 0.3 per cent in the third; and France which had grown 0.5 per cent in the second quarter actually shrank by 0.1 per cent in the third. Italy and Greece of course continued shrinking in the third quarter as they have been doing for long.

Even worse news was from Japan which, though caught in a recession of its own for a very long time, had withstood this particular post-2008 recession better than the other advanced capitalist countries because of substantial government expenditure. In Japan the growth rate in the third quarter halved to what it had been in the second.

Still in the Grip of Crisis

The United States was also expected to perform better than it has been doing for long. The Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, Ben Bernanke, had even talked about a possible winding up of “quantitative easing,” which refers to the purchase of government bonds by the Federal Reserve to pump money into the economy (to the tune of $85-billion per month) to keep the long-term interest rates down for stimulating activity. But the recovery has not been up to expectations and Bernanke himself has gone back on his word: “quantitative easing” is to continue for much longer. The incoming Chairman of the Federal Reserve Janet Yellen in her “confirmation hearing” before the senate committee also indicated that “quantitative easing” would continue into the future because the U.S. economy and its “labour market” were still performing “far short of their potential” which is a euphemism for saying that the U.S. is still caught in the grip of crisis and is saddled with massive unemployment.

In Britain, the Bank of England expects the economy to grow by 1.6 per cent this year, a respectable figure no doubt in these dire times. Nonetheless the overall picture for the advanced capitalist world is captured by the Financial Times, not known for its radicalism, in the following words: “prosperity will prove elusive without action to establish a sustainable pattern of global demand.”

What is remarkable is that this setback to recovery has occurred even in the midst of a period when the “tide of cheap money,” to use an expression of the Financial Times in the context of “quantitative easing,” “is lifting all boats.” The moment this “tide” ebbs, the recession will get strengthened, because a lot of potentially bankrupt businesses, which have been kept alive because of the “forbearance” of the banks that are awash with liquidity at present, will then go under. The advanced capitalist world thus is in a situation where despite “cheap money” its recession is worsening, but without “cheap money” it will worsen even further.

The Role of the Banks

Why has “quantitative easing,” while keeping the system afloat, not caused a recovery? This is because the money pumped into the economy by the Federal Reserve has disappeared into the banking system, but the loans of the banking system that constitute the means through which the level of aggregate demand in the economy expands, have not increased. The banks have held on to excess reserves or made some changes in their balance sheets, in consequence of which some of this money has spread itself all over the capitalist world, including entering third world economies to sustain currencies like the Indian Rupee, the Indonesian Rupaiah, the Brazilian Real, and the South African Rand. All this however has not increased expenditures and hence the level of world aggregate demand.

An example will make the point clear. If American banks enter, say, India, if not directly then at least indirectly via a chain reaction of balance sheet adjustments, to buy Indian equities in the stock market, then this may help in sustaining the present level of India’s current account deficit, and hence in preventing the cut in world demand that would occur if India curtailed its level of activity to curb its deficit; but it does nothing to enlarge the level of world aggregate demand.

The reason why banks do not increase loans to expand the level of expenditure and aggregate demand is because the private sector in the capitalist economies, in particular in the economies of the advanced capitalist countries, are already in so much debt that they do not wish to borrow more for the purpose of spending. They would rather pay back their debts and thereby improve their balance sheets than increase their debts for the purpose of spending more, even for adding to the stock of their assets, i.e. for undertaking investment.

What this means is that monetary policy which refers to the intervention of central banks has become totally inconsequential for combating the current world recession. The short term interest rate which is typically the instrument used by monetary policy is almost zero in the advanced capitalist world; hence it cannot be lowered any further, and cannot play any further role. This was indeed the reason why “quantitative easing” was introduced: the idea was that since the short-term interest rate had lost its bite, central banks like the Federal Reserve should try intervening through the long term interest rate by directly purchasing long-term government bonds. But even this, as we have seen, has become useless for expanding the level of activity.

Government Fiscal Policy

This leaves fiscal policy as the only possible instrument left for combating recession. But the use of fiscal policy is precisely what is frowned upon by finance capital. Countries of the European Union have to adhere to certain limits, with regard to their fiscal deficits relative to the GDP, under the Maastricht treaty. The Americans have been pressing Germany, a country with a current account surplus, to expand its domestic absorption, and implicitly accusing it of being “nationalist” for its refusal to do so. Even the Financial Times editorial quoted earlier, makes a plea for an expansion of Germany’s internal demand. But any such expansion will require an increase in government expenditure, which international finance capital will dislike.

If such an increase in government expenditure occurs through a larger fiscal deficit then the opposition will be open and direct; and in any case such an expansion will violate the provisions of the Maastricht treaty. If such an increase in government expenditure occurs not through an increase in the fiscal deficit but through larger taxes on the rich (government expenditure financed through taxes on the poor will not serve the purpose of increasing aggregate demand anyway), then the opposition of finance capital will be more subtle and indirect, such as what the François Hollande government that has embarked precisely upon such a course, is facing in France, with its credit rating getting down graded because it has shown the effrontery of increasing taxes on the rich.

When it comes to the United States as a possible source of fiscal stimulus for enlarging world demand, there are even bigger problems. Since it is an economy with a massive current account deficit, such an increase in government expenditure, apart from being anathema for finance capital, will also be opposed by domestic public opinion on the grounds that it would worsen the current account deficit. It would invite the charge in other words that America is borrowing more from the rest of the world for the purpose of generating greater employment in the rest of the world. A fiscal expansion in America could possibly overcome such domestic opposition if it was accompanied by some protectionist measures, so that the government could claim that it is spending more in order to generate more American jobs. But that certainly cannot be to the liking of international finance capital, for it would mean the end of neoliberalism. Besides, given the bitter political struggles within the U.S. over fiscal policy which has already caused a government shutdown once, to expect a fiscal expansion from the U.S. is utterly unrealistic.

It must also be remembered that the scale of fiscal expansion required to pull the capitalist world economy from its current morass will have to be quite substantial. As the example of Japan in the third quarter of the current year shows, even with robust government expenditure its growth rate has halved because of a decline in the stimulus from exports and domestic consumption. To offset the sluggishness from the latter two sources, the increase in government expenditure, in Japan and elsewhere, will have to be even greater. This is a pipe dream in the current atmosphere of austerity.

Possible Solutions?

Since none of the advanced capitalist countries is in a position to undertake larger fiscal expansion individually, only two other possibilities remain: one is a coordinated fiscal expansion by all of them in unison which is an idea that had been mooted during the Depression of the 1930s but shot down by finance capital. The opposition to such a proposal today, when finance capital itself has acquired an international character and hence even greater clout than it had at that time, would be far stronger.

The second possibility is for individual governments to undertake fiscal expansion within national boundaries, i.e. behind protectionist walls, with the promise to enlarge domestic employment, which could gather domestic political support for such an agenda. This however entails a reversal to post-war Keynesianism, a throwback to the past, which is precisely what the process of globalization of finance has succeeded in overturning. Globalized finance will vehemently oppose any attempt to “put the clock back.”

It follows that no matter which way we turn, global capitalism appears to be in an inextricable situation. A new “bubble” upon which it has pinned its hopes could pull it out of the morass in which it is stuck; but there is no sign of it as yet. Monetary policy which is an instrument that finance capital approves has become ineffective. Fiscal policy which could conceivably have an expansionary effect is disliked by finance capital. The situation therefore is quite desperate. And it will become even more desperate if, as is not unlikely, segments of it such as the Eurozone get trapped into a state of deflation. •

Prabhat Patnaik taught at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning in the School of Social Sciences at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, from 1974 until his retirement in 2010. He will be giving the keynote address at the Congress 2014 of the Society for Socialist Studies this Spring at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario.

“Dude, I don’t need to play these stupid games. I know what you’re trying to do.”  With that, Major Matthew Robert Bockholt hung up on me.

More than a month before, I had called U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) with a series of basic questions: In how many countries were U.S. Special Operations Forces deployed in 2013? Are manpower levels set to expand to 72,000 in 2014?  Is SOCOM still aiming for growth rates of 3%-5% per year?  How many training exercises did the command carry out in 2013?  Basic stuff.

And for more than a month, I waited for answers.  I called.  I left messages.  I emailed.  I waited some more.  I started to get the feeling that Special Operations Command didn’t want me to know what its Green Berets and Rangers, Navy SEALs and Delta Force commandos — the men who operate in the hottest of hotspots and most remote locales around the world — were doing.

Then, at the last moment, just before my filing deadline, Special Operations Command got back to me with an answer so incongruous, confusing, and contradictory that I was glad I had given up on SOCOM and tried to figure things out for myself.

Click here to see a larger version

U.S. Special Operations Forces around the world, 2012-2013 (key below article) ©2014 TomDispatch ©Google

I started with a blank map that quickly turned into a global pincushion.  It didn’t take long before every continent but Antarctica was bristling with markers indicating special operations forces’ missions, deployments, and interactions with foreign military forces in 2012-2013.  With that, the true size and scope of the U.S. military’s secret military began to come into focus.  It was, to say the least, vast.

A review of open source information reveals that in 2012 and 2013, U.S. Special Operations forces (SOF) were likely deployed to — or training, advising, or operating with the personnel of — more than 100 foreign countries.   And that’s probably an undercount.  In 2011, then-SOCOM spokesman Colonel Tim Nye told TomDispatch that Special Operations personnel were annually sent to 120 countries around the world. They were in, that is, about 60% of the nations on the planet.  “We’re deployed in a number of locations,” was as specific as Bockholt would ever get when I talked to him in the waning days of 2013. And when SOCOM did finally get back to me with an eleventh hour answer, the number offered made almost no sense.

Despite the lack of official cooperation, an analysis by TomDispatch reveals SOCOM to be a command on the make with an already sprawling reach. As Special Operations Command chief Admiral William McRaven put it in SOCOM 2020, his blueprint for the future, it has ambitious aspirations to create “a Global SOF network of like-minded interagency allies and partners.”  In other words, in that future now only six years off, it wants to be everywhere.

 

The Rise of the Military’s Secret Military

Born of a failed 1980 raid to rescue American hostages in Iran (in which eight U.S. service members died), U.S. Special Operations Command was established in 1987.  Made up of units from all the service branches, SOCOM is tasked with carrying out Washington’s most specialized and secret missions, including assassinations, counterterrorist raids, special reconnaissance, unconventional warfare, psychological operations, foreign troop training, and weapons of mass destruction counter-proliferation operations.

In the post-9/11 era, the command has grown steadily.  With about 33,000 personnel in 2001, it is reportedly on track to reach 72,000 in 2014.  (About half this number are called, in the jargon of the trade, “badged operators” — SEALs, Rangers, Special Operations Aviators, Green Berets — while the rest are support personnel.)  Funding for the command has also jumped exponentially as SOCOM’s baseline budget tripled from $2.3 billion to $6.9 billion between 2001 and 2013.  If you add in supplemental funding, it had actually more than quadrupled to $10.4 billion.

Not surprisingly, personnel deployments abroad skyrocketed from 4,900 “man-years” — as the command puts it — in 2001 to 11,500 in 2013.  About 11,000 special operators are now working abroad at any one time and on any given day they are in 70 to 80 countries, though the New York Times reported that, according to statistics provided to them by SOCOM, during one week in March 2013 that number reached 92.

The Global SOF Network

Last year, Admiral McRaven, who previously headed the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC — a clandestine sub-command that specializes in tracking and killing suspected terrorists — touted his vision for special ops globalization.  In a statement to the House Armed Services Committee, he said:

“USSOCOM is enhancing its global network of SOF to support our interagency and international partners in order to gain expanded situational awareness of emerging threats and opportunities. The network enables small, persistent presence in critical locations, and facilitates engagement where necessary or appropriate…”

In translation this means that SOCOM is weaving a complex web of alliances with government agencies at home and militaries abroad to ensure that it’s at the center of every conceivable global hotspot and power center.  In fact, Special Operations Command has turned the planet into a giant battlefield, divided into many discrete fronts: the self-explanatory SOCAFRICA; the sub-unified command of U.S. Central Command in the Middle East SOCCENT; the European contingent SOCEUR; SOCKOR, which is devoted strictly to Korea; SOCPAC, which covers the rest of the Asia-Pacific region; and SOCSOUTH, which conducts special ops missions in Central and South America and the Caribbean, as well as the globe-trotting JSOC.

Since 2002, SOCOM has also been authorized to create its own Joint Task Forces, a prerogative normally limited to larger combatant commands like CENTCOM.  These include Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines, 500-600 personnel dedicated to supporting counterterrorist operations by Filipino allies against insurgent groups like Abu Sayyaf.

A similar mouthful of an entity is the NATO Special Operations Component Command-Afghanistan/Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan, which conducts operations, according to SOCOM, “to enable the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the Afghan National Security Force (ANSF), and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA) to provide the Afghan people a secure and stable environment and to prevent insurgent activities from threatening the authority and sovereignty of GIRoA.”  Last year, U.S.-allied Afghan President Ha­mid Karzai had a different assessment of the “U.S. special force stationed in Wardak province,” which he accused of “harassing, annoying, torturing, and even murdering innocent people.”

According to the latest statistics made available by ISAF, from October 2012 through March 2013, U.S. and allied forces were involved in 1,464 special operations in Afghanistan, including 167 with U.S. or coalition forces in the lead and 85 that were unilateral ISAF operations.  U.S. Special Operations forces are also involved in everything from mentoring lightly armed local security forces under the Village Stability Operations initiative to the training of heavily armed and well-equipped elite Afghan forces — one of whose U.S.-trained officers defected to the insurgency in the fall.

In addition to task forces, there are also Special Operations Command Forward (SOC FWD) elements which, according to the military, “shape and coordinate special operations forces security cooperation and engagement in support of theater special operations command, geographic combatant command, and country team goals and objectives.”  These light footprint teams — including SOC FWD Pakistan, SOC FWD Yemen, and SOC FWD Lebanon — offer training and support to local elite troops in foreign hotspots.  In Lebanon, for instance, this has meant counterterrorism training for Lebanese Special Ops forces, as well as assistance to the Lebanese Special Forces School to develop indigenous trainers to mentor other Lebanese military personnel.

 

Click here to see a larger version

Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT) briefing slide by Col. Joe Osborne, showing SOC FWD elements

SOCOM’s reach and global ambitions go further still.  TomDispatch’s analysis of McRaven’s first two full years in command reveals a tremendous number of overseas operations.  In places like Somalia and Libya, elite troops have carried out clandestine commando raids.  In others, they have used airpower to hunt, target, and kill suspected militants.  Elsewhere, they have waged an information war using online propaganda.  And almost everywhere they have been at work building up and forging ever-tighter ties with foreign militaries through training missions and exercises.

“A lot of what we will do as we go forward in this force is build partner capacity,” McRaven said at the Ronald Reagan Library in November, noting that NATO partners as well as allies in the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America  “are absolutely essential to how we’re doing business.”

In March 2013, for example, Navy SEALs conducted joint training exercises with Indonesian frogmen.  In April and May, U.S. Special Operations personnel joined members of the Malawi Defense Forces for Exercise Epic Guardian.  Over three weeks, 1,000 troops engaged in marksmanship, small unit tactics, close quarters combat training, and other activities across three countries — Djibouti, Malawi, and the Seychelles.

In May, American special operators took part in Spring Storm, the Estonian military’s largest annual training exercise.  That same month, members of the Peruvian and U.S. special operations forces engaged in joint training missions aimed at trading tactics and improving their ability to conduct joint operations.  In July, Green Berets from the Army’s 20th Special Forces Group spent several weeks in Trinidad and Tobago working with members of that tiny nation’s Special Naval Unit and Special Forces Operation Detachment.  That Joint Combined Exchange Training exercise, conducted as part of SOCSOUTH’s Theater Security Cooperation program, saw the Americans and their local counterparts take part in pistol and rifle instruction and small unit tactical exercises.

In September, according to media reports, U.S. Special Operations forces joined elite troops from the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations member countries — Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), and Cambodia — as well as their counterparts from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, China, India, and Russia for a US-Indonesian joint-funded coun­terterrorism exercise held at a training center in Sentul, West Java.

Tactical training was, however, just part of the story.  In March 2013, for example, experts from the Army’s John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School hosted a week-long working group with top planners from the Centro de Adiestramiento de las Fuerzas Especiales — Mexico’s Special Warfare Center — to aid them in developing their own special forces doctrine.

In October, members of the Norwegian Special Operations Forces traveled to SOCOM’s state-of-the-art Wargame Center at its headquarters on MacDill Air Force Base in Florida to refine crisis response procedures for hostage rescue operations.  “NORSOF and Norwegian civilian leadership regularly participate in national field training exercises focused on a scenario like this,” said Norwegian Lieutenant Colonel Petter Hellesen. “What was unique about this exercise was that we were able to gather so many of the Norwegian senior leadership and action officers, civilian and military, in one room with their U.S counterparts.”

MacDill is, in fact, fast becoming a worldwide special ops hub, according to a report by the Tampa Tribune.  This past fall, SOCOM quietly started up an International Special Operations Forces Coordination Center that provides long-term residencies for senior-level black ops liaisons from around the world.  Already, representatives from 10 nations had joined the command with around 24 more slated to come on board in the next 12-18 months, per McRaven’s global vision.

In the coming years, more and more interactions between U.S. elite forces and their foreign counterparts will undoubtedly take place in Florida, but most will likely still occur — as they do today — overseas.  TomDispatch’s analysis of official government documents and news releases as well as press reports indicates that U.S. Special Operations forces were reportedly deployed to or involved with the militaries of 106 nations around the world during 2012-2013.

For years, the command has claimed that divulging the names of these countries would upset foreign allies and endanger U.S. personnel.  SOCOM’s Bockholt insisted to me that merely offering the total number would do the same.  “You understand that there is information about our military… that is contradictory to reporting,” he told me.  “There’s certain things we can’t release to the public for the safety of our service members both at home and abroad.  I’m not sure why you’d be interested in reporting that.”

In response, I asked how a mere number could jeopardize the lives of Special Ops personnel, and he responded, “When you work with the partners we work with in the different countries, each country is very particular.”  He refused to elaborate further on what this meant or how it pertained to a simple count of countries.  Why SOCOM eventually offered me a number, given these supposed dangers, was never explained.

Bringing the War Home

This year, Special Operations Command has plans to make major inroads into yet another country — the United States.  The establishment of SOCNORTH in 2014, according to the command, is intended to help “defend North America by outpacing all threats, maintaining faith with our people, and supporting them in their times of greatest need.”  Under the auspices of U.S. Northern Command, SOCNORTH will have responsibility for the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and portions of the Caribbean.

While Congressional pushback has thus far thwarted Admiral McRaven’s efforts to create a SOCOM satellite headquarters for the more than 300 special operators working in Washington, D.C. (at the cost of $10 million annually), the command has nonetheless stationed support teams and liaisons all over the capital in a bid to embed itself ever more deeply inside the Beltway.  “I have folks in every agency here in Washington, D.C. — from the CIA, to the FBI, to the National Security Agency, to the National Geospatial Agency, to the Defense Intelligence Agency,” McRaven said during a panel discussion at Washington’s Wilson Center in 2013.  Referring to the acronyms of the many agencies with which SOCOM has forged ties, McRaven continued: “If there are three letters, and in some cases four, I have a person there. And they have had a reciprocal agreement with us. I have somebody in my headquarters at Tampa.”  Speaking at Ronald Reagan Library in November, he put the number of agencies where SOCOM is currently embedded at 38.

“Given the importance of interagency collaboration, USSOCOM is placing greater emphasis on its presence in the National Capital Region to better support coordination and decision making with interagency partners.  Thus, USSOCOM began to consolidate its presence in the NCR [National Capitol Region] in early 2012,” McRaven told the House Armed Services Committee last year.

One unsung SOCOM partner is U.S. AID, the government agency devoted to providing civilian foreign aid to countries around the world whose mandate includes the protection of human rights, the prevention of armed conflicts, the provision of humanitarian assistance, and the fostering of “good will abroad.”  At a July 2013 conference, Beth Cole, the director of the Office of Civilian-Military Cooperation at U.S. AID, explained just how her agency was now quietly aiding the military’s secret military.

“In Yemen, for example, our mission director has SVTCs [secure video teleconferences] with SOCOM personnel on a regular basis now. That didn’t occur two years ago, three years ago, four years ago, five years ago,” Cole said, according to a transcript of the event.  But that was only the start.  “My office at U.S. AID supports SOF pre-deployment training in preparation for missions throughout the globe… I’m proud that my office and U.S. AID have been providing training support to several hundred Army, Navy, and Marine Special Operations personnel who have been regularly deploying to Afghanistan, and we will continue to do that.”

Cole noted that, in Afghanistan, U.S. AID personnel were sometimes working hand-in-hand on the Village Stability Operation initiative with Special Ops forces.  In certain areas, she said, “we can dual-hat some of our field program officers as LNOs [liaison officers] in those Joint Special Operations task forces and be able to execute the development work that we need to do alongside of the Special Operations Forces.”  She even suggested taking a close look at whether this melding of her civilian agency and special ops might prove to be a model for operations elsewhere in the world.

Cole also mentioned that her office would be training “a senior person” working for McRaven, the man about to “head the SOF element Lebanon” — possibly a reference to the shadowy SOC FWD Lebanon.  U.S. AID would, she said, serve as a facilitator in that country, making “sure that he has those relationships that he needs to be able to deal with what is a very, very, very serious problem for our government and for the people of that region.”

U.S. AID is also serving as a facilitator closer to home.  Cole noted that her agency was sending advisors to SOCOM headquarters in Florida and had “arranged meetings for [special operators] with experts, done roundtables for them, immersed them in the environment that we understand before they go out to the mission area and connect them with people on the ground.”  All of this points to another emerging trend: SOCOM’s invasion of the civilian sphere.

In remarks before the House Armed Services Committee, Admiral McRaven noted that his Washington operation, the SOCOM NCR, “conducts outreach to academia, non-governmental organizations, industry, and other private sector organizations to get their perspective on complex issues affecting SOF.”  Speaking at the Wilson Center, he was even more blunt: “[W]e also have liaison officers with industry and with academia… We put some of our best and brightest in some of the academic institutions so we can understand what academia is thinking about.”

SOCOM’s Information Warfare

Not content with a global presence in the physical world, SOCOM has also taken to cyberspace where it operates the Trans Regional Web Initiative, a network of 10 propaganda websites that are run by various combatant commands and made to look like legitimate news outlets.  These shadowy sites — including KhabarSouthAsia.com, Magharebia which targets North Africa, an effort aimed at the Middle East known as Al-Shorfa.com, and another targeting Latin America called Infosurhoy.com — state only in fine print that they are “sponsored by” the U.S. military.

Last June, the Senate Armed Services Committee called out the Trans Regional Web Initiative for “excessive” costs while stating that the “effectiveness of the websites is questionable and the performance metrics do not justify the expense.”  In November, SOCOM announced that it was nonetheless seeking to identify industry partners who, under the Initiative, could potentially “develop new websites tailored to foreign audiences.”

Just as SOCOM is working to influence audiences abroad, it is also engaged in stringent information control at home — at least when it comes to me.  Major Bockholt made it clear that SOCOM objected to a 2011 article of mine about U.S. Special Operations forces.  “Some of that stuff was inconsistent with actual facts,” he told me.  I asked what exactly was inconsistent.  “Some of the stuff you wrote about JSOC… I think I read some information about indiscriminate killing or things like that.”

I knew right away just the quote he was undoubtedly referring to — a mention of the Joint Special Operations Command’s overseas kill/capture campaign as “an almost industrial-scale counterterrorism killing machine.”  Bockholt said that it was indeed “one quote of concern.”  The only trouble: I didn’t say it.  It was, as I stated very plainly in the piece, the assessment given by John Nagl, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and former counterinsurgency adviser to now-retired general and former CIA director David Petraeus.

Bockholt offered no further examples of inconsistencies.  I asked if he challenged my characterization of any information from an interview I conducted with then-SOCOM spokesman Colonel Tim Nye.  He did not.  Instead, he explained that SOCOM had issues with my work in general.  “As we look at the characterization of your writing, overall, and I know you’ve had some stuff on Vietnam [an apparent reference to my bestselling book, Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam] and things like that — because of your style, we have to be very particular on how we answer your questions because of how you tend to use that information.” Bockholt then asked if I was anti-military.  I responded that I hold all subjects that I cover to a high standard.

Bockholt next took a verbal swipe at the website where I’m managing editor, TomDispatch.com.  Given Special Operations Command’s penchant for dabbling in dubious new sites, I was struck when he said that TomDispatch — which has published original news, analysis, and commentary for more than a decade and won the 2013 Utne Media Award for “best political coverage” — was not a “real outlet.”  It was, to me, a daring position to take when SOCOM’s shadowy Middle Eastern news site Al-Shorfa.com actually carries a disclaimer that it “cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information provided.”

With my deadline looming, I was putting the finishing touches on this article when an email arrived from Mike Janssen of SOCOM Public Affairs.  It was — finally — a seemingly simple answer to what seemed like an astonishingly straightforward question asked a more than a month before: What was the total number of countries in which Special Operations forces were deployed in 2013?  Janssen was concise. His answer: 80.

How, I wondered, could that be?  In the midst of McRaven’s Global SOF network initiative, could SOCOM have scaled back their deployments from 120 in 2011 to just 80 last year?  And if Special Operations forces were deployed in 92 nations during just one week in 2013, according to official statistics provided to the New York Times, how could they have been present in 12 fewer countries for the entire year?  And why, in his March 2013 posture statement to the House Armed Services Committee, would Admiral McRaven mention “annual deployments to over 100 countries?”  With minutes to spare, I called Mike Janssen for a clarification.  “I don’t have any information on that,” he told me and asked me to submit my question in writing — precisely what I had done more than a month before in an effort to get a timely response to this straightforward and essential question.

Today, Special Operations Command finds itself at a crossroads.  It is attempting to influence populations overseas, while at home trying to keep Americans in the dark about its activities; expanding its reach, impact, and influence, while working to remain deep in the shadows; conducting operations all over the globe, while professing only to be operating in “a number of locations”; claiming worldwide deployments have markedly dropped in the last year, when evidence suggests otherwise.

“I know what you’re trying to do,” Bockholt said cryptically before he hung up on me — as if the continuing questions of a reporter trying to get answers to basic information after a month of waiting were beyond the pale.  In the meantime, whatever Special Operations Command is trying to do globally and at home, Bockholt and others at SOCOM are working to keep it as secret as possible.

Nick Turse is the managing editor of TomDispatch.com and a fellow at the Nation Institute.  An award-winning journalist, his work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, the Nation, on the BBC, and regularly at TomDispatch. He is the author most recently of the New York Times bestseller Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam (just out in paperback).  You can catch his conversation with Bill Moyers about that book by clicking here

Key to the Map of U.S. Special Operations Forces around the world, 2012-2013

 Red markers: U.S. Special Operations Forces deployment in 2013.

 Blue markers: U.S. Special Operations Forces working with/training/advising/conducting operations with indigenous troops in the U.S. or a third country during 2013.

 Purple markers: U.S. Special Operations Forces deployment in 2012.

 Yellow markers: U.S. Special Operations Forces working with/training/advising/conducting operations with indigenous troops in the U.S. or a third country during 2012.

The NSA pretty much admitted to spying on Congress this week.

It’s not the first time.  David Sirota notes:

When I asked U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) if the NSA was keeping files on his colleagues, he recounted a meeting between NSA officials and lawmakers in the lead-up to a closely contested House vote to better regulate the agency:

“One of my colleagues asked the NSA point blank will you give me a copy of my own record and the NSA said no, we won’t. They didn’t say no we don’t have one. They said no we won’t. So that’s possible.”

Grayson is right: presumably, if the NSA wasn’t tracking lawmakers, it would have flatly denied it. Instead, those officials merely denied lawmakers access to whatever files the agency might have. That suggests one of two realities: 1) the NSA is keeping files on lawmakers 2) the NSA isn’t keeping files on lawmakers, but answered vaguely in order to stoke fear among legislators that it is.

Sirota notes the danger of even the threat of spying on the legislature:

Regardless of which of these realities happens to be the case, the mere existence of legitimate fears of congressional surveillance by an executive-branch agency is a serious legal and separation-of-powers problem. Why? Because whether or not the surveillance is actually happening, the very real possibility that it even could be happening orhas happened can unduly intimidate the legislative branch into abrogating its constitutional oversight responsibilities. In this particular case, it can scare congressional lawmakers away from voting to better regulate the NSA.

And the Atlantic points out:

Access to that telephone metadata would be extremely useful for manipulating the legislature.

***

Should anyone doubt how much mischief could come from spying on even one member of Congress, let’s look back at the story of former Democratic Representative Jane Harman and what happened when the NSA intercepted and transcribed one of her telephone calls. That’s right: There’s a known instance in which a legislator’s private communications were captured by the NSA, though it’s a complicated story….

The story begins with the NSA surveilling two Israeli nationals suspected of being spies. Unbeknownst to them, their phone calls were being recorded by the NSA–and one day, a conversation with Harman got swept up in the ongoing wiretap. No one on the call knew it was being recorded.

“One of the leading House Democrats on intelligence matters was overheard on telephone calls intercepted by the National Security Agency agreeing to seek lenient treatment from the Bush administration for two pro-Israel lobbyists who were under investigation for espionage,” the New York Times reported on April 20, 2009, following up on a story broken by Congressional Quarterly’s Jeff Stein.

***

Congressional Quarterly reported that a criminal case against Harman was dropped because she was a useful ally to the Bush Administration:

Justice Department attorneys in the intelligence and public corruption units who read the transcripts decided that Harman had committed a “completed crime,” a legal term meaning that there was evidence that she had attempted to complete it, three former officials said. And they were prepared to open a case on her, which would include electronic surveillance approved by the so-called FISA Court …

First, however, they needed the certification of top intelligence officials that Harman’s wiretapped conversations justified a national security investigation … But that’s when, according to knowledgeable officials, Attorney General Gonzales intervened. According to two officials privy to the events, Gonzales said he “needed Jane” to help support the administration’s warrantless wiretapping program, which was about to be exposed by the New York Times.

Harman, he told Goss, had helped persuade the newspaper to hold the wiretap story before, on the eve of the 2004 elections. And although it was too late to stop the Times from publishing now, she could be counted on again to help defend the program.

He was right.

On Dec. 21, 2005, in the midst of a firestorm of criticism about the wiretaps, Harman issued a statement defending the operation and slamming the Times, saying, “I believe it essential to U.S. national security, and that its disclosure has damaged critical intelligence capabilities.”

We noted last month that the NSA has previously spied on congress members for improper purposes:

During the Vietnam war, the NSA spied on two prominent politicians – Senators Frank Church and Howard Baker – as well as critics of government policy Muhammad Ali, Martin Luther King, and a Washington Post humorist.

A recently declassified history written by the NSA itself called the effort “disreputable if not outright illegal.”

The main whistleblower who revealed the Vietnam-era spying was Christopher H. Pyle. Pyle told Rob Kall of OpEdNews:

They targeted Sen. Frank Church and Sen. Howard Baker. It could mean they were trying to get information or dirt on senators involved in the Church committee and Watergate committee investigations respectively — either to learn something about their investigations or to discredit them.

***

We still need more information about what happened then. But more critically, we need more information about what’s happening now. These revelations raise the obvious question:If the NSA was targeting people like Sen. Frank Church, who were in a position to oversee the NSA — is that happening now? That is, are people like intelligence committee chairs Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and other congressional leaders — who are supposed to be providing oversight themselves — compromised in some way by the NSA? If so, as seems quite certain from the recent Edward Snowden revelations, then how can they conduct genuine oversight of the NSA with their committees?”

***

If I were a member of congress, I would be terrified that NSA would do to them what J. Edgar Hoover did to members back during his time.

Sound paranoid?

Maybe. But remember:

  • The NSA has been tracking people’s porn in order to discredit them. The New York Times reports that this type of behavior has been going on for a long time: “J. Edgar Hoover compiled secret dossiers on the sexual peccadillos and private misbehavior of those he labeled as enemies — really dangerous people like … President John F. Kennedy, for example”.
  • Another very high-level NSA whistleblower – the head of the NSA’s global intelligence gathering operation – says that the NSA targeted CIA chief Petraeus

Indeed, because the NSA’s raw information is shared with Israel, it is possible that the Israeli government is blackmailing our congress members. The Guardian reported in September:

The National Security Agency routinely shares raw intelligence data with Israel without first sifting it to remove information about US citizens, a top-secret document provided to the Guardian by whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals.

***

According to the agreement, the intelligence being shared would not be filtered in advance by NSA analysts to remove US communications. “NSA routinely sends ISNU [the Israeli Sigint National Unit] minimized and unminimized raw collection”, it says.

***

A much stricter rule was set for US government communications found in the raw intelligence. The Israelis were required to “destroy upon recognition” any communication “that is either to or from an official of the US government“. Such communications included those of “officials of the executive branch (including the White House, cabinet departments, and independent agencies), the US House of Representatives and Senate (member and staff) and the US federal court system (including, but not limited to, the supreme court)”.

And it’s not just the NSA.

Last year, Eric Holder refused to say whether the Department of Justice was spying on Congress.

When one branch of government spies on another, “America has no functioning democracy”.

The political establishment and the media have relentlessly promoted the myth that the crisis in Detroit and in cities across the US is a product of overgenerous spending on social services and benefits, with public employee pension liabilities cited as the main culprit.

In reality, the driving force behind the Detroit bankruptcy has been a predatory interest rate swap foisted on the city by Wall Street bankers, which was signed by former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick in 2005. Scores of states, municipalities, school districts and various other public entities entered into similar swap contracts over the past decade. These deals have enabled the world’s most powerful banking houses to systematically plunder public budgets across the nation, creating the conditions for the rising wave of municipal bankruptcies.

The interest rate swap deals amount to complex bets on the direction of future interest rates. In the mid-2000s state and local governments entered into these bets in an environment of rising interest rates, seeking desperately to offset their growing financial costs.

During testimony last week, Orr testified that he considered the interest rate swaps to be illegal, and claimed that he even approached the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) about a possible prosecution of Bank of America-Merrill Lynch and Swiss bank UBS. (See: “Emergency manager acknowledges bank deals pushed on Detroit were likely illegal”)

Far from intervening on behalf of Detroit and other cities victimized by these deals, however, the Obama administration and SEC have done everything to protect these financial criminals and reward them even further.

When the Federal Reserve pushed rates to near zero after the 2008 collapse, the swap arrangements forced local governments to continue paying high rates despite the new conditions. The swap deals, moreover, came with massive built-in termination fees, which cost cities hundreds of millions of dollars to “unwind” them. In Detroit, Orr is seeking to pay Bank of America and UBS $165 million in termination fees, while offering only pennies on the dollar towards unfunded pension obligations owed to 23,500 retired city workers.

Interest rates were driven down in the wake of 2008 both by the political decisions of the Federal Reserve, as well as the deliberate manipulations of the London Interbank Offering Rate or LIBOR carried out by the global banking giants. Two of the main financial players in the Detroit bankruptcy, UBS and Barclays, were both heavily involved in the LIBOR-rigging scandal.

The LIBOR index set interest rates for trillions of dollars in housing and other loans, including nearly all subprime mortgages before the 2008 crash, and financial derivatives such as interest rate swaps. American municipalities also borrowed around 75 percent of their money through financial products that were linked to the LIBOR.

The manipulation of this crucial index—which had the effect of minimizing payments owed by the banks on the swap deals and forcing cities to pay far higher interest rates—has prompted several cities to launch legal actions against the predatory activities of the financial houses.

Baltimore sued Bank of America, Barclays, Citibank, HSBC, JP Morgan, Lloyds, UBS, and WestLB in 2011 over their involvement in LIBOR rigging. Philadelphia launched a similar suit in 2013 against Bank of America, Barclays, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan Chase, Royal Bank of Canada, Royal Bank of Scotland, and UBS AG. San Diego and Sacramento counties have also sued major banks in relation to LIBOR manipulation.

The November 2011 bankruptcy of Jefferson County (Birmingham), Alabama, at the time the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history, was driven by an interest rate swap deal signed by the city with JP Morgan. JP Morgan was charged with paying millions in bribes to officials as part of the deal, including former Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford, who was subsequently convicted on corruption related charges. JP Morgan paid a fine of $75 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), with none of its own personnel serving any jail time.

In an article for Bloomberg, “Wall Street Takes $4 Billion From Taxpayers as Swaps Backfire,” Michael McDonald wrote, “California’s water resources department this year spent $305 million unwinding interest-rate bets that backfired, handing over the money to banks led by New York-based Morgan Stanley. North Carolina paid $59.8 million in August, enough to cover the annual salaries of about 1,400 full-time state employees. Reading, Pennsylvania, which sought protection in the state’s fiscally distressed communities program, got caught on the wrong end of the deals, costing it $21 million, equal to more than a year’s worth of real-estate taxes.”

In a 2010 article, “How Big Banks’ Greek-Style Schemes Bankrupt States,” Mike Elk of the Huffington Post wrote: “As almost all reasoned economists had predicted in the wake of a deepening recession, the federal government aggressively drove down interest rates to save the big banks. This created opportunity for banks—whose variable payments on the derivative deals were tied to interest rates set largely by the Federal Reserve and Government—to profit excessively at the expense of state and local governments. While banks are still collecting fixed rates of from 4 percent to 6 percent, they are now regularly paying state and local governments as little as a tenth of one percent on the outstanding bonds—with no end to the low rates in sight.”

Elk continued, “Banks and states were supposed to be paying equal rates. However, with the fed lowering interest rates, which was anticipated, now states and local governments are paying about 50 times what the banks are paying. Talk about a windfall profit the banks are making off of the suffering of local economies.”

According to economist Susan Ozawa, “the states and municipalities were entering into these long maturity swaps out of necessity. They were desperate, if not naive, and couldn’t look to the Federal Government or Congress and had to turn themselves over to the banks.”

Speaking to the Real News on the subject, Tom Ferguson, professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts Boston, said that cities and states, which he described as “public sector prey,” were “basically just shoveling out millions of dollars on a decline in rates” saying that the interest rate swaps had “all the looks of the same type of deal as the mortgage story, where predatory deals were used.” Ferguson further cited the “tacit collusion of the press” in this process, saying that the “daily papers didn’t cover it.”

The US government has made every effort to assure that the fees owed to the banks will be protected in the bankruptcy process, even as labor agreements are torn up and workers lose their jobs and pensions.

Exemptions have been embedded in the bankruptcy codes that provide a “safe haven” for the banks and ensure payment of their swap deals, using the bogus argument that if the banks are not paid in full, grave damage to the financial system will result.

Entire cities are being used as collateral, opening the way for wholesale plunder of municipal assets by the same institutions, whose criminal activities crashed the economy. The Federal Reserve’s policy of lowering interest rates has provided a windfall for the banks while driving cities and cities and states over the financial cliff. This manufactured crisis has, in turn, been exploited by the Obama administration and both big business parties to hand over trillions in pension funds and other public assets to the financial kleptocracy that rules America.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) last month submitted a so-called auto jobs rescue plan to Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s government. The trade union urged the government to seize on the closure of GM Holden’s Australian operations in 2017, on top of Ford’s exit in 2016, as an opportunity to channel billions of dollars in subsidies to military industries and other manufacturing companies.

The union’s “A Prosperous Australia” blueprint advocates the creation of a new manufacturing base to provide the support and skills needed to expand the defence industries—in other words, to meet the military requirements of Australian imperialism demanded by the Obama administration’s “pivot” to Asia and its war preparations against China. The document underscores the trade union movement’s commitment to the unconditional alignment behind Washington’s military and strategic drive against China, initiated by the former Labor government and continued under Abbott’s Liberal-National government.

The AMWU, which covers the car industry, cynically professes concern for the thousands of working people who will be affected by the auto closures. It declares that “very significant funding from the Federal Government” is needed to “minimise the dislocation Holden’s closure will cause to already disadvantaged communities.” At the same time, it demands that manufacturing employers be provided with “access to capital to invest … so that the manufacturing base can transition to a situation where it does not rely on automotive manufacturing.”

Thus, from the outset, the AMWU plan presents the GM and Ford closures, along with whole sections of the automotive parts industry, as a fait accompli. This dovetails with what is happening on the ground. The car unions are working overtime to block any opposition by auto industry workers and prevent any broader industrial and political campaign in defence of jobs.

To cover up its own role, the AMWU condemns the Abbott government—which took office in September—declaring it “has stood idly by and let automotive manufacturing in Australia cease due to ideological aversion to the global reality of industry support.” In reality, the union has worked closely with successive Labor and Coalition governments, backing the car companies’ restructuring and massive destruction of jobs over three decades.

Labor governments, along with the unions, previously justified continuous multi-million dollar subsidies to the auto industry by pointing to what they termed “the broader strategic considerations” for Australian capitalism.

In January 2012, Labor’s industry minister Kim Carr made more explicit the military content of such considerations. Backing a further round of auto industry handouts, Carr declared that maintaining a skills base in car production “was necessary for other industries, including instrument making, aluminium, glass and military production.”

Making clear that these “broader strategic considerations” are central to the AMWU plan, a recent article on the union’s web site insisted that “the skills at Holden are transferrable to defence.”

The AMWU’s plan calls on the government to “immediately order additional Air Warfare Destroyers and link these builds into the future frigate project so a continuous build program can be developed that supports our Navy and our manufacturing industry.”

In addition, “the projects to replace the Armidale Class patrol boats and supply ships HMAS Success and Sirius should be bought forward with a commitment to build replacements in Australia … with as much local content as possible to support the economies of South Australia and Victoria and build Australia’s shipbuilding capacity.”

This demand for increased military production is fully in line with the former Labor government’s Defence White Paper, which outlined arms procurements to allow for the greater integration of the Australian armed forces into the operations of the US military.

This involved a commitment to spend tens of billions of dollars over the next two decades to acquire amphibious troop carriers, new destroyers, 12 new long-range submarines, three squadrons of US-built Joint Strike Fighters and an array of other aircraft and equipment that would complement US forces in a clash with China.

In other words, the very future of thousands of workers is now to be tied directly to the war aims of Australian and US imperialism. Even so, the expansion of the defence industry proposed by the union, while providing lucrative contracts for big business, will not replace the estimated 50,000 jobs to be eliminated in the car and car parts industries.

Moreover, any increase in military expenditure will be paid for by the wholesale gutting of the social services and welfare payments on which millions of ordinary people rely. At the same time, the profit margins of corporations that bid for defence contacts under globally-driven competitive conditions will be assured by the slashing of workers’ conditions to drive up productivity and slash costs—a process in which the unions will collaborate, as they have done in the auto industry.

Despite the scheduled closures of Holden and Ford, even after at least $10 billion has been pumped into the auto industry by Australian governments over the past ten years, the AMWU plan calls for further immediate subsidies of $3.8 billion to big business. It advocates expanding existing handouts, such as the Automotive New Markets Program, Manufacturing Export Market Development Grants and Manufacturing Transition Grants, as well as payments “to allow manufacturing businesses to invest in new capital, products and processes” and access to “co-funding” and funding guarantees.

The AMWU’s blueprint is also designed to further integrate the unions into the corporate establishment, so they remain central in policing the needs of big business against their members, while providing lucrative positions for union bureaucrats. The plan calls for a new government-owned Manufacturing Finance Corporation “endowed with at least $2.5 billion” and overseen by “a board comprising business leaders, experts in financing and union representatives” to “ensure it is providing the necessary support to the [manufacturing] sector.”

The body would be modelled on the Export Finance Insurance Corporation, the export credit agency set up to funnel money to Australian-based businesses “to win and finance export, offshore investment and onshore export-related opportunities when their bank is unable to provide all the support they need.”

Undoubtedly a significant proportion of the proposed $2.5 billion endowment would be used to finance generous directors’ fees and extensive perks for the board members—business executives and union officials alike.

It is sometimes disorienting to note that a federal bureaucracy that we have grown to mistrust over the past decade occasionally can be a source of reliable information that actually discredits what the government itself is saying. On those all too rare occasions Leviathan appears to be so unfocused that his right hand and left hand are out of sync. To cite only one example, I have a number times noted that while the White House and Congress continue to hype the terrorist threat for political and budgetary reasons the State Department’s annual Country Reports on Terrorism, if read carefully, actually demonstrates that terrorism is in precipitous decline worldwide.

Two investigative reports that were classified to prevent the information they contained from becoming public have recently been in the news. One is the Senate Intelligence Committee’s exhaustive review of the efficacy of the torture that was carried out by CIA officers in 2002-6 and the other is the 28 pages long chapter on Saudi Arabian involvement that was redacted from the final published version of the 9/11 Commission’s report. The reports are important because they together illustrate different ways in which the rule of law was largely ignored by the White House in the wake of 9/11. They also challenge the established narratives on 9/11 itself and the intelligence community response to the alleged threat posed by terrorism.

The torture program had already been critiqued by no less than the CIA’s own Office of the Inspector General, which finally made public a heavily redacted report in 2009 stating that post 9/11 torture “and abusive tactics” had produced no significant intelligence that preempted any terrorist attacks against American targets. The report, based on a study carried out in 2004 that was subsequently the subject of a flurry of memos between CIA and the Justice Department, was challenged by some Agency officers who had been involved in the program and the report itself provided some wiggle room in stating that “It is difficult to quantify with confidence and precision the effectiveness of the program.”

The dissenting view of advocates for “enhanced interrogation” has been disseminated widely by FOX News and the Wall Street Journal among other media outlets. No CIA torturer has been punished for actions that many believe equate to war crimes and the Obama Administration as one of its first acts in 2009 announced that there would be no “looking backward” on the issue. The official who was most directly involved in ordering the CIA torture program, Jose Rodriguez, illegally ordered the video evidence of the interrogations destroyed but the Justice Department opted not to prosecute him. Rodriguez, who headed the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center before becoming Director of the National Clandestine Service, has reportedly since 2010 held a senior level position in the National Interest Security Company, which is owned by IBM. He appears occasionally on television to defend the Agency’s record on torture (though he does not use the word), claiming, uniquely, that it led to the killing of Osama bin Laden.

The one year old completely classified Senate study, which examined every single interrogation carried out by CIA, concluded, as did the Agency IG report, that the torture regime had produced no appreciable results but its value relative to debunking the CIA effort is its comprehensiveness. There is no denying its conclusions as every one of six million documents relating to the rendition and interrogation programs was carefully examined. The report itself, 6,300 pages long with no less than 50 pages of bullet points, took three years to research. Some of its conclusions have reportedly been rebutted by a CIA team, which prepared a 122 page response in June that was presented to the committee. It has been alleged that the Agency discovered “significant errors” in the investigation and analysis, but those flaws, if they truly exist, have never been made public.

The Senate Intelligence Committee cannot release the torture report. That must be done by CIA, which is in no hurry to do so. As a byproduct of the February approval hearings for John Brennan as CIA Director and the December nomination hearings over CIA’s new top lawyer Caroline Krass, an Obama appointee, the Senate is now demanding that CIA stop stalling and clear an edited version of the report suitable for the public. It is also demanding an internal CIA document that apparently agrees with the Senate report’s conclusions but Krass is resisting, claiming that a series of CIA and Justice Department memos relating to the Senate report are “pre decisional,” an obvious attempt to prolong the process and a prime example why when Shakespeare suggested that “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers” he was being eminently sensible.

The CIA defense appears to be based on the argument that it was authorized to employ “extreme measures” against terrorist suspects by the Justice Department, meaning that the actual efficacy of the practice was and always will be a secondary consideration. Insiders at the Agency suggest that the problem with releasing the full Senate report is not so much what it says but what it implies. A catalogue of meticulously documented war crimes that were ultimately pointless in terms of national security might lead to demands for accountability. Accountability means that CIA people will go to jail.

Other groups are also seeking to obtain release of the report arguing that closure over the issue cannot be achieved until there is some understanding of what exactly the United States government did after 9/11. In mid-December of coalition of religious groups including Christian, Jewish, and Muslim clergy sent a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee asking that the report be released.

The Saudi section of the 9/11 report is another example of making up the rules as one goes along which has characterized the “unitary executive” American presidency over the past twelve years. The details of Saudi involvement, which reportedly include Royal Family funding of some of the men who carried out 9/11, is still secret more than twelve years after the airline hijackings. Fifteen of the nineteen alleged hijackers were Saudis.

Some congressmen who have read the redacted information were shocked by what they learned and are now demanding that the information be made public. CIA and FBI information confirming existing open source reports suggesting that Saudi government diplomats and intelligence officers actually helped the hijackers would be politically explosive and one should expect that the Obama Administration will not cooperated with efforts by congressmen Walter Jones and Stephen Lynch, respectively a North Carolina Republican and a Massachusetts Democrat, to release the entire report.

A true accounting of what took place is long overdue and, one might add, it should not stop with the Saudis. Some of the hijackers spent considerable time in Pakistan prior to 9/11 and it is unlikely that the Pakistani Intelligence Service (ISI) would have missed their presence or the opportunity to recruit them as sources. Also the Israelis, who were running a massive intelligence operation inside the United States, appear to have had at least some prior knowledge of what was going to occur. The account of the “Five Dancing Shlomos” celebrating in Liberty Park as the twin towers burned suggests at a minimum prior knowledge and possibly even more than that as Israel had a strong motive to encourage a major terrorist attack in the US which would tie Washington to Tel Aviv in a tight anti-Muslim terrorism embrace. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu subsequently described the 9/11 attack as good news.

The bin Laden family as well as numerous Saudi officials were flown out of the US immediately after 9/11 and the Israelis implicated in several Mossad cover companies were questioned but eventually released under pressure from their Embassy. Insofar as can be determined, the possible Pakistani connection has never been seriously examined. Public records relating to all the arrests and investigations of possible foreign agents have either disappeared or been classified.

If the United States is ever to become a normal country again where the rule of law is respected and high government officials are held accountable, it is absolutely essential that the still classified sections of the 9/11 report and the entirety of the Senate Committee report on CIA “extreme measures” be made public. President Obama ran for office declaring that his administration would be accountable and open but it has been nothing of the sort. He declares that the torture and renditions have ceased but until there is a full rendering of all the unconscionable things that have taken place over the past twelve years, why should anyone trust him, particularly as he has himself introduced an increased level of drone warfare and a targeted assassination program. If there were foreign governments involved in 9/11 and if the CIA carried out a horrific torture program that served no purpose the American people now have a right to know.

Obsessed with the “Iran threat,” which leads to its warmongering in Syria, Saudi Arabia is acting like a bull in a china shop, wreaking regional havoc in an already Arab fragile political environment and creating what George Joffe’ of Cambridge University’s Centre of International Studies, on last December 30, called the “second Arab cold war,” the first being the Saudi-led cold war with the Pan-Arab Egypt of Gamal Abdul Nasser since the 1960s.

The kingdom stands now almost isolated politically. Its “going it alone” in the Syrian conflict has cornered Saudi Arabia into a self-inflicted foreign policy no-win deadlock, to be at odds with three super powers, including its strategic U.S. ally as well as Russia and China, in addition to regional heavy weights in Iran, Iraq, Egypt and Algeria, all who advocate a political settlement of the conflict.

Within the six-member Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC), the kingdom navigates no better.

 It is at loggerheads with Qatar over the latter’s sponsorship of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and consequently over the two countries’ disagreement over the removal of the MB-led Mohammad Morsi’s presidency.

Saudi Arabia’s hostility to the MB and its support of their removal from power in Egypt have reflected negatively on the Saudi-Turkish relations as well and had repercussions in Syria, leading to a restructuring of the insurgent political and military competing leaders who claim the representation of the Syrian people: Qatari and Turkish-supported leading figures and organizations were replaced by Saudi loyalists and accordingly, for example, the “Free Syrian Army” has simply disappeared to be replaced by the Islamic Front.

In the last GCC summit meeting in Kuwait , the other five members of the GCC, Oman in particular, rejected the kingdom’s proposal to develop the “cooperation council” into a confederation.

Despite the Saudi bailing out of the post-Morsi interim government in Cairo with a few billions of US dollars, Egypt doesn’t see eye to eye with Riyadh neither on Syria , where it joined the political solution advocates, nor on relations with Russia , which Egypt is now reviving to balance its US ties.

According to Wall Street Journal online on this January 5, the ensuing situation “is placing the White House in a growing diplomatic quandary as its regional allies fall into competing camps.”

The fact that the United States has chosen diplomacy instead of military confrontation with Tehran and Damascus has politically isolated the kingdom, which had hedged its bets on a western military intervention led or blessed by the United States . It feels betrayed by its American strategic ally. For a long time it relied on a long mistaken understanding that the US marines will be always available as mercenary soldiers ready to fight Saudi wars as long as the wealthy kingdom would pay for it, not aware of the US understanding of the vice versa.

 However, instead of maneuvering wisely to backtrack to steer in harmony with the US , the kingdom stubbornly decided to “go it alone.”

 In an op-ed published by The New York Times on last December 19, Saudi Ambassador to the UK, Prince Nawaf bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, said his country “will go it alone” against Syria and Iran, because it “will not stand idly by” while the US compromises Saudi Arabia’s security and “risk[s] the region’s stability.”

 However, “in spite of its great wealth, the kingdom is not able to confront significant threats in its strategic environment on its own,” former Iran Coordinator in Israel’s National Security Council, Yoel Guzansky, wrote in Haaretz on last December 25, adding that as regards the Saudi “deterrence of and protection from Iran, … no other major power is currently interested in or capable of filling the role played by the United States.”

As of late this summer, Saudi Arabia had given $400 million in arms and other equipment to Syrian Salafi Jihadists, the Wall Street Journal online reported on last December 29.

 True, Saudi warmongering over Syria and Iran could abort the Geneva II conference on Syria, scheduled to convene on this January 22 in Montreux, Switzerland to wrap up a political settlement, but in the end of the day the Saudi kingdom is more likely to end up the only loser in the face of a regional and worldwide consensus on political settlement as the only possible exit out of the Syrian conflict.

Logic dictates that Iran should be in and Saudi Arabia out, but the Geneva II guest list includes warmongering Saudi Arabia, but excludes Iran, which has been calling from the start for a political solution. Such an arrangement warns of including the only “spoiler-in-chief,” in the words of the Assistant Professor of International Studies at Arcadia University , Pennsylvania , Samer N. Abboud, writing in the Qatari www.aljazeera.com on this January 5.

The US and Russian top diplomats, John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov were scheduled during a meeting ahead of Geneva II to decide on Iran’s participation, according to Martin Nesirky, spokesperson for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

 There is no way the kingdom could succeed in Syria where a US-led Qatari, Turkish, French and British alliance failed. Saudi former intelligence chief, former ambassador to the US and an influential member of the royal family, Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud, admitted their failure when he told CNBC on this January 7 that the United States failed in its dealing with the Syrian conflict.

 Thanks to Saudis, Syrian Conflict Spills over

The three-year old conflict in Syria has somewhat been contained within its own borders, but Saudi Arabia’s ongoing warmongering threatens to perpetuate the conflict and, more importantly, to spill it over regionally without achieving the Saudi proclaimed goal of changing the regime in Damascus at any cost.

The protracted Syrian conflict is already spilling over into neighboring countries through the Saudi sectarian agitation and incitement.

In the east, Iraqi officials had already appealed to the Saudi and other GCC governments to stop their intervention in Iraq ’s internal affairs by arms and political, financial and logistical support to insurgents whose terrorism claimed the lives of some ten thousand overwhelmingly civilian Iraqis in 2013.

 West of Syria, “Lebanon is paralyzed right now,” Gen. Michel Aoun, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), the second largest bloc in Lebanese parliament, told www.al-monitor.com on last December 13. After a two-week power vacuum, a prime minister-designate was nominated last April, but he has yet to form his government. His efforts have reached a dead end. The country since then was administrated by a caretaker government. No breakthrough seems imminent.

Saudi Arabia is the reason. It is exploiting its historical influence with loyalists and allies to prevent any inclusive government. It insists on the exclusion of Hizbullah as a precondition. The dead end polarized the country between pro-Syria and pro-Saudi camps. Riyadh , to guarantee a no-return by its loyalists, has recently fueled this polarization with a three billion “gift” over five years to arm the Lebanese army with French weapons in the hope of creating a counterbalance to Hezbullah, thus qualifying Lebanon for a civil war.

Meanwhile the northern and eastern parts of the country have slipped out of the control of the central government in Beirut and became a bastion of a Saudi-supported training camp, safe haven, manpower reservoir and a host of foreign Jihadists, fueling the Syrian conflict with arms and fighters.

Deterred by the military successes of the official Syrian Arab Army against them and falling back on Lebanon, those “Jihadists” are retaliating with the escalation of suicide bombings inside Lebanon, which are claiming more and more Lebanese civilian lives of all sects.

In the south in Jordan, where the kingdom succeeded for three years to keep balance between its geopolitical links with Syria and its strategic alliance with the US and Saudi Arabia, warnings against a mounting Saudi pressure to change course have been voiced recently.

For example, former premier and member of the upper house, Ma’arouf al-Bakhit, quoted by www.ammonnews.net on last December 30, warned that the disparity between the US and Saudi approaches to solving the Syrian conflict is pressuring Jordan, which is now facing the “challenge” of the possibility that Saudi Arabia “might act to impose its vision on Jordan,” indicating that “Syria no longer views Jordan as neutral” and accuses the kingdom of “hosting a Saudi – Israeli operations room to run military operations in Syria.” If Syria decides to act on this accusation, al-Bakhit added, it is “possible” to “move part of war” to “the interior of the kingdom’s territory.” Al-Bakhit should have cited Lebanon and Iraq as live precedents.

Further away, in Russia , the latest terror attacks in Volgograd were interpreted as an integral part of and attributed to the same terror network and mastermind in the Middle East , thus alienating the emerging Russian world polar. Russian media reports were implicating Saudi Arabia as responsible.

 Saudi Strategy Fails in Syria

Since the so-called “Arab Spring” sprang out in Tunisia three years ago, the Saudi-led GCC monarchies succeeded in defending themselves against the tidal popular protests by a preempting financial bailout (Oman, Bahrain) or by direct military intervention (Bahrain) and by financial, political and indirect, but public nonetheless, military intervention to hijack the burgeoning revolutions in the “republics,” which have become more like china shops, either stateless or failed states, breathlessly in a life or death fight against “Islamist” terror organizations, which are armed and financed by none other than this same Saudi-led petrodollar monarchies and sheikhdoms.

This Saudi-led strategy is best manifested in Syria , where it met its first failure. Internal, regional and international consensus on political settlement and anti-terror campaign is gaining momentum to put an end to this strategy. Saudi Arabia has no other option but either to backtrack or being isolated. It either changes course or changes its leadership.

Its warmongering in Syria is portraying the kingdom in public opinion as the regional mastermind of violence and instability, vindicating American accusations, fueled by Israeli incitement, in the aftermath of the terror attacks in US on September 11, 2001 that the Saudi sectarian ideology is an incubator nurturing violence and terror, despite the kingdom’s long war against its own Islamist terrorists.

 This sectarian ideology is creating a sectarian clash across the Middle East between two theocracies, the “Shiite” theocracy of Iran and the Sunni theocracy of Saudi Arabia , thus blurring the real dividing line of the regional battle between the US-protected Israeli occupation of Arab lands in Palestine , Syria and Lebanon and the self-proclaimed Iran – Syria axis of resistance. The survival of a secular Syria will be the first regional step towards the containment of this destructive sectarian clash.

 Within this context it is noteworthy that Saudi Arabia, the godfather of the “Arab peace initiative,” postures as a peace maker against the Israeli occupying power, but insists on military solution in Syria whose Golan Heights is occupied by Israel since 1967.

Ironically, Saudi – Israeli crossroads seem to meet as the only regional relief for the kingdom. This approach of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” is creating a fait accompli of a Saudi-Israeli marriage of convenience against Syria and Iran , which places the two countries on a higher moral ground among the overwhelming majority of Arabs and Muslims.

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

Thailand: Regime Power Grab Runs into Judicial Brick Wall

January 8th, 2014 by Tony Cartalucci

http://altthainews.blogspot.com/2014/01/thailand-regime-power-grab-runs-into.html

Usurping constitutional amendment that would allow prime minister to sign foreign treaties without Parliamentary approval is overturned. Regime cries “judicial coup.” 

The now overturned amendment of article 190 of the Thai Constitution would have allowed the Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to sign foreign treaties without Parliamentary approval – in a dangerous and despotic consolidation of power that was begun under her brother Thaksin Shinawatra. Bangkok’s English newspaper The Nation reported in its article, “Constitutional Court rules against Article 190 amendment bill,” that:

The Constitutional Court Wednesday ruled that the amendment to Article 190 of the Constitution was unconstitutional. 

The amendment bill was aimed at allowing the government to sign international deals without having to seek legislative approval on a negotiating framework. 

It was to allow the government to bypass the legislature to negotiate any deals except those impacting territorial integrity, sovereignty, relevant laws enacted by Parliament and the opening up of free trade. 

The court ruled that the amendment violated Article 68, which prohibited the unconstitutional way of acquiring state power.

While it claims the usurping amendment would not have allowed the prime minister’s office to sign deals involving territorial integrity, sovereignty or the opening of free trade, that is exactly what the current ruling regime under defacto leader Thaksin Shinawatra has been trying to do since first coming into office in 2001. 

  • Thaksin was Thailand’s prime minister from 2001-2006. Has since dominated the various reincarnations of his political party – and still to this day runs the country by proxy, via his nepotist appointed sister, Yingluck Shinawatra. 
Allowing this regime a freer hand in dealing with an already treasonous collection of entwined foreign interests would only invite more attempts to ram-rod through unpopular destructive free trade deals like the upcoming Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that would effectively resign Thailand’s political and economic sovereignty to Western Fortune 500 corporations. It would also invite more opportunities to entangle Thailand’s sovereignty with unpopular military adventures of the West.  
Image: Regime supporters have already begun calling judicial rulings against the regime’s overtly criminal power grab a “judicial coup.” In reality, a court ruling against systematic and repetitive criminality is generally called, “justice.”
….
For regime supporters, they have already begun the cry of “judicial coup,” with the regime itself sure to follow in a coordinated display of feigned indignation. What is curious is the supposed dedication regime supporters appear to have toward “democracy” and “representation,” versus their support of an amendment that would have usurped the power and authority of their own elected representatives in scrutinizing foreign treaties.
It remains to be seen what, if any, possible defense can be made that explains what otherwise appears to be a classic power grab by a growing and increasingly dangerous tyranny. 

British Chancellor George Osborne this week announced massive cuts of £25 billion after 2015. This included further welfare cuts of £12bn. Osbourne said that 2014 would be a year of hard truths. He claimed that his economic policies were working, but admitted that the bad news is there’s still a long way to go.

He warned of more years of cuts to public services and the public sector by saying £25bn would be cut over two years after 2015. That is in addition to £17bn cuts this year and £20bn next year. Osbourne argued that government is going to have to be permanently smaller and so too is the welfare system.

When he says ‘welfare system’ does he also include cutting back the massive handouts given to the arms industry, for example, which amounts to £890 million per year according to the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (1), or the billions given to the private sector via the ‘corporate dole office’, the Department of Trade and Industry (now called the Department for Business Innovation and Skills)? Or does he exclude such types of corporate welfare dependency (2)?

 What is interesting about this attack on the public sector by millionaire Osbourne and the rest of the millionaires in the British Cabinet is that the mantra that such cuts are necessary has been repeated endlessly over the past few years to the point that many of the public believe it’s true. But it’s not. Cuts are not necessary. It is ideology wrapped up in neo-liberal economic dogma that masquerades as ‘truth’. But it’s a big lie. It’s secular theology that the mainstream media never challenges and simply perpetuates.

 Britain’s problems are not the result of spending on public services. In 1945, the debt was bigger than today, but Britain created the welfare state. In the 1960s, during an era of full employment, the debt was also bigger than now. In 2006, before the crisis, Britain spent more on public services than now, but there was no talk of cutting back the public sector.

The roots of the crisis (across Western economies) lie not in public sector spending but in a process that has seen the shifting balance of political and economic power towards elite interests. In the 1980s, much of Britain’s manufacturing industry was outsourced or run down, the union movement was attacked and almost decimated and wages have been depressed or have fallen in real terms over a number of years. To compensate for the hollowing out of the economy and driving down wages, low pay and increasing underemployment, credit became the short-term remedy for stimulating demand.

 While profits during the last decade were higher than in the previous three decades, unemployment and underemployment have become a fact of life for millions (3). This is the outcome of the type of ‘globalization’ we have been witnessing and the lies that underpin it (4). It is the consequence of what David Rothkopf in this book ‘The Global Power Elite and The World They are Making’ says is the global elite’s plundering of nations.

The economic crisis is not due to lavish spending on public services, but the shattering of the post-war Keynesian consensus, based on notions of fairness, and consequent low demand and over investment, neo-liberal (low taxation – or no taxation for the corporate tax cheats) economic policies, a debt bubble economy and the massive welfare handout (bail out) to the banking sector. It is also a result of the manipulations within the unregulated financial sector (which was supposed to be the bedrock of the ‘new’ economy after the manufacturing base was deliberately destroyed), speculation, the criminal use of hedge funds and credit derivatives and all manner of secretive dodgy dealings that burst the bubbles they were intended to sustain. Ordinary folk are now being saddled with the consequences of a system they had no hand in shaping.

 But mention the word ‘crisis’ and propaganda about the public sector being the root of all evil is sold to the masses by most politicians and the media.

 Osbourne would never mention that the top 1,000 of Britain’s wealthiest people had an aggregate wealth of £333 bn in 2009. The national debt was half that. In 2009, they increased their wealth by a third (5). It doesn’t take a genius to see how the debt could be addressed. But Osbourne says: “There is no point in pretending that there is some magic wand that the Chancellor can wave to make the whole country feel richer than it actually is.”

And so the plunder of public resources continues.

The priority of Osbourne and his millionaire cronies inside and outside the British Government is not the lives of ordinary people, but to maintain massive profit and to drive down wages and ‘costs’ and keep workers confused and weak.

Quoted in Britain’s Morning Star newspaper, Communist Party general secretary Rob Griffiths urges taxes on the rich and big business, plus public ownership of energy and public transport. The Unite union general secretary Len McCluskey accuses Mr Osborne of “continuing an unprecedented ideological attack on the state, with Britain’s young people in the front line.”

General union GMB general secretary Paul Kenny is also reported as demanding that big corporations must be made to pay their fair share of tax, bringing in billions of extra income. That would amount to a whopping £260 million a day according to economist and taxation specialist Richard Murphy (6).

 What is happening in Britain is a continuation of what Thatcher did in the 1980s, with attacks on ordinary working people in order to allow an ever increasing concentration of power and wealth at the top. To help achieve it, we are witnessing the dismantling of the welfare state.

Mick McGahey, Vice President of the National Union of Mineworkers 1972-87:

“We understood the Conservative government’s determination to use the state machine against us. In order to dismember the welfare state, they had to break the trade union movement and they needed to break the miners first.”

McGahey was correct. The current Conservative-LibDem coalition is going further than Thatcher ever did. Osbourne and his cronies in government are mouthpieces for their powerful backers in the City of London. As Labour MP Dennis Skinner observes:

“Osborne is busy lining the pockets of the people at the top of the pile.”

Notes

1) http://www.caat.org.uk/resources/publications/economics/subsidies-factsheet-0504.php

2) http://www.mediahell.org/costofthings.htm

3) https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2011/10/pove-o14.html

4) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h5qW6azn5u4#t=13

5) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8642021.stm

US Courts Close in on Saudi Side of the 911 Plot

January 8th, 2014 by Global Research News

by 9/11 Forum

US courts have revived a class action suit which accuses Saudi Arabia of helping to organise the 911 attacks. This view has been put publicly by ex-Senator Bob Graham who oversaw the original US Congressional 911 investigation. Multiple leaks confirm that the section of Graham’s report that was redacted by the White House came to the conclusion that Saudi agents helped to organise the people named as 911 hijackers. After more than 10 years in the job the head of Saudi intelligence resigned days before the 911 attacks, while the Bush White House organised the evacuation of key Saudis from the US including Prince Bandar, known as Bander Bush for his close Washington links.

Led by Graham, US politicians, judges and sections of the media have broken ranks. The official story – that Al Qaeda carried out 911 with no help from any government – now looks increasingly unsupportable.

With the Obama White House and Saudis now at odds in the Middle East it seems more than a coincidence that US courts have restarted an action against the Saudis alleging complicity in the attacks. However most 911 sceptics think that the Saudis played a minor role, helping to create an evidence trail to support the official story.

911 sceptics feel confirmed by another new Middle East development: Israel and Saudi Arabia working together openly. Reports in Washington claim the powerful US Israel lobby AIPAC has been lobbying Congress NOT to reopen the 911 case. This is at odds with the official line that Saudi Arabia and Israel are enemies, but no surprise to 911 sceptics who point out that the main beneficiaries of 911 were not Al Qaeda or even Saudi Arabia but Israel, the Bush White House, the CIA and the US military.

911forum.org.uk

 On January 17, 2008, President Barack Obama famously said,

“Under my plan of a cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.”[1]

It’s now clear that the so-called “smart” utility meter is the core culprit technology in the scheme to which Obama was referring. 

But this is just the tip of the rather alarming iceberg unveiled in our new feature film Take Back Your Power (see trailer below)


(www.takebackyourpower.net).

 Billions of tax dollars… no benefits?

 European Commission wants another $700 Billion for smart grid upgrades. (scene from Take Back Your Power)In a time of economic crisis, the US government allocated $11 billion from taxpayer funds[2] from the 2009 bailout package to develop a “smart” grid, including “smart” meters for every home’s electricity, gas and water. And recently, the European Union has announced plans to spend a mind-numbing $700 billion on building out this centralized control grid.[3] The stated reasons for “smart” metering and grid technology:

 to save energy and thus aid the environment;

  • to increase power reliability; and
  • to give you more control of energy use in your own home.[4]

Toronto Hydro poll: 80% see increase in utility bills following smart meter install. (scene from Take Back Your Power)It is now easily demonstrated that all three of these claims are patently false. “Smart” meters and grids typically use more energy[5], they are extremely hackable[6] (making the entire power grid vulnerable[7]), and customers suffer increased utility bills virtually across the board immediately following a “smart” meter installation[8] – a fact even openly acknowledged now by some utilities.[9]

In the words of Dr. Timothy Schoechle, a leading digital technology engineer and author of Getting Smarter About The Smart Grid:

“The smart meter is a canard—a story or a hoax based on specious and grandiose claims about energy benefits ostensibly derived from the promise of “two-way” communication with the customer… There is essentially no possibility that most smart meters or meter networks will lead to greater sustainability.”[10]
-Dr. Timothy Schoechle, “Getting Smarter About The Smart Grid

Smart spy state

The Borg: The largest sector supporting CISPA was energy & utilities. (scene from Take Back Your Power)As if all this is not enough, “smart” meters – in combination of “smart” appliances also chronically transmitting low-level microwave radiation – are functionally designed to collect swaths of in-home private data on everyone. According to a US Congressional Research Service report,

“Police will have access to data that might be used to track residents’ daily lives and routines while in their homes, including their eating, sleeping, and showering habits, what appliances they use and when, and whether they prefer the television to the treadmill, among a host of other details.”[11]
-US Government Congressional Research Service report, “Smart Meter Data: Privacy and Cybersecurity”, 2012

But it gets worse.  Utilities and public utilities commissions (such as California’s PUC) are actually encouraging the sale of this private data – everything you do in your own home – to 3rd-party corporate interests, for a profit.

“I support today’s decision because it adopts reasonable privacy and security rules and expands consumer and third-party access to electricity usage and pricing information. I hope this decision stimulates market interest in the data.”[12]
-Timothy Alan Simon, CPUC Commissioner

Former CIA Director David Patraeus: "We'll spy on you through your dishwasher." (scene from Take Back Your Power)And incredulously, even former CIA Director David Patraeus boasted (in Wired, March 2012) that government will be routinely spying on through their “smart” appliances[13]. Thus, with CISPA’s focus on legalizing private data transfer deals for corporations to government agencies, the primary motivation behind the push for such legislation starts to become clear.[14]

James Woolsey: "The so-called 'smart' grid as it is now, is actually a really, really stupid grid." (scene from Take Back Your Power)And not only would every detail of your life be tracked, but your access to electricity would be totally controlled: your appliances or entire home could be shut down at any time – without notice – by any utility, or government agency, or as another former CIA director James Woolsey stated, “a hacker on a cellphone in China.”[15]

Newsflash: the NSA phone spying scandal is just the tip of the globalist iceberg.

The good news: the “smart” plan of control and order-out-of-chaos cannot be achieved if enough people simply refuse to participate in this federally-sponsored voluntary microwave and surveillance program.

Mounting evidence of health damage

Tens of thousands of individuals are reporting officially, to governments and utilities, that they are experiencing illness or functional impairments following the installation of “smart” meters. Reported symptoms include headaches, sleep problems, ear ringing, focus difficulties, fatigue, heart palpitations, nausea and statistically abnormal recurrences of cancer.[16]

Utilities have been repeatedly caught lying about how frequent smart meters transmit microwave radiation. (scene from Take Back Your Power)According to court-ordered documentation[17], and independent testing[18], utilities have been proven to be lying about how often “smart” meters transmit bursts of microwave radiation. Depending on the utility their claim is typically something like “4-6 times per day” (Pepco), or “45-60 seconds per day” (PG&E) — whereas courts and independent testing reveal that meters are transmitting in the range of 10,000 to 190,000 pulsed microwave transmissions per day.[19]

Smart meters transmit microwave radiation above levels known to damage health, according to published science (scene from Take Back Your Power)The amount of transmitted microwave radiation has been measured up to 200 times greater[20] (if one is standing next to the meter) than the Building Biology standard threshold for “extreme concern”.[21]  The radiation standards set by national agencies such as the FCC[22] are literally thousands of times higher than science-based levels, because they actually assume that harm can only be done from electromagnetic radiation (EMR) if cells heat up by a certain amount. This is called a “thermal effect”. The reality is that more than 6,000 peer-reviewed, published studies have indicated functional impairment, symptoms of illness or disease (ie. “non-thermal effects”) from levels of EMR as much as 10,000 times lower than “safety” standards set by organizations such as the FCC, Health Canada, ICNIRP, etc.[23]

A stand-off between a community and a smart meter installer (scene from Take Back Your Power)But the health effects don’t end with the pulsed microwave radiation – from the meters and all future “smart” transmitting appliances – under this multinational plan of total control. Every “smart” digital electric meter has what’s known as a “switching mode power supply”, which is proven to directly create large amounts of dirty electricity (DE) – or high-frequency energy radiating throughout your home’s electric circuits, essentially creating an antenna cage. The levels of DE caused by “smart” meters can be several hundred times higher than some international safety standards. When confronted, one government agent would not talk about this on his work phone, but on a private call he confirmed the awareness and concern of the DE health hazard.[24]

As stated by Dr. De-Kun Li, a respected Kaiser Permanente scientist whom I interviewed, “I am not aware of any studies that have shown that exposure to smart meters is safe for the human population.”[25]

Live blood microscopy: before & after smart meter exposure (scene from Take Back Your Power)In this complete void of responsibility or conscience, independent research is now starting to clearly show negative biological effects. One such example is demonstrated in our film – the effects of a single “smart” meter on live human blood – and the visual results are staggering, to say the least.[26]

Additionally, by many reports there are now well over a thousand home fires[27] linked to “smart” meters, and tens of thousands have experienced other appliance breakages in their home. Incredulously, almost none of these meters, made mostly in China[28], have been tested or approved by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or an equivalent standards body.[29]  Thus, the homeowner has no guarantee of coverage, and is often left to deal with the damage and expense to repair.[30]

Crisis or awakening?

This is the first time in known history that either governments or corporations are attempting to force a device (on entire populations) which has been openly proven to cause direct harm to health, rights, security and property.

Germany - who buys half the world's solar panels - is rejecting smart meters (scene from Take Back Your Power)In the US, where federal bill introduced in July 2013 would – if passed – eliminate local decision-making and mandate “smart” grid deployments nationwide[31], this agenda rips apart the 4th, 5th and 10th Constitutional Amendments.[32],[33],[34] Mandated or not, the installation of “smart” meters is either underway or planned in virtually all western countries, despite existing foundational laws which have heretofore served as protection for the people from tyranny.

By forcing this centralized control grid while ignoring an avalanche of evidence indicating catastrophic downsides – and all the while, completely ignoring democratic processes – the picture is becoming clear that the corrupted establishment is truly going for broke on this one folks.

More than 40 US states have aware and active groups, calling out utility and government corruption (scene from Take Back Your Power)However, as documented in Take Back Your Power, there is a growing widespread awareness and resistance to this anti-freedom, anti-life program. Hundreds of local governmentshave issued moratoriums on the installation of “smart” meters, and in California alone, 15 councils have criminalized the installations.[35] Several, such as the City of Sebastopol, have additionally issued an ordinance fining PG&E in the range of $500 fine per installed meter in their city.[36]

Utilities breaking and entering a private home, to install a smart meter (scene from Take Back Your Power)But PG&E and other utilities around the world still are not backing down. In almost all regions where people are beginning to rise to their feet, utilities are moving toward an extortive “opt-out” program, charging customers through the nose for the privelege of not being microwaved and surveiled in their home. Two weeks ago the rogue British Columbian government floated the idea to more than 60,000 households declining the new meter, to fork over an initial fee of $100, and then pay them an ongoing fee of $35 per month, just to keep their analog meter.[37]

To pay for the privilege of not being irradiated and surveilled upon.

No legal requirement, pulling back the curtain

"Smart" power grid, or greenwashed enslavement grid? (scene from Take Back Your Power)According to some legal experts we interviewed, the trick is to realize that it’s just a poker game. There is no law requiring you to accept a so-called “smart” meter on your home, or to participate in extortion, even though utilities and governments are intimidating people into believing they have no choice.[38]

And for the masses who do not yet know the facts about this shocking issue, corporate utilities operate under tacit acceptance, or implied consent[39] – in other words, if you didn’t say “no”, you just said “yes”.

The Maine Supreme Court was incredulous and grilled the Utility Commission, but did a hidden corporate hand sway the case? (scene from Take Back Your Power)Lawsuits and claim-of-right actions against installations are sprouting up and becoming almost ubiquitous. In many local governments that are still not listening to the people, individual councilors and mayors are now beginning to be on the receiving end of civil and criminal litigation.[40] Though, with so much on the line, and the bottomless corporate pockets of a trillion-dollar industry, would a fair trial even be possible?

Whether or not this vast trail of corruption extends into the courts (in the opinion of the writer: it does, but proceedings with a jury may be more fruitful), people are increasingly becoming aware of their rights, and white-collar criminals are beginning to be called out.[41] As one rights group put it:

“No longer can a department head say they were just following orders. No longer can a mayor or city council member say they didn’t know, especially when an avalanche of information is presented to them indicating their position on an issue is detrimental to the health their constituency.”[42]

What are your rights worth? (scene from Take Back Your Power)Because virtually all of us have utility meters, we all now have direct leverage against a central pillar of the planetary control system, perhaps for the first time in any social movement, ever. And it all starts with saying “no” to your utility. If you have a so-called “smart” digital surveillance meter, demand to have it be replaced with a safe analog meter. And do not pay any extortive fees.

Participating in extortion condones criminality, and is pathetically ineffective – anyone remember Chamberlain’s attempt to appease Hitler? Germany does, and they remember unbridled fascism, too. The world’s technology and renewable energy leader is taking a position against “smart” surveillance meters.[43]

Hundreds of local governments have banned, criminalized, or issued a moratorium on the installation of 'smart' meters (scene from Take Back Your Power)This is why we made Take Back Your Power: to let people know – in a highly credible, inspiring and hugely entertaining way – that you no longer have to be silenced by a faceless, soulless enemy. And to provide a tool that can be used like a light saber of awakening for personal networks, or entire regions.

The curtain’s pulled back. Time to connect-the-dots and turn the tables. Let’s each start by deciding what we are ready to stand for, and then reaching out to family, friends and community.

High stakes, huge opportunity

What’s at stake is nothing less than our basic rights to life, health, choice and freedom itself. When finally understood, this situation is a crisis, but it is also a truly momentous opportunity to claim power back into the hands of the people, by decentralizing energy production within the community, and vetoing the old dinosaurs of leechlike extraction. The insanity of these systems is becoming evident, no matter how well-trained the oligarchy’s PR department.

The US Patent office actually has a law for secretizing inventions, including energy technologies (scene from Take Back Your Power)What helps to make sense of this whole thing, is coming to the understanding that governments have become corporate puppets and have been systematically suppressing any tangible solution for decades. The Federation of American Scientists acknowledges that more than 5,000 technology patent applications have been “secretized”.[44] And the US Patent Office actually has a publicly-visible internal law for the suppression of inventions.[45] With 6 of the 7 world’s richest companies in the oil/gas/energy industry[46], should it be surprising that corporate governments have (in Spain) actually passed laws to prohibit the “illegal use of sunlight for energy generation”, setting a fine of $30M Euro for violating homeowners?[47]

"The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any." -Alice Walker (scene from Take Back Your Power)The fact is, in order for human civilization to make it through this time of terrible corruption – and to realize a world of decentralized power and restoration of rights to health, privacy and life itself – we are now required to transition to higher awareness of our situation. We are being asked to confront our existential fear of authority; to go through the proverbial eye of the needle. This requires a realization of the tremendous magnitude of fraud that has been perpetrated by the corporate-government power centers – and then a willingness to take a stand and move our innate Creative force through this awareness.[48] And in doing so, to contribute to a solution that burns off the parasite, and benefits the living.

 

In the end, there is no other way but to stand against corruption, and reveal who we are.

COPYRIGHT Josh del Sol, Producer & Director, Take Back Your Power 2013

“Clinging to one’s opinion is the best proof of stupidity.”—Michel de Montaigne

Readin’, writin’, and ‘rithmatic don’t occasion much questioning. But subjects like history are another matter! Learning history, or anything else for that matter, can be likened to learning Bible verses if questioning is excluded from the process. This kind of learning without questioning is carried over to our colleges and universities where the problem becomes really severe.

Subjects are taught as if they were comprised of revealed truths. Hardly anyone ever questions them because questioning them is discouraged. So we end up with people who graduate with degrees under their arms who are no wiser than they were on the days they matriculated as freshmen. No new idea ever enters their heads. In this society, people who are learned are not educated. They are little different from hurdy gurdy monkeys, but we elect them to office. Such is the legacy of the Sunday School Syndrome. It yields the stubbornness of what are essentially stillborn minds. No amount of information conveyed can ever make a stupid person smart! So nothing fundamental will ever change until intellectual development rather than the conveyance of information becomes the principal goal of learning.

Every teacher who has tired to teach students an unconventional truth has met an obstinate student, the student to whom the conventional truth he matriculated with is the conventional truth he graduates with. Everyone who has tried to teach Ted Cruz knows what I’m talking about. Some claim that the hardest minds to change are religious. I don’t know how to amass any evidence for that but I suspect that there’s a kernel of truth in the claim. Such minds are hard to change because of the way they develop.

In many homes in America’s Bible Belt, children are nurtured in constrained intellectual environments. The only recognized book is the Bible, and children are told from early ages on that it contains the revealed word of God himself which not only is never questioned but is never even questionable. These children go or are taken to church three or more times a week where they are enrolled in Bible school and hear stories, often as outrageous as the parting of the Red Sea, that are never questionable. No one ever asks, or is even ever allowed to ask, How can that be true?

Much of early childhood education lends itself to this type of learning. Readin’, writin’, and ‘rithmatic don’t occasion much questioning. But history, for instance, is another matter! Mostly it is learned by rote. No one questions whether anyone was massacred in the Boston Massacre. The Sons of Liberty are never considered to have been a terrorist organization. Lincoln’s sincerity in the Gettysburg Address is rarely questioned. Knowing that Lincoln delivered the address on Thursday, November 19, 1863 and being able to recite it mean nothing. Knowing if Lincoln was sincere when he included the phrase “government of the people, by the people, for the people” or if that phrase was a mere rhetorical flourish makes a world of difference. Learning history can be likened to learning Bible verses if questioning is excluded from the process.

Why have there been several wars after the War to End all Wars was won? No one ever asks. When books that raise questions are found in school libraries, they re often unceremoniously removed. Nothing even remotely like “a search for truth” ever takes place. School is Bible school all over again only without the Bible (whose absence is often lamented).

This kind of learning without questioning is carried over to our colleges and universities where the problem becomes really severe. Questionable courses like economics, for instance, are taught like Bible verses except the verses are now referred to as models. Subjects are taught as if they were comprised of revealed truths. Hardly anyone ever questions them because questioning them is discouraged. So we end up with people who graduate with degrees under their arms who are no wiser than they were on the days they matriculated as freshmen. They can be likened to cans being filled with trash. No new idea ever enters their heads. In this society, people who are learned are not educated. They are little different from hurdy gurdy monkeys, but we elect them to office. No new idea has entered the halls of Congress in more than a hundred years; yet we wonder why nothing essential has changed. What fools we be!

Conventional wisdom is not wise. If it were, human beings would be solving problems rather than perpetuating them. People used to say the proof is in the pudding; if the pudding tastes three hundred years old, it is!

No subject is itself unworthy of study, but how it’s taught matters. Different subjects need to be taught differently. Learning is more than the conveyance of information. Penmanship cannot be taught like reading. Reading cannot be taught like multiplication. Multiplication cannot be taught like literature. Literature cannot be taught like chemistry. Some subjects are taught to provide students with techniques; students learn how to do things; other subjects are taught to develop minds. Americans, perhaps people elsewhere too, have never understood this and don’t understand it today. Some people in Ancient Athens developed excellent minds; few today have minds that match them. These Athenians did not study a core curriculum or take standardized tests. Neither did Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Wagner, Madam Curie, Newton, Harvey, Einstein, and numerous others. Some “reformers” ought to have learned something from that! The “reformers” themselves did not study a core curriculum or take standardized tests. Why don’t they ask themselves, How did we possibly learn anything without having done so? But no, questioning is not an American intellectual trait.

Even subjects like geometry can be questioned. If no mathematician had ever questioned Euclid’s geometry, non-Euclidean geometry would never have been discovered.

The Europeans who settled America were not interested in developing anyone’s mind. They had the good fortune of having come to America knowing everything. They wanted their children to learn what and only what they, themselves, already knew. Many still hold that view today. For instance, the Republican Party of Texas in 2012 included in its Platform the following paragraph:

Knowledge-Based Education

 We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.

So the colonists established school systems overseen by local people, that is, themselves. They did not then, and many do not now, want anyone telling them what their children need to know. Teach about man-made global warming? Not in our schools. Teach about evolution? Not in our schools. Teach about racial equality? Not in our schools. Teach the Decalogue? Yeah! You bet! So we’re back to Bible school! When the Puritans established Harvard College, they did so not to develop minds but only to create a place where preachers could be theologically trained. No search for scientific truth there! What about now?

Politicians are often criticized for being “out of touch with reality.” How “out of touch” they are is easily shown.

“Calling education a pillar of restoring the new economy, President Obama called for a recommitment to educating scientists and engineers, people ‘who are building and making things we can export to other countries.’”

America never had such a commitment.

Oh, yes! When the Russians put Sputnik into orbit, Americans “reformed” the educational system and science became all the rage. Like the rest of America’s frequent rages, it didn’t last. When Americans tried to tell students that science was fun, telling them that scientific work was often boring and monotonous was omitted, but students learned that for themselves in short order. Science was never as chic as being a rock star or star athlete. Hopefuls have never been attracted to science in numbers like those attracted to American Idol. In America, science is a flop. Five minutes of fame isn’t.

So how “out of touch” are America’s politicians? Look at the President’s recommendation carefully. He has forgotten that Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg are not scientists, engineers, of even college graduates. Had Steve Jobs been minimally scientific, he would likely be alive today. Has the President forgotten that the products these entrepreneurs helped bring to the market are mostly made in Asia and imported to America? Doesn’t the President know that scientists don’t build products; factory workers do? Doesn’t the President know that his view of the economy is 19th Century Sophomoric rather that 21st Century Undergraduate? How far “out of touch” can one be? Well, pretty far if you are an American. Reality can’t be encapsulated in pithy bible-like verses.

Perhaps the President really believes that the scientists working at CERN are building stuff to sell to the Prince of Denmark to be used to kill the Emir of Kuwait. I don’t know! The foreign-trained scientists who discovered how to build an atomic bomb for America did not then become manufacturers who built and exported bombs to the rest of the world. American politicians did that! Meteorologists don’t design, build, and manufacture weathervanes to sell to the rest of the world. What about archaeologists astronomers, paleontologists, and volcanologists? Ah, yes, volcanologists! What products do they build and make to export to the rest of the world, Mr. President? What products, indeed? If this were not so stupid, it would be laughable! Indeed, America will not need more scientists and engineers until it begins to listen to those it already has like, for instance, its climatologists.

Most Americans, including Congressmen, the scions of business, and university professors do not understand science. Science, indeed all genuine knowledge, is characterized by the existence of irrefutable evidence; its claims can be shown to be true. If, in the search for evidence, proof is found that the claims are false, they are abandoned. People with unscientific minds fail to do one or the other of these two things. In fact, false claims that are not abandoned are associated with some jargon. Zombie claims are never abandoned by their stubborn adherents regardless of the strength of the evidence that refutes them. Cockroach claims are abandoned and then retrieved, often in an altered form. The result is the same—ignorance never dies. As Adlai Stevenson said, “Ignorance is stubborn!”

Take, for example, the claim of economists that supply and demand is a law. As evidence for it, they cite merchants and companies that raise prices when the supply is diminished or the demand is increased, as for instance, oil companies. The evidence they cite is true, but countervailing evidence can easily be found. Exxon-Mobil does often raise its prices when supply falls, but when the line of cars at gas pumps gets long, filling station operators do not usually run outside and raise the prices set in the pumps. So although supply and demand may be an often used business practice, it is not a scientific law. Many economic models are subject to the same criticism. Economics is not science; it is full of cockroach claims.

But this characteristic of science is not restricted to factual claims. It applies to policies too. When a policy that has a specific outcome as its goal can be shown not to work or even to be unworkable, scientific minds abandon it. Not political ones. In fact, political ideologies are founded on zombie ideas. A list of such policies is easily constructed: The war on drugs, the legal system, and American foreign policy top the list. They should have been abandoned decades ago if not sooner. But they have not!

You see, America is a creedal nation as are most others. People are not merely irrational, they are anti-rational and anti-scientific. So what irony lurks in the minds of the President and those like him whey they believe that this anti-scientific nation, without changing its ways, will be saved from its follies by scientists whom no one pays any attention to? What could be more absurd?

Such is the legacy of the Sunday School Syndrome. It yields the stubbornness of what are essentially stillborn minds. No amount of information conveyed can ever make a stupid person smart! So nothing fundamental will ever change until intellectual development rather than the conveyance of information becomes the principal goal of learning.

 John Kozy is a retired professor of philosophy and logic who writes on social, political, and economic issues. After serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, he spent 20 years as a university professor and another 20 years working as a writer. He has published a textbook in formal logic commercially, in academic journals and a small number of commercial magazines, and has written a number of guest editorials for newspapers. His on-line pieces can be found on http://www.jkozy.com/ and he can be emailed from that site’s homepage.

Plans to introduce a controversial GM variety of brinjal (aubergine / eggplant) in Bangladesh are opposed by 100 civil society organisations around the world.  As Mae Wan Ho reports, the issue is arousing powerful passions …

Bt-Brinjal will have negligible benefit but would present an enormous hazard to human health. It would be profound disservice to Bangladesh if Bt-Brinjal were allowed to enter her food supply.

100 civil society organisations have written to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to oppose the commercialisation of a genetically modified (GM) eggplant.

Known locally as Bt-Brinjal, the GM eggplant contains a synthetic insect-killing toxin similar to Cry1Ac from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (hence the acronym Bt) targeted at the fruit and shoot borer.

Bt toxins are already known to have many off-target effects, including toxicity to beneficial pest predators, animals and human cells.

The Bt-Brinjal approved for commercial growing in Bangladesh last November originated from Mahyco-Monsanto, but the varieties approved were developed by scientists in Bangladesh. The company tried to commercialize Bt Brinjal in India several years ago and failed.

["Mahyco licensed and used the cry1Ac gene obtained from Monsanto and two supporting genes (nptII and aad)"]

No bio-safety studies

The risk-assessment dossier submitted by the company essentially contained no studies on bio-safety, and that only came to light when the Indian Supreme Court ordered the company to release the raw data.

The letter sent to the Bangladesh PM – from groups representing farmers, indigenous communities, consumers, women, scientists, and / or promoting sustainable development and biosafety – points out that Bangladesh has a vast native diversity of Brinjal that would be put at risk by the release of the Bt-Brinjal.

As Brinjal is largely open-pollinated, transgene contamination poses a great threat, the letter says. And it raises important issues over safety.

On 29 September 2013, the High Court of Bangladesh ruled that the government should not release Bt-Brinjal without assessing the health risks.

It also ordered the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute, the agriculture secretary and the health secretary to submit a report within 3 months, after conducting independent research on health safety in line with standards set down by the Codex Alimentarius.

Negligible benefit, enormous hazards

An independent analysis carried out by eminent international scientists and submitted to the Prime Minister, concluded:

“Bt-Brinjal will have negligible benefit but would present an enormous hazard to human health. It would be profound disservice to Bangladesh if Bt-Brinjal were allowed to enter her food supply …

“There are at least four mechanisms by which the introduction of the Bt toxin gene into the Brinjal genome can cause harm. These include (1) the random insertion of the Bt gene into the plant DNA and the resulting unintended consequences, (2) alterations in crop metabolism by the Bt protein that results in new, equally unintended and potentially toxic products, (3) the direct toxicity of the Bt protein, and (4) an immune response elicited by the Bt protein.

Demands for information refused

However the Bangladesh authorities approved the commercialisation of the Bt-Brinjal in November despite this advice and without releasing the information on health safety that had demanded by the High Court in September.

Civil society organizations in Bangladesh have asked to see toxicological test results as well as nutritional composition analysis of Bt Brinjal submitted to the Biosafety Core Committee, but in vain.

Nor has there been any public consultation on the issue before the decision was taken to commercialize the GM crop.

India, Philippines – trials and release halted

Bt-Brinjal is already notorious in the region. In India, a moratorium was imposed after a series of public hearings and consultations (see Bt Brinjal Halted). The then environment minister Honorable Jairam Ramesh said:

“It is my duty to adopt a cautious, precautionary principle-based approach and impose a moratorium on the release of Bt Brinjal, till such time independent scientific studies establish, to the satisfaction of both the public and professionals, the safety of the product from the point of view of its long-term impact on human health and environment, including the rich genetic wealth existing in Brinjal in our country.”

Known as Bt-Talong in the Philippines, the Court of Appeals on 20 September 2013 upheld its decision (17 May 2013) to stop field trials in the country based on the constitutional right to a balanced and healthful ecology.

Release in Bangladesh ‘a threat to India’

More than 20 Indian organizations in Kolkata protested against the commercial release of Bt Brinjal in Bangladesh. Tushar Chakraborty, a molecular biologist, was one of the 250 scientists from across India who endorsed a letter addressed to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, urging him to stop open air release of GMOs.

Chakraborty said the release in Bangladesh was a “threat to India” because it would contaminate Indian brinjal crops. It is vital to keep Bt Brinjal out of the region altogether, he said, as it is the centre of origin and biodiversity for Brinjal, which is an major component of local diets.

There have also been protests in New Delhi, including one at Dilli Haat attended by photographer Joe Athialy, who reports: “One of the concerns is the threat to all future seeds and therefore Indian agriculture coming under the control of global multinational companies and the charging of exorbitant prices from Indian farmers.

“The monopoly of MNCs like Monsanto over the seeds is another major concern, as seeds are no longer in the public domain since they are now the ‘intellectual property’ of these multinationals.”

Dr Mae Wan Ho is the director of the Institute of Science in Society (ISIS), which campaigns against unethical uses of biotechnology. This article was first published on the ISIS website under the title Don’t Grow Bt Brinjal. Original references have been excluded in this version and replaced with in-text weblinks.

She says: “Please circulate widely and repost, giving the URL of the original and preserve all the links back to articles on the ISIS website.”

The Downing of Flight 103 over Lockerbie: It was the Uranium

January 7th, 2014 by Global Research News

By Patrick Haseldine

Patrick Haseldine is a former British diplomat who was dismissed by the then foreign secretary, John Major, in August 1989. He is often referred to as the “Emeritus Professor of Lockerbie Studies”.

After 25 years study of the topic Patrick Haseldine reveals the shocking truth.

A little over two weeks ago, my wife and I were seated beside the flower bedecked pulpit in a packed Westminster Abbey.

There was an eerie hush as Big Ben’s muffled chimes tolled 7:00 pm – the exact moment 25 years earlier when Pan Am Flight 103 was sabotaged over Lockerbie in Scotland on 21st December 1988.

All 259 passengers and crew were killed, as were 11 people in the town. The names of the 270 Lockerbie bombing victims were listed alphabetically in the Order of Service, and five relatives took it in turns to read them out.

Thus it was Jane Swire, mother of victim Flora and wife of Dr Jim Swire, who read the name of the 43rd victim on the list: Bernt Wilmar Carlsson.

United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and Commissioner for Namibia, Bernt Carlsson, was Lockerbie’s highest profile victim, yet the authorities and the media never mention him. Why?

As comedian Kenneth Williams used to say: “I think the answer lies in the soil.”

More specifically, I believe the answer lies in the processed uranium ore (Yellowcake) that was illegally extracted from Namibia in the period 1976 to 1989. A TV documentary film in March 1980 described succinctly what was going on:

“World In Action investigates the secret contract and operations arranged by British-based Rio Tinto Zinc Corp to import into Britain uranium (Yellowcake) from the Rössing Uranium Mine in Namibia, whose major shareholders are the governments of Iran and South Africa.

“This contract having received the blessing of the British government is now compromising the UK’s position in the United Nations negotiations to remove apartheid South Africa from Namibia, which it is illegally occupying.”

Thatcher “proud to be British”

Within four months of the Lockerbie disaster, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher decided to make a whistle-stop tour of southern Africa, and found time to visit Namibia’s Rössing Uranium Mine where she was accompanied by David Cameron, then a youthful Conservative Central Office researcher.

Mrs Thatcher was so impressed by the Rössing Uranium Mine that she declared it made her “proud to be British”.

While Mrs Thatcher was in Namibia, she put improper pressure on the UN’s man, Martti Ahtisaari, head of the United Nations Transition Assistance Group, to permit the South African Defence Force (SADF) to take action against SWAPO soldiers who were peacefully returning to Namibia to vote in the November 1989 independence elections.

As a result, as many as 308 SWAPO soldiers were killed – “shot in the back” according to former SADF major Nico Basson.

Whether Mrs Thatcher could have persuaded UN Commissioner for Namibia, Bernt Carlsson, to agree to such treachery we shall never know since Mr Carlsson was assassinated fifteen weeks earlier, on 21st December 1988.

Illegal mining

In 1974, the UN Council for Namibia issued Decree No. 1 prohibited the extraction and distribution of any natural resource from Namibian territory without the explicit permission of the UNCN (United Nations Council for Namibia).

It also provided for the seizure of any illegally exported material, and warned that violators could be held liable for damages. Projected to be Namibia’s largest mining operation, Rössing became the primary target of Decree No. 1.

However, many Western governments (including the US and Britain) refused to accept Decree No. 1 as binding, with lawyers and government officials disputing whether the decree was juridically sound, whether and how it might apply, and which courts might enforce its application.

But the bottom line was that Rössing aimed to supply at least 10 percent of the global uranium market which translated into one-third of Britain’s needs, and probably more for Japan.

Decree No. 1 therefore sparked a lengthy international struggle over the legitimacy of Rössing uranium. The UNCN sent out numerous delegations to convince governments to suspend their dealings with Namibia.

Only one country pledged to respect Decree No. 1

They heard many expressions of support for the independence process, but prior to the mid-1980s only Sweden (among the large Western uranium consumers) pledged to boycott Rössing’s product.

Activists stepped up the pressure in a wide variety of forums. In the UK and the Netherlands, they joined forces with the anti-nuclear movement, resulting in organisations like the British CANUC (Campaign Against the Namibian Uranium Contract).

The UNCN held a week-long hearing in July 1980, during which experts and activists from Europe, Japan, and the United States gave presentations on Rössing’s operations and contracts, and the TV documentary Follow the Yellowcake Road was screened.

Testimony focused on the relationship between southern Africa and the Western nuclear industry, arguing that all purchases of Namibian uranium effectively supported the colonial occupation via the taxes paid by the Rössing mine.

In 1981, Namibia’s government-in-waiting (SWAPO) helped organise a seminar for West European trade unions as well as presentations on living and working conditions at Rössing and on the mine’s paramilitary security forces, which appealed to the loyalties of the International Socialist movement, where Bernt Carlsson was Secretary-General.

The seminar detailed the secret movements of Rössing uranium through European planes, ships, docks, and roads, noting that European transport workers had unknowingly handled barrels of radioactive substances.

A 1982 seminar organised by the American Committee on Africa on the role of transnational corporations in Namibia focused heavily on uranium, reprising many of the arguments mounted by European activists.

UNCN legal action

In May 1985, the United Nations Council for Namibia (UNCN) began legal action against URENCO – the joint Dutch/British/West German uranium enrichment company, with plants in Capenhurst (Cheshire, England), Almelo (Netherlands) and Gronau (West Germany).

Since URENCO had been importing uranium ore from the Rössing Uranium Mine in Namibia, the company was charged with breaching UNCN Decree No. 1.

The case was expected to be ready by the end of 1985 but was delayed because URENCO argued that – despite having enriched uranium of Namibian origin since 1980 – it was impossible to tell where specific consignments came from.

When the case finally reached court in July 1986, the Dutch government took URENCO’s line, claiming not to have known where the uranium had been mined.

Upon the adjournment of the URENCO proceedings, SWAPO’s UN representative, Helmut Angula, insisted that other companies, such as Shell, De Beers (Consolidated Diamond Mines), Newmont, and Rio Tinto were also likely to face prosecution for breaching the UNCN Decree.

Bernt Carlsson lays down the law

The man responsible for Namibia under international law, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and UN Commissioner for Namibia, Bernt Carlsson, spoke about these prosecutions in a World In Action TV documentary “The Case of the Disappearing Diamonds” which was broadcast by Thames Television in September 1987:

“The United Nations this year in July started legal action against one such company – the Dutch company URENCO which imports uranium.”

When asked if he would be taking action against other companies such as De Beers, the diamond mining conglomerate, Bernt Carlsson replied:

“All the companies which are carrying out activities in Namibia which have not been authorised by the United Nations are being studied at present.

“As far as De Beers is concerned, the corporation has been trying to skim the cream which means they have gone for the large diamonds at the expense of the steady pace. In this way they have really shortened the lifespan of the mines.

“One would expect from a worldwide corporation like De Beers and Anglo-American that they would behave with an element of social and political responsibility. But their behaviour in the specific case of Namibia has been one of profit maximation regardless of its social, economic, political and even legal responsibility.”

Delay in closing the UF6 loophole

In 1988, US Congressional Democrats began working to close the UF6 loophole. The State Department’s Office of Non-proliferation and Export Policy did as well, declaring:

“It is not possible to avoid the provisions of the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act by swapping flags or obligations on natural uranium physically of South African origin before it enters the USA.”

Nevertheless, Rössing managed to delay the implementation of restrictions which could have put it out of business. And – in the end – that delay sufficed: apartheid South Africa and other negotiating parties signed an independence accord on 22nd December 1988.

It was on his way to the signing of the agreement at UN headquarters in New York, that UN Commissioner for Namibia Bernt Carlsson became the highest profile victim of the Pan Am Flight 103 crash at Lockerbie on 21st December 1988.

URENCO case dropped

Following Bernt Carlsson’s untimely death in the Lockerbie bombing, the case against URENCO was inexplicably dropped and no further prosecutions took place of the companies and countries that were in breach of the United Nations Council for Namibia Decree No. 1.

Despite this fairly obvious evidence that Bernt Carlsson was the prime target on Pan Am Flight 103, there has never been a murder investigation conducted by the CIA, FBI, Scottish Police or indeed by the United Nations.

Instead, fabricated evidence has been used to frame and wrongfully convict the Libyan Abdelbaset al-Megrahi for the crime of Lockerbie.

URENCO privatisation

On 22 April 2013, David Cameron’s coalition government announced plans to sell its share in URENCO – the uranium enrichment company owned by Britain, Germany and the Netherlands – unleashing a new wave of privatisations in an attempt to cut the public debt.

The UK government’s one-third share in URENCO could fetch up to £3bn, making it one of the biggest privatisations in the UK in years.

Headquartered in the semi-rural Buckinghamshire village of Stoke Poges – where, appropriately enough given its atomic plot the James Bond film “Goldfinger” was partly shot – URENCO has a 31% share of the world’s uranium enrichment market.

This provides the fuel for nuclear power utilities and URENCO has enrichment plants in the US and the three investor countries, including one in Capenhurst, Cheshire.

“It’s a ridiculous idea”, says the GMB union’s national secretary for energy Gary Smith, who earlier this week complained to The Independent of the prospect of the Chinese investing in the nuclear new-build programme. “We’re flogging off precious nuclear assets instead of developing a strategy around nuclear. It’s absolute madness.”

But there is a logic to the move: by privatising URENCO, the British government hopes to bring closure to the Lockerbie affair, and put a distance between itself and the Thatcher administration’s criminal behaviour in processing Namibian Yellowcake contrary to United Nations Council for Namibia Decree No. 1.

United Nations Inquiry

In November 2013, I created this e-petition calling upon HM Government (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) to:

“Support a United Nations Inquiry into the deaths of UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld and UN Assistant Secretary-General Bernt Carlsson”

Dag Hammarskjöld was Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1953 to 1961. On the night of 17-18 September 1961, in the course of a UN mission to try to bring peace to the former Belgian Congo, Hammarskjöld’s Swedish-owned and crewed plane crashed near Ndola airport in the British protectorate of Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). All the passengers and crew died.

It now appears that his plane was shot down in order to protect western mining interests in Belgian Congo’s mineral rich Katanga province, to this day a major source of  cobalt, copper, tin and diamonds – not to mention radium and uranium.

On 9 September 2013, the London-based Hammarskjöld Commission reported that there was significant new evidence about the plane crash that killed United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld and recommended that the adjourned 1962 UN Inquiry should now be reopened.

UN Assistant Secretary-General Bernt Carlsson was the highest profile victim on Pan Am Flight 103 which was sabotaged over Lockerbie on 21 December 1988.

Since Bernt Carlsson’s death has never been investigated, the British Government should propose extending the remit of the new UN Inquiry to cover the deaths of both senior diplomats: Dag Hammarskjöld and Bernt Carlsson.

His e-petition is open for signature by UK citizens and residents from 13 November 2013 to 13 May 2014, and can be signed here.

Copyright Patrick Haseldine, The Ecologist, 2014

The American Studies Association may be singling out Israel for boycott, but if you look at the serious, painful punishments the world metes out to oppressor nations, Israel is not being singled out, it’s being let off the hook.

As of Friday at noon, a Google search of “human rights sanctions” turns up over 40 million results. There are human rights sanctions and other punishments against:

ChinaRussiaIranSyriaZimbabweSudanYemenBelarusCubaNorth Korea and lots of other countries.

And these sanctions weren’t put in place by some minor academic group like the American Studies Association, but by the United States of America, the European Union and/or the United Nations Security Council. Furthermore, these sanctions hurt those countries quite a bit more than the ASA’s boycott of Israeli colleges is likely to hurt Israel.

Yet you would think from the reaction to the recent ASA boycott that no other country in the world is being punished for its human rights violations. Everybody’s jumping on ASA president Curtis Marez’s quote on why the organization was going after Israel instead of other, far worse malefactors: “One has to start somewhere,” he told The New York Times. But while the ASA may be starting with Israel, the powers-that-be in the world have gone after any number of human-rights violating countries – yet still haven’t gotten to Israel and its 46-year military dictatorship over the Palestinians.

If you look at the serious, painful punishments the world metes out to oppressor nations, Israel is not being singled out, it’s being let off the hook.

Would Israel’s defenders like to see the world treat this country like it treats Iran – by “bringing it to its knees” with “crippling sanctions,” not to mention the clamor from some quarters to bomb its nuclear facilities?

Or would they like Israel to be treated like Syria – by freezing its foreign assets and denying entry to any Israeli involved in the occupation? Would they want the U.S. to arm some of the groups fighting Israel? Would they have preferred Israel being one step away from getting bombed by the U.S.? Would they rather that the world powers destroy Israel’s chemical weapons – or would they choose the ASA boycott?

Or if not like Syria, would Israel’s advocates want this country to be treated like China – with the U.S. vetoing its international loan applications and the U.S. and EU imposing an arms embargo on it? By the way, lots of countries are faced with arms embargoes by the U.S., EU and/or the UN, including Congo, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan and Zimbabwe. Israel, by contrast, gets $3 billion worth of arms from America every year.

And how about Zimbabwe; would Alan Dershowitz have Israel trade the ASA boycott for Zimbabwe’s punishments? Not only does the African nation face an embargo on arms, it’s up against one on international loans, too. Its fearless leader Robert Mugabe has been made radioactive – anybody who has dealings with him stands to have his assets frozen and his entry barred to the U.S. and EU.

Even big, powerful Russia has it worse than Israel – 18 Russian officials said to be involved in the prison killing of dissident lawyer Sergei Magnitzky in 2009 have had their assets frozen and their entry barred to the U.S., and there are constant calls for the EU to follow suit. How many Palestinians have been killed wrongfully by Israeli soldiers, police, Shin Bet agents and settlers during the occupation; are the U.S. and EU punishing any of them or their superiors for that?

And now, because of its anti-gay laws and statements and the gay-bashing climate they’ve encouraged, Russia is facing boycotts far more powerful than the one imposed by the ASA. Gay bars around the world are boycotting Russian vodka.And the movement to boycott next month’s Winter Olympics in Sochi is booming. Here’s an irony: Bibi Netanyahu himself just agreed to join other world leaders, starting with Obama, in boycotting the Games. Do Obama, Cameron, Hollande and their colleagues boycott any Israeli showcase event because of the occupation, which is an incomparably worse crime than Russia’s anti-gay laws and harassment?

The Western powers can punish Russia, they can punish China, they can lay in to Iran, Syria, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Sudan and the like – but they won’t touch Israel (the European Union’s wussy “guidelines” notwithstanding). Indeed, the strongest country in the world not only won’t punish Israel for its near half-century of tyranny over the Palestinians, it keeps feeding it arms while shielding it in the UN. America coddles Israel, the world’s last outpost of colonialism, like few countries have ever been coddled by a superpower in history.

The occupation is not, by any means, a human rights violation on the scale of Assad’s butchery, or the Congo’s, or Sudan’s, or Zimbabwe’s, for example. But it is a greater one than, for example, Iran’s nuclear program, or Cuba’s communism, or Russia’s killing of Sergei Magnitzky and its anti-gay policy – yet Israel gets off scot-free.  The world doesn’t punish this country unfairly – it doesn’t punish this country at all, while America rewards it lavishly.

The ASA boycott, like the rest of the BDS movement’s achievements, are not examples of the world’s double standard against Israel – they’re  Quixotic, rearguard actions against the world’s blatant double standard in Israel’s favor.  If this country were treated with a minuscule fraction of the severity the West ordinarily visits on human rights violators,  the occupation would have ended long ago.

Los campos de la muerte de Gaza

January 7th, 2014 by Colin Green

Las revelaciones de fuentes israelíes tales como “Breaking the Silence” [Romper el Silencio] y “Physicians for Human Rights-Israel” [Médicos por los Derechos Humanos-Israel] de que los ataques israelíes a Gaza en 2008-2009 (Operación Plomo Fundido) y 2012 (Operación Pilares de Defensa) fueron planificados con muchos meses de antelación plantean muchas preguntas acerca de los motivos reales de los siete años de bloqueo y de los ataques masivos contra una concentración indefensa de personas empobrecidas y encerradas. Vamos, pues, a plantear algunas de estas preguntas y a buscar respuestas objetivas:

* ¿Por qué la comunidad internacional y las Naciones Unidas permiten a Israel bloquear y asediar una diminuta franja de tierra llamada Gaza durante casi siete años con absoluta impunidad?

* Relacionado con ello, ¿por qué se permite a Israel cometer piratería en aguas internacionales para impedir que barcos mercantes desarmados lleguen a Gaza en las narices de las flotas navales de la OTAN que operan en el Mediterráneo Oriental?

* ¿Los asimétricos ataques a Gaza de 2008-2009 y de 2012 fueron verdaderamente una respuesta a los ataques con cohetes Qassam o unos ataques cuidadosamente planeados por otras razones?

* ¿Podrían el asedio y los ataques ser en realidad pruebas de nuevas armas y de nuevos sistemas de defensa de misiles, campos de prueba de nuevas estrategias de control de poblaciones y de control de los inmensos recursos energéticos encontrados en el Mediterráneo Oriental?

Empecemos por examinar la situación geográfica en el momento del ataque de la Operación Plomo Fundido. Gaza es una estrecha franja de tierra de 45 kilómetros de largo por 5-12 de ancho en la que un millón y medio de palestinos estaba concentrados y encarcelados en la práctica, con una densidad de 4119/km2, cuatro veces la densidad de Bangladesh. La población se confina principalmente en cinco ciudades y siete grandes campos de refugiados, y un millón de personas están registradas como refugiados de la ONU. Solo hay unos 24 km2 de tierra potencialmente productiva, la mejor de la cual linda con la frontera noreste con Israel, la mayoría de la cual es inaccesible al estar dentro de la “zona de seguridad”. El 80% de los gazatíes, un 59% de los cuales son mujeres y niños, vive por debajo del umbral de pobreza. Un 40% está en paro y un 60% depende de la comida que reparte la [Agencia de las Naciones Unidas para los Refugiados Palestinos] UNRWA.

Gaza había estado gobernada por Hamas, un gobierno elegido democráticamente, durante más de un año antes de los ataques, pero Israel y Estados Unidos calificaron a Hamas de “organización terrorista” y a Gaza de “entidad hostil” poco después de las elecciones, y a continuación pretendieron convertir en un infierno la vida de sus ciudadanos. A partir de 2006 Israel se ha empecinado en destruir la economía de Gaza y en utilizar la inseguridad alimentaria, un tipo de hambruna controlada, como medio de castigar a la población y de quebrar su voluntad.

La zona de seguridad dentro de la frontera eliminó el 68% de la tierra cultivable, hizo que la agricultura fuera peligrosa e imposible. Las reservas disponibles de pesca se redujeron un 84% ya que Israel limitó a los pescadores palestinos las millas náuticas a tres en vez de a las veinte acordadas en el proceso de Oslo, con lo que se han reducido las ingestas de proteínas a unos niveles peligrosos y destruido una de las bases de la economía gazatí. No menos importante es el hecho de que al limitar a los palestinos el acceso al mar los israelíes también han impedido que los gazatíes exploten las reservas naturales de gas de Gaza Marine 1 y 2 que se calculan en aproximadamente 1.4 billones de pies cúbicos que hubieran saneado la economía y hecho a Gaza independiente de Israel en el plano energético.

Resulta instructivo analizar el momento en el que se realizaron ambos ataques. Durante los seis meses anteriores a la invasión Plomo Fundido Hamas respetó el alto el fuego hasta que una incursión israelí en Gaza el 4 de noviembre (día de elecciones en Estados Unidos) asesinó a seis palestinos lo que, como era previsible, desencadenó como respuesta el lanzamiento de cohetes Qassam a Israel. Fue el pretexto que el ejército israelí necesitaba para lanzar ataque masivo.

El ataque israelí empezó el 27 de diciembre 2008, cuidadosamente coordinado para que coincidiera con el cambio de presidencia en Estados Unidos. Al cabo de tres día de intensos bombardeos aéreos el Consejo de Seguridad trató de aprobar la Resolución 1860 de Alto el Fuego, pero Estados Unidos la bloqueó, lo que dio a Israel el aval político que necesitaba para lanzar un importante ataque por tierra (el Congreso estadounidense apoyó la invasión por la abrumadora mayoría 390 frente a 5, y el Senado por una mayoría aplastante).

Finalmente el Consejo de Seguridad aprobó la Resolución de Alto el Fuego el 8 de enero, casi una semana después de la invasión por tierra, pero Estados Unidos se abstuvo, lo que dio a Israel la cobertura política necesaria para seguir con sus operaciones. El recién elegido presidente Obama no dijo una sola palabra al respecto. Tony Blair, representante del Cuarteto, emitió un tibio llamamiento a un inmediato alto el fuego.

Las víctimas palestinas de la invasión Plomo Fundido fueron atroces. Fueron asesinadas aproximadamente 1.400 personas, de las cuales 313 eran niños y 116 mujeres; menos del 20% de estas personas muertas eran combatientes. Más de 6.000 personas resultaron gravemente heridas, incluidos 1.855 niños y 795 mujeres (según datos del Centro Palestino para los Derechos Humanos). Mis colegas médicos noruegos Mads Gilbert y Eric Fosse, que entonces trabajaban en Gaza junto con el personal médico palestino, informaron de lesiones que nunca habían visto antes y que proporcionaron pruebas circunstanciales de que los israelíes habían utilizado y probado nuevas armas y fósforo blanco en zonas densamente pobladas. Además de quemaduras graves, había una cantidad anormalmente alta de amputaciones y mutilaciones entre los heridos que sobrevivieron.

Por ejemplo, hubo que enviar a 150 amputados a hospitales egipcios, en el campo de refugiados de Jabalia había 165 pacientes que habían quedado inválidos de los cuales al menos 90 tenían amputaciones, algunas múltiples. Estas víctimas habían sido provocadas por armas convencionales conocidas pero algunas heridas suscitaron la fuerte sospecha de que se había utilizado por primera vez otro tipo de artillería en una batalla real. Algunas de las armas que se describen a continuación se habían utilizado antes pero en el caso de otras sigue siendo dudoso.

Los proyectiles de fósforo blanco contienen pequeñas bandas de fieltro impregnadas de sustancias químicas que se dispersan a un radio de 100 metros cuando el proyectil estalla en el aire. Oficialmente se utiliza como pantalla de humo y para iluminar por la noche, pero también es un artefacto incendiario y como tal se utilizó en Gaza en varias ocasiones. Los proyectiles de dardos contienen miles de dardos de unos 4 cm de largo que se dispersan en haz cuando estalla el proyectil a aproximadamente un metro de tierra. Estos dardos están diseñados balísticamente para girar al penetrar y provocar grandes daños en los tejidos blandos. Se utilizaron en el ataque de 2008-2009 pero no en el de 2012.

El mortero automático de tiro rápido Keshet se probó para causar efectos devastadores en una abarrotada calle del campo de refugiados de Jabalia cerca de la escuela Al Fakhoura, a plena vista de las tropas israelíes. Proyectiles Kalanit se dispararon desde cañones de tanque de 120mm; explotan en el aire, se paran y sueltan seis minicargas que rocían de metralla el objetivo desde arriba.

Los explosivos de metal denso inerte (DIMES, por sus siglas en inglés) es un tipo de artillería desarrollada recientemente que comprende una carcasa de fibra de carbono llena de micrometralla de metales inertes como el tungsteno, níquel y cobalto que provocan una gran implosión en un espacio relativamente reducido, lo que supuestamente permite una matanza precisa sin daños colaterales en una amplia zona. En los aviones de combate F-16 se pueden montar bombas de pequeño diámetro (SDBs, por sus siglas en inglés) que se deslizan hacia su objetivo dirigidas por láser y se utilizaron en Gaza (se compraron 1.000 a Estados Unidos a primeros de diciembre en previsión del ataque de 2008). Se cree que contenían metralla de metales densos inertes. Sin embargo, las pruebas de su uso se basan tanto en el polvo de metralla encontrado en la superficie del hígado y en otros tejidos blandos, como en la limpieza de las amputaciones múltiples sufridas por muchas víctimas y no son definitivas.

Los proyectiles de uranio empobrecido están diseñados para penetrar profundamente en objetivos como tanques y crear dentro de estos una bola de fuego de alta temperatura. En Gaza se utilizaron para atacar edificios grandes y no tanques. Por último, aunque se ha acusado a los israelíes de utilizar bombas termobáricas en Gaza para destruir los túneles de la frontera con Egipto no hay pruebas claras de ello.

La Operación Plomo Fundido fue el mejor ejemplo de una guerra asimétrica entre, por una parte, el Estado militar más poderoso de Oriente Próximo y, por otra, un campo de concentración asediado. Para darles una idea del poderío militar de este prototípico Estado guerrero moderno, según los últimos cálculos, Israel tiene entre 240 y 300 cabezas nucleares; almacena enormes cantidades de armas químicas y biológicas de destrucción masiva (y, sin embargo, pide indignado que se destruyan todas las de Siria); cuenta con 620 aviones de combate, incluidos F16 (que pronto serán reemplazados por el ultimo modelo más ligero F35 que cuesta unos 200 millones de dólares cada uno, Estados Unidos ha prometido entregar 25 de ellos a Israel de forma prioritaria en cuanto estén preparados), así como helicópteros Cobra y Apache; seis submarinos Dolphin Class construidos y donados por Alemania, algunos capaces de estar armados con cabezas nucleares y dos de ellos se cree que están actualmente operativos en el golfo Pérsico; una cantidad desconocida de misiles balísticos de corto, intermedio y largo alcance (hasta 8000 kilómetros) capaces de transportar carga nuclear (Jericho1,2,3); una armada moderna de 58 barcos de guerra equipados con misiles que hacen regularmente ejercicios con la armada de la OTAN en el Mediterráneo; tres escuadrones de drones (Hermes, Searcher y Heron), muchos de ellos diseñados y fabricados en Israel (el gobierno británico le ha encargado cien); un ejército extremadamente adiestrado que dispone de 2442 tanques pesado Merkava, 1265 vehículos blindados de transporte de tropas y muchos otros vehículos militares más pequeños; 2754 piezas de artillería pesada con una artillería diabólica específicamente diseñada para causar estragos en poblaciones civiles y un prestigioso ejército que cuenta con 26.000 soldados apoyados por 107.000 reclutas para alcanzar una cifra total de 133.000 soldados (un 60% mayor que el ejército británico) que se puede triplicar rápidamente en casos de emergencia con 400.000 personas que han sido adiestradas en periodos obligatorios cada año de sus vidas desde los 18 años hasta la edad de 40-50.

Pensemos que la población total de Israel es de 7.8 millones de israelíes, de los cuales al menos el 20% no pueden unirse al ejército por ser consideradas una Quinta Columna de árabes israelíes. Esto representa una inversión masiva en la guerra tanto en sangre como en dinero. ¿Cuánto cuesta todo esto? Oficialmente, Israel afirma gastar aproximadamente el 7% de su PNB total (265.000 millones de dólares) en gastos militares (comparado con el 4.5% de Estados Unidos y el 2.5% de Gran Bretaña). Cuando un Estado diminuto como Israel dedica una proporción tan grande de su PNB a la guerra, la única manera de pagarlo es por medio de economías de escala, un programa propio de desarrollo armamentístico, en parte para uso interno del ejército israelí y en parte para vender.

Según su cifra de ventas de 2012/13 (13.000 millones de dólares), Israel ocupa el cuarto lugar mundial (Gran Bretaña en tercero con 19.000 millones de ventas). Sin embargo, si se añade el comercio de seguridad nacional de Israel (que quizá es tan importante como su comercio de armas, cuyos productos se han ido poniendo a punto a lo largo de décadas de control de los palestinos), el muy lucrativo negocio de la puesta al día y su tráfico de armas del que no se informa, Israel se encuentra entre los principales exportadores de armas y de seguridad tanto por su alcance global como por sus beneficios. La industria de armamento y de seguridad nacional israelí se ha impuesto sin duda tanto en armamento (drones en particular), en tecnología de la información (aviónica, robótica y otras formas de armamento electrónico, además de las aplicaciones militares de nanotecnología) y en la guerra cibernética (dominio en el que la Unidad 8200 del ejército israelí colabora estrechamente con la NSA estadounidense), además de miles de servicios de seguridad. El hecho de etiquetar sus productos como “probado sobre el terreno” o “probado en combate en Gaza” otorga a los fabricantes de armas israelíes una ventaja competitiva en el mercado.

Además del apoyo incondicional a Israel de los dos partidos estadounidenses en el Congreso por razones internas, ¿existen otros intereses que expliquen por qué Estados Unidos veta rutinariamente en el Consejo de Seguridad todas y cada una de las resoluciones de la ONU críticas con Israel (hasta ahora 43 veces, más que todas las veces juntas en que todos los demás países han utilizado su veto en otras ocasiones)? ¿Podría ser una explicación la posibilidad que tienen el Pentágono y los fabricantes de armas estadounidenses (y europeos) de probar sus nuevas armas en Gaza y Cisjordania?

La relación inmediata entre el apoyo financiero estadounidense al sistema de defensa antimisiles israelí Cúpula de Hierro, su uso contra los cohetes Qassam, cuyo lanzamiento en realidad provoca Israel, y los anuncios de que el sistema se está vendiendo a las fuerzas estadounidenses en Afganistán e India tiene que plantear preguntas. Del mismo modo, ¿podría una demostración de “ocupación aérea” en la que unos drones dominan, intimidan y controlan completamente las vidas de 1,7 millones de personas en Gaza tener algún efecto sobre las ventas de drones israelíes como parte de su más amplia exportación de medios de control a gobiernos, ejércitos, agencias de seguridad y fuerzas de policía de todo el mundo? Y, ¿qué decir de los enormes campos de gas natural a lo largo de la costa de Gaza explotados por Israel mientras se niega a los palestinos el acceso a sus propios recursos naturales debido a supuestos controles de “seguridad”?

El armamento de Israel sirve como la extensión primordial de la hegemonía occidental en la zona. Esto y el hecho de que las armas israelíes abastezcan al complejo de la industria militar y de seguridad occidental, además de la oportunidad de desarrollar y probar armas en los territorios palestinos convierte a los ataques a Gaza y a la actual represión en un estudio de caso de lo que se está convirtiendo rápidamente en la Palestina global, la “palestinización” de todos nosotros. Y es que los palestinos solo son conejillos de indias y nosotros somos los destinatarios finales. En ese sentido, todos nosotros somos, verdaderamente, palestinos.

Colin Green

Fuente original: http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/12/27/the-killings-fields-of-gaza/

Traducido del inglés para Rebelión por Beatriz Morales Bastos.

Colin Green es profesor emérito de cirugía en el University College de Londres (UCL) y académico en la Academia de Ciencias de Ucrania, así como activista de derechos humanos interesado particularmente en la Campaña en contra del Comercio de Armas, Stop the War Coalition, Médicos por los Derechos Humanos, el Comité Israelí en contra de la Demolición de Casas y la Campaña por el Desarme Nuclear.

 

Western corporate media, its Oil and Gas counterparts (GCC), and the various acolytes and paid-propagandists in the “tailored analysis” industry, are once again attempting to bolster and rebrand the public image of the fundamentalist rebels in Syria.

In the space of a week, two new formations of armed rebels mysteriously appeared across the mass-media lexicon and declared war on the dominant extremists through the usual “activist” social media accounts. The new brigades have virtually no historical record in the conflict, and appear to be largely a creation of the impotent exile opposition and its western sponsors. An abundance of reports relay stories of the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS) simply abandoning their posts and being turned over by this supposedly “moderate” new force.

Yet, in reality, the most predominant militia in Syria – those of a Salafi-Wahhabi fundamentalist bent, who now fight under the umbrella of the Islamic Front (IF), and are led by Hassan Abboud of Ahrar al-Sham, and Zahran Alloush of Liwa al-Islam – have made a concerted effort to avoid sowing discord between themselves and the overt Al Qaeda affiliates of ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra (JaN).

The new narrative emerging draws heavily from the Sahwa (Awakening) in Iraq, in which Sunni tribes from the western province of Anbar took up arms against, and eventually defeated, the Al Qaeda insurgency that followed the US invasion and occupation of that country. Western and Gulf media are now attempting to reinvigorate the rebels’ public image by concocting a portrayal of brave “moderates” taking on the extremists within ISIS. Yet contrary to the Syria-Sahwa narrative, the vast majority of opposition forces, as much as one can generalise, have in fact been shown to share far more in common with their extremist equivalents than they have differences, particularly in regards to their reciprocal – and sectarian-laden – religiopolitical ideologies.

According to Western and Gulf propagandists, Jabhat al-Nusra ostensibly represent the “homegrown” Syrian Al Qaeda branch. Whereas in actual fact, the claim is entirely false; JaN’s militia hold a distinct foreign contingent and many of its commanders have also been found to be of foreign descent – particularly Iraqi. Jabhat al-Nusra, therefore, should be correctly viewed as a semi-Syrian militia at most, built and sustained by ISIS and its former incarnation: the Islamic State of Iraq, (ISI) also formerly known as Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).

The ideologically aligned Salafi-Jihadists of Ahrar al-Sham, Jabhat al-Nusra, and more recently ISIS, have formed the spearhead of the insurgency throughout the entire Syrian crisis, leading offensives against Syrian army installations, whilst also having enough manpower, funds & materiel to attack, encamp and militarily fortify civilian areas across the country. Most notably in Raqqah, which has become a virtual Al Qaeda statelet under the control of either Jabhat al-Nusra or ISIS.

Examples of the dominant role fundamentalists have played in the insurgency are abundant, during an interview with TIME magazine, Ahrar al-Sham fighters – who, as we have seen through a plethora of evidence, are inextricably linked to Jabhat al-Nusra – freely admit they were planning a violent insurgency in Syria well before any peaceful protests occurred in 2011, and that recruits with underlying sectarian agendas made efforts to sanitize and mask their true Jihadist cause during the earlier phases of the conflict in order to win over the Syrian population. Whats more, a recent report in the National relayed much the same admissions from supposed “FSA” rebels operating in the south of Syria around Dar’aa.

The rebels interviewed admitted that

“They [JaN] offer their services and cooperate with us, they are better armed than we are, they have suicide bombers and know how to make car bombs,” rebel sources went on to say that “the FSA and Al Nusra join together for operations but they have an agreement to let the FSA lead for public reasons, because they don’t want to frighten Jordan or the West,”.

During the interview rebels further elaborate on the efforts made to boost the public image of the western-backed imaginary moderates saying that “operations that were really carried out by Al Nusra are publicly presented by the FSA as their own,” and that supposed moderate FSA fighters “say that Al Nusra fighters are really from the FSA to enable them to move more easily across borders,”. The reports bolster earlier analyses that contradict the dominant narrative, often dismissed as “conspiracy theory”, which indicated such actions were being undertaken, and that the armed groups responsible for the initial violence in March-April 2011 were indeed religious fundamentalists, not the secular “freedom fighters” endlessly lionized by the lackeys of western governments and media.

Such candid rebel admissions once again expose the falsehoods that liberal opportunists rely on when blindly repeating the Imperialist narrative of a peaceful protest movement simply morphing into an Al Qaeda-led insurgency. In reality, the generally small and legitimate protests calling for reform were used as a fig leaf by Syria’s various internal and external enemies to hide the extremist-led militant insurgency they were orchestrating and colluding with.

As evidenced in numerous interviews and statements from Abboud and Alloush, the Islamic Front is not by any stretch of the imagination a “moderate” force opposed to JaN, ISIS, or Al Qaeda ideology in general (unless one utilises the doublespeak of the US State Department when describing their “moderate” Wahhabi-Salafi monarchical clients in the Gulf). Ahrar al-Sham, Liwa a-Islam and other various proto-Salafi militia operating under the umbrella of the Islamic Front have repeatedly fought alongside Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS, and taken part in offensives that have targeted towns and villages on the specific criteria of the sect of the civilian inhabitants. The massacres committed upon the civilian residents of Latakia provide just one recent example of such sectarian barbarity – committed not only by the extreme elements, but with the full cooperation and participation of supposed moderate “FSA” militia. A more recent example of the Islamic Front cooperating with its Al Qaeda-affiliates came in December, when the IF took part in the attack and ensuing massacre of civilians in the workers district of Adra, Damascus – another rebel war-crime almost totally omitted from western media, regardless of the fact the BBC’s chief foreign correspondent was a mere 20 miles away while the massacres were occurring.

When framed in the correct context, it becomes clear that the vast majority of rebels in Syria are in fact ideologically allied to the very Al Qaeda affiliates the media is trying to portray them as opposed to. A recent communique from the political head of the IF, and leader of Ahrar al-Sham, Hassan Abboud, was disingenuously portrayed as a Islamic Front “warning” to ISIS. Opposition-friendly media outlets and analysts are in effect conflating the Islamic Front with imaginary “moderates” and in turn attempting to portray them as ideological opponents to their more extreme Al Qaeda counterparts. This narrative is turning reality on its head, as Abboud’s recent statement is actually a “warning” against discord with ISIS. Abboud encourages the Syrian population to treat the Muhajirin (foreign jihadists busy murdering Syrians) “kindly”, and further encourages ISIS to emulate the “more healthy” manner of their supposed “home-grown” incarnation Jabhat al-Nusra. Accordingly, one can safely conclude that Abboud, Ahrar al-Sham, Liwa al-Islam, and the various Salafi militia operating under the umbrella of the Islamic Front – the largest militant force of the opposition – have close to zero ideological disparity with ISIS or JaN.

Even if what seem to be inflated reports of discord and infighting between the Islamic Front and the supremacist ideologues in ISIS were to result in a considerable loss for the latter, it would simply be replaced at the top of the fundamentalist food-chain by the next militia willing to impose its barbarity and coercion in the most effective way. This is ultimately the inherent nature of fundamentalist militant insurgencies, they are designed, indoctrinated, equipped, and funded to impose upon states and peoples through murder, coercion and fear, not through the appeal of a popular political doctrine and the mass support of the people. The simple facts that the insurgency as a whole is under no central hierarchy, and holds little to-no support inside Syria and is therefore susceptible to becoming reliant and subordinate to its foreign patrons, are clear indications that it will not be cohesive, regardless of the varying shades of fundamentalism the dominant groups have attempted to enforce.

The historical record of Western-GCC-backed insurgencies in the Arab and Muslim world provides copious amounts of evidence to show that invariably the United States and its Saudi partners have always utilised, fomented, and sponsored reactionary forces to meet geopolitical ends, particularly when subverting or attacking nationalist governments that refuse to abide by the Anglo-American capitalist order – with disastrous consequences for the countries in which the fundamentalist proxies are set upon.

One needs only to glance at the very recent history of Libya to negate the establishment falsehood that if the Syrian government had been overthrown quickly the fundamentalists would not have gained in strength. Again, this is turning the historical record on its head, as the joint NATO-Al Qaeda war on Libya has once again shown; the swift overthrow of a state’s government and leadership inevitably results in reactionary fundamentalists taking advantage of the power vacuum left behind. The US-Saudi-backed insurgency in Afghanistan during the 1980′s, which fought against the Soviet-backed Communist government, provides perhaps the definitive example of the type of proxies the United States and Saudi Arabia choose to employ to destroy target states. As with Syria and Libya, the original “Afghan Arab” insurgency – which helped to create and empower Al Qaeda, Bin Laden, Hekmatyar, the Haqqani network and a host of other fundamentalist militancy – was wrought with infighting, extremism, warlordism, and reaction, this trend has continued in virtually every state the US and its GCC partners have targeted for “liberation” via jihadist proxies.

Perpetual infighting evidenced throughout the Syrian insurgency is in fact a result of the long-standing fragmentation of the various opposition forces, their varying degrees of fundamentalism, and the battle to win influence, arms, and funds through foreign donors and exploitation.

The evidence-free narratives of supposed existential disparity between what actually represent ideological allies, the patterns of ever-changing nomenclature and rebel rebranding, and the efforts to scapegoat the most overtly extreme elements for the systematic crimes of the opposition as a whole, are nothing more than public relations exercises, designed to whitewash the massive crimes of the “rebels”, whilst extricating the Western Elite and their GCC partners from the criminal act of sponsoring extremists for geopolitical ends.

Phil Greaves is a UK based writer on UK/US Foreign Policy, with a focus on the Arab World, post WWII. http://notthemsmdotcom.wordpress.com/

Bloomberg reports today:

Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc was ordered to pay $50 million by a federal judge in Connecticut over claims that it rigged the London interbank offered rate.

RBS Securities Japan Ltd. in April pleaded guilty to wire fraud as part of a settlement of more than $600 million with U.S and U.K. regulators over Libor manipulation, according to court filings. U.S. District Judge Michael P. Shea in New Haven today sentenced the Tokyo-based unit of RBS, Britain’s biggest publicly owned lender, to pay the agreed-upon fine, according to a Justice Department Justice Department.

Global investigations into banks’ attempts to manipulate the benchmarks for profit have led to fines and settlements for lenders including RBS, Barclays Plc, UBS AG and Rabobank Groep.

RBS was among six companies fined a record 1.7 billion euros ($2.3 billion) by the European Union last month for rigging interest rates linked to Libor. The combined fines for manipulating yen Libor and Euribor, the benchmark money-market rate for the euro, are the largest-ever EU cartel penalties.

Global fines for rate-rigging have reached $6 billion since June 2012 as authorities around the world probe whether traders worked together to fix Libor, meant to reflect the interest rate at which banks lend to each other, to benefit their own trading positions.

To put the Libor interest rate scandal in perspective:

  • Even though RBS and a handful of other banks have been fined for interest rate manipulation, Libor isstill being manipulated.  No wonder … the fines are pocket change – the cost of doing business – for the big banks

Indeed, the experts say that big banks will keep manipulating markets unless and until their executives are thrown in jail for fraud.

Why? Because the system is rigged to allow the big banks to commit continuous and massive fraud, and then to pay small fines as the “cost of doing business”.  As Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitznoted years ago:

“The system is set so that even if you’re caught, the penalty is just a small number relative to what you walk home with.

The fine is just a cost of doing business. It’s like a parking fine. Sometimes you make a decision to park knowing that you might get a fine because going around the corner to the parking lot takes you too much time.”

Experts also say that we have to prosecute fraud or else the economy won’t ever really stabilize.

But the government is doing the exact opposite.  Indeed, the Justice Department has announced it will go easy on big banks, and always settles prosecutions for pennies on the dollar (a form of stealth bailout. It is also arguably one of the main causes of the double dip in housing.)

Indeed, the government doesn’t even force the banks to admit any guilt as part of their settlements.

Because of this failure to prosecute, it’s not just interest rates. As shown below, big banks have manipulated virtually every market – both in the financial sector and the real economy – and brokenvirtually every law on the books.

And they will keep on doing so until the Department of Justice grows a pair.

Currency Markets Are Rigged

Currency markets are massively rigged. And see this and this.

Derivatives Are Manipulated

The big banks have long manipulated derivatives … a $1,200 Trillion Dollar market.

Indeed, many trillions of dollars of derivatives are being manipulated in the exact same same way that interest rates are fixed: through gamed self-reporting.

Oil Prices Are Manipulated

Oil prices are manipulated as well.

Gold and Silver Are Manipulated

Gold and silver prices are “fixed” in the same way as interest rates and derivatives – in daily conference calls by the powers-that-be.

Bloomberg reports:

It is the participating banks themselves that administer the gold and silver benchmarks.

So are prices being manipulated? Let’s take a look at the evidence. In his book “The Gold Cartel,” commodity analyst Dimitri Speck combines minute-by-minute data from most of 1993 through 2012 to show how gold prices move on an average day (see attached charts). He finds that the spot price of gold tends to drop sharply around the Londonevening fixing (10 a.m. New York time). A similar, if less pronounced, drop in price occurs around the London morning fixing. The same daily declines can be seen in silver prices from 1998 through 2012.

For both commodities there were, on average, no comparable price changes at any other time of the day. These patterns are consistent with manipulation in both markets.

Energy Markets Are Manipulated

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission says that JP Morgan has massively manipulated energy markets in California and the Midwest, obtaining tens of millions of dollars in overpayments from grid operators between September 2010 and June 2011.

Commodities Are Manipulated

The big banks and government agencies have been conspiring to manipulate commodities prices for decades.

The big banks are taking over important aspects of the physical economy, including uranium mining, petroleum products, aluminum, ownership and operation of airports, toll roads, ports, and electricity.

And they are using these physical assets to massively manipulate commodities prices … scalping consumers of many billions of dollars each year.

Everything Can Be Manipulated through High-Frequency Trading

Traders with high-tech computers can manipulate stocksbonds, options, currencies and commodities. And see this.

Manipulating Numerous Markets In Myriad Ways

The big banks and other giants manipulate numerous markets in myriad ways, for example:

  • Engaging in mafia-style big-rigging fraud against local governments. See thisthis and this
  • Shaving money off of virtually every pension transaction they handled over the course of decades, stealing collectively billions of dollars from pensions worldwide. Details hereherehereherehere,herehereherehereherehere and here
  • Pledging the same mortgage multiple times to different buyers. See thisthisthisthis and this. This would be like selling your car, and collecting money from 10 different buyers for the same car
  • Pushing investments which they knew were terrible, and then betting against the same investments to make money for themselves. See thisthisthisthis and this
  • Engaging in unlawful “Wash Trades” to manipulate asset prices. See thisthis and this
  • Bribing and bullying ratings agencies to inflate ratings on their risky investments

The criminality and blatant manipulation will grow and spread and metastasize – taking over and killing off more and more of the economy – until Wall Street executives are finally thrown in jail.

It’s that simple …

Sacyr, the Spanish construction giant, hasthreatened to halt work on the expansion of the Panama canal unless it is paid an extra $1.6 billion. The company leads a consortium that won the 2009 contract after bidding to do the job for $1.1 billion less than the next bidder.

Grupo Unidos por el Canal (GUPC) is composed of Impregilo Group of Italy, the Jan De Nul Group of Belgium and Constructora Urbana of Panama in addition to Sacyr Vallehermoso of Madrid. The companies promised to finish the work of building new, wider locks that will allow the 46 mile (77 kilometre) long canal by October 2014 at a price tag of $3.1 billion.

The canal which connects the Atlantic ocean to the Pacific ocean has been a major shipping passage since it was officially opened 100 years ago, allowing ships to cut their voyages by 7,800 miles (12,600 kilometres). It was managed by the United States until 1977 when President Jimmy Carter handed control back to the Panamanians.

U.S. government officials predicted that the companies would bump up the price down the road, according to a June 30, 2009, diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks. “It is widely expected that during construction Sacyr will attempt to renegotiate the price with the ACP [the canal authority],” wrote embassy officials in a memo signed by Barbara Stephenson, then U.S. ambassador to Panama.

U.S. officials backed a rival bid by Bechtel of San Francisco. (Bechtel has often had it own problems with cost over-runs such as the infamous Big Dig in Boston where the company’sinitial bid of $2.5 billion eventually hit $14.6 billion)

Sacyr, which has been hard hit by the EuroZone crisis, http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=15889 notably in 2008 when its debt of $16.5 billion was seven times greater than total the value of the company shares at the time. In addition to taking on risky housing construction projects during the boom years, the company also invested heavily in road privatization which also failed to take off.

The Panama contract, which was backed by a guarantee from the Spanish government, was widely seen as a the best opportunity for the struggling company to survive.

In recent months Panamanian government officials have objected to the low quality of the cement that the consortium has been using for the construction. Sacyr has used this complaint to justify an increase in the contract price – stating that it will stop work on January 20 unless their demands are met.

The canal authority has refused. ” The notice of intent to suspend work is not valid and the arguments raised by the contractor in the note lack legal basis and are not clear,” officials said in a statement.

This morning Ana Pastor, Spain’s public works minister, met with Ricardo Martinelli, the Panamanian president to mediate between the company and canal officials to salvage the contract. “They’re going to sit down and talk and have dialogue to try and resolve all the problems,” she told reporters.

Sacyr – which still owes lenders three times more money than the company’s shares are worth – is banking on completing the contract which contributed a quarter of company’s international sales last year.

Retirement Theft in 4 Despicable Steps

January 7th, 2014 by Paul Buchheit

The fear of running out of money in retirement is America’s greatest financial concern. It’s a fear greater than  death.

But the American workers who have paid all their lives for retirement security are being cheated by wealthy individuals and corporations who refuse to meet their tax obligations, and who have found other ways to keep expanding their wealth at the expense of the middle class.

1. Federal Tax Avoidance is the Biggest Threat to Social Security

Conservatives say that Social Security is too expensive, and that  cutbacks and a later retirement age are necessary. But they refuse to acknowledge the facts about missing revenue. Annual  tax avoidance by wealthy individuals and corporations is in the trillions of dollars, over double the cost of Social Security.

Big corporations are the worst offenders. The numbers are startling. For every dollar they paid relative to payroll tax in the 1950s, they  now pay ten cents. In just the past ten years they’ve cut their tax rate  in half.

The sum total of tax underpayments, tax haven losses, corporate tax avoidance, and tax expenditures (most of which benefit the very rich) is over $2 trillion. Although Social Security costs  less than half of that, Congress is targeting Americans who have paid into it at the highest rate, while tax avoiders are left undisturbed.

From whom does Congress propose to take retirement benefits? From people whose average retirement account is under $30,000, and for whom Social Security is the  largest source of retirement income. From those who have already experienced  Social Security cuts through delayed cost-of-living adjustments and higher taxes. From the half of the middle class whose food budget, by one  estimate, will be $5 a day in their retirement years.

2. State Tax Avoidance Defunds Pensions

In what  David Cay Johnston calls “nothing short of theft,” states are reneging on pensions that workers have been paying into for years. Illinois, Michigan, California and a slew of other states have mismanaged and squandered funds that belong to their employees, and then, in effect, have blamed those employees for the mess by penalizing them with pension cuts.

Once again, one of the reasons for the shortfall is corporate irresponsibility. In 2011 and 2012, 155 of the largest companies paid just  1.8 percent of their total income in state taxes (3.6 percent of their declared U.S. income). The average required rate for the 50 states was 6.56 percent in 2011. Similar results were found in a Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ)  report on 2008-10 state taxes, which found that 265 large companies paid an average of 3 percent in state taxes, less than half the average state tax rate. The results are summarized at  Pay Up Now.

How much money is this? The missing 3% tax on over  $2 trillion in profits is anywhere from $30 billion to $60 billion, depending on the true U.S. portion of total corporate income.

But instead of taking on the delinquent corporations, states have increased  sales taxes and property taxes, while building up their  regressive lottery systems to the point that eleven states collected  more revenue from their lotteries in 2009 than from corporate income tax.

3. Corporations Play One Underfunded State Against Another

The news from the states gets even worse. On the pretense that their presence enriches the people of their home states, and that subsidy-green pastures lie right across the border, companies have cunningly negotiated tax-cutting deals in return for the promise to stay. A Good Jobs First  report describes the process, which costs state and local governments up to  $80 billion a year.

Dozens of  deals have been contrived, at least ten each in Michigan, New York, Ohio, Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky, and New Jersey. Sixteen states have enacted the Private Income Tax (PIT) diversion, by which EMPLOYERS rather than governments get to withhold state income taxes from employee paychecks and to keep all or some portion of the funds.

Illinois’ pension mess has its  roots in corporate threats to bolt the state: $100 million to Motorola; $150 million to Sears; $56 million to Boeing to bring its headquarters to Chicago; and nearly $200 million to  Caterpillar, which paid only  2 percent of its U.S. income in state taxes in 2011-12, and whose CEO  called Illinois “unfriendly to business.” Meanwhile, other Illinois companies are trying to get in on the handouts. Agribusiness leader  Archer Daniels Midland is threatening to leave the state. The Chicago Mercantile Exchange made a big  fuss over its tax bill in 2011, even though its 2008-10 profit margin was higher than any of the top 100 companies in the nation.

Washington is another state being victimized, at the hands of  Boeing, which according to Citizens for Tax Justice paid nothing in federal taxes over ten years and  nothing to Washington in state taxes, despite $32 billion in pretax U.S. profits. Now, while engineering a  bidding war among multiple states, the company has wangled the nation’s single biggest state tax break ($8.7 billion over 16 years) while informing its employees that their pension and benefits will be slashed.

In California, the tech giant Apple has its own way of dealing with state taxes, claiming residency in tax-free  Nevada.

Ill-informed state leaders might heed the findings of a New York State Tax Commission, which said: “There is…no conclusive evidence from research studies conducted since the mid-1950s to show that business tax incentives have an impact on net economic gains to the states above and beyond the level that would have been attained absent the incentives.”

4. Banks Take a Big Chunk of Our Retirement Accounts

Nearly $2 of every $5 in potential 401(k) earnings is lost because of bank fees. An individual investing  $1,000 a year for 30 years (with the  historical 6% return) and then holding the accumulated sum for another 20 years would end up with $269,000 in a non-fee fund, but just $165,000 with the  industry average 1.3% fee.

In the individual states, banks have their fee-absorbing tentacles wrapped around employee pension plans. In  Rhode Island it is projected that $2.1 billion in fees will be paid to hedge funds, private-equity funds, and venture-capital funds over the next 20 years, about equal to the amount saved by freezing Cost of Living Adjustments for public workers. In Detroit, $250 million in bankruptcy expenses was doled out to firms that employ lawyers, accountants, financial analysts, and public-relations consultants. In  South Carolina, the plunge by pension managers into private equity and hedge funds has resulted in $1.2 billion in fees since 2008.

American workers and retirees are the victims, and their numbers are growing. According to the National Institute on Retirement Security, almost half (45 percent) of working-age households do not own any retirement account assets. The average working household has virtually no retirement savings. But it doesn’t matter to business-happy privatization advocates, who don’t seem to recognize that this poorer half of America even exists.

Paul Buchheit teaches economic inequality at DePaul University. He is the founder and developer of the Web sites UsAgainstGreed.org, PayUpNow.org and RappingHistory.org, and the editor and main author of “American Wars: Illusions and Realities” (Clarity Press). He can be reached at [email protected].

Corporate Taxes in America

January 7th, 2014 by Stephen Lendman

Raising them should be a national imperative. Corporations should pay their fair share. Not according to Laurence Kotlikoff.

He’s a right-wing economist. He’s a corporatist writ large. He claims  abolishing corporate taxes will create jobs.

Doing so requires dropping money on Main Street. Get it in people’s pockets directly. Do it by cutting their taxes.

Guarantee a living wage. Support worker-friendly legislation. Restore their bargaining power with management.

Return money creation power to public hands where it belongs. Initiate government jobs creation programs.

New Deal ones put millions back to work. Doing so reinvigorated the national spirit.

Unemployment was measurably cut. It dropped from 25% in 1933 to 11% in 1937. Doing the right things work.

In 1961, corporate tax cuts were linked to job creation. Business had to prove they added jobs to qualify.

No longer. Corporate tax cuts and credits are handed out freely. They’re not linked to job creation. They’re standard practice. More are planned this year.

Under Bush and Obama, corporations get tax cuts for overseas investments. Domestic job reductions accompany them. Offshoring is rewarded.

Multiple Bush tax cuts handed corporations around $3.4 trillion. Doing so was hailed as a way to create jobs.

Post-recession jobs creation during the early 2000s was the weakest on record. It took 46 months to recover those lost.

It’ll take over a decade now. The so-called 2007 – 2009 Great Recession continues to take an enormous toll on ordinary Americans. Main Street Great Depression conditions persist unabated.

Low pay/poor or no benefit part-time jobs replaced higher paying, good benefit full-time ones. It’s been ongoing for decades. America is in economic decline.

Offshoring millions of jobs exacerbates hard times. According to Paul Craig Roberts, only fools believe doing so is good for America.

Likeminded so-called experts can’t see the forest through the trees. US corporations are hoarding cash. Bush and Obama tax cuts added $10 trillion or more to their balance sheets.

Much was shifted to offshore subsidiaries. Doing so avoids US taxes altogether. It’s unknown how much corporate wealth sits in tax havens. Perhaps trillions from generous business handouts.

During the height of 2008 crisis conditions, $168 billion stimulus legislation was enacted. About $90 billion went to business and rich elites.

Jobs were lost, not created. From July through December 2008, nearly a million a month disappeared. Doing so matched the 1929-1930 rate.

Obama’s February 2009 $787 billion stimulus bill handed corporations nearly $400 billion in tax cuts. Over $225 billion went for business/investor cuts.

Through December 2010, zero jobs were created. Part-time ones replaced higher paying full-time jobs.

Hundreds of thousands of federal, state and local public workers were laid off. Current unemployment tops 23%.

Official numbers are fake. They mask the greatest jobs crisis since the Great Depression. Before this one ends, it may be greater.

Bush and Obama benefitted corporations and rich elites hugely. They never had it better. Unprecedented wealth amounts shifted from ordinary people to them.

The great wealth transfer heist continues. America is being thirdworldized in the process. Employment opportunities are dreadful.

It bears repeating. Tax cuts don’t create jobs. They could if linked to jobs creation. They haven’t been since Kennedy’s mandate.

Democrats and Republicans today are polar opposite. Reverse Robin Hoodism is policy. It created the greatest wealth disparity in US history.

Half or more of US households are impoverished or bordering it. Good jobs are disappearing in plain sight. Nearly 50 million Americans need food stamps to eat.

Hard times are getting harder. Needy households are increasing exponentially. At the same time, corporate profits are higher than ever.

Business taxes are way too low. The top nominal rate is 35%. Obama, Republicans and many Democrats plan cutting it to 28 or 25%.

Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D. MT) is retiring this year. He favors lower corporate rates. He helped spearhead Obamacare’s enactment.

Doing so wrecked America’s healthcare system. It did so to benefit business. The full fallout remains to unfold.

One of many propagated myths is that US corporations pay too much in taxes. “Abolish the Corporate Income Tax,” says Kotlikoff. He wants people to believe what’s untrue.

“Just ask” Seattle-based Boeing machinist workers, he said. They accepted major contract concessions. They did so for greater “long-term success,” Kotlikoff claimed.

False! Contract terms substitute largely worker funded 401ks for company-paid pensions, higher healthcare costs, reduced wage increases, and no strikes.

Heavy pressure was applied. Union bosses claimed 51% of International Association of Machinists approved what no workers want. Others claimed vote rigging.

Kotlikoff said Boeing workers acted in their own best interest. How does cutting their standard of living do so?

“In recent decades, American workers have suffered one body blow after another,” he admitted.

“What can (they) do to mitigate their plight,” he asked? Eliminate corporate taxes, what else.

“It’s not…a giveaway to the rich,” he maintains. Corporate taxes are “economically self-defeating.” They hurt “workers, not capitalists…”

He claims America “may well have the highest effective marginal corporate income tax rate of any developed country.”

As explained above, nominally it’s 35%. Bipartisan complicity agreed to cut it to 28 or 25%. Most large corporations pay less than half that amount.

Many pay much less. Some pay nothing. Others get rebates in profitable years. Corporate taxes have been in free fall for decades.

As a percent of GDP and national income, they’re half what they were two decades ago. They’re going lower. Obama demands it. He’s doing so while waging war on ordinary Americans.

He’s one-sidedly pro-business. He’s anti-labor, anti-populist, anti-fairness. He wants greater austerity than already. He wants America’s social contract eliminated.

He wants corporate giants handed trillions more than already. So does Kotlikoff. He supports the great tax giveaway.

He wants corporate ones entirely eliminated. He claims maintaining them gets business to shift operations abroad.

They do so largely for lower labor costs. They’re in countries with no worker protections. They’re free to exploit their workforce for greater profits.

Kotlikoff claims eliminating corporate taxes assures a “stunningly large” economic windfall. He’s for raising personal income tax rates at the same time.

He wants ordinary people to bear the burden. They do so more than ever now. He claims hitting them when they can least afford it “leads to a short-run inflow of capital.”

It’ll “rais(e) (America’s) capital stock (machines and buildings) by 23 percent, output by 8 percent, and the real wages of unskilled and skilled workers by 12 percent,” he maintains.

It bears repeating. Corporate tax cuts don’t create jobs. Clear evidence proves it. Throughout the new millennium, profits shifted abroad tax free.

They remain on business balance sheets. They went for stock buybacks, dividends, high executive salaries and bonuses, as well as other unrelated non-job creation purposes.

Why else would unemployment exceed 23%? Inflation-adjusted wages have been declining for decades. Benefits workers took for granted are disappearing.

So are good full-time jobs. Class war rages. Middle America is disappearing in plain sight. Detroit reflects nationwide decline.

Other troubled cities include major ones. Growing millions are on their own sink or swim. Predatory capitalism is malignant. It’s eating its seed corn. It’s killing its host.

It’s been a stunning failure for decades. It hollowed out America. It harms its most vulnerable.

It caused the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history. Detroit once symbolized America’s industrial might. It’s zombie-like today.

Nothing is done to change things. Kotlikoff wants ordinary people hit harder. He claims raising their tax burden lifts all boats.

He says it does so when coupled with eliminating corporate taxes. He shows a shocking disregard for human welfare.

His formula assures greater crisis conditions. Millions already can’t cope. More add to their ranks daily. Raising their taxes will accelerate the process.

How can destroying the well-being of most Americans be beneficial? Kotlikoff apparently believes doing so will save them. He admits that inflation-adjusted wages are “10 percent lower today than (in) 1966.”

“This is America’s nightmare, not its dream,” he explains. “Turning things around requires getting a lot of things right, starting, (he argues) with corporate tax reform.”

In 2007, his book titled “The Healthcare Fix” proposed ending Medicare, Medicaid, and employer-provider insurance.

He wants government-provided vouchers replacing them. He wants their cost maintained at a fixed 10% of GDP.

Well-off recipients could supplement coverage by buying more on their own. Others would be stuck with bare bones care.

Corporations are Kotlikoff’s concern. Ordinary people don’t matter. Deepening social inequality is OK.

Human misery is out of sight and mind. Kotlikoff’s formula assures hard times getting harder for growing millions.

America already is unfit to live in. Kotlikoff wants impossible conditions for most people. Imagine if it turns out this way. Imagine the worst of all possible worlds.

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

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

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

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

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

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

http://www.dailycensored.com/corporate-taxes-america/

On December 2, 2013 president Obama marked the 25th Anniversary of World AIDS Day by pledging $100 million to research on finding a cure for HIV.[1]]Discussing his new push for funding, Obama remarked that “The United States should be at the forefront of new discoveries into how to put HIV into long-term remission without requiring lifelong therapies, or better yet, eliminate it completely.”[2]  However laudable this commitment to ending the war on HIV/AIDS is, we must question how it is that billions of dollars spent for decades on a pharmaceutical-based treatment has not yielded better results.

For our answers let’s go back to December 9, 1993, when more than 100 persons assembled with their physicians and their medical records in New York City at a major press conference.  They had been selected over a twelve month period if they could prove with medical verification, including blood work up, viral load, CD4 and CD8 count, that they had made major improvements without relapse with their AIDS diagnosis. These individuals followed more than 20 different alternative treatments programs. An independent panel of medical and scientific experts brought to the press conference more than 25,000 scientific references[3][4][5][6] (see examples in footnotes below) from the peer-reviewed literature to verify the medical veracity, efficacy and safety of any given protocol used by the patients.

Herbs, botanicals, homeopathic and naturopathic remedies, intravenous vitamin drips, ozone therapy, meditation, detoxification, stress reduction, a plant-based diet, and antioxidants therapy were all examined for their antiviral, antibacterial and anti-yeast and/or immune-modulating impacts. Therefore, if one of the patients were to suggest that they were following the Louise Hay, Gerson, or Ann Wigmore protocols, it would not have been difficult to have understood how these protocols were helping these individuals’ bodies.

All of this was precipitated more than a year and a half earlier by a group of AIDS patients who came each day to a medical facility in the Upper West Side of Manhattan to be attended by a group of physicians, nurse practitioners, and other therapists helping them to restore their immune systems and adopt a more positive, optimistic state of mind. The theoretical framework behind our program was simple: instead of trying to kill the virus with antiretroviral pharmaceuticals designed to stop viral replication before it kills patients, we focused on what benefits could be gained by building up the patients’ natural immunity and restoring biochemical integrity so the body could fight for itself.

As they began to make major improvements, one of the patients spoke up one evening. He explained that in addition to his own progress in combating AIDS naturally, he knew of other individuals who were using more natural and holistic modalities all across the country and that the world didn’t know of this. The world only knew of the official AIDS treatment: AZT. He and the other people being treated at the facility all feared the mainstream treatment because they had seen how many of their friends and partners as well as other AIDS patients had died or become extremely sick using these aggressive drugs and yet, the natural modalities had been virtually ignored in any public discussion on AIDS. So it was at their urging that the press conference evolved.

That day in December could have been historic if only members of the press, scientific community, government agencies, activist organizations and foundations had chosen to attend and been open to a different medical paradigm. Despite the fact that more than 7,000 individuals from the media and these other groups had been invited on three separate occasions in the months leading up to the press conference, not one showed up. Clearly this was an intentional boycott. As a result, the patients spent the entire afternoon, each giving their own testimonials, showing their records and having their physicians speak about the remarkable improvements they saw; but the findings presented largely remained a secret from the rest of the world.

 Tony Brown, of PBS, learned of the press conference and began to look carefully and meticulously at the AIDS patients who had made remarkable recoveries, inviting more than eight to appear on his national television program. I was also invited to appear on Tony Brown’s program since these were my protocols and I had been working every day with these specific individuals for more than 16 months. The program profiled one man named Louie, who submitted medical records showing that he experienced a life-affirming reversal of AIDS and all of its conditions. You can go to Tony Brown’s Journal archives and review the entire film at your leisure.

Up to that point, I had spent every day for years working with people with AIDS-defining conditions, written twenty-two articles on living with AIDS naturally and a 750 page reference book with nearly 100 pages of it covering how to treat AIDS naturally. Further, I had produced a documentary, Living withAIDS Naturally: The Real Heroes,chronicling the story of AIDS patients in the nineties that did not respond well to orthodox therapy but improved after incorporating natural holistic protocols to their treatment programs.

After all this, one would have thought that this information would have permeated into the mainstream AIDS dialogue. In fact, just the opposite occurred. Because I challenged the safety and efficacy of AZT and called into question the science behind conventional AIDS treatment, I was personally attacked as an AIDS denialist, which I categorically deny.  There is no debate that HIV exists and that it attacks the immune system. What is still up for debate is whether pharmaceutical drugs are the complete answer. Back then and still today, there is no opportunity for questioning, you are either on board or thrown overboard and then attacked.

  Despite the array of devastating side effects that AZT is known to produce, it is still used today in combination with other medications, albeit at much lower doses. Today, if any physician were to prescribe AZT in the same amount that was typical in the 1980s and early 1990s,they would more likely than not be brought up for medical malpractice.While survival rates have increased with the introduction of new anti-retroviral treatments, the mainstream treatments continue to focus on pharmaceutical drugs to the exclusion of holistic lifestyle therapies. This is especially alarming given the extensive body of independent scientific research spanning decades that indicates that we were right all along about the critical importance of treating AIDS patients by incorporating a comprehensive, immunity-enhancing behavior and lifestyle modification approach that incorporates diet and nutritional therapies, detoxification, exercise, meditation and stress reduction.

As public awareness about the therapeutic value of alternative approaches to health and wellness increases, a growing number of individuals and groups within the scientific community are calling attention to the benefits of an integrative approach to AIDS.  Given President Obama’s recent pledge of $100 million towards a cure for HIV/AIDS, it is clear that drugs alone are not the answer. By shifting the paradigm to one that embraces and incorporates proven natural methods, we have the potential to revolutionize modern HIV/AIDS treatments and empower individuals to achieve greater health and longevity.

Read more at: http://prn.fm/category/gary-null

Notes

[1]Culp-Ressler, Tara. “President Obama Pledges $100 Million In Funding To Help Beat AIDS.” ThinkProgress RSS.N.p., 3 Dec. 2013. Web. 16 Dec. 2013. <http://thinkprogress.org/health/2013/12/03/3010991/obama-100-million-aids/>.

 [2] Ibid

[3]Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K., Glaser, R. (1993)..Mind and immunity. In: D. Goleman& J. Gurin, (Eds.) Mind/Body Medicine (pp. 39-59). New York: Consumer Reports.

 [4]Sauter, C., Wolfensberger, C (1989) Anticancer activities as well as antiviral and virus-enhancing properties of aqueousfruit extracts from fifty-six European plant species. European Journal of Cancer and Clinical Oncology Jun;25(6):987-990.

[5]RS, Chang.,Yeung, HW. (1988). Inhibition of growth of human immunodeficiency virus in vitro by crude extracts of Chinese medicinal herbs. Antiviral Research (pp. 163-175)

[6]Zheng, MS. (1989). An experimental study of the anti-HSV-II action of 500 herbal drugs.Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine.Jun;9(2):113-116.

 

With Syria’s Western-backed sectarian war for regime-change spilling over into both Iraq and Lebanon between forces that root themselves in divisions between Sunni and Shia, the New York Times has come forward to attribute this nightmare scenario to Washington’s insufficient engagement in the region.

“Power Vacuum in Middle East Lifts Militants,” declares the voice of liberal imperialism in a January 4 article.

The US “newspaper of record” cites fighting in the Iraqi cities of Fallujah and Ramadi involving “masked gunmen” whom “so many American soldiers died fighting.”

It attributes all conflicts in the region to “the emergence of a post-American Middle East in which no broker has the power, or the will, to contain the region’s sectarian hatreds.”

It is this, we are told, which has allowed “fanatical Islamists” to flourish in both Iraq and Syria. The Times further attributes this situation to struggles between “two great oil powers, Iran and Saudi Arabia, whose rulers—claiming to represent Shiite and Sunni Islam, respectively—cynically deploy a sectarian agenda that makes almost any sort of accommodation a heresy.”

“Linking all this mayhem is an increasingly naked appeal to the atavistic loyalties of clan and sect,” the Times adds.

The newspaper makes a fleeting reference to the United States having “touched off” civil war in Iraq with an invasion that is then justified as an “American nation-building effort.”

This explanation of the unfolding events in the Middle East amounts to a willful and self-serving falsification of history.

Blame for the escalating crisis lies at the door of the White House, not because of a failed policy, but because of its ongoing and historic efforts to dominate the region and its oil riches.

The first Gulf War in 1990, the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the 2011 war in Libya and the subsequent efforts to topple the Assad regime in Syria were all aimed at eliminating Iraq and Iran as regional powers and ensuring undisputed US hegemony. In every instance, the US has been at the forefront of encouraging and fostering “atavistic loyalties of clan and sect” through a policy of building fronts of regional powers as proxy forces to fashion the Middle East to its liking.

Citing the “Shia arc of extremism,” the US responded to the overthrow of its client regimes in Tunisia and Egypt in 2011 by toppling the regime of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, supporting the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule in Egypt, and then assembling a coalition of Sunni powers led by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to move against the Baathist regime in Syria as a precursor to action against Iran. The opposition forces they built up in Syria were based on a core of Al Qaeda-linked Islamists.

The policy proved a terrible failure from which the US is now suffering blowback on a massive scale. This is what has generated the complaints voiced by the New York Times. Faced with overwhelming domestic opposition to war and the threat of a direct conflict with Russia, the US seized on the Russian-brokered deal for Syria’s chemical disarmament and Iran’s subsequent offer of a rapprochement as a an alternative means of asserting its interests.

This has both alienated and thrown into political crisis its former regional allies.

Turkey, for example, wanted to establish itself as regional powerhouse, with Prime Minister Recep Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party advanced as an Islamist model for other pro-Western regimes. But the US abandoning support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and then its retreat on war against Syria has destabilised Erdogan, who accuses Washington of sponsoring a coup attempt against him led by Fethullah Gulen, a Pennsylvania-based Muslim cleric.

Saudi Arabia has declared that it will now follow a path independent of Washington in Syria and internationally, refusing a seat on the United Nations Security Council in protest against the shift on Syria and the US opening nuclear talks with Iran. Saudi’s London ambassador, Prince Mohammed bin Nawwaf, wrote in the New York Times December 17, “This means the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has no choice but to become more assertive in international affairs …We will act to fulfil these responsibilities, with or without the support of our Western partners.”

The prince cited the Saudi monarchy’s continued arming of the Syrian opposition as proof of its independence. He could have also raised its involvement in the fighting in Iraq. It is there that the shift in US policy is best exemplified, where Washington is now arming the Shia and pro-Iranian regime of Nour al-Maliki with 36 Lockheed Martin F-16IQ Block 52 fighters to combat the same Sunni Al Qaeda forces that, was until recently, employed as its proxies in neighbouring Syria.

In alliance with a new imperialist partner, Saudi Arabia has pledged a massive $3 billion to pay for weapons being supplied by the government of French President Francois Hollande to the Lebanese army in order to target Hezbollah, an ally of Iran and Syria

These sordid manoeuvres prove only that every imperialist power abides by Lord Palmerston’s injunction, “We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.”

What is taking place in the Middle East is naked imperialist power politics, in which it is entirely possible that, at least for a time, yesterday’s enemies can become today’s allies and vice-versa.

However, whether or not the Middle Eastern regimes occasionally portray themselves as “anti-imperialist” is solely conditioned by tactical considerations, above all the need to pose as such before their own populations. To the extent that any of the region’s bourgeois powers find themselves in conflict with the US, they desire nothing more than an accommodation that allows them to continue to preside over the exploitation of the working class and rural poor.

Sectarianism and clan rivalries are not atavistic survivals of a bygone era. They are utilised as an instrument for maintaining a grip over the workers and peasants and fostering support for contending bourgeois regimes. This has been given additional weight by the failure of secular nationalist movements and regimes—in Egypt, Iraq, Syria and Palestine—to provide a genuine and viable means of combating foreign domination and securing social progress.

The Middle East today stands first of all as proof of the malignant role of imperialism in forcing the mass of the world’s people to suffer grinding poverty, brutal levels of exploitation and the ever growing danger of war. Secondly, it is stark confirmation of the inability of national bourgeoisie to oppose imperialist oppression.

The only consistently anti-imperialist force in the world is the international working class. The fundamental task facing the workers of the Middle East is the construction of a new socialist movement that makes its appeal across the all artificial national and religious distinctions. In turn, workers in the US and other imperialist countries must reject with contempt the cynical efforts by theNew York Times et al. to legitimise or conceal their governments’ predatory designs on the world’s strategic markets and resources through the building of a powerful socialist anti-war movement.

US, Iran Say They Will Not Send Troops to Iraq

January 7th, 2014 by Bill Van Auken

The US and Iran have declared their backing for the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki Monday, while both governments felt compelled to rule out sending troops to support regime forces in the escalating battle in Iraq’s western Anbar province.

Fighting continued to rage in and around Ramadi, the provincial capital, and Fallujah, the scene of the bloody US military siege to crush resistance to American occupation in 2004.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, in the midst of a four-day diplomatic swing through the region—ostensibly centered on reviving the moribund Israeli-Palestinian negotiations—declared on Sunday at the end of a visit to Jerusalem that Washington would do “everything that is possible” to assist the Shia-dominated Maliki government and its security forces in suppressing the Islamist militants and tribal militias that have seized control of the two cities in the predominantly Sunni Anbar province.

He described the group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as “the most dangerous players” in the region, but insisted that, “This is a fight that belongs to the Iraqis.” He added: “We are not, obviously, contemplating returning. We are not contemplating putting boots on the ground. This is their fight, but we’re going to help them in their fight.”

Even raising the prospect of sending troops back into Iraq—more than two years after President Barack Obama boasted that nearly a decade of US war and occupation had created a “sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq”—is a damning indictment of the catastrophic conditions created by US imperialism’s predatory interventions in the region.

The ongoing crisis in Anbar is a direct product of these interventions. On the one hand, it has been fueled by the policies of the sectarian and dictatorial regime of Maliki, installed under the US occupation, which has systematically marginalized, discriminated against and repressed the Sunni population, creating deep-seated anger that has given rise to popular protests and support for armed resistance.

On the other, it has been facilitated by the disastrous conditions created by the US-backed war for regime change across the border in Syria, in which Washington and its allies have supported Sunni Islamist forces in a sectarian-based insurgency against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. One of the leading armed groups in this insurgency, which has established its control over a wide area near the Iraqi border, is the ISIS, the same group described by Kerry as “the most dangerous players” in the region.

Kerry did not spell out what assistance the US was contemplating short of sending American troops back into Iraq. It has already shipped some 75 Hellfire missiles to the Maliki regime and has pledged to begin delivering drones. The US has provided extensive intelligence to guide Iraqi military operations. Whether the US military may go further and begin conducting its own air strikes remains to be seen.

Reports from Ramadi and Fallujah indicate that Iraqi forces are already shelling the cities with artillery and bombing them from the air, killing scores of civilians and turning thousands more into internal refugees seeking shelter from the death and violence.

The Washington Post Monday quoted a local journalist in Fallujah as saying that the shells and bombs were falling on civilian areas of the city.

“It is back to the same as it was in 2004,” he said, referring to the murderous US siege of the city. “Before 2004, there was only one cemetery in Fallujah. Afterwards there were four cemeteries. Now the people fear there will be eight cemeteries.”

Meanwhile, in Tehran, the deputy chairman of Iran’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said that his government was also prepared to aid the Iraqi army in suppressing the Sunni militants in Anbar, while, like Kerry, insisting that any such assistance would stop short of sending in troops.

“We have not received any official request yet, but if they make a request, we will certainly provide them with equipment and consultations,” Brigadier General Mohammad Hejazi told reporters Sunday. He added that Iran would not conduct joint military operations with the US against Al Qaeda in Iraq.

The crisis in Anbar, which in large measure has spilled across the border from Syria, has erupted just weeks before peace negotiations scheduled in Geneva between the Syrian regime and the so-called “rebels” backed by the US and its allies.

While it is far from clear that the talks will take place, much less what “rebel” representatives Washington and its allies can cobble together to attend them, they have become a focal point in the political maneuvers following the US climb-down from its move toward direct intervention in Syria last September and the subsequent reaching of a tentative agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.

Kerry on Sunday appeared to revise Washington’s previous hardline opposition to any Iranian participation in the Syrian talks, suggesting that Tehran could “contribute from the sidelines.” Both Russia and Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN envoy organizing the conference, have voiced support for Iran participating as a full party to the talks. But the US position has been that Tehran must first accept the Western position that the talks must result in removing Assad, a close ally of Iran, from power.

The Iranian government issued a curt response Monday to Kerry’s remarks. Asked about his proposal for Tehran playing an apparently indirect and unofficial role in the Syria talks, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman responded: “Tehran accepts only suggestions which conform to the honor of the Islamic Republic.” She added, “From the start of the Syria crisis, Iran has announced its fundamental stance based on the necessity of finding a political resolution. Any resolution must realize the rights of the people of Syria for determining their destiny and based on Syrian-Syrian talks.”

The State Department followed up on the exchange Monday. The New York Times reported that a department official told reporters in Washington that Iran could improve the prospects for its participation in the Syrian talks by pressuring the Assad regime to take certain steps.

“Those include calling for an end to the bombardment by the Syrian regime of their own people,” the official said. “It includes calling for and encouraging humanitarian access.”

The exchange makes it clear that the steps toward rapprochement between Washington and Tehran involve much more than the future of the Iranian nuclear program. Rather, at stake is a broader agenda of attempting to recalibrate the US-Iranian relationship in order to stabilize the US position in the Middle East so as to create more favorable conditions for the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia” and confrontation with Washington’s rising rival, China.

There was no apparent recognition at the State Department of the irony of the US request for an Iranian gesture of good faith. It wants Tehran to convince the Assad regime to stop doing in Aleppo precisely what the Maliki regime is doing in Fallujah and Ramadi—and against the same forces—with US and Iranian backing.

Israel: Gás, Petróleo e Problemas no Levante

January 7th, 2014 by Felicity Arbuthnot

Israel está se preparando para tornar-se um dos principais exportadores de gás assim como de algum petróleo, se tudo sair de acordo com os planos. O gigante campo de gás do “Leviathan”, no Leste do mar Mediterrâneo, descoberto em 2010, é apontado [na corrupta  mídia ocidental] como que “nas costas de Israel.”  Quando da descoberta o campo de gás era: “ … o mais prominente campo jamais encontrado na área da Bacia do Leviathan, a qual cobre cerca de 83.000 km2 da região leste do  Mediterrâneo.” (1)

Esse campo de gás está ligado ao campo Tamar, o qual foi descoberto em 2009 e que se encontra nessa mesma localização. Isso então representa um prospecto de muito dinheiro para Israel, para Houston, para Noble Energy baseada no Texas, e para os parceiros Delek Drilling, Ayner Oil Exploration e para o Ratio Oil Exploration. [drilling=perfuração/prospecção; exploration=exploração]

Também envolvida está Perth, Woodside Petroleum o qual está baseado na Austrália e que já assinou um memorandum de entendimento para 30% do resultado do projeto, isso em negociações que foram descritas como que “Yô-Yô” indo prá-cima-prá-baixo. Atualmente especula-se que a Woodside poderia se retirar do acordo: “ … porque os planos originais de refrigerar o gás para exportação tinha sido conseguido do quando as relações entre Israel e Turquia estavam tensas. Isso mais recentemente já teria mudado, o que abriria então as portas para entubar o gás para a Turquia.”

As avaliações dos potenciais dos campos do Leviathan já subiram dos estimados 16.7 trilhões cúbicos/feet (tcf) de gás, para dezenove trilhões … e ainda se continua a contar…

“Nós descobrimos quase 40 tcf de gás, e temos aproxidamente 19 tcf de gás em condições de exportação para mercados regionais e também para os além-de-regionais. Estamos olhando para capacidades de exportação alcançando 2 bilhões cúbicos-feet por dia, nos próximos dez anos. E ainda continuamos a explorar.”, declarou o vice-presidente da Noble, Keith Elliot (2). Lá também há a avaliação da possibilidade de seiscentos milhões de barrís de petróleo por dia, de acordo com Michael Economides da energytribune.com (“Eastern Mediterranean Energy – the next Great Game.”) [Mediterrâneo do Leste – O próximo Grande Jogo].

Entretanto, mesmo essas estimações podem vir a se monstrar como modestas demais.

[“Assessment of Undiscovered Oil and Gas Resources of the Levant Basin Province, Eastern Mediterranean”, the US Department of the Interior’s US Geological Survey]

“Avaliações dos ainda por Descobrir Gás e Petróleo Recursos na Bacia da Província do Levante, Mediterrâneo Leste”, Pesquisa Geologica do Departamente do Interior  dos Estados Unidos  -  escreveu em 2010: “Nós estimamos uma média de 1.7 bilhões de barrís de petróleo de recuperação capaz (recoverable oil) e uma media de 122 trilhões cúbicos-feet de “recoverable” gas nessa província baseados numa metodologia de avaliação geológica.” [O título desse estudo geológico foi acima apresentado em seu original em inglês]

No entanto, pode ser também que Woodside Petroleum possa estar hesitando quanto a se envolver em futuras disputas, porque está atualmente em prolongadas disputas no Timor Leste com a Austrália, quanto a riqueza (bonanza) energética e de minerais no sub-solo do Mar do Timor Leste, a qual já levou o o Timor Leste a acusar a Austrália de “espionar oficiais leste timorenses durante as negociações do acordo.” (3)

Entretanto, o conflito da Woodside no Timor Leste pode muito bem se mostrar como que nada em comparação com o que pode ser levantado a respeito dos campos do Leviathan e Tamar. Não é por acaso que a região é conhecida como a Bacia do Levante (Levantine Basin). Enquanto Israel as assume como fazendo parte do seu próprio tesouro pessoal, só uma fracção das riquezas desse mar se encontram na região, no território ou na zona de Israel, como mapas (4, 5) claramente o demonstram. Muito ainda não está explorado, mas actualmente a Gaza Palestiniana e o “West Bank”, entre eles, mostram as maiores descobertas, tendo-se então também que qualquer coisa encontrada nas águas territoriais do Líbano e da Síria de certeza que iria levantar reinvidicações por parte de ambos. [Para quem como eu que não parou de se perguntar porque os pobres pescadores em seus pequenos barcos nas costas de Gaza são tão brutalmente assaltados, aqui apresenta-se uma boa hipótese de trabalhho.]

Como que num passo de prevenção, no dia de natal, a Síria anunciou um acordo com a Rússia a respeito da exploração de 2.190 km (850 Square miles) de gás e petróleo na sua costa territorial, a ser:  “ …financiada pela Rússia. No caso de gás ou petróleo, ou ambos, serem descobertos em quantidades comerciais, Moscow iria poder cobrir os gastos da exploração.”  O  ministro de enrgia e petróleo da Síria – Syrian Oil Minister Ali Abbas, disse durante a cerimônia de assinatura, que esse contrato cobria “25 anos, durante várias fases.”

A Síria que está cada vez mais sendo impiedosamente atacada pelas sanções internacionais, já viu sua produção de petróleo diminuida em 90% (noventa porcento) desde que as graves sequências de acontecimentos e erupções, em grande parte incitados pelo ocidente, começaram em março de 2011.  A produção do gás ficou quase que pela metade, indo de 30 (trinta) milhões m3 por dia, a 16.7m3 por dia.

O acordo entre a Síria e a Rússia foi resultado de meses de longas negociações entre os dois países. A Rússia, como um dos dos principais apoiantes do governo da Síria, projeta-se aqui então como um dos principais atores quanto a riqueza energética da Bacia do Levante. (Levant Basin no original) (6)

O Líbano contesta o mapa de Israel quanto as fronteiras marítimas Israel-Líbano, tendo apresentado seu próprio mapa e suas reinvidicações para a ONU, em 2010. Israel reclama o fato, afirmando que o Líbano está concedendo licenças para a exploração de gás e petróleo no que Israel reinvidica como sua  “exclusiva zona econômica.”

Que os Estados Unidos através do seu vice-presidente Joe Biden, se disfarçe apresentando-se no papél de um honesto intermediário, agindo como um negociador de paz na disputa das fronteiras marítimas, seria caso de piada, se não fosse pelo potencial de um novo ataque de Israel ao seu vizinho. Numa visita a Israel em março de 2010 Biden declarou que: “Não há absolutamente nenhum espaço livre entre os Estados Unidos e Israel quanto ao que se refere a segurança de Israel – absolutamente nenhum. Ele disse também então  de quando chegando em Israel: “Que bom estar  em casa, ou como no original – It´s good to be home.” [!]

Tendo-se em conta as décades em que os Estados Unidos se apresentaram como “intermediários no processo de paz” entre Israel e Palestina, isso se apresenta como um caminho de armadilhas, tomadas de partido, e duplicidade, com o chão já muito bem batido e pisado.

Que se esperem muitos problemas a frente.

Ah!… e quanto a Demonologia… Leviathan é um dos sete príncipes do Inferno.

 Felicity Arbuthnot

30 de Dezembro de 2013

 

 

Artigo original em português :

http://www.globalresearch.ca/israel-gas-oil-and-trouble-in-the-levant/5362955

 Tradução Anna Malm: http://artigospoliticos.wordpress.com

 

Referências e Notas:

1. http://www.offshore-technology.com/projects/leviathan-gas-field-levantine-israel/

2. http://m.theage.com.au/business/options-widen-for-woodsides-leviathan-partners-20131219-2znu6.html

3. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-09-04/east-timor-offers-funds-for-onshore- gas-processing/4933106

4. http://www.offshore-technology.com/projects/leviathan-gas-field-levantine-israel/leviathan-gas-field-levantine-israel1.html

5. http://www.google.co.uk/searchq=Leviathan+gas+project+Israel+map&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=ntC2UvO7IcPE7Ab7rIDYCQ&ved=0CEQQsAQ&biw=1017&bih=598

6. http://www.phantomreport.com/syria-inks-oil-gas-deal-with-russia-firm#more-20238

 

 

 

 

A regime supporter donning sunglasses who worked his way into a speaking event featuring opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva hoisted aloft a placard with “respect my vote” scrawled upon it.

It is a stunt carried with the same intellectual dishonesty as Sunday’s “Ants’ Power Group” release of white balloons in support of upcoming one-party nepotist sham elections on February 2, 2014. 

Image: “Respect my vote… for Tyranny.” A regime supporter hoists aloft a placard with “respect my vote” scrawled across it – in English of course for Western audiences being told current protests are “anti-democratic.” What the Western press isn’t telling audiences is that the current regime this man wants to “vote” for is openly run by an accused mass murderer, convicted criminal, and fugitive who does not even currently reside in the country. This would be an unimaginable and unacceptable scenario in the West – and despite this man’s demands – it is unacceptable in Thailand as well. 

….

Regime supporters fail to mention that the party they back, Puea Thai (For Thais) is run openly by an accused mass murderer, convicted criminal, and fugitive who does not even currently reside in the country.

The New York Times admitted in an early 2013 article titled, “In Thailand, Power Comes With Help From Skype,” that: 

For the past year and a half, by the party’s own admission, the most important political decisions in this country of 65 million people have been made from abroad, by a former prime minister who has been in self-imposed exile since 2008 to escape corruption charges. 

The country’s most famous fugitive,Thaksin Shinawatra, circles the globe in his private jet, chatting with ministers over his dozen cellphones, texting over various social media platforms and reading government documents e-mailed to him from civil servants, party officials say.

The NYT piece would also report:

“He’s the one who formulates the Pheu Thai policies,” said Noppadon Pattama, a senior official in Mr. Thaksin’s party who also serves as his personal lawyer. “Almost all the policies put forward during the last election came from him.” 

There is no question that an accused mass murderer and convicted criminal hiding abroad from a 2 year jail sentence, multiple arrest warrants, and a long list of pending court cases, is illegally running Thailand by proxy. If regime supporters are incapable of respecting the rule of law, it is inexplicable as to why they believe others should “respect their vote.” “Democracy” without the rule of law is just another form of dictatorship – and just as a dictatorship of one or a few is intolerable, so is a tyranny of many. 

While the regime and its supporters continue to claim they represent the majority of Thai people, it should be remembered that the final tally conducted in 2011 by Thailand’s Election Commission showed that Thaksin Shinawatra’s proxy political party received 15.7 million votes out of the estimated 32.5 million voter turnout (turnout of approx. 74%). This gave Thaksin’s proxy party a mere 48% of those who cast their votes on July 3rd (not even half), and out of all eligible voters, only a 35% mandate to actually “lead” the country.

The regime’s supporters represent a loud, violent minority, either disinterested or incapable of understanding the rule of law, basic human rights, and the difference between a representative government and mob rule. It is not only unreasonable to “respect their vote” under current conditions, it is dangerous. 

 

Syrian Infighting May Be Pretext for Expanded Intervention

January 7th, 2014 by Tony Cartalucci

A strategy of tension created by divisions among foreign-funded fighters may give West an opportunity to increasingly “back good terrorists” versus “bad terrorists.“ 

Geopolitical analyst Eric Draister on PressTV explained what is behind recent infighting between foreign-funded fighters battling along and within Syria’s borders. It is suggested that a new narrative is in the making, portraying “good terrorists” locked in battle with “bad terrorists,” thus providing a new context within which the West can continue arming and funding terrorist groups waging war on Syria.

While the West will maintain that the conflict in Syria began as “peaceful protests,” readers should keep in mind that Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh in his article, ”The Redirection: Is the Administration’s new policy benefiting our enemies in the war on terrorism?” prophetically stated (emphasis added): 

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

Hersh would also state in his 2009 report that Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood was already being funded and supported by the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia to prepare for the eventual overthrow of the Syrian government (emphasis added):

There is evidence that the Administration’s redirection strategy has already benefitted the Brotherhood. The Syrian National Salvation Front is a coalition of opposition groups whose principal members are a faction led by Abdul Halim Khaddam, a former Syrian Vice-President who defected in 2005, and the Brotherhood. A former high-ranking C.I.A. officer told me, “The Americans have provided both political and financial support. The Saudis are taking the lead with financial support, but there is American involvement.” He said that Khaddam, who now lives in Paris, was getting money from Saudi Arabia, with the knowledge of the White House. (In 2005, a delegation of the Front’s members met with officials from the National Security Council, according to press reports.) A former White House official told me that the Saudis had provided members of the Front with travel documents.

The New York Times would then confirm in its June 2012 article, “C.I.A. Said to Aid in Steering Arms to Syrian Opposition,” that (emphasis added): 

A small number of C.I.A. officers are operating secretly in southern Turkey, helping allies decide which Syrian opposition fighters across the border will receive arms to fight the Syrian government, according to American officials and Arab intelligence officers.

The weapons, including automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and some antitank weapons, are being funneled mostly across the Turkish border by way of a shadowy network of intermediaries including Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood and paid for by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the officials said.

The US State Department itself would confirm the presence of nation-wide operations as early as November 2011 by Al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise, in its December 2012 “Terrorist Designations of the al-Nusrah Front as an Alias for al-Qa’ida in Iraq,” which stated:

Since November 2011, al-Nusrah Front has claimed nearly 600 attacks – ranging from more than 40 suicide attacks to small arms and improvised explosive device operations – in major city centers including Damascus, Aleppo, Hamah, Dara, Homs, Idlib, and Dayr al-Zawr. During these attacks numerous innocent Syrians have been killed. 

Clearly, from 2009, long before the US-created “Arab Spring” was entered into the international lexicon, the US and its regional partners had begun tangibly preparing for the violent overthrow of the Syrian government via the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda fighters imported into the country. 

For anyone seeking a genuine solution to the rampant violence destroying Syria, they would look to cut off entirely foreign fighters and supporting Damascus in restoring order and stability to the country. 

Climate Change, Global Warming and the Big Freeze

January 7th, 2014 by Patrick Henningsen

Cults and technocracies go together it seems, like peanuts and beer.

No matter what is happening in the real world, zealots and mandarins still carry on, filing their green reports, making incredible claims – politically intoxicated, in a never-ending compulsive melodrama. It would be a funny thing, if it weren’t so darn expensive. 

In the United States, a ‘polar vortex’ has swooped down into the Midwest, bringing with it a record freeze. It’s a deadly freeze too, and stark reminder of how low temperatures – not ‘warming’, poses the greatest threat to human survival in the Northern hemisphere.

Still, this reality still remains lost on the legions of faithful green cult followers still clinging to Al Gore (image, left) and the UN’s global warming mythology, coloured by more wild tales of drowning polar bears.

This year’s freeze is no laughing matter. Millions of Americans have been forced into virtual hibernation as a result of the latest arctic wave, which is now pushing its way from Midwest states like Minnesota, down to the south and over to the east coast. It is so cold in fact that skin exposure to sub-zero elements can result in instant frostbite. In Minneapolis, low temperatures are predicted to reach minus-24 F, with a wind chill factor of minus-50.

While Chicago’s Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport has seen some 1,200 flights canceled as of Monday, New York’s Kennedy International Airport saw one if its arrivals on Sunday slide into snow as it turned from an icy runway to taxi. Other incidents have been reported around the country.

This is not the first record-breaking cold snap in recent years. North America hit record lows in 2012 along with record snow falls, and record blizzards and ice storms in 2011 . Before that, 2010 saw record low freezes as well. In fact, according to the UN own data, the planet has been in a global cooling cycle for the last 16 years.

And no kidding, it’s snowing in Egypt.

1-CLIMATE-PHOTO-By-Patrick-Henningsen
Cold Snap: Gore Odyssey continues (PHOTO: Patrick Henningsen)

According to one report from earlier this year, “The world added roughly 100 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere between 2000 and 2010. That is about a quarter of all CO2 put there by humanity since 1750. Yet, still no warming during that time. That is because the CO2 ‘greenhouse effect’ is weak and marginal compared to natural cause of global temperature changes.”

What about the melting polar ice caps? Well, US space agency NASA has just announced that sea ice in the Antarctic (South Pole) has surpassed 19.47 million square meters as of September – the highest since measurements began in 1979.

How about the North Pole? Despite it’s earlier attempts to hide this news, the UN’s own reports have had to admit how a chilly Arctic summer has left 533,000 more square miles of ocean covered with ice than last winter – an increase of 29 per cent.

It should go down in history as the greatest scientific hoax of our times. Gore said many times that, “the science is settled”, but the reality was that there was never any science to popular global warming theory.

As the UK Mail rightly points out, “The rebound from 2012’s record low comes six years after the BBC reported that global warming would leave the Arctic ice-free in summer by 2013.” Of course, that 2007 BBC’s report relied on one of those ‘green expert’ scientists, Professor Wieslaw Maslowski, who based his conjecture on super-computer models and the fact that ‘we use a high-resolution regional model for the Arctic Ocean and sea ice’. Yes, another computer-generated reality.

So where does this leave the global warming zealots who are still insisting that Al Gore and the UN’s IPCC hacks’ prophecy of CO2 doom is real?

At some point, even the most faithful cult followers will have to admit they’ve been sold a pup. The computer-modeled, academic concept man-made CO2-induced global warming, or rather, as it has been rebranded for more flexibility, as “climate change”, was simply a creation of high-flying think tanks, egged on by bureaucrats and green opportunists who saw new careers and easy billions that could be conjured out of thin air.

The concept of global warming as a tool of economic and social engineering emerged into mainstream policy in 1991, by way of The Club of Rome ‘think tank’. In their own words:

“In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like would fit the bill… All these dangers are caused by human intervention… and thus the “real enemy, then, is humanity itself… believe humanity requires a common motivation, namely a common adversary in order to realize world government. It does not matter if this common enemy is “a real one or… one invented for the purpose.

Here was a neatly packaged ideology ready just in time for the UN’s 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

People should consider the ridiculousness – and complete waste of state money and resources, of still maintaining whole government departments of Climate Change, staffed by ‘Climate Bosses’, working to implement more ‘Climate Policy’ and ‘Climate Legislation’. This incredible charade is costing us billions, if not trillions.

Sure, it’s beyond a joke when you look at it all through the lense of reality, but it’s important to understand the context in which this climate drive was put in motion. Aside from the failed Carbon Trading markets, it was a well-placed distraction at a specific place in time especially in the United States, Australia and Great Britain. Look at the timing of the climate movement which went mainstream in 2003-2005. By tying up millions of ‘green’ activists and controlled opposition organisations like Greenpeace, all three of those governments were able to aid industry in making substantial headway in the hydraulic fracturing shale gas, or ‘Fracking’ industry – in a quiet takeover of large areas of rural land and with little or no public resistance. By the time activists copped on, plans were already too far down the road and all the relevant civil servants, politicians and journalists were already bought and paid for. City fat cats and multinational energy consortiums have been laughing ever since.

No Greenpeace ships circling Japan over the Fukushima disaster either. Funny that.

If you want to gauge the disfunctionality and insanity of the Climate Cult, just take at look at how climate zealots are now claiming how, “global cooling is expected because of global warming”.

Humanity is no stranger to mythology. Climate Change is simply the latest mythology for this current epoch, and the elites who control the mythology have always profited and consolidated their power and social control through it.

In the 21st century, you might have thought modern man would surely have advanced past this handicap, but alas… old habits die hard.

 By Bill Holter

As you know, Germany has reported that 37.5 tons were delivered last year, which is about 50 tons shy of what was the announced plan last January and was expected to be delivered over the course of 2013. Peter Boehringer (Germany’s equivalent of GATA’s Chris Powell here in the States) asked many questions of the Bundesbank, the most central being: Why was this gold “recast” before being returned?

As there has not been an audit of Fort Knox since the 1950′s, nor a bar list made public since this German gold was claimed to have been deposited with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York back in the 1950s, this is a can of worms that has already been opened and any “answer” will only lead to more questions.

So why exactly would the gold need to be recast before sending it back?

Never mind the obvious question that we’ve already asked. Why will it take up to eight years to send the Germans their gold?

You see, gold has a “fingerprint.” Once it is refined down to 99.999 percent pure, the fingerprint is erased. For example, the “coin melt” that came from the 1934 confiscation has a fingerprint of 90 percent purity. The gold the Soviet Union was selling back in 1990 was 89 percent pure and had the czar’s stamp on it, which was a dead giveaway that they were out of gold (money). They collapsed within six months and it was foretold by this “fingerprinted gold.”

For these 37.5 tons to be recast brings up the question: Where did it come from? Was this the original gold that was safe-kept? Or was the German gold leased out a hundred times over and is this gold being recast and returned from another source?

Is this like the bank employee or even retail cashier who stole from the register with the intent of replacing it before anyone found out?

 This is a very legitimate question because we know for a fact that demand has outstripped supply for 20 years or more — and the supply had to come from somewhere, right?

 If the gold was held on an “allocated,” basis then the bars should at most need a feather duster to clean them up before shipment — unless they are not the same bars. There is no other explanation for this, as the New York Fed would have no incentive to go through the process of recasting (refining?) even an ounce if the Fed was shipping what was originally stored. Germany would not and should not expect its gold back in form other than how it was originally delivered to the New York Fed.

 I call “monkey business” on this one because there are just too many questions. The questions collectively all have the same obvious answers. All these obvious answers point to the same conclusion: The German gold that is being delivered is not the same gold that was supposedly deposited more than 50 years ago. That their 300+ tons (20 percent of the supposed total of Germany’s gold in New York) will take more than eight years to deliver means that it’s not just sitting in a corner collecting dust and waiting patiently to be delivered — it was mobilized and “used” years ago. The conspiracy wackos who used to be laughed at with their (our) farfetched questions and claims had merit after all — and all along the way!

 Please remember that even though this gold that has been delivered no longer has any fingerprint left to it, foreigners can (and will) eventually come to the obvious conclusion. The process may take longer and be far more complex and obfuscated than the Soviets delivering gold with the czar’s stamp on it, but the result will be the same.

We live in an era where everything is supported by confidence, so how confident will anyone be if (when) it is known that the gold is long gone?

This is a very serious question and is the core reason I have been screaming to buy gold for more than 15 years no matter what the price has been. Any price between $252 and $1,920 over the last 15 years has been too low by orders of magnitude. In my opinion you could add a zero to the prices of gold and silver and still possibly not have the price necessary to clear the market.

We will not know exactly how much monkey business has already gone on until the music stops. Whatever levels gold and silver do finally settle out to when the dust clears will be an indicator as to exactly how much. All you need to do is read the questions that are being asked and then use common sense. Any and all questions speak to one thing: There has been fraud. Gold and silver in their physical forms are anti-fraud and will be priced accordingly after the revelation.

Copyright Bill Holter, Miles Franklin Precious Metals Specialists, 2014

As War Lingers in Mali, Western Powers Target its Natural Resources

January 7th, 2014 by Timothy Alexander Guzman

France’s intervention in the West African nation of Mali under Operation Serval drove Islamic groups associated with Al-Qaeda out of Northern Mali in February 2013. When the Tuareg rebellion occurred in early 2012, it was against the Malian government led by the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) for the independence of Northern Mali also known as Azawad. There were also Islamic groups such as the Ansar Dine and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) who originally helped the MNLA. Eventually both Islamist groups turned on the MNLA forcing them out and creating a Sharia based Northern Mali. The government of Mali requested foreign assistance to re-take the north and France answered the call. France restored Mali’s government back to power.

France’s military incursion with Western support was described as a “humanitarian intervention” which resulted in a race for Mali’s natural resources. That was the plan after all. New drilling contracts have just been established after Mali’s civil war was contained by the French military with the backing of the United Kingdom and the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM). The collaboration of Western powers just opened up Mali for business. A new press release by Legend Gold of Vancouver, BC Canada states the intention of gold mine drilling in several regions of Mali. The press release titled ‘Legend Gold Announces Signing of Drilling Contracts for Exploration in Mali’ stated exactly what areas of Mali will be extracted for gold by the new drilling contracts:

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA–(Marketwired – Jan. 6, 2014) – Legend Gold Corp. (the “Company” or “Legend Gold”) (TSX VENTURE:LGN) is pleased to announce the commencement of drilling for the season. Legend Gold has contracted for a minimum of 5,000 m of reverse circulation (RC) drilling and 10,000 m of air core (AC) drilling for the Diba and Lankafla projects in western Mali and the Mougnina project in southern Mali. 

In western Mali, Legend Gold plans to explore for extensions to the Diba-Badiazila resource which contains 234,000 oz at 1.67 g/t gold of indicated and 26,700 oz of inferred mineralization at 1.9 g/t at 0.8 g/t gold cutoff (AMEC’s NI 43-101 compliant Technical Report, August 2013). There remain a number of gaps in the AMEC resource which can be in-filled by a number of shallow RC holes to bring the oxide resource from the indicated and inferred categories to measured and indicated. The oxide resource evaluated to date extends to about 50 m below the surface. A minimum of 3,000 m of RC drilling will be used to infill gaps in the existing resource as well as testing the immediate on-strike extensions of the Diba deposit. Analysis of previous results derived from drilling completed by Etruscan Resources in 2009 suggests that additional resources remain to be discovered on-strike from the known mineralization, along a 2 km long soil auger geochemistry anomaly to the northwest. Several lines of RC and core holes drilled by Etruscan Resources about 1.5 km to the NNW of Diba yielded multiple mineralized intervals which warrant follow up drilling.

Preliminary results of a ground gravity survey on the Lankalfa project area suggest that areas that have been drilled previously warrant additional exploration. New and upgraded targets revealed by the final interpretation of the gravity survey will also be included in the 2,000 m of RC drilling planned for Lankafla.

In southern Mali, exploration by Legend Gold on the Mougnina exploration license, some twenty kilometers north of the Syama mine, has mapped a series of ancient artisanal workings which are coincident with soil auger gold anomalies. The ancient workings appear to be on splays off the same fault system that controls mineralization at the Syama mine. At least 5,000 m of AC drilling are planned to test the soil auger gold anomalies and artisanal workings.

The drill program is expected to commence in early February 2014.

Douglas Perkins, President and Chief Executive Officer of Legend Gold stated, “The data review and project ranking that took place over the past three months is now complete and the technical team has chosen their priorities for the current drilling season. Given the current state of the exploration business, Legend Gold was able to obtain some very competitive quotes for meters. We look forward to announcing the results as soon as they are available.” 

On December 18th, 2013 the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced that it would financially assist Mali in a press release ‘IMF Executive Board Approves New Extended Credit Facility Arrangement for Mali and US$9.2 Million Disbursement’ regarding Mali’s economic potential with help from external financial resources. The institution which is based in Washington DC announced what the new arraignments will provide to the war torn country:

The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) today approved a new arrangement under the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) for Mali for an amount equivalent to SDR 30 million (about US$ 46.2 million or 32 percent of quota). The approval enables the immediate disbursement of an amount equivalent to SDR 6 million (about US$9.2 million).

The authorities’ program is designed to reduce balance-of-payments vulnerabilities and lay foundations for stronger, more inclusive growth. Reform efforts are focused on tax policy and revenue administration, public financial management and improving the business environment.

The IMF imposes debts on nations and forces its governments to cut back on social services such as education and medical care in order to pay back the debt. An article written by Arthur MacEwan which was published on Third World Network titled ‘Economic debacle in Argentina: The IMF strikes again’describes how IMF policies affected Argentina’s economy:

During 2001 the Argentine recession grew rapidly deeper. Although the IMF pumped in additional funds, it provided these funds on the condition that the Argentine government would entirely eliminate its budget deficit. With the economy in a nose-dive and tax revenues plummeting, the only way to balance the budget was to drastically cut government spending. Yet, in doing so, the government was both eviscerating social programmes and reducing overall demand. In mid-December, the government announced that it would cut the salaries of public employees by 20% and reduce pension payments. At the same time, as the worsening crisis raised fears that the peso would be devalued, the government moved to prevent people from trading their pesos for dollars; it promulgated a regulation limiting bank withdrawals. These steps were the final straws, and in the week before Christmas, all hell broke loose.

According to www.allafrica.com an online African news source admits an increase in foreign investments and believes that Mali will experience growth “Mali is expected to benefit from relatively stable external conditions in the near term. The region’s prospects are favorable. Sub-Saharan Africa is set to enjoy continued robust growth driven by strong investment in infrastructure and productive capacity, and by rising inflows of foreign direct investment and other financing opportunities” which is further from the truth. RT News reported on June 10th, 2013 what does foreign investment in the gold industry mean for Malian citizens and especially for those who work in the gold mines:

War-worn Mali has tripled its gold exports over the last decade, though the rising profits are being funneled outside what is one of the world’s poorest countries: Foreign corporations appear to be taking over one of Mali’s few thriving industries. Mali, Africa’s third-largest gold producer, has just announced it expects to double annual gold output over the next five years to 100 tons.

Malian officials claim the gold-abundant south has been untouched by the military conflict between government troops and Tuareg insurgents in the north, which prompted an intervention by France in January. The promise of gold has lured investors into one of Mali’s most profitable industries.

However, residents have decried the news, as they feel they will benefit little from the country’s newfound riches. Thousands are employed as ‘traditional miners’ in the town of Yanfolila in southern Mali, the epicenter of the country’s gold rush. Traditional mining is a near-medieval process in which Malian workers dig holes approximately the size of their own bodies using only primitive picks – their gold mines. Without a proper geological survey, workers are essentially hoping to get lucky. The narrow shafts go as deep down as 60 meters, the equivalent of a 15- to 20-story building 

French intervention in Mali had nothing to do with the welfare of the Malian people. It was about the natural resources it has including gold, uranium and oil. With gold demand increasing among nations throughout the world, it is no surprise that the Western powers would intervene in any internal conflict in a resource rich country in the African continent. The French government has interests in Mali. That interest is in natural resources as Katrin Sold of the German Council on Foreign Relations stated in 2013“In the long term, France has interests in securing resources in the Sahel – particularly oil and uranium, which the French energy company Areva has been extracting for decades in neighboring Niger”. Mali has abundant natural resources. The civil war intensified through a western backed military coup with Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo who was trained by the United States lead a coup against democratically-elected government of Amadou Toumani Touré after the Tuareg Rebellion in Northern Mali. Western Institutions and corporations wasted no time in acquiring natural resources during Mali’s crises. Divide and conquer and then accumulate the resources was the was the Western government’s intentions. During a speech by French President Francois Hollande on February 2nd, 2013 after France intervened in Mali, hypocrisy took hold when he said:

France stands alongside you, not to serve any particular interest – we have none –, to protect this or that faction, or in favour of this or that Malian party… No, we stand alongside you for the sake of the whole of Mali and for West Africa. We’re fighting here to ensure Mali lives in peace and democracy. And you’ve presented the best image today, through your warmth and fervour, after your pain throughout those months when fanaticism held sway in northern Mali.

We’re fighting as brothers – Malians, French, Africans – because I haven’t forgotten that when France herself was attacked, when she was seeking support and allies, when her territorial integrity was threatened, who came along? It was Africa; it was Mali. Thank you, thank you, Mali. Today we’re repaying our debt to you

Mali is the country that has to repay its debts to the IMF and its western powers through its natural resources, not France. A loan from the IMF  is guaranteed to create more debt for the Malian people.  As Western powers such as the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and France continue to intervene in third world countries for their own interests, it seems like Mali is under their control for the long term pushing China out as a potential business partner with the Malian government. France and AFRICOM are expanding its intervention policies throughout Africa because it is about the resources, besides; the West has been intervening in Africa for the past 500 +years that only resulted in more wars and extreme poverty for the African people.

Why the US Wants to Stay in Afghanistan

January 7th, 2014 by Jack A. Smith

The U.S. is supposed to withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan by the end of this new year. But despite public opinion polls to the contrary, President Obama is seeking to leave several thousand Special Forces troops, military trainers, CIA personnel, “contractors” and surveillance listening posts for 10 more years in Afghanistan until the end of 2024.

The CNN/ORC International survey released Dec. 30 shows that 75% of the American people oppose keeping any U.S. military troops in Afghanistan after the scheduled pullout Dec. 31.

Indeed, “a majority of Americans would lke to see U.S. troops pull out of Afghanistan before the December 2014 deadline.”

The poll’s most important statistic is that “Just 17% of those questioned say they support the 12-year-long war, down from 52% in December 2008. Opposition to the conflict now stands at 82%, up from 46% five years ago. CNN Polling Director Keating Holland suggested the 17% support was the lowest for any U.S. ongoing war. A majority of Americans turned against the war against Afghanistan a few years go, but according to a Associated Press-GfK poll released Dec. 18 — these days 57% say that even attacking and invading Afghanistan in 2001 was probably the “wrong thing to do.”

Clearly, the American people are truly fed up, but do not have a viable electoral alternative to a continuing military presence in Afghanistan. The era of the mass antiwar movement, which was supported by the great majority of Democrats, collapsed when Democrat Obama was elected. Democrats may acknowledge their views to pollsters but they rarely attend protests against Obama’s Afghan adventure or drone attacks in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere. President Obama is sticking to his original schedule of withdrawing “all ground troops” by the end of 2014, but the Special Forces, et al., are not technically “ground troops.” His intention to deploy a smaller but vital military presence is related to larger policy goals connected to the “pivot” to Asia. The White House has been bargaining with the Kabul government for years to keep military forces in Afghanistan for another 10 years.

In return the U.S. would pay multi-billions for the training and upkeep of the Afghan army and police and help finance the government at great expense until 2024. It recently seemed an agreement was reached, but President Hamid Karzai says it cannot be signed until after a new president takes office after elections in April — a delay that upset the Oval Office. According to Mara Tchalakov of the Institute for the Study of War:

“With deep divisions in Afghanistan over the right of legal immunity for American soldiers and contractors, as well as the right to conduct night raids in private Afghan homes, Karzai is trying to buy time to build political support…. Waiting until after the election would buy time and leave open the possibility of renegotiating issues that could prove problematic as the election nears.”

At this stage it is not known who will win in April. Two-term Karzai cannot run for reelection, a blessing as far as the Obama Administration is concerned. He may be a puppet but he knows how to kick back on his own, especially about civilian deaths, night house invasions by U.S. troops, and Washington’s efforts to completely dominate the Kabul government.

The White House has a year to obtain a signed agreement and seems confident it will do so either before or soon after Karzai steps down, particularly if the anti-Taliban, pro-U.S. Northern Alliance and friendly political parties such as the Tajik-dominated Jamiat-e Islami, gain more influence. Obama sought a similar arrangement in Iraq when U.S. troops were set to withdraw in December 2011, but a deal was rejected in the last months by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, much to the administration’s chagrin.

In a sense Obama was lucky. If the several thousand American troops he sought had remained in Iraq they would have become embroiled in the al-Qaeda and jihadist Sunni uprising against the majority Shi’ite regime led by Maliki. In 2013 alone, over 7,300 civilians and 1,000 Iraqi security forces — overwhelmingly Shia —were slaughtered. Most of the deaths were from executions and bomb attacks.   The White House may be extremely worried about closer ties between Shi’ite Iraq and Iran — an unintended consequence of the U.S. invasion and overthrow of the secular regime of Saddam Hussein — but it is now even more worried about Sunni jihadist gains in Iraq, particularly since jihadist elements began to dominate the rebel fighting in neighboring Syria.

The al-Qaeda affiliate ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria) is making significant gains in both countries. According to The New York Times Dec. 26, Washington

“is quietly rushing dozens of Hellfire missiles and low-tech surveillance drones to Iraq to help government forces combat an explosion of violence by al Qaeda-backed insurgency that is gaining territory in both western Iraq and neighboring Syria.”

On Jan. 3 the same newspaper reported:

“Radical Sunni militants aligned with Al Qaeda threatened on Thursday to seize control of Fallujah and Ramadi, two of the most important cities in Iraq, setting fire to police stations, freeing prisoners from jail and occupying mosques, as the government rushed troop reinforcements to the areas.”

Afghanistan is especially important to Washington for two main reasons.

The obvious first reason is to have smaller but elite forces and surveillance facilities in Afghanistan to continue the fighting when necessary to protect U.S. interests, which include maintaining a powerful influence within the country. Those interests will become jeopardized if, as some suspect, armed conflict eventually breaks out among various forces contending for power in Kabul since the mid-1990s, including, of course, the Taliban, which held power 1996-2001 until the U.S. invasion.

The more understated second reason is that Afghanistan is an extremely important geopolitical asset for the U.S., particularly because it is the Pentagon’s only military base in Central Asia, touching Iran to the west, Pakistan to the east, China to the northeast and various resource-rich former Soviet republics to the northwest, as well as Russia to the north. A Dec. 30 report in Foreign Policy by Louise Arbour noted:

“Most countries in [Central Asia] are governed by aging leaders and have no succession mechanisms — in itself potentially a recipe for chaos. All have young, alienated populations and decaying infrastructure… in a corner of the world too long cast as a pawn in someone else’s game.”

At this point a continued presence in Afghanistan dovetails with Washington’s so-called New Silk Road policy first announced by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton two years ago. The objective over time is to sharply increase U.S. economic, trade and political power in strategic Central and South Asia to strengthen U.S. global hegemony and to impede China’s development into a regional hegemon. As the State Department’s Robert O. Blake Jr. put it March 23:

“The dynamic region stretching from Turkey, across the Caspian Sea to Central Asia, to Afghanistan and the massive South Asian economies, is a region where greater cooperation and integration can lead to more prosperity, opportunity, and stability.  “But for all of this progress and promise, we’re also clear-eyed about the challenges. Despite real gains in Afghan stability, we understand the region is anxious about security challenges. That’s why we continue to expand our cooperation with Afghanistan and other countries of the region to strengthen border security and combat transnational threats.”

Blake did not define what “security challenges” he had in mind. But both China and Russia are nearby seeking greater trade and influence in Central Asia — their adjacent backyard, so to speak — and the White House, at least, may consider this a security challenge of its own.

Jack A. Smith,  Activist Newsletter editor

A report on the UK’s weapons exports has triggered accusations that Britain may be arming Somali pirates and dictatorial regimes. MPs allege this is due to the sheer volume of guns being exported and poor oversight.

An urgent review has been launched over why some 44,000 guns were exported to East Africa in just 15 months. Government data shows that among the weapons were 30,000 assault rifles, 2,536 pistols and 11,000 rifles which ended up in countries with poor human rights records like Somalia, Egypt and Sri Lanka. Some of the weapons were also exported to Russia and South Africa.

The report, which was part of a wide-ranging inquiry into arms exports, noted the MPs want to know why UK firms would need such a large stash of new weapons, given that they already had thousands of weapons in their armory before April 2012.

MPs alleged that the sheer volume of weapons being exported meant that it was difficult to keep tabs on where they end up, prompting speculation the UK could be arming pirates in Somalia.

House of Commons Arms Export Controls Committee said that the Business Department, which approved the weapons export, did not thoroughly assess where the weapons were going. MPs also raised doubts as to whether Britain’s export policy has got the “balance right between the arms trade, surveillance equipment and our economic interests.”

“The evidence provided to us by Mr Bell seems to suggest that the department did not have a process of looking at the cumulative number of weapons and whether those exports fitted the scenario on the ground needed for protection.”

The head of the Export Control Organisation at the Business Department, Edward Bell said he understood the worries of MPs given the large quantity of arms, although he denied the weapons had fallen into the wrong hands.

“I understand the concern about the volumes … having now heard about the volumes, I would like to do a bit more digging around that. I have no concerns that anything untoward has happened, but I certainly will have a closer look at the volumes involved,” Bell told MPs. The Business Department has now launched an internal inquiry into weapons exports.

Piracy remains a big problem in Somali despite international efforts to curtail attacks. In November of last year a US court sentenced two Somali pirates to life in prison for the killing of four American citizens onboard a yacht off the Horn of Africa in 2011.

Prosecutors said the pirates intended to kidnap the Americans and hold them for ransom in Somalia.

However, following four days of negotiations with the US Navy, the pirates shot their captives dead and opened fire on the US vessels.

There has been a significant naval operation by many countries around the Horn of Africa and the Indian Ocean, which has helped stop attacks. There haven’t been any successful pirate raids on ships since May 2012.

In the US, we’re used to seeing the alphabet soup agencies involved in trafficking arms, and as long as the government are doing it, no one in government seems to mind too much.

For Washington DC, state-sanctioned gun-running has developed into a nice, not-so-little cottage industry, with arms flooding into the hands of criminal drug cartels in Mexico being well-documented through Eric Holder’s ‘Fast and Furious’ scandal.

Add to this the recent CIA admission of overseas gun-running into the hands of quasi-terrorist outfits in Syria, and you can see how government-controlled gun-running operations are key to maintaining instability and a criminal climate in regions all around the world.

By contrast, in Britain, business enterprises like international gun-running are mere whispers in the halls of Westminster, and remain well-hidden behind the walls of London’s infamous city state – the financial Square Mile. A new report this week (see full article below), accuses the British Government of having been caught in their own ‘Fast and Furious’ episode – this time shipping some 44,000 guns to East Africa – in the last 15 months alone. That’s just the tip of the global iceberg. Does this also explain how all of those lovely weapons made it into the hands of rebel fighters in Libya and Syria?

In order for this river of arms to keep flowing, it’s important that a government maintain little or no oversight regarding state-sanctioned weapons trafficking. The UK’s House of Commons Arms Export Controls Committee has now admitted that the government’s Business Department, which ‘approves’ these massive weapons exports, “did not thoroughly assess where the weapons were going”. Dear, oh dear.

There is a strong suggestion in this report that many of these weapons have ended up into the hands of Somalian pirates – and this is where we see the business cycle come full circle…


Is their any relationship between the British government, the destabilisation of East Africa and the City of London’s insurance and trading firms? The connections run deep indeed.

Insurance syndicates raking in profits

Who benefits from Somalian piracy in the Gulf of Aden? According to a study conducted by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), insurance companies have seen a windfall in profits from the Somali pirate attacks, with insurance premiums sharply increasing. The DIW white paper concluded that:

“Many of the relevant players (Somali pirates, local communities, nascent government in pirate regions, international navies, private security and the insurance industry) have no incentive to stop piracy. In fact, there is a relatively stable relationship between these groups, many of whom share a clear business interest in maintaining piracy at its current level.”

Even though Somalian piracy only affects a small percentage of shipping through Somalia’s coastal waters and the Indian Ocean, thus far the overall winner of this regional “crisis” has to be the insurance syndicates providing coverage to the shipping industry. DIW confirmed that, “Of an estimated 30,000 ships transiting the Gulf of Aden in 2009, 116 were attacked, less than one in 250. Moreover, the 25 final ransoms are still only a small fraction of the overall value of the ship, crew and cargo”.

Lloyds insurance moguls saw other opportunities to increase their profits by extending the ‘pirate zone’, even in the face of international opposition. Bloomberg reported in 2011, that “India is lobbying Lloyd’s of London to reverse its expansion of the area judged prone to pirate attacks to cover almost all of the nation’s west coast after insurance costs surged as much as 300-fold this year”.

A clear nexus exists between the City’s business elite, the UK government and the World Bank. Keeping Somalia entrenched in a pit of debt and dependent of “aid” from multi-lateral institutions like the IMF and the World Bank helps fuel the cycle of poverty and lawlessness, which in turn, puts even more money into established City pockets in the form of insurance premiums. Add to this, NATO is overseeing the entire security operation in and around the Gulf of Aden from its new maritime headquarters – in North London. That’s right – nearly everything concerning Somalia and its ‘security crisis’… comes from, or passes through London.

So it’s no surprise then why the British government has bothered to funnel £2.2m into the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime’s ”counter-piracy programme”, to run prisons in Puntland, Somalia and helps fund the reinforcement police and maritime forces which will defend British interests in the region.

Big Money for Major Players

It’s no secret that British mining and energy interests in East Africa – especially in Ethiopia and Somalia, are a top priority for neocolonial market makers, shakers and takers in the City of London. Ethipoian-based British proxy firm SouthWest Energy is one of the major players in the region. According to Hands of Somalia blog, SouthWest’s advisory board include Sir John Bond, chairman of Xstrata, Simon Murray, chairman of Glencore and Lord Malloch-Brown, who served for two years as UK minister of state in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of Gordon Brown’s Labour government with responsibility for Africa, Asia and the UN.

Hands off Somalia notes here how insurance rackets and their beneficiaries (opportunists) have already carved up a their niche market:

“On 6 January (2013) the first private British navy for the last 200 years was set up off Somali waters by a group of businessmen to defend western private interests and rake in massive shipping insurance contracts with Lloyds of London.

Simon Murray backs the company behind the venture, Typhon. The firm is composed of ex-Royal Marines, Legionnaires, NATO commanders, and even a former chief of HSBC’s marine and insurance business. Typhon owner Anthony Sharp told the Telegraph “I had the idea for Typhon playing polo one afternoon, thinking about what my next business might be”.

City insurance stalwart Lloyds of London started in business doing marine insurance, underwriting centuries of British empire-building – and have been profiting out of the piracy game for centuries. Other piracy insurance giants based in the City of London. include Willis Group Holdings plc. According to a report by Forbes in 2010, buying the highest insurance package per voyage would, somehow, significantly lower the risk of a piracy attack. If you were one of the hundreds of ships to buy Willis Group’s full ‘Vessel Shield’ package – a bargain at $35K per voyage, then you would have completely avoided being targeted by Somali pirates. What luck. Go figure.

It would be interesting to know if the same City of London insurance and financial firms involved the Gulf of Aden piracy market also have any business interest in arms shipments to East Africa, or the mining and oil businesses. If you dig deep enough, it’s likely that you might find a yes(s) somewhere in this criminal matrix, but who really knows, right?

With Somalia weak and unstable, British and other US and European firms only need wait until the moment is right to jump on Somalia’s natural resource assets. Until then, there’s plenty of money to spread around.

Bernie Madoff has said all along that JP Morgan knew about – and knowingly profited from – his Ponzi schemes.

So JP Morgan has agreed to pay the government $2 billion to avoid investigation and prosecution.

While this may sound like a lot of money, it is spare sofa change for a big bank like JP Morgan.

It’s not just the Madoff scheme.

As shown below, the big banks – including JP Morgan – are  manipulating virtually every market – both in the financial sector and the real economy – and breaking virtually every law on the books.

Here are just some of the recent improprieties by big banks:

  • Engaging in mafia-style big-rigging fraud against local governments. See this, this and this
  • Shaving money off of virtually every pension transaction they handled over the course of decades, stealing collectively billions of dollars from pensions worldwide. Details here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here
  • Pledging the same mortgage multiple times to different buyers. See this, this, this, this and this. This would be like selling your car, and collecting money from 10 different buyers for the same car
  • Committing massive fraud in an $800 trillion dollar market which effects everything from mortgages, student loans, small business loans and city financing
  • Pushing investments which they knew were terrible, and then betting against the same investments to make money for themselves. See this, this, this, this and this
  • Engaging in unlawful “Wash Trades” to manipulate asset prices. See this, this and this
  • Bribing and bullying ratings agencies to inflate ratings on their risky investments

The executives of the big banks invariably pretend that the hanky-panky was only committed by a couple of low-level rogue employees. But studies show that most of the fraud is committed by management.

Indeed, one of the world’s top fraud experts – professor of law and economics, and former senior S&L regulator Bill Black – says that most financial fraud is “control fraud”, where the people who own the banks are the ones who implement systemic fraud. See this, this and this.

The failure to go after Wall Street executives for criminal fraud is the core cause of our sick economy.

And experts say that all of the government’s excuses for failure to prosecute the individuals at the big Wall Street banks who committed fraud are totally bogus.

The big picture is simple:

  • The big banks manipulate every market they touch
  • The government has given the banks huge subsidies … which they are using for speculation and other things which don’t help the economy. In other words, propping up the big banks by throwing money at them doesn’t help the economy
  • The big banks own the D.C. politicians … so Congress and the White House won’t do anything unless the people force change

A 50-person committee to draft an amended Egyptian constitution completed its work in December and dates for a referendum have been set for January 14-15. The military-appointed regime which came to power through an army coup on July 3 of last year is encouraging people to vote in the upcoming national poll.

Concerns are growing among the regime operatives that a low turnout will damage the coveted “legitimacy” that they so desperately crave. A number of organizations have already called for a boycott of the vote based upon the undemocratic character under which the process was conducted.

Opponents of the referendum include the Muslim Brotherhood as well as some secular left and liberal organizations which had initially supported the military coup of July 3. A new coalition has been formed calling itself the Way of the Revolution Front which includes the April 6 Youth Movement, the Revolutionary Socialists and the Egypt Strong Party.

Nonetheless, the Salafist Al-Nour Party, which had fallen out with the government of Mohamed Morsi during 2013, is supporting the referendum. Other supporters of the referendum are the Social Democratic Party, the Socialist Party, the Popular Current, the National Salvation Front as well as the leadership of the Copts Church representing the Christian community in Egypt which constitutes approximately 10 percent of the overall population.

Other Islamist groups are also boycotting the referendum including the Salafist Front, reputed to be one of the largest of such organizations in the region. In addition, the al-Gama’a al-Islamiyaa, another religious party, is also rejecting the referendum vote.

The so-called Tamarod, or rebel group, which is credited with organizing the anti-Morsi demonstrations last June prior to the coup, says that it is supporting the referendum vote and has in the past encouraged military strongman, Gen. Abdul Fatah al-Sisi, to enter the upcoming presidential race.

In an article published by the state-owned Ahram online website in Cairo it points out that on January 6 “Interim President Adly Mansour amended the political rights law. Citizens can now vote at polling stations not affiliated to their registered addresses in the upcoming constitution referendum.”

This new declaration is a clear attempt to encourage people to participate in what many in Egypt consider to be an illegitimate process. Rules that had prevailed during the local and national elections of 2011 and 2012 are being altered based upon a governmental decree.

The same Ahram online article points this out by noting that “Special polling stations will be designated to receive voters who do not reside at their registered addresses. Voters in parliamentary polls in 2011, as well as the presidential election and constitution referendum in 2012 had to vote at specific polling stations linked to the addresses mentioned on their national identity card or passport.”

If the proponents of the military coup which deposed the elected government of ousted President Mohamed Morsi, who ruled on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood allied Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), were certain that their actions enjoyed the approval of key sections of the Egyptian population there would not be these efforts which can provide the ability to manipulate the vote in the upcoming referendum.

Clashes Continue Between Coup Opponents and Security Forces

During the period of examinations at some of the leading universities in Egypt, students have been boycotting and staging mass demonstrations. Late last year the Egyptian interim government imposed a ban on unapproved protests.

Numerous activists have been arrested and sent to prison for their involvement in actions that both oppose the law banning demonstrations as well as the existence of military rule and the staging of a national referendum to legitimatize the current political order. On December 22 activists Ahmed Maher, Mohamed Adel, both of the April 6 Youth Movement and blogger Ahmed Douma were sentenced to three years in prison in addition to monetary fines for violating the law prohibiting unapproved demonstrations.

On January 3 at least 17 people were killed in clashes between coup opponents and the security forces in Cairo, Alexandria, Fayoum and Ismailia. Some 50 others were injured as police violently suppressed efforts to protest against the upcoming referendum.

Also on the same day 122 members of the Muslim Brotherhood were arrested. The movement has been banned and labelled a “terrorist organization.”

RT.com reported on January 4 that not only has the Muslim Brotherhood been banned but leading members of the organization have been faced with economic sanctions. These actions are an attempt to make it almost impossible for the group to function.

According to RT.com, “Furthermore, Egypt froze the assets of 132 senior Brotherhood members following a court decree in September which banned the Islamist movement. On Wednesday (January 1), an additional 572 Brotherhood members had their assets frozen by the state which also took over 87 schools run by the Brotherhood.”

A series of bomb attacks have also escalated tensions inside the country. These incidents have been blamed on the Muslim Brotherhood by the military regime even though they have been claimed by another organization, Ansar Bait Al-Maqdis.

On December 24, fifteen people were killed in a bombing at the security directorate in the city of Mansoura in the Nile Delta region. Later on December 29 another intelligence building was destroyed in Sharqiya also in the Nile Delta where four soldiers were wounded.

Also on December 29 a bomb was defused at a building in the Al-Azhar University medical complex at New Damietta city north of Cairo. Later on January 1 a bomb exploded near a bus in Nasr City in eastern Cairo wounding four people.

In the Sinai region fighting has been taking place as well over the last several months. Reports indicate that some 100 police and military personnel have been killed in this natural gas producing region of Egypt on the border with the occupied Palestinian territory of Gaza.

In response to these attacks, the United States Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel pledged Washington’s support in investigating the incidents. Egypt is the recipient of $1.5 billion in annual assistance from the administration.

Although the Obama administration claimed earlier in 2013 that it was suspending some aspects of its aid to Egypt, Secretary of State John Kerry later said during a brief visit to Cairo that this was not a comprehensive halt and that the U.S. would continue to maintain relations with the military regime in Egypt.

Hagel said in a statement that Washington expressed its condolences for those killed in the bombings and “condemned the attacks and offered the assistance of the Department of Defense to help the Egyptian government investigate. We are expressing concerns about the political climate in advance of the constitutional referendum, including the continued enforcement of a restrictive demonstrations law.”(AFP, December 29)

Repressive Policies Impacting International Relations

The politically sensitive situation in Egypt has created concern over criticism outside the country as well. Both the governments of Qatar and Iran have been cited by the Egyptian regime for alleged interference in the country’s internal affairs.

In a report published by Reuters news agency on January 6 it notes that “Egypt on Monday summoned the Iranian charge d’affaires in Cairo to protest over recent Iranian statements on Egypt, the foreign ministry said. Iranian foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said last Saturday that her country was worried by the recent escalation in violence between Egypt’s army and protesters supporting former Islamist President Mohamed Mursi.”

The Qatar monarchy’s representative as well has been summoned by the Egyptian authorities. The government of Qatar had supported the previous government of ousted President Mohamed Morsi and pledged billions of dollars in financial assistance.

However, a report by the Fars news agency said on January 6 that “The Egyptian authorities will recall their ambassador to Qatar after holding the vote on the draft constitution in mid-January for consultations. ‘The decision to recall the ambassador is a protest over the rejected Qatari interference in the Egyptian domestic affairs,’ official news agency MENA quoted a governmental source as saying. ‘”

These developments indicate that the current Egyptian government is placing a tremendous amount of weight on carrying out the January 14-15 referendum. The outcome of the vote and the new reconfiguration of political forces will determine the future of the struggle inside the country.

Rising water prices forced some Egyptians to draw water from polluted canals. (Photo by Hossam el-Hamalawy under a Creative Commons license from flickr.com)

The American media focused mainly on internal corruption and oppression [as causes of the Arab Spring revolution last year]. They did not report on the role of the international superpowers in influencing the Mubarak regime to privatize the country’s public land and water; they did not report, for instance, that since the 1990s the World Bank has argued that privatization enhances “efficiency” and has mandated the policy as a condition for making loans; and that in 2004 this mandate led the Egyptian government to privatize its water utilities, transforming them into corporations which were required to operate at a profit, and which thus began to practice “full cost recovery”— passing along the cost of new infrastructure through rate increases.

Within months of privatization, the price of water doubled in some areas of Cairo, and citizens started to protest. At one demonstration in northern Cairo, in 2005, “angry residents chased bill collectors down the streets.” Those who could not afford the new rates had little choice but to go to the city’s outskirts to collect water from the dirty Nile River canals.

In 2007, protestors in the Nile Delta blocked the main coastal road after the regional water company diverted water from farming and fishing towns to affluent resort communities. “The authorities sent riot police to put down these ‘disturbances,’” wrote Philip Marfleet, a professor at the University of East London, even as “water flowed uninterrupted to the gated communities, and to country clubs and upmarket resorts of the Mediterranean and the Red Sea.”

In the next few years such demonstrations only grew in intensity. As activist Abdel Mawla Ismail has noted, “Thirst protests or intifadas, as some people have called them, started to represent a new path for a social movement.” From this path the revolution that consumed the nation in 2011 seems inevitable. People can live in poverty for a long time; they cannot live without water.

Here is Karen Piper’s full essay Revolution of the Thirsty on the Design Observer Group website. Also posted on Global Research

An English professor at the University of Missouri in Columbia, she is now at work on a book about water privatization.

 

The Killings Fields of Gaza

January 6th, 2014 by Colin Green

Revelations from Israeli sources such as ‘Breaking the Silence’ and ‘Physicians for Human Rights-Israel’ that the Israeli assaults on Gaza in 2008/9 (Cast Lead) and 2012 (Pillars of Defence) were planned many months ahead pose many questions about the real motives for the seven year siege and these massive attacks on a helpless concentration of impoverished and imprisoned people.  Let us then pose just some of those questions and seek objective answers to:

*Why does the international community and UN allow Israel to blockade and besiege a tiny strip of land called Gaza for near seven years with absolute impunity?

*In a related vein, why is Israel allowed to commit piracy in international waters to prevent unarmed merchant ships reaching Gaza under the nose of NATO naval fleets operating in the Eastern Mediterranean?

*Were the asymmetric assaults on Gaza in 2008/9 and again in 2012 genuinely a response to Qassam rocket attacks or carefully planned attacks for other reasons?

*Could the siege and attacks actually be about testing of new weapons, testing of new missile defence systems, field trials of new strategies of population control and control of the immense energy resources found in the Eastern Mediterranean?

Let’s begin by examining the demographics obtaining at the time of the Cast Lead assault. Gaza is a narrow strip of land, 45 km long by 5-12 km wide, into which 1.5 million Palestinians were concentrated and virtually imprisoned – at a density of 4119/km2, four times the density of Bangladesh. The population is confined mainly to five cities and seven large refugee camps, with one million people registered as UN refugees. There is only about 24 km2 of potentially productive farmland, the best of it adjacent to the north-eastern border with Israel, most of it inaccessible because it falls within the Israeli ‘buffer zone.’ Eighty percent of Gazans, 59% of whom are children, live below the poverty line. Forty percent are unemployed, 60% are food dependent on UNRWA.

Gaza had been ruled by Hamas, a freely elected government, for over a year before the attacks, but Israel and the US designated it a ‘terrorist organisation’ and Gaza a ‘hostile entity’ soon after those elections, and then set out to make life hell for its citizens. From 2006 onward, Israel set out to destroy the Gazan economy, using food insecurity, a kind of controlled starvation, as a means of punishing the population and breaking its will.

The buffer zone inside the border removed 68% of arable farmland, making farming dangerous and impossible. Available fish stocks were reduced by 84%, Palestinian fishermen limited by Israel to three instead of the 20 nautical miles agreed upon in the Oslo process, thus reducing protein intake to dangerous levels and destroying one of the bases of the Gazan economy. No less telling is that by limiting Palestinian access to the sea the Israelis have also prevented Gazan exploitation of natural gas reserves of Gaza Marine 1 and 2 estimated at nearly 1.4 trillion cubic feet, which could have turned the economy around and made Gaza energy independent of Israel.

Analysis of the timelines of both major military assaults is instructive. For six months leading up to the Cast Lead invasion, Hamas observed a ceasefire until an Israeli incursion into Gaza on November 4th (election day in the US) killed six Palestinians, predictably triggering a response of Qassam rocket fire into Israel. This provided just the pretext needed by the Israeli military to attack on a massive scale.

The Israeli attack commenced on December 27, 2008, carefully coordinated to coincide with the changeover in American Presidencies. After three days of intensive air strikes, the Security Council attempted to pass Ceasefire Resolution 1860, but the US blocked it, giving Israel the political space it needed to launch a full ground assault. (Congress supported the invasion overwhelmingly, the House by a vote of 390-5, the Senate by an overwhelming bi-partisan voice vote.)

The Ceasefire Resolution was finally passed by the Security Council on January 8th, almost a week after the ground invasion, but the US abstained, thereby affording Israel the necessary political cover to continue its operations. US President-elect Barack Obama uttered not a word. Tony Blair, the Quartet representative, issued a tepid call for an immediate ceasefire.

Palestinian casualties in the Cast Lead invasion were appalling. About 1400 people were killed, of which 313 were children and 116 were women; less than 20% of those killed were combatants. More than 6000 were badly injured, including 1855 children and 795 women (source: Palestinian Center for Human Rights). My Norwegian medical colleagues Mads Gilbert and Eric Fosse, working in Gaza at the time alongside Palestinian medical staff, reported lesions which they had never seen before and which provided circumstantial evidence that the Israelis had used and tested new weapons as well as white phosphorus in heavily populated civilian areas. Apart from severe burns, there were an abnormally high number of amputations and maiming among the surviving wounded.

For example, 150 amputees had to be referred to Egyptian hospitals; in Jabalia refugee camp there were 165 newly disabled patients of whom at least 90 had amputations, some multiple. These casualties were caused by the full armamentarium of known conventional weapons, but some injuries caused strongly suggest that other ordnance was tested for the first time under battle conditions. Some of these described here were definitely used but others are still in doubt.

White phosphorous shells contain the chemical impregnated into small strips of felt, which scatter over a radius of 100 metres when the shell explodes in mid-air. It is officially used as a smoke-screen device and for illumination at night, but it is also an incendiary device and was used as such in Gaza on several occasions. Flechette shells contain thousands of darts about 4 cm long which disperse in a widening cone when the shell explodes about a metre from the ground; these darts are ballistically designed to tumble on penetration and wreak havoc in soft tissues. They were used in 2008/9 but not in the 2012 assault.

The Keshet rapid fire automated mortar was tried out to devastating effect in a crowded street in Jabalia Refugee camp near the Al Fakhoura School, in full view of the Israeli troops. Kalanit shells were fired from 120mm tank cannons; these explode in the air, stop and release 6 mini-charges which spray a target with shrapnel from above.

Dense inert metal explosives (DIMES) are newly developed ordnance comprising a carbon fibre casing packed with micro-shrapnel of inert metals like tungsten, nickel and cobalt causing a massive implosion within a relatively confined space, supposedly allowing a precise kill without collateral damage over a wide area. Small diameter bombs (SDBs) which glide toward their target under laser direction can be fitted to F16 fighter aircraft, and were used in Gaza (1000 were purchased from the US in early December in readiness for the 2008 attack).

It is thought that they contained dense inert metal shrapnel. However the evidence for the use of DIMES is based on the powdered shrapnel found over the liver surface and other soft tissues, as well as the clean-cut multiple amputations suffered by so many casualties; it is not definitive.

Depleted uranium tipped shells are designed for deep penetration of targets such as tanks and create a high temperature fireball inside; in Gaza they were used to attack large buildings, not tanks. Finally although the Israelis have been accused of using thermobaric weapons in Gaza as bunker busters targeting the Egyptian border tunnels, there is no clear evidence for that.

Operation Cast Lead was a supreme example of asymmetric warfare between, on the one hand, the most powerful military state in the Middle East and, on the other, a besieged concentration camp. To give you an idea of the military might of this prototypic modern warrior state, Israel has at the last count between 240 and 300 nuclear warheads; huge stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction (yet calling indignantly for the destruction of all in Syria); 620 warplanes including F16 fighters (soon to be replaced with the latest F35 lightning fighters costing $200 million each, 25 of which promised by the US to Israel ahead of all other recipients as they come off the production line), as well as Cobra and Apache helicopters; six German-built and donated Dolphin Class submarines, some capable of being armed with nuclear warheads and two thought to be currently operational in the Persian Gulf; an unknown number of short, intermediate and long range (up to 8000 kilometres) ballistic missiles capable of delivering a nuclear payload (Jericho1,2,3); a modern navy of 58 combat surface warships many armed with missiles which regularly exercises with the NATO Fleet in the Mediterranean; three squadrons of drones (Hermes, Searcher and Heron), many designed and built in Israel with 100 on order by the UK Government; a highly trained army with 2442 heavy Merkava tanks, 1265 armoured troop carriers and numerous other smaller military vehicles; 2754 pieces of heavy artillery with diabolical ordnance specifically designed to create havoc in civilian populations; and a standing army of 26,000 bolstered by 107,000 conscripts to a total of 133,000 troops (60% bigger than the British Army) which can be rapidly expanded nearly 3-fold in emergency with 400,000 personnel who have been trained for mandatory periods each year of their life from 18 up to the age of 40-50.

Think back to the size of that total population of 7.8 million Israelis, of which at least 20% are ineligible to join the armed forces because they are regarded as a Fifth Column of Israeli Arabs. This represents a massive investment in war both in blood and in money. How much does all this cost? Officially, Israel says it spends roughly 7% of total GDP ($265 billion) on the military (as compared with 4.5% US and 2.5% UK). Once a tiny state like Israel commits itself to such a massive proportion of its GDP for war, the only way to pay for it is through economies of scale, an indigenous arms development programme, partly for domestic use by the IDF and partly for sale.

Based on their 2012/13 sales ($13 billion), it lies 4th in the world league table (UK 3rd with $19 billion in sales). If you factor in, however, Israel’s homeland security trade (perhaps as much as its arms trade, whose goods have been honed over decades of control over the Palestinians), such profitable enterprises as retrofitting and its largely unreported arms trade through the shadow world of arms dealers, its global reach and profits place it among the leading arms and security exporters. The Israeli arms and homeland security industry has certainly made its mark both in hardware weaponry (particularly drones), in IT (avionics, robotics, other forms of electronic warfare, plus the military applications of nanotechnology) and in cyber warfare (where IDF Unit 8200 works closely with the NSA), plus myriad forms of security-for-hire. Labelling their products “Field-tested” or “Combat-proven in Gaza” gives Israeli weapons manufacturers a key edge in the market.

Besides unquestioning bi-partisan support for Israel in Congress for domestic reasons, are there other interests at work that explain why the US routinely vetoes in the Security Council any and every UN resolution critical of Israel (43 times so far, more than all other countries have used their veto on all other issues combined)? Could the ability of the Pentagon and American (and European) arms manufacturers to test their new weaponry in Gaza and the West Bank offer an explanation?

The immediate connection between American financial support of the Israeli anti-missile defence system Iron Dome, its use against Qassam rockets whose firing Israel actually provoked and announcements that the system is being sold to American forces in Afghanistan and to India has to raise questions. Similarly, could a demonstration of “aerial occupation” in which drones complete dominate, intimidate and control the lives of 1.7 million people in Gaza have any effect on Israeli sales of drones as part of its larger export of means of control to governments, armies, security agencies, and police forces around the world? And what about the massive natural gas fields off-shore from Gaza being exploited by Israel while the Palestinians are denied access to their own natural resources through supposed “security” controls?

Israel’s armoury serves as the ultimate extension of Western hegemony in the region. That and the Western military-security-industrial complex being served by Israeli weapons and the opportunity to develop and test weapons in the Palestinian Territories makes the assaults on Gaza and the ongoing repression a case study in what is rapidly becoming Global Palestine – the “palestinization” of us all. For the Gazans are only the guinea pigs. We are the end-recipients. In that sense we all are, truly, Palestinians.

Colin Green is Emeritus Professor of Surgery, University College London (UCL) and Academician in the Ukraine National Academy of Science, as well as a human rights activist with particular interests in the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, Stop the War Coalition, Physicians for Human Rights, Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

Mother Agnes Mariam of the Cross (civil name Fadia Laham) and the Mussalaha Reconciliation Initiative in Syria have been nominated by Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate, for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize.

by The Peace People

Press Release 4 Jan. 2014

Mother Agnes Mariam of the Cross (civil name Fadia Laham) and the Mussalaha Reconciliation Initiative in Syria have been nominated by Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate, for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize.

In her letter to Nobel Institute, Mairead Maguire said:

“At a time when the world so desperately needs to see a peaceful way forward to end the bloodshed and Conflict in Syria the Mussalaha initiative stands out as a beacon of hope showing us a better way forward,  one which comes from within Syrian Society and expresses the spontaneous desire of the majority of Syrians for a peaceful path, a way forward that departs from violence and embraces a future where differences are resolved in an atmosphere of mutual respect that preserves the historic fraternity of the Syrian people.   The Mussalaha initiative is an outstanding example of the resilient spirit of the Syrian people and their innate ability to resolve their difficulties, by themselves, even in the most tragic and exceptional of circumstances, we have a duty to support their work in every way possible.

“Mussalaha, which translates as reconciliation, is a community-based non-violent popular initiative stemming from within Syrian civil society.  Founded at the community level, it includes members of all Syria’s ethnic and religious communities who are tired of the war.  Mussalaha fills a void created by the noise of weapons; it does not side with any of the warring parties, rather it embraces all.  The movement says no to the continued loss of life, and yes to a nonviolent solution.   The initiative says no to civil war and rejects all forms of sectarian violence and denominational strife.  Its founding session was a peace congress held almost two years ago on 25th January, 2012, in the Sahara complex on the Syrian coast.

“As a guest of the Mussalaha Initiative I visited Syria in May of 2013 where I met a few of the millions of refugees and internally displaced people whose lives have been torn apart by the ongoing conflict in that country.  I learned from those I spoke to, both within the government and in opposition groups, that while there is a legitimate movement calling for long overdue reform in Syria, it is one of peaceful non-violence and that the worst acts of violence are being perpetrated by outside groups who strive to incite inter-communal division and discord.  Extremist groups from around the world have converged upon Syria, bent on turning conflict into one of ideological hatred.  The Mussalaha Initiative has worked diligently to stem this flow of violence and heal the wounds inflicted on the social fabric of the country.

“Over the last two years the Mussalaha Initiative has worked in mediation and negotiation often crossing lines of conflict in the most difficult and life threatening of circumstances.  Many abducted people have been freed, prisoner swaps facilitated, humanitarian aid supplied without discrimination, evacuation of civilians from conflict zones made possible, and disarmament of local opposition fighters peacefully facilitated.  Principle among those who have worked tirelessly for this peace initiative is Mother Agnes Mariam, with courage and conviction she has been an outspoken advocate of peace, a voice seeking justice and one which has consistently called on the international community to recognize the truth with regard to what is happening in Syria.

“Mother Agnes Mariam’s astute observations which discredited the video evidence offered by the United States, as proof of an alleged chemical gas attack in East Ghouta, contributed to help forestall what would have proved a regionally devastating external military intervention in Syria.  This heroic peacemaker has thought nothing of placing her own life on the lines for the sake of others, and at great personal risk she personally brokered a cease-fire between rebels and the Syrian authorities in Moadamiya, Damascus province.  This work facilitated the transfer of over 5,000 civilians from a besieged opposition area and included the voluntary surrender of over 500 men many of whom had been armed opposition combatants.

“In making this nomination for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, I believe that there is no military or paramilitary solution to the Syrian conflict and only through dialogue and negotiation can peace be reached.   We urgently need a peaceful solution to the crisis in Syria.   Mother Agnes Mariam and the Mussalaha Initiative in Syria exemplify all that is remarkable about the resilience of humanity when faced with unbelievable adversity.   The Mussalaha initiative which unites people of all faiths, and none, and ethnic backgrounds, deserves to be nurtured supported and fully recognized for the enormous contribution it has made, and continues to make in saving lives, and in directing all Syrians towards the path of peace.”

(Signed) Mairead Maguire, Nobel peace laureate

Mother Agnes Mariam,  [email protected]   

www.facebook.com/peoplescommissionfornationalreconciliation

See also; Australians for Mussalaha reconciliation in Syria; AMRIS; http://australiansforreconciliationsyria.wordpress.com/

The Peace People, 224 Lisburn Road, Belfast BT9 6GE, Northern Ireland Phone: 0044 (0) 28 9066 346   Email: [email protected]

50 verdades sobre Raúl Castro

January 6th, 2014 by Salim Lamrani

El actual Presidente de Cuba siempre ha vivido a la sombra de su hermano y sigue siendo poco conocido por la opinión pública mundial.

1. Raúl Modesto Castro Ruz nació el 3 de junio de 1931 en Birán en la provincia de Holguín en el seno de una familia cubana-española. Como su hermano mayor Fidel Castro, cursa estudios en el colegio jesuita de Dolores en Santiago de Cuba y en el colegio de Belén de La Habana.

2. Contrariamente a Fidel Castro que es miembro del Partido Ortodoxo, Raúl Castro milita desde muy joven en la Juventud Socialista afiliada al Partido Socialista Popular que es el partido comunista cubano de la época.

3. En 1953, realiza un viaje al otro lado de la Cortina de Hierro, a Viena, para participar en la Conferencia Internacional de Defensa de los Derechos de la Juventud.

4. Raúl Castro se involucra mucho en la juventud estudiantil y participa en las manifestaciones contra el Gobierno de Carlos Prío Socarrás, regularmente sacudido por escándalos de corrupción.

5. El 26 de julio de 1953, con 20 años, Raúl Castro participa con su hermano Fidel y sus compañeros en el ataque al cuartel Moncada en Santiago de Cuba cuyo objetivo es derrocar al dictador Fulgencio Batista. Tiene como misión tomar el control del Palacio de Justicia de la ciudad.

6. Arrestado, es condenado a 13 años de prisión con los pocos sobrevivientes de la expedición del Moncada y cumple su pena en la cárcel de Los Pinos, en Isla de la Juventud.

7. En 1955, tras ser amnistiado por Batista, se exila a México con su hermano Fidel y varios miembros del Movimiento 26 de Julio.

8. Raúl Castro conoce a un joven médico llamado Ernesto Guevara y decide presentárselo a Fidel Castro.

9. El 25 de noviembre de 1956, embarca con su hermano y otros 80 hombres a bordo de un barco con destino a la provincia oriental de Cuba, con el objetivo de desatar una guerra insurreccional contra el régimen militar. Antes de subir a bordo del Granma, redacta su testamento político.

10. El desembarco es un desastre total pues el ejército estaba esperando a los revolucionarios y elimina a una parte de los combatientes y dispersa al resto. Raúl Castro se acordaría de la tragedia del 2 de diciembre de 1956: “Eran las 4:30 de la tarde cuando vino la hecatombe”.

11. Tras encontrar a su hermano el 18 de diciembre de 1956 en Cinco Palmas, Raúl Castro inicia la campaña en la Sierra Maestra como simple guerrillero y su parentesco con el líder del Ejército Rebelde no le confiere ningún privilegio.

12. Raúl Castro se asombra de la solidaridad y la generosidad de los campesinos de la Sierra Maestra. En su diario escribe: “La manera en que estos campesinos de la Sierra se esfuerzan sin contar para ocuparse de nosotros y cuidarnos es admirable. Toda la nobleza y la grandeza del alma cubanas se encuentran aquí”.

13. El Ejército Rebelde trata bien a los soldados presos. Al respecto Raúl Castro cuenta: “Les dimos de comer a los tres y les dijimos que los liberaríamos y que guardaríamos sólo las armas. Tenía dinero y relojes que necesitábamos, pero siguiendo nuestros principios, no los tocamos. […] Les pedimos que firmaran un papel diciendo que fueron bien tratados. Conversando con uno de ellos con tono amable, F. [Fidel] logró conseguir información de gran utilidad”. Cuando los guerrilleros descubren la presencia de un infiltrado a sueldo de la dictadura en su tropa, lo ejecutan. Raúl Castro escribe en su diario: “Quizás torturándolo nos hubiera proporcionado más información, pero incluso con un traidor tan miserable no aplicamos estos métodos”.

14. En febrero de 1957, Raúl Castro es el primero en conocer a Herbert L. Matthews, el periodista del New York Times que revelaría al mundo la existencia de una guerrilla en Cuba: “Le di la mano al periodista, y recordando mi rudimentario inglés escolar, le dijo ‘How are you?”. No entendí su respuesta y luego F. llegó, y después de saludarlo, se sentó con él en la cabaña y empezó la entrevista periodística, que seguro será un palo”.

15. Después de Che Guevara en 1957, Raúl Castro es nombrado comandante del Ejército Rebelde en febrero de 1958 tras hacer sus pruebas en el terreno. Su hermano Fidel le encargó abrir un segundo frente en el noreste de la Sierra Maestra con la columna de guerrilleros n°6 nombrada Segundo Frente “Frank País”, en honor al líder del Movimiento 26 de Julio de Santiago de Cuba asesinado por la dictadura en julio de 1957. En realidad el n°6 se destinaba a engañar al enemigo sobre el número de guerrilleros que, en realidad, nunca superó los 300 hombres armados.

16. Raúl Castro toma el control de los territorios liberados y crea una verdadera estructura autónoma con hospitales, escuelas y varias fábricas de armas y de zapatos.

17. Raúl Castro elabora a partir de 1958 el primer servicio de inteligencia revolucionario. También crea la nueva policía revolucionaria.

18. Estados Unidos había impuesto oficialmente un embargo sobre las armas a Cuba en marzo de 1958. En realidad, seguía suministrando secretamente al ejército cubano. En junio de 1959, Raúl Castro decide denunciar la colusión entre Batista y Washington mediante una espectacular acción. Frente a los bombardeos de la aviación cubana, equipada con armas estadounidenses, responde con la Operación Antiaérea y secuestra a varios ciudadanos estadounidenses, incluso a militares. El objetivo es acabar con los bombardeos de la Sierra Maestra que tienen un impacto mortífero para las fuerzas rebeldes pero sobre todo para la población civil de la zona. La Operación resulta coronada de éxito. El Washington Post and Times Herald evoca “el tratamiento digno de un rey” del cual se beneficiaron los rehenes: “Los militares estadounidenses fueron tratados tan bien, y tan convencidos por los argumentos de los rebeldes, que varios de ellos deseaban quedarse y luchar contra Batista”. “Un tipo extraordinario, ese Raúl Castro”, escribió por su parte la revista estadounidense Time, citando a un rehén, y agrega que el joven comandante “deseaba darle una lección a Washington”.

19. En 1958, Raúl Castro impone el pago de un impuesto revolucionario a todas las empresas, incluso a las multinacionales estadounidenses.

20. Al triunfo de la Revolución, durante la formación del Gobierno provisional, Raúl Castro no ocupa ningún cargo.

21. El 26 de enero de 1959, Raúl Castro se casa con Vilma Espín Guillois, combatiente en la clandestinidad que participó en el levantamiento armado del 30 de noviembre de 1956 en Santiago de Cuba, en apoyo al desembarco del Granma. Sería la fundadora de la Federación de Mujeres Cubanas.

22. En febrero de 1959, sustituye a Fidel Castro como Ministro de las Fuerzas Armadas cuando éste es nombrado jefe del Gobierno por el Presidente Manuel Urrutia. Dirigiría el Ministerio de las Fuerzas Armadas hasta 2008, el cual se convertiría en la institución más eficaz de Cuba, autosuficiente en producción agrícola gracias a la Unión Militar Agropecuaria.

23. De 1959 a 1965, Raúl Castro tiene que enfrentar los actos terroristas y los sabotajes que organiza la CIA y golpean el país. Recuerda: “A veces llegaba al Ministerio de las Fuerzas Armadas y venían cuatro o cinco ayudantes, que eran enlaces con los diferentes territorios, ejércitos y regiones del país, y para andar más rápido no me hacían informes, venían con un listado de lo que había acontecido en las últimas 24 horas, o por lo menos las últimas 12 horas de la noche anterior: decenas de casas de curar tabaco incendiadas en Pinar del Río, tantas decenas de cañaverales ardiendo en todo el país, según la época del año; tantos combates librados, tantas bombas en ciudades y otros lugares, tantos sabotajes a tendidos eléctricos. A veces yo les decía: «Díganme lo más importante», y eso fue, con mayor o menor intensidad, durante cinco o seis años”.

24. En 1959, Fidel Castro designa a Raúl Castro su sucesor en el caso de que fuera asesinado.

25. Desde 1959, Raúl Castro es, con su hermano, el único miembro de la familia Castro en ocupar un puesto político en Cuba.

26. En 1961, Raúl Castro es nombrado a la Dirección Nacional de las Organizaciones Revolucionarias Integradas que agrupan el Movimiento 26 de Julio de Fidel Castro, el Directorio Revolucionario de los estudiantes y el Partido Socialista Popular.

27. En 1963, ocupa también la Dirección del Partido Unido de la Revolución Socialista que sustituye las ORI.

28. En 1965, con la creación del Partido Comunista de Cuba, es nombrado segundo secretario.

29. Con la adopción de la nueva Constitución de 1976, Raúl Castro es elegido vicepresidente de la República, puesto al cual sería reelegido hasta 2006. También es diputado y vicepresidente del Consejo de Estado y de Ministros de 1976 a 2006.

30. En noviembre de 1976 es ascendido a General del Ejército.

31.  A partir de los años 1980, Raúl Castro desarrolla el concepto de “Guerra de Todo el Pueblo” frente a las amenazas de invasión por parte de Estados Unidos. Esta estrategia de defensa militar consiste en armar a todo el pueblo y desatar una guerra de guerrillas contra el invasor: “La Guerra de Todo el Pueblo significa que, para conquistar nuestro territorio y ocupar nuestro suelo, las fuerzas imperiales tendrían que luchar contra millones de personas y tendrían que pagar con cientos de miles e incluso millones de vidas, el intento de conquistar nuestra tierra, de aplastar nuestra libertad, nuestra independencia y nuestra Revolución […]. Por poderoso que sea el imperio, por sofisticadas que sean sus técnicas y sus armas, no está en condiciones de pagar el precio que significaría semejante aventura”.

32. En 1993, en pleno Periodo Especial marcado por una grave crisis económica tras la desaparición de la Unión Soviética y el recrudecimiento de las sanciones económicas por parte de Washington, Raúl Castro advierte a Estados Unidos contra todo intento de agresión: “La lucha sería sin frente ni retaguardia, en cada rincón del país. Para ello contamos además de las Tropas Regulares con las Milicias de Tropas Territoriales y las Brigadas de Producción y Defensa organizadas en cada provincia y sus 169 municipios; se combatiría en las más de 1.400 Zonas de Defensa si el enemigo fuera capaz de llegar a todas, supuesto imposible, pues necesitarían millones de soldados y aun así serían sumamente débiles pues donde quiera podrían pisar una mina, ser liquidados por una bala o una granada y las emboscadas serían su pesadilla […]. En una guerra prolongada, si de cada dos o tres francotiradores -y tenemos decenas de miles-, uno de ellos aniquila un yanqui, preferiblemente un oficial, ¿podría el invasor asumir tantas bajas y persistir en la agresión? […].En nuestra doctrina las tropas terrestres son las fuerzas decisivas, ya que los combates, una vez desembarcado el enemigo, se librarían sobre nuestro suelo, hombre frente a hombre, a tiro de fusil. Y en esas condiciones la superioridad moral de los hombres que defienden su patria es infinitamente superior a la del odiado invasor. El suelo ardería bajo sus pies, de las entrañas de la tierra, después de los golpes aéreos, saldrían los combatientes a ajustarle cuentas en el suelo sagrado de la patria que no admite botas invasoras”.

33. En 1998, 40 años después de ser nombrado Comandante del Ejército Rebelde, es ascendido a Comandante de la Revolución.

34. El 31 de julio de 2006, en virtud de Artículo 94 de la Constitución, Raúl Castro sustituye a su hermano Fidel Castro, víctima de una grave enfermedad, y se convierte en Presidente temporal de la República.

35. En 2007, Raúl Castro lanza una amplia consulta nacional con el objetivo de proceder a una “actualización del modelo socioeconómico del país.


Assim como su hermano  mas viejo, Fidel, Raúl dá grande importancia a la integración latino-americana, teniendo sido presidente de la Celac

36. En febrero de 2008, el Parlamento Cubano elige a Raúl Castro a la Presidencia de la República, quien sucede a su hermano que anunció su retirada de la vida política. Para llegar a la cabeza del Estado y del Gobierno, Raúl Castro tuvo que pasar por dos procesos electorales. Primero fue electo al sufragio universal y secreto como diputado de la Asamblea Nacional. Luego, el Parlamento lo eligió Presidente del Consejo de Estado y del Consejo de Ministros.

37. En septiembre de 2008, Raúl Castro decide otorgar las tierras ociosas en usufructo a los campesinos para aumentar la producción agrícola en un país que importa más del 80% de las materias primas alimenticias.

38. En diciembre de 2008, Raúl Castro realiza su primera gira diplomática internacional como Presidente de la República y visita Venezuela, donde se reúne con Hugo Chávez, y Brasil donde mantiene un encuentro con Lula.

39. En noviembre de 2010, el proyecto de actualización del modelo socioeconómico se somete a un amplio debate popular que implica a más de 8 millones de personas. Tras ser modificado, es adoptado en abril de 2011 y abre varios sectores de la economía al campo privado. Cerca de medio millón de cubanos trabajan hoy en el sector privado.

40. El 16 de abril de 2011, Raúl Castro celebra el 50 aniversario de la Declaración del carácter socialista de la Revolución Cubana y organiza el VI Congreso del Partido Comunista de Cuba. Es elegido Primer Secretario y sustituye oficialmente a Fidel Castro.

41. En 2010 y 2011, tras un acuerdo con España y la Iglesia Católica Cubana, Raúl Castro decide liberar a todos los presos llamados “políticos” en Cuba. Algunos deciden abandonar el país mientras otros permanecen en la isla.

42. En noviembre de 2011, Raúl Castro simplifica los trámites administrativos para el sector inmobiliario. Desde entonces, los cubanos pueden comprar y vender sus bienes sin otra formalidad que una visita a la notaría. Antes, hacía falta conseguir el permiso de la Oficina de la Vivienda. Para evitar toda concentración de bienes en un mercado deficitario, los cubanos no pueden tener más de dos productos inmobiliarios, uno de los cuales debe situarse en el campo.

43. En marzo de 2012, Raúl Castro recibe la visita de Benedicto XVI. “Nuestro Gobierno y la Iglesia Católica, Apostólica y Romana en Cuba mantenemos buenas relaciones”, declara.

44. En diciembre de 2012, Raúl Castro decide generalizar el sistema de cooperativas en todos los sectores.

45. En enero de 2013, respondiendo a una fuerte petición popular, Raúl Castro decide eliminar los obstáculos burocráticos como la “tarjeta blanca” y la “carta de invitación” para facilitar los viajes de los cubanos al exterior. Pero ahora son las embajadas occidentales las que exigen de los cubanos una “carta de invitación”.

46. El 28 de enero de 2013, Raúl Castro es elegido a la Presidencia pro témpore de la Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y Caribeños que agrupa a los 33 países de América Latina y del Caribe, e inflige así un importante revés diplomático a Estados Unidos cuyo llamado a aislar a Cuba fue ignorado.

47. En febrero de 2013, Raúl Castro es reelegido a la Presidencia de la República por un mandato de cinco años. Tras la reforma constitucional, los mandatos ejecutivos se limitan ahora a 10 años. Así, Raúl Castro se retirará del poder a más tardar en 2018.

48. El 10 de diciembre de 2013, durante el funeral de Nelson Mandela en Sudáfrica, Raúl Castro estrecha la mano al Presidente Barack Obama. Como su predecesor Fidel Castro, declara públicamente de su voluntad de diálogo con Estados Unidos: “Si realmente deseamos avanzar en las relaciones bilaterales, tendremos que aprender a respetar mutuamente nuestras diferencias y acostumbrarnos a convivir pacíficamente con ellas. De lo contrario, estamos dispuestos a soportar otros 55 años en la misma situación”.

49. Su hija Mariela Castro es directora del Centro Nacional de Educación Sexual y defiende los derechos de las personas homosexuales, lesbianas y transexuales en Cuba.

50. Raúl Castro es famoso por su franqueza y su mente abierta. No vacila en mostrarse muy crítico y denuncia públicamente las derivas del sistema, lo que le vale la fama de ser a la vez el mejor periodista de la isla y el disidente más incisivo.

 Salim Lamrani

Doctor en Estudios Ibéricos y Latinoamericanos de la Universidad Paris Sorbonne-Paris IV, Salim Lamrani es profesor titular de la Universidad de La Reunión y periodista, especialista de las relaciones entre Cuba y Estados Unidos. Su último libro se titula Cuba. Les médias face au défi de l’impartialité, Paris, Editions Estrella, 2013, con un prólogo de Eduardo Galeano.

http://www.amazon.fr/Cuba-m%C3%A9dias-face-d%C3%A9fi-limpartialit%C3%A9/dp/2953128433/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1376731937&sr=1-1

Contacto: [email protected] ; [email protected]

Página Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SalimLamraniOfficiel

 

 

What’s a Slum? Urban Poverty and Marginality in America

January 6th, 2014 by Michael Parenti

Image: East Harlem, 1970

When I was about thirteen-years-old I chanced upon an article in Henry Luce’s Life magazine that described East Harlem ( a Manhattan working class neighborhood) as “a slum inhabited by beggar poor Italians, Negroes, and Puerto Ricans,” words that stung me and wedged in my memory.

“We live in a slum,” I mournfully reported to my father.

“What’s a slum?” he asked. He was not familiar with the term.

“It’s a neighborhood where everybody is poor and the streets are all run-down and dumpy and dirty and filled with beggars.”

“Shut up and show respect for your home,” he replied. Note his choice of words. Poppa was not expressing pride in East Harlem as such. But situated within the neighborhood was our home, and you didn’t want anything reflecting poorly upon family and home.

On my block, 118th Street, there was both normal poverty and extreme poverty. But the latter was not readily detectable. For years there was an iceman on the block who did a bustling business. This meant that there were families that did not have refrigerators—including my own. We made do with a window box that held a piece of ice and a bottle of milk and a few other perishables. Eventually we got a second-hand refrigerator.

Also on 118th Street was an old brownstone that served as a nursery for needy children. One day during my high-school years, I heard the famous writer Dorothy Parker being interviewed on the radio. (I was already familiar with her name if not her writing.) She was talking about giving aid to the poor children who were cared for in that very same settlement house on 118th Street. “Are they Negro children?” asked the interviewer. “No, I believe they are Italians,” Dorothy Parker answered. The nursery for the needy was just across the street halfway down the block from my house. I often hung around that area yet I had never seen impoverished children being escorted in or out of there; or I never thought anything of it if I had seen any.

Italian Harlem had its block parties, family links, and numerous face-to-face acquaintances. Still it was not one big Gemeinschaft (community). It was not an urban village. Many people were unknown to each other even on the same block, even in adjacent buildings. I had to find out about the nursery-for-the-needy from a radio interview with Dorothy Parker. That is almost pure Gesellschaft (impersonal mass society).

Contrary to the slur in Life magazine, I came to realize that, despite the extreme poverty, my neighborhood was inhabited not by “beggar-poor” derelicts but mostly by hardworking and usually underpaid proletarians, more-or-less sane folks who were the ordinary heroes of the urban landscape. Much the same can be said for the nearby African-American and Puerto Rican communities in Harlem.

In Italian Harlem (as East Harlem was also called) there could be found people who drove the trucks, taxicabs, trolleys, and buses. They manned the loading docks and the maintenance crews, and practically monopolized New York’s building sites as construction workers, carpenters, bricklayers, electricians, roofers, glaziers, housepainters, and plumbers. And when they were not building structures, they were on the wrecking crews that tore them down.

Other Italian Americans put in long hours employed in candy stores, grocery stores, and five-and-dime stores, in dress shops, barber shops, butcher shops, and sweatshops; in beauty parlors, ice cream parlors, and pizza parlors; tending bakeries, barrooms, and poolrooms. They were bank clerks, janitors, dry cleaners, and laundresses. They were auto mechanics, machinists, manicurists, hospital workers, and gardeners; ditch diggers and gravediggers, milkmen and mailmen, shoemakers and homemakers, elevator operators and telephone operators, apartment guards and bank guards, night workers and day jobbers. They shined shoes at Grand Central Station right next to their Black coworkers, and on the Staten Island ferry. And they buffed the shiny lobbies of midtown office buildings.

They served as waiters and waitresses, cooks and caterers; secretaries and receptionists; garment cutters, tailors, seamstresses, and dress designers; fish vendors, vegetable vendors, peddlers, and truck farmers.

They worked in insurance offices and post offices. They built the highest skyscrapers and deepest subway tunnels, and years later their offspring cleaned the subway tracks and the streets and sidewalks of the whole city and collected the garbage, holding the lion’s share of jobs in the Sanitation Department.

These were the people who performed “the work of civilization” to borrow a phrase from the great economist Thorstein Veblen. (Veblen was actually talking about the unsung unpaid work that women did all over the world.) The working poor lived out their lives largely unsung and unnoticed. Wherever they toiled, it was almost always to “bring some money home for the family,” that prime unit of survival.

Tucked away amidst the blue collar ranks of Italian Harlem were the politicos who got out the vote in their neighborhood precincts for the Democratic Party. There were local lawyers and realtors; doctors, dentists, and morticians; professional musicians and many amateur ones, and photographers (mostly for weddings and Holy Confirmations); a few young toughs training to be professional boxers who might end up as downtown bouncers if they were lucky; some union shop stewards and union organizers, a struggling magazine illustrator, a comic book cartoonist, a sculptor, a tall lovely sixteen year-old girl who was working as a model downtown, young men attending City College and young women attending Hunter College, and a few aspiring opera students, including a lovely mezzo-soprano who performed with great charm at local events and at high mass at Holy Rosary Church. Then there was an occasional young man going off to the seminary to become a priest, or a young woman preparing to become a nun

In sum, pace Henry Luce and Life magazine, defamatory labels like “slum” and “beggar poor” can hide a multitude of virtues—not likely to be appreciated by Mr. Luce and his superrich cohorts.

There is the saying that “the slums are not the problem, they are the solution,” meaning they are the place we dump the marginal and low performing groups. It might do well to remember that the slums are where hard-working underpaid people live and out from which they venture to help keep society afloat.

Michael Parenti‘s most recent books are GOD AND HIS DEMONS (2010); THE FACE OF IMPERIALISM (2011); WAITING FOR YESTERDAY: PAGES FROM A STREET KID’S LIFE (2013) from which this article is excerpted.

Religious NGOs, Civil Society and the United Nations

January 6th, 2014 by Paul O’Keeffe

A new study by the University of Kent’s Department of Religious Studies in the United Kingdom has revealed that more than 70% of the United Nation’s religious non-governmental organisations are Christian. The report, religious NGOs and the United Nations, calls for better clarity in how religious NGOs are represented at the UN and for more emphasis to be placed on religious tolerance.

So far so good.  The study also argues for more equitable inclusive processes which incorporate Asian religions more fairly within the world’s premier political body. Now, this is all well and good, but what exactly would that entail? More religion influencing the course of world events? In my opinion this would be a disaster and if anything the world should be trying to reduce the influence religion already has rather than augmenting it.

As a new year gets underway we have yet another religion-anchored genocide on our hands. The Central African Republic (CAR) veers towards filling its own blood bath with religious based violence while a neutered world looks on in exasperation at butchery in a far off land. While religion may be just a guise to express long held ethnic divisions and competition for resources between the northern mostly Muslims and the southern mostly Christians in CAR, there is no denying that religion is the central expression of most hatred that characterises such carnage in the world. With nearly a million people displaced because of the fighting and countless people already dead CAR is bracing itself to descend into religious warfare that some predict will echo the slaughter Rwanda experienced in 1994. Once again another country divides itself into us and them.

Nothing says us and them quite as well as religion does. As a species we know it all too well, or at least we should by now.  Our history is littered with needless death and mayhem neatly packaged up as religious burden.  The Thirty Years War, the Crusades, Northern Ireland, the Israeli-Palestine conflict, Sudan – the list is endless.  Religion has always been the excuse rather than the reason to express hatred, separation and greed. Is it time to place greater emphasis on the role that religion plays in world politics? I think not. It is time that this excuse, which has given the gravest licence to human suffering, is relegated to the history books once and for all. We need to move on by placing religion secondary to our common needs and decoupling it from our political processes.

I am not denying that religious institutions and organisations do a lot of good in the world. There are many examples of Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist organisations that do meaningful and important work throughout the world. Just as there are many examples of secular organisations doing similar. The question is if our good deeds come from some political space that requires some duty of care to be given to our fellow man or if it is an instinctive human desire to help that motivates the good in people. If it is the former then that would rather nullify the humanity raison d’etre of the UN. Far more likely is the latter.

Empathising, respecting, doing good and helping each are all central facets of being alive. They are not dependent on which religion, if any, that we subscribe to. Along with all the bad, we also have some good. Humanitarianism and caring for the less well-off and troubled comes from a social conscience that I believe is innate to our nature and not dependent on which God we believe in. Helping someone in need has a lot more to do with being human than being religious. Perhaps if religion gave more licence to this aspect of humanity than it does to division then places like CAR wouldn’t be in the mess that they are in.

Defenders of religion may point to the codes of morality within various theological edicts to which our modern societies have based their judicial and social systems upon. Such an argument assumes that without religion humanity would have spiralled into an orgy of violence where man is pitted against man in his lust for power, resources and control. Kind of like what religion has enabled kings, popes and emperors to do throughout history. It might be a chicken and egg debate for some but when it comes to treating ones’ fellow man with decency the moral compass points firmly towards inherent humanity rather than religiosity.

Another argument that may be put forward is that religious organisations constitute the ideals and wishes of large groups of people who count themselves as members of that religion. By this representation then surely a collective voice at international level should be called for? Indeed religions do represent large amounts of people but it is the job of the state to represent its citizens at international level rather than a hierarchical undemocratic institution that represents some of ‘us’ and none of ‘them’.

The UN, for all its troubles, is the only global institution that binds all of humanity together. A call for a greater role for religion is counterproductive in trying to resolve our deep seated differences. We need to focus on our commonalities rather than our divisions if we are to truly address the problems we face together. Religion, it is time to move on.

Paul O’Keeffe is a Doctoral Fellow at La Sapienza University of Rome

Image: Cambodian police confront protestors in December 2013. Photo: Luc Forsyth. Used under Creative Commons license.

At least four people were killed when Cambodian police opened fire on a garment workers protest in Canadia Industrial Park in Phnom Penh. The workers were demanding a minimum wage of $154 a month from employers who supply Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger brands as well as H&M.

The garment industry is Cambodia’s biggest export industry generating over $5 billion in international sales for the country in 2013 and employing some 500,000 people work in over 400 garment and shoe factories. Many of the workers were paid just $61 a month until last March when minimum wages were raised to $80.

Unions have demanded that the wages be raised further and have organized a series of strikes to press the government. Over 130 strikes were reported in 2013, up from 121 in 2012 and almost four times greater than 2010 and 2011, according to the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia. Government officials have so far refused to bow to their demands, with a Ministry of Labor Advisory Committee offering workers a small raise to $95 a month as a compromise.

Over the New Year, tens of thousands of workers around the country went on strike to demand higher wages, prompting the government to send in the security forces. On Thursday, over a dozen people outside the Yakjin factory were beaten by a paratrooper unit armed with batons, steel pipes and even slingshots, sparking outrage, according to the Cambodia Daily.

On Friday several hundred workers blocked traffic to protest the previous day’s violence. In response police opened fire with AK-47 machine guns, killing four and injuring over two dozen others.

“The workers didn’t want violence. We just wanted to block the road . . . the police attacked us and shot us,” Yean Sothear, one of the protestors who was injured, told the Phnom Penh Post. “My friend went to the nearby hospital, but the police ordered them not to treat them – that’s why they were angry.”

“Why are they cracking down on us when we are just demanding our salary?” Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, asked the newspaper.

“We condemn this appalling use of extreme lethal force by security forces,” Naly Pilorge, director of the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO), said in a statement. “Security forces must now put an immediate end to the use of live ammunition against civilians and ensure that all those injured are safely transported to hospital without delay.”

The protests and the accompanying violence have battered Cambodia’s reputation as a model of fair production. For over a decade the country has been able to point to the International Labor Organization’s Better Factories Cambodia (BFC) monitoring program allowing it to compare itself favorably with Bangladesh where workers make just $38 a month.

While industry blames the unions for fomenting trouble, independent experts have backed the unions.

“Cambodia’s longstanding reputation as a “success story” in efforts to end sweatshop abuses in export garment production is wearing thin,” wrote researchers from Stanford Law School and the Worker Rights Consortium in a report titled “Monitoring in the Dark” published in February 2013.

The report noted that working conditions were only reported to factory managers and the brands that source from the factory which led to “a glaring lack of transparency and an institutional overemphasis on protecting the interests of factory owners and international buyers, rather than responding to appeals from garment workers to protect them from abuse.”